By Ben Agande
As the Deputy Coordinator of the South South for the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organization, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Prince Chibudom Nwuche is in the thick of the bid to elect President Goodluck Jonathan in the April elections.
In this interview with Ben Agande in Abuja, Prince Nwuche who himself lost the bid to go to the Senate at the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party in controversial circumstances warns on the risk PDP faces in some states on account of imposition of candidates. He also speaks on the chances of President Jonathan and other national issues.
There are cries over alleged imposition of candidates in your party, PDP, in the just concluded primaries, with some saying this could have negative effects on the April elections. Do you agree?
I must say from the outset that litigations and the declining state of the electoral processes are as a result of the failure of the parties to entrench internal democracy, leaving party members with no option than to seek judicial interventions.
I see the role of the court as one to save the polity because if people have been shortchanged by an undemocratic party process that has thrown up the wrong candidate, whether as a result of the determination by certain people to takeaway the desires of Nigerians to freely elect people they want to represent them, or for these people to begin to appoint members of the National Assembly, for instance, the option available to the law abiding politician is to go to court. I see the role of the judiciary as positive.
The litigations, as many as they may be now, is symptomatic of the problems of lack of internal democracy in the parties. If people lose in free and fair party primaries, they will not go to court. But where people sit down in cosy offices and decide who will represent the masses at the national and state Houses of Assembly, these things will happen. The polity is being overheated because of the determination of a few people to play God and to disallow the people from electing their representatives.
The courts are doing what is proper by reversing those arbitrary decisions. Democracy is anchored on a popular and mass input in the governing process. That is why, for instance, the governor will appoint the commissioners, board of organizations and other aides. The only input that the masses would make in governance is the state assembly and the National Assembly. For the governors to now seek to appoint national and state assembly members by fiat is not
good for the polity. The litigations are just symptoms of the party’s failure in delivering popular representation and the court are doing what I believe is right to stabilize the democracy by reversing illegal imposition of candidates.
The preponderance of these cases is in your party the PDP. Don’t you think this will affect the chances of Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential elections?
With regards to the election of President Goodluck Jonathan, his support base is not the PDP but Nigerians. Nigerians want change. PDP may have its own internal issues, but that won’t accept the president of the country because, for the president, his popularity base is not the PDP but the Nigerian People who want a change in generation, change in ideology, they want a change in vibrancy. They want a man who can keep to his words; who does not promise what he cannot deliver.
A man who admits that it is wrong when things are wrong because no body is infallible and no body is God. I think that even though the party may have issues, that wont affect the president. That would only affect particular candidates. Elections are segmented. We have the national and state assembly election and then the presidential election. You will discover that even those people who have been affected negatively in the primaries would pool together for the president.
In most cases for instance where there are issues, people have said that the national and state assemblies may not go to the PDP but the presidency would go to the president. The crisis will affect the party’s chances to the extent that the states that are contentious may not be won by the PDP but in terms of support, most of the people who are aggrieved in the party are not aggrieved with the president. Their grievances are with one god father or the other. The president’s selection would be very smooth because Nigerians are agreed that there must be a change and they prefer Goodluck to represent them.
The party has muted the idea of setting up a committee to reconcile aggrieved members. Can any such reconciliation happen?
That is medicine after death. This could have been avoided from the beginning by allowing internal democracy by allowing the vote of the people count. When you have deliberately excluded popular choices and imposed unpopular candidates on the masses, then you said they should reconcile, what are you reconciling? I think what is left is for us to go into the elections. Let the party win where it can win and let us allow the people to vote according to their conscience and who ever will lose should lose.
At least we should learn from that next time. It is better in the first place to have talked about reconciliation before the primaries so that people would have agreed to either select candidates or go for the primaries. But where you allow people to purchase forms, campaign and then you deny them the ticket and choose unpopular candidates, how do you want to achieve reconciliation? Even if you reconcile with a particular candidate, how do you reconcile
with the masses? Democracy was dealt a mortal blow. Reconciliation is a good thing but I don’t see how it will make any impact when the masses are aggrieved and have made up their mind where to go.
Do you find any correlation between what is happening in Egypt, Tunisia and other parts of the Arab world with the lack of internal democracy in the parties here?
My concern is that the present event in Egypt is as a result of several omissions of many years. A leadership that would not allow popular input in governance. It held the reins of power only by force; the force of wealth and the force of arms. It has shown that power belongs ultimately to the masses because the voice of the people is the voice of God. Those people who believe that they can hold power because they have money to buy the masses or they can control the forces of coercion, their days are numbered.
They must learn that the only true power that edifies is the one given to you freely by the people. The lesson for Nigeria is that you must entrench democracy. President Goodluck Jonathan has given a commitment that peoples votes must count. We must support the president in achieving this. Any attempt to rig votes would not last for long. We must worry about the country. The only way to stave off such unrest as we have noticed in Egypt and other places is to allow democracy to thrive. A country of more than 140 million people cannot be held down for ever.
As the leader of the PDP, if the president could not ensure that the outcome of his party primaries were free and fair, what is the guarantee that the general elections would be free and fair?
The president inherited the party. I believe that the president will have a lot more muscle after his election as the president of this country in April, 2011. These people who are there were there before he became the president and they have their own ways of doing things and they are entrenched. It will be difficult for only one person to change a party. The party has a soul of its own. The president can only leave his imprimatur only after he has a clear mandate, not before.
To use your words, will that not be medicine after death because the time to clear the Augean stable should be before and not after elections.
The beauty is that the system has a way to self correct. Where the PDP has been dictatorial for instance, we should allow popular choice. That would become the basis for seeking to entrench true democracy in the party. It is an example to say you see in these areas where we did not field popular candidates we lost.
After the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan, there were protests in some states in the northern part of the country. What does this portend?
The protests were only in a few states. The primaries were conducted in the open in a transparent and open manner. People who were protesting should re-examine their conscience. Were they protesting because of the primaries or other motives? We must learn to be equitable in our country. Every part of the country must be made to feel a sense of belonging. That is the only way to build a stable polity.