APC Has Turned Nigeria Into Laughing Stock, Says Ex-PDP Chairman, Dabin

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Dr Haruna Dabin is the founding national administrative secretary of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) and also a former chairman of the party in Plateau State. In this interview with Asile Emmanuel (Jos), he bares his mind on national and state issues, even as these affects the future of PDP. Excerpt

In a radio interview you granted some months, back you stated that you will be the last man standing in the PDP. What is happening to the PDP?

Political parties generally may not be visible and active when a new government is formed, except to be able to organize itself to ensure it reproduces in a democratic manner especially at the leadership level. Having said this, the party in government is usually more politically active for obvious reasons. Now this does not mean that the party in the opposition should be completely silent; it should serve as a Shadow Government to be able to draw attention to lapses of the incumbent government.
In and out of government, every political party should actually continue to build a strong political platform to be able to aggregate polices and use them to lead government. However, unfortunately, having held power for 16 years, PDP has not been able to create a backbone of support for itself, with reservoirs of thinkers who should be able to advance the interest of the party and that is why some of us with a humble intellectual background cannot just fold our hands and watch things continue to go wrong.
The collapse of our great party is largely blamed on the elected party officials along with elected government representatives. The post-election review committee report headed by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was very well received in view of using the report to revamp the party. Similarly, before the Ekweremadu report, the PDP on the Plateau had submitted a memo that indicted the former governor of Plateau State, Senator Jonah Jang for imposing unacceptable candidate and manipulating the process of the 2015 governorship election, which led to the failure of the PDP in the State. This recommendation from the state level has been accepted by the National Working Committee of the party.
Ideally, when a party performs below expectation, the honourable thing to do is for party officials to resign their positions for another crop of people to take over, so that people will not put a stigma on the party knowing that those who led the party to failure were out. But unfortunately, the party officials did not do this, although the national chairman resigned stating health related issues. But I thing he should have stated clearly that he resigned because he cannot lead a party that has been in power for 16 years to failure and remain in office, let them bow out for other people to come up. Anyways, the party leadership will consequently change in March 2016, as congresses and conventions will be held to renew the leadership of the party. But, being that we had a generally low performance during the 2015 general elections, owing to rancorous primaries characterised by the imposition of unpopular candidates, I would have thought that the effort in rebuilding confidence in the party should be primary, but unfortunately it is not so and I wonder how we can go into congresses with these rancour unresolved.

Most heavyweights like you in the party have been quiet over these issues?

No, we have not been quiet. I and other stakeholders of the party have been talking to our party men. Encouraging the out-going elected party officials to do the right thing by defending equity and justice, which is the basic factor that led to our very poor performance at the 2015 polls. If we are able to achieve settling these rancour, then you can be assured that we are on the right part in restoring the fortune of the party, but otherwise, the steps we are taking so far are not very cheering.

Are you referring to the current power tussle between the then acting chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus and former Political Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak?

Yes, that and some other issues we are having even at the grassroots level. However, the court judgment asking the Acting National Chairman of the party to vacate office was a dead case even before conception. The constitution of the party provides that in the absence of the National Chairman, the deputy National Chairman steps in as Acting Chairman. In fact we have precedence where Acting Chairmen have been confirmed as substantive Chairmen by the National Executive of the Party in the circumstance.
However, the constitution provides that if the vacancy exist, the zone where the officer who resigned hails from should submit a replacement to the National Executive Committee (NEC). So what they should have done was to sit down as a zone and appoint whom they want as a replacement that will serve the residual tenure of whomever have left. So failing to do that, they have slept on their right and it will be wrong for them to go to court and ask the court to run the party for them.
Even if the court has made a thousand pronouncement that Secondus cannot be acting as chairman, it doesn’t make sense because the party is the creation of the constitution, so it is a legal entity and the court cannot run the party. Unless the court thinks that by their own declaration they can make PDP to seize to exist, otherwise, the Acting National Chairman will continue to serve until his tenure elapse.
But we thank God that the Party has been able to reach a consensus that someone from the North-East, Ali Modu Sheriff, should serve the remaining tenure of Adamu Mu’azu. That is why I have always said, politicians should not be in a hurry to go to court because a platform of a political party provides a greater dialogue and consensus building.
Although the choice of Sheriff is not acceptable by the majority of the PDP family for obvious reason. They would have appointed someone from the North-East that is acceptable in this stage of rebuilding the party.
However, during our forthcoming National Convention, the party will elect another chairman and I don’t see how the North-East zone will produce that chairman, when the NEC has adopted the Ekweremadu report that the Presidency in 2019 elections should come from the North. So there is no way the Presidency and the National Chairman will come from the same north. By this, it means the position of the National Chairman will be zoned to the Southwest since the southwest has never produced a Natinal Chairman for the party. I therefore appeal to the Northeast not to push the party to the brink beyond where it is now.

