The Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State, Mr Ini Ememobong has admitted that his party isn’t doing well in the opposition because it was founded to rule. He spoke with journalists in Uyo. Okon Bassey presents the excerpts:
Some members of your party complained of imposition of candidates through a ‘unity list’. What was it about lists?
If someone created unity list, you could have created progress list, faith list, or peace list and it would go. So it will now be a contention of lists. What is that list my brother? It is simple; Akwa ibom had Mr Emmanuel Enoidem, and Akwa Ibom understands that to market Enoidem to the 36 states and get them to buy in, will be difficult, so Enoidem goes out to campaign over; you now look at Kogi, if kogi has a candidate for example the National Publicity Secretary, we tell Kogi people, vote for Enoidem and we will vote for your Publicity Secretary. I have contested before, I was NANS President, such lists are available because, you must be able to have another person buy into the business and in most instances, where one person succeeds, the rest will succeed because it is now a product of collaboration. So there is nothing wrong or illegal about lists. The only thing is that those complaining about list should have also had their lists so that there will now be a contention of lists and I can assure you that they would also have been listed. The difference is that your list could have carried two people because you could only have an alliance with two; two states, three states, like that. That convention was very free, fair and credible. It shows the party’s readiness to get back power at the national. The truth is that when someone loses an election, he feels bad, but after a while, reasons come to play. It could have also been you, if your state negotiated well, you could have also ended up on the list and you could also have won. So everything was normal, nothing abnormal took place and the election was fair. That is behind us now, we are now building the party, I am sure you felt the impact. The National Chairman who on the day of his inauguration gave a quit notice to the ruling party in power is a man who must hit the ground running.
How prepared is PDP for 2019?
Even if you check from the first press release of the National Publicity Secretary, I am sure journalists are now happy, you have contending issues. Look at even the way he couched the heading of the press release, it showed class, it showed excellence. I know Bolaji who was once Minister of Youths, he is an excellent guy, so to find a Publicity Secretary who would also be very excellent in the position, we are going to have a very deep intellectual discuss. So when Bolaji issues a press statement, it will be replied by either an equal or superior statement. So the party is well prepared, every department of the party has been repositioned for the purpose of taking over power. That is the only reason PDP was formed, it was formed to handle power. We are not used to being opposition. There are other parties that were formed for the purpose of opposition; they are just strangers to power. We are strangers to opposition; we have to get back to power.
The South West geo-political zone is complaining of being sidelined in the emerging political arrangement of the PDP ahead of the 2019. What explanations do you have on this?
Well, I have not seen the communique of the Yoruba race, but I have heard the position of some of their prominent members. You see, if you don’t keep your house in order it is difficult for you to access some things; can we truly, fairly, sincerely as Nigerians and independent observers say that the members of the PDP from the south west have done very well in preserving the party? No! Look at Ogun state, litigation upon litigations. So the problem is; even if you give them the national chairmanship position, they can still use litigation and destroy the whole thing, and the party at the point of rebirth is careful about such things. Recall that we had a situation where a national chairman was about to declare open a national convention and there was a court judgment, a court order preventing him. We don’t want to go that way again. So you go to the party, it was opened between the south-west and the south-south, and the south-south seems better ready and receptive. You had only one governor from the south-west, and I don’t know if you have bothered to find out whether he was disposed to have the chairman come from there. There is no way you can undermine a governor in any political arrangement. Imagine a situation where people were stepping down at the convention ground. How did you want the delegates to know? You were stepping down and the people were taking you on camera; the delegates were already at the convention ground therefore not watching TV again, so you were stepping down for those at home, whereas those at the convention were busy doing final stage. However, the National Chairman, Uche Secondus is on a reconciliatory move and those things will be resolved. Like the former caretaker chairman Amed Makarfi said that the south-west may even get something better than the national chairman if they put their house in order. The party respects every zone in this country. The intellectual components of the south-west cannot be undermined, the capacity of the south-west cannot be undermined, and the party has never looked down on them, but they also have to understand that this was a contest, and a better prepared zone picked it.
Looking at the years 1999-2015 that PDP was in power, what do you think the PDP failed to do well, that if you come again, you will do better?
