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Former Minister of Works and ex-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, has received knocks for saying that there is no vacancy in Aso Rock.

Reacting to Anenih's pro-President Goodluck Jonathan stand, Dr. Udenta Udenta, ex-director-general of Abubakar Bukola Saraki Presidential Campaign Organisation and now deputy director-general (special duties), Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Organisation, said that the former minister is living in the past, as there won't be room for the manipulation of next year's general elections.

Speaking on various issues relating to the ongoing campaign by former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to pick PDP presidential ticket, Udenta said the North is hopeful to produce the next president. In fact, he declared that Atiku's victory at the primaries would cause a positive turn-around in the PDP.

He spoke on this and other things
The tone and tempo of campaigns for the presidential ticket of the PDP have changed since the emergence of the consensus candidate for the North. What do you think of the way the campaign is going, with the brickbat between the Atiku and Goodluck Jonathan camps?

The tone and tempo of the campaigns have indeed, changed, but in two opposite directions. While Atiku Abubakar, has focused on those issues that matter to the ordinary people of this country, explaining in great detail his strategic vision on human empowerment, job creation, stable power generation, poverty reduction, and accelerated socio-economic transformation in the Niger-Delta region, our opponents have embarked on a massive campaign of mudslinging, character defamation and gutter level negative campaigning. They appear clueless about the enormous challenges currently confronting our nation and its people and plaintively pin their hope on luck, happenstance and divine intervention, as the solution to the crisis of the national development.

For example, Atiku Abubakar has been able to establish a direct connection between the non-performance of the 2010 budget, the yet-to- be-accounted-for 2009 supplementary budget, massive foreign borrowings, depletion of the excess crude account and the drastic lessening of our foreign reserves to the growing poverty in the land, persistent power outages, creeping national insecurity and wastage. These issues need to be addressed, and only the government of the day can provide the urgently needed answers to this inexplicable situation.

Suffice it to say that while we have embarked on the campaign of ideas, of placing real and concrete choices before our people, and insisting that the stand PDP delegates, and ultimately the Nigerian voters, have to take must be founded on the experience, competence and strategic capacity of those who present themselves before them, our opponents have been extremely reluctant in embarking on this high moral road, settling instead, for either vague non-promises that a binding social contract cannot be constructed on or outright attack and slander against decent people.

The choice of Atiku Abubakar as the consensus candidate of the North has continued to receive bashing from rival political quarters. One of the criticisms is whether it is fair for four persons to choose for 150 million Nigerians in the name of consensus?

Those who adopt this position are either ignorant about the real context of the consensus arrangement or are being plainly mischievous about a very clear situation. The consensus candidate arrangement is a paradigm of honour, integrity and trust in the conduct of our political affairs. Its moral content is self-evident: those who seek to lead the nation must be men and women of honour and high ethical standing, who believe in the binding force of an agreement freely reached; who believe that trust is the foundation of sound national leadership; and who are prepared to make enormous personal sacrifice before Nigerians in the interest of the peace, stability and progress of the nation. In this age of instant gratification of power when promises are broken at will and agreements rendered invalid and worthless before intolerant incumbent power authorities, the lesson must be learnt that there are still people of honour and integrity, who can be trusted, whose words are their bond, and who stand committed to the choices they freely make.

First and foremost, the four aspirants are card-carrying members of the PDP. They purchased their nomination forms from the PDP and submitted them to the PDP. The PDP is thus their primary constituency, the platform they have chosen to canvass for the support of delegates. It is thus a thing of pride for them to freely submit themselves to a further test by a committee whose composition they are comfortable with, in the same way that the leading lights of the party, at it expanded caucus meeting, freely agreed to rotate the presidency of Nigeria between the North and South for eight years each (1999-2007 and 2007-2015). In the same way that nobody forced the party to adopt this stand, nobody compelled the four aspirants to submit themselves to the consensus committee. The difference is that while the four gentlemen have welcomed the outcome of the selection process as a binding contract, some leaders of the party, exploiting the advantageous position they are providentially occupying, are daily violating their party's constitutional principles and codes and the agreement they are signatories to.

Finally, geo-strategically speaking, the consensus candidate arrangement operates in an ever-expanding circle of national inclusiveness. It is a national idea rooted in the context of inter-regional harmony and national integration. It is an encompassing movement across the North, the East, the South and the West. Its product, Atiku Abubakar, is a unifying national force that bears this gift of honour and integrity from the North to the rest of the country. His complete national acceptance by formidable political and cultural forces across the country means the end of the first phase of the process and the beginning of its full national flowering. He will contest the PDP presidential primaries bearing multiple torches given him by party leaders in the 36 states and the FCT, and across our national frontlines. It is for this reason that I can proudly say that the consensus candidacy is a unity candidacy, the commencement of national journey, of the collective re-invention of the meaning and purposes of morality, integrity, honour, and binding agreement as vital forces in all our national political undertakings.

Chief Tony Anenih, a chieftain of the PDP, said there is no vacancy in Aso Rock. What does this statement mean to you as a political analyst and campaigner for Atiku Abubakar?

