Erstwhile deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Sir Austin Opara and chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP has been a recurring decimal in the politics of Rivers State and the nation at large.
In this interview, he gave insight into the recent letter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari and on other interesting issues.
By Davies Ihemnachor
How would you describe the recent letter from former President Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari?
That is what I consider to be the voice of wisdom; an elder statesman speaking to a leader. There cannot be a better way of advising the president than that. In the same view, I call on the president to heed the advice given by the past president. God has been very merciful to the president. Last year, we all remember what he went through, health-wise.
We know that the issue of life and death belong to God; nobody will wish his fellow human being death talk more of a president. But the whole nation stood still praying for him. Let Mr. president save the nation the agony of further fasting and prayer; let him indeed heed the advice, at the end of his tenure, he should leave and have a good rest wherever he wants.
The area I don’t agree with the letter is the issue of a Third Force, either you call it a coalition or what. The truth is, unless we are theoretical, if we are practical, politically it is not achievable with the period available before the primaries and the elections.
It will indeed not be possible to put a national party across the nation that will be able to face the APC and the PDP in the general election. We can think of that if we are theoretical, but practically, it is not possible. So, PDP is the party today that is providing and leading the opposition. Those who feel dissatisfied with what the APC has done, which of course are in the majority, (most Nigerians are dissatisfied), let us join the PDP and unseat this government.
But, are their indications that factions may emerge from the PDP?
No, no. PDP is a family. Discountenance that. Maybe you are misconstruing the APC for PDP. Yes, there are factions in the APC and not in the PDP. Clearly, we are moving in one direction as a family.
Nigerians are saying neither PDP nor APC is good enough to change the nation, what is your view?
We are not going to manufacture or create new human beings in Nigeria. We are all Nigerians. The truth is that we still have credible people in PDP who can lead this nation, so PDP should be given another chance.
How do you react to claims by PDP chieftains in the South-West that the party is now a regional party?
There is no community, ward, polling unit in this country that you will not find PDP; that is the truth. PDP has more spread and coverage than the APC. There are wards you will not find APC, but there is no place in this country you will not find PDP. Yes, PDP made mistakes, the leadership in the past made mistakes but that is not to say we should throw away the baby with the bath water, we are reorganising PDP.
There is a new leadership in place; this is a new era. We have learnt from our mistakes. Everybody is talking about impunity, imposition and we have learnt from all that, and we now have a new PDP that will lead this nation to a better society.
The South-West should not feel marginalised because the position of the National Chairman was zoned to the South and somebody from the South-South got it. There are a lot of other things that will go to the South-West and other zones of the nation.
They should not feel marginalised. We have a state that is controlled by the PDP in the South-West, and we believe that we will win the elections again in Ekiti State and Osun State this year.
They should not worry; there are many opportunities coming. PDP is not a regional party and cannot be. PDP is a national party with wider spread than the APC.
How would you describe the political situation in Rivers at the moment?
We have a peaceful PDP in Rivers State. The party is a family. Where there is trouble in the state is the APC.
The APC is so balkanized; they are fighting each other. Unfortunately, they are in opposition yet they are fighting themselves. Rivers State is PDP, and we will remain PDP.
Fortunately for us, Governor Nyesom Wike is doing very well, and his handiwork is campaigning for the party, both at the state level and at the national level. We are in a very good stead for the 2019 general election in the state and at federal levels.
Do you think that PDP has the will to wrest power from the APC at the federal level?
Just watch out, we even believe that the APC will implode. If you watch what is happening, the fight at the national is internal. APC senators are fighting the leadership of the party. APC National Assembly fighting the presidency, it is internal. APC will certainly implode in no distant time. The truth is that Nigerians are disenchanted with the leadership that the APC is providing. All promises made have failed. Assessing this government as a person, I will not give them more than 25 per cent in totality. I will not give them more than that, especially on the issue of the nation’s economy.
Is it the issue of employment generation; promises they made that they are going to pay unemployed Nigerians, is it the devaluation of our currency which they had earlier promised will compete with the dollar? They have failed in most of the promises they made. Nigerians are not happy.
There is hunger in the land, and there is poverty. Even the security they are talking about on which they came on board, they have failed in security. Every day, if it is not Boko Haram, it is herdsmen, which is even worse than Boko Haram now.
If you compute the number of lives lost to the herdsmen, it is competing seriously with those of Boko Haram.
They have failed woefully. Nigeria has never been this disunited that every section is thinking about separating because of the type of leadership that has been provided by the APC. Nepotism is as we have never had it in this country. The presidency is a low hanging fruit for the PDP. It is just for us to win or lose it.
The Chibuike Amaechi administration chased criminals and cultists out of the state, but today we hear that such persons are honoured with chieftaincy titles?
Don’t fall for such cheap propaganda. Wike as governor of Rivers State is working with security outfits and has practically chased out these set of persons. As it stands now, Port Harcourt is very quiet and peaceful. He has chased these cultists out of the state.
You have heard of Don Waney and his younger brother and how they were killed. You have also heard of the number of persons that have been put on the wanted list, so, that story from APC will not count at all because the facts on ground speak for themselves.
The government is out to stamp out insecurity and cultism, and that is what the governor is doing. That claim is mere propaganda and political gimmick; it does not make sense.