A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Remi Adiukwu–Bakare has declared that President Muhammadu Buharı can be defeated in the 2019 presidential contest, saying that all that is required is for PDP to present a formidable candidate that can face the president in a free and fair election.
She also spoke on some developments within the PDP insisting that the party has what it takes to return to power at the centre.
What is your reaction to President Buhari’s decision to re-contest the second time?
The president has a legitimate right to seek re-election but I sincerely doubt whether he has the moral right to do so. Like every other Nigerian, it is within his right to vote and be voted for. And as an elected President who is about completing his first term in office, he is entitled to seek another term. But beyond that, I think many Nigerians will say he is not the only one who can lead us at this time.
As a member of the PDP, I am optimistic that the candidacy of Buhari in APC will help us win the next election. I am not a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). It is for his party people to decide if he is the best they can offer. But like I said, he has a right to seek our votes. It is left for his party to bring him forward as their candidate. It is when that happens we can talk more.
What is your opinion on his handling of the terrorists group and the rampaging herdsmen across the country?
Asides his handling of the security issues like Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen, there are other issues as we speak. Some people are even reminding us that he promised to spend only a term in office. It is all over the social media. Secondly the issue of security is very much at the front burner of every Nigerian’s concern. The alarming rate at which people are being killed is unprecedented. Similarly, age and health issues are of great importance about anyone aspiring to rule this nation. I really have great respect for the retired General but I honestly do not believe he should seek a second term as he has done. He should consider his health and take a good rest after office. He has declared his intention to re-contest and this is within his constitutional right.
You are a leading chieftain of the opposition PDP; do you think the party can stop Buhari in 2019?
Yes, PDP can and will stop President Buhari in 2019. But that is if we present the right candidate through a transparent process. It is not enough for PDP to just say it will stop Buhari or displace APC. We need to know that it has a lot to do with the candidate and the process. We must do everything within our power to get it right in the manner we choose our candidate and the pedigree of the candidate will also count.
Now that PMB has declared his interest to seek a re-election, I can assure you that the various interests within PDP know what we are now up against and will ensure we don’t have a repeat of why we are where we are today. As a party, we have learnt our lessons and as individuals we are more amenable to ensuring that the process is allowed to go smoothly this time around.
Who were mostly responsible for Buhari’s success in 2015? They were the young people who felt their future could be better by his emergence as President. Today we have an unbelievable registration of new voters almost 8million and mostly our youths. These young people are the very people PDP is relying on to return it to power. We believe they are now better informed.
Now they are clamouring for new breeds of leaders. They are asking for something different in the administration of this country and I think my generation should hearken to their demands in 2019. We have those who can lead this nation to greatness in quantum but they may not have the kind of money needed to pursue such ambition. In this clime, money is the language of politics.
In the light of the current happenings in PDP, with some especially from the south-west still aggrieved, where do you stand?
Where can I stand as a party faithful? I stand with my party. I stand with PDP. Yes, people from the South-west were aggrieved. I was aggrieved too, but the truth is, this is our party, my party. The only party in Nigeria with structures in every ward, we have been reconciled and we are back together to work together for the sake of our nation. That is why I make bold to tell you that PDP stands a good chance to get it right now more than ever before.
Ours is a party where we disagree to always agree. We are a family and we have displayed this many times in the past. Those still aggrieved are being talked to and I can assure you they are also still very much with us. In PDP, once there is a common interest to pursue, we put our individual differences aside and get the job done. That is the spirit in the PDP. I don’t intend to leave the PDP. I have chosen to remain and help to re-build the party, and see what we can do in 2019.
But some people say there’s nobody in PDP who can defeat Buhari in 2019. What do you think?
We have people who can wrest power from Buhari in our party in 2019. Yes, we do. How can anybody say there’s nobody in PDP who can wrest power from Buhari in 2019? We have several aspirants jostling to pick the ticket of our party as we speak. PDP is still the most attractive opposition party in the country today. Tell me which other party people are looking up to? It is the PDP.
We also know this and that is why we are working round the clock to ensure that we rally the opposition ahead of the 2019 elections. PDP is still the strongest political party in Nigeria and the people know this. From the north to the south, all those who are not pleased with the current administration are ready to work with the PDP to bring about a change in 2019.
But what type of candidate do you think the party need to defeat Buhari in 2019?
What type of candidate? Nigeria needs a young, vibrant, well educated and urbane man or woman. In my sincere opinion, there is need for us to join the global trend of electing urbane and vibrant leaders. The young ones must be giving hope. We must begin to consider age and strength in electing our leaders. We have numerous youths doing well in their various fields.
A person who knows Nigeria well and can relate with all tribes, a bridge builder and a detribalised character, a new face entirely different from all the old and recycled materials we have jostling for the position now. He or she should be between the age of 45 years and 55 years. This is my dream candidate for PDP. This is the picture in my mind of the president we need now.
The man or woman must not carry any baggage in terms of pending litigations on corruption. His or her sources of income must be transparently traceable. Nigerians are now wiser than before. They will not want to have a candidate struggling to free himself from the EFCC forced on them by any political party in this new dispensation.
But the same PDP is daily losing its members to the ruling party and other parties. How do you think this can be stopped?
The APC too is losing its members to the PDP. Recently in Ekiti State, APC people joined PDP. Members of other political parties are also joining PDP. So, defection is not just the problem of PDP. In politics, people defect for various reasons. To halt the defection of party members is a tall order. It’s happening in the two major parties. Cutting one’s head is not the cure for one’s headache. We will get to that point of realisation one day.
You are part of those clamouring for restructuring, insisting that it must happen before the next election. Why are you so passionate about restructuring?
For me, restructuring is more than just the redistribution of power, resources etc in the country. That is what this is all about to some people. That is why somebody can tell you resource control is the solution to the country’s problem. Others will say it is zoning that will solve all our problems. I don’t think so. I believe these are just part of the issues we need to consider when discussing the whole issue. True federalism will address all these and more.
The agitation for restructuring is as old as our democracy, if not older. It is strange that no government has successfully addressed the call. But if you ask me, I will say it has been a deliberate omission on their part. It is not possible to say that no government understood the call enough to address it. That was definitely not the case. Rather, I will say it is because the ruling parties benefit from the present arrangements.
With the centre as strong as it is now, any ruling party would not be very eager to make a change. The power at the centre is quite enormous and anyone ruling will not want to whittle this down. Making the required change will need great selflessness and patriotism. And what Nigeria lacked all along are selfless and genuinely patriotic leaders. Unless we put such people who will look beyond personal interest and group satisfaction and consider national interest above party interest, it will be difficult to get a ruling party or government that will holistically and genuinely address the agitation for restructuring.
Will you run in 2019?
I will be gunning for the victory of PDP in 2019. That is my pre-occupation for now. It is more important than any personal ambition. Any other thing that comes up will just be part of my resolve to help return my party to power.