Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership has been advised to ensure that the new national chairman of the party is elected by the delegates during the party’s forthcoming convention.
Giving the advice in an interview with SATURDAY SUN, an aspirant for the position and former Sports Minister, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, advised the party’s national caretaker committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi not to buy the suggestion of consensus or micro-zoning of the position to the Southwest as being canvassed by some people.
Adedoja who was also former Minister of Special Duties said, the most democratic and transparent way to ensure that the best aspirant emerged to lead the party is by ensuring that delegates cast their votes for aspirant of their own choice.
Adedoja also spoke on other national issues with ’TUNDE THOMAS. Excerpts:
What is your view on concerns being expressed over the decision of some party members across the divide to contest for the Presidency and national chairmanship zoned outside their areas?
I want to correct any wrong impression being harboured by any PDP member regarding zoning. Zoning is still sacrosanct in PDP. The National Caretaker Committee Chairman of PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi has not made any statement repudiating or jettisoning zoning in PDP. Makarfi has not made any U-turn in respect of zoning in PDP. The situation still remains the same, specifically the position of PDP National Chairman has been zoned to the South, while Presidency has been zoned to the North. Anybody or party member working against this arrangement is on his own. Now talking about the office of the national chairman, that position is a key one especially in view of efforts being made to reposition PDP, and in doing so, my own stand is this, let the best candidate emerge from the South where the position had been zoned, and the same thing with the North, let the best candidate emerge from the zone as the party’s flagbearer for the 2019 presidential election.
Having said this, I also believe that it is not for the convention to decide that the office of the party chairman should be micro-zoned. I believe that PDP should have learnt its lessons, from past experiences and this is one of the reasons why I’m against micro-zoning the office of PDP national chairman. If today Makarfi micro-zoned the PDP national chairman office to the Southwest, then the same logic, the same principle, the same argument and the same political pronouncement would give rise to the need to also micro-zone the presidential slot to any of the three geo-political zones in the North. However, it is a known fact today within PDP and outside PDP that, of all the three zones in the South, it is only the Southwest that has not occupied the office of PDP national chairman, either in the interim capacity, or acting capacity or full time capacity.
But don’t you agree that in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice, the Southwest should be allowed to produce the next PDP national chairman?
I want to tell you that it is the same spirit of equity, fairness and justice that would impress it on delegates from three geopolitical zones from the North to vote for a aspirant from the Southwest as the next PDP national chairman during the convention. It is also the same principle of equity and justice that will also make the Southeast to vote for a Southwest aspirant and the same also applies to the Southsouth delegates that I also see voting for a Southwest aspirant in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice. But I don’t believe that this position should be forced down the throat or impose on any geopolitical zone in the South. I prefer that the conscience of these delegates from other geopolitical zones should tell them the right thing to do, rather than forcing it on them. We should not impose any decision on them. This is the essence of democracy. No imposition. No to impunity. Again, whoever emerges as the PDP national chairman from anywhere in the Southwest should be by a collective decision of PDP delegates through voting. This is my own position against imposition or micro-zoning of the post. I believe my position will afford all the aspirants the chance to travel throughout Nigeria to sell their candidature.
If the position is zoned just to the Southwest, the question I would be asked is this, Prof. Adedoja, why do you want to contest for the position of PDP national chairman?
But once the position is zoned to the South, they would ask me two questions, and these are, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, why do you want to contest for the position of PDP national chairman? And then why should we choose you from the Southwest?
I would now explain to them why it is me, I will now be able to sell myself. Without being immodest, I strongly believe that I’m the best candidate for the position of PDP national chairman because I’m bringing in an experience that is very unique and exceptional. If I’m elected PDP national chairman, PDP will become a party that is not only well repositioned, but it will also become a party that will be accepted and acceptable by Nigerians irrespective of where they come from. PDP will be umbrella for all. I’m that person that PDP and Nigeria needs. I’m that person that understands the socio-economic and political terrains of this country.
