Professor Tunde Adeniran is a former Minister of Education and one time Ambassador of Nigeria to the Federal Republic of Germany. A professor of Political Science, Adeniran attended the prestigious University of Ibadan and the University of Columbia, United States of America. A founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the academic cum politician contested the national chairmanship position of the party in the December 9, 2017 elective convention where he emerged the runner-up to the eventual winner, Prince Uche Secondus. In this exclusive interview with Vanguard, Adeniran spoke about the intrigues that characterised the delegate election, the stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari and the state of the nation among others. Excerpts!
By Dirisu Yakubu
Where do you stand in PDP after the issues that marked the convention and the efforts of the Governor Seriake Dickson Reconciliation Committee?
Yes, I am aware that Governor Dickson and his team are going round and making efforts to reconcile aggrieved participants. I have tremendous respect for Governor Dickson. He is a committed Nigerian patriot and an honest politician. His team made their mission known to me when they came, and I bared my mind to them. He means well, and I wish him and his Committee well.
I need to stress here that I left the convention ground even before the completion of the exercise because, as things were, it was apparently going to achieve the end that was already pre-determined by the administrators of the convention process. I was utterly dismayed by what went on, disappointed in particular by what some party leaders did and greatly troubled in my spirit about our democracy and the future of Nigeria.
It is now common knowledge that the whole process had been compromised and was strategically programmed to achieve a pre-determined outcome. I thought we had put such open fraud behind us, that what transpired at the Eagle Square that day could never happen again, going by the negative experiences the party had suffered, especially the immediate past near-death leadership crisis which the party luckily got over.
We went into the convention with high hopes. All PDP faithful and Nigerians all over were optimistic that the event was a momentous opportunity for the PDP to rebound and that the convention would mark a watershed in the annals of its history.
I also thought that PDP had learnt the necessary lessons and had purged itself of some bad ways, and was set for a new era of doing things the right way. I thought that the party had outgrown the ignoble label of impunity, winning at all cost and subversion of the people’s will.
But it turned out that my hope and expectations were misplaced. It was indeed an unfortunate experience and outcome for lovers of genuine democracy.
The disappointment was not really about me not emerging chairman, it was more about the party losing that golden opportunity of getting things done in a wholesome manner. It was about the need to promote internal party democracy, consolidate and deepen our democracy. It was about what legacy we could bequeath to posterity. It was about this generation being good exemplars for the next generation. It was about the need to secure the future of Nigeria.
My position on the election, as was made known through a press statement at the convention ground on that day, was that the process was grossly flawed, a travesty of democracy and the outcome shameful. As things stand today, and going by the mindset of some unrepentant power mongers, my position on the outcome remains the same as it was on December 9, 2017.
Given the state of things in Nigeria today, will you say Nigerians made a mistake in voting out the PDP in 2015?
The series of broken promises, socio-economic instability and lack of political will for decisive action by the Federal Government are very worrisome. There is a gloomy cloud of despair and despondency pervading the national landscape, occasioned by reign of terror; the crushing and dehumanizing hunger; rising poverty among a huge mass of the people; declining standard of living, the suppression of the voice of the people, and the unprecedented expression of disappointment and disenchantment by the citizenry about the state of the nation in the last three years, clearly show that most Nigerians would have preferred an alternative to the choice they made in 2015.
It should be admitted, however, that the PDP itself contributed to the defeat it suffered, and that could be placed rightly at the doorstep of failure of leadership at various levels, the challenge of internal democracy, disrespect for rules, gross indiscipline, values and integrity deficiency. With the arrogant way we went about doing things, and some leaders of the party behaving as “Garrison Commanders,” we simply gave the people reasons to dispense with the party. We thought we could get away with just anything and everything, to eat our cake and still have it but, alas, we were wrong!
It has been said that you failed to win the PDP chairmanship ticket because you failed to win the support of your state governor, Ayodele Fayose and that he learnt of your aspiration from the newspapers.
