From TAIWO AMODU, Abuja
Former Osun State governor and Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola has submitted that the zoning of elective and appointive offices among geo-political zones in the country has come to stay in the party. While he admitted that the policy has experienced hitches in recent time, Oyinlola noted that its application was desirable to give the various ethnic groups in the country a sense of belonging. “-I want to let you know that what has endeared PDP to most Nigerians is the zoning formular, which has given the hope to those who belong to minority groups to have aspiration that they can be at the helms of affairs of this country, at any given time…
So, we have abiding faith in our zoning policy and since it has so far endeared us to generality of the people of Nigeria, we will continue to hold on to it’’ The party national scribe also offered insight into the trouble shooting efforts of the national leadership of the party, aimed at reconciling factions in state chapters of the party, among others issues .
Your party just lost an election in Ondo State; what do you make of the party defeat?
Well, the people of Ondo State at that election made their choice; they told the world their preference among those who have sold their manifestoes to them, that they wanted to lead them. All it has done to us is that we should go and do an appraisal of where we have missed it and continue to work hard enough. But the people have spoken.
There is always acrimony in PDP after its primary and congresses and this has been narrowed down to lack of internal democracy in the party. The most recent is Adamawa. My question is, what is the present Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) National Working Committee, (NWC) doing to restore internal democracy?
Well, let me assure you that a major objective of the new NWC is to ensure that the dictates of our constitution is followed to the letter, in whatever we do, be it primary, be it congresses or any affair of the party and I want to assure you, that’s the way it is going to be. If you want to administer a peaceful party that will be devoid of rancor, it is expedient that you follow the tenets of the constitution. If you don’t, then there will be confusion from left, right and centre, because those you are dealing with, the party members, will not take offence if they know that your policy application are in consonance with the party constitution; that’s what we all subscribe to and we will toe the line of the national working committee policy direction. Last week the NWC inaugurated a caretaker committee to administer the Adamawa State chapter of the party.
Two days after, the governor came to apologize. What’s the situation now in Adamawa. Do we take it that the sins of the dissolved executive has been forgiven, or the caretaker is fully in charge?
The situation is that we are still meeting, to discuss the apology rendered by the state governor and that has been followed with a written letter. When the NWC meets, we will decide which direction we will go. But one thing is certain, the sole objective is to ensure that party discipline is restored and that the party remains supreme, if you want to have a well organized and disciplined party.
Observers of the Ondo election are worried that after your party national secretariat congratulated the Labour Party, the state chapter came out to distance themselves from the position of the national secretariat. Is it that you are working at cross purposes?
No, we aren’t working at cross purposes. Until we get a detailed feedback from those who are on the ground, because we sent observers there, it is only normal and a very civilized mode to congratulate whoever has emerged winner in any contest. If we have at the end of the day, any cause to say otherwise, then we will come out and give reasons for saying so. But in any civilized society, that is the normal practice.
You are talking about discipline. In line with what happened in Edo: The party said no litigation over Edo election, the state took the same stance, but the party candidate is in court, would the party sanction him?
Like I said, if we don’t get the detailed report of the conduct, we cannot take any decision here. But what about the individual that decided on his own to go to court?
He is exercising his constitutional right. There has been insinuation that the party sealed deal with Governor Mimmiko and that accounted for the lukewarm attitude towards the Ondo election from the national secretariat and the Presidency. Is there any arrangement going on for Mimmiko to return to PDP.
While I want to say that the national working committee has never been briefed in that direction, but I can add that our umbrella is big enough to accommodate whoever wants to be part of our party
We learnt that plans are in the offing to restructure the party national working committee; there have been allegations that some members of the NWC didn’t fulfill the constitutional requirement for the office they are occupying. We want you to confirm this sir. Secondly, your party lost two elections in quick succession: Edo and Ondo States. Is the NWC not worried?
I don’t have any inclination in that direction and I will be surprised, if such an exercise will become a reality, in the sense that before you go for an election don’t forget we were all elected. Before you go for an election, your credentials must have been perused, screened and that’s why we have a screening committee. The moment they have adjudged you to be competent to contest an election, I don’t see how after you won somebody will say you aren’t qualified. Honestly, I have no inclination in that direction. On the second question, having lost two elections, we are deeply concerned and like I said, in my answer to the previous question, all we need to do is to go back to our drawing board: Where have we missed it?
Where have we not impressed the people, so that they can do the bidding of our party? That’s all we need to look at. Why is PDP acting now on Adamawa crisis, because we could recall that after conduct of your party congresses before the national convention, INEC wrote to PDP asking it to regularizes conduct of congresses in ten states which it believed fell short of expectations of the electoral act. Why is it taking you such a long time to act? My answer to that is that, if you look at the Electoral Act, what role specifically, does it have for INEC? There are some parties that didn’t do anything close to what PDP has done and they ran election. What did INEC say about that one? I want to believe that the points contained in the Electoral Act make the position of INEC advisory in nature. Some people never even do any screening; some parties never did! So, how can you now hold us to ransom that we even gathered ourselves together and did congress? How many parties conducted their congresses before election? Let us ask INEC, why there were no letters to them for what they didn’t do.
As former governor of Osun State, you appeared before a panel of inquiry, set up by the present government in the state to look at certain activities taken by your administration. We would like to know your experience there.
