Hayatu-Deen: 2023 Presidential Election is PDP’s to Lose
•Says power shift against democratic principles, zoning a lazy argument
•Declares ‘I’m going in to win, my message has resonated well’
•Reveals Abiola invested almost 25 years of goodwill across the country
•Believes anyone who wants to be president should work hard, build alliances
Obinna Chima, Goddy Egene and Peter Uzoho
Former Managing Director of FSB International Bank Plc., and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential hopeful, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, has said if the main opposition party is able to get its act together in terms of organisation and envisaging the antics of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), PDP would win the 2023 general election.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY in a presidential interview series, Hayatu-Deen, punctured arguments in favour of zoning or power shift. He said it was unreasonable for the country to be bogged down by power shift clamour and debate, stressing that the argument for zoning is not only lazy but also against democratic principles.
He said if he had been asked the question on zoning some weeks back, he would have loved to spend some quality time on the subject. But PDP had already deferred to wisdom by throwing its presidential ticket open, he stated.
Analysing the chances of PDP in next year’s general election, Hayatu-Deen, who explained the rationale behind the proposed consensus northern candidate and why it failed, said, “Let me say that the reason for putting in place that framework for producing a consensus candidate from the northern part of the country was informed by two or three reasons.
“First and foremost, the field was getting large both in the north and in the south to the point where it would become difficult to manage at the convention.
“Secondly, the election of 2023 is PDP’s to lose and if caution is not exercised, APC may actually snatch victory from the jaws of defeat if we have an acrimonious convention.
“Thirdly was that the consensus arrangement was actually going to happen in stages. That the north should reduce the field to one person or maximum of two and, second, that this particular message should actually also be taken to the southern part of the country. At the time, we knew more people were going to come out, but only Pius Anyim had come out as at the time.
“Lo and behold, after a few weeks, there were far more contestants in the southern part of the country than the north. So, we now started going to various parts of the country, preaching to the governors of the PDP to do other things in their powers to actually shrink the field in the south so that when we go to the convention, we’ll have few people to narrow this process.
“To answer your question, the consensus arrangement in the north fell apart simply because the candidates felt that the basis for it existed no more and, therefore, it was better for each person to actually run their own independent campaign. In so doing, taking cognisance of two things: that we would be able to establish very good relationships among ourselves.
“Also, it provided a teaching moment as we go to the convention to begin to put together some kind of framework even before the convention as to how these things will coalesce and still have a very successful convention and produce a candidate. So, those were the reasons.”
Dismissing the idea of zoning, Hayatu-Deen stated, “This issue has been up in the air and travelling at just 1000 miles per hour, it’s now an open and shut case that has gone to the highest policymaking body of the party and they decided to open it up for all. Let me tell you this, first, in 1999, beginning from preparations in 1998, this is now almost 23 to 24 years, there was a major event that took place during MKO Abiola’s election.
“Followed by a lot of commotion from many places, leading up to 1998, it was decided by the party bigwigs that given what had happened, it was important for us to stabilise this country, to hand over power to somebody from the South-west to compensate the denial of Abiola’s mandate.
“There was no constitutional provision, there was no referendum taken among the south, and this is how the world works. It was an open contest. People like Abubakar Rimi, Philip Asiodu, and others ran to me and contested about that. That was a private arrangement that was done. So, we were able to organise to shift the votes to Obasanjo. Secondly, it’s now almost a generation and after 23 years, we are still bogged down with power shift. I think it’s unreasonable.
“Thirdly, it goes against the principles of democracy as far as I’m concerned. You cannot shut anyone out under a democratic contest. Anybody who is eligible that meets the criteria to either vote for somebody or be voted for, let him go on. I refuse to accept the lazy argument that this thing should be zoned and given to a particular zone.
“Abiola invested almost 20 to 25 years of goodwill across the country. Tofa, who was a very popular person in Kano, lost Kano to Abiola. Anybody from the South-east or South-south or the north, who wants to become president, should go and do that hard work and build alliances. Nigerians are good people. If you show them that you actually have their back and you are waiting for them, you will be amazed.”
He elaborated further, “In 1999, a large section of the northern establishment, over 80 per cent of them, who were military were backing Alex Ekwueme for the presidency. As journalists, I will encourage you to send messages to people to actually go out there and build friendship and relationships and sow the seeds.
“You will be surprised that an Ibibio or an Igbo guy or Ijaw man can easily get elected president, because the democratic space is very free and very open, and it’s all about relationships. That investment has to happen. There is no reason why Mohammed Hayatu-Deen should be prevented from exercising his own democratic and human rights. That’s my answer to that question.”
Speaking on his chances at the PDP presidential primary this weekend, Hayatu-Deen said, “First of all, I don’t go into anything without actually reflecting very carefully about it. Secondly, the reason why I went in is not because I want anything out of it personally for myself, my family or my friends.
“I see this country standing on a brink, almost approaching a failed state. All the sounds and stress are there for who wants to see; the structural holes, the cracks are there for anybody to see. I don’t want to be a bystander watching what is going on, only for my conscience to say, if something terrible happens, what were you doing then? That you decided to stay in your private comfort and you refused to get into the murky waters of politics.
“I don’t want my children to hold me accountable down the road and say, ‘daddy, what were you doing?’ Or ordinary Nigerians to say, ‘we know this guy, he has so much to offer, he’s sitting down, because he doesn’t want any mud on his face.’ I think the time for courageous people in civil society space, in the private space has come.
“There is no better time than now for us to enrich the pool of politicians in this country and get many men and women of quality and distinction, who are going to be there not because they are going to help themselves, not because they are going to help their friends and families, but because they believe they have something they can give.”
The former banker added, “I have done my maths very carefully and I’m going in to win and my message has resonated very well with all of the delegates that I have actually visited. And it’s a competitive race, I know there are many competitors there, but we have grand deals worked out and I’m confident that I will put up a very good showing at the primaries coming up this week.”