Let’s come back home. You remained in the PDP having lost the chance to fly the party’s flag as a gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 general elections. The love you have for your party could not allow you to defect, you rather formed the reformed PDP. Where is the reformed PDP now?

The reform philosophy started from Plateau and has taken root at the national headquarters. The Ekweremadu report is essentially saying “PDP you must reform” and reform we must do. But in Plateau the sentiment about the reform is not an attempt to create a fraction of the party. I have said to people that I could not have been used by God to return sanity to PDP in 2010 when I came in as state Chairman and now to be the same person that will be use to fractionalize the party. It actually does not make sense.
If I was to claim my right as the state chairman, I would have gone to court to challenge the outright illegality the state executive committee were perpetrating, I would have remained the state chairman and that would have fractionalise the party and if that had happened, there wouldn’t have been any election on the plateau for PDP. But I am not a desperate politician, I will rather want things to be done properly and my conduct in the process must be honouring to God. Yes I want to be governor, but if it is not yet time, I will not force it neither will I decamp to another party even as my supporters urged me. But I said no because I have never decamped from PDP since I was foundational in forming the party since 1998.
So our philosophy about reform was to draw attention to what is right. In making our stand known to what is right, we called on the attention of the then President Goodluck Jonathan on the eve of the presidential rally in Jos through a powerful publication signed by all the aggrieved PDP governorship aspirants (Reformed PDP) and what we were saying to Mr President in that publication is that all is not well in Plateau, call the governor and party officials to order, otherwise, we are sliding down the drain. But they gave us deaf ears. We told them that if Jonah Jang did not stop this violation of the PDP constitution and ignoring the sentiments of the Plateau people, PDP will lose. But like I said they gave us a deaf ear.
If late GNS Pwajok had won the elections, the enslavement of the Plateau people would have continued unabated. I keep telling people, what will I tell my forbears, that we have all died as plateau people, to defend what is right and just? And to think that for a plate of maize, we will submit to such a big sentiment.
What is wrong will be wrong any they and I will fight for what is wrong anywhere I find it. Well we are all witnesses to how it all played out and that was why Governor Lalong jokingly thanked Jang during the presentation of Certificate of Return, telling him that “because of your conduct I am now the governor”. I heard that Jang took it as a commendation, but that was the most brutal statement Jang will ever hear, that in his life time, someone is telling him that he is a hopeless failure. Because when you don’t end well, everything else you have done collapses. The Reformed PDP inadvertently gave birth to Governor Lalong’s emergence and Lalong had also thanked us (the aggrieved PDP governorship aspirant), for making him governor.
Some of the reformed PDP members outrightly collapsed their structure for Lalong during the campaign but personally I did not, I hesitated to support the All Progressive Congress (APC), because I did not see APC, as a party, neither at the national level nor in Plateau State. Their desperation for power was alarming and those that formed the APC decamped from PDP, so if they were as bad in PDP, why should they be any better in APC. So I don’t see APC as a party with a strong philosophy and all this talk about a national leader, we don’t have a national leader in a political party because a political party is not some autocracy, if you are not elected, then you are not elected. Those nomenclature of Bola Tinubu and President Buhari been called a national leader, is an aberration of democracy.

It is obvious that Governor Lalong leveraged on the platform of the Reformed PDP to win the election. Has Lalong reached out to your group?

