The race for the next national Chairman of PDP has begun and it seems the position has been zoned to the South West. One of those contesting for the seat is former Ogun Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel. In this recent interview with Sunday Tribune he explains why he believes he is the best person for the job.
The Supreme Court has ruled on the PDP crisis and the party seems to be back on its feet now. You are one of the people being touted to be interested in the national chairmanship of the party. I want you to confirm if this is true and if it is true, why do you want to be Chairman?
Well, I like the way you put the question-being touted. Let me say clearly and this is what I truly believe based my understanding and experience about the party, PDP.
The post of the chairmanship is not really contested the way people think. It is for the real stakeholders, the owners of the party to sit down at some point in time and say all variables considered, we think at this point in time, these are the challenges that party is facing and who do they feel will confront and resolve those challenges as best as possible. So, it is for the owners of the party to sit down and come to such conclusion. I want to assure you that if the conclusion is that I am in a position t do it, possibly based on my experience if the party as a Governor for 8 years.
I got a lot of network, possibly also because people feel that along the line, I had the opportunity to also work with others. Don’t forget that in 2011 elections, I was the coordinator for South-West and it was very successful. We weren’t as successful in 2015 as we were in 2011 in the South-West. So, it is possible that people are looking at all of that and feel that at this point in time, I am one of the people who may be able to reverse the fortunes of the party, then I consider it a national service. But I don’t think it is something that we should hit the road and begin to fight in the name of politicking for a party that is really at its lowest ebb. That’s the way I look at it.
If you look at the history of the party from inception till now, that has been the pattern, that the owners of the party will sit down and say, all things considered, this is how we want to play the game. Of course, that will be subjected to a democratic process as a necessity. It is not just in the PDP. If you also look at even the APC, how did the chairman emerge? When was that campaign and when was the vote taken?
Where was the noise made? Where was the national campaign across the 36 states when the current chairman was elected? So, consensus is also part of the process when it can be achieved seamlessly.
But the aborted convention process in the PDP did not support your assertion as it took a different dimension. We are not sure whether the upcoming one will take that dimension. Ahead of the aborted Port Harcourt convention, we saw Chief Raymond Dokpesi going round the country despite the belief that the chairmanship was zoned to South-West?
You’ve answered the question. Of course, Dokpesi is my person. I have a lot of confidence in him. There is a relationship of several decades. He went on an expedition which is not out of place and I think it was a good expedition. But what was the result? Is it not coming back to my earlier theory that at a certain level the party will decide?
And I’ve also told people, not even chairmanship alone, when you look at most national offices, the Vice-Presidency, the Presidency in this country, you find that the race is not usually for the swiftest. That is the experience we have always had and I’m not just saying in recent history; from the Tafawa Balewa days through even the military, through Ironsi, Gowon, to (former President Shehu) Shagari. Shagari didn’t want to be president; he wanted to be senator.
Ekwueme didn’t want to be Vice-President. He just was a good contributor to the party. Obasanjo was from prison to presidency. Atiku had already won as governorship candidate and he was asked to drop that and become Vice-President. And all the people who were running didn’t get anything. Yar’Adua became president. All the people who wanted to be VP didn’t make it. It was Jonathan and when Jonathan also became president and wanted to choose a Vice-President, Namadi Sambo didn’t expect it. He didn’t lobby it for it. It just happened. And this current one that we are going is exactly the same thing. The current VP, two weeks to his nomination didn’t even move. Can’t we learn from history that somehow, there is a tide in the affairs of men that tends to dictate some of these things?
But some people will also interpret all these scenarios to mean that we have never really had a prepared leader in this country.
That’s not quite correct. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was quite prepared. While he was in the Western Region, he gave a good account of himself.
Back to the issue of the possibility of you becoming the party Chairman. One thing that people feel could count against you is that at a point in time, you left the party, while others remained. Don’t you think that may count against you?
Let’s also go into the history. (Ahmed) Makarfi was not even in the PDP. But somehow became chairman. If you reverse, further, [Okwesilieze] Nwodo was not in PDP but he became Chairman. (Vincent) Ogbulafor was in the ANPP, he became PDP Chairman too.
If we now want to talk about me leaving the PDP, I think there is a serious misconception about what actually happened. People forgot and you the media must continuously educate people when people for reasons that are best known to them, decide to be mischievous and interpret and misrepresent what actually happened. What happened is that I was a PDP governor for eight years.
