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We’re aware of INEC’s plan to work for APC— Ologbondiyan

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National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan spoke to RALPH OMOLOLU AGBANA on preparations for the 2019 Elections.

What is your view on Federal Government’s promise to ensure a level playing ground for all parties?
Ahead of 2019 elections, we are asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure a level playing field and treat all political parties on equal basis. We are aware of INEC’s plans to work in the interest of All Progressives Congress (APC), but Nigerians are prepared to resist any form of advantage INEC desires to confer on the ruling party.

We are equally concerned about the level of desperation being displayed by the APC-led Federal Government. It was the Federal Government, through the MDS, that stopped the Kwankwasiya Movement from holding a declaration rally at Eagle Square in Abuja, recently. It is just a mark of desperation on the part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, because on a daily basis, they see that Nigerians are rejecting them, and as such, they have become desperate. Otherwise, why would government panic over a presidential aspirant making a declaration at a designated location, after all dues had been paid and was duly cleared to use the venue by relevant authority?

It only points to the fact that they have already seen the handwriting on the wall. It is not just a threat to 2019 elections; it is a threat to our democracy. The kind of brigandage we are witnessing now is unknown in our political history. The kind of rigging and mindless killings associated to elections is worrisome. But we believe these are all shenanigans of the ruling party to scare Nigerians from turning out en masse to vote them out in 2019, but it won’t succeed. Nigerians, as the true owners of the country, are prepared to take back their country from the misrule and incompetence of the current administration.

All the violence and rigging we recently experienced during Kogi and Rivers States’ byelections could only happen in selective elections. It’s impossible to do this in a general election. What they intended doing was to rig those previous elections to shore up their image, but Nigerians have seen through the APC. Nigerians have seen through President Muhammadu Buhari and governors elected on the platform of APC. Nothing they do will change the people’s mindset.

Here is a party and government that came to power on the promise to restructure the country, improve our economy, and fight corruption and insurgency. But the party has failed woefully in all these promises. So, nobody takes them serious again. Nigerians are just bidding their time, waiting for the next election to vote out this government.

PDP was in power for 16 years. What fresh hopes is the party holding out to Nigerians come 2019?
I believe whatever form of government witnessed in the past is better than what is being currently witnessed under President
Muhammadu Buhari. If Nigerians give us another opportunity, first and foremost, we shall guarantee democratic norms to give the people freedom. We shall make the economy to boom again. We will also cut down on cost of governance, which is one of the major problems confronting the nation. The cost of governance is excessively high, and it is PDP’s plan to cut down on it.

In the area of security, as at 2015, when PDP handed over to APC, insurgency was already being fought. The insurgents had been taken to the trenches of our borders, unlike what we are witnessing today, when insurgents not only come into the country, but are also attacking military formations. That had become a thing of the past under President Goodluck Jonathan, which was why we were able to hold elections in all parts of the Northeastern states.

Theresa May made a pronouncement in South Africa, which confirmed the fact that Nigeria has become headquarters of poverty all over the world. I believe if PDP is voted back to power, the economic condition of Nigerians will change for the better.

But APC says three years are not enough to clear the rot of 16 years…
Three years are enough to show direction. The current government does not have the moral pedestal to speak to governance, which is why PDP challenged them to good governance debate, but instead of taking up that challenge, they are running around, saying PDP does not have the ground to challenge them.

We left an economy in which a litre of fuel was N70. 50k. Today, we buy the same litre for N145. In our time, a dollar was N180, but it rose to N500 in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration before it came back to N360. In our time, Nigerians had access to mortgage to buy houses and plan for the future. We ensured that the middle class was thriving in the wealth distribution. Where is the middle class today? It is either you are with them in their stealing cocoon or you are right down there in poverty. This government does not understand what governance is all about. It cannot speak to it. It has no direction, and so cannot provide one.

How will PDP shake off the tag that it is full of corrupt people?
Nobody still takes corruption issues raised by APC serious. They claimed PDP is populated by corrupt people, but they are now going cap-in-hand, begging the corrupt people to come and join their party. Does that make any sense? They are not fighting corruption in any way, and by any means. What they are doing is fighting perceived enemies, and the moment they see that you don’t want to dance to their tune, they unleash their guards on you, EFCC will begin to chase you around town, and they begin to show you files.

At the end of the day, when so much pressure has been mounted, you won’t have a choice than to buckle and join their team. As soon as you do this, your sins are forgiven. Is that really fighting corruption? What genuine steps have they taken in the last three years to showcase the fight against corruption?
Babachir Lawal, the former Chief of staff to President Buhari was alleged to have cut grass with over N200m. In which court is he being tried today? As we speak, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun is a National Youth Service deserter. Not only that, she was also alleged to have forged a certificate to cover up her desertion. She is still the minister of finance. There are several cases of sleaze in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which President Buhari himself supervises, who are those that have been prosecuted? The Vice President removed the Director of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) on corruption issues, but the president later returned him to office. Is that how to fight corruption?

What are the terms and hindrances to the MoU signed by political parties signatory to the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP)?
There are no hindrances. Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) came together to provide good governance to Nigerians, by ensuring that people elected to offices are democrats with shared vision to get us out of the woods the APC has plunged us. So, it is a working agreement among parties and a desire to field one presidential candidate. No matter which party throws up the candidate, all other parties will rally round that candidate.

The current PDP leadership promised to do away with impunity and encourage internal democracy. But it is learned that PDP is in disarray in some states, as fallout of the MoU between PDP and rAPC in which senators and members of House of Representatives that defected to PDP were promised automatic tickets. Is PDP finding it difficult to provide level playing field for all its aspirants?
No. We are not finding it difficult in the area of level playing field. We are determined to provide a level playing field for every party member. Under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus, there is no imposition of candidates. Have you seen any aspirant coming to the national secretariat to collect forms and he is denied? I don’t understand why people are talking about automatic ticket. We have declared sales of forms, and party members wanting to contest elections are responding with enthusiasm. People want to pick forms and participate in the electoral process, and so shall it be.


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