Dan Kunle, a founding member of Peoples Democratic Party, spoke with Chuks Okocha on recent developments in the party. Excerpts:
What really were your roles in the formative years of the PDP?
In 1998, I was privileged to work closely with General David Jemibewon and late Chief S.B Awoniyi when General Sani Abacha died. I used to share an office with Dr. Amana at Hilton hotel and so most, I was very active in some of the activities of government at that time. I worked closely with General Jemibewon and Chief Awoniyi on what new platform to quickly put together. Chief Awoniyi hosted us in his house, we held meetings with him and he called all his friends together. Luckily, Adamu Ciroma is still alive, Bamanga Tukur is still alive, Jemibewon is still alive and they all started mobilising Professor Jubril Aminu, Mohammed Gana and that was how we started mobilising and contributing money and PDP was born.
Chief Awoniyi wrote the manifesto with a group of Gana while General Jemibewon wrote the Constitution because late Bola Ige was to chair the Constitution committee for PDP but he did not turn up in the meeting because the meeting was to be held in Lagos. He did not turn up so General Jemibewon was there by act to chair the Constitution drafting committee and he did it and he left the meeting that day and flew down to Abuja to meet me and we sat down and looked at the draft. He gave me the whole thing because I had computers in my office and we process the whole things there.
We perfected everything and as a lawyer, he asked me some questions and I answered them and he approved them and said I should go and print them for him in booklets. He said I should print six copies and that Dr. Alex Ekwueme was on the third floor; that he is going to submit them to him. That was the Constitution of PDP. From there, we started meetings.
The first day, we met in Awoniyi’s house, there were meetings in Tukur’s house, meetings at Sheraton with Professor Jibrin Aminu and all my colleagues at that time, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is alive. We’ve lost Waziri Mohammed, so we were all building up the party to the time we now launched it at old parade ground in Garki Area 10, where Chief Awoniyi of blessed memory gave Solomon Lar the first chairmanship flag of the party. And that was how we went to Jos.
So, what does the BoT mean and represent?
At that time, I was very young but privileged to be an insider in the whole game. On the issue of Board of Trustees (BoT), we were looking out to persons like Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Adamu Chiroma, Professor Jibrin Aminu, Bamanga Tukur and Mohammed Kirfi. These are the group we were looking at that could form what we call a body that you can call Board of Trustees. But we say it should not be more that 18 or 19 or 20 maximum. Why? Then, they were saying Board of Trustees should be people that are well respected who have left ambition, who have righteous voice and that since we are maintaining six geopolitical zones, we said three per zone that is already 18 and we said you can add two or three people like women, National Woman Leader, a woman of significantce that has sympathy for the party for PDP just to make it 19 or 20 that was our thinking at the time. But you know we were younger, this was the thinking of the founding fathers.
They did not believe that BoT was going to be an assemblage of another Senate. Today, what I saw in your newspaper is ninety-something. Senate is 109, if BoT of the ruling party is ninety-something, then, it is another Senate.
With what is on ground, does it represent the dream of the founding members?
That is not what BoT is supposed to be. It is supposed to be the apex of the pyramid, occupied by a few people. People with righteous voice that are less ambitious, they are not looking for appointment anymore. They should be people who can just tell the President or the Chairman of the party that the situation is like this and that and they should do this or that. That is the kind of thing we were looking at in the BoT. The most functional part of a ruling party is the National Working Committee (NWC) that is the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman, Secretary that is the head quarters of the party; it is the most functional. BoT is supposed to be advisory, consultative. Some of us are very surprised that they have deviated completely from what the thinking was in 1998, 1999.
Now that Professor Jerry Gana has been called to restructure the BoT, what do you expect from him?
He may not remember me vividly because I was younger. I am the one who has to remember all the elders. He is a man of credibility. If I were him, I will not have more than the statutory number, I will have like 30 maximum 35 and why? That 30 if you look at it from your list that I read from your newspaper, from number two to number 28, they have legitimacy. They were either elected through a popular national election of PDP platform or won elections. You cannot be President or Senate President if you did not win election. Also the membership of the PDP, you cannot be Chairman of PDP if National Convention did not elect you. That means all those in the first list that I saw in your newspaper derived their legitimacy through popular vote and participatory democracy.
If you use that principle nobody can dispute it because PDP must show democratic tendencies and ethos in everything it is doing. That is the reason why we put zoning. So, if you put this 28 or 30 legitimately, whom nobody can dispute how they derive their status, then you can now say okay, National Woman Leader of significance that has identified with the party since the time of formation, let’s add for gender balancing and because we need their wisdom. But not ladies that are still looking for contract up and down, no. You find two or three that have that status, you add. I expect Professor Jerry Gana to derive whatever he is going to do from that tenet of democratic ethos by saying this first 30 must derive legitimacy because they all came through electoral process.
Are the policies of President Jonathan reflective of the PDP manifesto?
The way I expected them to work, I expected them to carry the manifesto in a manner that they will be relating with the National Assembly to make the people in the National Assembly that is the Senate and the House of Representatives respect the manifesto of the party and make the executive arm to work hand-in-hand so that the three of them, the executive arm that is the cabinet and the National Assembly will work coherently as one family.
But the way the whole thing is now is like the National Assembly is on its own and the cabinet is on its own. I don’t know if the leadership of the party today can even call a minister and say, can we see your agenda, and relate it with the manifesto? Maybe I am lost, but I am still a very loyal member of PDP in Kogi where I come from. I contribute financially every time there is election; I am in the field in the state. There is something missing, this is not the kind of party that we dreamt of, there is something missing. I am not seeing the coordination.