From: TAIWO AMODU, Abuja
National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, has denounced speculation that the party was planning to give automatic tickets to sitting governors on the party’s platform and the incumbent president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, for 2015 general elections.
He told journalists in Abuja that the party’s national leadership would be guided by the PDP Constitution, which made provision for primaries for aspirants seeking its tickets.
How do you feel as a party over the merger of main opposition parties in the country?
Well, we are happy with the fact that the opposition parties have merged; we welcome it. We think it is a good development in our democracy.
It will lead to an opportunity for Nigerians to witness a vibrant opposition, if it is possible that they will come together without problem. We expect and we wish them the best but we want them to focus solely on issues: no propaganda, no campaign of deceit, no insults, no misinformation to the public.
As long as they play it according to the rules of the game, Nigerians will be better for it. The idea of democracy is that there should be a party in power, there should be an opposition that should be vibrant, that should tackle the party in power only on issues, policies and programmes.
As long as they bring up policies and programmes for us to debate on it, we will very much take them. But a word of caution: in the attempt to be big, they will now understand what it takes to run big party. We will witness their convention, we will witness their congresses, we will witness their primaries and they will understand that it isn’t easy to run a big party the way PDP is doing. They will have their teething problems, we wish them well. We already know their inherent problems, but we wish them well, we aren’t dwelling on it.
As a decent party, we don’t want to dwell on it, we don’t want to make noise about their own problem, but we wish them well and we hope they get it right in the interest of our democracy.
The party’s national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, had said the merger and formation of APC would inspire the PDP to do it right. My question is, in which areas will it actually inspire the party?
Secondly, can we say that the cold war between members of the NWC is now over. And finally, there is speculation that the party is afraid to call for NEC, because the governors would turn the table against the NWC. It has been held only once, last July since the present national leadership came on board.
You actually misquoted the national chairman; he didn’t say it would inspire the party to get it right. He said the merger would inspire the party for us to keep on doing it well. He didn’t say for us to get it right; we are already having it right.
The chairman is totally correct, the policy of the party that upon the completion of the merger would enable the PDP elected and appointed officials to continue to work harder for the interest of Nigeria, because it means that we are going to be challenged on our programmes, on our policies, on achievements and then the people that are in office would have to be accountable fully to Nigerians and the challenge of opposition; that is exactly what the chairman meant by it. It would help democracy like I said.
Now, on the issue of national executive committee of the party – there is no problem that we are having. We had a few challenges – it happens in every company, every association, every political party, even in families. But it is being exaggerated in the media, being overplayed by people. This party is one, we are totally committed to the ideals and programmes of the party under the able leadership of the national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. He is the national chairman of the party, we are national working committee members.
The governors don’t have any problem with the party, as Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Chairman Governors Forum has showed in his reception for national chairman on Friday. We would like the public not to focus on our challenges which we have gotten over, but to focus rather on the programmes, the policies of the national chairman and impact he has made.
We have seen how vibrant the party has become ,we have seen that the national chairman is defining that a party must get involved in governance; we have seen the national chairman emphasize on discipline, we have seen his programmes of 3Rs’, we have seen that he has embarked on visits to ensure and see exactly what our elected officials are doing.
These are things that we plead that you the media would highlight for us to show that this national working committee is serious about making a meaningful impact for the progress of the party.
The 2013 budget has been subject of row between the national assembly and the Presidency; I was told that the national working committee of the party would be meeting with the leadership of the national assembly on Wednesday, to resolve the crisis. How true is this? Similarly, aren’t you worried that the President has called for accelerated passage of the budget, but is yet to sign it.?
Well, it isn’t true that the national working committee is going to meet with the leadership of the national assembly on the issue of budget. It isn’t true.
It is true that there is a meeting, it is in line with the quarterly meeting that we usually have with the leadership of the national assembly and the executive to discuss on matters affecting the wellbeing of the country. But we aren’t meeting on the basis of the budget.
We believe as a party that the national assembly has the right to pass budget and participate on issues of bringing the budget about, enabling a budget for the entire country. We believe that having been elected to do this, they have taken time and it took them many months to handle this and they have come up with a very good budget.
But the President has a mandate to govern, given to him by the entire country, to ensure that whatever budget that comes on board will satisfy the yearnings of the people. He must take time to look at this budget and if there are grey areas, we must give both bodies, the Executive and Legislature opportunity to iron it out and to discuss, without creating tension.
PDP believes strongly that the President and the National Assembly are completely doing their duties in the way they have handled the budget and we hope that within the shortest time, the budget would have been signed for complete implementation.
When you have a budget and there is a deadline of trying to meet the end of year, it might be possible that in one or two areas, one or two places, because the budget is a very big document that needs to be rigorously fine-tuned.
If in the course of going through it, the president notices certain things, it is imperative upon him to call the attention of the leadership of the National Assembly to it and jointly they will decide what they will do. This next one week will be crucial, regarding the fate of that budget. By next week, the issue of budget, we hope would have been settled.
You said the agenda of your meeting isn’t the budget; what important issue do you want to raise now that budget isn’t part of it….[cuts in], Let me also ask you, in the last thirteen years, have we ever had any problem of people being restive because the budget hasn’t been signed in February?
