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Sheriff’s back and forth movement

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Last weekend’s collapse of the peace accord between the two factions in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership tussle was a prediction fulfilled. ONYEKACHI EZE chronicles several breaches of such accord in the past

 

 

The repudiation of the peace process by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) barely two days after it was reached seems to have confirmed the belief in some quarters that it is not the wish of the former Borno State governor that peace returns to the party, at least for now.

Sheriff’s representatives, including his deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, attended the peace parley brokered by Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson last Thursday, where claimants to the party’s leadership position agreed to cease fire on media attacks and abuses on each another.

The peace accord signed by Alhaji Ahmed Gulak and Bernard Mikko on behalf of the Sheriffled National Working Committee (NWC), and Prince Dayo Adeyeye and Dave Iorhemba, for the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, imposed a ban on inflammatory, derogatory and divisive statements against party officials, stakeholders and members.

The two factions also agreed to “desist from making public press statements attacking each other and statements insinuating negative acts capable of dragging the party to the mud.”

They therefore agreed to work together with the Dickson National Reconciliation Committee to engender peace and genuine reconciliation in PDP.

They also promised to unite and work towards forming a formidable opposition party capable of taking over power from the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government in 2019. But Sheriff breached the agreement on Sunday.

Despite the fact that the Supreme Court have commenced hearing on the appeal filed by Makarfi against the February 17 judgement of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt division, the Sheriff faction said the caretaker committee is “an illegal body.” Ojougboh, who signed the statement, warned Makarfi not to interfere in the running of the affairs of the party, adding that “any further careless statement from him will force us to reconsider our earlier peace agreement.”

The Sheriff faction had moved to replace staff of the PDP secretariat, who were not cooperating with them, by declaring their jobs vacant and gave them a seven-day ultimatum to return the property of the party in their possession, but Makarfi group asked them to ignore the threat. The statement by the Sheriff faction, read: “Makarfi should behave himself.

He should not interfere in our business, because we are not interested in his private business. Any further careless statement from him will force us to reconsider our earlier peace agreement. “We have already employed staff, who are running the bureaucracy efficiently.

If Makarfi so desires, he should keep the old staff, just as he is doing now. We have had enough and enough is enough of this.” The statement added that the faction is preparing to complete state congresses, where necessary, and working hard on the planned national convention. “We will not be distracted by inconsequential issues from our set objective to return the party to the grassroots.

“We must prevent anybody with the agenda of killing the party, especially those, who were brought to the party by those, who have already decamped to other parties,” it said.

The Makarfi faction, which reacted to the development through Adeyeye, urged the staff and party stakeholders to ignore Sheriff. His words: “We went out of our way few days ago to reach accommodation with them even when some of our top leaders had serious misgivings about any type of talk with them given their unreliability.

“We have always known that Sheriff and his co-travellers especially, Cairo Ojuogbo, were never men of honour with whom one can reach any agreement. But we tagged along to avoid being accused of unnecessary intransigence.

“Since the leopard cannot change its spot, it is now very clear that no agreement or political solution can be reached with these bunch of people with huge integrity deficit.”

He described Ojougboh as an impostor and a rabble-rouser in a “non-existent NWC”, saying Sheriff does not have the constitutional requirement to constitute an NWC. Since the May 21, 2016 Port Harcourt convention that divided the party, a number of peace agreements were reached to end the crisis but most (if not all) of them were breached by Sheriff.

In September last year, it was thought that an amicable settlement was about to be reached when the two factions agreed to close rank and work together towards resolving the crisis in the party.

This was announced at a joint press conference by Ojougboh and Senator Ben Obi, who is secretary to the caretaker committee.Ojougboh, who read the resolutions reached at a meeting between the two principal actors – Makarfi and Sheriff, noted that the two warring factions agreed that “it is time to heal the wounds and bring about a united, focused and constructive opposition party.”

