By GBENGA OKE
Chief Sergeant Awuse is a top Rivers State politician, popularly called, “Political Bulldozer”. In this interview, he bares his mind on the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying those calling on President Goodluck Jonathan not to contest for another term are trouble-makers who want to stop Mr President from exercising his legitimate right.
He takes on the `G7 Governors’, accusing them of chasing out PDP members who formed the party at the beginning in their various states. Excerpts:
The splinter group in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by Alhaji Baraje, has severally called on President Goodluck Jonathan to be a statesman and not contest for another term. As a frontline politician from the South-south, should the President heed the advice?
Essentially, whoever that is calling Mr President not to contest is ignorant. I can say without any fear that most of these people asking Mr President not to contest are the people behind the problems Mr President has had since he became President. All the security challenges Mr President had, they were deliberately put together in order to give them room to say what they are saying.
I call them ignorant people in the sense that they are part of the party, they know the rules and regulations of the party, they know that under the law, the President has the right to contest elections and, as a convention, a sitting President should have the first right of refusal by himself not other people gagging him in order to make a point that does not exist. Let us put all these things in real perspective, the President was sworn in, in May 2011.
All the characters that are today running around were the same people who the President assisted in their own individual elections, some of them were not even supposed to have run for election. The President gave them a helping hand because he is the Commander-in-Chief of the country.
For them to now form what they call a `New PDP’ which does not exist and is not recognized by the PDP Constitution, neither is it recognized by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I think one can label all of them as troublemakers; people who want to bring disunity to Nigeria, people who want to gag the President from performing his functions.
How do you mean?
They are the ones causing insecurity in the country because members of this party will understand that the amount of money the President has devoted to securing this nation in order for us not to have a war would have been enough to do major activities for the masses. These are activities they have put together to ensure Mr President fails.
Now they believed they have pushed Mr President enough, they have tried to weaken his presidency and this is the time for them to launch the final attack. But as far as we know, they do not have any legitimate right to ask Mr President not to contest election. I can say very clearly that Mr President will contest the 2015 election, it is not a question of body language anymore.
It is clear that the President will contest the election and the people parading themselves as alternate President by insulting the Presidency, by insulting the party organs, by insulting the Bamanga Tukur-led PDP will go no-where, they will crumble because the foundation of their argument is weak and in some cases not even tenable. The second point is that they are selfish.
Some of them are governors in various states. Can we talk about how they have performed. The PDP as a party has an agenda, and the President articulated the agenda into what we know today as “Transformational Agenda”. For you to be part of the PDP, you must be implementing the Transformation Agenda in your individual state at your own scale and based on your resources.
How many of them have followed the Transformation Agenda or tried to do something for their people? They want to be President, but they cannot be President when the seat is not vacant. The man has the right to second term and he will do the second term. If the agenda is to scuttle the PDP victory in 2015, it is very clear and we know it now. So I think the party leadership should put proper disciplinary action in place and expel all of them because they are hobnobbing with the opposition to bring down the government.
At what point do you think these problems erupted and seem to be getting out of hand?
Those in opposition to the President sponsored the January riot that nearly consumed this nation, and they are going in deeper everyday to remove the legitimacy of the presidency? Today we now know them and we are asking them that if you do not want peace in Nigeria, they alone will carry the consequence when it happens. As far as we are concerned, some of us still take it to be a family matter but some of them have gone too far for us to continue to wait and observe them destroy the party.
They should leave the party if they feel so bitter; imagine them dictating what the president should do., And the president has been on the path of negotiation with various groups in Nigeria, but that is not even satisfactory to them. What they want is that Mr President should go. They should be mindful of how they dictate to the president; there are no two presidents in Nigeria; there is only one and that one president is carrying the mandate of Nigerians and would carry the mandate of Nigerians in 2015 because we know how far they can go. I can assure you that most of them will find themselves out of any political arrangement if they don’t stop what they are doing.
The impression is that Mr.President is contesting a third term. Do you agree?
I don’t understand what a third term is. The lawyers and the court have established that the president has the right to contest a second tenure, nobody says the president should contest third tenure. Those making the claim should come to Nigerians and tell them when was the first tenure done and when will the second tenure finish?
We do not know of any third term because the Constitution of Nigeria does not allow it. This is a first term government and I can assure you that nobody will stop Mr President from contesting his second. The only person that can stop him is God and I know that God has already shown his path of justice and we know the president will win this election.
What they are doing to this government is because Jonathan is from the minority. They cannot do this thing if Jonathan is from one of the major ethnic tribes in Nigeria. But they should remember that the same minority is the one sustaining this country. Since independence in 1960, we know those who had been piloting the affairs of this nation in whatever form, military or civil.
So those calling for anarchy if President Jonathan contests election do not welcome everybody in Nigeria. But we are in Nigeria, we are going to run the election. We should understand this is the first time the minority area of the Niger/Delta is getting to that seat, we lay the golden egg and all our environment devastated in order to sustain Nigeria. I am sure sooner or later, all of them will come back to their senses.
Talking about the South-south, we have seen some personalities from the zone arguing that it is not by force to support the aspiration of President Goodluck Jonathan for another term while some of them have joined the splinter group in the PDP. Also, in an interview, we heard Governor Uduaghan saying opposition to Mr President’s aspiration should not come from the South-south. What is your take on this?
Well, it is unfortunate that Governor Amaechi is being used as an example of those who are fighting Mr. President who, in the circumstance we found ourselves, is his own brother. When an attack is made against somebody and you target the head, it means you want the person to die, that is the meaning. To me, Amaechi is an ignorant person in the sense that he should not be the one to talk to Nigerians that the position of the court which has declared that President can run is wrong.
