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Saturday, 31 October 2015

2019: PDP not sincere about zoning presidency to North – Gambo Lawan

Gambo lawan

Former national chairman of the defunct Grassroot Democratic Movement (GDM) and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Par­ty (PDP), Gambo Lawan has expressed concern over the resolution of the par­ty’s national executive committee, zon­ing the 2019 presidential ticket of the erstwhile ruling party to the North.

Lawan in this interview with Saturday Sun’s TAIWO AMODU in Abuja accused the party’s national leadership of insincer­ity over the resolution. He premised his stance on what he called the reluctance of the Uche Secondus-led NWC of the main opposition party in the country to even concede the national chairman of the PDP to the North-East, in accordance with the party’s constitution. Excerpts:

The PDP at its last NEC meeting adopted the Senator Ike Ekwer­emadu committee’s recommenda­tion which zoned its 2019 presi­dential ticket to the North. What is your take on that resolution?

Well, as far as I can see, talking about zoning to the North now I think it isn’t even an issue, because we talk about zoning when we begin to talk about who is going to be our nominee for the next election. That may be in 2018 before we go into an election, because realistically, to be honest with you, my party killed zoning by the consistent aspiration of President Jonathan.

We cried a lot after the death of President Yar’Adua that the North should field the presidential candidate of the party based on the initial agreement of two- term each side and after Yar’Adua died we said for­mer President Jonathan should continue the remaining period. Now, he finished the remaining two years he again went into an­other election which after a lot of disagree­ments we finally came to the agreement that he should take it but go for one term. So, we allowed him to go for second term and now he was insisting on third term which we felt that North wasn’t properly treated based on zoning. Now, it is obvi­ous without even saying it that I don’t think other than the North taking it anybody would even think of contesting from any other zone, because if you do that it can be interpreted as a different thing. So, the is­sue of zoning can go like that.

But the way I am looking at PDP, it isn’t a matter about zoning. If it is zoning, we should respect it. One, what we should quickly do is to allow North-East to fill in the gap which M’uazu has left, because based on our Constitution if a particular person in the party hierarchy or working committee resigns from office, then some­body from that zone would replace him. Then, if that is what the constitution says, then we should abide by it, but I don’t know what has been happening, there have been a lot of meetings which I have at­tended, there have been disagreements and what have you but it seems the party, we are still having the same kind of attitude. The impunity is still there.

I believe that at this point in time, what we should look at is first, how do we move forward, how do we build the party and how do we come together as family and look back at our mistakes: where did we go wrong, how do we move forward? Is it by all of us coming together, realizing our mistakes and chart a new course and im­plement what is good for the party and the family to ensure that we all move forward in one direction, so that we build a stronger party and we show the nation that, at least we have moved from that old attitude to a new direction, so that our supporters will believe in us.

But the zoning of the Presidency was part of the recommendation of the Senator Ekweremadu Commit­tee, which means it was meant to reposition and move the party for­ward. Don’t you agree with that?

It is ok. I am not disputing that but even if the Committee didn’t recommend it, it was obvious in the mind of every PDP member that the Presidency going to the South in 2019 isn’t possible! It is an au­tomatic decision because Obasanjo did two terms, Jonathan did almost two terms so it means no Northerner has held the position consistently in eight years. Are you saying that we don’t have the right, something that is automatic, not that it should even be recommended? Therefore, it isn’t just that because what we are even saying is that the North should really keep the party, it should really be the one to lead the party now.

But the communiqué issued at the end of the last PDP NEC meet­ing was silent on conceding the chairman of the party to the North-east. Do you think it was deliber­ate?

Well, to be honest with you, at the pre- NEC meeting of all chairmen of the states and other member of NEC, they all agreed that North-east should bring their nomi­nee for the office of chairman and it was also partly discussed in the board of trust­ees, but what happened was that the NWC didn’t put it in the agenda of NEC, but it was supposed to be because the principal issue that is still in contention is that our chairman resigned. Now, after his resigna­tion we haven’t had a NEC meeting since. How would anyone imagine that we are going to have a NEC meeting for the first time after resignation of our chairman and the issue of Mu’azu’s resignation wouldn’t even be discussed? So, I don’t think a real NEC meeting did take place! It must be an agenda.

The reason it wasn’t there, we don’t know. If it wasn’t discussed, then they should have proposed that look, there must be a special meeting to discuss it. It should have been mentioned, but everybody was silent. The members of NEC, all of them aren’t fair to the PDP across the country.

Are you saying the insinuation that the present NWC of the party wants to elongate their tenure has the blessings of NEC?

Those rumours that are going on, nobody can substantiate, the present NWC didn’t come out formally as far as I know to say that they want to continue. If they want to continue, they would have come out and start to campaign. So, whatever anybody is saying would be rumours going on since it wasn’t substantiated. I don’t want to start making submissions on rumours here. So, the first thing is to look at them, appeal to the leaders to talk to them because, be­lieve me, we are going to talk to them, all of them from top to bottom. We have been talking to them, so that the right thing is done and very soon, we are having a PDP conference, delegates would come from the wards of Nigeria and discuss the way forward for PDP. At that conference, fun­damental issues are going to be raised and far reaching decisions will be taken.

The impression we got after the NEC meeting was that there is lack of cohesion and unanimity among the leaders of the party from North-East; what the national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh made us understand was that the North-east leadership of the party didn’t put forward any nominee as its successor to Mu’azu. Was that the true picture?

