In the build up to the 2007 general elections, perhaps, nobody gave Labour Party LP a chance. Even the outcome of the poll did not particularly favour the party until its candidate in Ondo State, Governor Olusegun Mimiko approached election petition tribunal which eventually gave him what has been severally described as a stolen mandate.
In Edo, an alliance between the Labour Party and Action Congress AC produced Governor Adams Oshiomohole. With this feat in its kitty, LP has been waxing stronger in some states. But not a few were jolted when the rumour mill went abuzz that Governor Mimiko may be on his way to Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party PDP. However, National Party Chairman of LP, Comrade Dan Nwanyanwu, dismissed it as mere wishful thinking of PDP.
In this interview, Nwanyanwu, a lawyer cum labour activist turned politician spoke on the opposition and 2011 elections, saying that PDP is not unbeatable in any poll. He also spoke on the chances of his party in Anambra governorship election in 2010. Excerpts:
By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
Against the backdrop of severalÂ defections to PDP, how strong would you say the opposition parties are in the country as we look ahead to 2011 elections? And there are speculations that your governor may also join the PDP?
There is no truth in that, Iâ€™ve been hearing that even before inauguration, that he will join PDP. PDP have been making their effort. PDP wants to have a one party state but I can assure you that things wonâ€™t go the way they think it should be. Mimiko does not need PDP to do his eight years in Ondo State. What will guarantee his eight years is delivering on his election promises and the programme of the Labour Party on whose platform he was elected.
It is not by joining PDP. And if you view that in retrospect, here was a party that didnâ€™t want him to even contest; he was even not given the opportunity to contest, he was not allowed to exercise his right to contest as a citizen of Nigeria.
They did not given him platform and the then president went ahead to vilify him and tried to go after him with EFCC, even when he has no skeleton in his cupboard, even whenÂ he had no reason to be afraid. But for Ribadu standing by the truth and saying that there was no Mimikoâ€™s files before him, that was when the camelâ€™s back was broken. So, he contested, the people of Ondo State gave him the mandate.
But because of their avowed mission to frustrate him from becoming governor of the state, theyÂ stole his mandate and as law abiding citizen, he went to the tribunal with facts to show and prove that he won the election and the tribunal agreed with him.
They(PDP)went on appeal, we floored them. Now that he has become governor, the same people are saying, â€˜come overâ€™.
If you were Mimiko will you follow them? These are people who have nothing to offer Nigerians. The problem of Nigeria is big; the problem of this country on development is caused by PDP.The fact that Nigerians are not feeding well today is caused by the party. TheÂ problem in Niger Delta has escalated since this government came to power. We have no good roads in Nigeria andÂ theÂ gocernment has refused to do them?
On electricity, the mega watts we have been enjoying have dropped. So, anybody who wants to commit political suicide can jump into PDP. I must say that Governor Mimiko should not be distracted. He is contemplating on delivering on election promises.
He is succeeding on that and he is on course. When we look at all he is doing, weâ€™re satisfied that he is on course. Maybe because they believe that they will rewrite results, thatâ€™s why everybody is jumping into PDP.
The rumour has not given us any serious concern, weâ€™re not bothered about it. Weâ€™ve been hearing the rumour for the past four months. So, they can continue to make their efforts but the more effort they make the more theyâ€™ll fail. PDP is dead in Ondo State and it will never resurrect, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m telling you.
But we have instances in some states, Imo State may not stand out because that is a peculiar one but in Bauchi for instance, a governor that was elected on the platform of ANPP….?
(Cuts in) What do you expect from the executive governor? Here is a man who is an in-law to the president and it would not be nice for him and the president to belong to different parties. But that was not the only consideration.
He had already made up his mind on cross-carpeting from ANPP to PDP. You know the reason why they are all carpet crossing? They donâ€™t believe that Nigerian people will vote and that their vote will count. They believe once you are a candidate of the PDP, you have won the election 70 percent.
The remaining 30 percent is for that day to come for you to be announced. That is their erroneous belief, that is their misguided conviction that there will be no election. So, people are now trooping into PDP because they think they will write the result the way they wrote results in 1999, in 2003 and in 2007 in government houses, guest houses, police stations and military formations.
But I can assure you that they will be disappointed because hey will lose their elections come 2011 or other places as the case may be, when the people of this country will vote and defend their votes. So, those who are jumping into PDP and thinking that they have already won the election are living in fools paradise. And come 2011, you will see what will happen.
Talking of opposition proper now, your party controls a state, AC controls two states,Â from seven in 2003 ANPPÂ is now left with only three states. With the mass movement from different parties to PDP direction, what does it portend for the opposition in 2011?