Because he is a product of the court, both first and second tenure, and, for him to say that the South-south that has the presidency should relinquish it in order for him or his group in the South-south to produce the vice-president is the most unreasonable political decision any politician can make in any country. President Jonathan is not running election because he is from the South-south, we don’t want to take it that way.
What we are saying is that South-south is part of Nigeria and the zone is entitled to that office. If the whole of the South-south votes for the president and other parts of the country did not, will he win? Jonathan is not a president for the South-south, so if he continues to call for the president’s head, it means he is one of those trying to destabilize Nigeria.
And their aim is to weaken the president so that he can beg them. But the president will never beg anyone of them, he will not concede anything that will weaken his presidency, the president will never allow them to manipulate him. I believe the reason they are angry is because the president has begun to sit up and say to them that ‘I am the President of Nigeria and my mandate is to rule Nigeria, my mandate is not for any of the governors to begin to gag me to make sure I fail. Whatever they are doing, I should stand firm and carry out my legitimate function which I was sworn in for’.
Part of the crisis rocking the party includes what the nPDP calls lack of democracy within the party largely caused by the way Alhaji Bamanga Tukur had handled the affairs of the party …..
What do you think has been emanating from the leadership style of Bamanga Tukur that is making them to complain?
Some governors complained that the party leadership has taken away from them the state chapters and there is face-off in majority of the states including Adamawa where the Chairman hails from …
Let me give you a good example of Rivers State. The party structure can only be returned to Amaechi if the courts say so. I am not in a position to talk about the court proceedings now because I am not a lawyer and the case is at the Court of Appeal. When Amaechi became governor without campaigning for one day, without being voted for and without even being in Nigeria, the court handed over executive power to him in Rivers State, we know the comments he made.
He said, “Judiciary is the best thing that has ever protected and looked after the interest of Nigerians”. Somebody was cheated out in an election and he decided to go to court, the court gave him relief, that court is now very bad and very corrupt. How much money did he give when Supreme Court gave him what he never asked for? These are issues of what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
I can tell you that nobody will give him any party structure except the court says so. And let me ask him who he listened to even before this crisis broke out? There is no way the basis of settlement is to hand any party structure to your enemy when your enemy is not the one who won the election. Nobody can argue that. Felix Obuah is not the chairman of the PDP in Rivers State.
Anybody who argues to the contrary should go to court. That is why I say Amaechi is ignorant and he does not understand what politicking is all about. Politics is deeper than collecting public money and using it anyhow. Politics is beyond being a dictator and it is only in Rivers State that a governor can spend up to 30 percent of the capital vote without reference to anybody. What that means is that he can award contracts anyhow. Is that democracy? He should stop looking for trouble, he should stop making us look stupid when he is the one that does not understand what he is doing.
His collaboration with other politicians outside our zone should not give anybody sleepless nights because if election is conducted today in Rivers State, Jonathan will be returned even with more votes than he had before because he is a Niger/Deltan and because the zone deserves the right to that position. And if by fighting, you think you can take it, be rest assured that you are not the only war monger in Nigeria, we are also equal to the task and Mr. President has come to stay. I don’t see any vacancy in that position come 2015 and there won’t be anyone until Mr. President finishes his second term in 2019 and vacancy will be declared by the Constitution and the party.
A reconciliation process has been put in place for both parties laying claim to the PDP. Do you see this reconciliation settling the crisis once and for all?
Reconciliation of what? I just told you they took on the president to weaken him. What is it they are going to talk that have not been said. If the condition precedence is that Mr President will not run, then there is no reconciliation. Nobody will even listen to such talk. Who and who are we reconciling? Reconcile Amaechi and the President or reconciling Wamakko and the President or Nyako and the President?
When did the trouble start? So the only way Mr President will become acceptable to them is if he says he is not going to run. Are they the ones who put him there? Most of them even struggled to become governors. People like Wamakko would not have become the governor of Sokoto State because he was not in the PDP; all the people who were in PDP before him, he has done everything to destroy them, that means, ab-initio, he is not a PDP man. Nyako was in his field doing his farming after leaving the military, they went there and brought him against the wishes of those who actually put the PDP together, so what do you expect from him? He is doing his second term tenure and he wants to destroy the party.
They will destroy themselves because the president is going no where and the position is not vacant until 2019. We are not talking about Niger/Delta issue now and if they want us to talk about it, we will use another South-south person to fill the position of president after Jonathan. We have sustained this nation, what is our own payback? So Jonathan should be chased out of the position in order to make them happy, it cannot be.
There is no more apologies since we know they have concluded plans to leave the party. When one of those characters leave, two better people are coming in because they were the ones that chased out the people who were in PDP from the beginning in their own individual states. Take Adamawa, for example, what is the fight between Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nyako? We know the reason.
If Nyako wants to be a representative governor, where is Bala Takaya? Where are those who put the party together? Where is Dr Umar and so many others? Those who are talking that there are no democracy in the PDP, how have they organised their own states? Who is the party chairman of the PDP in Adamawa State? A blood relation of Nyako. Is that democracy? The problem is that Tukur is not doing what some of us think he should do, he should expel all of them from the party; let them go to APC where they plan to go. We know the PDP governors who have given so much to the APC after the merger. We are not worried about what they are doing.
They said Mr. President should give them the party structure, is it their private property? Which party structure? Was Ake elected? When you are in a glass house and you decide to throw stones into your neighbour’s home, the neighbour will find a way to bring down the whole of your own house. They should be careful about what they are doing. President Jonathan will be returned by Nigerians, those who are nursing the ambition of being president or vice-president through the back-door should wait because when you come to my house through the back-door, that means you are a rogue. You have some grounds against me and the moment I see you in my house, I know what to do with you. The president does not owe anybody anything and there are no negotiations as far as we are concerned because that bid is a no-go area.