Not informing my governor does not arise. All present and former governors of the party, as well as leaders across board, were duly informed, directly or through formal letters. Mind you, we must be conscious of, and respect the liberty of individuals. People are free to take certain positions on any matter and make choices based on certain personal interests.
The fact of the matter concerning the December 9 convention is that some people apparently arrogated to themselves the power to decide who becomes what in the party. It was and still remains all about them and their narrow interests, and certainly not about the well-being and future of the party, nor the public good. Those individuals chose to play God in the matter but they will, in the fullness of time, get to see and come to appreciate the fact that the living God is the one who rules in the affairs of men and has the supreme powers to decide what becomes and who becomes. The Almighty God will certainly pass His own verdict at the appropriate time to show to them that indeed, He is God.
There were claims that you didn’t do enough to prevail on your co-contestants from the South-West to step down for you until the eleventh hour?
My orientation about every leadership contest, especially in a democracy, is that the people should be allowed to choose whoever they want to lead them, based on their rating of the capacity and competence of the candidates. It is my belief that for the Dec 9 PDP chairmanship contest, every candidate that ran for that election had the right to do so. It was their inalienable right!
With that at the back of my mind, I did not go out there asking that anyone should forgo his ambition. That was not my position and still not my position. Rather, I advocated that all of us should conduct our campaigns with no bitter feelings and in a manner that would not tear us apart as brothers.
That my South-West compatriots in the race even withdrew to pave the way for my emergence deserves great commendation for their magnanimity. Whether it was done at the tenth or eleventh hour was immaterial. That they did withdraw, or did not withdraw did not matter to those who were bent on ruining the party and its political fortunes on the altar of their narrow interest!
Have you met with Prince Uche Secondus after the convention?
No. I have not met with him since the convention.
Do you fear that the APC could take opportunity of the crisis in the Ekiti State branch of the party to uproot the PDP from the South-West?
With what we have seen, I have doubts that the PDP is keen on re-organising, rebranding and re-positioning itself to be stronger and more appealing to the electorate as a credible alternative to the ruling party that has grossly underperformed and failed in delivering according to the Nigerian people’s expectations.
I believe there is no dispassionate public analyst or patriotic Nigerian who would not admit that the APC leaders have squandered and taken for granted the overwhelming goodwill that enthroned them in 2015. Going by the massive public disenchantment against the administration which is a function of the unpleasant way the nation has been run under their watch, the threats to security, especially the killings by armed bandits and herdsmen which have continued unabated, the ravaging hunger, the disappointments which the people have been served with by the APC in place of the campaign promises they gave to ensure equity, to eliminate corruption, to secure the citizens; the promises of social reforms and true federalism which they have not kept, the mounting social tension and disequilibrium that is creating instability; Nigerians, and the people of the South-West in particular, I am sure, are looking forward to exploring other options, other than the APC.
But regrettably, as things stand today in the Ekiti State chapter of the party that you mentioned, the PDP appears not prepared to take advantage of the failure of the APC at the national level to extend its control in the state. The truth is that the PDP is not converting the poor rating of the ruling party into political capital. As a result of this, we are giving them the leverage to make more in-road to the South-West zone, and possibly elsewhere, and that is of course, worrisome and this is responsible for the widespread clamour for a “Third Force.”
Do you think the PDP can overcome the internal strife to make a good showing in 2019?
I cannot speak for the PDP. Prince Uche Secondus and the Publicity Secretary of the party are in the positions to provide answers to that question on behalf of their group.
What qualities are you looking for in the 2019 presidential candidate of the PDP?
The right choice of a credible presidential candidate will go a long way in determining the fortune of not just the PDP, but every political party in the coming general election.
I know, for sure, that the candidate who will appeal to Nigerians most is the one who is honest, liberal and has integrity. He must be enlightened enough with capacity for the job, patriotic and nationalistic in orientation. He must be disciplined and not parochial. He must have a broad worldview and not an ethno-religious bigot. Above all, he must be ready to restructure Nigeria and must have demonstrable capacity and sufficient grasp of security, economic and development issues.
