Ogun: Why I am Rooting for Peter Obi
A People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Serguis Ogun, in this interview with Udora Orizu, explains why he believes Labour Party’s Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi, is the best material to lead Nigeria come 2023. Excerpts:
The primaries are over and the country is now gearing towards the general election. Looking back, what were your observations?
I think the primaries especially for the two major political parties, the APC and the PDP, it was a disgrace what turned out because a situation where, maybe we didn’t have these statutory delegates. In the first case, I don’t think there was anything wrong with section 84 (8) because we just copied the Electoral Act 2010, just copied, I think, section 87 or is it 78, lifted it and put it there. And if you cast your minds back since 2010 till now statutory delegates have been voting. So where did the brain wave come from that we now said people might input certain things into it and will not allow statutory delegates to vote and we now have to amend it. But the impression we were giving was that it is all tied up with the president; I never had any problem but I thought it wasn’t necessary and the day we amended it I actually said it on television that it was not necessary because I think we were dabbling too much into the political parties’ affairs. These are areas where we should leave to the political parties if we really want them to deepen the internal democracy, these are things they should handle. But well, we have had the primaries. They have come and gone and the way it turned out, I guess because the statutory delegates were not there, so it had only few people to deal with. For the national assembly election, they had to deal with the adhoc delegates, for the PDP three per ward and I think the APC, it was much more than that and for the presidential, for PDP it was one per local government, national delegates I think for the APC it was about three or five. So, they had few people to deal with and of course more money went in there. So, that is the disgrace really. That you are going to spend that much money just for somebody to emerge and a lot went down, a lot of money and this is a country that we are borrowing for practically everything; borrowing to pay salaries, borrowing to subsidize petrol, borrowing for everything and yet we had that kind of money in circulation just to buy votes at that level. I mean, if a party is going to nominate somebody, the way I know this in the past and I think the candidate of ADC said it that they put money together for the delegates because they are going to come from all over the country and for then, for their transport and accommodation. That is what I am used to. In the past when you go Benin from my state, from my local government to Benin, they will give you transport money. You give people from my ward, maybe N5,000 or N10,000 but now that it is so heavily monetized, it is unfortunate. Well at the primaries, PDP produced Atiku and APC Tinubu and Peter Obi had to go to Labour which I think was a good thing.
Labour Party’s Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi was a member of PDP, just until recently he left; how did you receive the news of his departure even though you said it is a good thing? Some people said he would have become the running mate to anyone who emerged as the presidential candidate if he had stayed put.
You can’t be too sure that Atiku would have picked him because there is rumour here and there that the Delta state Governor sank in so much. Maybe that deal was already closed before the day of the primaries. It is said that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. It is possible that stew was already cooked before the real event took place but I don’t know. These are just rumours on the street.
Would you think Obi just left without some bad blood? There were speculations that he was forced to leave by the activities of some governors before the primaries.
I think he saw the handwriting on the wall and it was a good thing he left. Was he going to be able to match Governor Wike? He was not going to be able to match Wike, neither was he going to match Atiku. He didn’t have that kind of war chest and this is a private businessman. So, serving in office is a public service and the office is a public office. So, why should you spend your entire savings, family savings to come and serve? He has the appeal. He served as a governor and he showed to the world what he can do. So, why does he need to go and break the bank to become a candidate of a political party. People should be begging him to become the candidate because we can see clearly that he has the footprint to take this country to the height we desire for it to get to. So for me, I think he saw the handwriting on the wall and it was a good thing he left otherwise he would have been humiliated.
People say he has no structure and all of that and there is so much frenzy. Those who are really campaigning for him are basically on the social media.
The structure will come. I believe that the structure will come. We need to know how TUC and NLC are standing because they are supposed to be a major party of the Labour party. Usually, when the NLC has strike or they are picketing any establishment, you see the way they come out in their numbers. For example, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), when they are on strike, they have a team to implement that strike. They go round all schools in every community. So, they have people. They have road transport workers. They have the teachers and you will agree with me that you have this set of people everywhere. In the smallest community, you will have a school and you will have a teacher. But I think we need to go and study how the Labour party works in England. It might not work like that here because here we are emotionally attached. If you are my brother and you are a member of the PDP and by virtue of my work affiliation with labour, there is every tendency that I might want to vote for my brother who is a member of PDP. That is because we are Africans. But like I said, we need to study how it works in the UK.
Now, it seems you believe in the candidacy of Obi and in his person too?
