By Emmanuel Aziken
Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, is the immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In this interview monitored on Arise TV, he ventilates on the issues emanating from the choices taken by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as concerning Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa as presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
While he affirms that the party has the capacity to manage decision making processes, he makes scorn of the All Progressives Congress, APC bringing to question the life ambition of its presidential candidate who he mocks for not been able to make a decision on a running mate as at the time of the interview.
How do you describe the state of your party, PDP in the light of the issues arising from the choice of presidential running mate?
Let me begin by saying that the party is encountering turbulence as we speak, but the managers, the drivers of the party have an understanding of the deft moves it will take to bring us out of the current turbulence.
I quite accept that there was a decision to be taken, but whether taken rightly or wrongly, a decision has been taken.
The three vice-presidential nominees presented to the candidate were eminently qualified to occupy the office of Mr. Vice President.
However, I normally tell people that in our own party, the Peoples Democratic Party, we always encounter the challenge of choice when it comes to decision making because the people that have been lined up to be decided upon are eminently qualified.
Governor Wike is known as Mr Projects in terms of infrastructural development, he has done well, he has been (LG) chairman, he has been chief of staff, he has been minister, and he has been governor going to eight years. So, he is eminently qualified.
Governor Okowa has also been a local government chairman, he has been Secretary to the State Government, he has been a state commissioner, he has been a senator and as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health he demonstrated capacity, and you can see the number of Federal Medical Health Centres that were built under his chairmanship.
If you go to Governor Udom, he is a modern developer who understands wealth creation.
So, when you have such men before you to be decided upon, you must definitely be challenged by the decision of choice.
So, having said this, a decision has been made and party decision expectedly are supreme. However, we cannot say that those who will have some forms of complaint, those who will have issues with the way the decision is being managed should not complain.
However, I want to assure our party members as a follower of everything that is happening in the party and from my understanding of running a political party, I will appeal to those who are presently complaining to allow the leaders of the party to come in and manage the issue.
Sometime last year, Governor Wike was quoted to have said that he could never leave the PDP and that the PDP has malaria but that the APC has cancer. But with the way things are now, PDP seems to have developed cancer. So, how do you think that the PDP should manage this?
To be honest with you, the Governor Wike that I know and that I worked with at some levels is a very, very passionate leader and member of the Peoples Democratic Party.
I remember one encounter and I always tell people about this, the day that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Dogara left the PDP, I remember we were in Port Harcourt and I can clearly say that Governor Wike almost suffered a heart attack and that is love, that is passion for our political party.
So, those who are saying that Governor Wike will leave the party, I don’t believe they have an understanding of the persona and personality of Governor Wike. Governor Wike declared on the Convention Ground that notwithstanding whoever emerges from this process, that he would remain a party man and that he would support the decision of the party.
But you cannot say a man who says he has a complaint and you say that he should not complain. It is within his right and if he believes as a lover of the party and like one of the pillars of the party that he is, if he believes that things have not been done well, and forget the fact that he is the one involved, let us go and do right what has not been done well.
For those of us who are on twitter, we witnessed that the candidate himself said that he listens to complaints of party members, he will listen and will continue to listen and that the party will remain as one united and indivisible political party.
That is why I said from the beginning that what we are seeing are just turbulences and I believe that the managers of the process, the drivers and the captains have the capacity to manage the situation of where we are.
I am confident going by what I know of him, going by the passion I see in him, going by his contribution to the Peoples Democratic Party, he will not build a house and watch it collapse.
Some are asking why is he is so upset and that he is not the first to lose an election?
We should not talk to the why, we should speak to how do we manage these processes? I have been in discussion with many of our leaders and even Governor Wike said it that it would be a shame for PDP not to be able to rescue our nation and walk towards its rebuilding and that it would be very, very disappointing for Nigerians out there who are suffering untold hardships, Nigerians have been taken from the top to the bottom in the last seven years.
We do not have a choice in the Peoples Democratic Party and that is why we will continue to appeal to one another, we should continue to be reconciliatory in our approaches in ensuring that we remain steady with our eyes on the ball and focus and work towards ensuring that come May 29, 2023 that our candidate, Atiku Abubakar and vice presidential candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa are sworn in as president and vice-president.
