Chief Clarence Olafemi, a former Acting Governor and one-time Speaker, Kogi State House of Assembly, in this interview with some Journalists, spoke about the APC crisis, PDP’s resurgence and the candidate that can defeat incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential poll. Yekini Jimoh presents the excerpts:
Recently, some aggrieved members of the APC at the National Assembly defected to PDP, how do you see this development?
There was a meeting in Abuja recently where about 40 political parties in the country signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the purpose of coming together as a formidable force ahead of 2019 elections. I attended the meeting held at the Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja and coincidentally, the event took place at the exact place that the APC held its meeting – in 2014 – that brought them to power in 2015.
Honestly, if anybody is claiming that the recent meeting and the signing of MoU do not have a significant impact on any election; such people are only trying to console themselves. There is no way any person can convince me that the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, is not important in Kwara State politics.
Since he joined politics, the Senate President has made himself acceptable to the people of the state and I have not seen him any depletion in his popularity and the support the people of Kwara give him. Senator Rabiu Kwankwoso is another quiet person that has made his mark in Kano politics. So, whatever noise some people are making is a mere side talk that does not contain an iota of truth.
Also, Tambuwal as a sitting governor is very relevant in Sokoto State and Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State have his supporters too. So, for APC to claim that the defection cannot affect the political fortune of the party, it is being economical with the truth. This is exactly what the PDP said in 2014 before the election and the effect was very clear to people at the end of the 2015 election.
The fact remains that we all came together from ACN, CPC, ANPP, some factions of APGA and some aggrieved members of PDP, which I belonged then to form a brand new party and we named it APC. We believed that Nigerians need a change in governance and a change in everything and that was why the party’s slogan was ‘change’.
We put in all our best because we were fighting a sitting government, thinking that the man we were fighting for knew what he wanted as he had struggled for the position three consecutive times. I did not expect that when the position of president eventually reached his hand, he would not know what to do with the power.
Yes! He is fighting corruption, but it is not good to jettison other sections of governance that are germane to Nigerians. Everything that has to do with the country was mortgaged to him and one will expect that the president will have a minimum template which Nigerians should not go below it.
When we all laboured to bring the APC to power, we thought that all of us would come on board and help the president to run the affairs of the government effectively, but to our dismay, after the victory people we did not see during the merger struggle, during the rigorous campaigns were the people that hijacked the president.
These are people that have been recycled for many years that they don’t even have anything tangible to offer as far as governance is concerned. Many of us sold our property, committed our precious time for the success of the election. But today, all the efforts were in vain because some people who did not know the stress we went through formed cabals, surrounded the president and derailed him from achieving the core value of the slogan called ‘change’.
Even the greater part of the tenure of the president was spent in hospital abroad and the vice president is not a politician but a technocrat. In democratic setting, the political class is supposed to be at the forefront of governance because in any government that technocrats dominate the cabinet and dominate the key elements of the government, such a system will only be more theoretical than practical and the resultant effects are failure in all sectors and that is exactly what happened to APC government.
The government made a lot of noise without action. That is why it took the federal government more than three years to move for a reactivation of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling mill that could have generated a lot of revenue for the government and created enormous jobs for Nigerians who are roaming the streets. We have the opportunity to strengthen the future of Nigerians, but the federal government has refused and I wonder what the government has been doing in the last three years.
What are the chances of PDP in the 2019 elections, considering the recent defections into its fold?
If the leadership of the party properly managed the defection of people into the party, then there is no way APC can win elections in 2019. That is why I am calling on the leadership of PDP to properly manage the defectors because those that have defected to PDP are strong politically. If it is not managed as expected, the aftermath of it will be one-in-three out for PDP, which will not be good for the party. I foresee the mass exodus of people from APC before now and when I mentioned it in one of my interviews with some national dailies nobody in the party took me seriously and today, it has started manifesting. They allowed the problems in the party to accumulate to a level that no option other than for the members to move out of the party.
But don’t you think the lack of internal democracy will still be a problem for PDP?
First and foremost, the leadership of the party has identified lack of internal democracy and imposition of candidates as the major setback that militated against the success of the party in the last election and there was an assurance that this time around, their rights will be entrenched in the party. Also, in every political party, there is always the temptation of running foul of internal democracy and right now, it depends on the leadership of PDP and they have vowed not to encourage imposition and impunity which is the only hope for the party to survive.
Honestly, there can never be a perfect system. But let there be a transparent democratic management of the MoU. The success recorded through the recent defection of APC members to PDP should be managed at the level of wards, local government, state and federal so that the party can bounce back. So far, some politicians within the PDP have indicated their interest to run for president.
Who do you think to possess the political clout to challenge President Buhari?
As far as I am concerned, the likes of Atiku Abubakar, Ahmed Markarfi, Kwankwoso and those who are still consulting before they make their intentions known are qualified to rule the country. All of them have some level of experiences, but the experience to lead the country is not the same. If I was asked personally, as Chief Clarence Olafemi, who I think has the capacity to challenge the incumbent president, I will choose Atiku Abubakar for obvious reasons. First, he was the vice-president of this country for eight good eight years. He has seen it all and there was nothing that happened at that time that he was not aware of. He has the leadership charisma and he is a courageous man, who doesn’t easily surrender to challenges.
This is a man, who is successful in managing businesses and economically, he knows the problems of the country. The president of America Donald Trump is using his knowledge gained from managing his business to the management of America and creating massive jobs for his people. If Atiku was allowed to manage Nigeria’s economy, there would be no African countries that will come close to Nigeria. Thirdly, he came from an area where there are challenges of insecurity. Atiku would put it on a front burner to ensure that he tackles the problem immediately.
Are you still nursing the ambition of contesting a seat in the Senate come 2019?
I have a culture and tradition and I don’t believe in standing outside to criticize. I prefer to struggle and win an election than waiting for political appointments the way some people do in every election. I am in the race and aspiring for the position of Senate to represent the people of Kogi West senatorial district. I am putting in everything to ensure that I achieve my aspiration. I am very confident that I will pick the ticket on the platform of PDP. I am sure that when the time comes, my antecedents in politics and my achievements will speak for me. If I can establish a college of education, technical, Kabba, when I held sway as acting governor within 60 days, then, if given the opportunity to represent my people at the National Assembly, I will do more than I had done before.
There are a lot of mineral resources in my district, which remain untapped for the economic development of my people. I will ensure that I convert the mineral resources to money for the benefit of the people. There are roads that had been abandoned for many years in my district. I will ensure that such roads are rehabilitated to ease movement of vehicles. I will not be a senator that will distance self from the people and it is high time the electorate asked questions on what their representatives do with their constituency funds.