Battle in Imo PDP over ward congress

Ex-Jonathan administration official, Waziri, boasts: APC will lose 2023 presidency if it fields former President

By Olalekan Bilesanmi

Adamu Maina Waziri, a former Minister of Police Affairs under President Goodluck Jonathan, is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Zoning Committee.

Waziri, in this interview, says the decision of the committee to reject the party’s zoning of the presidency to the South ahead of 2023 general elections was unanimous. 

This suggests that all the 16 southern members on the committee voted against power shift to the region as each of the 16 southern states is represented on the committee. The clamour for the presidency to rotate to the South has, of late, been loud with even southern governors adding their voices on the platform of the Southern Governors Forum. 

The former Jonathan administration official also believes the All Progressives Congress (APC) is sure to lose the 2023 presidency if they go ahead, as is being rumored, to field the erstwhile President as their presidential candidate. 

Zoning and consensus have become so contentious in your party. Where do you stand?

Let me tell you that I am a Nigerian before being a PDP man. Nigeria takes precedent over PDP. The Constitution of Nigeria guarantees this inalienable right of every Nigerian to aspire to any democratic post in the land; therefore, I will not be imprisoned by the sentiments attached to the issue of zoning in our party. 

Secondly, yes, the founding fathers at the time the party was formed decided to include zoning and rotation to enable the party fill candidates that could win elections at all levels. The party didn’t limit zoning and rotation to the office of the President. Even Local Government Chairman, if you go to many parts of the country, is rotated among the constituents of that council; so is a lawmaker and governor. Thirdly, every political party has the desire to win elections. No party is formed to be a perpetual electoral loser. 

That desire to attain power through democratic means dictates who and where the candidate comes from. If for example the office of the President is zoned, once the party takes a decision that this is the person who can win election for us, the next thing is to look for a vice presidential candidate to make the ticket representative of Nigeria as far as political divide is concerned. 

Then the team will be elected by winning in 2/3 of the entire country. That makes the entire country the constituency of the President. PDP does not provide that kind of comfort for people who want that to be. That is why you have an APGA that is limited to the South-East and even limited more to Anambra. 

That is why we had AD that was limited strictly to the South and specifically the Yoruba speaking area. Once these did not meet the national aspiration, they all fell by the way side. Your ethnic group is not Nigeria and it cannot elect the President alone. If you want your ethnic group to present a candidate, you should have one from your ethnic group that is appealing in terms of character, competence and all other attributes necessary for good leadership to emerge and then appeal to the constituent of Nigeria; then such a person will be elected President. God has designed Nigeria in such a way that there is no ethnic group, in fact, there are no two ethnic groups that can elect the President in consonance with the Constitution.

Some people argue that the PDP 2019 convention strictly presented northern presidential aspirants and eventually the candidate. It is expected that this time around, it should be the turn of the South.

Go back to when the party was formed; in its desire to win the presidency, the founding fathers said to assuage and mitigate the hard feelings of the annulled June 12, 1993 election (won by a southerner), the candidate of the PDP should come from the South and two people came out openly to be front runners: Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and late Dr Alex Ekwueme. Since then, the party has not zoned the post to any part of the country except in 2015 when, through diabolical means, only one form was printed for the presidential candidate against common sense. 

And the PDP lost the election. In 2019, nobody zoned the presidency to the North, nobody. There is no where it was zoned to the North.

Why then did we have all the aspirants from the North then?

That was their own decision. The party wanted to win election against Buhari who was a cult figure in the North and people from the North decided to contest. The truth of the matter, arithmetically and politically, is that anybody other than from the North in 2019 would not have given any hope for the PDP to win the election. That is the hard fact. 

And among them the best emerged through a fair and democratic process. Today, people across board are coming out to aspire. If you want the INEC terminology, the fact that somebody from the North emerged as the candidate in 2019, you can say it is inconclusive, because we lost the election. 

This time around, the party wants to be Nigerian. And the party must be Nigerian. Political and non-political actors have come to deepen the division in the country, and, therefore, everybody from all parts of the country, in consonance with provision of Nigerian Constitution, should be allowed to contest. After one of them emerges, other appendages of zoning will now be implemented. We are not going to zone on sentimental values. People who are serious and invested their time on this party want this party to win election for the benefit of Nigerians, having gone through misgovernance. Even if you give the South the presidency, can it win the President of Nigeria? Can it make up the 2/3 of the entire country?

