By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Obong Victor Attah, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State and a life member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in this interview reviews the events that led to his party’s defeat in the recent presidential election and how the party can recover its steps.
Nigeria is at the point of a historic transition with transfer of power from one party to another. What is your view of this?
I am really quite excited because while it was from one party to the same party it was almost always expected to go smoothly and it went smoothly. But now from one party to another party? I am excited and anxious to see how it will go, particularly, when that new party is coming in with the slogan of change. I want to see what they want to change, how quickly they will change them and the means they will use in effecting the change. I am really quite excited.
So, you agree that there are things that really needed to be changed in this country?
Yes, quite a lot. There is no doubt about that. I made a statement once that “people should not be surprised if Jonathan loses the election because it had got to the point where everybody was saying that we cannot continue like this, we cant go on like this. We cant go on like this. When people reach that kind of stage, the only other thing that needs to come is change.
It is interesting because I read one of Jonathan’s own campaign adverts saying that when they come back that there are certain things that they would do differently. That means they themselves also recognised the fact that there is need for change. So, it is not surprising that this change came because it needed to come.
As a member of the BoT of the PDP do you feel pained with the loss?
Let me redefine my membership of the BoT because there are people who are elected into the BoT. I am a life member of the BoT. If I die today, I cannot be replaced because I earned it through the fact that I was one of those who founded the party. I will feel pained if the party was the only issue, but Nigeria is a greater issue because there are some of us who tried to tell our party that what was being done was not good for Nigeria, that we should change and do it differently, but nobody wanted to listen to us. Sadly and unfortunately, nobody listened to us.
I went to one BoT meeting and the agenda was that we should ratify, ratify and ratify certain things. I said what is this? This is the highest advisory organ of the party, the conscience of the party, and I called Prof. Jerry Gana and I told him, I designed this umbrella and it was an open umbrella and the concept was everybody, come in, say what you want to say, discuss and we take a joint decision, but that today, it seems that some people have folded up the umbrella, stuck it under their armpit and made it a personal property. Otherwise, why should we be called at this level to come and ratify and the only meaning that that can have, is that there is a party somewhere taking decisions and we are just here to ratify.
Maybe, that is why we wont have a BoT meeting anymore than two or maximum, three times in a year because the party was never a party, it was fragments.
The PDP for a long time ceased to function as a coherent, cohesive party. It was always factions, those who can hold the ears of the president, those who can hold the ears of that one and the ears of the other one. That is why there would be a campaign organisation outside of the party and the campaign organisation will fight the party and the party will fight back. It did not surprise me that PDP lost because we did not manage good human relationships, good political sense and we did not manage good governance either.
So, do you believe the claim by some PDP stakeholders that the party did not lose the presidential election?
We lost the election. You can ask any and everybody. Everyone knows that change has come but people did not want to put that change in the hands of PDP. If PDP had truly shown that it was in a position to change from what it was before, maybe we can try them again. But we didn’t show any willingness to do that. We thought we could continue to use the former methods that Anenih defined as doing the things that we know best how to do. But Nigeria has moved from there. Nigerians decided that it is only good governance and care for the people and concern for and the wellbeing of the people. That means security, that means solving the problem of unemployment and above all, show some sense of fighting this corruption which has almost been elevated to a government policy.
But what efforts did you and your fellow members in the BoT do in the face of all these?
We are not allowed to discuss the contents of our BoT meetings otherwise I will advise you to read the minutes of our BoT meetings and read Obong Attah’s views on a number of things. That was whenever it was possible to hold such a meeting because it was very infrequent. Outside of that, I didn’t belong to any particular faction, I didn’t belong to any caucus, I didn’t have access to the president and I can say that openly, I didn’t have access to the president, so all my efforts to try and give an opinion were frustrated and so, I watched on the sidelines.
So what are the prospects for the party?
The prospects are very good because there is no way that you can tell me that APC is better. I cannot accept that, but I have advised, that is if my advice is taken, I said, let’s observe certain things. CPC had General Buhari as a rallying point, ACN had Bola Tinubu, APGA had the late Ojukwu, ANPP had Ogbonaya Onu a very respected and suave gentleman, and we can say that at some point with all his quirks and imperfections, we had Obasanjo. But today, who do we have to build the party around?
Secondly, if you want to be proud, you drown because we are no bigger today than any of those parties were a few years ago. So, we must pick up the fragments. The way that the PDP should go is to eat the humble pie, swallow its pride and now go negotiating what is left of PDP, APGA, Labour and Accord and any of the others so that there will be one strong party that can oppose APC, the way APC was put together from the fragments of other parties.
I think we essentially need two parties and if PDP can gather all these other parties and form one other party so that there is APC and there is this other new party, I think Nigeria will be in a better position democratically.
Can you identify an individual in the PDP to drive the rebranding of the party?
There are quite a few but they may not go for those ones. But the way I am reading PDP, they have been so immersed in impudence that they may not be looking at those people because they would think that those people would be a reproach to them.
Is President Goodluck Jonathan in a position to do that?
He is in a position to attempt it but he should be willing to surrender if he finds that he himself can identify somebody better. Labour has just lost in the UK and they had a leader who had to resign, but they could him back if his party decides that there is no better person but otherwise, he would help to rebuild the party through somebody else.
What are the prospects for the change mantra you expect from Buhari?
General Buhari will have to depend on the person that he is and to define that, I refer that to a story I read about him in an interview in Vanguard by General Tarfa about some cadets in the NDA breaching the schools law in sleeping outside. Read the story of how they tried to intimidate him with the fact that more than half of the indicted students were Muslims but Buhari insisted that they should be sacked that if those cadets could not be disciplined that the army is ruined.
That is the kind of person I respect and I have no reason to suspect that Buhari is going to depart from that and so long as he can do that, you will see a complete change and I believe that he is capable of doing that.See, the root cause of all of these is corruption.