APC has multiplied miseries in areas where PDP failed —Olafeso
Chief Eddy Olafeso is a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Ondo State and currently the South-West chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He speaks with David Akinadewo on the failures of the political class, prospect of the party in the 2020 gubernatorial election in Ondo State and the judiciary in Nigeria.
MANY stakeholders have described the security situation in Nigeria as frightening. As a chieftain of the main opposition political party, where do you think the current government is getting it wrong?
From the beginning, we have raised alarm about the porous borders we operate in the Northern part of the country. If you go through all our borders with our neighbouring countries in the entire West African region, you will discover that none is being adequately secured. So, people walk in and out the way they want. Criminals, hoodlums, racketeers, bandits and so on have unfettered access to the country. And in a nation where the border is not secured, it’s very easy for you to begin to have an inflow of criminals. It is so unfortunate that it has come to a worrisome and frightening level that will continue to deter development as long as it persists.
At a time, it was only one part of the country that was going through this unpleasant brutality to life and wanton killings. But now, it has spread to every part of the country. And we warned this government on the need to secure the borders. Part of the reasons President Muhammadu Buhari was voted for was his being a former General in the Nigerian Army, who probably would understand the strategy of securing the country, but it turned to be just an unfortunate farce, because the man appears not to have a clue of what needs to be done. For the past four years, we kept on losing the battle and the war against Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers. Yet, he kept all these security chiefs in office. Even for government to be doing business with kidnappers as it happened in Katsina, where we saw the state governor side by side with an Army general negotiating with kidnappers, is that not an encouragement for the rest of the evil minded people to persist, since they too can seek and secure attention of the authority through which they would make huge amount of money from that dastardly act of man’s inhumanity to man?
Therefore, I am very worried. If you think Nigeria can survive and develop under this circumstance, we are all fooling ourselves.
Now that the game is on ahead of the 2020 gubernatorial election in Ondo State, what prospect does your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has?
First, the journey started a long time shortly after our defeat in the 2016 election in Ondo State. We kick-started the process of reconciliation and I can tell you today that Ondo State PDP is one of the most united in the entire South-West; and we thank God for our sacrifice and the contribution of every leader here. We tested our unity and acceptability during the February 23 presidential election and you saw that we won with over 34,000 votes. We won two senatorial seats and three House of Representatives seats, despite the onslaught and the invasion of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on our people and the vote buying strategy adopted by them.
They also used all the institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to subvert the system. Yet, we performed excellently well. So, we are prepared for the 2020 election. Our party, through the chairmanship of Mr Clement Faboyede, is currently consolidating on the reconciliation process to ensure unity among our people. In a nutshell, the Ondo State PDP is ready for the election.
Does that mean there is no division in the party as of today?
There can be various tendencies, but there are no divisions in our party. We have only one state executive committee, ably managed by Faboyede and his team. All our local government structures are intact and all the senatorial executives are reporting to the state committee. We have no single case in court and we are very much united.
As one of the aspirants in the party, I am in constant touch with all my colleagues and it’s like we are doing an Olympic race. There is no need for any form of acrimony. Yours is to continue to do your consultations, because the timetable for the election is yet to be released by INEC. All that each person can do now is to inform the people that you are interested. It’s never a do-or-die affair. If we want to win as an opposition, we must have a superior strategy to make sure that our political party is united to be able to confront the monstrosity of the APC government.
At the last count, close to 20 aspirants have signified intention to contest. Would the party be able to manage the primaries without spiral effects?
There won’t be any problem. The National Working Committee (NWC) of our party, of which I am a member, has designed the process to be fair, transparent and be above board to the extent that there won’t be an anointed candidate. The delegates would have the final say at the party primaries. We’ve done a couple of elections recently as a test case beyond what we did in Ekiti and Osun states. We recently did those of Kogi and Bayelsa states and coming from there, we are beginning to improve on our strategies for the coming Ondo election.
So, despite the fact that we already have 17 contestants, the party will manage it effectively. Mind you, the number of contestants is that much because they know they can win. If a party is not doing well, nobody would want to put his neck on the line, because you know what it implies to signify interest in vying for the office of the governor of a state. So, for the 17 that are out already, to me, it’s a very great signal that our party is alive as opposed to what the naysayers and the pundits said about two years ago that the PDP is dead and buried; but the number would definitely come down. We are talking to ourselves.
There’s this Ondo Central and South dichotomy as to where the candidate for the next election should emerge. What’s your take on this?
Though unwritten, the truth remains that zoning is a cardinal principle through which power is balanced. And I can tell you without any form of subjectivity that quite frankly, the North, central and South have been jostling for this position amongst themselves. The North is in its 12th year, the central under the administration of former governor Olusegun Mimiko, already did eight years. It’s only the South that did four years and maybe extra two years at the court; and that’s the zone that is yet to actually catch up.