When you say we didn’t do well! Today Nigerians would prefer what we didn’t do well to what some people are doing best. We have seen the best of the opposition, so you prefer the well that we did. The truth is that people used to think that the grass is greener across the fence, it is a natural thinking; that is why you see people travelling, leave Nigeria, run to Libya, try to cross the mediterrenian to get into Europe. They don’t know that even in Europe there are beggars, and I tell people that if their citizens are begging so what happens to you? And you go there without a degree, without anything to work, you don’t have skills or you go there with an outdated skill, you would be feeling like nokia 3310 in the midst of smart phones. So, things may have gone wrong which could have been the exhibition of individual idiosyncratic disposition which were not well received by the general public. But again I think that there was also this very irresistible campaign that was run by the opposition. Promising miracle, because when you say that you will make one naira to be equal to one dollar, was a miracle, only Jesus could do that! But I think that the people also felt that ‘the grass maybe greener across that fence’ and decided to give them a trial and here is where the trial has landed them. You go to Abuja from the market women to the taxi drivers; everyone is anxiously awaiting the return of the PDP.
Again, from 1999 to 2015, and even from the just concluded convention, it seems that the PDP always wants a preferred candidate in every situation, why so?
Well, I don’t know what you mean by preferred candidate, but for people to even emerge as aspirants there are people who preferred them, so it depends on whose preferred candidate. The amalgamation of all the aspirants will give you a forum of preferred aspirants, so it now depends on who prefers you, a combination of those who prefer you. And this is a power game, not church, even in the church these days, the Assembly of God was in the court over who was the General Overseer, and who is not the G.O. So it depends on the combination of those who prefer you. What is the combination of those who prefer you to the combination of those who do not prefer you and that is simply voting! Every election is always about preferred candidates, but now the difference is in the number and quality of those preferring a particular candidate.
PDP swept all the 31 chairmanship and 329 councillorship positions in the local government election in Akwa Ibom State, a fest the opposition party described as a sham. Does it mean that the main opposition party. How did it happen?
We don’t distribute votes; it’s the people; so you have to call Akwa ibom people and ask them ward by ward; why they did not vote for them? But I don’t know if you could remember that most people who emerged candidates of other parties especially the APC were given tickets just to fill the space so that they have candidates everywhere. They did not respect the zoning of the people in their places. For example in Ibiono, we had agreed a long time ago that the chairmanship of Ibiono will go to Northern Ibiono, but because these people did not have any candidate, they went and picked someone from Ibiono south. So if you did not respect the internal zoning of the people that is not PDP zoning; that was the zoning agreed by the people, so how did you expect to win? That is what also happened almost everywhere. You could recall that not even one councillorship position in PDP was contested unchallenged.
Every post had in minimum of three persons contesting for it. But you cannot say that for the APC, I don’t even know where they sell forms because all through the period we kept monitoring, their office was always locked with keys. So a party that does not even have a functional state office, how can you win election? In 2015, we won them, conducted by INEC they said no that it was a sham. This issue of a sham has become a recurrent lexicon of the opposition and it is not far-fetched, it is just that they are bereft of new ideas, so they will only use the words they are used to; you understand. We couldn’t have dashed anybody vote because when we insisted on going to the campaign in the 329 wards, we insisted that our candidates for the councillorship posts must drop the campaign from the wards, and go to the units, villages and in some instances through door to door. The opposition parties did not do it, so the people could only vote for the people they saw. You are a journalist, go round and check, they couldn’t cover the 31 local government areas. You could recall when they did the drama they called ‘the flag off’, what time did they have? So a party that was still in court on Thursday when the election was on Saturday, trying to stop the election could not have been prepared for that election, and they have already issued a pre-election concession speech; so a follow up was the post-election concession speech, and we combined all their concession speeches, we thank them. In 2019 when we win them again, we will take their concession speech.
Now, with the PDP in charge entire local government administration in the state, the people expect us to continue to do what we have been doing that made us to win the election. They expect us to run a local government system that can respond to the basic needs of the people. They expect the councilors to be grass-rooted, to discuss with their people, to keep them abreast of happenings. They are not expecting too much. The Nigerian electorates are the easiest to please in the whole world. People just need little! They need water, they need road, and they need loan to sell; because almost everyone in Nigeria becomes a government for himself. He provides his security, he provides his water, and he provides almost everything for himself. So, what the Akwa Ibom electorates expect is that the crop of chairmen, vice chairmen, councilors just coming in will help further the deepening of democracy by providing basic things. They understand that times are hard. But no matter how hard times are, they shouldn’t keep the local government dirty. They are expecting very little basic things that get lives running. But as a party, we have a document called ‘irreducible minimum expectation’ that we expect that each and every one of them must meet, and if they fulfil that, you can be sure that PDP will keep winning.