*Says we’ve learnt from our mistakes
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Senator Gershom Bassey is the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources, Upstream and Senator representing Cross River South in the senate. In this interview, he expresses optimism that the Peoples Democratic Party will win the 2019 Presidential election.
Do you think that PDP has any chance of winning the presidential election in 2019?
Of course, I think the PDP will win the presidency because currently majority of Nigerians are disappointed with the quality of governance they are getting. You can see what is happening to the APC at the moment. A lot of people are absolutely disillusioned with what is going on, not because President Muhammadu Buhari is bad. But unfortunately, the APC government is unable to deliver on the many promises they made, if you pick on any promise they made, they have not been able to deliver any of them. So, I think that has created total disillusionment within the country.
But the PDP as a brand appears to have a battered image, how will it be possible for the party to bounce back?
I don’t know which battered image you are talking about. If you are talking about corruption, there is corruption in both parties, there are people who have been found guilty in both parties and that doesn’t mean that the party itself as a platform is not a strong platform. It means that some of the people who were operatives within that platform did some bad things and we have been able to clean ourselves of those people and we have a new set of people at the helm of affairs now, we have a new thinking in the PDP.
We have learnt from our mistakes and you can see that the party is extremely vibrant today. You saw the rally in Ekiti state, there is so much enthusiasm for the PDP now because as it is, it appears it is only PDP governments across the country that are doing serious work at the state government level, whether it is in Rivers state, Delta state, or Gombe State, Ebonyi state, Enugu state or Abia state and so on. These seem to be the only places anything is happening. Of course, the other day, the President himself went to Cross River, a PDP state, to commission a Rice seedling factory. So you find out that it is only in PDP states where anything seems to be happening.
How will you rate the President Muhammadu Buhari’s -APC government?
I don’t like to give a verdict because we are still in a four year tenure but if after half time you are 20 goals down, it will be very difficult for you to come back and win the match. So I think that is the situation we have with the APC government. They made many promises, last time somebody said they made well over 40 pre-election promises but they have not been able to keep any. Even when you take the major promises of security, corruption, and economic growth, they have not kept any. We are in the final quarter of the game, I don’t see how they can win it.
It is alleged that those who are criticising the federal government are those with corruption cases, what is your take?
Are you saying the people in Benue state who have security issues have corruption cases? Are you saying that those in Amnesty International are people with corruption cases? You can leave the politicians. Credible organizations and people who are apolitical are criticising this government today not because they hate them but because they are not delivering. So, I think the APC government itself should listen to some of these criticisms if it still wants to recover by 2019, the government should listen and take these criticisms very seriously.
What’s your take on the security architecture of the country now?
Of course the security situation in Nigeria today is bad. I was reading the Amnesty International’s report that says almost 2000 people have been killed since the beginning of the year (2018) in this country not to talk of the other years since the APC government came to power. If, since the beginning of the year almost 2000 people have been killed, that means we have a serious issue and something has to be done.
The other day in the Senate we had a security summit, the report has been presented and I want to implore the executive particularly the President to read the Senate report on the security situation, the outcome of the security summit and try to implement some of the suggestions that we have made, I think they will help him a great deal. I am not a security expert but I think he should take the report holistically and give it to his security experts and try and implement the areas he can implement, it is a very comprehensive report, it addressed those remotes and immediate issues.
Some people have called on the President to sack his Service Chiefs while some said the President should be held responsible for security lapses in the country because he is the Commander-in-Chief who gives the last order, what is your reaction to this?
This is a serious issue. The President is not a security expert, he is the President of our federation. He recruits people to do security work for him and that is how every President carries out his mandate. The President cannot be security expert, financial expert, construction expert, he can’t. So, he recruits experts in those areas, people who he feels can do the jobs for him.
In this case, we find out that the bottom line of our security is going down and that is why there is clamour for a review of the people who are running and implementing security issues in our country. I will not tell the President who to keep and who to remove but he needs to look at it because clearly something is wrong.
Don’t you think as the Commander-in-Chief, Service Chiefs take orders from him?
Orders are given based on the recommendations that were made from intelligence reports. The President will not wake up in the morning and give an order without basis. He must have the facts before he takes a position and those facts come from the Security Chiefs. So, that is why you find this clamour to remove the Security Chiefs. Definitely, the outcomes are not what we expect in this country, they are not delivering in the outcomes.
So many people have expressed fears that with the present leadership of INEC, 2019 elections may not be credible, free and fair, what is your reaction?
Again the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Fortunately for us, we have one or two elections that will come up before 2019, let’s see how INEC will perform. For now there is a lot of suspicion particularly from the PDP on what the possible outcomes will be. There are issues that were raised by the Governor of Ekiti State which are very germane. Let’s see how they will conduct themselves, by then we will know what to expect in 2019 general elections. They can say they are neutral, but the only time we can say they are actually neutral is when we see the outcomes.
If you have the opportunity to sit with the President, what advice will you give him as regards governance?
As a Senator I will tell him to listen to the National Assembly because the National Assembly members are his partners in progress and not his enemies or enemies of the country, we all want what is best for the country. A lot of the time, we see things in a more dispassionate way because we are closer to the people than the executive. I will ask him to listen to some of the advise, some of the motions, some of the issues that come out from the National Assembly. I think they will help the executive a great deal.
Don’t you think the seemingly frosty relationship between the executive and legislature is also affecting governance?
That is how it is designed to be. We are not supposed to be a rubber stamp, it is always an adversarial relationship. People tend to forget that the APC dominates both the executive and the legislature. So, if your own party men are advising you on issues or are disagreeing with you on issues, I think you should listen to them because it is not as if it is the opposition that is doing it, it is your own party men.
How do you see the Supreme Court judgement that dismissed the case against the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal?
It is a welcome development. I want to congratulate the President of the Senate and the Supreme Court for bringing to an end what was a distraction particularly to us in the legislature. I am happy that at least this matter has been finally laid to rest by the Justices of the Supreme Court.
Some people have accused the judiciary of working against the fight against corruption, don’t you think that the judgement may have justified their position?
Where is the corruption here? We have to be careful in this country, every small thing we shout corruption, where is the corruption? This matter has been tried, Code of Conduct has acquitted this man, now Supreme Court has acquitted him and we are still talking corruption, which corruption, where is the corruption?
Less than eight months to next year’s election, the PDP appears not to be ready for the 2019 Presidential election, the Presidential aspirants are not forthcoming, does it mean the party doesn’t have enough quality Presidential aspirants for the election?
As at the last count over 11 persons have indicated interest to contest for the PDP Presidential ticket and it is increasing. In fact, we have far more Presidential aspirants than the APC. These are quality people. Former governors, former vice President and so on. So many people are looking for the party’s ticket. I think that question should be directed to the APC, why they have only one person.