No zone can win on its own.

That is the issue. And we have the background of 2011 and 2015 when zoning was thwarted. This zoning should not begin in 2022. It should have started 2011. Worst case, 2015, an incumbent President who the party was magnanimous to field in 2011 against the zoning principle, decided to contest election because he was incumbent and printed only one form for himself and made us to lose the election. 

That is the history and we don’t want to repeat it now. It is not everybody that should be President of Nigeria. The President of Nigeria must be the one that would appeal to the sensibilities of Nigeria, the one that would improve the cohesion of this country, the one that is competent and a household name. But this argument where you say such a person must be denied for me to contest, that is not politics. 

Now, if you take the simple argument, some people will say “zone to the South” and yet we have people from the South-South contesting for the presidency after Jonathan had done six years. Can you interrogate that? If you saying zone to the South-East, why can’t you say zone to the North-East as well? Zoning to the South-East is micro zoning, because if you take the pedestrian argument of zoning, everybody knows the history of Nigeria. The so-called micro zones that have not had the opportunity of a shot are South-East and North-East. Why should agitation for the presidency be germaine and the one for the North-East illegal? If you are coming to equity, you must come with clean hands.

But the agitation is more pronounced in the South-East…

It is a matter of attitude. If people want to clamor through the social media, newspapers and television, talking to themselves, as against talking to the other party, it is their choice.

Igbo Elders Forum headed by former Governor Ezeife threatened that if the South-East is denied the 2023 presidency, the region may renounce their citizenship and place a curse on any Igbo that supports any aspirant other than from the zone…

They have done it before, which was why we fought the civil war and the agitation has been there. If every part of the country says “if we don’t produce the President, we leave and renounce our citizenship”, then nobody should aspire to the presidency of Nigeria because Nigeria is a corporate entity.

Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State said Atiku and co reneging on zoning agreement, claiming that the South wholeheartedly supported the North in 2019 but now, because it doesn’t favour the North, they are saying no to zoning. Why changing the goal post in the middle of the game?

Who put the goal post in 2019? Who was the goal keeper? Who was the penalty taker? Where was it made and when? Wike went to Katsina, he didn’t say he went to the mother of Yar’Adua, he greeted her as his mother, he didn’t go there as Ikwerre man wanting to be President of Nigeria, he went there as governor of Rivers wanting to be President of Nigeria. When people talk, they should know that what they say becomes a historical issue and they will be measured against them in the course of their politicking. 

There are presidential aspirants that have not gone to Yobe, they don’t even know if we exist and they want the people of Yobe to vote for them because of the thinking that it must be zoned “to my region”. As of today, the South is made of South-East, South-South and South-West and there are aspirants form all these places including South-West that had the presidency for eight years, including the South-South that had presidency for six years. 

If those two micro zones have legitimate aspiration to the presidency, what stops other candidates from other parts of the country like North-East, North-Central and North-West? You cannot be walking with balls in-between your legs. You must be consistent. Changing the goal post is also available among those agitators. We need to be clear, is the South agitating for the presidency to the South-East which can be legitimate but the same legitimacy must be applied to the North agitating for a presidential candidate from the North-East for the same reason and self logic.

How true is the allegation that the Northern Elders Forum has been bought over by Atiku?

I don’t know and I don’t think there is evidence to that. But we all know the biggest public spender besides the one under the table in this campaign. If it is buying, the man who everybody attests to his liquidity, why hasn’t he bought everybody?

Who is the biggest spender?

He is there. The donations are in public.

Insecurity in the country appears to be the biggest problem which has defied every solution.

Insecurity is a function of many factors. The illiteracy level and economic opportunities can bring about insecurity. Misgovernance is another source of insecurity. 

Above all, the failure of leadership exemplified in both political leadership and leadership in the security apparatus are another source of insecurity. 

If you combine all these, they come under one heading – if you have a government that is not doing what it is supposed to do, then the manifestations will be in so many facets. There will be corruption that has already found domestication in the security architecture. 

