Professor Tunde Adeniran, a founding father of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), penultimate Wednesday, in Abuja, declared his intention to vie for the national chairmanship seat of the party. In this interview by DAPO FALADE, he says his ambition is God-ordained and discloses his motivating factors, plans for the party and the declaration of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State for the presidency.
The elective PDP National Convention is just two months away and the post of the national chairman of the party has been zoned to the South. While the South-South zone appears to have settled for a consensus candidate, the same cannot be said of the South-West. What is happening in the zone?
Every politically-conscious person in the country knows that the South-West is about the most sophisticated group or region in the entire country. We do not joke with our rights; we believe in due process and we also believe in what one may call the principles governing the emergence of candidates for positions, particularly party positions. Put broadly, we believe that the essence of internal democracy should always be upheld. That is why, while it is possible in some zones and some areas of the country to easily or readily come up with what could be regarded as one candidate, we, in the South-West, have vibrancy in our own midst which leads to what we can be regarded as internal competition.
Of course, if it has to do with state or local government affairs, we could easily manage it. But when it comes to zonal affairs, there are certain contending forces that we have to be mindful of. You cannot disenfranchise some people; you cannot deny people of their rights to compete for certain positions. From there, when it gets to the national, whoever is going to occupy a position, take the issue of the national chairmanship for example, such person is not going to be the national chairman of the South-West zone, but the national chairman of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of the particular party, that is, the PDP. This means that whatever our feelings, whatever our views, whatever our perspectives, we should also subject these to the inputs of the other zones and other groups within the Nigerian federation. This is why it is always healthy and always a positive development to see a competition going on. And that competition, at the end of the day, whatever is the outcome, you will see all of us coming together.
But some people see the situation whereby some of the leading Yoruba leaders in the party, including you, Chief Bode George and former Governor Gbenga Daniel, are competing for the same seat as a Tower of Babel. Don’t you see this as affecting the chances of the South-West of producing the national chairman of the former ruling party?
No, it is not going to reduce our chance at all. In fact, it will give the generality of the PDP membership a wonderful opportunity to weigh the various options available and for them to decide who will best serve the interest of the party at this particular time. This is because all of the people who are showing interest have certain virtues and qualities; they are coming from certain backgrounds and orientations in particular and, of course, their worldviews as far as the party management is concerned and how they relate or key into the vision and mission of PDP. By the time they are weighed, one after the other, the delegates would be able to take a decision. This is good for democracy; it is good for the party. At the end, the delegates will not just be choosing anybody; they will be choosing the person they considered to be the very best out of the many good materials that our zone will be putting forward.
And again, we also have to be mindful of the fact that the people are showing interests is indicative of the fact that this party has gone through some experiences in the past. We need to shift and we need to address the emerging issues, based on the past experiences. In particular, for a party like PDP that is in the opposition, a number of issues are coming up; certain factors would have to be identified and factored into the decisions that are to be made by members of the party who are delegates to the National Convention.
We cannot afford a situation where just anybody will come in; we must avoid the mistakes of the past and we must avoid a situation in which impunity and the imposition that played a key role in debilitating against the party will come to play again. We want to get it right this time and by getting it right means following due process; ensuring that opportunities are made available to every person who is interested and the competition will be very healthy. I am very positive about that.
On Wednesday, last week, you made public your intention to contest for the PDP national chairmanship seat. Some few days ago, Chief Bode George declared in an interview that he is the most qualified for the same position, given his wealth of experience. What do you think gives you the edge over others and that you will be the preferred candidate from the South-West?
I believe that I will emerge victorious. There are so many factors that give me the edge: Of all those who are coming out, I am the only one who was party to the formation of PDP. So, not only do I know the vision and mission of the party and its essence, I also know what led to the concretisation of thoughts that led to the zeroing in on those vision and mission.
Secondly, when you look at the various people who have played one role and the other, I believe that, by the grace of God, I have a deeper knowledge of the internal workings of a political party system and I know what the variables are; I know the scenario that could emerge as a result of what we had gone through. Practically, I have been involved, over the years, to concretise the theoretical basis and the grounding that I had in the field.
When we also look back, which I will say is a third factor which will make me have an edge, not one of them have been involved in the political engineering of this country. You look back at the records and background of each and every one. All those who have shown interest, they are good men; they are my wonderful brothers and friends, but when it comes to making a choice, people will weigh quite a number of factors.
Of course, you talk about the Political Bureau and the efforts at mobilising Nigerians to raise their consciousness to be political aware and conscious of the need to participate and of the need to liberate themselves from ignorance, which has being the bane of our society-they called it MAMSER. At that time, we know what we went through and I know this country inside out. I don’t know anybody who can claim to know this country more than I do because those of us at that time, you had Professor Jerry Gana; he was there as the chairman and I was the secretary and some others. We traversed the length and breadth of this country; we were in every nook and corner of the country. So, I know the challenges facing the Nigerian people and that was why when the party (PDP) was formed, you will see today that it is in every hamlet, every village and it is only party to be so.
