Nigerians will resist FG’s attempt to humilate HoS, Oyo-Ita –Olafeso, South-West PDP Vice Chairman
The Vice Chairman, South-West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, speaks to PETER DADA on recent political developments in the country
How would you describe the drama surrounding the reinstatement and the sacking of a former Chairman of the Pension Reforms Commission, Abdulrasheed Maina, and the revelation that President Muhammadu Buhari was aware of the development?
President Muhammadu Buhari cannot say he was not aware of the development because the buck stops with him. Honestly, it is very unfortunate that we are passing through this in Nigeria. Buhari said he wanted to fight corruption, but he is fighting the masses. He is not fighting corruption; he is fighting Nigerians. We don’t know the kind of corruption this administration is fighting. The President is being selective in his fight against corruption. Anybody who is not a member of the All Progressives Congress is corrupt, but if you are an APC member, you are a saint.
If not for the leaked memo which revealed that Buhari was briefed by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, about the implication of the reinstatement of Maina, don’t you think the government was trying to make the HoS a scapegoat?
In this matter, nobody can make the HoS a scapegoat. Nobody can implicate the woman and if they try it, Nigerians will rise up against it. The woman has not committed any offence. As the HoS, she did what she was supposed to do on the matter and if they want to implicate her, we will all rise against it.
With the ongoing Mainagate, do you still have confidence in Buhari’s anti-corruption war?
Which anti-corruption war? In the first instance, are they really fighting corruption? Is that how to fight corruption? There are so many cases of corruption in this government that are being swept under the carpet. Like I said, when you are in the APC, you are a saint. Babachir Lawal’s case has yet to be transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. If not for the public outcry, the Maina’s case would have been covered up and so many other corruption cases like that. To me, the Buhari administration is not doing anything to fight corruption, but only running after some selected individuals perceived to be its enemies.
How far is the reconciliation move in your party now?
We are consolidating on the gains of peace and development after the Supreme Court judgment. I am glad to let you know that congresses just took place in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun and Osun states. That was the final peace agreement to a very appreciable end. We are all set for the national convention coming up in December. We are making efforts to ensure that our past leaders, who had been offended in one way or the other, are being brought back to the fold. We did this successfully in Oyo State, where we discussed with Senator Rasheed Ladoja and today he is a bona fide member of the PDP. We also spoke to Seyi Makinde, who has returned and now contributing his quota to the development of the party. We have spoken to everybody and the leaders have provided ample opportunities for us to be able to move on. So, the PDP story in the South-West is moving away from the tragic rash of judicial abracadabra being put in place by the Buruji Kashamu’s group. Although we are still contending with them, we are ready and we are defeating them; like recently, in a court in Lagos, we handed them a defeat because the case was transferred from a judge, who is known for always giving frivolous injunctions against the party.
The convention of the party is near. What is the South-West’s chance in producing the national chairman of the PDP?
Recently, we met with officials in the 19 states of the north and they are all in favour of the South-West producing the national chairman of the party. Since 1998 till date, the South-West has yet to produce the chairman of the party. Given our historical ability to swing votes during presidential elections and for the sake of equity, it is apposite for the PDP to ensure that this is done. We say we are rebranding our party; every part of the country will be given the opportunity to contribute its own quota. We are doing that much and I am glad about the positive responses we have received from the three zones in the north and in the South-East. We are also working extensively in the South-South and I am optimistic that in the end, we will get to the point where the South-West will produce the chairmanship of the party and we will be able to drive a new beginning for our party.
Who are now the top contenders from the South-West?