The electorate are wiser now. In 2019, they will not be swayed by propaganda and soapbox promises as they were in 2015. This time, they will definitely take a critical look at the candidates’ pedigree well enough, and come to a decision to vote for competence. I am convinced they will go for someone who they can trust to decisively handle the security challenges, turn around the economy and restore fading hope of one Nigeria.
What should government be doing differently to end the killings in the Middle-Belt?
The menace of herdsmen is not only occurring in Nigeria, it is an organised crime that has international dimensions to it, and it stretches across the entire West African sub-region.
That to me, makes the calls for the murderous gangs of armed herdsmen to be categorised as terrorists as not out of place. They usually operate in most cases with deaths in their trail everywhere across the country. Some weeks ago, armed herdsmen reportedly ravaged some farmlands and carried out some attacks in my home town in Ekiti State. This of course, resulted in some killings. There has been the ravaging of farmlands and killings in Ondo and Kwara states and some states in the South-East, among others.
The right way to go in tackling this menace is for the state to interrogate the issue very critically and holistically, and come up with meaningful and lasting solutions to the problem. What is needed is the right leadership and political will to do what is right, not the indifference, parochialism, half- truth and leadership deficiency that we are seeing.
Government must open up opportunities for people’s livelihoods, and for agriculture to thrive in our rural communities where we have the greater percentage of the country’s farmers. The current situation where farmers live under perpetual fear of attacks in the hands of herdsmen could lead to a major food security crisis which could be catastrophic, because that may make farmers to abandon their farmlands. If the trend of attacks and killings is not halted and we allow it to get to a situation where the people see the state as incapable or unwilling to secure them, and the people begin to raise local militias to defend themselves, that will portend great danger as it could lead to eruption of major violence of unmanageable proportion. That will certainly be calamitous as it could lead to disintegration of the country.
I am sure this president will not want a state of anarchy to be loose upon the land under his watch. For that not to happen, he must act swiftly, and decisively, and must be seen as honest in the true interest of the entire country, not in the interest of a group that feels they own the national space called Nigeria. President Buhari would be ruling over a land of the dead if he fails to halt these mindless killings. He needs to ensure that Nigeria remains for him to have a nation to be president over.
The proposed cattle colony by the APC has not been well-thought out and should be seen as one of the absurdities of the administration. I urge the Federal Government to listen to the voice of reason, which is the voice coming from the majority and urgently discard it (cattle colonies). I call on the National Assembly to compel government to stop it forthwith. The APC must not push the country into an irredeemable failed-state situation by their illogical policies. The permanent and sustainable solution to the problem of farmers-herdsmen clashes and related killings is nothing but ranching of cattle, goats and livestock generally, as it is done in civilized climes. That is the right way to go.
What is your general assessment of the Buhari administration since his assumption of office in May 2015?
To pass an objective verdict on the administration, we need to dispassionately ask ourselves some critical questions. Are Nigerians better off today than they were in 2015? Is the country safer today? Has this administration eradicated corruption as it promised? Are there mind-boggling corruption cases against serving government officials or not? How many high profile convictions have we recorded for corruption under this administration? What is the state of the economy? What is the level of citizens’ participation and regard for their opinion in the affairs of the nation? Are people not back on long queues for fuel? The questions can go on and on.
Going by the way we have seen this President and the APC run the country in the past three years – the widespread disillusionment about the government, horrendous blood-letting, pervading hunger and increased poverty level of the rural population, declining status of our economy, brazen ethno-religious bigotry, subversion of the constitution, disregard for rule of law, separation of powers, concept of Federal Character, especially with regard to appointments as reflected in appointments of heads of security agencies, the controversies surrounding sensitive appointments which essentially border on nepotism, the selective war against corruption, etc., my verdict on his administration is that Buhari has tried his best but that is not good enough for the country. He deserves a rest for a schedule that could be most taxing even for someone with better health, capacity and competence.
I believe Nigerians have had enough of President Buhari. They have seen him and the APC perform to the maximum limit of their capacity and are already doing a count-down to 2019 to get rid of the reign. The nation must be saved from the ongoing grave shortcomings. That must happen and certainly will. Let’s keep faith.