Why are we playing out this budget issue, why are people highlighting this budget issue if not that the president and the national assembly are trying to ensure that for the first time in the history of this present democracy, we are having a budget passed early.
We have never had a budget passed this early, so why is the pressure on the issue of this budget. It has never been done this early, it is now being done this early. So, why are we not patient, why are we raising issues, why are we trying to create a crisis where there is none?
Let us allow our leaders to do their duties and things will play out. The problem that we usually have is when one body goes to interfere with another body. You have an Executive that is elected to do their duties and you have a Legislature that have been empowered for them to look at our laws, then all of a sudden, one arm of government will enter into the functions of the other, or you want the party to jump into making laws, or to jump into executing those laws.
Let us allow democracy to play its roles. Each arm has its own defined functions, let us be patient on this issue of budget, it isn’t a problem.
You just said there is no problem: there was an accelerated passage of the budget and Mr. President has since refused to append his signature. As a party that is controlling government and with majority in the national assembly, Nigerians expect you to ask the two arms questions.
Well, when the issue come. I have said we didn’t have a meeting, we didn’t call a meeting because of the budget, we don’t have a crisis that will necessitate us calling a meeting because of the budget.
But I never said that the party wouldn’t make enquiries or find out.
However, how we do it and what we do and how we go about it, I think you should at least give it to the chairman of the party with his own experience that if there are issues, he would know how to handle it—having been a governor, having been a minister. Let us allow the chairman to use his experience, if there are issues.
You said there is no crisis in the party, but how come it was only the national chairman of the party that went to Rivers State, to visit Governor Amaechi. Secondly sir, what is the party doing over the election of chairman of its Board of Trustees, because by the constitution of the party, the PDP is expected to hold its NEC meeting, every quarter, but you have done this only once since the present NWC came on board.
On the issue of NEC, we concede that the constitution prescribes that we meet four times in a year, but events of the recent past, the failure to produce a chairman for the Board of Trustees, we were supposed to hold the meeting late last year but it didn’t hold on account of the vacancy in the board of trustees chairmanship.
We hope that in the next two to three weeks we would have had a new board of trustees chairman. Upon the election of board of trustees chairman, the party will proceed to have the national caucus; we will have our NEC meeting after this.
The PDP NWC shall continue to work as a team; the President got involved in ensuring that there is complete peace in the party.
On the NEC, Nigerians would want to know what role the chairman of BoT have to play in NEC that you have to wait until when a new chairman of BoT is elected, because when you had the last NEC meeting, there was no chairman of BoT.
Thank you very much. With our constitution and our convention before we have a national executive committee meeting we usually have a board of trustees meeting and we have a national caucus before we have a NEC meeting.
In the last NEC meeting, we met and accepted the resignation of our last chairman of BoT and we haven’t had another NEC meeting after that.
When 10 NWC members took a decision to reverse the decision taken in the Adamawa State executive, the chairman, Bamanga Tukur, said he felt betrayed by the action of the ten NWC members. You were one of those who took that decision. Did you feel you betrayed him at that point in time?
Secondly, the reconciliation agenda of the party; there have been controversy, over whether or not the former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu is back in the party. Is he now a member of the PDP?
Well, on the issue of what happened; it is improper for me to start mentioning what happened in the past. It is something that we have resolved. But I must state here, publicly that as an elected member of national working committee, I am completely loyal to the constitution of the PDP of which I swore at the convention. We are completely loyal to the constitution of the party and that is the first duty that we have.
If a matter has come and has been resolved at the highest level of the party, it will not be proper for any individual at this time that there is peace to mention, or try to bring it about. The matter is gone, that matter has been handled at the highest level. I will not wish to comment on it. We have confidence in Dr Bamanga Tukur and we know he is taking steps that will ensure that this party progresses.
On the second question of Orji Uzor Kalu re-entering the party, it is for the ward and local government to handle and then the state before it will come to national.
As at today, we haven’t had any official communication from any branch or organ of the party on this issue. I am aware that the entire Abia State executive paid a courtesy call on the chairman at the working committee and stated that they weren’t ready to receive the former governor. However, Nigerians are aware that there has been a controversy, one month ago, on whether he did re-enter the party or not. I read in the papers and wouldn’t make a pronouncement based on what I read in the papers and I don’t think the party would be run by what we read in the papers.
It is on evidence that we have an official communication channel and until the national working committee receive any official communication on this matter, we cannot jump in because we read, ’A’ or ‘B’ in the papers.
There are stories, though the President hasn’t come out to declare that he would run in 2015, but there are insinuations that he would run and some of us believe that he might likely run . If and when he decides to run, will the party give him an automatic ticket and the governors?
The best thing to say would have been no comment, but in our usual manner of being very open and transparent with the public, I can tell you here that as at today under the constitution of this party and the way we run our programmes, we are going to have primaries in 2015, we are completely unaware of any move to change the constitution of the party.
The constitution we have, which was passed at the last national convention of the party prescribes that we must have state congresses and national convention and that is the constitution that we have as at today. So, I ask you, is there automatic ticket in the 2012 Constitution?