•Says country never as disunited since civil war
•Confident PDP convention will showcase opposition’s unity
•Party knows fate Thursday over Secondus’ appeal
Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos
Former Senate President and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has said anyone seeking to rule the country in 2023 would need to show Nigerians that he or she possessed the capacity to turn the country around for the better within the shortest possible time.
Saraki, who also identified maturity of the leadership as crucial, said as a party, the PDP appreciated that the country was not where it should be and was determined to give Nigerians a better option at the next election in 2023.
The former Kwara State governor, posited that the level of inter-ethnic distrust in the country had degenerated so badly that the only period in the country’s history it could be compared with was the civil war time.
He also said the October 30 and 31 national convention of the PDP would provide an opportunity for the party to showcase it’s unity.
But the opposition party would know its fate on Thursday in the appeal filed by its suspended national chairman, Uche Secondus as the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, adjourned for hearing and possible ruling.
Speaking on ‘The Morning Show’ of the Arise News Channel, Saraki said experience has shown that capacity and ability were a big issue in the leadership of the country.
“This is not about propaganda and I think we need to move away from propaganda to substance. What we are saying is that we are not the ones creating the figures. I would be the first to admit if things were going on the right directions and it is not for the sake of power.
“The question is that, we need to find solutions to a lot of these problems and today, the party which is there now has not met those promises.
“When I listen to your show, people who come say Nigeria is not where they want it to be today, which is a fact and as such, what we should be talking of is what is the alternative and if you are happy and you believe that the path for Nigeria is to continue with this party and their programmes, that is your choice and it is also the choice of others to say, ‘no, we must have a country that is secured,” he said.
According to him, the situation in the country in 2015 was that only one part of the country was unsecured, but now the entire parts of the country have challenges of insecurity.
“That is not what people are ready to accept. A country, where there are issues of disunity, that is not what anybody wants to accept. A country, where most of her youths are unemployed and those that can be employed are moving out of the country. These weren’t the case in 2015, and a lot of people are saying, we need an alternative and they are asking who is going to provide the alternative?
“Our responsibility is to make sure we don’t get it wrong in the next election. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying PDP is perfect, but I am saying election is about choice and we are in a better position to provide a better country for all.
“Talk about issues of where the country is in terms of investment, the world sees Nigeria. In the time of our party, there were a lot of opportunities for our esteemed youths, which doesn’t exist now, that is what I am talking about,” he said.
On the internal crisis trailing the fourth coming PDP national convention, Saraki said that the party was in good stead for the electoral battles ahead, having done enormous work in reconciling the feuding parties in the party.
“We are going to a convention. I think out of probably 24 positions, we have reached consensus in about 21, with just about three or four left, which shows a party that understands the importance of the time in the country today and it is not about us the politicians, but about creating a platform that gives an opportunity to provide leadership for this country at this crucial time.
“So, what I am saying is that as a party, we appreciate where the country is; we are determined to give Nigerians a better option. We believe we have the capacity to do so, because what we have all learnt is that sadly, capacity and ability are big issues in leadership and we must this time around talk about how we can ensure that we have the right kind of people to lead the country at all levels.
“People, who don’t want power for the sake of power, but really want to make a difference and are courageous enough to see things that are going wrong and say this is going wrong and that we are not going to be part of that.
“When you go to election, you make promises. So, you must be held accountable for it. They are not a wish list, because that will be a deception. It’s not just me, there are a lot of people saying the country is not in a good place today and we must try and wrestle it and put it on a right path.”
Saraki further spoke on the impact of the zoning plan being adopted by the PDP, saying the arrangement did not in any way affect presidential aspiration of members.
His words: “Now, talking about the issue of zoning, I think that has been made very clear by the party at all our meetings. Yes, we have zoned the positions of party offices, but it was clear in doing that, that it does preclude anybody that has any presidential ambition.
“Most of our leaders have come on your show and reemphasised that. We have said that at NEC; we have said that at all the possible meetings and caucuses we have had that, yes, we have taken the chairmanship to the north central, but it hasn’t excluded anybody. But what we are looking for in the party is that if anybody wants to offer himself to run for president, let him offer himself. I think the time we have now, we must look at and try to get our best, because the job ahead is a job that focuses on quality leadership.”
On whether he would defect to another party if he didn’t get the PDP presidential ticket, Saraki said it was unfair to think of such about him.
He said in 2019, he contested the presidential primary election under the PDP and that, even though he didn’t win, he offered to support Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“I worked hard and someone said I did that at the expense of having lost my seat. So, I am a team player, my personal ambition is not what the issue is for me. What is important is to get this country right. I have my children and grandchildren, we must leave for them a better country.
“We want a country where there are jobs for talented youths. We have a lot of youths with great potential and today the world sees Africa as the next destination for investments. We have an opportunity to turn things around and I honestly believe that with the right type of leadership, it won’t take so long to turn this country round.
“But to do that which I used to say when campaigning, you can’t give what you don’t have and I think that should be our focus. We must ensure we get it right in 2023,” he said.
Saraki said the opposition party was not shocked by the movement of some of the PDPgovernors, but that Nigerians would “begin to see some defections from the ruling party soon,” adding that, “leaders in the ruling parties don’t defect early, they defect late in the game.
“I don’t think that we [PDP] are haemorrhaging. If you remember, I said a couple of times that there were certain governors that we knew were going to leave, and they’ve left. So, we are not surprised. We’ve got some bigwigs that are coming to the party.
“This week, a former governor will join the party. We’ve had a couple, who have joined. Look, we all know that leaders in the ruling parties don’t defect early. They defect late in the game. So, keep watching. Nigerians will not be surprised when you begin to see some defections from the ruling party,” he explained.
Saraki, however, blamed the APC for using political propaganda to hoodwink Nigerians in the 2015 general election, explaining that it was when he observed that APC was a party of propaganda that he moved back to the PDP.
Meanwhile, at the resumed hearing yesterday of Secondus’ appeal, PDP lawyers asked for time to respond to the issues, but the Court of Appeal judges refused to grant their request, stating that the suit was time-bound in view of the national convention holding on Saturday.
Secondus, through his Counsel, Tayo Oyetibo, had asked the court to suspend the October 30th and 31st national convention of the PDP. He also asked the court to allow Secondus preside over the convention.
When the matter was mentioned in court, six other members of the PDP drew the attention of the court to their application for joinder, which was not opposed by counsel to Secondus.
Their request was subsequently granted by the three-man panel of the appeal court.
The defence counsel, including those, who joined in the suit, however, opposed to the moving of the motion for Interim injunction by Secondus’ counsel seeking to stop the PDP convention and asked for time to respond to the process.
The panel led by Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, after listening to the argument from the parties, ordered counsel to the plaintiff to “serve the process to the defendants Counsel within 24-hours while respondents’ counsel should respond within 24 hours.
He, thereafter, adjourned the matter to 28th of October, for hearing and possible ruling on the motion.
Oyetibo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, while speaking to journalist, explained that, “We were in court to get an order, but saw people, who said they want to join the matter.
“We had to trash that out and the court allowed them. So, we will come back on Thursday for the main reason why we came to court. We hope that the court will take a decision about the National convention of the PDP on that day.”