A former National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prof Wale Oladipo, shares with TUNDE AJAJA his thoughts on the party’s chances in 2023 in spite of its festering internal crisis
There are concerns that the crisis within your party is gradually eroding its chances in the 2023 presidential election, are you hopeful these issues would be resolved in the few months left?
The Peoples Democratic Party is well positioned to take over the reins, considering the experience Nigerians had with the party in the past. I think it is obvious that the All Progressives Congress government has failed woefully. All their promises turned out to be empty statements they made just to grab power. I’m very positive that everyone has seen through the shenanigans of the APC in the last seven and a half years. Nigerians now know better. It was proven in the Osun State governorship election that when the people get tired of a particular government, they speak with their votes. Before the PDP came to power in 1999, this country was on the verge of collapse and even investors didn’t want to come to Nigeria, but when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came in, they quickly assembled reputable Nigerians and they started reforming our country. The result was very glaring for all to see by the time the PDP government left office in 2015. We did not only entrench the culture of democracy, there was good governance.
But the crisis within your party has refused to abate and it could scuttle your chances, don’t you think so?
I agree with you that we have issues in our party, just as there are issues in the APC. Theirs may be latent and not as sensational as ours for now, but any democratic organisation that is as large as the PDP tends to have issues from time to time. We are not a gathering of zombies or morons. We have politicians of very high calibre with big ego that you have to massage. You have big interests you have to put into consideration. So, it is normal for us to have this sort of disagreement. The beautiful thing about the PDP is that we have internal mechanisms for resolving our differences and that is ongoing. I’m sure we will overcome this current situation and I can assure you that we will win next year’s election by the special grace of God. Considering what Nigerians have gone through, especially in terms of the economy, insecurity and general welfare, I am very sure Nigerians will choose the PDP.
You said the crisis in your party is more sensational than that of the APC for now, are you hopeful that the APC will have a crisis in the future?
Have they started campaigning? Why are they not campaigning? In any case, the APC is led by PDP leaders in exile. Their national chairman (Abdullahi Adamu) was a PDP leader. He was a two-term governor of Nasarawa State on the PDP platform. Their national secretary (Iyiola Omisore), who is my kinsman, was a senator under the PDP umbrella for two terms. So, we have lent them quite a large number of seasoned politicians. We know ourselves and with time, you would see what would happen in the APC.
The Director of Strategic Communication of your presidential campaign council, Chief Dele Momodu, said the South had some lessons to learn from the North in the way they play politics. What do you think the North does differently from the South in that regard?
Chief Dele Momodu is a fantastic person. I’m lucky to have been his friend since 1973 when we were in Form II at St John’s Grammar School in Ile Ife. He was my schoolmate and we went to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) together. I know he says things as they are. The way politics is played in the North is a bit different from what obtains in the South. One of the reasons is that in the North, their leaders have the ability to form consensus and it played out during our national convention, when Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State agreed to step down for Atiku, whom they felt had a better chance of winning not only the ticket but the general election, given his pedigree. We usually find it difficult to forge such consensus in the South, but that is also not an attribute to acquire overnight. Eventually, I’m sure the South will start playing such smart politics.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, said a few days ago that they were not consulted when the campaign council was to be constituted and they might not support your party, how else does your party intend to handle this festering crisis?
Governor Ortom is someone I respect a lot. He used to be the national auditor of our party. He later went to another party and won an election but he came back and we welcomed him. Governor Wike has always been a strong pillar of the party. He’s a personal friend and I respect him a lot. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State is also someone I know. I knew him since he was in the House of Representatives. He’s a wonderful human being and a committed party man. We nominated Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State when I was the national secretary of the party. Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State is my brother and somebody I respect a lot too. Our relationship dates back to when I was the secretary and he was introduced to me by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. These are people we respect in the party. You know why those enemies should not over-celebrate? It might interest you to know that Governors Ortom, Ikpeazu and Ugwuanyi are senatorial candidates of our party. Makinde is contesting for a second term on the platform of the PDP, while Governor Wike has preferred party candidates for the governorship and other seats in Rivers State. The presidential and National Assembly elections will take place on the same day (February 25), time and venue, if you understand what I mean. So, those who are jubilating on the other side should tarry a bit and use their senses. I’m assuring you that the PDP will work as one party in this election and we will win the election.
