The uproar generated by the recent disagreement between some national leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), over which geo-political zone should produce the National Chairman of the party is yet to die down. An elder in the party, former Deputy National Chairman, and currently, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun has insisted that the North should produce the party’s national leader contrary to the position of another top chieftain of the party, Chief Olabode George that the South-West should produce the candidate for the plum position.
George, supported by other leading chieftains of the party including Chief Ebenezer Babatope, former governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, Senator Bode Olajumoke, and Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe had insisted that it should be the turn of the South-west to produce the national chairman at the party’s forthcoming convention, being the only geo-political zone that is yet to produce a candidate for the office of national chairman since 1999.
However, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Senator Buruji Kashamu are leading some other PDP members from the South-west who are insisting that the North should produce the candidate for the chairmanship position. Not only that, they are boldly canvassing that the present Acting National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff should be confirmed the party’s substantive national chairman. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, Oyedokun explains his position. He also talked on other issues affecting PDP, and the nation. Excerpts:
CONTRARY to expectations that as a member of PDP Board of Trustees, former Deputy National Chairman of the party, and an elder from the south-west that you’re opposed to the position taken by other elders from the zone led by Chief Olabode George that the South-west geo-political zone should produce the candidate for the office of the party’s national chairman at the forthcoming convention of the PDP, why did you oppose George and other elders?
It is good that Nigerians should know the truth over this issue especially our people, the Yorubas in the South-west. I’m very close to Bode George and these other elders that you have mentioned.
One thing about me is that I’m a man of principle. I will always stand for the truth, and I will never compromise the interests of my people. George and others know this as well.
Concerning the issue of whether South-west should have it or not, George and others are not sincere. Most of them are selfish and they nurse personal interests over that position.
It is not that George is not qualified to contest for the position, he is eminently qualified, but it is not in Yoruba and PDP interest for him to contest. I’m equally qualified to contest but because of the larger interests of Yorubas and PDP as a party I won’t do so.
After a careful consideration, and thinking about the long term interests of the south-west, and the general interests of PDP, I realized that it is better for the South-west candidates to shelve their ambition for now. For PDP to bounce back stronger, and for the party to pose a serious threat to APC, a candidate from the N‑orth is better placed to lead the party for now, and I believe Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has the guts, resources, intelligence, aura and charisma to rebuild PDP into a formidable party again.
A northerner, President Muhammadu Buhari is heading the government now, therefore it will serve the interests of PDP better to have somebody from that zone to lead the party for now, to make it more stronger, and acceptable again to the northerners.
But many PDP top chieftains especially from the south-west are not looking at the issue that way, they felt you are compromising the interests of the zone …
(cuts in …) I will never compromise the interests of the south-west. We elders in the party have to think and behave like elders. We have to think of both now and the future.
It is in our interests to protect the cause of the south-west both now and in the future. In actual fact, the decision to support Sheriff’s continuity in office, and jettison the South-west’s interest in the post of PDP national chairman was not unilaterally taken. It was a decision collectively taken at PDP south-west zonal executive meeting.
This meeting was officially sanctioned by the party leadership, whereas the meeting held by Bode George and his group in Lagos was convened by George and few others.
Again, when the decision by the PDP south-west zonal executive was taken, I took pains to call George who was abroad then, but he didn’t pick my calls, and even when he returned to Nigeria, as a leader, one would have thought that he would have found out why such position was taken – instead of addressing press conference to castigate the position taken by PDP south-west zonal executive.
Some believe that the PDP south-west zonal executive is just a mere rubber stamp to carry out the wish of Governor Fayose, to help him perfect his own political agenda, same goes for Buruji Kashamu, some people believe that these two individuals have pocketed PDP south-west zonal executive including some leaders like you, to what extent do you agree with these assertions?
They are wrong assertions, and those claims are unfounded. Do you know how long I have been in politics?
I’m a man of integrity, and I have a name to protect. I have held several public offices. I was a former Secretary to the state government in Old Oyo State, I was a former Deputy National Chairman of PDP and a member of PDP Board of Trustees. I’m also the Chairman, PDP Elders Committee in Osun State. In all these positions I have never been found wanting.
I challenge anybody to go and conduct private investigations as to whether I have been bought by anybody or sold out. Never. Again I say, never.
For emphasis sake, let me restate again benefits that will accrue to the south-west if we forego the position of the PDP national chairman for now. Let me first puncture that argument that is being held by some people that the national chairmanship position of PDP had stayed for too long in the North.
Since only one geo-political zone of the North does not actually constitute the entire north, facts have revealed that it is the north central geo-political zone that had been holding the position. North-West and North-East zones have not been that lucky to hold the position.
Again, the gap between now, and when PDP will determine its presidential flag bearer is still long, so why not pick a northerner to lead the party? I strongly believe that by the time the party will be picking its presidential flagbearer for the next general election, the post of national chairman will move back to the south. This is imperative because since it is most likely that the party’s presidential candidate will come from the north, it naturally follows that the chairman comes from south. We should canvass for a stronger representation in the party’s National Working Committee, NWC. We should have at least three slots out of the 12 members of the committee.
For instance, if the south-west gets the positions of national secretary, national auditor and national publicity secretary of the party, the quality of these positions surpassed that of the national chairman.
Instead of fighting for the party’s chairmanship position, I believe we should for now lobby for more powerful positions in the party’s exco, so that we can have powerful voices in the party. I also believe that we elders should allow the young ones to play prominent role in the party. We should be grooming younger elements with a view to preparing them for bigger challenges.
What is the relationship between you and Chief Bode George?
By nature, we have different approaches to issues, but at the end of the day, we come together to agree on a common position.
Bode George has been in politics for a long time just like myself. We have mutual respect for one another – there has never been any confrontation between us. His close friend, Ebenezer Babatope is also very close to me. We will not allow politics to divide us. I handed over to George as Deputy National Chairman of PDP after completing my term.
On your alleged romances with Fayose, Buruji Kasamu and Sheriff …?
(Cuts in) Which romance? That’s propaganda for you, people or let me say your opponents make allegations which they can’t prove.
I had never had any meeting with Fayose and Kashamu except meetings featuring PDP members, that’s party meetings. I have never met any of them one on one. I supported Fayose and Kashamu because their position is in the best interest of the south-west. I also share their belief that elders in PDP should give room for younger elements to play prominent roles in the affairs of the party.
As for Sheriff, I have met him only once in my life, and that was the day he came to PDP national secretariat for his inauguration as the acting national chairman of the party. But I still strongly believe that for now Sheriff is the best candidate to lead the party, and that’s why I’m supporting him.
But there has been a lot of controversy over Sheriff …?
(Cuts in …) Let me tell you in politics, even if you bring Pope to come and contest, people will speak against him, they will fabricate stories against him. Don’t forget that even God that created us, people used to murmur against him. We should change the way we play our politics. We should adopt a new approach in politics, we should jettison the politics of pull him down syndrome. It will not take us anywhere.
Fears are being expressed that this issue may polarize the party especially in the south-west, do you nurse such fears?
In politics, you disagree to agree. It is normal that we have differences, but like members of the same family, we are working to resolve the differences, and I believe the party will come out better for it.
Where do you see PDP in the next years?
I see PDP bouncing back. I see PDP coming back to power in 2019. We are rebuilding now. We are correcting our weaknesses. We are still loved by the people. Being in opposition now has enabled us to have another view of life. PDP will not die. It will bounce back.
APC should not underrate PDP. In the last one year that APC has been in power, what has the party done that is extraordinary? Nigerians are still yearning for dividends of democracy.