By JIDE AJANI, Editor (Northern Operations)

Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the Ogun State governor and Ogun East Senatorial District candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the April polls, in this session explains why had no fears that President Goodluck Jonathan would clinch the party’s presidential ticket at Thursday’s presidential primary.

According to Daniel, “we never had any fears really because we felt very strongly that all told, we had a very good candidate, highly-educated, untainted record, a breath of fresh air and somebody we easily sold to our people”.

Daniel, whose Ogun State witnessed some funny developments regarding party congresses also explains that those insinuating that there were parallel congresses in the state missed the point, insisting, instead, that what Ogun State witnessed were acts of indiscipline in some quarters by some politicians.  In fact, he adds that such acts should be punished.

Otunba Gbenga Daniel, ...we had a good candidate

In his words, “there were no parallel congresses in Ogun State but I do not know of some other places.

“What I can tell you is that there were acts of indiscipline that a serious political party should punish”.

To Baba Olusegun Obasanjo, Daniel said:  “Just look at the primaries we conducted in our state: Some people just decided to misbehave and they did misbehave and yet people are wrongly tagging that as parallel congress, is that right?  Well, as Baba said, “I dey laugh”; for me, too, I dey laugh-O”.

After discussing his party, he also took a swipe at the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, claiming that the party had never won any election in the South-West geo-political zone apart form the victories recorded in Lagos State.

On the spate of judicial pronouncements awarding victory to ACN, Daniel scoffed at the thought:

“AC has not won any election in the South-West geo-political zone other than Lagos.  That was the beginning of my statement because the judiciary has given them a head-start that they couldn’t have gotten from the electorate in the South-West”.
Excerpts:

President Goodluck Jonathan has emerged as the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, candidate for the presidential election!  How was the South-West geo-political zone bought into or sold to that agenda?

We have always been clear about what we want.  If you look at our political antecedent, we have always placed a lot of premium on things that relate with efficiency, equity, more than other extraneous factors.  As you are aware, our people pride themselves as being very exposed, probably the most educated across the Sahara.

So, what we are doing now is completely in tandem with our beliefs.

We do believe strongly that a man must not be incapacitated to achieve whatever he wants to achieve because of accident of birth and we think that part of what is going for Nigeria is that anybody, no matter where he comes from has potentials and we saw the candidacy of a Goodluck Jonathan as a manifestation of that belief.

Therefore, you must look at our support for President Jonathan in terms of the fundamentals and not so much in terms of the personalities that are involved.

We feel very happy about it; we do have a good candidate in Jonathan to give hope to the hopeless and to demonstrate it that it is indeed, a fallacy or that it is indeed, possible for you to attain the height of your potentials.

That is the position of the South West in the present circumstances.

That presupposes block votes from the South-West?

We are quite a very sophisticated people.

And I think we can talk in terms of block votes.

There is no doubt about that regarding the overwhelming support we gave to President Jonathan.

Before the convention, what were your fears about the possible outcome?

We had made it very clear from the outset that there are certain things that are very dear to our people.
The South-West caucus had done a lot of work and we came up with a position paper regarding some of those things that we believe are sacrosanct in terms of the economic development of this country and our people.

We listed all projects that are important to us in the South-West as a people.
We listed the economic policies that we feel are very important to us as a people.

We are quite hopeful that with the delivery of the candidate now, he, too, will in turn deliver on those demands that we have made.
We never had any fears really because we felt very strongly that all told, we had a very good candidate, highly-educated, untainted record, a breath of fresh air and somebody we easily sold to our people.

What about the Ekiti and Osun states people who were not really happy about the way their state governors were removed through judicial means?

There’s no doubt – and I don’t think it’s just about delegates from Ekiti and Osun states alone – that something fundamentally wrong in our country and if politics and elections are about the greatest majority of the people, if the democracy is about the greatest good for the greatest number, or put differently, it is about given expression to the wish of the people, then I think what happened in those two states, depending on where you are looking at it from can be described as a negation of those principles.

I am one of the people who have been advocating that elections should not be decided in the law courts.  I agree that the courts are there to adjudicate on election matters, that is a given, but I am one of the people who feel that the constitution should be amended in such a way that elections should not just be finalised in the court of law.

If areas of misdemeanour are found and which can indeed, occur and which probably occurred in Ekiti and Osun States and in Lagos and in Ogun and in Sokoto and everywhere, I think the place of the court should be cancelling the election outright, punish those involved and order fresh elections and not for a few people to just sit down and begin to subtract and add figures and begin to declare somebody as a winner, so we should look at that aspect of our laws and, to that extent, I understand the feelings of our people in Ekiti and Osun states.

But having said that and beyond that expression of emotions and sentiments, we spoke to them, that this is indeed a fundamental problem and it just so happened that these two states were guinea pigs and we’re hoping that courts should be enjoined to order re-run.

