A chairmanship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party from the South-west and member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Professor Tunde Adeniran has said for the party to retake power in 2019, it must be purged of certain flaws and reform its image. He spoke with Onyebuchi Ezigbo. Excerpts:
Why are you interested in the PDP chairmanship seat?
The PDP had a vision and a mission why it came to be and so much has been done to really get it across to every nook and cranny of this country to make it the party of choice of the Nigerian people and so much has been done to sustain it. But in the past few years, it has been brutalized; it has been sabotaged and of course, there is a very worrisome devaluation of the party. We believe at this point, it doesn’t make sense just standing-by and watching.
It is just like when you have a baby and the baby is dying of certain illness or sickness that has been properly diagnosed and requiring care. We believe that by the grace of God when we take over the leadership of the party, we can turn things around and transform it to ensure that we do those things that need to be done. At the end of it, we would be able to get the party back to the people.
There are three basic problems in the party: lack of internal democracy, disorientation and of course, terrible image that it has acquired as a result of acts of commission and omission on the part of the leadership. We believe that there is need at this point to take it over to restore the dignity of the party. There is need at this point to broaden the base of political participation so that there would be inclusiveness and quality leadership.
We have been experiencing a lot of problems in the past which were caused by this lack of internal democracy and of course, we made necessary noise at that time. We drew attention to the problems we were having and the likely consequences and here we are now. These are avoidable disasters that are just waiting to happen and there is no way in which when you are going in a particular direction you will not end up in a particular destination. That is the fate of the PDP today.
We believe we really have to come in to give a worthy legacy that the people and youths that firmly believe in the party can be proud of and so, we should hand over to them a credible party that has a place in Nigeria and a party that is really a political party and not just coming together of some group for just electoral purposes.
How can the party achieve peace and move ahead with the convention?
Well, there would be peace in the party very soon. Some of the issues that are coming up now are natural development – that is, robust politics because it is unfortunate that there have been some misunderstanding in the past. Once these issues are resolved we will now be able to move forward. The contending factions and forces are part of what you see happen but frankly speaking, the party has enough human resources to think through those issues and resolve them. These issues will be resolved.
They are not legalistic, they are political issues and political solutions will be sought. If we just rely on legality and going to court and so on, some other issues will be coming over and over but I believe in the integrity of the leadership of party and I believe that they will put heads together and will find solution. It is just a matter of time.
I believe the leadership of the party will really resolve it. The convention in terms of whether it would hold or not, the convention would be held and everyone would be brought on board. Those people who are taking the case to court are members of the party, the entire party is involved in this thing and we will all come together to resolve our differences and move forward.
Do you feel there are external forces behind the issues in PDP?
When you see this type of situation, there is always that tendency for some others to come in and try to play some roles because some would see it as being in their interest to create more problems to add to the problem of the party because as far as they are concerned, they see themselves as beneficiaries of whatever goes wrong in the party. So, it is important to be mindful of this and that is why we have been appealing to all our people not to let other interest dictate the direction of what happens to the party.
Those who believe that by instigating internal opposition that they are going to benefit from it they are going to be disappointed at the end because our people are mindful of what is going on and we are taking necessary action to ensure that our people are not subjected to the manipulations of these external forces that believe or expect to benefit from any crisis in the PDP.
What are your chances considering other interests from the South west?
My chances are very bright due to what I regard as the grace of God and I am a founding member of the PDP. In the entire South-west, I was the first to convene and to host the meeting of the PDP at my hall in Ibadan. Apart from that, by the grace of God, today, I can say quite clearly that I am one leader from the zone who has never lost his polling booth, his ward, and has never lost his constituency in any election from 1999 till today. It is by the grace of God and I thank God for it and I have never at any moment at any time even thought of ever leaving the party.
I have been consistent and it is by the grace of God and people know this and they appreciate it and because of the widespread reception and the encouragement that I have got over the past few months that give me the conviction that there would be no problem in my candidacy, which enjoys local support.
Apart from the local support that it enjoys across Nigeria, it is also a candidacy that enjoys popular reception and support and this is not due to the fact that I have committed myself totally to serving Nigeria over the past few decades but more because I have had the privilege of exposure to every segment of this country.
Do you share the view that the PDP has not got the kind of cohesion required to launch the kind of attack the APC used to dislodge it from power?
I don’t at all because people describe us as an opposition party. I see some elements of conceptual confusion in this. I see the PDP as a party out of power and getting back to power is doing the right thing to get back. There is no way we can continue to do some of the things we are doing in the past and hope to get back to power. We need to get our acts together. There is this image hangover. We need to reposition ourselves.
The image has to change; the face of PDP must change and of course, we have to rebrand and ensure we go all out to convince those who left before to come back and more importantly, there are some people that are not participating – who are just voters and all that is needed are programmes and policies we are going to bring out that will change and transform things and if you have a born again PDP, we would be able to get there.
Do you think that the National Chairman of the party at this time will have any influence over who gets the ticket in 2019?
I think the problem is that we seem to be living in the past and we feel that what used to happen will happen again, when you have maybe a cabal or some individuals with distorted disposition, who will just determine this and this is what is going to happen. We are putting an end to the era of imposition. It is imposition that got us to where we are right now. So, for someone to think or assume that a chairman will personally determine the candidates that would emerge in 2018, 2019 and so on, I think it is presumptuous.
