By Uju Mbanusi
Erstwhile chairman of the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Senator Sola Akinyede represented the Ekiti South Senatorial District between 2007 and 2011. Akinyede was a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1989 Constitution, a delegate to the National Political Reform Conference and subsequently, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike. In this interview, he responds to issues affecting the polity and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Excerpts:
Is the APC a threat to your party, the PDP?
Let us go back a little bit in history. In 1999 the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the All Peoples Party (APP) entered into a political alliance which saw Chief Olu Falae running with Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi against President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo was elected with 18.7 million votes (63%) while Falae got 11.1million votes(37.2%)
In 2011 there was a spirited attempt by the Congress for Progressive Change and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to forge an alliance against the PDP. The alliance did not work. However, in that election PDP had 22.5 million votes (59.6%) while the combined votes of both CPC and ACN was 14.3 million votes(37.8%)
Why is this so? PDP is the only truly national political party in Nigeria. PDP won 23 States plus Abuja in 2011 as against others. CPC won 12 States all in the North and was not able to get the constitutionally required minimum of 25 per cent of the votes in any of the 17 southern states, while the ACN won just 1 State.
Minority regional political parties
It is obvious that CPC and ACN are minority regional political parties deluding themselves and believing that a merger will give them a national outlook. PDP is the only party that has all the major ethnic groups as well as the minority ethnic groups in the North and South substantially represented. So if ACN and CPC are to merge today as APC, history tells us that APC is not likely to poll much more than that 37%. APC will be lucky to score 40% of the votes in 2015.
But your party, the PDP is in crisis?
Politics is dynamic and that dynamism involves a perpetual jostling, and contest for power, positions and ideas. In the process cleavages are created. What you call crisis are cleavages which are natural occurrences in any dynamic political system especially in a developing democracy like ours. The most important thing is the ability to manage these cleavages like the Italians have done. Since 1999 the PDP has demonstrated its ability to manage its differences.
How do you react to claims that the PDP is marginalizing the Southwest?
There are provisions in our Constitution that ensure that every part of the country is assured some measure of participation in governance. The American political scientist Harold Dwight Lasswell defined politics as ‘Who gets what , when, and how’. That ‘who’ does not necessarily refer to an individual, but to a group of people. The reality of politics is that when you are not in the room where decisions are being taken, you are more likely to get the minimum rather than the maximum.
In 2007, the South-West was in that room in the person of Hon Dimeji Bankole and the South West got its due. But in 2011 the situation changed . In spite of the fact that the PDP zoned the Speakership to the South-West, the ACN a Yoruba party with some sprinkling of some non-Yoruba people voted against the southwest candidate, Hon Akande-Adeola to ensure that a South-West person did not enter that room.
Some people were surprised by this action, but those of us who know the ACN very well know that their politics is driven more by the private and personal interests of their leaders rather the collective interest of the South-West. It is imperative that the South-West ensures that they are inside that room by not only voting massively for the PDP but by ensuring that their votes are not rigged by the ACN.
How is your party on ground in Ekiti State?
There is a widespread misconception that the ACN is completely in control in the South-West. The reality is that in a free and fair and well monitored election ACN will lose in most South-West States. Don’t forget that the loss of Oyo and Ogun States by the PDP in 2011 was self-inflicted. Where the election is not well-monitored, the ACN governors ruthlessly deployed their thuggery and rigging machine. Before the Ondo State governorship election, a colleague of mine in the Senate had asked me what would happen. I said Labour will win, PDP will come second and ACN last. This is what happened. If ACN was that popular, at worst it would have come second.
Coming to Ekiti, since the court awarded the governorship seat to the ACN in 2010, the PDP has been intact. I can count on one hand the number of PDP leaders who have decamped to the ACN. On the contrary it is the ACN that is jittery. A few months ago, a chieftain of the ACN in the State Mr Ayo Jeje had concluded plans to decamp to the PDP. He was murdered on the eve of his decampment. The State Chairman of ACN Chief Jide Awe and others have been charged to court for the murder. In a free and fair and well-monitored election PDP will win.