When you look at statistics, you’ll be surprised – and this is what I’ve found – that in virtually all the states where the courts had said a re-run should be done, the person who won earlier won again.  Just a few days ago, we saw what happened in Delta State.  Now, had the court awarded the election to another party, what fate would have been handed down on the people of Delta State?

It does appear to me that some people have perfected the art of dealing with the judiciary.

You can see the way our primaries have gone and you see how people mobilised for primaries and that is what is called democracy.

At least, we have seen a party which just went into a hall to declare that an individual, via voice votes, was picked as candidate.  Does that then mean that voting has been reduced to the issue of decibel?  Those are the things we should begin to challenge.
I think we should give it to PDP that we are building blocks of democracy and if we have a proper election all the time then PDP would continue to defeat other parties.

The role of money at the convention, what would you say about that?

I do not have that information but you are telling me now so I’m listening.

I will take note of that.

The fear out there is that money played a significant role and some people were agitated.
I don’t think so and I think what was out there were fears.

We should give kudos to the government that the issue of money was never allowed to derail the process.  That shows that government is very responsible and restraint and I think we should commend good behaviour.

In some of our neighbouring states down there in Ogun State, they spend money like water and I don’t know where the money is coming from.

Are there fears that with Atiku Abubakar’s lose, he could choose to move on or defect?  That is painting a post-primary scenario leading up to the election.

Well, we are not God.
And, it will be very difficult what will happen tomorrow but I want to concede that in the history of our country, the presidential primary of our party was one which brought our massive mobilisation of supporters on both sides of the divide because clearly the two front-runners could not be described as pushovers.

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar cannot be described as a push over in any way at all.  He’s been at it for quite some time, I’m sure that without any research, if you have become conversant with how politics works.

We have become quite enlightened and people are more aware about how politics should be played.

That question is against the backdrop of some members of your party who have been defecting because they lost at the primaries – and this is happening across the country.  Look at the senators who lost.  What is being put in place to ensure that those who lost out would not constitute any burden on the party at the polls?

I think it’s also the kind of education that we need to deliver to our people.

This is because if we jointly agree on a process, and if a process is done in a way that is transparent, it means the people have a right to decide on their choice.

So, if you now lose in a transparent primary, for instance in PDP, and you now go to another party, first and foremost it means you are not a man of principles.

Daniel

And in any case if you lose in the kind of primaries that PDP does, primaries which themselves look like the real election because of the number of people who vote in such primaries, accredited delegates, it means that if you lose in our party and you go to another party to get the ticket, it means that it would easier for us in PDP to defeat you as a candidate of the other party because you are going to remain a loser.

But did it ever cross your mind that President Jonathan might lose?  Please, be honest about this, at least he has won, so there is no need to be worried and you do not need to grandstand.  Just be honest, sir.
I have never been a negative person in all my life.

I’m just telling you, it never crossed my mind.
In all my life I’ve never been negative and I’ve always taken calculated steps, strategic steps and with God it has always worked, so I was always looking at the positive side and I never bothered about the negative.

Look at your Ogun State and the way Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, is trying to mop up people from your party, those who lost out.
I’m laughing at what is happening in Ogun State.

I am looking at people who have been rejected and I can see opposition parties pleading with them to come and pick their flag which means effectively that the people that are not up to it in our own party are the people that they now want to use against us.  How would they ever win when you go pick third and fourth rate contenders.

Ab initio, the result should be clear to you.

Just imagine a situation where you had about 2,450 delegates for a senatorial primary and one delegate scores about two thousand four hundred and fifty-something while the other person scores less than 10 votes, how on earth would that type of person win against PDP if and when he contests on the platform of another party in a state where the PDP is 100 per cent  in charge at all levels.

Those are the logical things we need to bring to the fore.

In Ogun State, what actually happened with the congresses?  Some called it parallel congresses but some are saying some people just embarked on a voyage of day-dreaming.

Good!  There were no parallel congresses in Ogun State but I do not know of some other places.
What I can tell you is that there were acts of indiscipline that a serious political party should punish.

But the issues surrounding that matter should be resolved.

Well, what you choose to resolve and report in the media is different.
You may choose to call it parallel congress, in which case you would be very wrong but the reality on ground is that some politicians just chose to be very undisciplined in their conduct.

You’re beginning to get angry…

Okay, tell me, what constitutes an election?

If we agree that we’re running a national party and that this national party has the final say, especially as the party national headquarters is supposed to conduct the elections, and on the day of the election, the team to conduct the election was sent to the state from Abuja, brought all the election materials, they got a location that has been designated for the primary and they move to that location that has been publicly announced as the venue of the party primary for every participant, in the presence of Police, SSS, statutorily in the presence of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, representative, and this elections were conducted openly, the votes were counted openly, results were signed by INEC, the national office of the party’s returning officer, the person who won was handed the certificate and then some other people went to another location and organised something that looked like a mini-rally, without any delegate list, without any representation from the national office, without any INEC representative, and they declared themselves a winner and some people called that parallel congress.

