THOSE LEAVING PDP AFTER LOSING IN THE PRIMARIES ARE NOT PARTY MEN â€“GEMADE
You are aware that some members of your party across the country are leaving the party after the primaries. Would you honestly have still remained in the party if you had lost in the primaries?
I lost primaries before as you know, and I remained in the party. The winner of that primary had to practically beg me to participate in the campaign and I did. So it was not just remaining in the party but I also actively campaigned in that election. I can recall all the very unusual things that happened back then.
I would have stayed in the party even if I lost because I am a party man. I am one of those who formed the PDP. I was a national chairman and a life member of the Board of Trustees. You cannot abandon such a magnificent edifice that you have built and go way because it is overcrowded.
You will reduce the number of people who have moved in by force so that there will be space and decency for you to operate. Practically that is what we are doing. Today by winning my primaries, I have sent some people packing because they move to other parties to seek for space.
These are not party men; these are not party people. They are election people. They came to PDP to find a platform on which to get offices; they exist and participate in political activities for the purpose of getting offices which can pay them money and ensure they continue a lifestyle of big cars and big dresses. Those are not really my problem, and I am not looking for any office to buy big dresses or big cars, I am looking for that office so that I can help improve the quality of life of the society.
That is why my own politics is different from those who join political parties for the purpose of getting a chance to stand elections and winning by all means. If they lose they move. As for the decamping of those who are doing so after losing primaries, I would say it's very unfortunate because, if you abandon a formidable organization because you have lost and move to other parties that are just struggling and trying to stand on their feet, you are not helping yourself and your people.
Invariably, even if you win by any chance, you still belong to opposition because the party that will win enough to rule the nation will still be the dominant party, which is the People's Democratic Party (PDP), and we are aware of this. We have not entered into any alliance with anybody because we are formidable enough to win; we are formidable enough to control the government.
Those that are putting themselves together keep saying 'let us keep ourselves together to build a formidable opposition' but it's not worth it because CPC and ACN are still not together, they are together on the pages of newspapers but they will tell you that every week, the final decision to reconvene together will be taken the following week and that is what will happen until the election comes and goes.
Then, the problem today is because politics is about electioneering, and election is all about winning and winning is about running government. Those who came in purely to have a chance to be in government must continuously jump from one place to another. By so doing, space is being created for more people to participate and the more people that participate in government in an election, the better for democracy because democracy is participatory government.
The issue is that everyone in politics in a democracy must have a say. Nobody is muzzling you, you are free. It's a freedom that is bigger than air; you can move to any direction you want to; do whatever you want but the only thing is that the majority will always have their way. So, as you have your say by choosing where you go, the way that is achieved is the way of the majority.
But are you not worried that the party is losing its grips on the country with the decamping of aggrieved persons this time around?
We are not loosing anything whatsoever. The issue here is that some of those people who left did not wait long enough to do primaries. And if you are going into a battle and the ring has been prepared and everybody has been given gloves and you call it quits before you enter the ring, how can you ever be a winner if you did not box?
In 2003, you contested as president, now you are contesting for senate. Why is that? Are now coming in for the senate because you were disappointed that you did not win the presidential contest?
No, how can I say I am disappointed? I am not disappointed at all. I belong to a political party which we trust. I was also part and parcel of the team that made the constitution of the party and produced the underplayed basis on which we built a lot of policies in the party.
And we have a policy of zoning even though recently, people have misinterpreted it grossly not minding the fact that you cannot read a party constitution and have it interpreted over and above provision of the national constitution. That is the mistake so many people make. But having being part of all of these, when I tried to be president in 2003, it was based on our decision that presidency should rotate and it should be a single tenure.
We canvassed a single tenure but the constitution of Nigeria when it was finally done by the military permitted two terms. But we said even though the constitution permitted two terms, the nature of Nigerian politics and the feelings of the people in terms of this big English word called marginalization, it was better to satisfy every nook and corner of Nigeria by quickly rotating presidency around for say about 30 to 40 years. Then let every part boast that it has produced the president.
Then you can come back and get the so called quality men who can rule for two terms. That is the principle under which I went to contest in 2003. That is because politics is conspiracy. In fact, you can conspire as a big group as you are sitting here and when you finish, three people can go and conspire again and even when the three finish, two can still go and conspire and leave you out.