Chief Anenih maybe an expert in 'fixing' things, but the coming PDP presidential primaries is one process anybody will attempt to fix with grave consequences. It may well turn out as the very last of such an exercise to be fixed. Let me also assure you that the political forces of yesterday, consumed by unbridled egomania and insufferable arrogance, and plastered with the hue of self-righteous neo-messianism, garrison mentality, culture of impunity and commandist loyalty, have no place in our contemporary liberal environment. It will be stoutly resisted, and it will be stoutly defeated. As for Aso Rock not being vacant, this is a decision that only two groups of people, and only them, have the capacity to make: the PDP delegates and the Nigerian voters, in elections that must be free, fair, transparent and credible and seen to be so. Nothing else counts, and nothing else matters in this regard, one million self-effusive bombast and hollow incantation from fixers notwithstanding.

There appears to be a crisis between legislators and the leadership of PDP on one hand, and between the governors and the legislators on another hand, over the issue of amendment to the Electoral Act. What is your reading of the situation?

Democracy is dialogue. Democracy is conversation. But the dialogue we are part of and the conversation we make must be such that will lead to the making of good laws, without which good governance will be impossible to achieve. All eyes are now trained on our national legislators, on the laws they make and the way and manner the conduct their affairs. Laws are not made for self-serving, grossly limiting purposes. Laws are not made to please party leadership, governors, and legislators. Laws are universally made to serve the interest of the people, strengthen and deepen the content of democracy, consolidate its key institutions and empower the processes that give it meaning and define its essence and culture. If our legislators make bad laws, they must not only live with their conscience and the incalculable harm they are wittingly or unwittingly inflicting on society and its people. Such laws will and must be resisted. Bad laws that are derived from legislative tyranny is akin to a coup d'etat against the populace and we all know their consequences and ultimate fate of a coup d'etat. Our legislators must be aware that the burden and responsibility placed on their shoulders are enormous, and for every step they take against the expressed wishes of the people, grave consequences await them down the line.

On his arrival from the United Kingdom, Atiku decried the attempt to use a smear campaign to intimidate him out of the presidential race. Are you not worried that President Jonathan could deploy means to weaken Atiku's chances?

Atiku Abubakar, couldn't have put it more powerfully and eloquently. Smear campaigns should have no place in our political culture. It is not only demeaning, vulgar and obscene, but goes to unmask ineptitude, indolence, incompetence, and lack of capacity. It is only when political opponents have nothing to offer the people, and when their record in office is nothing to write home about that they resort to the kind of attacks that Atiku Abubakar spoke sharply against. We of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation are ever ready to welcome a lively debate on the economy, on budget implementation, on massive external borrowings, on policy flip-flops, on wealth creation through job generation, on stable power supply, on the Niger-Delta development process, on national security and social stability, on food security and agricultural sustainability, on functional schools and age old pension, and on the fiscal and monetary policies that underpin macro and micro economic performance. We look down with scorn, contempt and disdain the failed attempt to smear our candidate, to cast him in bad light and to confuse Nigerians with falsehood, blatant lies and reprehensible diatribes.

Besides accepting the choice of Atiku as the consensus candidate, in what specific ways are the three aspirants - Babangida, Gusua and Saraki - contributing to the success of the consensus candidate?

In the fullness of time, your curiosity will be stilled. Just watch out, or are you about to travel out of the country?

As the pioneer National Secretary of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which was in control of the six states of the South-West in 1999, how do you view the turn of events in that geo-political zone, with respect to the dwindling fortune of the PDP and the rise of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)?

Our campaign organisation has already addressed this issue. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is in the best possible position to provide answers to these troubling situations. He dismantled the party's structures in the South-West and across the country, and ran the show as he wanted it. The consequences of his 'do or die' politics are there for all to see. Yet, the journey to a new beginning has just begun with the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as a carrier of a new national consensus paradigm. His victory at the PDP primaries and success at the 2011 general elections will signal a turning point in the fortunes of the party. It will be a journey back to the party's original root, the reincarnation of its golden era and the reconnection of its present day umbilicus to its ancestral navel.

How do you view the endorsement of President Jonathan by the South-East political leaders, especially Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the governors of the region?

Endorsement by who? Igbo leaders? Like Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu? His Excellency, Dr. Alex Ekwueme? His Excellency, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief S.N Okeke, Senator Ken Nnamani, Sen. Ben Obi, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Prof. C.C Soludo, Dr. Sam Egwu, Prof. (Mrs.) Chinwe Obaji, Chief Achike Udenwa, Hon. Dubem Onyia, and thousands of renowned Igbo sons, daughters and stakeholders' groups? Or his endorsement, by a handful of self-serving pretenders who are motivated by instant gratification of power? Don't delude yourself. The Igbo 2015 presidency is sacrosanct, a spiritual thing. It is no longer politics as you know it, but a crusade, a sacred struggle, a search for identity and the stilling of the ghosts of past unbecoming. Igbo people have spoken with one voice, and the sound of their collective plea resonates far and wide. They stand by zoning and rotation of power. They stand on the side of honour, integrity and respect of agreements.

They know it to their bones that the completion of the North's presidential term in 2015 will signal the beginning of the long delayed Igbo presidential journey in 2015; and with that the real end of the civil war. Nothing will distract them from realising this mission or fulfilling this expectation, not least, the empty noise of a few individuals in their midst whose Igboness is being daily called into question.