Although I am not a believer in geography, I believe in competence and capacity, and I believe that no matter what, at the appointed time, the decision of the party leaders will actually be able to bring out a governor out of the three zones. But equity and fair play must be considered in all these things in order to ensure that some people are not left out. If you look at the pattern of voting in Ondo State, you will agree with me that the South is the power house of the PDP. You’ll recollect that late Dr Agagu, one of the founding fathers of the party in the state, and Senator Bode Olajumoke drove the party to the level of acceptance and winning the governorship and the senatorial elections in the state.
So, looking at that, I think the leadership will have to consider where we are strong, where we are weak and where we can do more in arriving at their decisions. For me, it’s not a question of geography, but a matter of competence and capacity.
So, it means you are at an advantaged position to get the ticket than others?
I cannot say I am better positioned than others. I know my history, I know where I am coming from, I know the long years of struggle and battle and I know the experiences I have acquired both at the private sector level and in partisan politics. I started as a state Secretary of this party, from there I became Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Ondo state and since then I had served in various committees at the national level of the party. I was the Deputy Chairman of the National Teachers Institute in Kaduna, until my election as the national Vice Chairman of the party. I have sacrificed everything that needed to be sacrificed, having remained in the party since 1998 till date. Therefore, my consistency, perseverance and playing the role of a bridge builder in the party are qualities I think should be considered , but in the final analysis, the leaders and delegates will determine who eventually will be there. I am just talking about my own trajectory as a politician and what I believe in. I know that a lot of things are wrong with this state, because I was one of the inner circle of the team that came up with the roadmap to progress under Dr Agagun. Had we followed that pattern, our state will not be a debtor state as it is known today. And that’s exactly what we intend to go out and do, it’s purely about the economy of the state, we must get our people engaged and we must be serious, we must be Spartan as a leader on how we run governance and government, it cannot be business as usual if we are given the opportunity.
With the picture you painted, it is not possible for Nigeria to achieve peace again?
Of course, we can. It depends on the leadership. Believe me, if you allow Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to be president in just 100 days, the challenges of security in the North and the South will come to a very conclusive end. I’ve told you all we needed to do. One, secure your borders; two, find out who and who is in your country; three, find out what and what they do for a living and monitor appropriately; four, engage and equip all your security forces and lastly, get more men to secure our land and borders.
Look at what Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has been doing since he assumed office, which has resulted in downward trend in the cases of kidnapping and other vices in the state. The man is adopting technology and also spending a lot of money on providing resources for all the security agencies to ensure that the state is safe for all. And that’s what we all need to do, before embarking on the long term remedies of getting all the children back to school, engaging them in gainful employment and providing skills for them to be able to live a normal life. So, it’s a simple thing for the government to do. You have to engage the people. This profligacy, the stealing of funds that has actually enlarged to a digital level is unacceptable. If we can apply our resources to what we need, it is a matter of time for us to get out of all these problems. The solution to our numerous challenges is in us, the political class and the president in particular, whose body language is constantly favouring one tribe against the other and using kid gloves to deal with criminals just because they are from one section of the country. It is unfortunate, and it is something that we all have to deal with and ensure that it does not happen anymore. We must be serious in dealing with crime and criminality in this country.
What’s your opinion on the incessant xenophobic attacks on other African nationals and Nigerians in particular in South Africa and government’s response to the ugly situation?
It is the totality of the failure at home. When your domestic policies fail, it will impact on your foreign policy. That’s International Relations 101; everybody knows that. The truth is that we have failed at home and we will continue to fail abroad. And the same attitude that saw our people out of these shores like cybercrime, unseriousness and all the other things that largely led to all that we are experiencing in South Africa should have been dealt with at home a long time ago. I am telling you, if our country is doing very well, it will be a matter of choice if I want to remain in my country or leave for another country. But our country is not doing well, so our younger generations are moving away despite the risks to their lives. First, our domestic policy must be looked into, we must survive again and ensure that we bring all the industries back, to be able to engage our youths, train them to have skills and talents; and begin to eternally engage our people in what is positive for their own development. We must create an enabling environment for all the generations of Nigeria to be what they positively want to be. The xenophobic attacks is unfortunate, and belief me, it is not something that South Africa as a nation should be proud of, good enough their president had already admitted their failure in dealing with it, but here at home we must do a lot to ensure that we engage our people. A situation whereby a politician gets voted for and then suddenly, somebody that cannot even afford a bungalow getting to public office is now buying houses in Abuja, Dubai, America and other places, then something is wrong with that system. In this game, you cannot be a rich person. Serving the public is not designed for you to be Dangote or Otedola. If you are getting rich in the process of serving the public, it means you are stealing from them. And mind you, a kobo stolen will affect education, health, defence, infrastructure and the general wellbeing of the country. It’s about time we began to speak to ourselves even as political class, what exactly is your dream, to be rich? Is that why you offer to serve the people?
Are you not saying this because you are in the opposition? Because you didn’t canvass this position when your party was in government at the federal government?