The resolutions further read: “In reviewing the crisis that has engulfed our party since the loss of the 2015 general elections after 16 years of uninterrupted leadership at the centre, it became obvious to both of us as principal actors that it is time to heal the wounds and bring about a united, focused and constructive opposition party that can bring sanity to our democratic process, bring relief to the teeming supporters of our great party and to the benefit of our great country.

“Based on the above, we have both agreed to consult widely with all relevant organs of the party, set up a joint committee that will carry out a holistic reconciliation of all aggrieved segments of our party across the country and in Diaspora and to pursue the vision of the founding fathers of our great party.

“We therefore call on party members to remain calm and refrain from any actions and utterances that could further bring about divisions or dispute in the party.”

The peace move was adopted by PDP expanded caucus after its meeting in Abuja in Abuja. The meeting was attended by members of all organs of the party, including the PDP Governors’ Forum, Board of Trustees (BoT), National Assembly caucus, as well as PDP Former Ministers’ Forum and Forum of State chairmen.

Adeyeye who briefed the press after the meeting said the only agenda discussed was the peace moves with members of Sheriff faction, which he said was “endorsed and supported by members of caucus without any dissenting voice.” Sheriff was absent at the meeting but one of his major supporters, Senator Buruji Kashamu was present.

The BoT Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, told journalists at the meeting venue: “If you see Kashamu coming to our side fully, embracing our national caretaker committee, whatever this group says will be acceptable to him. “We have been meeting with Sheriff. Even yesterday we spent until 4.am this morning. And there is progress with Sherrif.

He is a human being and I am sure he will follow suit.” Before the expanded caucus meeting, the two factional chairmen were brought to a roundtable at the Taraba Sate Governor’s Lodge, Abuja.

The peace meeting was initiated by Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and former Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku hosted the parley.

At the meeting, Sheriff was said to have been prevailed upon to work with Makarfi and help rebuild the party. The meeting also agreed to accommodate members of his faction into the convention planning committee for the aborted August 17, 2016 second Port Harcourt National Convention.

Both factions, at the end agreed to inaugurate a 28-member Peace and Reconciliation Committee to come up with a harmonised position to resolve the crisis. But, Sheriff backed out of the peace process.

He refused to send the list of his nominees who would serve in the committee. He also did not show up at the committee’s inauguration venue. The former Borno State governor had demanded that the inauguration should hold at a neutral venue as well as rejected the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre proposed by the Makarfi faction. He was supposed to book a hall at Transcorp Hilton, but he failed to do so.

His media adviser, Inuwa Bwala, later said his principal was studying the terms of reference drawn as template for the reconciliation. The party’s BoT, had also on two occasions, set up committees to reconcile with Sheriff, and on both occasions, he rejected the move.

The first committee was set up immediately after the May 21 National Convention. Former secretary of the board, late Chief Ojo Maduekwe, on May 26 last year, said the board’s expanded meeting with various organs and groups in the PDP, agreed to work with the caretaker committee.

Consequently, Maduekwe disclosed that a committee to meet with Sheriff has been set up for him to join hands with the Makarfi leadership in the interest of the party.

He said: “The BoT at the expanded meeting decided to immediately engage all groups, party leaders and members involved in whatever disputes towards a just, lasting and amicable resolutions.

“The BoT will therefore preside over the processes of major reconciliations in our party as part of its leadership responsibility. “A committee has also been set up to meet with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff in the spirit of working together and resolving outstanding issues.”

After the move failed, the board again, before the August 17 convention, set up an 18-member panel headed by Prof. Jerry Gana, to dialogue with Sheriff so as to resolve the crisis before the convention.

At its first meeting held at Sheriff ’s office at Maitama, Abuja, Gana told the former Borno State governor that the panel was neither a court nor an appeal committee. “We have come to listen. We want to assure you that we are here to listen. Fortunately, we are here as politicians as solution providers. Anyone who is a man of God can be a solution provider.

“We have a burden of historic responsibility. As founding members of the party, only three of us are still alive, and we feel a sense of responsibility that what our founding fathers started will not be laid to waste. We feel there should be a feeling of understanding. We are here because we mean well,” Gana told Sheriff, but he failed to reciprocate and the crisis continued to fester.