The people expected to protect are not adequately catered for before they can protect you. Security means you should spend N1m to catch a thief who has stolen N1. That is what security is all about. If you don’t catch that thief who stole N10, tomorrow he aims higher to N1, 000, at another day, he would be able to recruit people to steal N10,000. Therefore, security means deploying your resources whereby the substantial part of the resources will go to the purpose for which it is intended. But here, resources are being deployed, just a little of it sent to what is intended, the others are siphoned. People are not punished. In spite of the obvious fact that people charged with leadership, political and non-political, are living beyond their means and nobody is speaking about it… 

This has compounded the fact that the government in power is not a good example of what Nigeria should be in all facets of life. So, everybody is waiting on the aspirants who will give succor to Nigeria. Is it the incumbent leadership or can we also change them as we did in 2015? I think the same issue is available to the aspirants to market themselves instead of going to the mundane and sentimental issues of religion, ethnicity and region.

Are you aware that former President Jonathan is alleged to be preparing to contest the presidency on the APC platform?

President Jonathan was my boss because he appointed me a Minister and I was there when he contested in 2011. I worked for him and suffered discomfort.

In what way

My property in Kaduna was vandalized, burnt. The one in my home town was burnt.

Why?

For supporting Jonathan in 2011… In 2015, I was against his aspiration because that was not the understanding. I didn’t support, Sule Lamido and many others didn’t support Jonathan’s aspiration to re-contest in 2015 and the PDP lost that election in 2015 because of Jonathan. APC was able to win the 2015 election because they campaigned that the PDP candidate was Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. 

It is going to be a disaster for him to defect from our party that made him from nothing to the number one citizen of this country. To many of us, it would free us to work against his emergence as President of Nigeria. One of the easiest ways for the PDP to win the 2023 presidential election is if Jonathan is fielded as the candidate of the APC.

Many think it will be a free ride for APC with government support and machinery. Yes, he can win if he is fielded.

Was it a free ride in 2015? With an incumbent government in 2015, why was it not a free ride then? President Buhari had no money, his nomination form was bought by ordinary Nigerians, his political platform was formed barely 14 months to the election and yet won the election. I want to repeat, the surest way of PDP coming to power in 2023 is for APC to field President Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate. 

However, outside Jonathan, with the track record of this administration which they used in 2015 to overthrow us, the PDP also has a high probability of reacquiring power in 2023. For the PDP to so do, it must allow an open contest for people who convince themselves that they are good enough for the job to offer themselves to the PDP platform to be chosen as the presidential candidate of the party. 

Before we aspire for national democracy, we must do internal democracy in our party first because you cannot give what you don’t have. We had a Zoning Committee, 37 of us (including southern members) met and we had a unanimous decision which was packaged and given to the National Working Committee. It was a unanimous decision. All of us signed the decision of the meeting. 

What is determining everything is that the PDP wants to capture power and it cannot recapture power by being regionalistic or tribalistic. We must be national. Why didn’t we elect Chief Olu Falae in 1999 and elected President Obasanjo? It is because this was a man who fought war to keep Nigeria one. We did not do any favour to Obasanjo, he did Nigeria a favour. 

He came back through God to put the country together. That is what we are looking for. We have a divided and insecure country, with enormous challenges. So, it is not everybody that can be given the reins of leadership without cognisance of these elements the country is going through. And many of the aspirants are presently using state resources because our politics and its laws allow such to happen. Meanwhile there are state executives who don’t allow internal democracy in their states and such persons are coming to the national to ask for divisive candidature. 

That is not acceptable. This is not why the PDP was formed. Why are you people talking only about PDP, why not talk about APC?

The APC arrangement is sorted, they have a gentleman agreement, I think.

PDP had similar thing. Jonathan told me in 2015 that he won’t contest, yet, he reneged. So, what gentleman agreement are you talking about? Let me be blunt with you: this zoning and rotation issue is being propagated by the southern press to destabilize the PDP so that the APC will win this election.

You served about two presidents since 1999. Which of the two would you say is the best?

I actually worked under three Presidents: Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan. But as a citizen of Nigeria, I have been under four Presidents which include President Buhari. The best among the three and who will remain the best during my lifetime is Obasanjo. There is no President like him. If there is anything I can do to recreate an Obasanjo to have the opportunity of presiding over the affairs of Nigeria, I will do so. Since he left, the country has been on descent in all facets of life.

Subscribe to our youtube channel

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.