I’ve always been in government and this is my life. And I have had cause to criticise my party too. I am not exculpating the PDP. We were in government for 16 years. We should have been able to create a value of decency for the generation of Nigerians, but where we failed is where these people have multiplied the misteries and the pain that the country is facing today. Yes, I am talking about the political class, the APC, PDP and others. We must actually be able to borrow something from the Western culture through which we copied this monstrosity that we call democracy and politics. That’s not how it is played out there. Look at what is happening in Britain on the issue of Brexit, who is bribing who? Tell me any of their representatives carrying bags filled with money home just in the process of voting for no deal Brexit or a deal Brexit.
The truth is that everybody is voting for the development of the country and they are committed, but our politicians here are not committed at all! From my days at Ile-Ife as president of the Student Union Government till today, all I wanted is a sane society that can produce somebody like me who grew out of an extreme poverty to be where I am today; and who took all my siblings from that extreme poverty to where they are. We must begin to think that way and I want you to judge me on the basis of this in the future; I am not contesting for the position of governor to be rich, but I am running to be able to do what Chief Obafemi Awolowo did for me and my family and the generations like me, by bringing us out of ignorance and poverty setting us on a pace that can develop the land further than we met it.
As a consistent PDP member who witnessed the reign of the party in Nigeria for 16 years, what’s the future of your party?
Yes, I am a consistent, persistent and committed PDP man, thank you. Let me tell you that as a party, we have changed. What we first dealt with and tackled was our internal democracy, because that’s the beginning of failure of representation. You have seen that all the elections we’ve been holding from 2018 are free and transparent to the best of our ability. I am not saying they are still the best, but we are far from where we used to be. You would have expected that as a member of the national working committee I have any advantage whatsoever in this game, but I don’t, because the same delegates’ list that will be given to me is the same that others would get. Internal democracy is critical to a representative democracy and we must be careful because the world is watching. The truth is that we have learnt from our failures and we have apologised to the country about a few things that we should have done right but we didn’t do, but at the same time when you look behind us, we have bequeathed to this nation some level of very serious achievements.
When we came in 1999, Nigeria was in pariah state. We were in debt to the tune of several billions of dollars and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government was able to settle it all. We divided the entire country into zones and gradually, the Presidency was moving from one zone to the other; that was why you have a minority of the minority being able to become the president in a country like ours.
So, the journey is still on. But for us, we have learnt from our mistakes and we are stable now. And let me assure you that as a democrat, if I fail to clinch the ticket of my party, I will be the first person to congratulate the winner, provided it is free, fair and devoid of any interference, which I know won’t happen.
Now, to your ambition, a school of thought within the party believes that as the South-West chairman, you are a father figure who shouldn’t be part of this contest. How do you react?
If the constitution prevents me from running, why would I be running? The party’s constitution did not say because I served for all these long years, persevered for all these long years, that I worked so hard to bring unity to the party, that I have succeeded extensively as the Chairman of the South West in ensuring that we won in Oyo, Ondo and also in Osun state before it was stolen from us; and that the zone is at relative peace today, so I wondered why anybody would say I shouldn’t run because of the position I currently occupy. Will I be the first person to be the zonal chairman that becomes governor or state chairman in the party that eventually made it as governor? No, I will not be and probably won’t be the last. The truth is that I have a clearer view of what it takes for us to win at this moment and that’s the advantage I want to use for my people. I belief that experience should come to play in this matter because I can confront the APC with their one billion and one failure and failings, culminating in their constant recourse to borrowing when we have all these resources available to be tapped to develop our land. So, I am ready to engage them where my party gives me the opportunity to serve as the standard-bearer.
Do you have the structure to actualise this dream?
The PDP is very structured in this state. We have the structure and I am a PDP person. You don’t build a parallel structure, if you actually want to unify the party. Let the party take its own decision.
There are insinuations of crisis in the PDP, with Governor Nyesom Wike being fingered as the major protagonist. What is the true situation?
Is there any political party where you don’t have divergent opinions? Governor Wike is one of the strongest pillars of support for the PDP. I respect him for his outstanding support for the party, his commitment and loyalty dedication to duty and service to his people.
So, if there are differences in opinion, they are things we will resolve in the party and not a matter that can be discussed in the public arena to the point of insinuating that there is crisis within the party. Therefore, the little differences are going to be reconciled and resolved, so there are no crises in our party.
Your party has gone on appeal to challenge the judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal which affirmed the victory of President Buhari at the poll. What is your expectation?
Well, let me tell you specifically that it is the judiciary that is on trial. From 1960 till date, at no time have we been more endangered than this moment. If the judiciary decides that perjury is no crime and that what we have presented to them does not count, it’s going to impact on the future of our nation. It is neither the PDP nor Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that is on trial, it is the Nigerian judiciary that is on trial. And we pray to God that they do the needful, because I know Atiku will return.