So that conspiracy that was finally done by a small echelon group within the party insisted that the incumbent president should go for a second term. In fact, all other presidents in future should go for second term. This, for me as a minority felt that that was a game of hitting below the belt as far as we are concerned because politics is a game of number. The bigger number is the majority people and they are more likely to win.
So, when they win and you say move, another bigger group wins, then it comes to a point that when you say move, it has to be a small group. But they don't want that small group to come on time. So, they keep saying okay, make it double. So, the Yoruba man who was there, who was encouraged to go the second term, then thought that it was okay for him to encourage himself to go the third time. That didn't work. Then, in 2007, we went out again and our Hausa/Fulani brothers that are dominant had a chance.
If not the demise of our revered president Umaru Yar'Adua, the matter should have still been there for another term added to the one he did. And then when he finish, our next brothers, Igbos would take in the south east and do eight years. And when they finished, it would come to the north east and on and on like that. And finally when it gets here, yours truly would have retired and may be resting peacefully in six by six in the ground.
So, I didn't see the need in 2007 to go for presidential election; and I didn't see the need even in 2011 to go for president because events are overtaken and to remain relevant to the people and help them and also participate in molding society and ensuring that you are also working to produce good governance, you must participate at a certain level. The next level for me at my age and experience is to be a senator. That is why I am vying for the senate and I am not disappointed in any way.
If you win, what would be your area of interest?
If I win, job creation is number one for me because in my zone, highly educated population, young people many of them with degrees, second degrees and third degrees are jobbers. There are many with secondary education, no jobs. Of course, there are also hundreds of thousands with primary education, no jobs and even no schools to which they can now become better trained. In that whole zone, there is no university, no polytechnic, only one college of education; we have no teaching hospital or tertiary hospital; even general hospitals are converted local government clinics; we don't have any industry; not even a moribund one that can be resuscitated or bought over by Dangote and improved. So, there is nowhere anybody can work. So, my priority would be to create avenue where people can have employment. By so doing, it would be necessary to attract investment to bring all these other things.
You have made it clear that you only want to go to the senate for only one term. How then do you think you can achieve all that you plan to do within four years?
Well, I still remember that I am one of the most effective ministers from Benue State, and I was a minister for one year.
The ruling PDP has been in power for 11 years yet things seem not to be working at all in the country (cuts in…)
You cannot judge the ruling party in terms of one senatorial district out of 108. It is a competitive issue because there is nowhere in the world where resources are sufficient for everybody.
But unemployment is a general problem
It is, but I am speaking about the one that affects me as a senator, trying to take the fortunes of the senatorial district in my hand. But collectively, if everyone thinks that way, then we will all collectively do the national issue and make sure that we clear the problem.
Eleven years of democracy. Would you say that Nigeria's democracy has come of age. Would you say that democratic rule is better than military rule?
Of course, I would say it has come of age. Democracy has done a lot for Nigeria. Democracy has exposed a lot of things. There is this thing they call fundamental human right; freedom of expression and under our constitution, when you read the chapters on fundamental human rights under the principles of state policy, you would see that what a democratic nation seeks to do is to bring about equality of opportunity; not equality of people. So everyone has the same opportunity.
Then, when you open up the space, people fill those places based on how hard they can work or what tools they have in their hands to manipulate. They need quality when they get to the positions to see what they can do. We have been able to establish the fact that after 11 years of jokers; of genuinely intelligent and qualified people; of committed citizens who are riding this nation of greedy and arrogant men of insatiable appetite who are coming to grab the system. So, in every part of the country, we are beginning to know and we are beginning to separate the grain from the chaff. And by the time democracy is 20 years, you will see that we will know in every corner of Nigeria who is who.
Today, there are certain people who have occupied positions and left them. Should there be an opportunity for another chance, will they bring them back? For some the answer is no, for others the answer is yes. It all depends on how you handle yourself in what you did. So that is a very important education which democracy has brought to us. Secondly, 11 years, one can say is not yet long enough for you to equivocally say that yes, this thing is by far the best but when you look in terms of how individual citizens have faired, democracy still remains the best form of government because it is a government in which many people participate.
We can say, yes, not quality participation but it is still participation. The touts, the agberos and the youths ad all those people who shout and get money passed to them, it's the circumstances of the time. If there were jobs for them to do, you won't see them praise-singing politicians in public venues waiting to be handed over stipends. Some of them are graduates as you see them. But we give them very funny names. It's something which we can say will improve with time. Democracy will still remain the best form of government.