Olisah Metuh, a lawyer, is the National Publicity Secretary of PDP. In this interview with OLUOKUN AYORINDE and DESMOND UTOMWEN, he speaks about issues and factors that will influence the choice of 2015 presidential candidate of PDP among other issues
What is your reaction to reports that the Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee has not been in good terms with governors elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party?
We don’t have any problem with PDP Governors. The governors are what you call super delegates; most of us owe our coming here to the governors and we cannot be working at cross purposes with them. We work with the governors and we consult them before we take decisions. The governors have been supportive of the party. Today (last Tuesday), we held another meeting with the governors during which they expressed their confidence in the National Working Committee, particularly on the efforts we have made so far and our achievements on consultation and reconciliation within the party. They expressed their commitment to assisting the party alongside their friends and mobilising the people in their states to assist in finishing the construction of the national secretariat. Yes, we do have some differences with the Governor of Adamawa, but that is about being resolved.
But reports indicated that many of the governors are yet to get over the events of the National Convention through which the Tukur-led NWC emerged. And is this not why some of the governors are no longer extending financial help to the party’s national secretariat?
No, there is no such thing. Governors do not finance the party. Governors pay their dues as elected party members under our constitution. Normally, when we want to raise money, they can assist by attending the programme and inviting their friends, the businessmen and financiers in their states to come and make contributions. But governors have never in the history of this party financed the party directly.
Why has it been difficult to bring about peace in some of the state chapters of your party. In Adamawa and the South-west for instance, despite the efforts and directives from the National Secretariat since the inception of Tukur-led NWC?
Don’t forget that we are the ruling party; we are in power and in PDP we have millions of members. Of course in politics, you don’t expect people to give up. And the struggle and the competition, as long as they are healthy are the beauty of democracy. We are happy with the enthusiasm, the commitment of our members in the various states and in the various zones. The way they are trying to lead the party in their states and zones shows that PDP is well accepted. There are parties that are at peace because they have only a few members, maybe only 100 people in a state. So, why won’t they have peace? Why would you strive, why would you struggle when you can’t win an election? But for the PDP, things are different. So, the competition is very high and people are trying to outwit one another. That is the beauty of PDP.
On the issue of 2015 and the PDP presidential ticket, despite the directive from the President that nobody should discuss it for now, some of your members are talking about it and various underground moves are going on?
I am not aware of PDP members or stakeholders interested in 2015 and talking about it, but you cannot discountenance the exuberance of aides of big political figures. Normally, it is the aides that keep on talking and making statements on issues that the party has ruled that nobody should talk about. The National Working Committee under the leadership of Dr. Bamanga Tukur has already said you don’t discuss the issues of 2015. So, there is no responsible, respectable party leader, whether elected or appointed that is discussing the issue. But you cannot stop the aides from making comments on such issues. Some of them might not even be members of the party.
There have been insinuations about the absence of some governors of PDP, especially those from the North, at the funeral ceremony for President Jonathan’s brother recently, whereas almost all of them were present at the wedding ceremony of the daughters of the Vice-President which took place the same day…
I can tell you that there is no PDP Governor that went to Kaduna for the wedding that did not go to Otuoke; there is none.
Are you sure about that?
There is none. That claim was a creation of the media. It is not possible.