Finally, in terms of the perspective, the orientation and the individual worldview, by the grace of God, I believe that I have not just the orientation but also the capacity to draw people together and unite the various forces.
Also Read: PDP crisis masterminded by APC —Olafeso
PDP, as we have it today, is not the party that was in power for 16 years. The party has been besotted by various internal crises. What do you think you have in you that can take the party of the woods, solving its myriads of problem ahead the 2019 elections?
When you understand the problem that you are facing, you will begin to solve the problem on the basis of that understanding. If you do not get the diagnosis right, you will not get the solution right. I believe that we suffered because there was not sufficient justice within the party; there was impunity, disregard for due process; the rule of law was not taken with the seriousness it ought to have been taken and, of course, there was no fairness. All these, I believe, have to be revisited and right now, you could see that the national caretaker committee chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, is doing his best to address some of these issues. By the time, by the grace of God, that I get elected as the PDP national chairman, people know that I am going to address the issues of internal democracy, equity, justice and fairness. Of course, there are critical sectors that have to be factored into whatever we are doing. Two of them are very germane and I am not going to joke with their essence to the development and success of the party and that is youth and women.
Our leadership recruitment has been close to zero; anything just happened. We do not have a mentoring system that will ensure that we inculcate in those who are coming behind us certain values and virtues. It is important to really begin to address that; give responsibilities to the younger generations and while you are doing this, you are giving them challenges and you are making sure that they learn to do things properly; not by rhetoric, but by doing things the way they should be done. They see you doing these things and they know that certain things are not just done. So, based on that, they too will key into it and they will look back and know that you are building the future, based on the nature of the character of the individuals you are bringing up. Above all, we must consolidate our institutions; we have to build the institutions and we must be able to put an end to the cult of personalities that we had in the past. We must build institutions to ensure that, no matter who is there, things will work.
You are one of the leading lights of PDP, as you rightly pointed out. All these problems you identified have always been with the party, but what did you do to address and solve them before now?
Between 2002 and now, I wrote a total of 32 of what you can regard as opinions: Some were in the form of memo, some were in the form of petition and some were in the form of releases, addressing issues as they came, drawing the attention of those in positions to address these issues. In some cases, it was the Governors’ Forum, handled and controlled at that time by PDP; at some point, it was the PDP Caucus at the National Assembly; at some point, it was the state hierarchy of the party; at some point, it was some individuals who were playing some key roles in the party. As these issues evolved, I reacted and my reactions were follow up to verbal dialogues and discussions. On many occasions, when I would have wanted to discuss them with those that I do not have direct access, I put them into writing and forward to them.
Again, I also decided, when I was putting some thoughts together in a book form, I devoted a whole chapter, which I called the ‘PDP Phenomenon’ and there I drew attention to some of the pitfalls; what went wrong, how things were to be, what they ought not to be and the ways to correct them. Even, by the time I ended that piece which was published in 2015, I even had a postscript where I tried to draw attention to some of the issues I had raised before and now saying that,’ look, Santayana, that American philosopher, made it clear that those who failed to learn from history are doomed and condemned to repeat it’, warning that we have to be mindful of the mistakes of the past so that we would not be repeating those mistakes. In the end, my expectation and my hope is that we have learnt our lessons and the ways some of our leaders are doing things now shows that we are really concerned and we want to get it right. That is encouraging and I believe that if we end up throwing up what I regard as a very good team, the right leadership for the right time, PDP would fly.
After the fall of PDP from power, many of its known and notable names left the party for the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), but you choose to remain in the party. What is the motivating factor keeping you there?
Right from the beginning, up till now, I have always have faith in the party because I know why PDP was formed. Of course, there was serious temptation, even at the beginning that, ‘why will you knock your head against all these things?’. The mood, at that time, in the South- West was against the party and that, if we are going to make progress, on a personal level, I should be in the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the ticket was there for me to take and that I was going to be the first governor of Ekiti State at that time. But I said if that is the wish of God for me, I will be there. But God had told me quite clearly that I had a role to play in making sure that we bring this country together and, apart from bringing it together, on the path of unity whereby we begin to correct the mistakes of the past; we being to do some justice in the sense that in the South-West, we know what happened on June 12 and the feeling that, somehow, we had been short-changed. To have a Yoruba emerged as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that cannot be achieved within the suffocating confines of a party that does not go beyond the zone. So, I felt that it was necessary to broaden our horizon to be part of a mass movement which PDP was part of at that time and that was what led me there.
I have never left PDP for one day, in spite of what some people regarded as some tribulations that I went through, one way or the other, within the party. Even it got to the point whereby impunity and authoritarianism took over in the party. There was a time when we had the garrison type of mentality in the running of the affairs of the party. At that time, my senatorial mandate was taken away from me and given to someone who was not in the party. People said I should leave the party and some other party gave me the ticket because they knew my popularity within my own base and they felt that I would not have any problem winning the election. Of course, some said, if you don’t want to do that, then take this people to court. If I went to court at that time, I would have secured the mandate.