What if these governors refuse to work for the PDP for the presidential election, do you think you can still win?
You mean if they work against themselves? You mean someone like Governor Ortom could refuse to vote for himself or ask people to vote for another party? Nobody’s picture will feature on the ballot paper. It is the party’s logo and it is one party. You can’t cut your nose to spite your face. They are not the first set of people to be aggrieved. I have also been aggrieved maybe up to two to three times, but I still worked for the party. I was the chairman of the governorship campaign council in Osun State, after I had been cheated roundly in the party. I still went to lead the campaign and we won. Here we are today. All of us eventually will calm down. Necessity will compel us to work together for the victory of our presidential candidate.
Was it true that they were not consulted when the campaign council was being constituted?
Let me correct an impression about people not being consulted in forming the presidential campaign council. To the best of my knowledge, the National Executive Council of our party, which is the highest organ after the convention, formed the council. I think the composition is fair enough. We wrote to all the state chapters and all of them were consulted. We should not bicker over such things. What is important is for the PDP to win the election. We also want to have the majority in the Senate. That is why we need people like Ortom, Ugwuanyi and Ikpeazu in the senate. The only way to rescue this country is Atiku Abubakar becoming the President. We know what he did with his boss, Obasanjo, when they were in government. As you have seen, one of the opposition members then said any government that is serious would fix power in six months, but he has led that ministry, and seven years after, the problem has not been solved.
He has denied it.
No, he cannot deny it. They even promised that one naira would be equal to one dollar.
The government also denied making that promise.
They have denied many things, but we know. Maybe what they wanted to say was that one dollar would become N1,000 because that is where we are headed now. Diesel now sells for N800 per litre. It was N132 per litre when we left the government. When we come back, we will reverse this trend. We did it in 1999 and we will do it again. We are on a rescue mission.
Wike and Ortom have said repeatedly that the national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, promised to step down if a northerner emerged as the party’s presidential candidate. That issue is central to the crisis in the PDP now. Would you know if he made that promise?
He never told me that. I was not at such a meeting. Why will you shave my head behind my back? I’m a senior member of this party. By the special grace of God, I was the national secretary. I’m a member of NEC and Board of Trustees for life. I’m not a nomadic politician, so I don’t intend to leave the PDP anytime. God forbid. If such decisions (by Ayu) were to be taken, I expect it to have been taken at the level of NEC. I never heard that in NEC or BoT. So, I’m not going to get involved in an argument I was not privy to. However, if the argument is that Ayu should go just because he’s the national chairman, people should read our party’s constitution very well.
You were the national secretary of the party, what does it say should be done in a situation like this?
Even if you force Senator Ayu out today or if he resigns, (the deputy national chairman, North) Umar Damagum from Yobe State becomes the national chairman automatically. Damagum is from the North-East like Atiku himself. So, that arrangement will even be worse. Ayu is a Christian from the North-Central while Damagum and Atiku are both Muslims from the North-East. So, if Ayu is forced out, the situation they are complaining about will be like jumping from frying pan to fire. You would have even compounded the problem. So, why don’t we just wait. People should read the constitution of our party. There is no point forcing him out.
But those who want him out could be thinking there is a way to organise a special convention to reorder the positions?
God bless you. That could be considered after the elections. If you organise a special convention, how many people would have to go?
How about swapping positions like it was done during the last general convention?
To swap all positions, you have to do ward congress. People should study our party constitution and INEC’s guidelines. You don’t run afoul of the law just like the APC is in some trouble now when they had a governor as their national chairman for so long. So, we should not create unnecessary problems for ourselves. Let us just wait. It is unfortunate that many of our leaders in the party, including some who are senior lawyers, don’t bother to read our constitution.