There have been suggested reasons why Sheriff has continued to spurn every peace overtures made to him by PDP leaders to reconcile with him. The first, some analysts say, may be the people around him, who are benefiting from the crisis. It is common knowledge that people like Ojougboh and Kashamu are desirous of controlling PDP structure in their respective states.

Ojougboh is insisting that some positions in Delta PDP are ceded to him despite the fact that the state congress was conducted before the May convention. Kashamu on his part, wants to retain his position as South-West PDP leader.

He joined the fight after he realised that former Governor Mimiko and Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State had taken the structure from him after the state congresses and were planning to take control of the zonal structure.

It would be also recalled that on the eve of the December 10 parliamentary rerun elections in River State, Sheriff inaugurated a factional state executive for the state.

This, according to observers, was to accommodate the interest of the people around him. Many PDP leaders believe that APC has a hand in the crisis in their party. They believe that Sheriff is being sponsored by APC to destabilise the PDP.

According Adeyeye,Sheriff and his supporters were “planted to destabilise the vibrant party that provided good leadership for the country for 16 years.”

He added: “We can say without fear of contradiction and as well challenge Nigerians to point out where, even, for once, those parading themselves as PDP members, have dared to issue a statement condemning any of the several gaffes of the APC government. “We say clearly that not for once has Sheriff and his team of confused travellers said a word against the misgovernance of the APC.

We are not surprised because we know it’s suicidal for a servant to criticise his master.” Sheriff was asked, on two occasions why he has not been speaking against APC.

His answer was: “I have been speaking against APC; it is not my fault that the media have not reported it!” Ojougboh has equally been accused of issuing several statements against the Makarfi caretaker committee but none against APC.

With no end in sight to the back and forth movement of the Sheriff faction of the PDP, there is no doubt that the much desired turn-around in the fortune of the former ruling party, which dominated Nigeria’s political landscape from 1999 until its defeat in the 2015 general elections will remain a mirage.

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Ekiti 2018: Your stolen N8bn can’t buy Ekiti people’s votes, PDP tells Fayemi

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State has said no amount of stolen money deployed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) will buy the votes of the people in the July 14 governorship election.

State Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Jackson Adebayo, made this known on Thursday, while reacting to media report that Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi had boasted of providing N8 billion from his own pocket and the assurance of N20 billion from the Presidency to buy one vote at N20,000.

He said it was an insult on the people of Ekiti State for the same APC federal government that has not done anything for the State since it took power in 2015 to be considering the deployment of as much as N20 billion to buy votes.

The PDP spokesperson challenged Fayemi to point to one benefit Ekiti has derived from his position as minister in charge of solid minerals, adding that; “Even the solid minerals in Isan-Ekiti, his hometown, nothing has been done to it.”

Adebayo said; “If truly Fayemi boasted that he has N8 billion to spend from his personal pocket for the election, the question to ask him is, where did he get such money from? Does it mean that he wants to come and spend part the money he looted from Ekiti treasury when he was governor to buy the votes of Ekiti people?

“Then, if as reported, the Presidency can afford to be planning to spend N20 billion on Ekiti governorship election, the question to ask is; what has the APC federal government done for us in Ekiti since 2015?

“If not a show of contempt for Ekiti people, why not spend just half of the N20 billion on infrastructural development of Ekiti State? How much will it cost to fix federal road like Ifaki – Ikole – Omuo?

“Can’t the federal government fix the road from the N20 billion they want to waste on the governorship election that they will lose?

“Whether or not Fayemi is interested in contesting the governorship election as the candidate of APC and whoever the party chooses as its candidate is not our business. What concerns us is the waste of money obviously stolen from our state and fund that the federal government ought to have used for the development of the State on an election that the APC will ultimately lose.

“Our people are therefore implored to be on the lookout for the stolen money they are bringing from Abuja. When they bring the money, collect it and vote against APC as usual.”