It was as simple as that.

And, that is why I say there were no parallel congresses in Ogun State.
What we had were acts of indiscipline that all of us should condemn.

If I go into my father’s library or somewhere and call some people to join me, how does that become a congress (laughter)
But your party chapter in Ogun State appears to be riddled with violence.

Our party remains the best organised.  Although a lot more power would have been better devolved to the party in the states because of the huge number we are dealing with.  But because of the time it takes to resolve issues people read it wrongly.
When we took over in 2003, for instance, we took over from entrenched interests.

When I won I made it clear that I would run the state as a governor for all and not as a PDP governor and once I brought in people to form that government, even people who did not belong to  PDP became sympathetic to the party because of the people-oriented programmes that we put in place.

The party also became very attractive to many people across the spectrum.

Now, when you have a lot of energetic people in one box and you now say you want to be ideological in approach, you want to be a change agent, people will resist and you then have to convince them and make them buy into your agenda.  That is the story people should appreciate; it is about change.  Unfortunately, the agents of change that we knew when we were growing up have retrogressed, unfortunately.

We identified our priorities when we took over and pursued them vigorously and we ensured that personal interests gave way to the interests of the people and any struggle in Ogun State can be defined along those lines, simple; every other thing that people are talking about are semantics, lies, propaganda.

PDP appears to have made state governors king over others at the state level and some people are frowning at this.
Who is the number one citizen in any state?

Is there something surprising in that?

But you know you would be resuming in the senate from June should you win the Ogun East senatorial seat? So, how would you relate with your successor as governor?

But the governor is the official leader of the party in the state.

Having said that, any state governor worth it should be able to relate with his elders and political leaders in the state properly!  There is nothing new in that.  In my case, I evaluated those who were my leaders and I related to them as such; I gave them the respect despite the fact that I was the state governor.  It is simple.  The governor who is number one citizen can not be reduced to second fiddle.

That is the truth.

Okay, PDP governors have become so powerful that they get away with whatever they want and they even killed the reformation of the party at some…

(Cuts in)  I am Mr. Reformer.  But you must understand that a process of reformation or change must carry people along.  It cannot be delivered like a military document.  You must first create a consensus among the people you want to reform.  Consensus-building is the first step.  You cannot reform people who do not want to buy into your vision; it was not that the reforms were bad but there was no consensus built.

Don’t you see the AC moving to take over the entire South West geo-political zone?

AC has not won any election in the South West geo-political zone other than Lagos.
That was the beginning of my statement because the judiciary has given them a headstart that they couldn’t have gotten from the electorate in the South-West.

They are now going to try to use that advantage and turn it into electoral victory later.
It has been demonstrated and you must also worry because I have been involved in elections in Lagos State in the last two years and PDP won.

The House of Representative election that was re-run in Lekki, we were there and we campaigned for the man there and we won.
The House of Assembly in Ikorodu, three weeks ago, the PDP won in Lagos.

Now, what that tells you is that it is better to go to the polls to contest than to just bag judicial victories.
What reform issues would you pursue in the National Assembly?

Everything about this country is about things that are fundamentally wrong.  Nothing will work until we tackle the fundamentals, the biggest of which is corruption, part of which is discipline and a sense of nationalism which does not exist and until we tackle these issue, we will never get anything right.

People have always talked like this but nothing has ended up happening, what is that thing which creates the disconnect?
It is the fundamentals of the issue and they are at the root.

I am in Ogun State and I use my minimal resources and fix a road but another government comes and uses 20 times the amount I used for the same or similar project.

I did electrification of a highway and I spent N20,000 on each pole and I used Abeokuta welders and I’m hearing that in another area of this country, they are using N1million for the same thing.
I have done three stadia each at N1.6 billion, approximately, FIFA certified and I’m hearing that another state wants to spend N15 billion for a stadium.

Or, how do we begin to stop corruption: I’m building a classroom block of about four rooms for about N2.5 million but I’m discovering that the federal government is going to award a block of classroom of the same standard for N9 million.
What sort of country is that?

We are voting N200 billion for agriculture when there is no land in Abuja and for as long as the fundamentals are wrong then we will continue to have problems.

I run about 10 tertiary institutions in Ogun State and yet a Federal Government institution in the same state gets N5billion for capital project.

Just look at the primaries we conducted in our state: Some people just decided to misbehave and they did misbehave and yet people are wrongly tagging that as parallel congress, is that right?  Well as Baba said, “I dey laugh”; for me, too, I dey laugh-O.

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