‘PDP National Convention was free, fair’
Chief Austin Umahi is the national vice chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) South East zone. He spoke on the party’s strategies ahead of the 2019 presidential election and the controversies after its December 9 national convention. Nnamdi Akpa reports.
What is the Southeast PDP major interest and aims ahead of the 2019 presidential election?
I continue to tell people that the united we are, the better for us. Power is not given but taken. You negotiate right but it must be in unity. You must have to see people that are dogged and determined. We must have to see people that are focused. When we get to the bridge, we will cross it.
The issue remains that we are very much interested in repositioning the party. When the time to share offices comes, we will discuss it. And I assure you that the Southeast under my leadership will not be relegated.
Before the Anambra Sate governorship election, PDP had vowed to defeat Governor Willie Obiano but having failed don’t you think ousting President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 is going to be a herculean task?
The issue of Anambra State is not a good case study because I actually mounted the podium and said that we are taking back the state. But the issue of Anambra is one the PDP will have to return to the drawing board and re-strategize. It was the PDP members that voted against their party PDP in Anambra gubernatorial election.
But we are rally mapping out plans to ensure that we get our bearings right in the state next time and how do we get it right? By making sure that we install elected state executive and that is going to happen in a couple of weeks. We are also going to ensure that discipline is maintained within the party.
Some people felt some moneybags hijacked the party and out of anger they decided to work against the interest of the party.
But I don’t want to use the Anambra governorship election as a yardstick to determine the PDP’s future. It is not a good litmus test because if you come to think of it, you will have to ask yourself who are those that actually worked for Obiano. They are the PDP people and I bet you if they had put their effort together we would have been celebrating now.
It is therefore not a good test because we know the reasons: the immediate and remote causes and we are addressing it. Something best will happen in 2019.
Some of the PDP members have condemned the recent National Convention that produced the new National Chairman, Chief Uche Secondus that the system was hijacked to favour a particular candidate, how truth is this?
That was the most transparent convention ever since the inception of PDP in 1998 and I must commend the electoral panel. I must commend Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; the 11 governors of the PDP, and everyone that participated in the election.
The truth of the matter is that the PDP is repositioned. And what is repositioning? It is about re-engineering, it is about rebranding and it is about getting it right where we have missed it. That successful convention was a big plus and it has jumpstarted us because as we are talking today we have hit the ground running.
Some aggrieved persons who reportedly participated in that convention have gone ahead to form a parallel leadership. How would you react to that?
They wanted to be noticed. In the first instance those of them that answer Igbo names; whether they Hausa and they are bearing Igbo names I do not know, but I had to contact each and every one of them. I wanted to know the reasons for their action. And I saw that everything was geared towards ‘notice me.’ They just wanted recognition. They don’t have anything to offer.
In a contest, you must have victor and of course, people that will lose. When you are going into a contest, it is an option of you winning, or you lose.
Come to think of the Unity List, at the age of 18 nobody forced me to vote where I wanted to vote. It was something very clear. Yes! It is possible that I could be given a name but is an option. When I enter that polling booth I voted for the person I wanted to vote because I am an adult.
So, the way and manner I voted should not disturb anybody. That’s the way my conscience has directed me. And the people voted. What is democracy? It is all about the people. What is the splinter? I see the splinter as charlatans; I see them as people that wanted to be noticed. And I feel so sad because I saw some Southeastern persons involved. We are not known for that kind of hooliganism. But it is unfortunate that they are Abuja gorilla politicians. They are not politicians from the Southeast. We don’t know them and they don’t know their wards. Ask them the names of their wards and their chairmen, they won’t know. They just stay at Wadata House and make noise.
What is your reaction on the insinuation that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) might be the one using these individuals to destabilise the PDP?
In the third word, you are bound to see anything. Yes! There is a possibility of that but the most important thing is that if you know that you are, for example, going to Abakaliki and you know the road to where you are going, you must focus on your mission and avoid distractions. The most important thing is that PDP is repositioned and it is repositioned to regain. We see those things as mere distractions and we are not going to be perturbed.
The characters behind this action are nonentities by my own calculations. They are the people that when you go to their wards you won’t see their names. The ruling party could have masterminded it but the most important thing is that we are not giving them recognition. We are forging ahead because we know our destination and we are focused. We cannot be distracted.
Does that mean the party does not intend to find out the grievances of those involved and possibly offering solution for a more united PDP?
I have to tell you the truth. First and foremost, as a zone, all the people that contested the election, before the election, we as a zone invited them. We said ‘come let us reason together as brothers because we, from the Southeast, we are wise and reasonable people. We said let us agree and discuss as brothers and then know what belongs to who so that we don’t go to Abuja disunited. That was exactly what we did.
And again, there is serious internal conflict resolution mechanism in the PDP. Before the convention, we had a committee headed by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State. He actually moved into action. He contacted all the people that vied for the national chairmanship position.
That apart, we sent text messages and as well communicated in writing to all the people that vied for different positions in that convention to meet with the Reconciliation Committee because we see people as very cardinal point. This is because the PDP is about the people. We want to carry everybody along.
We just finished our convention and all of a sudden they want to start seeking unnecessary attention. We have provision to see each and every one of them. We want to accommodate them. The umbrella is too big and large to accommodate them. If they decide to come back today, we will welcome them but if they continue to display this level of rascality, we will not hesitate to ban them from the party.
I have called the chairmen of the PDP in Imo and Abia states and asked them to find out if these people are real part of our members. If they don’t retract that statement they made in Abuja within 48 hours, we will not hesitate to sack them from the party and we will forge ahead as a stronger party. We want to strengthen this PDP. We want high level of discipline. There is no room for radicalism again.