PDP PRIMARIES: DEAL THAT SAVED JONATHAN - GRAHAM DOUGLAS
Chief Graham Douglas is a household name in Nigeria. He has been around and was one of those who aspired to be president of the country in I999 when democracy was reintroduced in Nigeria.
The former minister of sports, and also aviation who is of the Niger Delta stock is one man that is committed to the struggle for President Jonathan's re-election in 2011. He bared his mind to Sunday Sun on a wide range of issues including the state of the nation and the forthcoming elections in his Abuja residence.
Let's talk about the PDP primaries, what is your impression of the exercise which eventually favoured the incumbent president?
It was an excellently organized primaries. The best after 1999 primaries in Jos, where I participated as a presidential aspirant of the PDP.
But some people said it was not fair enough?
Why is it not fair, because we had 27 boxes to show the transparency? The president was magnanimous enough to have asked the governors to run its election. He in return, was very magnanimous to ask all of them to have their tickets back and virtually all of them have their tickets back. And in order to ascertain that, you kept to your own words, their state box was there, you and your delegates to go on there and tell the world that you are honorable and you could be trusted.
It was very transparent, under the eyes of the international satellites, observers, the press and virtually every citizen of Nigeria.
I did not see how anybody could criticize that exercise. I give kudos to the organizers.
Do you agree with those who insist that President Jonathan arm-twisted the governors and their delegates to support him?
That is absolutely a lie and it is unfortunate for somebody to propagate that kind of information. The Jonathan you know is a God fearing, upright and straight forward person that could not kill a fly. If you realize the trend of factors that led to the primaries, anything that the governors wanted, he conceded.
First of all, it was to be his primaries before the governors' primaries in the electoral law, but when they insisted that theirs should come first, he was graciously magnanimous to say let them go and this is part of the way of establishing credibility and confidence amongst themselves. So, he couldn't have threatened anybody. At any rate, it is a primary organized by the party and knowing the supremacy of the party. I do not think that Jonathan would have influenced the party to threaten any governor. That story that he threatened them is unfounded and a big lie.
At the primaries, how did you see the emergence of Jonathan?
It's super. Prior to the primaries, it was described as a divine intervention by the generality of Nigerians although some of its opponents and critics under the premise of zoning could not accept and they are giving it different colourations. But, you can see that because it has a purpose, because it is divine in its entire ramification, God touched the mind of virtually all the delegates to win by 2, 700 and then 805 votes to his closest opponent, Atiku. A very strong opponent for that matter; its only divine intervention by God.
Do you agree with those who say that President Jonathan is too weak to lead a complex nation like Nigeria?
Look, people have a right to their individual opinions and impressions. If you look at the trend of leadership that have come up in this country, a very few I will tell you. I start at the time of Tafawa Balewa, he was so criticised, and you know what became of his fate. You knew when Shagari came, you knew what became of his fate, Murtala Mohammed came and was perhaps hyper, and you know what became of his fate. Thereafter, Buhari came, you know what became of his fate. Babangida, and then Abacha who was quiet but very effective and so on.
Shonekan came in, people still had the same impression and he was being very mindful and being extra ordinarily cautious. Yar'adua came in, very populous and unfortunately nature was not kind to him and Jonathan had come in, in a peculiar circumstance. First of all, his emergence of the doctrine of necessity that brought about him and then the various shades of impression and attitude and so on. Despite the efforts of intrigues, manipulations and conspirators, he used his number six sense. Don't take for granted, you are dealing with a man that is very deep, very intelligent.
He is the first Nigerian president with a doctorate degree and to get to that point of doing a doctorate degree, the research methods he has undertaken, the thesis he has written would have given him that discipline. To be able to understand the psychology of man therefore, he has to be extraordinarily vigilant, cautious and be alert to his environment in taking decisions. So far, by that attitude, what he has achieved, he achieved in six months.
The array of people that one mentioned did not. In short, a period everybody is talking about light now becoming steady when it used to be epileptic over the year. Fuel, you can buy it virtually in everyplace in six months of his administration, educational system being given a lot of attention. International relations and respectability very acceptable. Nigerians are not as tainted as they used to with bad and negative impression by the outside world. You can see that with that low, quiet but exceptionally vigilant method, Nigeria has benefited a lot by Jonathan's administration within so short a period of time.
But even at that, some insist that he is not fit enough considering the crises in Jos and other parts of the country. Many also say that he has not stamped his feet on the spate of kidnapping in the country. What would be your reaction?
When people have such impression, do they expect him to take armored vehicle and go to every city and begin to shoot people? Go to BBC, CNN and the Latin American countries, the Far East, there are more kidnapping than what we publish in Nigeria. The problem is the Nigeria press, any little thing is blown out of proportion. The number of killings that take place abroad, in many world capitals, is more than what we have in Nigeria but we over dramatize what happens here.
