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Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, former aspirant for the position of national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in this interview with Sun Newspapers expresses confidence that his party would regain lost grounds in 2019, once it restores zoning principle which was observed in the breach in the last two general elections.
‘’Most of the Northern elites who are elite, who belong to the aristocratic class, they are scared about the despotism that is going on now, but they just wanted power to come to the north. Power has come to the North but this isn’t the power they are looking for!’’
There is apprehension in the air over the ongoing investigation of alleged diversion of funds meant for arm purchase into PDP Presidential campaign funds. What is your take on this unsavoury development?
Well, you know that this government came to power under the mantra of change and anti-corruption. So, they were just playing to the emotions of the country, just playing to the gallery. The moment you tell a poor man that you are going to bring a big man down, he is very happy and expectant. So, it is natural, pulling down syndrome is what they are catching on, they know the mood of the nation. Because as far as I am concerned, yes the PDP has clearly stated its position, we are totally for the anti-corruption drive of the government, but it mustn’t be politicized, it mustn’t be vindictive, it mustn’t be selective. It must be holistic and the first question I am asking is, when did it start? Did corruption start with Jonathan, or did it start even with PDP in 1999? What about the whole lot of things that were done under military regimes. So, the question is, where do we begin, and why do you begin, where you are beginning? That’s number one.
The other one is that there are certain elements that are coming out now that are very dangerous to this nation. In the history of this country, security votes as the name connotes, can be used to advance any cause for the stability of this country, stability of government.
So, any government has a right to apply it to create stability.
Never in the history of this country has security votes been probed.
Why are we probing the security votes?
You see, to my understanding, it can be used for native doctors, it can be used for Muslim clerics, churches to pray for the country, they can be used for even sponsoring candidates for Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC) elections! If NLC, is doing elections today, in the past as it sued to be the government can have interest and say, this is where we are going and there is no receipt, no accountability.
It isn’t an open and transparent thing. I am shocked that a man, who was a former president and operated security votes could now be throwing up this. But corruption is still corruption; wherever we establish it, the position of most of us is, yes naturally a government that has been in power for 16 years naturally some of us, mind you, there are no angels anywhere.
Some of us might have put our hands in one or two untidy deals, but some of the people close to Buhari needs to be asked questions, how did you get the money which you used to fund his presidential election? A state governor, what business were you doing before then? We know they have humongous money . There are allegations even in their states about diversion of money and we cannot ignore all of that, we cannot sweep it under the carpet and then come and be chasing perceived enemies. The president is a president of Nigeria, not a president of APC, not a president of PDP, witch-hunting will not help us, it will destroy the integrity and credibility of the anti-corruption crusade.
Another issue is the respect for rule of law and fundamental rights of citizens . We now say nobody should stay in detention for more than 48 hours, then you go and bring a holden charge, which the Supreme Court had declared, null and void.
So, if you are coming to equity, you mustn’t fight corruption with corruption. You mustn’t fight corruption by corrupting the system, you must obey the rule of the land. So, we are totally for it and since we were in government for 16 years, it is natural that the pendulum will swing more on our side. Itshould be holistic. There are also people very close to his (Buhari’s) bedroom and we want to hear what the government is doing about it.
But your submission might be misconstrued, as trying to legitimize corruption. Government is saying money meant appropriated for arms purchase to contain insurgency in North-east were diverted into PDP presidential campaign…
Point of order! Security vote isn’t anti-insurgency. It has been existing before insurgency. Insurgency isn’t the only problem with insecurity in the country. What is happening in Kogi state is it insurgency? The shooting in Bayelsa, is it insurgency? Isn’t it electoral matters? If we perceive a situation that is a danger to the country, government has any right to do whatever it can do to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order. That’s the security of governance; it is totally different, not for anti-corruption agencies.
Look, I have been in PDP for 16 years, no contract, no appointment and God has kept me afloat. Let us not give impression that everybody in PDP is a thief and that everybody in APC is a saint. Wherever we find people who have genuinely stolen public fund, whether in PDP or APC, they should be dealt with in accordance with due process of the law and their fundamental rights must be at all stages upheld, because they aren’t guilt until they are pronounced guilty.
Prosecuting people on the pages of newspapers is wrong. What Buhari is doing is catch them name them, shame them! That isn’t all: we want to see people return money, we want to see people jailed in the law court, then that’s when they become thieves. But what you are seeing now is, they just sensationalize it, they just politicized it.
That will destroy the integrity of the entire process.
What is your appraisal of the war on terror?