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Bagudu’s initiative has revolutionised agric sector – Kebbi SSG

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Secretary to the Kebbi State Government (SSG), Alhaji Babale Umar, speaks in this interview with Ahmed Idris on the revolution in rice farming in the state

 

How would you assess the three years of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government in Kebbi State?

 

Senator Atiku Bagudu, who is the 4th executive governor of Kebbi State, is a visionary leader whose preoccupation is to make things better. Indeed, when he assumed office, his penchant for reengineering and revitalization of the state took him to all the 21 local government areas and interacted with his people. He visited schools, health institutions and met with the farmers in their farms to assess the challenges been face in the different sectors.

 

What he saw in the schools were appalling. From the students’ hostels, classrooms, laboratories and even the food served was dehumanizing. The governor also accorded priority to the power sector because the epileptic power supply in the state then pitched the people against the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) because it strangled small scale businesses. But the story is different today as the state capital is enjoying regular power.

 

He has also addressed the issue of infrastructure. Today, all schools in the state are undergoing proper rehabilitation and furniture, computers and sports equipment have been provided for conducive learning and teaching.

 

To further ensure good and sound education in the state, the governor joined his counterparts in Sokoto and Zamfara states in setting-up a committee of eminent scholars led by Prof. Attahiru Jega, which recommended the establishment of Ministry of Higher Education. This led to the creation of Ministry of Higher Education in Kebbi State to take care of tertiary education.

 

The governor has continued with all road projects started by previous administration as exemplified by the on-going major construction of urban roads in the state capital hitherto neglected by previous regimes.

 

Meanwhile, new roads have been constructed to bring succor to residents, especially Aliero Quarters and Bayan-Kara areas. So, Governor Bagudu is a politician endowed with wisdom and who cherishes collective decision in the course of governance.

 

What about the health sector, what is the government doing to improve health institutions in the state?

 

Worried by the state of facilities in the general hospitals and concerned about the health and well-being of the people, Governor Bagudu has made concerted efforts to improve on facilities and personnel.

 

The main aim of the interventions is to reverse the ugly health indices bedeviling the state through conscious harmonization of interventions and partnership. Indeed, one bold step taken by this administration is putting in place of mechanism for actualizing the policy of healthcare under one roof.

 

 

The administration has deployed mobile health teams with support from the European Union and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to deliver services such as treatment of minor ailments, immunization, birth registration and health promotion to strengthen community linkages and uptake of integrated PHC services through outreaches to 225 hard to reach settlements as part of the state governments’ commitment towards achieving Universal Health Coverage of the Federal Government.

 

As part of its commitment to women and children’s health, state government sponsored free cancer screening activities as well as engaged America doctors for free treatment across the state. It also facilitated the accreditation exercise for the upgrading of the School of Health Technology, Jega, to a College of Health Sciences through the procurement of the needed facilities.

 

In an effort to bring health care service delivery closer to the people, the government renovated the maternity ward, labour room and the ANC unit at the Argungu General Hospital and also paid its counterpart funding for Measles, Cerebrospinal Meningitis, Maternal Newborn and Child Health Week and EU- UNICEF MNCH programme in the state.

 

The administration has also fulfilled the criteria set by the World Bank to access $1.5 million grant for saving One Million lives programme as well as the lunching and distribution of EU -MNCH drugs and commodities to herald the commencement of the intervention.

 

Kebbi State is now the leading state in agriculture. How was it able to achieve this feat?

 

Being a state blessed with many agricultural and agro allied potentialities, Governor Bagudu saw an opening to positively impact on the sector and put smiles on the faces of both large and small scale farmers. He came up with strategies to provide inputs and expertise as well as invite agencies and companies to partner for the overall development of the sector. For turning Kebbi to the largest rice producing state in Nigeria, the governor was aptly appointed Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Rise and Wheat Production.

 

The governor initiated an agricultural revitalization, transformation and diversification drive through partnership with the Bank of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The sustained effort to develop the agricultural sector has attracted investors from far and near. Kebbii State has become a model and a hub in rice and wheat production and sales that attract the attention of many individuals, companies and states across the country.

