How Dr. Umar Ardo became the enfant terrible of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the man at the centre of many controversial dialectical disputations in the party, could be traced to his difficult relationships with some of the party’s historical figures including Atiku Abubakar and Murtala Nyako.
A former adviser to Atiku Abubakar, he had no scruples after resigning in 2006 to manage Nyako’s successful re-election bid the following year.
Ardo has never shied away from taking difficult ideological positions as he lately did in lampooning President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to honour Chief Moshood Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe against what he claimed were constitutional violations.
He served as Special Assistant to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar on States and Local Government between 1999 and 2003, and as Special Assistant on Research and Strategy, from 2003 to 2004, before resigning his appointment following “irreconcilable differences” with his former boss.
Dr. Umar was also Director of Research and Strategy of the Peter Odili Presidential Campaign Organisation in the run up to the 2007 presidential election. He spoke to Vanguard on issues of national importance last weekend.
By Henry Umoru, Assistant Political Editor
How is your party faring in the opposition?
PDP is trying its best to remain not only relevant, but to define and direct the affairs of Nigeria politics in spite of the vicious propaganda against the party; in spite of harassment and intimidation against members of the party.
In spite of all these things, PDP is waxing stronger and as of now, it is the only political party that is so entrenched in Nigeria to remove this sitting government within the next few months.
How does PDP intend to achieve this?
PDP will achieve this by defining itself, creating a strategy that will change some views that the ruling party wants Nigerians to hold and coming up with other members of political parties and sponsoring a credible and sellable candidate.
Do you see the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee as having the necessary gravitas to lead the party to victory?
I think it is a divine intervention, when God wants to do His thing, he guides you on to the right path and it is divine intervention that Uche Secondus is the national chairman of the party at this critical time of the PDP. The reason is, if you are going to hire a person to do any job, hire a person who knows the job, who has experience in the job and who can deliver. Secondus is the only politician, the only party man in the history of this country who has been a party man all his life.
He was the youth leader of his local government under NPN between 1979-1983; he was the Publicity Secretary of NRC of Rivers State between 1992-1993 or so; he was the chairman of PDP (Rivers State) between 1999-2007; he was the national organising secretary of the party between 2007-2011 and then he became the deputy chairman of the party 2001-2015 and acting chairman of the party between a short period of time and now, the chairman of the party. There is no single Nigerian who has held such positions.
What blueprint would you give to him to guide him to success?
We need a research think tank to look at President Buhari’s leadership in the past, especially when he was military head of state. Let us assess what he did, his war against indiscipline, the issues of human rights abuse, the fight against corruption.
If you look at all the politicians that were arrested and locked under his military regime, you will see that less than 8 per cent were actually guilty of what they were accused of while the remaining 92 per cent were all innocent people.
So if you take this as an example, then you will come to appreciate that this looting that has become the voice of the government, this fight against corruption may not be materially different from what we saw in 1984-1985, that is to say, it is all hot air; people are just being hunted, put into jail on the assumption that they have committed crime. I can tell you, in 1984 a commissioner in Borno State, the former minister of FCT, Engr. Abba Gana was arrested and locked in jail for doing absolutely nothing, he was even a victim, but he was locked just because he was a commissioner.
So whosoever holds a public office as far as this regime is concerned, is either a thief or a potential thief and that is not true because within the PDP, there are one thousand and one patriots, there are one thousand and one honest people, there are one thousand and one persons that have more integrity than those who claim to be having integrity.
Can the PDP weave the kind of opposition that the APC did to remove an incumbent from power?
Two things made PDP to lose the election of 2015. The first one was PDP impunity both at the party and governmental levels, both at the federal and state levels and this impunity made people to be wary of PDP and to in fact, do anti-party against the PDP.
The second thing that made PDP to lose the election was the high hopes of Nigerians that APC and President Buhari were the saviours of Nigeria, that they would do everything and change the country in a snap, there was high hope on the capacity, capability and good intention of President Buhari.