I agree with you that the proliferation ofÂ political parties in this country tends to have eaten the opposition. AndÂ it was a deliberate ploy by the ruling partyÂ to do that by registering as many as 50 political parties so that the thing will scatter and they will put their own together. And he succeeded in doing that and they have gone ahead to register additional four, which brings the number of political parties in Nigeria to 54.
And I tell you, before this last four that were registered, out of the 50 political parties that were in place before the 2011 election, more than half of them were registered by the ruling PDP.
And thatâ€™s why today it will appear that the opposition political parties are not doing much to challenge the overbearing influence of PDP, and that explains also why more than half of the registered political parties before the 2007 election did not even collect forms to field candidates in most of the states because half of those parties belong toÂ PDP.
It was also intended to be used to spread positions.Â Â And thatâ€™s why we are calling on all opposition political parties that share the same vision and mission and the same ideology to come togther. They have no reason to belong to different parties, they have no reason to stay in different houses.
They should come together, there should be a synergy, there should be a strategic alliance that will put them together so that they will now use one platform to go for the election.
And when they use one platform, because they share the same ideology, they share the same vision and mission, they can harmonise their manifestos and if such an alliance lead them to power, then they can move to the next step of permanently forgetting about the previous names they answer and come together under one political party.
But the problem we have is that leaders of most of these political parties are afraid of what they will be called if they have such an alliance or what they will become after such an alliance because people prefer, stupidly too, to be called national chairman, national secretary, national treasurer, deputy national chairman and so on.
But when you enter the house, the house is empty. I want to tell you that out ofÂ the 54Â today, we have between eight and nine that are operating asÂ political parties on daily basis.
And out of that eight or nine, we have less than six that can even stand the test of time. It is not a question of being afraid of what you will answer. We are talking of power and the main essence of a political partyâ€™s existence is to get political power.
LiteratureÂ and research tell me that that is the main reason for the registration of political party â€” to gain political power and use it to the advantage of the citizenry and getting greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. So, we should not go for 2011, 2014 and other elections with the present number of political parties, each and everyone pretending to be contesting election when in actual fact they are not there.
As I said earlier, there are less than sixÂ parties that can show you their membership, that can show you that they are actually on ground in some states of the country or all over the country. Others are just masquerading and are just pretending as if they are there.
And thatâ€™s why I said in 2007 if we had had a level playing field, we would have won more states. I think we should remove all actions of government that even encourage non-existent political parties to pretend as if they exist. Iâ€™m talking about things like the subventions given to parties.
The reason why I said so is because that is what is keeping more than 30 of themÂ alive. But that will also not be possible because the Peoples Democratic Party is funded by governors with public funds, by local government chairmen with public funds owned by citizens belonging to different political parties.
PDP is funded by contractors who were given jobs and paid with taxpayersâ€™ money. So, if PDP is making billions of naira from all these channels Iâ€™ve mentioned, why should you now say you stop the meager N6 million given to other parties at times once in two years, which is not enough to pay for an office?
If all these things are not in place and the parties are allowed to generate their funds, it would have bee better. But if you abrogate it you are punishing the opposition, enhancing the PDP which is funded by the presidency, by contractors, governors, and local government chairmen.
PDP will sit down to organise a launching and they raise N10 billion, even when the Electoral Act doesnâ€™t allow an individual to donate more than N1 million to a political party. We have seen howÂ individuals donated N1 billion, N3 billion to PDP and nothing happened.
That is the dilemma weâ€™ve found ourselves because they have the resources, they are controlling state resources through the government. So, that is why you could see that they have more activities than other political parties.
But Nigerians have made up their minds and 2011 is not a date that will be determined by money but by what you have done for the people. One would say that the political parties are doing well based on the limitations and the imbalances in the political system which appear to be against them.
When you talked about the opposition parties coming together, Iâ€™m sure you have the proposed mega party in mind. How far do you thinkÂ the mega party can go in 2011?
It is not the issue of mega party because when you talk about mega party you give impression as if a new party will be formed for the purposes of election. That will not work. I can tell you, forming a new party now, no matter the name you may call it, will not enhance the electoral fortunes of anybody.
The option which I consider better and expedient is for a candidate, unanimously selected by a group of political parties, using a political platform that is in existence, that has structures, that has something to show that they are actually in the process.
It is not something that should be ad hoc. It is something that if you have such an alliance and you move on, it becomes something that is permanent. But if you are hurriedly putting up a structure like a political platform that will be used to fight the PDP, like I told you, it is not going to work. You still have people who are even PDP but were forced out in the sharing formula in the party, thatâ€™s why they left and joined other political parties and they contested under that political arrangement.