Does it mean a special convention is out of the way if Ayu has to go?
It is good to organise a special convention, but there are conditions for organising it. Who are the people who would vote? National delegates. To elect national delegates, you have to start at the ward level and you need to give sufficient notice to INEC and the security agencies. That is a lot of money and time. It also means you have to suspend your campaigns and give 21 days’ notice of ward congress. After that, you would give another 21 days notice for the local government congress where you will elect national delegates. It is only then you could sell forms. So, it is complicated. However, there is a simple way for us to resolve this issue; every four years we have a national convention, but that’s a long haul. Every two years, we have a mini-convention or national conference. That’s what our law says. By next year, we will have that national conference and it is compulsory. It is like a convention. We can take serious decisions there and we can swap positions. People should just be patient a bit. I’m still appealing to them. Let’s just take it easy and work together, especially in the interest of the people they have nominated for offices. Governor Wike has nominated a successor, senators and people to contest the House of Representatives seats in Rivers State, and they all have to win. Former governor Ayo Fayose’s son is contesting a seat at the House of Representatives. We just have to work together.
What does the constitution say when a presidential candidate is from the same region with the party chairman?
There is nothing in our constitution concerning that. Anybody who has anything on that in their own copy should bring it out. All the constitution says is that all positions should be spread to reflect our federal character. There are six geopolitical zones in this country, so we should stop restricting it to North and South. We should not continue to sell falsehood. So far, we have not breached the constitution. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won the nomination and Ayu was not appointed, he was elected. Interestingly, his emergence was not without the knowledge of some of these key individuals. But like I said, all we need is patience.
There are some elders in your party who seem to be detached from what is happening, like some former national chairmen and former President Goodluck Jonathan. Are they still members of your party?
Of course, they are. Former President Jonathan is still in the PDP. There is a proverb in Yoruba language that says an elder does more listening than talking. They don’t need to go to the marketplace to advertise their involvement in resolving these issues. He’s doing what he should do. Our former chairmen who are still very active are doing what they should do. It is not everything that should be taken to the press. An adage says the peaceful resolution of a communal crisis does not necessarily take place at the market square. I can assure you that they are doing their best.
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Despite entreaties to Wike and his team, they have insisted that Ayu must go but the party doesn’t seem to be considering that option. What would be the way forward?
They can continue to make their demand and we are not asking them to go back on that demand. All we are asking them to do is to support the party that made them and I’m sure they will. I know them and I respect them. Wike and I have been very close for a long time.
Since you have a relationship with them, do you speak to them one on one?
Of course, I do. It’s an ongoing engagement. These issues would be over as a matter of necessity. PDP is like Nigeria; there are times we get to the brink but we will pull back. This party is the hope of this country. Presidential election is not social media activism.
Many people are of the view that the race would be between the PDP, APC and Labour Party. Looking at the huge support for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his network across the country, how do you think your candidate can defeat him?
I don’t want to go sectional, but I have to respond. Asiwaju is a big brother of mine. He’s a very good man, courageous, well connected and tenacious but he’s in the wrong political party. He brought this government to Nigerians, and he said it himself in his Emi l’okan video. I like him for his honesty. He said without him, this government would not have been in place, meaning that without him, diesel would not have gone to N800 per litre; a bag of rice would not have reached N40,000; dollar won’t be about N750 in the parallel market and people would still be able to travel without apprehension from Kaduna to Abuja.
If you said he was in the wrong party, would you have preferred him in your party, which he has demonised several times?
If Asiwaju was in the PDP, I would have difficulty not supporting him. But he belongs to the wrong political party; a contraption. With due respect to them, many of our men are on sabbatical in the APC but I’m very proud that they are the ones calling the shots in the party. However, if the vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, had been the candidate of the APC; in fact I had to congratulate myself that he didn’t emerge as the candidate, because of his competence, seriousness, discipline, frugality and good education.