Also on 2015, there are reports that some of the governors elected on the platform of your party, especially those from the North, are already getting set to fight for the presidential ticket of PDP, even as there are indications that President Jonathan may seek a second term. The fear is that if the situation is not well managed, it may lead to breakup of PDP…
They said in 2007 and 2011 that the end of the party was near. In 2003, they said we wouldn’t win the election. But just wait. Let them perform in their states and in their zones and by 2014, we will start talking about 2015. And when we get to 2015, by the grace of God and especially on the basis of the performance of our governors and their elected representatives at the national level, we will rule this country again; we will be able to win. We are the ruling party and we have not seen a strong opposition. We have seen a loud opposition that is very good at propaganda, very good at dishing insults, very good at dishing falsehoods. We have not seen a strong opposition that challenges us on issues, that challenges us on policies, that challenges us on things that will benefit this country. We keep on challenging the opposition to engage us in debate. We want a debate on issues – financial issues, corruption, security. Let’s participate in things that will make Nigerians to be happy that there is democracy. Democracy is not about quarrel, it is not about insulting people. So, the fact that Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, make so much noise on the pages of newspapers does not mean that their party is a viable alternative to our party. They have not offered anything to Nigerians. Insulting the PDP does not mean that you have an alternative to offer to the people. That is the truth of the matter and that is why PDP will keep saying we will continue to rule. It is not out of misplaced arrogance. We believe in free and fair election. We will win because if you combine the ACN and the CPC, they cannot win the election. They won’t even be a tough opponent to the PDP, especially now that the people of South-west are seeing the mistake of trying to identify with the ACN. They have seen them on the ground, they have seen that they have nothing to offer to their people. And of course, the South-west zone has rejected regionalism as evidenced in Ondo State. They prefer national integration to regional politics and down there and up in the North, Nigerians are tired of religious politics. Nigerians are tired of tribal politics. We are the only national party, the only party that represents all interests in this country. We are the vehicle for national integration, there is no ward that you go that you will not find a member of PDP. There is no party like that in Nigeria.
But there are signs that the controversial issue of zoning as it has to do with the selection of the presidential candidate of PDP is rearing its head again in the party, as some governors, especially from the North, have been reported to be part of an arrangement to select a consensus flag bearer for the region against the incumbent President?
Why don’t you give PDP governors some respect that they have something upstairs? It is inconceivable that PDP governors will be aspiring to be president of Nigeria just one year after he had been elected. It is not possible. There is no PDP governor that is discussing anywhere in this country about the 2015 election. There is none and you can quote me on that. It is too early.
Even the Northern Governors…
There is none. We will start the issue of second tenure towards the end of next year, 2013. Then, we will look at the issue of this incumbent President. He will tell us whether he wants to run or does not want to run. If he wants to run, we will assess his performance in office. He has promised that he is going to give us stable electricity; we will see whether he is able to achieve it. We will look at the issue of security; we will look at how the economy is, before we will start talking about whether there will be people that will challenge him. In America, nobody challenged Obama in the Democratic Party, so if PDP members think the President is doing well and the President said he is going to run again, do you think anybody will run against him in PDP?
What about Northerners calling for return of power to the region, some of them are also members of PDP?
Who are the North? The North includes members of National Executive Committee of this party, the North includes their Governors, the North includes the Vice-President, our Senators, our House of Representatives members, our National Chairman. So, which North is it? There is no other North, we are one Nigeria. The era of tribal politics has gone. We are going to present a candidate based on his performance or programmes, his vision for Nigeria, not because of where he is from.
Why is it that PDP has not been able to align its members in the House of Reps with the Goodluck Jonathan-led Executive?
You see, this is where I don’t understand what the press means. I found it difficult to reconcile the issue of the independence of the legislature with saying that these people are being anti-party. Independence of the legislature means that they are completely independent from the executive and they should act as check and balances to the Executive. That’s what the constitution envisages them to be. We are not worried with them playing their roles. The National Executive Committee is not worried, we have no problem with the legislature.
But the President is worried and he has publicly complained about members of the PDP-controlled National Assembly working at cross purposes with the executive before?
No, he is not worried. The National Assembly was not elected as an arm of the executive.
So, you support the way the Aminu Tambuwal-led House of Representatives has been tackling the President Jonathan-led executive?
I support the behaviour, I support the maturity, I support the character of the people in National Assembly elected on the platform of PDP and the leadership of the House and Senate in terms of the maturity they have displayed in handling this country. The country belongs to all of us, we are all committed to assisting the President in ensuring that the PDP provides good leadership for the whole country. We are not working at cross purposes, everything we are doing is geared at moving the country forward. The Senate President is working with the President, the Speaker of the House is working with the President. And don’t forget that the party normally has dinner with the leadership of the National Assembly and the President and they are all working together. There is no sabotage. The PDP’s support to the President is based on issues and at the end of the day, as a family we usually come to an amicable resolution.