As delegates converge on Port Harcourt, Rivers State for the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a chairmanship contestant and former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, speaks with KUNLE ODEREMI on his chances, significance of the convention, and other issues.
Beyond the need to elect new national leaders, what does the current national convention portend for the PDP?
Among the members of our great party, particularly the delegates, there is this conscious effort that we get it right this time, so that we have a leadership that is able to correct the mistakes of the past; a leadership that will able to transform the PDP from a party that condones imposition, impunity and all kinds of things, which happened in the past and were not in the interest of internal democracy. People are concerned to that. Right now, we have learnt our lessons, and we should not make that mistake again.
People are concerned that, in view of the prevailing circumstances and situations, whereby the All Progressives Congress (APC) has led people astray, as it has more or less deceived the people and is unable to rise to the challenges of the moment, there is the need to get the right type of leadership for the PDP that will be able to bring an end to the current crisis and move Nigerians away from the present difficulties.
Second, I have been encouraged by the fact that people appreciate integrity; they appreciate commitment to the nation and to those values that motivated the founding of the PDP. Our mission, our vision was so edifying; so inspiring that many people hoped to join the party all over the country. That is why you find the PDP, not just in every local government area of the country but in every ward and every community. It is very inspiring to see people giving words of encouragement and getting ready to play their own role. They are keen on getting the right leadership for this great party.
But your aspiration seems not to enjoy the support of PDP governors who constitute a major power bloc in the party? It is believed they propped up another contestant from the South-West
I am not aware of that. Our governors, my brothers—we are friendly; we have a common vision to transform the party to get the very best for it. I’m sure they will all vote for me. I have a very high regard for them. They also have regard for me. They also appreciate what I can do for the party. Indeed, there could be some ideological differences between some of us, but that does not mean that as brothers and patriots and fellow travellers in the same political party, at the end of the day, they will not give me their support. They will show solidarity and join hands with me to transform the party.
Another insinuation is that PDP has become a hard sell to the Nigerian public, in view of the wide ranging allegations of massive corruption and graft levelled against some of its major actors in the last political dispensation?
There is no question about it that a seeming hangover is there. There are certain challenges. We have to change that perception on what the PDP did. We have this hope that we will be able to actualise our potentials. That is why some of us are not living in the past. We are looking ahead; we are in tune with the hopes of the people; their expectations will be realised, and we will not be living in the past by doing those things that brought us to the present situation.
We want to rise and we want to move and we want to transform, not just the PDP but the society at large so that by the time we get our acts together, we will be able to come out with new ideas with issues that will consolidate internal democracy within the party, unite the various groups within the party and bring together all the forces at work in the interest of our party; in the interest of democracy and in the interest of Nigeria as a whole.
Some claim you should have acquiesced to the decision of PDP South-West leaders to zone the chairmanship to Lagos and Ogun states by putting your aspiration on hold?
I’m not aware of any leaders of the South-West taking a decision on that. I’m aware that different groups met in different places; they were some who met in Ibadan; they were some who met in Akure and so on, each trying to sell the candidate of their preference. If the leaders of the party in the zone are to meet, all members of the Board of Trustees would be invited; all members of the National Assembly and some other key stakeholders, the governors and so on, are critical stakeholders, and of course, some party executives will be invited there.
It would not be one that is being organised by just one aspirant and some of his sympathizers. So, it is not something I consider as having occurred. There are so many; we read about different groups. And it is not good for our democracy. But a reign of impunity is something we are trying to run away from. Democracy is a culture, a very fine culture. We should not conduct our affairs in a way that it excludes some people, in a way that does not follow due process; in a way that is not consistent with a decent approach in the organization of a political party. I was surprised that they were certain meetings; I wasn’t aware of any. I only read about it that different groups gathered here and there. In any case, everybody has the right to contest and those of us who mean well for the party; who are contesting not out of self-interest will try our best to convince the delegates for their support, for their mandate.
There is a proposition by stakeholders in the zone for a consensus candidate so that the South-West does not go to the convention as a divided house and possibly lose the coveted seat to the South-South, where a particular aspirant has stuck to his gun despite the zoning of the post to the South-West.
I don’t know about that. If there is a meeting point, I think in a situation like this, if the aspirants get together and then sort out themselves, it is a good idea. But I am not aware it is going on. I feel that in the absence of a meeting of minds by those who are aspiring, everybody should sell their ideas, their vision, their mission, the programmes they have for the party and their perceptive and of course, backed by their antecedents, people will be able to make a choice and I don’t think it is something we need to worry.
Don’t you think the South-West could lose the seat if it is unable to forge a united front before the convention?
I don’t foresee it happening. I believe in that God that I serve. By the spirit of the Almighty God, I am convinced that I am going to emerge as the national chairman of the party. I am convinced that my God who knows that I mean well for the party and that I mean well for this country would grant me that grace of becoming the chairman so that I can serve for the sake of our great party and for the goodness of the country.
What do you believe puts you in good stead over others in the chairmanship race?
Well, I am one of those who can be regarded as the foundation members of the party, who have the conception, vision and mission of the party and I have been consistent in serving the party in various circumstances. Of course, I know that other compatriots have played their part. Everybody has done what you would consider necessary for the PDP. But, one other thing of course is that in terms of acceptability, and so on, I have said it before and I will want to repeat it again that I am one leader that, by the grace of God, can claim to have never lost in his polling unit, ward, local government, state and national, and I feel very grateful to God for this.
It is an affirmation of the acceptance and regards my people have for me; that no matter what comes, no matter the indignation, they will vote for the party they know that I identify with; the party they know I brought to my state; the party they know I was one of those who facilitated its inauguration.