BY GBENGA OKE
FORMER Minister of Police Affairs, Gen David Jemibewon (rtd), in this interview, avers that the current crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is a fallout of the party’s non adherence to the principle of fair play and absence of internal democracy.
HIs take on the PDP crisis as an elder statesman and a founding member of the party
Looking at how the crisis developed, I am not too sure that the beginning can be traced to the Special Convention that took place recently. I think what actually happened was that it was the first time that the crisis became a public concern because problems just don’t emanate suddenly.
My guess is that, there must have been circumstances that led to some misunderstandings and it was at the convention that it first became clear to the public that something was wrong. This is my thinking because there was nothing one could associate with what could have provided the basis for the spontaneous problem. Part of the disagreement was that President Goodluck Jonathan should not contest the 2015 election because if he does, he would have been sworn in to office three times.
On whether or not President Jonathan should re-contest
Honestly I have no opinion on this issue. All I can say is that we have elders in the party and these elders will not like the party to be divided. Like any quarrel among two parties, each will put forward its own grievances.
I believe the elders are experienced and in every situation, there is basis for agreement at one point or the other. So I believe that with less influence from external forces, they will be able to reach an agreement.
The issue of whether the President is contesting for a second or third term in office can only be solved by constitutional provisions. In this case the constitution requires legal interpretation. What that means is that it is the judiciary that can properly interprete any area of the constitution that seems to confuse the populace.
On clamour that power should return to the North
On the call that power should return back to the North, I will say that there is no party called West, East or North. What is happening is that some group of people came up to say that this is what they want. But if what you want is not provided for by the constitution, it cannot be enforced.
For me, for a group to say either the governorship or presidency must come to us, that group must be a political party. So all these should not create controversy but the press has been creating some of the problems. For example, I am not from the South-South but I am involved in the arrangement for E.K Clark foundation. We held a meeting in Chief E.K Clark’s house and after we had left, probably other meetings took place with different subject but just because people saw us coming out of that meeting, they said E.K Clark and David Jemibewon told people to disregard what Chief Tony Anenih said. That was very embarrassing.
On the Baraje-led faction’s demand for the resignation or removal of PDP chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur Bamanga Tukur is an elderly person, he has held many responsible professional and political positions. He was a governor and an effective one. Above all, he is a foundation member of the PDP. Most of our meetings in the early days of this party in 1998 and 1999 were held in his office. I was part of those meetings.
Even after the convention in Jos, some of us supported the possibility of him Tukur being the running mate to ex -President Olusegun Obasanjo, unfortunately someone else was announced. I can’t claim to know what is happening but the man knows what the vision of the founders were, what we were aiming at and how we were wishing that PDP will be formidable on the line of democratic principles.
I have no doubt that what Tukur is trying to do is to bring the party back to the line of sanity but somehow things have gone so bad for the number of years that the party was not handled properly.
Now that he arrived and felt things should be rightly done, some people now see him as the one doing the wrong things and that is the tragedy of this country.
Things have gone so bad that people now feel the bad things are the right things. For example, if Chief Sunday Awoniyi was given the opportunity when he showed ambition to lead the party, if those who worked against that possibility had allowed democratic practice to take place in the election, he would have made a difference. If the elections were held, I have no doubt that Awoniyi would have won because people wanted him to win. And that would have allowed for proper leadership and effective democratic governance.
The Chairman being a man of honour and integrity would have been able to influence the leadership of this country, being a product of a free and fair election. And the country would have been better today. So a lot of things have been destroyed and he Tukur might have wanted to right the wrongs of the past and that is why he is having problems. This is my thinking.
Also, those who are on the other side may have some good grounds and so what it calls for, in my view, is communication, dialogue, inter personal relationship. And whatever comes out in the long run will be for the good of the party.
You talked about elders of the party coming to the rescue at this time of disunity. Do you think they can succeed, given that some of them are being fingered in the matter?
When two people have misunderstanding and a third party decides to intervene, publicising their approach may not help the issues on ground. All I can tell you is that elders are making frantic efforts. Whatever position I am taking or whatever other elders are doing, it will be unreasonable to now publicize that. It is not the appropriate thing. The PDP is the party in control at the national level and most states in Nigeria. So if there is no peace it is likely to affect the performance of government.