A few of the candidates have started their campaigns, but Chief Bode George from Lagos State and Otunba Gbenga Daniel from Ogun State are the ones I know of. Others have shown their intentions in the media, but not much has been done to show how serious they are. So, the truth remains that we are moving on. I want to appeal to all the candidates to play by the rules and ensure that there is equity because we are within the same party and there will always be a day after the convention, where all of us must bury our hatchet, come together and work together for the survival of our party. I am glad that the only governor we have here in the South-West, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, called the shots by inviting some of the contestants to ensure that we go to the convention united and focused on clinching the chairmanship. I give kudos to him for that effort and I know that when all of us come together to discuss, we might be able to reduce the number of people that will be competing at the convention. But critical to it is the fact that no matter the number of people who are running in the South-West, what we want to give to our party is the best from the South-West, and to ensure that we improve on the internal democracy that was lacking before. It will reduce the excess of impunity that has been part of the blocks of our party by ensuring that we produce the number of candidates that are serious, who other parts of Nigeria can vote for. Having choices is part of democracy and that is what we are going to do. The remaining part of the journey will continue and in terms of disciplinary measures, we will continue to mete them out on those who are still bent on working with the opposition to destroy the PDP. The rate of court cases lately, to me, is the final attempt by these people to scuttle our party. The leadership of the party will not take it easy with anybody doing that. It is part of the new discipline, the new beginning that we are looking forward to for the party, and we are going to ensure that those who contravene the constitution of the party are brought to book.
It was alleged by some people that Senator Buruji Kashamu is sponsoring some candidates. Do you think this can jeopardise the move by the party to unite everybody before the convention?
Well, we said, no victor, no vanquished; the people are going to take decisions on the basis of what they know about the aspirants, but I have no evidence to prove that it is Buruji who is sponsoring some of them. However, if that is the truth, our party will beam a searchlight on everybody and we will know who is coming from who.
With all these still happening, do you think it will it be possible for you to have a consensus candidate at the convention?
To me, we will strive and do the best that we can to agree on a consensus candidate, but if in the end, it is not possible, it is part of democracy — to allow people to exercise their rights to vote and be voted for. We will take them there and whoever wins knows that he has done very well for himself and for the party. We are talking, certainly in the South-West here; I have made efforts to speak with everybody to plead with them that we should have a common front. Governor Fayose equally said that and I agree with him completely that we cannot go to the convention divided. To me, I do not see division in anybody saying I want to contest, it is part of our internal democracy; we cannot run away from it. The era of consensus may actually be going gradually; it is a new dawn of participation. So, I believe that it does not negate anything nor weaken our resolve. I am just telling the leadership from all the zones to steer off and don’t make this party a banana republic where they can come to sow seeds of disunity amongst our people.
There is the insinuation that the All Progressives Congress is behind the disunity among members of your party, what is your reaction to this?
What the APC is attempting to do because of their own failure is to continue to kill the PDP so that they will remain in power. But the harrowing experiences of the Nigerian people within the last two years have actually put paid to that excessiveness of trying to press down the opposition and begin to hunt them like animals in their own country. You can see that their war on corruption is dead on arrival. The President can no longer handle the issue of huge sums of money being found with Ayo Oke, the National Intelligence Agency boss; the grass-cutter matter of Babachir Lawal is being put in abeyance; the $25bn that was amassed, the first class intellectual that actually became the Minister of State in the oil and gas ministry is being put off too. So, Nigerians have seen that they came with a crown-torn scientific knowledge of how to continue to spread corruption. They are not fighting corruption, they are fighting the poor; they are not fighting poverty, they are fighting Nigerians.
In spite of all these allegations, do you think your party can oust them in 2019?
For us, 2019 holds a lot of promises for our people. We have learnt our lessons: we have failed in certain areas, we have succeeded in certain areas; we took the Nigerian people for granted and we know for sure that the essence of governance is to improve the lot of the citizenry and we are coming with gusto, every force that God gave us to ensure that we do better for the Nigerian people. We have learnt our lessons.
Fayose has declared his intention to contest the 2019 presidential election and the South-West also wants the national chairmanship of the PDP. How will you create a balance of power?
Let’s be fair to Governor Ayodele Fayose, he made it abundantly clear that he was exercising his right as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I did not see it in any constitution that he cannot run because he is from one zone. But the truth remains that he understands that the party will eventually take a decision on that, and I don’t think he is averse to the party taking a decision which it thinks will be equitable to the position of the zoning system that has been in existence long before he runs for the presidency.