Some of them are even working hard to go back to the same PDP, which drove them away or they drove themselves away from.Â So, you can see that it is lust for power because somebody is so greedy and he wants to continue to be around corridors of power. Those who have vomited have gone back to their own vomit by lobbying and finding their waysÂ back. That will tell you about the credibility of the average Nigerian politician.
But for some of us that are in opposition, weâ€™re not moving, weâ€™ll stay here and pursue our commitment to the people of Nigeria. Those who want to jump into aircraft, even when they know that the aircraft will crash, they are still jumping into it. So, we wish them good luck.
If you look at the opposition parties, they controlÂ 8 states compared with PDPâ€™s 28, how strong do you really think the opposition is against the PDP’s national spread?
Going by what happened in 2007, I must tell you that PDP did not win more than ten states. I told you that they wrote results and awarded themselves, it was not based on peoplesâ€™ votes. It was not the people of Nigeria that gave those states.
So, 2007 is a very wrong premise for me to judge and base the state of the other parties. Iâ€™ll not claim that we won or we did not win, Labour Party won Ondo State, AC won more than two states but AC has been able to recover just one, that is Edo where AC has an alliance with Labour Party to produce Adams Oshiomohle as governor.
You can see that the alliance Iâ€™m talking about worked in Edo, we produced the candidate, AC produced the deputy and the platform. Now we have a governor in Edo for Labour Party and for AC. So, AC won many states but theyÂ stole them.
2007 was a very bad election to be used to judge people or those parties that have one, two and so on. And thatâ€™s why weâ€™re clamouring for electoral reforms. Let the people of Nigeria choose their leaders, we cannot continue to conduct election the way weâ€™re doing it by allocating positions to people.
So, donâ€™t judge the opposition parties by 2007 election. We lost four states which we won based on technicalities.
So what should Nigerians expect from the opposition in 2011?
Weâ€™re working hard, Labour Party is working very hard. Weâ€™re re-strategising, weâ€™re re-strengthening and re-building our structures and are also talking with other political parties of like minds to see if we can work together.Â But I can tell you that 2011 will be a different ball game.
In 2007, you would recall, Labour Party did not field a presidential candidate simply because we liked Yarâ€™Adua. And we still like Yarâ€™Adua. If you ask the members of Labour Party who were for Yarâ€™Adua in 2011 election, they will tell you that they are regretting it.
The country has not moved an inch. The country has remained where it was; weâ€™re at a standstill. That is why Iâ€™m saying that the support we gave was based on conviction that he should be given opportunity. Considering his pedigree, his antecedents, Yarâ€™Adua can become a comrade.
But we saw him as somebody belonging to a wrong political party. They have hijacked him and they are now tailoring him to abandon and jettison his social democratic ideals, which would have brought development into this country. So, weâ€™re working but come 2011, Labour Party will fully and concretely field candidates in all the elections in the country.
Is Labour party participating in Anambra governorship election?
Yes, our forms are already out. Aspirants have been encouraged to pick their forms and people are already picking the forms and they will submit it between now and September 30 and after which weâ€™ll screen the candidates and after the screening, theyâ€™ll go for congresses and the person that emerges, his name will be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
But Labour Party does not appear to be very strong in the state?
That is your own opinion but donâ€™t worry. Weâ€™re looking at those that are making noise. Weâ€™re not noise makers, weâ€™re on the ground and after the election you call me and tell me whether weâ€™re strong or not.
Are you sayingÂ Labour Party will win the AnambraÂ governorship election ?
Labour Party is a party that will solve all the problems that have bedevilled that state since 1999. The Anambra people now needs a political party that will be able to deliver the dividends of democracy to their door steps, they need a political party that will fan the embers of peace, that will bring about peace and unite the people of Anambra.
And that party is the Labour Party and by the time we put up our candidate to come and talk to Anambra people, weâ€™ll convince them on why they should vote for that particular man so that all these trouble makers, all these people that have caused panic and depression in the state will go and rest so that a neutral political party will now be in a position to bring good leadership to the people of the state.
Some people have expressed concerns over the election in the stateÂ without electoral reforms. Do you have any worries over this?
Of course, our position has been that we ought to have concluded the reforms long ago. I donâ€™t know how far the National Assembly can go with it but I keep saying that if weâ€™re very careful, if we do what weâ€™re supposed to do, if INEC is encouraged to be fair and transparent, and the voters also vigilant, and their votesÂ are counted at the polling units, appropriate figures recorded, we can assume it is a free and fair process.
But if there is an attempt to give a particular political party and its candidate an advantage over and above others that is where weâ€™re going to have that situation that you have predicted. So, we hope that come next year, weâ€™ll use whatever experience gathered to prepare for the 2011 election.