By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Chief Barnabas Gemade, former national chairman of PDP, in this encounter talks about the North and the search for a consensus presidential aspirant that would defeat the incumbent President Jonathan in the PDP primaries.
what’s your view on the on-going search for a consensus PDP candidate from the North? It seems the search is getting stronger.
Well, I cannot say it is something anybody should worry about. I don’t see anything waxing stronger as you are saying unless you are getting your information from elsewhere.
From what I’m seeing, it’s not something worth worrying about. Some members of the Committee have already dis-associated themselves from the exercise. Somebody like Sule Lamido is no more interested in the working of the committee.
Some of the committee members have started saying it is not a good exercise but you are telling me the exercise is waxing stronger. Is that how things wax stronger, when those who were championing the cause are now saying it is not a good exercise?
But for some reasons, the governors who belong to the committee are asked to stay away for now.
When the governors they hoped would support the idea started saying they would not be part of it, the committee came up with the story that the governors were asked to stay away.
They are just telling the committee that it is poor judgment to take the line of action that they are taking. And that is the truth of the matter. That is the position of the governors in the committee.
Some of the pro-consensus Northerners think consensus candidacy would strengthen the unity of the North rather that divide the North like some people are projecting?
I would not make any comment on what some of the consensus aspirants or their supporters are saying. There is no presidential candidate amongst the four or pro-consensus politician who will benefit from it that would say something contrary about the consensus.
Such a politician would not tell you the truth because he is a beneficiary. But let me mention one fact to you. It is extremely strange and very poor political judgment for anybody to abandon an incumbent chosen by his own political party to go and start afresh from ground zero. You know that when somebody is in a job, he has a headstart already.
It’s just like the job you are doing. You already know the ropes in that job better than somebody who is just starting afresh from outside. If the two of you were to go for interview, who gets a better chance?
The man with no idea hardly stands a chance. So, it is extremely poor political judgment for a member of a political party to abandon the incumbent candidate to go for a fresh one.
The idea here is that you don’t just go and do an exercise for the sake of doing an exercise. You carry out an exercise which is sensible and which by normal human judgment is a positive one for you.
So, my attitude to this matter is that if the constitution of this country allows a first term incumbent to contest for a second term, I have no reason to go and start looking for a new person.
The most important legal document of the country which is the country’s constitution has allowed the incumbent to go for a second term. But some people prefer a lower document and I think it is out of order for anyone to begin to worry about this issue.
The country’s constitution is the legal ground for me to adopt my own position.
PDP as a party has taken a decision on this issue and anybody who is a member of the party and who has played politics will know that people have to abide by the decision of their own party.
We have zoning in our party and irrespective of that, certain circumstances determine that people be allowed to contest election. They will continue to be allowed to contest elections.
So, you don’t see this search for a consensus candidate embarked upon by the North as a threat to Jonathan’s ambition?
I’m telling you that it’s politics and it allows everyone to have his own say and majority will always have their way. But majority here are not the political leaders but majority here are the delegates of the People Democratic Party of Nigeria, PDP.
So, I cannot be concerned about what ten or twelve people are doing in comparison to a job that 4,000 people are going to do and there are many people who have a stronger influence over those taking the line of consensus candidature which you are talking about.
Are you aware we are not just talking about four consensus aspirants but their supporters who would be part of the delegates? Now, you can imagine all the supporters of the three who lose out of the consensus teaming up with the winner against Jonathan.
That is really serious.
There is no cause for alarm. Everybody is free to make any move or use any legal strategy to win an election but at the end of the day, majority have their way. Nothing is beyond dialogue and when people are reasonable and willing to talk with themselves, then, dialogue should be opened but if people are adamant in their positions and unwilling to shift from where they stand, there is nothing you can do about it.
Why’s EFCC trying to frustrate some politicians?
Well, I don’t know about that. I’m not talking about any individual.
Would you say President Jonathan has the where-withal to defeat the formidable consensus four?
I don’t know how you came about this judgment of formidable four. Are you telling me President Jonathan who is the incumbent President of Nigeria is not a formidable politician and he is not formidable as far as PDP is concerned?
How do you think 2011 elections would be considering these threats by MEND and arms importation going on in the country?
The issue of security is a serious matter and it’s a matter which the states’ security apparatus has been dealing with. This is not the first time we are arresting people who are importing arms. People have imported arms in the past and have been arrested.
There have also been elections despite all these. So, I still believe that this matter is still what the arm of the government responsible is already dealing with. And I think they are effective and that is why they are even arresting people who are responsible for these arms’ importation, even when they tagged it building materials.
So, I commend the security apparatus in what they are doing and for arresting these people. It is not only in the towns that these take place but also in the hinterland. We heard how imported arms and ammunition were arrested in the Maiduguri area and in other parts of the country. I think the security people are dealing with all these effectively.
Don’t you think what MEND is doing could count against Jonathan?
That is not an issue that warrants my comments because planting of bombs is a security matter and arrests have been made. These issues are very clear and MEND has dis-associated itself from this man who was arrested in South-Africa and the one that calls himself Gbomo Jomo doesn’t seem to exist. I think they say it’s just a pseudonym.
So, I don’t know what to say about that.
What’s your view on the aspirants?
That I have made up my mind who to support doesn’t mean that I will x-ray other aspirants.
Would you say Jonathan is acceptable nationwide?
Well, I know about my state. I know about my zone. I have a general view of the whole nation having functioned as national chairman of the PDP. I know the people following these presidential aspirants and I know from history how they have performed politically in their own areas of control.
So, I’m quite confident about this matter. If somebody is supporting a candidate and I know he does not have the support of the people in his own area, I don’t worry about such.