OGBEMUDIA: This Is The Time To Reorganise The PDP
Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, two-time governor of the old Midwest and Bendel State (Now Edo and Delta) is a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The elder statesman spoke to journalists on the state of the nation, his party and political activities in Nigeria, including cautions for the new government and the PDP. ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU reports.
The PDP lost the presidential election and shortly after that there were calls for the NWC and the BoT to be dissolved, why these?
FIRST of all, we have to look at the set up of the party. Today, PDP is headed by BoT that advises the National Working Committee (NWC) or executive at each turn, when asked to do so. So, if in the process they lose election, it is quite straightforward for the people responsible to take responsibility for their action. They should give way to a new executive that will rebuild the party, but the PDP case is not like that now. I understand that a candidate has set up a team to campaign for him and for the party, so the fault is not that of the executive or the NWC, but with the person who took the decision that an organisation outside the party should co-ordinate campaign team and spend the money. That person should be held responsible and not the national chairman. The national chairman is a straightforward man. He understands the issues at stake; so, my view is that PDP should set up a committee to find out what went wrong and how to rebuild the party, because they are still the strongest organised party in the country. They need to work hard to win the next election if they have the appetite to win.
With the way the party is today, do you think there is still hope for it to take over power in four years time as some of its leaders are saying?
First and foremost, look at the PDP when it first won the elections and when it went berserk, owing to the mismanagement of their victory. But if the party wants to win future elections against a determined party like the APC, then the members have to work twice as hard as they had done in the past.
Some people are attributing the failure of the PDP to the hate campaigns it indulged in, do you agree with this?
Well a lot of people will say a lot of things, but what individuals find on the ground may be different no doubt. The various campaigns of hatred or religious campaigns may not have affected PDP chances, if they had put their home right. Quite a substantial percentage that make up APC today were formally PDP and each time a person leaves the PDP, they say let him go, we can do without him, but they have found out that that is the problem and they need to correct some of the things they were doing. The party leaders need to sit down and find out what went wrong. Once they have done that, which is not a job of three hours of two days; they must sit down and talk to everybody that is worth talking to in order to ascertain and identify what went wrong —- a lot of things went wrong.
What were some of the things that went wrong?
It will be unfair on Jonathan if I say I am disappointed at his activities, but what I want to say is this; PDP is made up of people, who do not welcome any challenge, argument and any type of interference. So, once they take decisions, they do not want anyone to find out what led to that decision, nobody should challenge them and because of this, they held the president, Jonathan hostage. Before anybody sees Jonathan, he must first meet them and they would ask and redirect the person on what to tell the president. Because of what they stand to gain, they would support the presentation under majority vote, so Jonathan will have no option than to carry out the decision. They, in fact, succeeded in a number of cases.
Nigerians believed Jonathan lost because of the way he handled the issues of insecurity, the economy and corruption. How would you assess him in these areas?
Nigerian politics has not developed to the stage where they recognise economy, unemployment and others, we are at the level where we look at the individual, where he comes from, what he can do for us and then support him or not. So, I believe that a few intellectuals may have looked at the economy and said, yes it is good or not; they might have complained of unemployment, but they were like lone voices in the wilderness because people either wanted a South-South president or a Northern president, so they go for him.
Was Jonathan then weak in handling these issues?
No, it is the responsibility of a leader to have strong following. What makes a leader is the quality of following. There are many followers, who will do things without being told for the interest of the party. But such is not the case with most members of the PDP.
What is your advice to Buhari?
You will excuse me if I say anything in favour of Buhari, because there is esprit de corps between us. We want it written by historians many years to come that the coming of the General saved the nation from total collapse. To achieve that all hands must be on deck —- the hands of the old generals, the retired ones and those who are in office. I know Buhari when he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army in the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. I also know that he served under a number of senior of officers and every year, they wrote a confidential report in respect of each officer, including me, and the officer assessing others.
Can we say the energy that encouraged the interventions of the 1960s are still present?
It may not be, but what is absolutely available are the lessons learnt from those intervening years. I know Buhari has been reading what the public wants, had made promises and his advisers are also talking to him. So, he is taking notes and when he will come out, it will be a bombshell. I also know that Buhari will not want to fail because people expect so much from him and he would not to disappoint them.
We talked about fuel scarcity and other minor things. The most important thing to do for Nigerians is security. If a man cannot sleep with his two eyes closed, then he is unsafe and if he is unsafe then he cannot do anything. When God created man, He gave him food, mobility and the third, shelter before other things. Buhari has inherited unemployment and the reason for unemployment in the country is simple. Federal government created over 60 universities and more than a 100 secondary schools without establishing industries that will absolve the graduates of these institutions when they leave school.
