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By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
…says candidates themselves called for consensus
Chief Olisa Metuh, the new national publicity secretary of the Peoples' Democratic Party, PDP was until his election last Saturday, the national vice-chairman (Southeast) of the party. Following the election, he spoke in a telephone interview on the intrigues that shadowed the convention, the challenges ahead of the party and on the competence of the old men that now call the shots in the party. Excerpts:

HOW do you assess the ninth convention of the PDP?
It is one of the best so far, very transparent, orderly and in line with our constitution. Everything was done including auditor's report, speeches by the secretary and most of all, all the candidates were free to make their own choice and where people didn't agree to step down, there was election into those particular offices and the elections were done transparently.

Ballot boxes were transparent, people queued up and voted for candidates of their choice. So, I think the PDP is coming better, we are getting better every day. We are not unmindful of criticism against us, so we try to change and adjust accordingly.

From your perceptive could you point at any flaw during the convention?

For me as a candidate I was more interested in my campaign and what I saw was perfect, excellently done.

Convention committee
I give kudos to the national convention committee and the outgoing national working committee. I can't point out at any flaw.

Why is your party inclined towards consensus in the election of its officers?

I wish you could ask that to the opposition parties. Every time we do elections, we do contests and we have a lot of people that contest for positions in PDP. People actually contest, people actually campaign for these offices then if there is consensus just before the election, or a day to the election, it is different from the case with opposition parties who never seem to have other candidates, who never seem to have campaigns, who never seem to have anything democratic at all.

All they do is to come and anoint people and appoint people even secretly. So, I think that PDP has shown that we are a lot better, that we are miles ahead of the other parties in Nigeria in terms of how we conduct our primaries and our congresses. We are setting the pace.

The opposition has its flaws but that begs the issue, why does your party prefer consensus to election?

You know there are people that buy forms not necessarily because they will win but they want to be heard, some people want their posters to be seen, some people are praying for God to intervene for them and others are just seeking for the attention of the leaders of the party. From left, Vice President Namadi Sambo,President Goodluck Jonathan, acting National Chairman, Abubakar Baraje, former President and Chairman of BOT, Olusegun Obasanjo and Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon.Aminu Tambuwal.

Arranging for consensus
But before then, once you see that the leaders of the party and the delegates are headed in one direction…indeed, I am aware that in this election that some candidates were even meeting the leaders to arrange for consensus so that they can see an honourable exit. Once they see the direction that the delegates are going, the people would demand an honourable exit and that was what happened. It is the candidates that appeal for it (consensus).

What would you describe as the major agenda of this new executive of the party?

It is the chairman that would determine. The chairman's role is to set the agenda with the National Working Committee. Mine is to brief the press and I will not exceed my powers under the constitution. I will continually brief you on the decisions of the National Working Committee and the agenda being set by the leadership and I will make sure that I do it in a very open manner so that you can understand what we are doing. If we are not doing it well, you criticize us and we can adjust accordingly. We will run this party in a very open manner. PDP is not a secret society, PDP belongs to everybody and we owe it as a duty to our people nationwide to educate them on why decisions have been made on their behalf.

Bamanga Tukur casting his vote at the convention, Saturday in Abuja.

Not too long ago, some members of the party described it as a cult. Do you think you have moved far from that description?

No responsible member of the party would describe PDP as a cult. PDP is open, we have divergent views, people from different backgrounds, people with different opinions but at the same time, we are all agreed on one thing, that we belong to the party, we want to work hard for the party, we want to work hard for the country and we want to ensure that democracy stays in Nigeria. Unity in purpose in making sure that we survive as a democratic nation is the propelling thing behind PDP decisions on major issues.

The new national chairman of the party is about 77, the Chairman of the board of trustees is about 76 and the National Youth Leader is 50? Does the party have a position for the youths?

I think it is totally wrong, PDP is a party of experience,  a party of people who are capable and committed. You cannot exclude a man who is best for the job because he is older than the others, you cannot exclude him because he is younger than others. On a personal level, I have always remained one of the youngest in the party hierarchy and nobody has ever highlighted that.

It is a question of competence and how to handle issues, it is not a question of age. We have competent people at the right places. Our national chairman is very competent and he is very fit. Yesterday, (Saturday) I had to walk with him from the stand to the podium and I was practically running to catch up with the national chairman. He is intellectually capable and he has a lot to offer the party. Did you listen to his speech? I was moved. Even me having served this party for 13 years at the highest level, I was moved and actually inspired to work with such a man. I think he will do well as national chairman of PDP and that is what is most important.

Are you insisting that the older men are more competent?

No, sometimes, you find the competent people older and sometimes you find the competent people younger. Our national legal adviser is one of the youngest national legal advisers in the history of our democracy and nobody is saying that. He is a young man from Plateau, but he is competent. He is a sound lawyer. Very articulate, very young man and we did not refuse to vote for him because he is not so old.

Ahead of this convention there were reports of intrigues centering on the President insisting that the national chairman must be Tukur and no one else. Why?

Well, I think I read this in the press like all others. The President reserves the right to support the national chairman of his choice. In supporting that candidate if he decides to sell his candidature to other stakeholders, it is within his democratic rights. As long as he does not interfere with the constitutional right of other candidates.

The president deserves the right to have a candidate of his choice and to promote his candidature among other stakeholders. But when it happens behind the doors people think that it is something that is being manipulated. No. He is a PDP super delegate, he can support someone and others can say no but if they buy his argument, it is very democratic.

Lastly, what mechanism would you bring to bear to polish the image of the party?

There is nothing else you can do other than to be open and transparent. As long as you are open and you connect with the people they will see the truth. I think the perception they have of the PDP is very wrong.

Wrong perception
The perception is totally wrong and mine is to assist the national chairman in correcting that impression because as a party we have done good, as a party we have done well. Let me tell you the truth, people think that party people do not go through pains, they don't go through sufferings,  that they are not human beings, we are Nigerians, we have families, we have extended families and this propels us in some of the decisions we take.

But because we don't explain those reasons, because we don't like to enlighten Nigerians about the processes that are being done they tend to misread it and now give it negative connotations. But I will make sure that I keep on engaging the media and engaging Nigerians in explaining the decisions of the party.