Dr. Sam Nkire, a former Ambassador and Commissioner, is the National Chairman, Progressive Peoples’ Alliance. He spoke to CHUKS AKUNNA on the implications of the recent return of former governor of the Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) his party’s plan for 2015, among other issues.
What is your reaction to the recent re-admission of your party’s former leader and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, into PDP and its implications for your party?
You see, I once told a reporter that a political party isn’t a cult where you restrict members. You walk in freely and leave freely. We would have loved our founding father and chairman of our Board of Trustees (BoT) to return to PPA but he elected to do otherwise. Recall that he was also a founding member of PDP. The choice is his and because he left PPA doesn’t mean that PPA is doomed. PPA is populated by men and women; it is not a one-man show. The party is carrying on. Remember that shortly after the 2011 senatorial elections, he (Kalu) turned in his resignation from the party. I held on to the letter, not wanting to make it public knowledge. We kept making entreaties to him to rethink the decision. For reasons best known to him, he stuck to his guns. Truth is that he has been out of PPA for about two years. The problem we have in the polity is that once a party doesn’t have the president or governor, it is deemed dead.
Do you in PPA really have that feeling?
Absolutely not! We in PPA are not in any way alarmed. We have tasted those things. We have had Senators and governors. We therefore cannot lose sleep. We are not proscription-bound. We are well-known by INEC and by everybody. Yes, Orji Kalu has left but PPA cannot die on account of that. I can assure you that several ex-govenors, ex-ministers, ex-senators are on their way into PPA. I also want to state that if at any point in time, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu wishes to return to PPA, our doors are wide open.
Drawing from your earlier submission that you have had governors and senators elected on the PPA platform, and the present where you don’t have any, is it correct to say that your party’s fortune has dwindled?
There are ups and downs in every endeavour of life. Politically speaking, you may say that, given that we don’t at the moment have governors and senators, is a sign of retrogression, but also know that in life you don’t win everyday. What you do is to work hard to win again. This is exactly what we are doing. We may be down, but not out. 2015, it might interest you to note, holds a lot of surprises for Nigeria and for PPA.
What is your relationship with Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu like?
Cordial! Great! That we now belong to different political parties cannot affect our relationship. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe is my friend. We are Elders in the church. PDP Deputy National Secretary, Dr. Sam Jaja and I were childhood friends and school mates. He is a national officer of PDP, while I am a national officer of PPA. We are best of friends. Minister of Labour Chief Emeka Wogu is my younger brother. The list is endless. So, what binds Dr. Orji Kalu and I together is stronger than what divides us. He remains my friend and brother our party differences notwithstanding.
Are you in support of the recent proscription of political parties by INEC?
I have got a personal view on that. When former President Ibrahim Babangida introduced the two-party system, it reduced a lot of baggage. It helped out in so many ways. I don’t see why we should have up to 50 parties. I am not wishing to be proscribed, because we met the benchmark for party registration. Truth is that the number was unwieldy. Should all the 50 something parties field candidates, we would have to grapple with a mile-long of ballot papers. Imagine the inconvenience of having to count ballots for 50 parties! You’ll agree with me that most of the parties don’t even have ideologies.
No! PPA is a party with a great manifesto. PPA believes in welfarism. We believe that this country belongs to the people of Nigeria, not the so-called big men of the country. This is our ideology.
Talking of alliances, two political parties-ACN and CPC- are reportedly working on an alliance ahead of 2015. Is PPA considering anything of the sort?
We are talking with some political parties. In fact, some ACN officials have approached us, but we are still at the elementary stages. We in PPA are not oblivious of the fact that we cannot on our own produce the next president. Our doors are open to talks. We need to join others to form government.
What is your assessment of the Goodluck Jonathan administration?
You will realise that Jonathan has been president for about three years. The main success I think he has recorded is in the area of electricity. Generally speaking, there is a marked improvement in power supply, especially here in Abuja. The feelers I get from other parts of the country suggest a marked improvement. Another area he has improved on is security of life and property. When Boko Haram launched its operations, particularly when they hit strategic buildings in Abuja, the feeling at the time was that by now Boko Haram would have overrun the entire country. Somehow, Jonathan has managed to prove them wrong. However, one key area I am yet to notice any improvement is in unemployment. The statistics of unemployed youth continue to climb. I expect any government worth its salt to keep statistics of graduating students, the employed, unemployed and the number of jobs available. We should be able to know how many graduated five years ago, and how many are employed.
With 2015 at hand, what are your party’s plans to get more seats at the state and federal levels?
As a person, I try to be as realistic as possible. Some claim that where a person comes from doesn’t matter in today’s political equation in Nigeria. I beg to disagree. You can’t tell me that, for instance, people of other senatorial zones in a state would continue to cheer on if a particular zone keeps producing the governor. We haven’t developed that political maturity. Even though not enshrined in the Constitution, we have the principle of rotation or zoning etched in our hearts. Ndigbo have not produced the president of Nigeria. We want to present a strong candidate. We are appealing to our brothers and sisters from other parts of the country to support this just cause. I have no iota of doubt that a president of Igbo extraction will do well. Ndigbo in all spheres of life have all done well, so the Presidency shouldn’t be an exception to this rule. I believe an Igbo president certainly would do well. In 2015, I expect that in the very unlikely event Ndigbo fail to produce the president, there will be a very strong commitment that Ndigbo will soon produce president. That said, 2015, to all intents, is pregnant. Nobody can predict what it would bring forth. For instance, nobody knows how the North will react should President Jonathan decides to seek re-election. That is another pointer to the truth that Nigerians believe in rotation and zoning. When President Yar’Adua died, the North said they needed to complete their term. When Jonathan came on board, there was this report about an agreement that he would do just one term. I am not a PDP member, but that was what we heard.
Are you, therefore, saying that there might be chaos if Jonathan decides to seek re-election?
I am not a voodoo priest and so, cannot predict how it will end. However, from experience, we know that a majority of Nigerians believe in the amalgamation of Nigeria, in the unity of the country. In the final analysis people will trade in their personal interests for the national interest. But then, let us not continue to take the people for granted. ‘Oh! Nothing will happen!’ This is an illusion. Public opinion, from recent experiences around the world, counts. We should begin to take public opinion seriously. Look at Egypt. See what is happening there. The youth now see people in the 40-60 range as their enemy- religion and tribe notwithstanding. We see youth who have lost faith in the system. People in government here must shed weight. They must cut their allowances, they must think more of the people or else we will get to a point where there will be no safe haven for all of us. We must begin to think more about the ordinary man on the street- about the poor, hungry and the unemployed. In 1979, there was this pharmacist in Imo State the late Governor Sam Mbakwe wanted to appoint commissioner. He flatly rejected the offer. How many people today can do same?