In this interview, Senator Suleiman Adokwe representing Nasarawa South speaks on the defection of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC). He also speaks on the chances of the PDP not only at the presidential election in 2015 but also in other elections.
There are issues in the polity and people fear they are capable of causing problems in the country. Why do you think the system is so heated?
Usually, when we approach the election year, we have all this heating up of the polity. It is a recurrent decimal in the political activities of the country but this one is a bit unusual because of the stress that is being put on the polity by the various movements and the repositioning of the various political parties preparatory to the 2015 elections.
Some of the things that have become issues really ought not to be issues but the struggle for power has become more intensely, uncivilised if you add the issue like somebody should run or not run for the presidency, or the leadership must go to another region as if we do not have a Constitution in place to guide everybody. There are rules and regulations on how to seek power in the country and for a foreclosure to be made that this man cannot run, power must shift from this place or else heaven will fall, we have never witnessed this kind of undue pressure on the polity.
We are witnessing a new dimension to politicking, which is regrouping, personalising the polity in terms of who can rule and who is supposed to be excluded when the Constitution and Electoral Act provide the rules for who can qualify and who cannot qualify. So you work in accordance with those rules, not some imaginary interests and then you foreclose someone, or you foreclose a region, or you foreclose some party and cling to the bargain that the heavens would fall.
Some of the languages that we hear these days are so frightful, they are virtually an invitation to anarchy. This is what makes it a little bit different from what has been happening in the past, but we believe those are the usual preparations for elections and that we should allow ourselves to get to the elections proper.
Some people have argued that the failure of your party, the PDP , to provide good governance is responsible for the problems in the country. Do you share this perspective?
The people saying so are the people who left the PDP for the APC. Some of them were governors for more than eight years and they had opportunities to do those things they are kicking against and so, I find it hypocritical for someone who has been in power since the inception of this administration or since the inception of the new dispensation, the fourth republic, to turn a round to say nothing has been done.
How on earth will somebody like former Vice President Atiku have moral justification to say PDP has not done anything when he was in power for eight years and he was a founding member of the PDP. Or the former governors who ruled for eight years, some of them are in the Senate, what moral justification do they have to condemn the PDP?
Even some of the founding members of APC who have been in government since the inception of this administration, the governor of Kano State for example, this is the second time he is governing, he was a minister of defence; so since 1999 he has been in the government of PDP until he defected. If it is the ordinary Nigerian people who voted for all of us who now feel they are fed up with the PDP come 2015, it is their prerogative to vote out the party, but not somebody who has been in the corridors of power all along to turn around to say nothing has happened; it is only in Nigeria you can get that kind of talk .
Don’t you think that the defection of senators and governors portends ill for the PDP in 2015, it may affect its chances.?.
Political movement naturally will affect your chances one way or the other, nobody wants somebody who is with him to leave, even in ordinary marital divorce.. Of course PDP is not pretending to say that this has not hurt, it hurts; that is why certain changes had to be made.
We now have a new Chairman of the party who is going all out to reinvent the party and to reposition the party to recover from the shocks of defections here and there. Today, we are even having people from APC defecting back to the PDP, that is a sign of recovery. It is our hope that before the year runs out, we would have stabilised and positioned to face the elections in 2015.
What is your reaction to the directive by the APC to its members in the National Assembly that they should not work on the budget and other executive bills?
The language of the APC is not democratic; the language is an invitation to anarchy, to chaos. In the National Assembly, debates take place, vested interests are protected in the course of debates. Bills get thrown out, bills get supported and this happens every day; even PDP legislators can find out something in the budget that they wouldn’t want to sail through, but you don’t set out right from day one to say that no matter how good or bad that bill is, make sure it is thrown out.
The purpose of law making is to make a good law for the good governance of the country. If there are inherent distortions in the budget that do not reflect the interest of the APC, it is for their legislators to see how those interests can be addressed in the budget, but, under all circumstances, there is the need for a budget to be in place so that development can take place.
The American democracy which is the example that we copy from, where sometimes they get to the point of a shut down, the whole nation rises up to condemn Congress and, for the APC to call that its MPs should shut down the economy, it is not sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of the ordinary people.
Now and fortunately, the system in Nigeria is not the same with America in the sense that our Constitution provides for the President to run the country based on the previous budget for a period of six months and two third of the budget in subsequent months until the budget is passed; so the President may even have a better deal if you refuse to pass the bill, he will simply implement the budget of the previous year and then you will not even be in the position to deal with it again because there is no real law in place except that he has a constitutional right to spend as much as he spent in the previous financial year; so I don’t know the purpose they seek out to achieve other than create political chaos in the country.
I think they have seen the futility of it, they have seen that the ordinary people don’t think they should go to that extreme. By saying security should be shut down, you are saying people should resort to self- help. Indeed, one governor directed that people should resort to-self help. How can you be a sitting governor and direct that people should resort to self- help?
The purpose for which government is put in place first and foremost is to provide welfare and security. If you are a sitting governor and you now directing people to go for self- help, you are negating the principles of state and state power, the purpose that we have a government. If government cannot do that anymore, then government has no reason to exist.
The time table released by the Independent National Electoral Commission which places the presidential election before other elections has generated some controversy. Do you think INEC is justified in its decision? The INEC acted in accordance with the Electoral Act. What does the Act say? In the last amendment, the national election of the President and the National Assembly came first; that was what happened in the last elections and the Act has not been amended.