So, what shall we do?
The answer is, we have to go back to the drawing board and review our human resources planning. How many medical doctors do we need in 10 years, how many accountants do we need in the next 15 years. And then get the universities, the training institutions to produce them. If you want 10 medical doctors and you take 10 and two fail, then you have not achieved anything, so, you take 20. If five fail, you still have 15 to meet up with your demand. We need to bring in experts to organise the economy.
But we must call APC to behave like every new broom that must sweep well. Otherwise our song will be different in the next four years.
What will you say about Buhari’s certificate scandal and the army?
When I joined the army, my certificates were collected for some reasons. One of which is to prevent those they sent abroad on training from leaving the army. When I was retiring the army gave me back my certificate and that was what I was looking for to show you. (Searching his cupboard for the certificate). So, I was surprised to hear Buhari has no certificates. But even if he has no certificates, we all know he wrote the Royal West African Frontier Force Entrance Examination and you are not allowed to take that exam unless you present your certificates. I believe Buhari’s case was a situation where people are trying to call a dog a bad name to hang it. But that notwithstanding, Buhari has been elected and Nigerians want development, good governance and equal representation.
What would you say about the agitations to cut cost of governance low?
In any society, the first and foremost thing is self. Civil servants at an inquiry on the future of the civil service influence the report of committees. The parliament, having regards to the future of the parliament also influences what they will do for themselves for the future. So, when they sat down to compute all those heavy-duty salaries, they will be doing only one thing, fulfilling the long time belief of self first and service to the nation second.
There should be a Commission to look into whether parliament should be full time or part time and if it should be on part time, how much they should be paid for sitting.
What would you say to the allegation that you left the management of PDP in Edo State to Chief Anenih alone?
Those who are saying that have my sympathy; sympathy arising from ignorance. In 1999 the PDP won the election to Edo State Government House, the leaders, three of us —- Chief Anenih, Chief Igbinedion and I agreed that two of us – Igbinedion and I – should help the governor succeed at home, while Chief Anenih, very brilliant and unassuming politician, go to Abuja to represent the state. But as time went on things fell apart and the arrangement failed. Everyone has its own job, my job was to stay at home and support the governor, which I did to the best of my ability. Anenih was to stay in Abuja to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the activities of the governor of the state, so that, they can help him and he excelled.
If you had worked together, how come the party was factionalised between you and him?
I don’t know that, but what I know is that Prof. Osunbor lost the election in the law court. He is a Professor of Law; so, he cannot complain that he did not get justice because he knew what to do. The fractionalisation of the party was based on different criteria. The party at the headquarters in Abuja was expected to intervene before things went out of hand, but for reasons best known to them, they decided to leave things as they were. But I now know that the reason was that they were not much interest in Edo State because when we lost the election, the national chairman of PDP then was asked how he felt and he said, ‘well they are not supposed to control every state in Nigeria, so losing Edo State is not a serious matter.’ Before the court judgment, I telephoned Osunbor from London, I said, ‘I heard that the Federal Government had traded in Edo and Ondo, can you go and see the President and phone from his home so that I can speak to him.’ He came back to tell me that the President asked him what will he benefit if he trades Edo out. So he believed that the President was not doing what they accused him of. But later, what I told him came to pass.
All these are now history and they are essential development in the scene of democracy. So, what we should be looking forward to is not the man feeding the horse, but the man sitting on the horse. If PDP wants to pack up then they must tell us. People have asked me if I am still in PDP, I said yes, and I will remain. Many months back, some PDP members accused me of belonging to APC, and that in the daytime I will be at Abuja with PDP and at night in Benin I will be APC. Just yesterday I heard that some APC members said that Ogbemudia is a PDP man, with this statement I have been vindicated and would want those carrying the rumour to leave me alone.
There is also accusation that you did not show concern when political offices were coming to Edo State?
The people who are complaining are themselves accomplices. It is not a matter of one man sitting down and deciding on a situation, it is a matter of a group of people saying how do we punish this man and they work out a programme to execute him. What we should be talking about is the future. The future now is straightforward because the Federal Government is APC and the state government is APC, therefore the state government will be the one to decide, who gets what. The major issue here is to allow the state government to execute their programme. I believe APC will perform because we have tremendous confidence in Buhari’s ability to lead Nigeria.