Now Buhari after three years as president, what we have seen is his incapability, incapacity, incompetence.
With these things and the inability of the government of the day to change the situation dramatically as expected and as promised by the APC propaganda machine, their inability to match words with deeds have made a lot of Nigerians all over the country to doubt the ability of Buhari’s regime to make any change, there is no change.
In the North, more than 90 per cent of Nigerians have changed their position with regards to President Buhari’s leadership and APC governance.
Given that this administration did not make those changes that we were expecting, it has shown to Nigerians that at least now you have something to compare PDP with.
In the first three years of PDP, the changes that Nigerians saw cannot be compared with what we have seen today. I cannot actually say how APC is going to win this election again; I am speaking truthfully, not partisan politics, a fair assessment, except if Nigerians do not know what they are doing.
Before 2015, there was nPDP and now towards 2019, there is R-APC; what does it connote?
It is psychological because if you look at the arithmetic of 2015, it was not the nPDP that made APC to win the election. Let me do the analysis for you. Five governors left PDP to move to APC.
Amaechi did not bring any electoral value because Rivers State did not vote for Buhari, he didn’t get up to 2% of the total votes cast, so we can say no votes came from Rivers State in spite of Amaechi joining the APC, maybe he may have used money and helped them to oil the campaign machines, but that is nothing. What we want to see is electoral value.
For Kwankwaso, there was a large turnout in Kano that voted Buhari but of course in 2003, 2007, 2011, Kano voted Buhari so with or without Kwankwaso, Kano would still have voted Buhari and the same thing applied to Sokoto State, with or without Wamakko, Sokoto had always voted Buhari.
And then Adamawa, by the time election took place, Nyako had already been impeached and he was in exile as a fugitive in London. Atiku moved to APC, but everybody knows that he did not support Buhari, he went into APC for his own, so when he lost the primaries, he lost interest in the whole thing, so you cannot say on his account Adamawa voted Buhari.
The only state that voted Buhari on account of the moving of the governor is Kwara State and in Kwara, without Bukola Saraki, they would never have voted for Buhari, but what was the difference in terms of the result? It wasn’t more than 200,000; so subtract that 200,000 and subtract the differences from the previous elections in those states and the ones in 2015, there will still be more than two million votes and Buhari would still have been declared the winner.
So arithmetically, their moving did not materially change much in terms of electoral value, but it was psychological; there were governors that moved and even on account of this, some people will now have more confidence in the new party, more confidence in the leadership of the direction that they have moved, it is the same thing for this, it will strengthen PDP supporters, it will psychologically strengthen and mould public opinion towards PDP in its favour.
You recently raised loud objections to President Buhari’s awards to Ambassador Kingibe and the late Bashorun MKO Abiola. Why?
Not that I opposed Abiola’s recognition, I was for Abiola, but we must do the right thing rightly.
The president circumvented the provisions of the constitution in awarding these national honours to the three persons. I supported the award given to Abiola and Gani Fawehimi, but I opposed giving national honour to Kingibe. If it was on the basis of June 12, then it shouldn’t be given to Kingibe because he compromised.
He became a minister of Foreign Affairs, dropped the June 12 struggle, he was the one saying that June 12 was gone forever, forget and support the regime. So if actually it was on June 12, then he shouldn’t have been given the award, but that is even secondary.
What is primary is that the constitution of the country, I think in the Third Schedule expressly stated that the Council of States shall have powers to advise the president on population census and the award of national honours.
It therefore tells you that the President shall have no powers to award honour on somebody until he subjects that decision to the National Council of States for their advice, whether he accepts the advice or not, he must subject it to the National Council of States because that is the provision of the constitution, but the president did not. I spoke to former President Obasanjo, I asked if the issue came up at the National Council of States and he said no. Obasanjo is a former president and an active member of that council.
This is how dictatorship creeps into democracy; today you subvert one small part, tomorrow you subvert another small part of the law and before you know it, you have subverted the entire law and you have become the law and that is what is called dictatorship.