 

A landmark is the partnership between Lagos and Kebbi states on rice value chain, which produced the LASKEB. And with the pre-commissioning of WACOT Mill recently, the investment effort of the governor has placed Kebbi second only to Kano in rice milling in the whole of the North-West.

 

 

To consolidate on the gains recorded in dry season rice farming and improve output in wet season, Governor Bagudu entered into partnership with Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara states and the Moroccan government to receive the supply over 300,000 tons of fertilizer.

 

 

The administration also procured for distribution to famers, 100 tractors, 1,000 Oxdrawn ploughs, 100 rice threshers and 100 motorcycles for agricultural extension workers.

 

 

The agricultural transformation drive for income and job creation led the state government to empower several vegetable growing communities to produce more to meet the Kebbi- Lagos Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and also encouraged more than 20,000 farmers to produce soya beans, a potential the state has not harnessed. The administration is encouraging livestock production.

 

The Ministry of Animal Health has spent about N21 million on vaccines to guard against the spread of Anthrax and hemorrhagic septicemia to the state. The ministry has also constructed a modern artificial insemination center and procured essential equipment.

 

To improve provide market to fishermen in the state, the government constructed an international fish market in Yauri Local Government Area and also rehabilitated the Birnin Kebbi main abattoir, while a grant of N28 million was given to the ministry to establish and manage modern fish ponds across the state to encourage fish farming.

 

 

What has the government done to revamp the education sector in the state?

 

Repositioning of the sector has been the main concern of the governor. In fact, primary, secondary and tertiary Intuitions were the first places he visited upon assumption of duty. His assessment gave birth to a robust master plan for a complete overhaul of the sector.

 

Accordingly, he mobilized professionals from the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, to review educational development in Kebbi State and provide expert advice with a view to taking appropriate steps to promoting education in all ramifications.

 

 

This led to the establishment of the Ministry of Higher Education to coordinate the operations of tertiary education in the state. A blue print was developed for the ministry to cater for vocational and technical needs of students in the state, in addition to the payment of WAEC, NECO, Arabic and NABTEB examination fees for all JSS three students.

 

More than N4 billion was also spent by the administration for the renovation of schools, provision of furniture as well as training and retraining of secondary school teachers to enhance their performance. Additional classrooms were constructed and there was renovation of schools across the state as well as provision of furniture and instructional materials.

 

The sum of N5.2 billion was approved for the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) for the rehabilitation of 25 junior secondary and primary schools.

 

Another N100 million was also released fur the purchase of tables and chairs for pupils and students in line with the administration’s resolve to provide conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning. The state government also released N145 million for the construction of a 500- capacity female hostel at the Adamu Augie College of Education, Argungu.

 

The administration also ensured the payment of tuition fees and other charges for government sponsored students in various tertiary institutions at home and abroad.

 

How has the state government been able to tackle security issues in the state, especially those arising from herdsmen/farmers clashes?

 

To ensure security of lives and property of all citizens in the state, the Bagudu administration participated in a joint security operation covering the Kamuku/ Kuyambana forest involving seven states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, Niger and Katsina. In an operation code name ‘’Operation Sharan Daji” involving the Nigeria Army, Police, Air Force and other security operatives in a combine operation that rid the state of cattle rustlers and halted criminal activities like kidnapping.

 

 

Through operation Sharan Daji, a number of cattle were recovered and returned to the owners with hundreds of suspected criminals arrested and cache of arms and ammunition retrieved. On the issue of Kidnapping, especially in Kebbi South Senatorial District, the present administration has through the efforts of security operatives tackled the menace.

 

Today, farmers in the area go about their businesses without any fear.

 

Realizing the importance or peace to the development and progress of the state, the administration of Governor Bagudu has resolved the age long border dispute between Benin Republic and communities in Kebbi State and also wadded into herdsmen/ farmers disputes across the state by identifying and institutionalizing the old cattle routes and grazing reserves.