Well, some people said they were going to make Jonathan government ungovernable. Was there no threat like that, clearly stated? In my place, they say, the tortoise said, if there is a stampede, he would push down a pregnant woman, if there is stampede and a pregnant woman is pushed down by anybody, wouldn’t you refer to what the tortoise said? So, that’s the situation we find ourselves. Somebody, somewhere threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable and Nigeria has been ungovernable under the last administration. So, the person is the suspect, not the PDP. What will PDP gain by making its own government ungovernable?
Your insinuation is that the opposition was instigating insurgency. But not that they are in the driver’s seat, the insurgency persists…
Well, I can tell you now that never in any place in the world has a government given insurgency ultimatum. They say it must end by December. America has never done it in Iraq, Pakistan, anywhere. So, it passeth all understanding for me that as soon as this government came they gave insurgency a terminal date. The impression we give is that somebody knows something that we don’t know.
What I have seen in the last few months is magic, military magic. All along we see convoy of cars of the militants with their tanks and flags that when they went to Chibok they had vehicles to carry 290 girls— those girls were taken with not less than 50 vehicles. Now you say you are routing them, we didn’t recover any vehicle, I haven’t seen any of those Hilux vehicles. You declared 100 people wanted but none of its leaders has been captured and you are telling me that the thing has ended. So, who is suspecting who? I rather want to see it as an international phenomenon, but trying to politicize insurgency which is what the APC did in the first place. I had warned that insecurity in any part of the country should be seen as a collective responsibility and opposition mustn’t use it to play politics. APC was responsible for that and now that it is PDP turn in opposition. I also warn PDP, don’t play politics with lives and wellbeing of Nigerians.
We must do mature, responsible opposition by partnering with government on this issue of insurgency as well as corruption and that’s a dignified, patriotic position that we are taking.
What do you think PDP needs to do to turn the table against APC?
Those of you who know me, you must have been aware that I contested the party chairmanship in 2008 and I contested publicity secretary in 2012. My agenda was paradigm shift. PDP at a time was taking the goodwill of Nigerians for granted. They became complacent; it was as if once you get PDP ticket you have won election and everybody went to sleep and then delivery of dividend of democracy and good government was taken for granted and I warned that we were sliding.
One major thing that happened was when we tried to subvert the zoning system which was a cardinal policy on which the party was founded, so that everybody has hope that one day, it will be our turn. They scuttled it. Some of us spoke out. So, what we should do now is to completely dismantle the party leadership, at all levels because they have failed. It is a part of honour and dignity for them to quit. I have nothing personal against anybody but if you go to a battle and you lose, you quit and you give others opportunity to serve. It means there was something you didn’t do right. You go, as a mark of honour and integrity. The party has failed, we need a complete clean. A change of the leadership at all levels and reconnection back to the vision of the founding fathers of the party; zoning, transparency, competitiveness, not imposition and impunity. Jonathan was imposed, they even said they printed one form and no other person would run for the election. Even if they were in support of Jonathan they should have given other people a chance.
So, we ended up excluding a huge chunk of Nigerians, because that situation was antithetical to democracy. So, PDP should change its leadership and go back to the founding vision. I think PDP is still the strongest and largest in Nigeria. In fact, APC isn’t a party but so many parties fused into one and that’s why they are having so many internal crises. We need a united party to have a united Nigeria and APC isn’t a united party. If the PDP can put its acts together, using the next convention and primaries and evolve a leadership that is chosen by the people, I can tell you that we would bounce back as quickly as possible. God is using the present situation to teach all of us a lesson, including the APC itself.
Lastly, the party recently had a post election conference. Were there lesson learnt?
Yes, lessons were learnt. It was the first intellectual exercise after the election. Papers were presented, people who were schemed out came to the centre to now say what they want. So, the brainstorming was very necessary.
It was a very successful outing and the document that came out of it is what is now being used for the engineering of the party. For instance, we have gone back to zoning. Secondly, no more impunity and imposition— on paper! We have said all these things, it is now for the people, the owners of the party to take advantage of the result of that conference to take back the party and let power belongs to the people, let them choose their leaders and choose their candidates. If the people are allowed to choose their leaders and candidates, PDP will come back in 2019.
But there is this sense of aloofness towards the PDP from the North, arising from its denial of the 2011 and 2015 presidential tickets.
What do you think the party can do to lobby the zone back into its fold?
We don’t lobby the North, we only need to correct what is wrong! Why did they leave? There was a deliberate policy of exclusion and imposition and they have shown their anger. PDP made APC to win the election, without the angry members of PDP, the New PDP that went into that place, APC wouldn’t have won the election. So, if we are able to correct our mistakes, I am sure we will get some of them back, if we don’t get all. And if we get some of them back and zone the presidency to where it should have been since 2011, am telling you, and get a right candidate, it is possible.
Aristocratic class, they are scared about the despotism that is going on now, but they just wanted power to come to the north. Power has come to the North but this isn’t the power they are looking for!’’
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