As various interest camps step up lobbying for their principals ahead of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a chairmanship contestant, former Minister of Sports and Special Duties, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, speaks on the issue of zoning, fairness and justice. KUNLE ODEREMI brings excerpts:
WHAT do you think gives you an edge over other chairmanship contestants?
It is not about having an edge over others. It is about being in a strategic position to lead the party; to rebuild the party based on some antecedents. PDP needs a leader; a chairman whose experience and contacts cut across the geopolitical zones. I will bring my experience to bear in the discharge of my duties when elected as chairman. I have had the opportunity of having a handshake across the Niger as a well blended South-westerner, who speaks the language and mind of the North. I am a native of Ibadan, Oyo State but was born in Kano in 1951. The opportunity I lived and worked in Kano and Jigawa states, which in the North-West; in Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states (North-Central), in Borno, Yobe and Bauchi (North-East) for over 30 years, where I had the rare privilege of understanding the language, culture and perceptions of a vast area of Northern Nigeria. It not about advantage; to me, it is an advantage to Nigeria, for it to utilize me as a true Nigerian, as a bridge builder for this country. Of course, my life experience in Abraka, then Bendel State, now Delta and Edo, which is South-South, has also provided me with a better perspective of the political realities about Nigeria. That is what Nigeria needs. The country needs a thorough-breed Nigerian that is detribalised; that understands the culture, the political and historical antecedents of different parts of this country. having served as the minister of the country, also the opportunity of serving the nation at the highest level, and at the state level, having served as a commissioner under a governor for me to learn these experiences, leadership of governance, I believe I have the capacity . I also want you to know that I have been a member of federal boards, as chairman and members of various parastatals.
But, you are trying to lead PDP at a period some observers believe the party has become a hard sell to the public?
This is the right time for people like me to lead PDP because I have never participated in any of the factions, either at the ward, state, or national level. I am a neutral person, and PDP needs neutrality in order to break the issue of factionalisation, that has erupted in the party in the last one or two years.
Is it possible to be neutral in a matter that bothers on the soul of the party as we have since so far; a situation where you have two distinct factions?
I believe this is the opportunity of bringing all the factions together. No matter how many factions you have in an organization, once you have never been a party to it, it gives you an opportunity to be able to find solution to the problem.
What about the insinuation that PDP has a stigma of parading supposedly corrupt leaders, given ongoing investigations into the arms fund scardal?
The issue of repositioning the PDP is a challenging task only to the extent of bringing about equity and justice in the system; that is one refined way of fighting corruption in any system. Once you give people their dues, you give them their responsibilities and you recognise that leadership and followership would see examples of our leaders. It is well-known that reconciliation within the party has been pretty difficult because most times the supposed rallying point are architects of the smoldering flame. The recent movement/decampments from the party as was the experience before and during the 2015 general election would have been arrested but due to total neglect of resonating divergent voices.
There is uncertainty about which of the three zones in the Southern part of the country will produce national chairman since the party seems to have thrown the race open.
We are happy that come 2019, PDP will have its presidential candidate from the North, and by political calculations, the position of national chairman is zoned to the South. No matter how many contestants come from the South, I know that I am going to garner the highest number of votes because of my contacts in different parts of the country. However that may be, the South-West deserves the position of national chairmanship of the party because it is the only one out of the six geopolitical zones in the country that has never produced the national chairmanship of the PDP. And I believe it is only fair and by any political calculation that the position is zoned to the South-West. Zoning it to the area will take care of the historical antecedents of the zone in the development of the party since its inception. I believe that it is in the interest of fairness and justice that chairmanship is zoned specifically to the South-West, just like other positions have been zoned and re-zoned specifically to sub-geopolitical zones in the country. For example, various positions have been zoned to the North. With the sitting of the leaders of the PDP in the South, I believe the right thing is that all the positions that have been earmarked for the South should be re-zoned to specific sub-zones in the South, including the position of chairman. We believe that it is the turn of the South-West to produce the next national chairman of the PDP. Failure of a Yoruba man to emerge as the national chairman can only mean that the PDP has very little or no regards for Yoruba interest as was evinced by the obvious cheating of the South-West from the position of Speakership in 2011 which was never rectified nor compensated for the whole four years. So, zoning the chairmanship of PDP is non-negotiable. However, whether it is zoned to the South-West or not, I believe I will emerge as the national chairman.
Many believe it is a tall dream for you to think you can bring back hitherto PDP stalwarts that have been fully entrenched in governing APC? On my emergence as national chairman, most former chairman of the party, former Board of Trustees (BoT) members, former governor and serving National Assembly members, state Houses of Assembly, founding fathers of the party have for one reason or the other left the party will return to the party because I will be seen as the best and last opportunity being a neutral party to the factions. You cannot be part of the problem and be part of the solution to the problem. This is because PDP is still seen, regarded as the last hope of any Nigerian to be in any political party. PDP is the party that you continue to offer the best solution to the economic and political problems of this country. You can see that most Nigerians love the party.
But, your party was in government for 16 years….
In government for 16 years, you expect the 16 years to be 16 years of achievements and challenges, and 16 years of certain things that you learnt. But, it was 16 years of doing certain things right, and 16 years of experimenting in terms of where you think you have not done well.
So, in 16 years of being in government, you feel the PDP did well, yet it was voted out of power?
PDP did very, very well. Nigerians that voted PDP out of power will are the same Nigerians that are crying, that are yearning for the return of the party.