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APC’s support for restructuring, height of deception – Makarfi

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Makarfi: PDP not threatened by third force, Obasanjo’s coalition

Senator Ahmed Makarfi is the former Chairman, National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The former Governor of Kaduna State, here, speaks on the state of the nation and his party’s readiness for the 2019 general elections, restructuring and insecurity, among others issues. TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE reports

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was enmeshed in crisis ahead of its National Convention and there were still some skirmishes after the December convention. Can you tell us the progress the party has made so far?

Well, not many people gave us a chance before the convention. Many thought the party was going scatter from the Eagle Square, but that did not happen. But that does not mean there was no fall-out of the convention. After any convention, there must be issues arising from the conduct of such exercise. So, it is not different that PDP has some minor issues after the convention, but it is gladdening that the party remains solid, remains united and one.

 

Before the convention, we anticipated that some issues may arise, that was why we set up the reconciliation committee, which moved to work immediately after the convention. The current leadership also set up other two committees which consist of the Seriake Dickson committee and the other one led by former principal officers of the National Assembly to reach out to the aggrieved and to bring them back on board and to integrate them in a bid to provide a united front.

 

To also provide a strong and virile opposition to the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is in power, we have covered a lot of grounds, but that does not mean to say there are still no issues, but I am not in a position to know what those outstanding issues are because I am not the national chairman of the party now. I have left as chairman, but I continue to give advice in areas, where I am needed and I am also handling issues I can handle on my own just to bring unity into the party without necessarily having recourse to the current leadership.

 

The current leadership has been meeting with relevant organs of the party, the governors, National Assembly members, former governors, former ministers, formal and non-formal organs of the party in order to forge the way forward for the party. So, I am sure the party is set and working so hard to be a virile opposition.

 

It is being said in some quarters that PDP has not shown enough confidence and direction to convince Nigerians that the party is set to take over power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 general elections. How prepared is the party for the polls?

 

 

No serious party will want to continue to remain as an opposition party. The role of any opposition party is to take over power and that is what we have set our eyes on right now. And I want to thank APC for actually making our job easier and I continue to pray that APC continues to make our job easier as we move closer to elections. I do not pray Nigerians continue to suffer and that is why I believe Nigerians will make the right choice by voting out the party in power.

 

As to our preparations, all I can say is that we are doing all that is legally and politically doable to achieve our objectives. It would be inappropriate for me to give a hint of we are doing or what we are planning. It will amount to someone publishing his war plans before going to the battlefront. You have as well committed suicide before going for the war.

 

We keep our plans to our chest but be rest assured we are used to the politicking and we shall leave no stone unturned.

 

It is believed that your leadership intentionally threw away the entire South-West bloc from achieving its aim of clinching the chairmanship of the PDP, which was an agreement reached at the Port Harcourt convention. This seems to be causing disaffection in the South-West zone and the party seems not to be on the ground at the zone. How do you reconcile all these putting in mind South- West is very key come 2019?

 

I want to disagree with you in your assertions about states of the South-West. First, there was no intention of throwing away the South-West or any other bloc from any part of the country. And by the time we went to the convention, there was no political arrangement from the South as to where the chairman of the party should come from.

 

We came in May and a convention was scheduled for August in Port Harcourt, the PDP met in Port Harcourt and micro-zoned the chairmanship of the party to the South-West before August last year.

 

 

When we went to Port Harcourt, because of interference from government, that election could not take place and our tenure was extended for a year. When we were approaching the December convention, the North met and politically discussed among themselves and maintained the micro-zoning.

 

The South met and they could not agree on the micro-zoning.

 

Before every convention, you meet, discuss and also take certain decisions. The unity that existed from the South before the August convention disappeared before the December convention. When they met, they could not agree.

Then they met again and agreed on all other positions except two positions which are the chairmanship and the deputy chairmanship.

 

And they left that decision among themselves and even the South-East excused themselves from it, but the South-South and the South-West could not agree. And when they could not agree, the South-West and South-South decided that the convention should decide who becomes the chairman and deputy chairman. Failure of a certain part to sit down and agree should not be seen as the rest of the country heaping something on somebody.