Well, when he won the election as governor-elect, we went as a group to congratulate him, the elected Governor Lalong told us that he was very busy at the moment with a lot of people coming to congratulate him but that he will rather fix an appropriate time for him to seat with us in other to discuss governance. But I think he rather said that to shoo us away because that was the last time we ever set our eyes on Governor Lalong. They are now busy, trying to run an APC government, which is very wrong because there is no APC in Plateau. Even Lalong and the APC state chairman do not have the APC membership card. I want to challenge them to show us their membership card before the elections. But having won the election, instead of him to rally round support, they are busy giving the impression that they want to run an APC government. I have made my personal opinion, which I have said, if Lalong who said he was going to consult us has refused to do so, it means there is no room for some of us who are PDP members to have stake in his government after all we have done for him. We are also surprised that in all the appointments he has made so far, he has not appointed one single PDP member. I am waiting to see the policy focus of this government. The 2016 budget he presented, is neither here nor there. Well if at the national we are not having a very clear focus, as regards the budget, how much less at the state.

It seems the APC is not faced with an opposition on the Plateau. Have the PDP members gone to sleep?

The Acting Chairman is trying to rally round the Party but it has been very difficult. The most frustrating is the House of Assembly. At the inauguration of the Assembly, the PDP Members in the House were 13 while the APC was 11. With this figure PDP would have emerged the Speaker, but surprisingly we lost. This indicates that our party was already getting the worst treatment. Again, one of our members in the House died and I thought PDP would do everything possible to recapture that seat during the rerun election, but unfortunately, we lost again. When the APC came back to the House with the seat they captured from the re-run election, the PDP majority leader voluntary step down from being the Majority leader to Minority leader. How could he have done that when they are now both equally represented with 12/12 Members. So I don’t know what is wrong with the thinking of our party members on the Plateau. If I were still the chairman of the party, I would certainly have rallied round more people to defend my party and like I have always said, “I will be the last man standing to defend the PDP”. Well, fortunately for me, the time for a new leadership is here. In few weeks, we shall be having our congresses to elect new leadership and I have been talking to party stakeholders because we believe that PDP must have the best of leadership.

In line with having the best of leadership, what is your party doing to ensure that PDP retains Langtang South in the re-run election?

Langtang South is 99.9% PDP and with the recent court ruling restraining INEC from disqualifying PDP in the election I can assure you that we will take Langtang South. I have been talking to our party officials and I will personally go to Langtang South to mobilize all our kindred to support the PDP. If we win back our seats in the Plateau House of Assembly, we will certainly take back the Speakership of the House.

Back to national issues, it has been alleged that Olisa Metuh was picked up to finally silence the PDP since he was the only one speaking for the party. What is your take on this?

The symbol of justice is a blindfolded woman holding a scale with a sword and this scale can only tilt in favour of justice and the sword will descend on injustice. But let me say very strongly that the attempt to silence the opposition must be highly condemned. We cannot have an authoritarian regime in Nigeria, which President Buhari and the APC government are heading towards. But they can only do it if they kill a million Nigerians to be able to run a dictatorship. That was why we told Nigerians that PDP is the only national party that can guarantee democracy in Nigeria. All the noise the former publicity secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, made to the extent of abusing the former President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP, but nothing happened to him because under the President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP government, there was the Freedom Of Information Bill (FOI), which Lai Mohammed leveraged on to label the former President with all sorts of names.
You can’t just justify the unjustifiable things this government is doing. I think the PDP must speak out against any attempt to silence the opposition. I have often said that, APC is the creation of PDP because if it was the APC that was in government, PDP wouldn’t have emerged. The PDP created an enabling environment for the APC to emerge. President Buhari’s long 12 years agitation of becoming President has come to fruition. Now what do we get? They accused President Jonathan of being clueless, I don’t know what they will say of Buhari. Saying that the 2016 budget was missing is like saying that an elephant will get missing in a garden of grass. They have made Nigerians to become such a laughing stock. They say PDP is corrupt, let’s see how they will run government that is not corrupt. They will award contracts and execute projects. Even this whole story about missing budget is the height of corruption. Well Nigerians are watching to see how they will bequeath a Nigeria that we can all be proud of.

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