What would have happened if Osinbajo won the party’s ticket?
We would have had to work harder than we are doing now, based on the attributes I highlighted. But it’s good Asiwaju Bola Tinubu picked the ticket and he has a Muslim as his running mate. It’s good for us.
The candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has a movement rooting for him, and INEC said a few days ago that over 40 per cent of the new registered voters are students. Do you think your candidate can defeat Obi?
You recall that he was in the All Progressives Grand Alliance for eight years in Anambra State, and after he finished his term, he joined the PDP. He actually came to my office when I was the national secretary. He’s a very humble man and he knows how to move young people. It’s good to try, but his party does not have a candidate for the House of Assembly in my constituency not to talk of having a chairman or councillor in Osun State. So, I don’t know where that victory would come from.
The candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party is also said to be a strong contender and he has his following, especially in the North. Can your candidate defeat him?
Kwankwaso was also with us, and he was in the APC too. He has been to quite a number of political parties, so I don’t know if he would stay where he is now or he would still go to one or two other parties before the presidential election. Let’s wait and see. But look at Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, listen to him, watch his profile and national and international connections, combined with a formidable political party that has done it before. For this country to go forward, we need to vote for Atiku Abubakar.
In Nigeria’s politics, individuals seem to have become bigger than political parties. How come it has almost become impossible for the parties, especially the bigger ones, to assert their authority and supremacy?
You are the journalist; I’m not. I should ask you.
But you were a party administrator.
You can’t beat a child and say the child should not cry. You would have to make a choice. It means no matter how unruly a child is, if you don’t want a noise, find a different way to correct the child. You can make people toe the line of discipline through dialogue sometimes. It is not every time you wield the big stick, especially if you don’t want commotion in your house. In the PDP, we don’t want any commotion, so we continue to accommodate everyone, knowing full well that anybody can be aggrieved at any time. So, it is not out of place to correct people quietly and behind the scenes. That is what the PDP is doing.
Many people believe that the dominance of the big parties by big men is because they fund the parties, why is there no structure in place whereby party members pay dues so everyone can have a say?
We are bigger than the APC and a number of their leaders are our products. I was the national secretary for three years, so I can tell you that the party was not funded by governors. They made some contributions here and there but they didn’t fund the party.
How is the party funded?
By the time we sell nomination and expression of interest forms, we raise money. Sometimes, we raise about N10bn. It depends on how you manage it. That is the main source of funding for parties, but people keep making the same mistake, thinking that governors bring money to the party. It is not true. They may sponsor some of the programmes. But for our party, which I can speak for, our party is run mainly with funds we generate when we sell forms. There is no time we sell forms that we don’t generate up to N10bn. The staff salaries and cost of running the office, like buying diesel, are about the main expense and it only gulps a fraction of the sum. So, with that, we run the parties conveniently. But I agree with you on the need for members to pay dues. We are on that path for our members to pay dues. When you have privileges, you must also have responsibilities. So, political parties must enforce the culture of people contributing, no matter how small, even if it is N100 per month. We are actually thinking of ingenious ways of raising funds without hurting our members, while at the same time carrying everybody along. Power to the people is the slogan of our party and we don’t bring unnecessary change.
Chief Bode George, a strong member of your party in Lagos State, is aligned with Wike that Ayu should go, and he said the campaign without key members of the party is like a jamboree. Your party would like to win in Lagos, how do you go about it without carrying someone like Chief Bode George along?
Campaigns are normally jamborees and campaigns don’t win elections. I should know because I just led one in Osun successfully. So, campaigns don’t win elections, but they will sell candidates to the generality of the people. Chief Bode George is a high chief of Ile Ife and he’s somebody I respect a lot. He’s my leader and uncle, so I’m not going to start exchanging words with him in the newspaper. But I think our leaders should concentrate more on winning their constituencies during elections, than all these altercations. We should at least win our units if we cannot win our wards. I’m more focused on delivering my constituency to Atiku Abubakar and I hope all our leaders will toe that path too. Unfortunately, we have never won in Lagos, jamboree or not.
