DR. Jonathan Silas Zwingina represented Adamawa South Constituency in the Senate between 1999 and 2007 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he said that the face-off between the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and the rebelling governors within the party, was borne out of the urge by Tukur to fight the culture of impunity practised by some state governors. He also said that President Goodluck Jonathan had no agreement with the North over 2015, adding that the North has never formed a common front in any election. Excerpts:
By GBENGA OKE
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been embroiled in crisis for a while, is the umbrella already tearing apart?
The general impression in the media is that the party is on fire but what is happening in the party is normal for any big party like the PDP.
The party is a place of common interest but usually there are also different understanding of that common interest and of course, you have those who do not care about common interest. So, conflicts will automatically arise from those with common interest and those with the selfish interest.
When you have a large group like the PDP, you will have some groups and these groups maybe based on zones or states, so those differences may look like conflicts but they are not necessarily conflicts.
I can tell you that when key issues like defence of the PDP in elections are involved, we all come together and we will win the elections.
When big issues are not involved, we go back and resolve the small issues which may differ from place to place, person to person, group to group. I think the kind of picture being painted is not really fair.
I can tell you that the PDP crisis is nothing compared to that of APGA and this is a small party with only two states. It is not even compared to that of former CPC which only has one state. Nobody is talking about those ones.
Anyway, we do not expect the media to leave us and be talking about those small parties, so we can forgive that concentration on us by the media but the truth is that, we are not in anyway under fire.
If you say the crisis in the PDP is a media creation, what about the struggle for supremacy between some aggrieved PDP governors and the party leadership?
The governors fit into my categorisation of some interests that are legitimate in any political formation in any country.
So really, there is nothing going on other than some of the governors identifying certain interests that bring them closer, but they are also part of the Governors’ Forum.
So you can see that they may have some things that concern them and they are going round to consult with former leaders in order to increase the intensity of their pressure.
For me, it is a pressure group trying to apply pressure on the party in order to get the concessions that they want and these are legitimate interests and legitimate requests. Some of them may be a bit high-handed, like they say they want their states to be left to them but they are reluctant to surrender the federation to the President.
So, these kind of inconsistencies are not defensible.Nevertheless, it is their legitimate right and anybody that wants to stake his right for certain interests that he wants, can articulate it. Their own voices were not enough, so they decided to add some elderly voices.
As long as they are loyal to the party and what they are doing is civil and also within the rules of the constitution, they will eventually abide by the rules of the party when decisions are being made. You can articulate good pressure but once a decision has been made, your duty is to obey and carry out the decision.
So, I believe that we should not castigate them or throw them away, we should let them know we have heard them but in any democratic setting, the minority will have their say but the majority have their way.
Once the majority have their way, the minority is duty bound to follow that way. So whatever they had, they know they have been heard. I do not feel any panic about their going round, I only felt that after going round, they will come back to the National Chairman who is in charge of the party.
How do you view comments that these problems erupting within the PDP are unconnected to the fall-out of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) election?
It is still the interest we are talking about. It is a matter of how some people define their interest and I don’t think we can have a big party like this and not have different interests. The interest may not be over what is happening today, the interest may be how to achieve the objectives and at the end of the day, those that have more people will win, that is what democracy is all about. Everybody will have their say.
Since inception of Bamanga Tukur, as chairman of the PDP, has been at logger-heads with many members of the party including his own state Governor, Murtala Nyako. What has been responsible for this?
I think the press is to be blamed for this. I don’t think it is fair to welcome a new chairman of a party with speculations which is what some sections of the press did and it is being driven by some interests and those interests are linked with some governors who we also know. So, we should not assume that when there is a problem between the chairman and the governor, the chairman is wrong.
Bamanga Tukur is an elder and he is the father of the entire party and it will be very difficult for him to take a position that offends the constitution of the party, he won’t do it at his age.
So we have to look at the antecedents of those complaining, what we have found out is that there has been culture of impunity going on in virtually all the states and this chairman has insisted that as far as he is concerned, there is no room for impunity and some people are uncomfortable with that and are complaining.
The media should see whether that is a fair position to take and you can see the chairman’s pedigree is such that governors cannot bully him or manipulate him by age or political standing.
He deserves their respect because they have known him as an elder for a long time. So, some of them have not even gone to him with a request, they just assume he won’t do what they want.
