Gboyega Oguntuase, a former Commissioner for Information, is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State. In this interview with Olakiitan Victor, he said Governor Ayodele Fayose’s opposition role was in order and that the regrets of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and others in the APC were enough lessons to PDP defectors. Excerpts:
Ekiti PDP appears factionalised under your watch. How are you resolving the internal crisis?
Well, you call it faction but there is no faction in the real sense of it because the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti had explicitly stated that the congress held in March, 2016, which produced the state executive which I chair remains the authentic. So, whoever parades himself as the chairman is just deceiving himself and acting as impostor. Though we are not unaware of a splinter group being propelled by Mr. Williams Ajayi and Senator Clement Awoyelu, as a party that believes strongly in the ministry of reconciliation, we will continue to reach out to them.
To let you know that we are not leaving anything to chance, the council of Elders of the party headed by Chief Paul Alabi, a former deputy governor has started that process of reaching out to these people. But as much as we will continue to allow reconciliation and constructive engagements of all aggrieved members, my executive won’t tolerate rebellious actions from members, so, I urge those belonging to the faction to retrace their steps.
What do you think the crisis at the national level of the party portends for the PDP?
Internal crisis is not new in democracy, but how you handle it as a political party will go a long way in affecting your future positively or negatively. This crisis you are talking about is not limited to PDP alone, the APC which happens to be the ruling party is battling series of internal crises, so what is happening to us should not be seen as a big deal. You can even attest to the fact that the party has been responding swiftly to the situation and has been ingenious in its approach.
We thank God that the two factions have been so civil by going to courts, they have not resorted to self-help and the outcomes have been helping in settling the internal dispute coupled with our internal crisis resolution mechanism, which we have been deploying. But let me say here loud and clear that the Ekiti State chapter of the party is solidly behind the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee.
The court had ruled that Ali Modu Sheriff faction is not in existence, so I expect him to toe the line of reason and join the mainstream. Apart from that, all the governors under the banner of our great party, about 90 per cent of the senators, members of the House of Representatives are solidly behind Makarfi. Even, the 36 state chairmen have gone to Abuja to endorse him, so it is clear that Sheriff is alone in this battle and I am
confident that the party will get out of this stronger. Even in the case of Edo primaries, INEC recognised Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as candidate and he was presented by Makarfi and rejected the one presented by Sheriff. So, we still remain one big family.
Recently, some members of the party defected to APC in Ekiti and this is also happening at the federal level. Is this not a bad signal for your party?
The present trial of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki by the All Progressives Congress-led federal government suffices to teach a lesson that defecting to the ruling party has become a great regret. Let me remind those planning to leave the party in Ekiti to be aware of the regrets being suffered by party bigwigs that had defected to APC, because this shall be their lots if such dream is realisable. Saraki is presently being tried by the federal government for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules through which he was elected into office and for alleged false assets declaration at the Code of Conduct Bureau while serving as the governor of Kwara State.
So, it is no longer profitable or fashionable or something you can celebrate, when you leave a democratic party like the PDP and defect to the APC, a party everybody knows to be too sectional and discriminatory to accommodate defectors. Senator Bukola Saraki and others, who left the PDP thinking that they had seen the light and a better place to advance their political careers sacrificed everything, invested heavily after dumping the PDP to join APC to advance the course of the party, but all the APC wanted for him now is that he should go to jail. This is enough lesson to our members…Their future is not protected in APC.
But as far as we are concerned, we are not shaken by these defections, because they will soon come back. We shall salvage them. We shall continue to engage them because we now have a ministry of reconciliation, which preaches the gospel of peace all the times. It is not a sin for anyone to hold a dissenting opinion, but it should be within the ambit of the constitution of the party. Our party is passing through a process of restructuring deeply rooted in discipline, I mean party discipline. The party is no longer what it used to be where undisciplined people were doing what they wanted.
We have realised that we are the opposition party and old ways must give way for new life, so that we can reclaim power at the centre and that we are doing with all zeal and resoluteness. Recently, the Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko warned that indiscipline may kill the PDP, should we now fold our arms and allow such to continue? Governor Mimiko is the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and he must have seen something before saying such. The governor in his wisdom called it an act of indiscipline, but here in Ekiti we call it rebellion.
How do you react to the insinuation that Ekiti PDP EXCO has been subsumed by Governor Fayose?
This is also one of those rumours being spread by some people to create the impression that Governor Fayose is not democratic. Those of us who had stood by him during the joyous period and when we were all crying and up to when we stood by the prison side to the time we were in the trenches knew him to be a man that believes in other people’s opinions. He was never a dictator. He listens to the people and respects their opinions. To say that he is tele-guiding us is out of place. The government and the party structures are different, but we are working together towards making Ekiti great.
The party is taking decisions and communicating same to the governor as a member of the party. PDP remains the only party, where both the rich and the poor, the low and the high can claim the same rights. So, our party is highly independent and we enjoy such to the fullest under Governor Fayose. The government of Ekiti and PDP are partners in progress and one is not overreaching the other.
Governor Fayose has been having a running battle with the EFCC over allegation of corruption. Don’t you think this may affect your party in 2018?
I don’t believe the governor is having a running battle with the EFCC. You can only say he is having a running battle with the federal government and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari because of his consistent criticism of the government just for the good of all Nigerians. What Governor Fayose stands for is advocating equitable distribution of Nigeria’s wealth and good democratic values. And it is very wrong for EFCC to start running after people just because they are holding dissenting opinions to whatever the federal government is doing. This is wrong.
This is not democracy but something else. Governor Fayose says it as he sees it and that is why he has been having these attacks from the FG. Do you think all these would have come if Governor Fayose had kept quiet? No! By criticising the FG, Governor Fayose has not done anything criminal or repugnant to the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and even to the sensibilities of all Nigerians to warrant condemnation from anybody. What the federal government is doing to him is a normal reaction from a big man or the ruling class anytime they are challenged. So, Governor Fayose’s opposition role is in order and Ekiti is pleased with him.