Candidates always develop very beautiful manifestoes and lofty projections, but people’s hopes are dashed when they get into office. Why should Atiku be trusted to deliver on his promises?
The easiest way is to look at our track record. We came with promises in 1999 and by the time we left in 2015, Nigeria was attracting a lot of foreign direct investments and we were the largest economy in Africa. Nigerians were free to travel across the country, apart from a few local governments in Borno State, where there was Boko Haram. At that time, there was no banditry, but banditry is part of the change our friends in APC brought to Nigeria. This country is big and complex, and it takes a candidate with deep knowledge and a strong political platform to win the presidency. From my personal interaction with Atiku, he’s completely unaware of tribe or religion in his relationship with people. He’s simple, approachable, he doesn’t pretend, he says what he believes in and does what he promised.
You will recall that people like Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who performed excellently as FCT minister; Nuhu Ribadu, who was arguably the best EFCC chairman we had; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Prof Charles Soludo and even Oby Ezekwesili were in that government. Atiku as the head of the National Economic Council then contributed to how these experts were brought together and made Nigeria a real developing country, not a nominal one. Of course, APC has taken us back. That is why Atiku Abubakar is back with his rescue mission and I assure you that we will fulfil all the promises we made. Fortunately, our name is not All Promises Cancelled.
When you spoke about a strong platform, the APC has more governors than the PDP and the number of governors on a party’s platform is seen as a symbol of strength, can your party defeat the APC?
They have a superstructure that has no foundation; a party that has no Board of Trustees. APC is a conglomerate of diverging political interests. I don’t want to insult them because I have many friends and some political leaders among them. Which structure do they have? A party that was run by a sitting governor for over one year, against the law of the land and that is why Adegboyega Oyetola is not even deemed a candidate in that election, according to the court. I wonder what he’s still doing at the tribunal. He should stop wasting his time. He was not even a candidate in the election, so what is he challenging? There may be more surprises, because if Oyetola was not validly nominated, I wonder if their present NWC was legally installed or constituted at a convention presided over by a sitting governor as the national chairman. I think they have more troubles to contend with in the coming days.
What do you think was responsible for your party’s victory in the Osun State governorship election?
Actually, it wasn’t new. We won that election in 2018 but the APC came up with a new term, ‘inconclusive elections’. You recall that somebody said the APC won that election by remote control and that person is a very honest, God-fearing human being. I give kudos to him. It takes courage and fear of God to admit such. So, remote control took it away from us in 2018 but we got it back in 2022. I have lived the most part of my life in Osun State and I can tell you that in the last three and a half years, the state saw retrogression of the highest order. Nothing works in Osun right now. To make it worse, the result of the national examination published recently was very shameful for Osun State. There is infrastructural decay. Give it to the former governor, Ogbeni (Rauf Aregbesola), he tried his best. We belong to different political parties but he tried his best, especially in providing infrastructure for Osun State. There were some of his policies that were not well conceived as far as my party was concerned, like the policy that all schools must wear the same uniform. Our people in Osun are well enlightened and politically conscious, so there was no way they would tolerate another four years of the APC. Besides, the government rigged itself in. Honestly, it’s a shame. I give it to them that they are very courageous. I don’t know how I will be able to sleep, knowing that I’m occupying a seat that doesn’t belong to me. How the governor (Oyetola) was able to sleep for four years after taking another man’s mandate, I commend him.
Your party’s victory is being threatened by the tribunal, don’t you think they have a valid case against your party?
(Laughs) What is being threatened? INEC has responded to the frivolous petition. I don’t want to comment on it because it is before our learned judges. I can assure you that Osun people have spoken loud and clear. I’m sure the judiciary would do justice and validate the mandate freely given by the good people of Osun State. I’m so confident about it, because that is the right thing to do. ,
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