I’m a native of Ibadan, but I was born in Kano. I schooled in Kano. I worked in Kano State. I worked in Jigawa, and Borno states. I’ve also worked in Delta State, and also have array of friends and colleagues from the Southeast, and that makes me that bridge builder that PDP needs, and this is the best time for me to serve.
If I don’t come out to aspire for the office of PDP national chairman, a lot of my friends all over Nigeria would be disappointed. Also Nigerians should remember that I worked as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, during President Goodluck Jonathan administration, and even when President Jonathan left office, for two years I still worked as chairman of the governing council of Federal University in Dutse, Jigawa State. People should remember also that PDP needs intellectualism in governance, a combination of intellectualism and native intelligence work wonders in politics, and combination of these two I possess. I have been a grassroots politician since 1997 during the regime of General Sani Abacha. I was the Oyo State governorship candidate of Democratic Party of Nigeria, DPN, one of the five parties set up during Abacha’s time. Prof. Adedoja has more experience in solving problems. I have never served as a member of PDP Board of Trustees and you can’t be part of a problem and you want to solve that problem. I have never been part of any problem in PDP since I joined the party 15 years ago.
And you can’t say the same about your other co-contestants?
I can’t say anything about my other co-contestants. I can’t speak about anybody but only about myself. The second issue that they asked me is why I want to contest, also why I want them to vote for me, if the position is zoned to the Southwest. The explanation for this is very simple. In the history of the party since it was formed in 1998 nobody for a period of 19 years nobody from the Southwest has been elected as the party’s chairman even in acting capacity for one day. So, when we get to the convention where voting would take place, delegates would vote not on the basis of the post being micro-zoned to the Southwest, but because it is the turn of the Southwest to occupy the position, and that Prof. Adedoja is the best candidate for the job.
Secondly, in the political calculation of the party, the only governor PDP has in the Southwest today is Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, and he has been the one providing the necessary leadership for PDP in the Southwest and also by his position as the chairman of PDP Governors forum he has also been taking care of the political interests of the Southwest. But Fayose’s term would be formally ending in November 2018 as election to pick his successor would take place in April 2018. Therefore, by implication as from November 2018, the PDP in the Southwest may not have a rallying point again. Therefore if PDP national chairmanship position eludes Southwest it will leave a big leadership vacuum in the Southwest. I don’t think PDP can afford to leave Southwest naked for grabs by other political parties. The founding fathers of PDP and other stakeholders I can confidently beat my chest will not allow PDP national chairmanship position to elude Southwest. The party lost 2015 general elections as a result of impunity and other factors, therefore, I see the party, having learnt its lessons, would want to be very careful on this issue of PDP national chairmanship post. Talking about the issue of consensus, sometime we misapply the term consensus. The application of consensus is to the extent that those that are involved in this matter will agree on consensus. And unfortunately for us in the whole of Southwest, there is no PDP leader, elder, or founding father that has not taken sides. There are some of them that have already decided that this is the candidate that I will support, there are some of them that have decided that it is among these two or three candidates that I will support. So who will now have the moral justification to say that this is the candidate that should be picked as consensus candidate?
If this is Southwest affair, if such a meeting is called for Lagos, the candidate in Lagos will bring people, his supporters in large number to the venue and the candidate from Lagos’s hands will be raised and declared as the consensus candidate. The same scenario will play out in Ogun, Ekiti, and Oyo states. In politics, there is no finality about anything. I, for example, want to be an example of somebody going into a contest without deep pocket to do it. I’m going into the race in order to tell Nigerians and members of PDP not to lose hope in this country. If I emerge as PDP national chairman, my emergence will convince a lot of people that my emergence has proven that it is not only when you have money that people will accept you as the best candidate for any elective position. It will help to convince people that it is still possible to win election when you have pedigree, good reputation, integrity and the experience. I have been tested and trusted in the North, same for Southwest, Southsouth and the Southeast.