But I told them I am not a desperate person and I am not interested in going there for the fun of it; I am not going there because it is a do-or-die affair. My concern is to go there and lay a foundation, a model to show people how things should be done in the legislative house at that time. Of course, by the time I explained my situation and perspective, my expectations and my vision to them, they agreed with me that I will rather stay and ensure that those who are damaging the party, if I leave, they will do same to some other persons. I said I will stay in and fight and make sure that they do not kill the party and, as much as possible, we will also get our people in such a way that they should be able to do things in the way they should be done so that people will not just be running the affairs of the party as if it is a personal fiefdom.
I also did not leave simply because I have hope and I believe that we will get it right and the time to get it right has come. Our problem in this country, either we talk about party management or governance, is leadership. By the grace of God, PDP will be a model that will be copied, not just by the other parties in Nigeria, but throughout the length and breadth of Africa.
Your friendship is said to cut across the entire country. Some people are saying you are very close to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Does the relationship have anything to do with your ambition?
No, it has nothing to do with my ambition whatsoever. You see, I am very close to so many people as well. Yes, of course, it is true that I have friends all over the country. My friends cut across: they include former military President Ibrahim Babangida; some others will say I am very close to Ambassador Aminu Wali, Bunu Sheriff, Onyema Ugochukwu, ABC Nwosu, Ibrahim shekarau, Sule Lamido, Ahmed Makarfi, Jerry Gana and John Nowdo and several others all over the place. Of course, some people mentioned Atiku, but some people also mentioned the fact that I am very close to people like Dr Yemi Faroumbi, Ebenzer Babatope and even our father, former President Olusegun Obasanjo- they refer to me as one of his boys. But the simple fact is this, as far as I am concerned, anybody that I identified who share my passion for the development of this country, I will relate with the person; and anybody that I see that has a perspective that is broad enough, I will relate with the person. One thing I do not compromise is to be fair and just in my dealings with people. if you are my blood-relation and you are anti-people and not friendly, you do not treat your fellow human beings the way they should be treated as children of God, I will distance myself from you. But once I see people, particularly in the political terrain, who show the same passion for those country, who believe in the common man and who also demonstrate some determination to serve the people, I will relate easily with such people…
How do you relate these qualities with Atiku?
Well, he is one of the leaders, but just like all the other leaders, one of the things I have seen about him is that he has been very active, talking about restructuring and so forth and I respect him for his opinion. I also respect so many other leaders too, particularly in our party, PDP. Many of them are now coming out to be presidential aspirants. For obvious reasons, I will not be mentioning names so that people will not have the impression that I am queuing behind one person or the other.
You said you are friend to many other leaders too. Can it be taken that your aspiration as the next PDP national chairman has the acceptance of the North?
Well, I expect anybody, either northerner, easterner or westerner, who believe in the future of this country, who believe in justice, equity, fairness and the rule of law to key into my project, no matter where they come from.
You are from Ekiti State. Your governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, has been in the eye of the news. He recently declared his intention to contest for the presidency in the 2019 elections. How did you see his action?
I am one person who likes to play by the rule; I respect rules and regulations and once I belong to a particular group and that group has resolved that this is what we want, I am a member of PDP, I believe strongly and I will do everything possible to ensure that we have our presidential candidate coming from the northern part of the country. My governor, my brother, in his own wisdom, decided to come out. But you know he is a very boisterous personality, full of energy and I just see that as a way of entertainment and drama; I don’t see his action beyond that. He knows the position of the party on this issue and I know that, at the end of the day, after all these theatrics, he will fall in line and join in making sure that we come up with a very credible and sellable northern candidate that will rally, not just the northern votes, but also the southern votes; someone who has a broader perspective that Nigerians will rally round very easily. So, people should not be bothered by what Fayose is doing now.
But have you, in your private capacity, reached out to him to caution him about some of his actions?
Well, on this recent declaration no, I have not. I believe that he has sufficient people around him to guide him on that. I believe he also has some of colleagues who can talk to him. He has his own political associates, but mine is to always uphold him in prayers that the Lord will direct and guide him and do things that will add values to what PDP is trying to do and see that he himself, when he looks back in future, he will be able to see what some of us are trying to do.
If by December you fail to emerge as the PDP national chairman, what is going to happen thereafter?
As I have said earlier on, I am not a desperate person. I believe that, by the grace of God, I will win. But I am not God; whoever emerges through the rule of law and in a free and fair contest, I will rally round the person and I will make my blueprint and what I want to do for the party available to that person who I believe has been chosen by God. But I have no doubt whatsoever that God, in His mercy, has directed that I should go ahead with this and He tells me at every point ‘Tunde Adeniran, my son, fear not. You are the next national chairman of PDP. I will see you there and I will lead you to victory to work hard and reposition the party and work hard and win the heart of Nigerians and your party will form the next government’.