That will be so that they can reset this country, in order to be able to unify a strongly divided nation, in order to emancipate our people from the untold hardship which the seven years of the All Progressives Congress has pushed all of us into.
It was believed that the emergence of Iyiorcha Ayu from the North meant that the PDP would choose its candidate from the South, a decision that has now made Ayo Fayose to affirm his rejection of a Northern Candidate.
I have been in conversation with former Governor Ayo Fayose since that tweet. We had our discussions and I expressed my own opinion. I will not want to bring to the front burner, issues that I believe that the party had taken decisions on and whether rightly or wrongly, the party is moving on.
I am aware that the party constituted a committee in 2019 which was in the manner of the Ike Ekweremadu Committee of 2015 and that committee was chaired by Governor Bala Mohammed.
That committee was supposed to search why did we lose the 2019 election even though in the party we believe that we won that election and we were arm-twisted and another result was declared.
The committee came up with a report on why we lost and also proceeded further to say that ahead of the 2023 election that the party should look in the direction of the Northeast and the Southeast for the presidential candidate even though somebody like me who is from the North-Central believes that the report of the committee was unfavourable, given that the North-Central has not produced a president from 1999 to date.
However, the committee also provided a caveat in its report that incase that the party does not want to go by zoning and decides to go by way of merit that it should declare the contest open in order to elect whoever the party considers as meritorious.
This report was brought to the party but decision was not taken on it. However, when the Ayu NWC emerged and ahead of the 2023 election, it set up another committee now chaired by Gov Samuel Ortom that it should go and advice the party on how to go on zoning ahead of 2023. The membership of this committee was on a ratio of one per state and the FCT, making 37.
Aside one nominee that didn’t sign on the report, 36 members out of 37 signed the report approving that ahead of 2023 that the candidature should be made open.
If you set up a committee of 37 persons on equal basis of one per state and they return a report to the party saying rather than going by zoning make it open, let everyone come out and contest and this report has superseded the report of the Bala Mohammed Committee which said “zone to the Northeast or the Southeast” and at the end of the day the party’s decision prevailed that it should be declared open.
Then we went to the convention and those delegates who had votes elected a candidate, I think that decision is in line with the wishes of the party and it is supposed to be supreme. I will boldly say without being rude to the person of Governor Fayose that even delegates from Ekiti participated in that decision.
So, to me the issue of going South no longer stands because even the South participated in that decision and a candidate has emerged.
What is important like as part of the decision that was taken at that last NEC where the decision of the committee was approved it was decided that hereafter if the party decides to go back to zoning and to go to a particular area or a particular geopolitical zone, it can return to it.
What should the party do on the issue of unity.
It is not as if the party is as divided as it is being projected by the people who cannot even do the simplest task of providing a running mate and all you have today is a placeholder. They are the ones now poking noses, making declarations about what does not concern them.
That was Not my question
I am going there. I am just laying a foundation. I said people who have placeholders in INEC who cannot complete the simplest of tasks of nominating a running mate are poking nose into a party that has taken a decision rightly or wrongly.
The simplest task on this journey for a man who has a life ambition to be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to say in this my life ambition, I am going with Mr A or Mrs B. but we have been waiting, the nation is waiting and their party members are waiting, week after week, they say that they are going for polling- to do polling in a life ambition process.
For me, in respect of our candidate, the unifier, the one who understands the nuances of our nation, the only candidate that can be elected that will guarantee the unity of our nation, the one who has no sides…because part of the problems we are facing in our country today is that President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated ability to be on a side, but this candidate that the PDP has brought has no side.
He is a Nigerian and he has demonstrated it, whether in business or in his lifestyle or whatever way you look at it, he is the unifier.
Having said that, we will continue to work on the rough edges that are emerging and I can assure you and through you assure Nigerians that the PDP will run the election as one united political party and I want to use this opportunity to congratulate Nigerians that the APC that has become a burden, that has taken their lives from the top to the bottom is going to face extinction and it is just a matter of time.