All incentives created for Nigerians by PDP have been wiped off by Buhari —Ologbondiyan
The National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, in this interview with LEON USIGBE addresses concerns over some current developments in the country. Excerpts.
Are you satisfied with the measures taken so far by the Federal Government to check xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa?
Have they taken any step? Has the federal government taken any step? I’m not aware that the Federal Government has taken any step. I don’t even know the policy direction of President Muhammadu Buhari on foreign affairs, because that is the take-off point. What is the policy direction of this administration on foreign affairs? If we don’t know the policy direction or the thought direction of the administration on issues that concern the lives of our citizens outside our shores, how do we now define what they have done? We, in the PDP, don’t understand the diplomacy they are doing. Truly, we don’t understand.
What do you expect in terms of concrete actions on this matter?
I heard that they invited the South African Ambassador. This thing has been on over the years. The action of the Federal Government shows insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians living abroad or to many Nigerians. It is just deceit because the life of a Nigerian should be as important as the lives of so many Nigerians. But a situation where the business interests of Nigerians are being attacked abroad and this administration will not respond responsively is totally unacceptable.
What›s your perspective on the P&IB $9.6 billion arbitration judgment against the Federal Government of Nigeria? There is trading of blame over who is responsible for the mess.
I think on the surface, one can just simply blame it on negligence. But I know that if you go beyond the surface, there could be other factors which I might not have the facts to explain. However, I believe that even if your friend say you are owing him and you are not ready to pay the debt yet, or you do not have the capacity to pay the debt yet, you have the responsibility to acknowledge to your friend that “I’m owing you. But I don’t have the money to pay yet.” But if your position is that of “what can he do,” and interest kept accumulating, you will take responsibility for your action or inaction.
Government has stated its intention to go back and probe the contract award to determine and punish those responsible. What›s the way forward for you?
Nigerians are waiting for the action of the government. I think this administration has become synonymous with cheap talk: just say it so that Nigerians can leave me alone, just say something to them, they will forget it. I don’t know about punishing Nigerians who have led us to this step. Is that what the law says, to punish people without investigation? I think they just want to satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians by just telling them something they want to hear. How many people, including those who contributed to the campaign of APC in 2015, how many have been punished? How many?
The Buhari administration is in its fifth year. Looking at the period in office so far, against the background of its campaign to revive the economy, would you say there is a change?
Nothing has changed. Life has become more difficult for the ordinary Nigerian and you can check the market trend by yourself. Basic economy, means of subsistence just to live for Nigerians, all these have become more difficult. They have become worse. Prior to 2015, and you will agree with me, that school teachers were building houses and buying cars. If you say anything now, they will say they are fighting corruption and that the teachers, then, were buying those things with corruption money. Now that corruption money has ceased, they can still not buy them. [The story about fighting corruption] is not correct. The truth of the matter is that life has become extremely difficult for the average Nigerian and because of that, people are struggling, Nigerians are struggling and concentrating on how to survive. Children are being withdrawn from school; there is not one mortgage system that can reduce the stress of living. All the incentives the PDP introduced, as they concerns life and living have been wiped off. The middle class is gone. You are either with them there or you are dying with us here. It is very unfortunate.
The present government says Nigeria is more secured now than it was under PDP. Do you believe that?
Even in the (PDP) National Secretariat here, we just had our own fair share of insecurity. Our National Youth Leader was kidnapped, although he has been released. Do you understand? The issue of insecurity, the president once said it was isolated but we said no, it was not isolated and we still insist that the insecurity in this country is not isolated. It is a national malaise and we expect the president to deal with it.
The administration seems to believe that the opposition has crossed the line, hence, what some have seen as a clamped down. Do you think the opposition has exceeded what APC did as an opposition party?
As far as the PDP is concerned, we have never crossed the line. Our form of criticism has been very patriotic. Our criticisms relate to the standard of living of the people; they relate to democratic ethos; they relate to our judicial system and about bringing them up to be upright. I think these are the concerns of the PDP opposition. So, when you say the opposition has crossed the line, I don’t know the line that anybody has placed before the opposition in the PDP and say it must not cross.
Let›s us say critics of government. Some people have seen the arrest and detention of Sahara Reporters› publisher, Yele Sowore, as an example of clampdown on critics. But the government say he has crossed the red line.
There is no arrest that has been made in Nigeria that the PDP has not spoken about, that the PDP has not raised a narrative about, except we are not aware. Once we are aware, we speak out. Truly, I do not know what line they created for each other. For us in the PDP, our stand is to speak for the members of our party and to bring to attention the desires, the need, the wishes of our party members before President Muhammadu Buhari. But if you ask us to assess President Buhari, we can conveniently tell you that he has failed in the discharge of certain duties. But where he has been upright, we will say he is upright. So, if we have peculiar cases of people being arrested going on whether in the local governments or going on anywhere in the country or their states, people that are considered opposition, we assess the issue on the basis of what the rule of law says. If you arrest somebody, there is a window of days provided by the laws for which you can hold the person. Then, we will find out what the person has done to require this kind of arrest. When they say bring your brother, we will be available to follow. But what I’m saying in essence is that when people are arrested, after assessing the circumstances of the arrest…There is nobody that has been arrested in Nigeria in which the PDP did not join. None. When Sowore was arrested, the national chairman of the PDP was in Adamawa to visit the governor and he raised the issue of Sowore and it was in the media. As I speak with you, Dadiyata (a government critic) from Kano State has been in detention since God knows when. As I speak with you, in Kogi State, the Vice Chairman Okene Local Government is in detention. We have raised concerns in respect of these people, but have they responded to us?
What are your expectations in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states?
We will win the gubernatorial Kogi election. We will win the one in Kogi State. In Bayelsa, Bayelsa is home to PDP and the people know this. Kogi is home to PDP and also the misrule of the Yahaya Bello administration is helping the cause of PDP is Kogi State. So, it is certain that, given the manner of governance being carried out by Yahaya Bello and the determination of the people to reject him, it is just natural that they will flow into the PDP.