I felt sad when Governor Rotimi Amaechi and another state governor were suspended months ago because these are people in charge of administration in their respective states. And when you suspend them, you are indirectly making them to lose focus. Even in schools, it is not something really positive when a student is suspended. So for somebody who is a state governor, to be publicly suspended is wrong. I think we should have better ways and better procedures of calling such a governor to an in house discussion rather than making it public.
I believe it affects not just him but also the administration of the state, that is the way I look at it. When I was the governor of old Oyo state, when I wake up and see headlines in Tribune saying something negative about me which does not represent the truth at the time and I thought I was doing my best, I get depressed. We should not forget that these people in government also have families and children who go to school, I am not sure too many people think about things like this. So how do you expect the best from such governors when they are expelled?
Having said all these, will you say the party is still on the way to realising the goals it was meant to achieve at the beginning?
A lot of people who were involved during the formative period of this party have been dis-regarded and that is unfortunate. Few days ago, someone visited me and was lamenting how badly he has been treated despite being a former minister of state in one of the ministries. Allegations were made against him as a substantive minister in that ministry, he was investigated by the EFCC and taken to court for several years. At the end, the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the land found nothing against him. He felt he would have been a happy person if the authority could just communicate to him to say they are sorry. We also have people in the party who joined in the middle of political activities, they were accused of somethings and were sent to jail and they seem to enjoy some recognition today far above the man who went through court processes and was cleared off allegations of wrongdoing.
I am saying this because of some founding fathers of this great party, who have not been treated fairly. A lot of people who got involved at the early stage of the PDP have long been forgotten. Ordinarily, we don’t expect people to be in a position in perpetuity, but occasionally you should recognize the contributions some have made to the party. And that will gladden their hearts.
If you forget and treat people who founded a party shabbily, those coming behind will be scared away. For example, headed the team that wrote the constitution of the PDP with which it was registered. And that is the only constitution that did not create problem.
But thereafter, the constitution of the PDP is being reviewed every year and when it is being done, it is generally with the intention of wanting to bend some rules. Though we envisaged some crisis within the party, we never expected a crisis of this magnitude.
In the constitution of the party, whether the first one or the subsequent ones, it addresses how to settle grievances and how to discipline erring members. That is the best you could do for any organization. If people have grievances and they have found means of lodging their grievances and They should be given a fair hearing.
What happened at Eagle Square during convention is the calumniation of a lot of things that may have been boiling which people actually disregarded. If the elders can approach the problems diligently and be fair in their dealings and all parties see evidence of honesty, I am sure the matter will be brought under control.
From the picture you have just painted, will you say that the party has deviated from the principles upon which it was created?
If I tell you some stories you will understand better. Immediately after the convention in Jos were the presidential candidate emerged. The candidate was Obasanjo, a machinery was put in place where two to three names per state were nominated for a seminar and the intention was that from these people, ministers will be appointed.
During one of the seminars, Nigeria’s present Ambassador to China, Alhaji Wali, suggested that since a President has been elected, we should complete the full democratization of the party by electing the chairman of the party. And when we had a short break, he advised me not to over-press that suggestion. If you look at it, we started making mistakes from the beginning by not democratizing the offices of the party executives.
The moment the party’s candidate had won the presidency, I would have expected that within six months, we should have held elections into the offices of the executives. But that was not the case. I think that is the beginning of the problem and of all chairmen that has been at the helm of affairs of the party, who tried to normalize things it was only Chief Audu Ogbeh who tried to reposition the party but he never lasted. It is unfortunate that we don’t have the best people in positions of authority at all levels.
I was thinking that the constitution would have provided for gradual political education. It is expected that democratic processes develop from the grassroots to the top. For example, I will find it ridiculous to find somebody wanting to be president when he has not held any office right from ward level to national level. If that is allowed, when such person gets to office he will start learning. Top positions are not positions were you learn. They are meant for experienced people.
The fact that you have a Bsc in Political Science does not prepare you for the job, those are theories. I am not saying it is not good but the practical aspect will be an advantage and am sure that is what the constitution is trying to do when it talked about constituency level, local government level among others.