Buruji should learn to respect age
Chief Ebenezer Babatope came to national renown as one of the closest disciples of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in the Second Republic when he served as Director of Organisation of defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN. He eventually served as Minister of Transport in the Sanni Abacha administration and is currently a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT.
In this interview, he assesses the first anniversary of the Muhammadu Buhari regime, saying that even while it is making it progress in some fronts, that the administration should dispense the milk of human kindness in some of its seemingly harsh policies.
Babatope also assesses the leadership issues in his party at the national and at the South-West regional levels, affirming that it is to everyone’s relief that Senator Modu Sheriff has been shown the exit as national chairman. He also scoffs at the assumptions that Senator Buruji Kashamu is the leader of the party in the South-West.
One year into the Buhari-led administration, what do you think has changed for Nigerians?
Well, Buhari has done well in his anti-corruption crusade, even though I am one of those who believe that he has been pursuing selective justice. We all know that he is one who has not stolen any money, but I want him to correct himself that there can no be selective justice in Nigeria.
Second, we found that those who have been having the sledge hammer, are those who should have suffered such. Femi-Fani Kayode is one of them.
I am not clear in my mind why they should pick Femi-Fani Kayode, he did his job as a spokesperson of the PDP during the campaign elections, he would not use stones to work. So, I want Buhari to change his style.
Buhari has shown himself to be a man of probity and a man of integrity, but he should change his style so that Nigerians will stop suffering the way they are suffering now.
You are requesting him to change his style, how?
He should address his mind to the plight of the common man; the common man in Nigeria is suffering. I am telling you authoritatively, there is hunger in town and it is difficult for those at the top to know what is happening.
He should be told and I am sure they must have told him that Nigerians are suffering. He should direct his energy and integrity towards solving the plight of Nigerians because that suffering is too much.
But some people would disagree with you arguing that the present harsh conditions were caused by your party, the PDP.
Well, he should go ahead and establish his probe. I want to be honest with you, even though we are suffering; we have never encountered this kind of suffering before.
This kind of suffering is a different one because every Nigerian is affected. They are asking us to pay N145 to buy a litre of petroleum, how many Nigerians can afford that? I agree with him on the removal of the oil subsidy; it is good and courageous for him to have done that. But to buy petrol for N145 is a crime against humanity and nobody will support that.
What will lead to peace in your party?
Senator Ali Modu Sheriff came in as a stranger to our party, and I told him that many of us never supported him.
But given the separate court orders who do you think is the authentic national chairman of the PDP?
The authentic chairman of the party is the man the convention in Port Harcourt, picked, that is Senator Ahmed Markafi, who is to be supported by the other committee members so chosen. Makarfi is chairman because the convention is the highest organ in the land as regards to PDP. What it says is final.
The convention met in Port Harcourt and appointed Markafi as chairman. Like I said, Sheriff has no business in our party, and we thank God that he has gone, and he is gone for good.
How will the issue of factions in some chapters of the party be resolved?
The caretaker committee of the party will deal with that because in 90 days’ time, we shall be meeting as a party at a convention that has the support of everybody. The caretaker will deal with that, and we are going to deal with all the anomalies.
Having said so, who do you think is the best person to reposition the party when the convention is held?
We have been fighting for the chairmanship of the party to be returned to the Southwest. The chairman of the party should come from the Southwest because the Southwest has not produced the chairman of the party since the party came into existence.
I am championing the case of Bode George because he has experience as a deputy national chairman of the party. That is why I believe that Bode George can lead the PDP.
When Obasanjo was leaving office, they all proposed that Bode George should be made the chairman of the party, but Obasanjo used hanky-panky to stop that, but now, the coast is clear. He has the experience, and he will be able to counter the APC chairman.
Don’t forget that Bode George and Buhari were in the military before; they will know how to handle themselves.
Do you think this is possible considering the fact that Senator Kashamu Buruji is making efforts at emerging the leader of the party in the Southwest?
(Laughs) I have nothing against Senator Buruji Kashamu, he is a young man, he has money, he has dollars, but if he wants to get to the top, he can do so, by ensuring that he recognises the elders.
Nobody fights with the elders and wins. He is a young man, what is he looking for? If he plays the game very well, why not? He has never said that to me, I wish him the best of luck, but he cannot be the leader of the elders, he cannot be a leader.ruba land, he has to learn how to respect age, maturity and experience.