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We prevailed over the military, so Jonathan is no deal – Bashir Yusuf, PDM chairman

THE Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, is arguably the country’s most enduring political group. Initiated by the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar‘Adua in the late 80s, the group, last week, got its registration certificate as a political party from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The registration came after failed attempts in the past to register the movement as a political party during military rule. The PDM was one of the major building blocks of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998 with some of its members such as Atiku Abubakar, late Chuba Okadigbo, Anthony Anenih, late Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua, Roland Owie and Lawal Kaita among others on the frontline at the inception of the Fourth Republic politics.

However, there is no question to the fact that the influence of the PDM was seriously curtailed during eight straight years of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration when PDM’s top strategists were either removed from their positions of reckoning or compromised. The interim National Chairman of the new party, Bashir Ibrahim Yusuf, erstwhile political adviser to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and secretary of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, in this telephone interview, the first since the party was registered, discusses the essence of the new party and why existing opposition parties are simply not worth their effort. Excerpts:

BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor

WHY did you form the new political party, Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM?

We formed the party because we are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in the country. We believe that the existing political parties do not offer voters and Nigerians as a whole enough choices and do not advance their interests and we believe and have seen that all the existing political parties are united in upholding the current order and the status quo and we believe that since we have been on this path for these many years without any progress, that there is need for a paradigm shift.

Our party as you know has been on the political scene since 1994, we have been trying to register this political party since during military rule but they stopped us, and this is the third time that we are trying to register PDM and we thank God that we were able to register it and I can assure you that this is the real alternative that Nigerians are looking for and we are going to proceed on a totally different plane and we are going to give Nigerians the kind of party that they have been yearning for.

But you were part of the PDP?
Yes I was.

So what were the fault lines you found in the PDP?
The most important thing is that PDP has left Nigerians and Nigeria and there was no other option than to leave it. We want a party that caters to the interest of Nigerians and not the interest of a few. We want a party that is not focused on power, but focused on delivering services to people and I think that this too much focus on power is doing a great deal of harm to Nigerians and their interests.

Bashir Yusuf
Bashir Yusuf

The PDM was known to have shaped the affairs of the PDP at the beginning and there is the insinuation that it has lost much of its influence? Are you not afraid you have lost too much influence?

Fear is not in our vocabulary. If you have an idea of our precedence… we have taken on the military and prevailed so we don’t see any reason why we can’t prevail under a democratic environment.

So many people who associated with you at that time like Tony Anenih and Atiku Abubakar have not identified with you?

You know Nigeria has changed since 1994. In fact, Nigeria has changed seriously since 1999. The demography of the country now is such that 46 per cent of Nigerians actually don’t know what happened in 1999. So, if about half of Nigerians were children in 1999, we are focusing on the future and not on the past and we are not closing our doors to anybody. We hope that elders who share the same views with us will see what we have seen and jump the PDP ship before it sinks and come and jump on our ship and work with us to save this country. You know this is a democracy, everybody has a right to choose where they want to be and we are not begrudging anybody that changes, we are just hoping that more Nigerians share in our vision and come and work with us.

Have you made consultation with former leaders of the PDM like Senator Roland Owie, Tony Anenih, and Atiku Abubakar?

Consultation involves a process and at the level at which we are now, we have done enough consultations to register a political party but the consultations are not going to stop here. In fact, they have only just begun and we are going to consult as widely as possible and will include other people that you have not mentioned. There are many other PDM members across the length and breadth of Nigeria that we are yet to consult and we will like to appeal to these members that we are going to still call on them to come and prescribe their diagnosis to the ills of the nation as they have done in the past.

Ingredient of democracy
How do you react to insinuations that the emergence of the PDM just after the registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) could help the PDP in that it could help to split the opposition against the ruling party?

No, there can never be too much choice. The truth of the matter is that one important ingredient of democracy is choice and it is Nigerians themselves that will determine which is the true and genuine alternative. Right now, we are only speculating, it is what we do and not what we say that matters.

You can say that there is an alternative already in existence, but I see it differently and that is why we have a new political party. If we saw that there was a genuine alternative there, we would not have formed another political party.

Given the personalities involved in the APC, especially General Muhammadu Buhari, what faults do you find in the party as an alternative to the PDP?

I have not told you that I find any fault in them. What I am saying is that they have not met the standard of people like us and I am sure a lot of Nigerians will tell you the same. Nigerians want a total break from the existing paradigm and that is what we are trying to give them.

What exactly is this high standard that you are offering?
For one, we want to ensure that our party is 100 per cent democratic; that there will not be imposition of candidates at any level. Secondly, we are not focused on tomorrow; we are focused on the next 50, 100 years, so we are here for the long haul. If we don’t win election for example in 2015, we would still be there and we will wax stronger.

Imposition of candidates
There are political parties in other countries that have been there and out of power for more than 50 years, but eventually because they say they believe in principles and they fought for these principles, they prevailed.

So, this is the kind of vision we have. We have young people that are out of job, 46 per cent of graduates in Nigeria are out of job, in fact, the National Bureau of Statistics churned out a figure of 5 per cent of graduates out of job in 2012. So, I am just giving you a conservative figure. We cannot go on like this. We cannot be focused on only acquiring power.

We must be focused on delivering services to people, providing employment, providing security, not look the other way when people are being killed everyday, when young people are looking for job, when families are breaking up because of poverty and then what people are concerned with is on how to acquire power only.

Power is not an end in itself; power is a means to an end. We want to acquire power, but we want to acquire power on the basis of principle, on the basis of programmes for the people of Nigeria, not for its own sake and not for our own sake.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.