Before they approach him, some of them sent advance blackmail hoping to bamboozle him to accept what is obviously not fair.
Crux of the matter
If you know Alhaji Bamanga Tukur very well, you will know that such things will not jell with him. That to me is really the crux of the matter, I may be right or wrong.
He does not want the culture of impunity to continue and most of the governors support him; majority of them support what he wants and his programmes, but there are few who are uncomfortable and they love this atmosphere of impunity that they have imposed on their state.
They want to extend the impunity to the federal level. That is the source of the conflict and nothing else, it is the territory of impunity that we are quarrelling about, people are used to impunity and they want to generalise it and there are people at the federal level that prefer due process because that is the philosophy of the party.
The president is too big and powerful and they cannot challenge him, so they challenge the loyalists of the President and pick on the chairman all the time and none of them has come out openly to say this is where Bamanga is wrong or this is the rule he has violated, I have not seen that.
The only thing they say is that they cannot work with the chairman, why? No answer. But the impression has been that the Presidency has been using the chairman to settle some political scores in some states. How do you react to that?
What is wrong with a PDP chairman taking orders from the President? What do you expect the PDP chairman to do when he has a President? To go and fight him?
You are a PDP chairman, you fought hard and put a president in place, so the next thing to do is to fight him? You work with him, you support him, guide him.
If you have advice, you give him and not in the media but privately. I heard one of the governors saying he has no confidence because he does what Mr presidents wants, so should he do what the president does not want and that particular governor did it loudly as if there is some pride in it.
Should the national chairman of the party, that has formed the government, bring conflict into the set up? No, he is supposed to bring harmony to support the President.
How do they expect the chairman to be in opposition to the president? It is so with the President is only when the President is going out of the line of the party. So why should the party complain? Why should the party become opposition to the president, why should the party listen to governors who want to be opposition?
I think some sections of the media should desist from the way they worship governors.
All these situations you call interests are unconnected with 2015 elections as well…
(Cuts in) Well, I have no idea because I am not among them. Whether you accept it or not these various interests are geared towards 2015 and you cannot deny that being an insider and a major player in this government.
Some of the issues may affect 2015 and some may not. When people talk about 2015 elections and mention the President, I wonder because there are many people interested in 2015.
Chairman of local government, governors, National Assembly members, House of Assemblies and the President, they all have elections in 2015, so 2015 is not all about the President, it is about all those who want to run for election, so several people have interest and they have shown legitimate interest.
There is nothing wrong in any governor having interest in 2015, the thing is, the interest should be guided by the role set up by the party, not the governors developing a different role for themselves.
The ambition of President Jonathan to contest another term in office come 2015 seems to be causing division among Northerners. What do you think is responsible for this development?
Let me tell you, the North has never been united. Not even in the days of Sarduana; we have never been united. It is just that people have refused to look at the facts. During the days of Sarduana, we had the NPC, there was also other parties in the North.
The UMBC in the Middle-Belt was not part of NPC and in the Second Republic, the NPN came and you will be surprised that Sokoto State itself was GNPP and not NPN, Borno and Gongola were GNPP, so I don’t know which unity they are talking about. Kano was PRP, Kaduna was PRP.
So I want to be reminded about the period that the North was really united that is now being divided by the Jonathan presidency. As a political scientist, I have not seen the period. If you are talking about 1979, it was evident that the North also got itself divided. Some states went to APP while others went to PDP.
So, the North is a conglomeration of various interests. Even the people talking like Professor Ango Abdullahi, whom I respect so much, has his views and I have also seen Engineer Abba Gana, who is a highly respectable gentleman from Borno State, sharing his own view, and Martins Onoja as well.
They all have divergent views from that of Ango Abdullahi. All these respectable elders are from the North and they have different opinions. So I do not know the united North people are talking about now.
However, I would like to see that united North people are talking about one day but history has shown that we have never had a common front in the Northern region of Nigeria. So, the Jonathan presidency has nothing to do with divisions in the North, it has always been there and it will continue to be there.
But not only in the North, it is everywhere in the region and I am sure that there will be some people in Bayelsa State, who do not like the President as well and it is not only PDP that exists in Bayelsa.
So what is this pact that the Jonathan presidency had with the North that is causing this crisis?
I don’t know about any agreement because I have not seen any. I am not saying there is none but I am saying I have not seen any and I don’t want to go beyond that. And if there is any agreement, let them show us now and what the commitments were.