Yes, I do because I have heard him, I have listened to him and I have also read a whole lot about him and that is the kind of person we need right now in this country, I mean, without bothering about whoever one is going to offend because we are in a mess in this country. But it is just that most Nigerians don’t know how bad things are but we are in a big mess. We are sitting on a huge deficit. We are borrowing so much as a nation and you cannot afford to have Champagne drinking, private jet flying president in this country again or that will allow his cronies to be flying private jets all over the world with borrowed money. We want a man that knows how to manage resources and he has proven this in a state for eight years. So, who else do you need? So, I strongly believe in his candidacy and I believe he is the kind of person we need today. I don’t know about tomorrow. Things get very bad and you have certain people that can turn things around. This is a man that can afford to say I am going to take a square meal because there are people out there that cannot even take one square meal, I will not sleep well if I am taking three square meal, going to bed with a full stomach when people are going to bed with empty stomach and he will know how to manage the resources so that someday, an average Nigerian can go to bed with a full stomach. So, we should be begging such a person to come out to run for that office. So, the people will be the structure like I mentioned earlier. If we can locate NLC properly in this sense, he shouldn’t have problems with structure. And you saw the EndSARS protest and we know that the young people can be very organized. So, if they are determined because I am sure you recognized the fact that from the minute Peter Obi went to Labour party, the young people started trooping out to register and there is a frenzy now to get PVC. So, imagine these young people and the good thing about the young people is that they are not just going out there alone. They will affect their parents at home. I have a programme I do in my constituency where I give out notebooks to school children, primary and high school students, then I also enroll NECO examination for high school students. I have been doing that and we just did the 10th anniversary this month. When we were campaigning in the last election, a couple of families told me that their children called them for a meeting in the house, saying mum, dad sit down. In my place, you don’t do that but I guess today, I mean this generation. They told their parents they want them to vote for me. I mean two different families told me this and those are APC members. Their children, young kids said that look we want you to vote for this uncle. They called my name. So, that is what I see happening to Obi. These young people will tell their parents, look this is what this man has done. This is what he is capable of doing. So, we want you to vote for him and they are mobile. They can stay awake 24/7. They will tell their friends, they will tell their parents, they will tell their uncles. So, if they mobilize people like this, it is already a movement and that automatically will form the structure. So, he will even have more labour men as the agents there. More than 50, 60, 100 young people in the pitch that day will not allow you to mess with his vote that day. So, which other structure are you looking for. If anything, he has more structure than any political party today.
You once said that if PDP fails to zone the presidential ticket to the South, you will consider leaving the party.
Yes, I still stand on that.
So are you disappointed PDP didn’t zone its ticket to Southeast?
I am disappointed but that is why I am “OBIdient” right now.
About 178 lawmakers in the 9th National Assembly are not likely to make back to the 10th House because they lost their ticket. How does that make you feel talking about the loss of institutional memory of course?
I feel bad because it is just a waste. We’ve had speakers here. They were very understanding even Dogara was and speaker Gbajabiamila is also a very understanding person. Same with the deputy. You will see first timers struggling to do certain things and they are patient with them knowing that they don’t know the procedures and they guide them. So, you can imagine the torture. If you have a house of 360 and you have almost, more than 300 as first timers, it is going to be a torture for whoever emerges as the speaker to guide them through that process. And then, to imagine that the bulk of them might not even come back in the next House, you know it tells of the signs of the time. It is not that most of our colleagues haven’t done well, you know people blame it on the fact that they only used adhoc delegates but I think there are so many other things playing out. To be honest, what kind of business can you do in Nigeria today? The marginal field rounds that they’ve just finished, former DPR, now midstream and downstream, they were assets that were not paid for. Those assets were in the basket but immediately the president gave the go-ahead to sell them, like that it was sold. And somebody had said, some of those assets are not even worth what people are paying for. What kind of business can you do these days? So there are people that have this cash. They just want to invest in something that looks straight forward. If you go and do business with government today, unless you use more than 40% of it to bribe, you won’t get your money out. So anything that seemingly looks as if you can make a good return on it, people are coming into it. But unfortunately, what people have invested in this election, they will not get it back. A colleague told me that somebody running against him sold his house to run against him, a serving member. So, when I said this on television last week, the lady asked me, okay, did your colleague win, I didn’t have the information then but I saw my colleague a day after and I asked him that question and he said yes, he won. But he said it is like a carmel going through the eye of a needle. So, you sold your house just to participate in a primary and then you have lost. So, are you going to recover? If you have won, you still have an election. So even now you are talking about one hundred and seventy something although most of my colleagues went to other platforms. If you are talking about real, one hundred and seventy something that have lost now, the main election, close to that number might also lose in the main election. So, it is painful that we have to go through this route like you mentioned, you know loss of institutional memory and we are going to suffer it as a country but when they say nascent democracy is part of what we have to go through today. Maybe someday the country will stabilize when we have good leadership. Come to think about it. If we actually have good leadership, maybe too many people will not want to come into government. Everybody thinks right now the deal is the government but some of us don’t believe that. I have also said it somewhere. If anybody is seemingly doing well, buying houses and cars and splashing money everywhere, in government, in the civil service that person is a thief, you should go and investigate because there is no money in government.
That remind me of APC’s cost of nomination form to the tune of N100million. Wasn’t that outrageous?
You see, that is what we cannot understand. This is a party that claims that when their presidential candidate, the current president in 2014 didn’t have money to buy form, that people raised money to buy form for him. Seven years down the road, you are saying for anybody to contest, you have to pay so much. I thought this was supposed to be a progressive party. I thought this was supposed to be the party for the people. It is an aberration but this is what we have gotten used to in Nigeria.
Do you think APC has a chance of coming back?
Well with what is happening in Ekiti, I don’t know anymore because I think now I saw something that I forwarded somewhere, I saw a bag of beans, Oyetola, that is the Osun that would be happening soon. So, they know where we are as a nation. People are hungry, so I say this because I represent people that are farmers. I come from an agrarian community. What it takes to plant cassava, to harvest it and then go sell it in market, what comes out is so small and on an election day, somebody offers you N10,000. It is a lot of money. In the city, people can look at you straight in the eyes and say look, I will not take this money from you but in the rural areas N5,000, N2,000 is a lot of money. So, it is difficult for them to resist that. So we have to do a lot of talking and sensitizing them to say look, you are selling your future. Just hold on a bit and do the right thing. Then over time, doing that right thing will materialize into liberation for you. So, that is where we need to be doing the talking today. The National Orientation Agency should get involved because the earlier we stop this the better. If we really want to vote, I don’t see why APC will really get any vote. In all the polling units, they should be scoring zero because their agent will even vote against them.