We had a proper congress. Somebody was chosen. In fact not just somebody, all the congresses were done under the watchful eyes of INEC, of everybody, of the Police of SSS. Candidates emerged. The congress was conducted by a nominee of the party, Major Abdulmumuni and everything was done perfectly under PDP. At that point in time, I was the South-West coordinator for President Jonathan and all of a sudden, that was when the virus that we are talking about started rearing its ugly head.
Some people, for reasons that is unclear went and did another kangaroo congress. I don’t want to describe what happened, but by some miracle, there was a judicial pronouncement that those people who had the kangaroo congress were the correct people. At that time, what else can I do? The other people who won primaries decided that they were going to another party. I had no reasons to stop them because I felt they were truly cheated. But I remained in PDP. I carried through the presidential election as the coordinator of the presidential election in the South-West. The president won and after Ogun State was lost to opposition. Since then, I have brought everybody back as much as possible to the party. Later on, the same thing happened.
Let me take you back a bit to PDP issue. There are still issues about zoning of the National Chairmanship position. Some people are saying it was zoned to South-West.
Some are saying it was zoned to the entire South. Is the South-West confident that the position is coming to the zone?
I think that from what I know, in the PDP today, the Presidency is zoned to the North and the National Chairman automatically is zoned to the South. I think it is now for Northerners to decide where the presidency should come from. They will look at the parameters, what they are looking for, how to win election and they will also look at which zones out of the three zones have been President before and which has not been President.
So, they will work out the arithmetic and come out with something.
When you come to the South, it’s exactly the same thing. The people in the South are looking at where it should go, so that the party will have a good chance. There are so many schools of thoughts and I can tell you what they are. There is a school of thought that says since the inception of the PDP, the South-West is the only zone in the South that has not taken a shot at Chairmanship. The South-South has done it several times. The South-East has done it several times. It’s only the South-West.
That’s maybe a strong point for the South-West. The other point for the South-West is that today, PDP is quite-strong ill the South-South and the South-East. But the weakest zone in the South now is the South-West. A number of people then feel that with the strength of the governors in the South-South and the South-East, there is something that they can still use to sustain the party.
But that South-West now needs an impetus, something that will put them in a position where they can also say we also have something in hand. To that extent, let us also now ensure that we do not disappoint these people who gave us the opportunity. On top of that is also the fact that when you look at it carefully, what is left today is actually to bring issues of governance out, to evaluate issues of governance, what the government in power is doing right, what they are not doing right, it has to be properly articulated.
On a more serious note, when you look at where that articulation can take place best, it’s in the South-West. That’s where the media and a lot of opinion is being formed and the thinking therefore is that where the chairmanship of the party is thrown into the South-West, it has a good opportunity, especially now that we know some of the weaknesses of this administration in terms of their challenges with the economy, security and so on.
So you don’t nurse any concern about the micro-zoning causing another round of crisis?
Not at all. You know this will not be the first time I have been more or less approached. I was close to throwing my heart into the ring during the last aborted convention. But my friend and brother Raymond (Dokpesi) moved and said give me a chance; let’s do it and all of that.
When they now appeared to have zoned it to the South-West, our leader Chief Bode George also showed interest. My friend, Jimi Agbaje also showed interest and I felt, as I told you earlier on, this is not something we should be fighting ourselves over. We have already enough crisis in the party-that we must minimise any incident that will lead to further division. Because somebody wants to be Chairman, and we begin to destroy the fragile peace that exists in the party. So, to that extent at that time, I said ‘let it go.’ Whatever God wants a man to be, he will be. And sometimes, as I said the race is not usually for the swiftest. But I have no doubt in my mind and I’m sure that quite a number of people also know that I have
So, to that extent at that time, I said ‘let it go.’ Whatever God wants a man to be, he will be. And sometimes, as I said the race is not usually for the swiftest. But I have no doubt in my mind and I’m sure that quite a number of people also know that I have capacity. I have the right network, the wherewithal and the experience. When we had opportunity to run the
party in Ogun State, while it lasted, everybody agreed that Ogun State PDP was the modal. We built probably the best Secretariat in the country; we won all our elections at all levels. In fact, Ogun State was the only state in the South-West where no election was upturned by the judiciary.