In this interview by WALE AKINSELURE, deputy national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Diran Odeyemi, speaks on the rally of the party held in Ibadan, Oyo State; return of loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the party, efforts to resolve the crises in some of its state chapters, plans ahead the Ondo governorship election and the role of Governor Seyi Makinde in the party.
Former Osun governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was among those who returned to the party at the party. Some refer to Oyinlola and other returnees as politicians who have become paperweight. What do you think of this notion?
Politics is a game of numbers. I can remember vividly that in the Osun State primary election, the late Senator Adetunji Adeleke won with just seven votes. Had it been there was no campaign among the aspirants, perhaps, he would not have become the candidate with just seven votes. Why were the likes of Dr Bukola Saraki, Oyinlola, and Honourable Aminu Tambuwal celebrated when they defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) if they knew they were paperweight? They were celebrated because they thought they had decimated the number of the PDP bigwigs. Why is it that it is when they are coming back to their home that the APC now tags them as paperweight? If indeed politics is a game of numbers, we have gathered more numbers than we have presently. In PDP, we are happy because the ruling government in the South-West is APC, yet people are returning from the ruling party to an opposition party. Whatever name they call them, they will see the result in the next election.
Some of those who returned to the PDP at the unification rally of your party held in Ibadan are loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Is your party already wooing Obasanjo for a return?
If you look at the rally, most of the personalities from states of the South-West are people you can call Obasanjo’s men. As a political leader, the style is to ask people to go ahead and then he later comes after them. We will continue to woo all Nigerians. We did not have Obasanjo in our party when he started campaigning for us in the last election and, this time around, we believe he will soon join us so as to do the proper campaign for PDP to come back.
There are insinuations that Oyinlola, returned to the party with the assurance that he would become the next national chairman of the PDP could this be true?
In our party, there is what is called waiver. If you join us from another party, the constitution states that you need to wait for the next six months before you can aspire for anything. If after six months, he wants to aspire, he has not breached any law. Apart from that, there is waiver and he can contest. As of now, the race for the national chairmanship is still far. Uche Secondus is still the chairman and if former Governor Oyinlola is interested and comes out, there is nothing bad in that. He is qualified as a former governor, as well as a former secretary of the party. So, he has both the executive and political experience to be chairman. However, let us wait until he comes out with such aspiration.
The journey to resolving the various crises within your party seems to be a long one. There is still crisis in Ekiti State between former Governor Ayo Fayose and Senator Olubunmi Olujimi. How does the party intend to resolve the crisis between them?
Reconciliation is not a straight-jacket affair and not something that will be achieved with a meeting or two. It is a continuous exercise. What is dangerous in politics is not to embark on reconciliation. Starting something is a move towards achieving a positive result and that is what we are doing. We will not lay claim to having the total reconciliation done but what we are saying is that we have started and the effort is ongoing and, by the grace of God, we will achieve a positive result. Politics generally is about crisis management. As you are finishing one, another one rears its head and you continue to manage in between. And once you are able to establish that common interest, then you form a united front to contest an election. And we are doing all these because of the task ahead of us in Ondo, Edo states and other future elections.
Due to the fact that Ayo Fayose is a former governor and Olujimi is a present senator, there is bound to be an ego clash. Politicians will always want to pitch themselves where they know they can get some benefits. There is no way you can rubbish a former governor in a state while the party reserves certain rights and privileges for Senator Olujimi. We cannot undermine Ayo Fayose as former chairman of the Governors’ Forum, vocal point of the PDP and as a courageous and bold former governor who is interested in the party. So, what we have to do is to look for a balancing in such a way that they will be able to give and take and allow peace to reign in Ekiti State so that we can return with our winning formula. It will be resolved.
Do you really think that your party would have resolved its various crises to forge a united front in the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State, even as some people rate the performance of the incumbent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu high?
Being the proponent of Amotekun does not give you that political power to win an election. What goes into winning an election is more than proposing a safety net for the people in your area. As a matter of fact, the protection of lives and property is one of the cardinal points of any responsible government. For the mere fact that you are championing Amotekun does not mean you are an achiever. People will look at how much welfare facilities you have provided for them; how far you have been able to fulfill your campaign promises to them; how much you have been able to fulfill your constitutional responsibilities as a government. People will read your body language and determine if you are qualified for a second term. To the best of our knowledge and with statistical evidences, with the information we have, we do not see Akeredolu as a potential candidate that can defeat us in the next election. We will have free and transparent primaries and there will be a level-playing ground for all aspirants and a good candidate will emerge. The PDP can decide to close its eyes and pick any of the aspirants and they will perform well. We are not short of good men that can rule the state; they are tested, educated, informed and have vision and mission. We will abide by wish of the party’s members in Ondo State in selecting the person who they want to fly the flag in the state.
Parties have rallying figures. Is Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State the rallying figure of the party in the South-West?
As of now, Governor Seyi Makinde is the leader of the PDP in the South-West. The leader is conferred on him constitutionally. He is the most high-ranking officer of the party in the zone. And the way God works is quite different from the perception of human being; it is not by age.
Who is the national rallying figure of the party in its drive for unity? Is it former Vice President Atiku Abubakar?
One good thing about the PDP is that we believe it is the party of the people. It is not a party of one person or one leader. I am, by the special grace of God, the deputy national publicity secretary not because my father had been in the political party before. I emerged into the position because of, maybe, my professional calling and because of my participation in politics. I needed no godfather to be able to win that election and that is one unique thing about the PDP. In APC, they queue, they have “baba sope,” that is, one leader that must endorse you. So, Atiku is a member just like anyother member. He becomes an aspirant when he comes out to say he wants to contest an election. As it is now, we are all members of the party; that is why our slogan remains: Power to the people.
As the party strives to rise from its fall, what are those mistakes identified that it hopes not to repeat?
As a responsible political party, when you fail in an election, it is normal to restrategise and identify the mistakes. We have identified the mistakes and it has been documented. We are studying it on a daily basis as if we are reading the Bible. It will not be ideal to reveal them now. But, we can point out the fact that until we have a president that is interested in enshrining good democracy ethos will we have a free, fair and clean election. Our former President Goodluck Jonathan willingly made a call to President Muhammadu Buhari when he realised that he lost an election. This is not because he could not challenge it for some reasons but because he wanted democracy to continue to thrive. Can we say the same thing of the current president? The courts have become another veritable avenue to determine who wins an election. All these are variables that we are looking into and working upon to ensure that when next we go into election, we know we have a lot to do. Part of the ways we believe that the ills of the last election will not repeat itself is the endorsement of the president on the electoral reform law that has been prepared. The president refused to give his assent, possibly because of the anticipated maneuvering they wanted to do and now that he is spending his second term and no third term agenda, we believe he will sign it into law. With the electoral reform law, the issue of card reader and result transmission, the role of the military in our election would also be addressed.