 

Nobody directed the North to meet and maintain what they have done, I did not ask them, it was not in my position to do that and nobody stops the South from agreeing on certain terms. Failure to agree was what threw the race open and politics is an issue of negotiation. So, they came to the convention divided, campaigning against each other and in politics, when you are campaigning against each other and you want the rest to give you power, it becomes more difficult. So really, it was a local failure because the remaining part of the country had their agreement intact.

 

But I think they did not see a reason to unite before they decided that the convention should determine who emerges. It was at the venue of the convention when the election was about to start that some of them started going round to say they now have a consensus candidate, while some others started going round disclaiming there was such agreement.

 

So, in such confusion, who do you blame? You cannot blame anybody. Be that as it may, no part of this country should be taken for granted.

 

Except you don’t understand the politics of Nigeria, that is why you will expect to win elections on the convention ground.

 

Before you get to the convention ground, all the alliances have been formed and you will know whether you will or lose before getting to the convention ground. You may not have the leadership of the party, you may end up having what is even more than the leadership of the party.

 

As chairman of the party, you have limited powers even when your party is in government. Can you tell me how powerful the chairman of APC, John Odigie-Oyegun is today?

 

I think where people should look up to is the executive because that is where policies are formulated and executed and that is where the interest of people you represent can be taken care of.

 

Apart from the Dickson committee, I know there is another committee being led by Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo with Dr. Bello Haliru and David Mark. They are complementing what others are doing just to ensure peace and accommodation in the party.

 

When you mention that the party is absent in the South- West, I disagree with that. For me, you have to go gradually to achieve peace, anything you rush into, especially where there is sharp division, you are bound to fail.

 

So, the party is very conscious of these problems and we are doing all we can to harmonize. I can tell you that you will know our strength as a party when the elections come.

 

Nigerians should stop looking at the big picture of ceremonial things, those things don’t win elections. You don’t go by the crowd to win elections. In 2015, which crowd we did not have as a party. Did PDP not lose elections? So, don’t be carried away by the crowd that attends a rally.

 

Till date, many still feel the over-bearing influence of the governors in the PDP was part of the reasons why the party lost in 2015. It is also believed that such played out in deciding who emerged chairman of the party at the December convention. Being a former governor and a major player in PDP, how do you react to this?

 

 

Well, going back to the 105 elections, the North expected to have the ticket, to some, that matters. But even at that, our language was not so polite in the campaigns.

 

The manner and language some of our members used in campaigning for 2015 was insulting to a certain part of the country.

 

Also, the party structure was not used for campaigning rather an arrangement using Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) was used for the presidential campaign. And TAN was just a motor formulated by some people to impress those in power, it was not something structured, PDP is a structured party down to the village level.

 

To now abandon that asset and use something superficial, naturally there will be problems because it discouraged some people while some others became nonchalant. I can tell you that some governors were not even aware of how campaigns were going on and no governor was sitting in the campaign council. When you blame the governors, I can tell you that not even the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum was in the Presidential Campaign Council.

 

These factors contributed to losing the elections, not that APC won, but PDP threw away the elections. There could have been difficulties or challenges, but if we have acted differently, there was no way we could have lost the 2015 elections.

 

If we are talking about the states, I can say yes but on the presidential, there was no question of over-bearing influence by any governor, especially as I mentioned, no governor was in the Presidential Campaign Council.

 

They were basically expected to be on-lookers until you visit their states to campaign. They made a mistake. Going forward, the PDP has only 11governors, so the people are working together with the governors we have and the governors are also showing their support. I have not seen where they are showing overbearing influence on anybody.

 

Right now, you won’t find that in PDP because the situation is completely different, we know that and we are making use of all the assets that we have, whether governors, former governors or former ministers, we respect the views of all who can add value to our party. We are not ignoring all those who are in the position or that has the capacity to help.

 

Recently, the APC stated that the party is now for restructuring after it initially rejected the idea. Many believed it is because elections are approaching. Where does your party stand on the issue of restructuring?