That aside, you can see the situation in the Niger Delta. I am an elder in the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta region is more peaceful since Jonathan took over than ever. It's not by military force or over police-marking the place but his attitude of dialogue, his attitude of bringing the people closer has attained him that respect of bringing sanity in the Niger Delta. The other areas which are religious colourations, it's a different type of conflict, it's a different type of political unrest.
It's a different thing altogether and I am sure with the amount of police manning, with the amount of military intervention that have been sent to these places, the situation has been contained. One thing that is lacking is understanding and here, if people are saying that the deviant, the miscreants and various hoodlums that carry out nefarious and negative activities in the society is as a result of massive unemployment, then I will agree with them and I am sure Jonathan is very conscious as you might have heard in several of his speeches. Even his acceptance speech, his focus is to create jobs.
There are over 30 million Nigerians, young men that are unemployed. We don't want what has happened in Tunisia, Egypt in those days and because of food, they went on strike. I am sure, after the elections and so on, he has his strategy to create jobs that would absorb most of the idle minds that wander about in our societies.
Do you think the forthcoming general elections, would be free and fair?
Jega is a technocrat but he's learning very fast. His first experience at re-run election in Delta state had obviously made him to stand out, to know the challenges, the intricacies and difficult times ahead of him.
The leadership attitude predicates what form of elections you are going to have. If you have a leader who has proffered that one man, one vote, and has spent so much money to bring in equipment to be able to actualize that one man, one vote by way of registration that is being carried out, by way of the new ballot, the open transparent system that is going to be employed for the elections and so on, I have no iota of doubt in my mind that the election will be free and fair.
It is not going to be the question of taking a result sheet, typing the result and announcing it. We must give credit to the National Assembly, the electoral law, the guidelines they have given, the safety devices that everything and fair play prevail during the next elections.
Do you think the opposition party can upstage the PDP in the next general elections?
I am a founder, member, elder of PDP. It has metamorphosed into a stable and organized political institution with a good structure which the other political parties have not over the period been able to achieve. In most of the states, the stability enjoyed in PDP is greater; therefore it would be Herculean to unseat the PDP in the general elections. That is not to say that there would not be casualties where the will of the people is not respected in the choice of candidates because the power belongs to the people. Only popular candidates can win an election. If you bring an unpopular candidate, no matter the political party that fields him, he will definitely face some casualties.
How did you feel about the spate of bomb blast in Abuja?
Let me rephrase your question. The spate of bomb blast! Which means that one or two isolated cases should not be generalized. When you say the spate, it will give the impression that every other day and everywhere, there's bomb blasting. That is not the impression. There are one or two incidents like that.
We do not know. In fact, the authorities have not been able to categorically blame any particular group. But I think those things are done out of frustration by certain organizations that want recognition and to create fear.
When in any system fear is brought to the inhabitants, it creates political imbalances and political phobia. If the opponents to Jonathan today feel they can do that to give an impression that Jonathan is not holding the country very well or the security apparatus is not efficient, I think they are living in fool's paradise. This thing that happened is not unique to Nigeria and the authorities are handling it very effectively.
I do not think that word you use, spate is appropriate. There are one or two cases. Look at what happened during the last primaries, the security was watertight and everything worked out effectively.
Are you optimistic that the general election would hold?
I don't know the facts you have and what you know that I don't know. You have not told me reasons why I should worry that the general elections will not know. You have more and better information than me as press information than I do, so you tell me what you know about it. To me, it would hold.
Advice to any incoming president to Nigeria
Anybody emerging, which I know Jonathan would emerge must sancrosantly and with sanctity and with all commitment, without mental reservations, equivocally, strive to protect the unity of Nigeria. It is very fundamental. Where inequities, where justices, and where people are not integrated properly into society for us to have a patriotic perception of building a nation, then the mission establishment and unity can be jeopardized. We must be magnanimous to be our brother's keepers.
We must be able to realize that we are a busy nation. Today in Nigeria, the average person thinks first in his mental stratification of his person, first of his local government, then his states before thinking about the Nigerian factor. Now, there is another factor, which is Zone. Otherwise, there wouldn't be all this hue and cry about zoning or no zoning before thinking about Nigeria. We must reverse it by thinking of Nigeria first before going down the ladder to our local government area.
With such determination, Nigeria should be able to be a united country and with a united country, everybody has a commonality of purpose and you can now go to address the various paraphernalia of building a nation. We talk about the infrastructural development, education, social services, healthcare, road, food sufficiency and what have you. This is my advice to whoever will emerge as the president of the federal republic of Nigeria.