Well, if you want to know what I said at the panel, I will avail you with a copy of the recordings so you can go and study it. It is too lengthy for me to be rewinding now. But one thing is certain: if I wasn’t confident that I haven’t done anything untoward, I wouldn’t be bold enough to appear there. I did appear and explained everything that was being asked. I believe that it has given me the opportunity to let the people of the state and indeed Nigerians know what transpired during my tenure as governor of Osun State.
Though the people of Osun State were taken along with us in governance, I say so, because every first Saturday of the month, I made myself available to the people of the state through the open forum programme, where people come to ask about governance in the state. But that panel has made the rest of Nigerians too to know what transpired during my tenure in Osun State.
Still on the Adamawa crisis; in spite of the appeal by the state governor, the National Chairman of PDP still wrote to security agencies in Adamawa, intimating it of the dissolution of the party executive. Similarly the dissolved executive has gone to court, to challenge the dissolution. What is the way forward?
Well, it is a constitutional right to approach court for adjudication when one is aggrieved, but in spite of that, we are still working towards an amicable resolution of the problem. You said at the beginning of this interview and you saw him, the governor came and even told you that he has come to plead with the National Working Committee on the actions, which wasn’t intended in any way to belittle the NWC. If a governor would humble himself that much to come and apologise over a situation, I don’t think we need to ask for more glove to be able to do the boxing than to look for amicable way of resolving the impact and we are still on that.
We want to know the level of reconciliation in Ogun State and your involvement, because only last week, a faction claimed that you are working against the interest of former Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel and working against his faction of the party.
You know, I am taken aback that anybody can say the son of Oyinlola is working against somebody’s interest for him not to be. I have said that, I am at the moment and for the rest of my life thanking God for all His blessings. You know a bit of my history: I lost my mum at the age of eight and six months after I lost my dad and this is me today. Why then would I be working against the interest of any soul? Never, not the son of Oyinlola.
His blessings wouldn’t continue to abound if I have anything, sinister against any soul and that’s why you know me. When you offend me, I tell you straight away and if you say sorry, it ends there; it doesn’t go with me till the following day. So, why should I? I have in all my interactions with my brother, Otunba Gbenga Daniel always worked for his interest and if you ask him, he would tell you how many times I have, even intervened to resolve differences between him and some leaders in the state. So, he cannot run away with that impression that Oyinlola is working against his interest. He is my brother and I always tell anybody the truth and I stand by it.
So, there is nothing like that. The President has cause to observe one day that it is desirable that some members of the party in the national assembly to publicly support him, unlike what happened at the national assembly at the joint session on 2013 budget presentation, when certain principal members of national assembly opposed Mr. President.
Why has it become impossible for the party to control its members? Has the party lost control?
No, far from it. I want to appreciate your observations. It is an open secret but that is our own internal affairs and we are going about resolving it. We are dialoguing over the issue.
The opposition parties are engaged in alliance discussions. Is your party threatened by such discussions?
No, we don’t think we are threatened by what I will call ganging up. You know, in those days, the NPN and NPP were closing ranks, it was called Accord. When the UPN and GNPP were merging, they called it ganging up. Honestly speaking, ganging up is an indication of some xcertain weaknesses. Why can’t a party stand on its own and contest election, if you are sure that you will be acceptable to the people? You don’t need to gang up.
But that one notwithstanding, we will remain focused by delivering on the dividends of democracy to our people, so that we can endear ourselves to the minds of the people of Nigeria, so that they can continue to trust us that we will do their biddings.
If you are ganging up, then you don’t have the spread. The only national party today that cuts across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria federation is the PDP and that is why the spread of the party gives them concern as to how do we wrestle power from PDP and that’s what called for what I will call, ganging up. It has never succeeded and it will not succeed.
The FCT council poll is slated for February. Why has the party not conducted its primary?
This is October, the election is in February, will it be strategically wise for us to do it and those who aren’t selected to go and jump into another party? I am only asking. You must strategise. So, we are following our strategy.
At a point in time, the PDP was in power in south-west, but it is like the broom has swept away the umbrella. What exactly is the party doing at ensuring that the acrimony among its members is resolved towards ensuring a formidable front in 2015?
Thank you very much. Let me state here clearly that of the six south-western states that we lost, three were lost to the judiciary, not through the ballot.
So, get that one clear. The dusts that it has generated isn’t yet settled; it is an open secret and I wont say more than that. Now, what are we doing to ensure that we bring cordiality between our members in the south-west states is that the Bamanga Tukur led NWC has planned reconciliation team, not only for south-west but for the whole zone of the federation. Any moment from now, those team will move out to reconcile the warring factions and settle differences, so that we can all come back together and move on as a member of the same family.
Like you know, were it not for the differences we had in Ogun State, we would have won that state; were it not for differences between the Akala led side and Senator Rasheed Ladoja going to Accord party, we would have won Oyo State. So, these are the problems we want to get teams to go and resolve. You know that the chairman inaugurated reconciliation with Dr Alex Ekwueme as head of the team. They will soon move out and we hope that they will be able to reconcile all the warring factions within the PDP family.
The zoning formular of your party has been a subject of controversy; as we approach 2015, is the party going to adopt the policy in picking its presidential candidate?
I want to let you know that what has endeared PDP to most Nigerians is the zoning formular, which has given the hope to those who belong to minority groups to have aspiration that they can be at the helms of affairs of this country, at any given time. I am told in my village that if a medicine is working fine for you, you don’t throw it away. So, we have abiding faith in our zoning policy and since it has so far endeared us to generality of the people of Nigeria, we will continue to hold on to it.