No, there is nothing like the North-East aren’t ready, we are always ready. You see, it was the NWC that should tell us, ‘look, go and have a meeting, call stake­holders, discuss this matter and bring somebody to lead us to the next level to be nominated to the position of chairman.’ Is it not the responsibility of the working committee to do? Have they ever talked to anybody?

If it isn’t coming from them, why is the North-East leaders not seizing the initiative to meet and nominate someone?

No, I am saying this because you said the NWC is saying that we aren’t ready. We are ready, we have been having meetings; we have had several zonal meetings, of leaders from the zone and we have even had meetings led by our zonal chairman and even agreed virtually and asked people to bring nominations and certain nomina­tions were made and then discussions were concluded. It is just for the NWC and NEC to say, North-East, are you ready. We cannot just go to them and say, this is our chairman under normal procedure, because we ar­en’t fighting them, they are our leaders. We believe that we are a family and we should work hand in hand. The normal procedure wasn’t taken and that’s why most of us are angry and then the resignation of the chairman wasn’t even mentioned—not even on replacement but to say that our chairman has resigned and we are going to have a replacement or somebody is now acting, or this acting chairman is going to continue up to the next convention.

It has never happened like that! I wasn’t part of the NEC, if I were there, I would have raised the issue. I don’t know why it wasn’t raised, because even if a par­ticular issue isn’t on the agenda, there is what is called Any Other Business, (AOB) in a meeting. Somebody must have raised the issue and I am sure some people raised hands but they weren’t allowed to talk. So, I don’t know what is happening but surely we are going to find out.

But have you addressed your mind to the Senator Ekweremadu’s committee recommen­dations?


Does it have solutions to most of the chal­lenges facing the party, as it is being pro­claimed by the NWC?

Well, the committee had a wider consultations, it went round all the zones. I can tell you about the North-east, Shuaibu Oyedokun and his team, they came to our zonal headquarters in Gombe and we had meetings for four days with them. Members came from all the states and we really aired our views on what happened: why did we lose the election, where did we go wrong?. So, we identified the reasons that put us in our present condition today and we also gave solutions. But under this cir­cumstance that we are, what are we supposed to do? We did it rightly, there were physical presentations by some people, I was also one of them and the zones have com­piled these reports for the Committee, based on what they received from members from the field.

When you look at the report, it is wonderful and as I said earlier, I said zoning should have been automatic, whether it was recommended or not but their recom­mendation was in good faith. Good faith, in the sense that one of the major issues that made us lose the last election was zoning, because we disrespected it, we didn’t follow it and then people turned their back against us. You promised that you were going to bring power to this side but you didn’t and they were angry.

With the benefit of hindsight, do you think PDP would have regained its leadership posi­tion, if Jonathan had declined from seeking a fresh mandate and conceded the ticket to the North?

Well, it is only God that is definite, but I can say God willing, we would have retained our grip– definitely! That’s true and the reason is simple. Let me be open with you. I came from the North; the reason why north­erners went to support Buhari wasn’t because they be­lieve in him as a person, but because he came from the North. They had no option; they yearned for this power, they waited with the zoning, legally, properly and pro­cedurally they couldn’t get it. They cried loud and they found out that they had no option but when they found out that there was one northerner that was contesting and they said, look, ‘since we say this thing is democra­cy, and it is a question of number, let us forget about the issue of party now and let us make sure that our interest is protected.’

So, based on that, sentiments were created . Again, the attitude of a lot of our members in PDP and the statements of some people that were unnecessary and careless made people to begin to think, look it is time to get this presidency to the North. So, what the North started to say at the end of the day was, whoever that comes from the North let us support him! How many votes did they use to defeat PDP: 2 million. Two states can bring that in a serious time. So, definitely, PDP would have had a landslide, if we had changed Jonathan for a northern candidate to contest with Buhari, because that issue of sectional or zonal sentiment wouldn’t be there.

For me, this zonal system is nothing, the president can come from anywhere; it can come from Lagos and stay there for 20 years, from Bauchi or Sokoto, from Calabar and stay for as long as Nigerians want it. That’s the kind of Nigeria I want to see, but the creation of this sectional, religious thing that was created by our political fathers are still lingering in our polity and I thought this gener­ation should try to reduce it to the minimum but when you allow personality and you begin to say, I instead of we, then that thing would continue to be a problem for a long time. So, on a serious note, PDP would have won if we had a change of candidate from Jonathan.

That’s one but there are so many other reasons why PDP lost.

Even with the agreement to concede the ticket to the North in 2019, some of the indi­viduals that galvanised support for PDP have left in droves. The party is seriously deplet­ed and the question is, can it still bring them back into its fold?

Well, we have been bringing back the same people! It may be a new set of people that we need. Those people you have in mind, how many of them are really playing politics. It isn’t all, the percentage is very little. It is up to PDP to begin to look at politics in its real sense, play true ideals of democracy, make sure that we have a very serious reform and restructuring of the party and bring leaders that will be able to ensure equal justice, fairness, accountability, internal democracy and party discipline.

Empirically now, who are the rallying forc­es in PDP?

Well, I cannot be able to give you one particular per­son right now, because in politics you don’t expose yourself and be pin pointing people but we are talking, we are discussing among ourselves and I am sure, we will come out with something good.

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