What is your assessment of the preparations towards the December 9 Peoples Democratic Party convention?
We are definitely on track. On Tuesday (last week), we completed a three-man delegate election. We have 774 electoral delegates. The others comprise 233 delegates already established by the constitution. The reports have yet to come in (as of Wednesday). We expect the reports to contain appeals from any aggrieved delegate. Such complainants would go through an appeal process. We are also expecting other reports from the electoral and appeal panels. If the reports of both panels tally, then there will be no problem but if there is a clash in the reports, we will definitely look into it to have an authentic delegates’ list. Other sensitive materials are being printed as I speak while other plans are in the works to secure the venue to ensure that the convention goes on smoothly as planned.
With complaints from aspirants on the methods for the convention, do you foresee a situation whereby the convention may be shifted to address the issues?
I don’t think that we will have any reason to postpone the election. I have never thought about postponing it. Why should we postpone the convention? The only reason may be logistics but I believe we will be able to get the minimum that is required for us to hold a successful convention. I honestly think there will be no reason to shift the date.
What measures have you put in place to ensure a free and fair election of the national officers?
The fact that the 2019 general elections are fast approaching has led to an upsurge of interest in this forthcoming PDP convention. This, of course, is expected. It is natural for people to be apprehensive. In spite of these reactions, we must be calm and ensure that things work out well. For instance, I have been called all kinds of names. But the caretaker committee, in all fairness, has left its doors open to address any grievances and settle it. We have vowed to make the convention to be seen as free and fair, especially as the state chapters work with us to compile the final delegates list. The election and appeal panels do not conduct election of delegates. They only compile results and transmit them to the headquarters as well as listen to appeals. It is the state chapter that conducts elections and makes it available to the panels for compilation. Where a panel submits a report, which is different from what the state conducted, we will be able to fish out those ones when we compare the reports. We assure everyone that only validly-elected delegates’ names would be compiled. We have adequate number of agents at each polling and collation units. All these are done to ensure that the process is transparent and fair.
A former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, and a former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, were some of your supporters when the caretaker committee had issues with the sacked faction of the party. Why do you think they are raising issues about your credibility to oversee a free and fair convention?
I don’t know their reasons for speaking the way they have been doing. It is normal to be apprehensive but the issues raised by Prof. Adeniran were more specific. Adeniran gave examples of five names that he claimed would be sympathetic to a particular national chairmanship aspirant during the convention. Five names out of 216 names! For God’s sake, if a committee is made up of 216 names, and you are telling us that five people among them would be sympathetic to an aspirant, what of the 211 remaining? Who will they be sympathetic to? If you analyse each and every person, they are all aligned to one person or the other. So, it isn’t a fair way to look at things. You can’t just pick out five and make an example of them out of 216 names. It does not make sense. Second, we asked the states to nominate. We also asked the other organs of the party, such as the Board of Trustees, National Assembly members, former governors and so on, to nominate, which they did. So, why should there be complaints? To us, it does not make sense. George was not specific on any issue. He only overreacted by making general statements. Adeniran only gave five names (of people that would have sympathy for a particular aspirant). We will go through the complaints and ensure fairness. George and Adeniran should stop overreacting. We will do our best despite the bad names they have been calling us (caretaker committee).
What is your reaction to the calls for your resignation by some aspirants who doubted your ability to maintain neutrality?
If the call for my resignation is the consensus of everybody, and not just the wish of just one or two people, so be it. Let me make it clear, however, that it was not one or two people who put me in this position. If a convention had demanded us to resign, we won’t be here. We are not here to represent the interest of anyone of them. We are here to represent a balanced interest. I won’t resign unless a convention asks me to do so.
Do you think the failure to give them undue advantage is responsible for the series of allegations raised against the caretaker committee?
There is no aspirant that didn’t make efforts to see us (caretaker committee).
What did they want to see you for?
They want to get our support and discuss issues with us. Even the candidate that they alleged we have been working with, I have never sat one-on-one with him. I am not also aware that the so-called preferred aspirant has sat one-on- one with any member of the committee.
Is it true that you want a particular aspirant to emerge in order to work towards the realisation of your presidential ambition?
There are also allegations that some of them are being used to support the presidential ambitions of someone within the party and those of some people who are intending to join the party. Let us assume that is my case, what about allegations against them that they are sponsoring people who have yet to join the party? In any case, who among them has not spoken to me if I had interest in this matter and what was my answer? My answer has always been this, “Let’s get it right with this convention first.” He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
But do you have a preferred candidate among the aspirants?
I don’t have a preferred candidate. Each delegate is going to vote based on his or her preference. I am not going to hold the hands of anybody to thumbprint. It is up to the delegates to choose whoever they want at the election.
Will you consider contesting the 2019 presidential election?
At the moment, I have no reason to consider that, especially with all the troubles in my head. My priority is to go to the convention and ensure the process is free and fair and ensure we wrap it up as a family.
The senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, Buruji Kashamu, has accused you of plotting to destabilise the party in the South-West. How do you address this accusation?
Who is in court all over the South-West and Abuja? Is it not Buruji? Who has been taking the party to court? Is that not a way to destabilise the party? Who financed a parallel congress in Ondo State and a court case which went up to the Supreme Court? Was it not Buruji? Who financed a parallel congress in Edo State and even took the party to court? Was it not Buruji? So, from these observations, who is destabilising the party?
But he claimed you chose to relate with only one faction of the Ogun State chapter of the party.
They (Buruji and others) were invited by the committee. They didn’t respond to our invitation. What they wanted was to be given complete control while we relate with the other people as inferior in the party. We said that was unacceptable. We insisted that everybody should come to the negotiation table equally to ensure a fair representation on both sides of the divide. That was not acceptable to him.
What about his allegations that you were flagrantly disobeying court orders?
There is no court order that we disobeyed. Let Buruji mention one court order that we disobeyed. One of the courts said we should not discipline him, which we obeyed. Besides, the court gave an order in respect of Ogun. Instead of complying with the order, Kashamu went to a magistrate’s court, conniving with some policemen to get people arrested. How will you leave a high court and descend to the level of a magistrate court to intimidate people? It is very obvious that Kashamu is part of those trying to destabilise the peace already established in the party. I have not known him for so long but those who know him have not spoken well of him.
Do you think he is working with Ali Modu Sheriff to frustrate you?
It may, or may not be so. I believe he is only fighting for his personal interest. You have heard that he introduced the franchise of the PDP in the South- West. He was collecting money to sell candidacy to people contesting on the platform of the PDP; that is what we have been trying to do away with.
With the ways things are, don’t you think this convention would plunge the party to another protracted crisis?
All I can say is that we will try our best to ensure it ends successfully. The most contentious issue is the national chairmanship election. It will be better if the aspirants could resolve their differences before the convention. If they don’t, we will proceed to the convention and the delegates will elect whoever they want?
Are you saying the best thing is for the South-West to form a consensus on the national chairmanship?
The position of national chairmanship was not ceded to the South-West; it was ceded to the South generally. If the aspirants can put their heads together and have a consensus candidate, so be it. I won’t use my position to force people to do anything. In the North, when they micro-zoned, they didn’t even invite me to the meeting in the North.
Do you regret taking up the job so far?
No regrets. Of course, there will be clash of interests as we head to the convention because of 2019. People should know that power comes from God. There is no success that we can make if it is not God’s will. We are going to be open, transparent and ensure fairness to all. We have also told them that whenever they see us going wrong, they should come and discuss with us, we will make amends. A situation whereby you choose to go public with all sorts of allegations instead of discussing with us is not healthy. George and Adeniran should be more civil about the way they go about with the issues.
…Culled from Punch
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