When I was Minister of Sports and Special Duties I had 27 parastatals under Sports Ministry and four parastatals under Special Duties Ministry, and I believe that I’m the only former minister who served under Jonathan’s administration that is contesting for the post of national chairman, so I have paid my dues. I’m 66 years old, but I became a Professor of Education at the age of 42 years. I believe that I’m eminently qualified to be PDP national chairman. My ultimate goal if elected is to bring PDP back to the people. I will run an all -inclusive administration that will help reposition PDP.
You were part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet, an administration that has been described a failure by some Nigerians, how do you react to that?
The same Nigerians who say Jonathan failed Nigerians, are they not the same Nigerians now saying that they are already tired of APC and that they are already fed up with this government. PDP ruled Nigeria for 16 years, but APC has just been in power for almost three years, and Nigerians are already clamouring for a change. I would have advised Nigerians complaining now to wait and endure APC also for 16 years like PDP instead of clamouring for change – but Nigerians can’t wait, that long, they are already fed up with APC. In less than two years of APC, Nigerians are calling for a change of government, doesn’t that says a lot? APC government has been nothing but a deception.
What is your own candid assessment of Buhari’s administration’s war against corruption?
I believe that the war against corruption should be total, but in this Buhari’s government’s case, war against corruption is selective. Once you have selective justice, then you don’t have justice at all. This is why Nigerians are not happy with the war against corruption the way it is being fought by this administration, and again PDP has been the target of Buhari’s administration’s war against corruption.
How do you react to claims that your former boss, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was a weakling and that, that’s why a lot of impunity took place under his watch?
Jonathan was not a weak president, but circumstances at that time made the result of what you see to happen. If Jonathan were to be weak, he could not have become President of Nigeria. Somebody that is weak can’t be president of this country. So it is not about weakness, but about circumstances at that time. The situation that time was very complex, that was the circumstances under which Jonathan served Nigeria.
It is the same thing now under Buhari and that’s why some things are happening under Buhari’s watch that have become so baffling to Nigerians. Buhari is working under a circumstance, which he hasn’t envisaged but found himself. That’s to tell you the extent to which Nigeria is a complex society.
Some people have raised question about you and former governor Rashidi Ladoja, being aspirants from Oyo State …
(Cuts in)… In the constitution of PDP, everybody has a right to contest and aspire for any position. Once you joined the party, you can aspire for any position. But the national delegates have to choose candidate of their choice. As far as I’m concerned the two of us are eminently qualified to contest the election.
Do you foresee any consequence or backlash if Southwest fails to clinch the position of PDP national chairman?
Political exigencies dictate it should come to the Southwest. The leadership of the PDP in Southwest has also raised a team to go round the other parts of South to convince them on why the Southwest should leave it. The team also went to North. Politics is about negotiation; it is about understanding the dynamics of a game. If anybody should emerge through consensus or micro-zoning by micro-zoning it to the Southwest that candidate would only be chairman that would be acceptable in the Southwest. If you are picked as a consensus candidate, no need for campaign again, but that is not good enough, what is good is that whoever will be the chairman of PDP should move round the country, campaign and interact with different people, and groups across the country. I’m happy to say that today I have substantial number of states across Nigeria. The issue of consensus is not about being democratic. Consensus arrangement is not what PDP want now. Although some people are complaining about the number of aspirants currently jostling for the post, that we are too many, too unwieldy, but I don’t think so. The party should be allowed or given the opportunity to choose the best candidate that will perfectly fit into the new agenda of PDP, an agenda of acceptability, integrity, an agenda of using PDP as a platform for the unity and progress of Nigeria. PDP is the only party that can salvage Nigeria, and that’s why many Nigerians are rooting for PDP’s return to power. With the sorry state of Nigeria today, PDP remains the only sure hope to take Nigeria out of the current state of hopelessness to that of prosperity and stability.