What we are trying to do is to get a situation whereby power will really belong to the people. The kind of initiative that would be put in place is that whoever, nationally or wherever must be able to demonstrate support down to the grassroots. We are going to use an inclusive thing. It is not a question of a type of leadership that would be pocketed by an individual or a group of individuals. There would be transparency, there would be accountability and more importantly, like I said earlier on, we have to broaden the space of participation.
The South-west is interested in the chairmanship and at the same time, it is interested in the vice-presidential ticket in 2019. How do you balance this?
There is no problem about it. By the time we get to the convention by the grace of God, I would be elected the National Chairman. If some people are also interested in the Vice Presidential slot or whatever it is when we get to that stage, it would be looked into and then it would be cleared because there would be justice, fairness and equity.
Those are the things that the party must stand for and of course, if there is going to be unity we must also be united in terms of the purposes that we stand for. So, by the time we get to that stage, we would look into it. There is nothing wrong in anybody expressing their wishes or desire but it is important to do the right thing at the right time.
Will you support the idea if the party zones the chairmanship slot to South-west and the vice-president’s slot to either South-east or South-south?
I do not because it would be wrong at this stage to be doing that simply because whoever emerges as the presidential candidate will also have a say because that would be his partner and we can’t preempt anything. One thing which is certain is that right now, people are thinking ahead, people are reflecting over these issues and the thinking process will continue.
Factors will come in that will need consideration and of course, at that time the party would be thinking about all those and the need for unity, equity, fairness, justice – these would be considered and by the time you now look at what is on the ground, who and who is occupying this or who is in charge of this and that and so forth, then you should be able to know where it should go.
If the party in its wisdom decides to zone the vice-presidential slot to your zone, South-west, will you accept to step down?
As far as I am concerned, the motivation for aspiring for office is service and when you want to serve people, you have to be directed; you have to be guided. If for any reason the party decides that they want to get another chairman from another zone, why would I want to sit-tight on anything? That has been the bane of our politics in this part of the world. People must be ready to make sacrifices. People at the same time should also be ready to bear in mind the very essence of service. So, if you are self-serving, if you are a desperate politician, then of course, we would be ready to do so many things that are antithetical.
What do you say to those who hold the view that the 16 years of PDP was a waste?
I say to them go and rethink. There is so much that we as Nigerians and also the PDP in particular have cause to thank God for in terms of what has transpired and so on and at the same time, we must acknowledged the fact that we have not attained that level that we hoped we would have attained. There is so much that ought to be achieved that we didn’t achieve due to quite a number of factors but then, that is not to say that those years were a waste.
If you look and analyse things sector by sector and then of course, the fact that Nigeria is still one united country, there are challenges quite alright but there are other possibilities. We are still in democracy trying to consolidate it. How has it been that there has not been military take-over. We take so many things for granted. We should acknowledge the grace of God over this country. God has been so very kind and helpful and of course, God has also used people to ensure that certain things are done and the PDP has been that party.
We made blunders. We didn’t rise up to certain challenges and that is why God in his mercy, God who is Almighty, who knows what is good for this country said look, there would be a change and there was a change and we are going through the change now and God is also watching and He is saying, ‘look this is not the type of change I want for this country I want this country to be transformed to make progress’, that change will change.
These people seem to have learnt their lesson and my emergence will be a confirmation that God will want to transform and change the change that is on ground and with a party that has learnt from past errors and past mistakes and so forth, then all those disabilities will be shed away and after shedding them, we will be able to move forward and give Nigerians the type of leadership, the type of governance that Nigeria desires.
Can you assess the APC-led federal government in the past one year?
They have not impressed me. I am disappointed because I expect that they would learn from the past and be able to build on the achievements that we made. It is a pity that situations are worse now in all respects and I have not been impressed at all. It is really unfortunate. This is my country and I believe even before the day we will be taking over by the grace of God in 2019 between now and then, I don’t want them to create too many problems.
Imagine a government taking over and saying that some of the National Conference report will be dumped – things that were done to really reposition Nigeria; to move us forward without considering some of the recommendations. It is quite unfortunate and what we see from the outside is not edifying at all and they themselves from the signals I perceive, I think from within themselves many of them are disappointed.
There are some good materials amongst them – some patriotic Nigerians, who believe that Nigeria should be moving in a different direction to be developing and you know to do things better by the time we reposition our party, we would be able to bring the good Nigerians amongst them to come and join us.
Those campaigning against you are saying that your closeness to a particular chieftain of the APC who is a former member of the PDP is likely to cost you this race. Is that worth pondering?
Well, many people have accused me of association with so many people. Some would say he is too close to Ibrahim Babangida, some would say he is too close to Obasanjo, some would say he is Obasanjo’s son, some would say he is a friend of Atiku, some would say… the issue is that I respect all our leaders, I don’t have any enemies and that is why when you go to the South-west, where you see some places that there is a little faction here and there, you don’t see me belonging to any faction because I believe all these people belong to me and I relate to people not based on self-serving goals.
So, those saying those things are saying it because in their own calculation, they believe that ‘oh this is someone who has been so committed to this party, who has been serving this party selflessly and all that even when he was denied senatorial ticket, he remained faithful, so what can we use against him so they had to cook up something. That is why I am not surprised they are coming out with such things and there is no basis for that but this is politics.
I see some elements of conceptual confusion in this. I see the PDP as a party out of power and getting back to power is doing the right thing to get back. There is no way we can continue to do some of the things we are doing in the past and hope to get back to power. We need to get our acts together. There is this image hangover. We need to reposition ourselves…The image has to change