 

I addressed a press conference when this matter came up. I said that the APC is now like a chameleon changing colours. All I can say is that, right from the beginning, we in PDP are for restructuring. Besides that, the Governor of Kaduna State and the Chairman of the restructuring committee of the APC, Nasir el- Rufai said on a national television that restructuring is not important.

 

The following day, I featured in the same television stattion and said all the conferences that were initiated for the processes were done by the PDP because it was during Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan some of the conferences were done and some of the recommendations bother on the issue of restructuring.

 

I also said restructuring means different things to different people, the starting point is to narrow down the understanding and proceed stage by stage because there are things you can do immediately, some on a short-term and some on a long term.

 

Several of this issues being raised today is because of several issues happening within the country right now and we have to be sensitive about them. I believe running away from this issue of restructuring is like running away from reality.

 

For a party to say because it wants to win elections, it has changed its position is the height of deception and it is for Nigerians to take them for who they are, people who will do anything just to remain in power not because they mean it.

 

 

Is PDP threatened by the political gimmicks of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, especially with his third force?

 

We don’t feel threatened by the Coalition of Obasanjo. I can tell you that most of them are friends and associates. They said they are not a political party, time will tell. If they turn out to be a political party, we will see how it plays out. Obasanjo himself said anytime they turn to a political party, he will seize to be a member.

 

 

My take on it is like in the United States, where you have independent candidacy, you have the Democrats and the Republican, then you have an independent candidate who looks at a candidate and decides where to swing at the last minute. That is what I feel it is, time will tell what their aims are.

 

What is your take on the re-ordering of elections by the National Assembly?

 

 

The position of the law is clear on this. It is not what is passed, but what is signed that becomes law. If the President signs it, it becomes law.

 

We passed the same law during my time at the Senate and then a court said it was unconstitutional and that it was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that has the power to do that. If that is the case, so be it.

 

 

But for me, I think my take is, PDP should prepare to win no matter how elections are ordered. To think that elections should be ordered this way or that way is a lazy way of approaching elections.

 

 

 

Whichever way it is ordered, we should campaign and work. I believe strongly that anyhow the elections come, PDP will win. So, we should concentrate on the main issues and not through any short-cut.

 

 

 

Worried by the way they are being treated in APC, there is speculation that some PDP members who defected prior to the 2015 elections are planning to return to the PDP…

 

If they don’t like those who left PDP to join them to help them win, let them throw them out. And those who want to come back to the PDP are free to come back. We also wish those who want to join PDP to come; it is a free will. They will be welcome back to the PDP. Even if Bola Tinubu will come to PDP; let him come to PDP, we will take him. PDP is open to all.

 

 

On the issues of Herdsmen ravaging the country, what do you think the APC -ed government should do to tackle the issue?

 

 

I believe this issue has assumed a dimension, which is alarming and all hands need to be on deck to address it. This is a problem that is ravaging the North-Central and southern part of the country. When I was governor, this problem was rampant in my area, but people did not know. It was similar to what is happening now; though the ferocity was quite different.

 

The proliferation of arms was not there, just cutlass and arrows. The influx of some of these people because of free movement of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also made it difficult and it has complicated the matter.

 

Therefore, we must look at this matter critically. The Federal Government has talked about the issue of the colony, but colony as a word sounds offensive. Colonization to me means domination.

 

Ranching sounds business, anybody can go into ranching and you do business where it is feasible, you cannot do business where it is not feasible. So, we have to begin with the policy of modernisation of ranching, where it is most feasible at this time and re-orient and re-indoctrinate the herdsmen. It will take time but it is doable, modernize their profession, give them some level of education, give them incentives to make them change their ways and methods.

 

Anything to achieve peace is not a waste. I am not saying they should reward them for criminality or illegality; I am talking of domestic herdsmen who are Nigerians. They should assist them to modernize their practice.

 

Then, on the issue of free movement by ECOWAS, if people will be crossing our borders and killing and maiming people all in the name of ECOWAS free movement, that is absolutely wrong because every life is important and in the spirit of ECOWAS, we should not continue to waste lives.

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