From Samuel Bello, Abuja
Chairman emeritus of DAAR Communications Plc, owners of AIT, Ray Power and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), High Chief Raymond Dokpesi in this interview spoke on happenings in PDP and his view on the nation’s state of affairs.
The non elective convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) just took place and it was successful, how did you manage to secure the crowd or did you earn crowd?
I must say that it is on record that the only party that has its root throughout the country is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the PDP has a structure in every village in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also in diaspora, people that were enthusiastic came in for the rebirth of the PDP from the length and breadth of the country. What you saw at the Eagle square was just a very small percentage of the members that still exists. PDP is a strong and well funded party, and the only party that has grown its membership right from the inception in 1998. I was therefore not surprised to find each of the local government chapters, each of the wards sending in their representatives to attend the event.
I think that we must have had something close to about 4000 to 5000 delegates that came in from each of the wards to attend the convention. PDP don’t need to rent crowd, because there is no village you enter that you would not find PDP members, there are no families in Nigeria today that you would not find PDP members amongst them, so definitely there was no need for us renting any crowd, people came voluntarily.
They have experienced a lot of pains in the last two years, in the hands of those that got into power. I did not vote for them, so I do not believe they won the elections but they are there in power, they continue to cheat Nigerians as if Nigerians are inconsequential in the implementation of their policies. Nigerians are hungry and frustrated; and as such are now desirous of having a change.
Is the party not going to go back to the overbearing influence of political heavyweights within it?
Let me say that in a gathering like the recent convention, there is no way we could do away with the representatives of various groups. I remembered coming into Wadata house during one of the strategic planning meetings for the convention, when we were looking at the programme of events to decide whether we should have representatives of this group, that group or the other group coming in to speak or not. Yet we wanted a concise convention. It was a one agenda convention; you will see the type of changes that are coming up. The Strategy Review and Inter-party committee was setup by the Makarfi caretaker committee to look at the whole PDP structure. The report has been submitted.
I can assure you that you are going to also have the forum of common members of the (PDP), I proposed it jokingly during that discussion but what we are looking at right now is to have those that have represented the party at various levels, coming together to say we are all together, we are all committed to the rebirth of PDP, we are all committed to the uplifting PDP, and we are ready to battle any opposition party to ensure the reinstatement of a PDP Federal Government in 2019.
As time goes on, we will see representatives of the farmers, we will see the representatives of the hunters, we will see those of us that are common members of the party also giving their place of attention. If all the groups had spoken during the convention, we would not have left the Eagle square that early on the day.
I apologize for whoever may have wanted to speak and didn’t get the opportunity to speak, but definitely the rebranded PDP has rule and has space and recognition for all those other persons.
The Caretaker chairman, Alhaji Makarfi said there were five attempts to stop the convention. How do you react to this?
What he referred to was that various people went to court to try to stop the convention either because delegates had problems in their states so they felt they wanted to be at the convention and they believe that maybe they belonged to one group or they supported Sheriff formerly, they lost out in that battle in their states and wanted to still be at the convention so in order not to get the other group having an upper hand, decided to go to court. But that is also contrary to the provision of the constitution of the PDP, you have to explore all avenues of internal resolution before you resort to court, it is the type of impunity we say we want to curb and put to an end to. And thank God the judiciary did not grant those requests.
With your link with APDA, will anybody be wrong to accuse you of anti-party activities?
Well, it depends on the perspective from which you want to look at it, the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) as it was finally registered is a contribution of Raymond Dokpesi to the sustenance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but that effort to contribute to ensuring that there was stability and that the members of the PDP were not frustrated with whatever the outcome of the decision of the Supreme Court was not done in isolation, it was done with the knowledge.
I reported to everybody that mattered in the PDP, whether it was the Governors Forum, whether it was the Board of Trustees chairman, whether it was Caretaker, whether it was the conference of zonal chairman, everybody was carried along and was informed about the formation of this party as a platform that was going to stand willing and ready to be able to ensure that the values for which the PDP were setup, that the vision of the founding fathers are sustained and were able to go through all of them.
There were also those who left the PDP, who wanted to come back, but their ego would not allow them and they are looking for soft landing, therefore, the concept of APDA has a melting point for everybody. It was developed, I saw the rationale behind it, I supported and spearheaded it, but there was nobody that was in doubt, there was no victim that was held, that I did state emphatically and clearly that I am an unrepentant member of the PDP and I am committed to the Makarfi group and that everything that I do, is a plan B for the Makarfi group, I did that.
Some people may not have agreed with it, some people may have embraced it wholeheartedly but the truth of the matter is that whether you agree or disagree, you would not say you were not informed if you were in a position to really know and we continued in that form. In developing APDA, you allowed Nigerians of all walks of life to come in and join, whether people from Labour Party or other political parties, whether they are people that were politically not aligned before, all of them expressed interest in being members of APDA and we setup all that was necessary for them to be able to come in, but as far as the APDA is concerned, I own up quite fully that I was 99.999 percent responsible for its formation, for its registration, for its funding and its existence of this moment before a few decedents started misbehaving.
What would PDP have done better that APC is not doing now?
Everything that APC has done, some of us came out very clearly, to say we were in this country from 1983 December to 1985 when General Babangida overthrew Buhari and we saw decisions that were taken, we saw the governance and based on that, believing very fairly that a chameleon cannot change its skin, say there would be nothing different, we are going to get exactly what we got then, it is going to be the same style, it is going to be the same shortcomings, because this man appears not to understand economics at all.
Nigeria has not been so divided like it is today, Niger Delta people are giving October 1st date as deadline, the youths from the north also are calling for whatever, it has never happened in the history of Nigeria, have we been in this type of confusion and mess and instability before? Never has the ordinary man been so hungry and frustrated. Both the rich, the middle class and the poor cannot afford to pay their children school fees, I have not seen the whole world progressing.
The PDP government that we had in 16years as human institution must have made mistakes, that is why they were given an opportunity to come in, so it is not a time for excuses and so on, it is a time of taking cognizance of all the mistakes we said the PDP made and they will have started correcting them and I would have been the first person to acknowledge the fact that, ‘this is good,’ but there is no step, I have not seen any achievement in any area that is acceptable and good, the number of millions of youths that come out and are unemployed, are growing by the day, jobs are not created.
I am not asking government to create the jobs but provide the enabling environment, recharge the route, redirect them. I am not a broadcaster, but I was educated, so I can apply and adapt myself to whatever is available, it is possible to also readapt. We all depended on crude oil for our development over the years, the oil was developed, now they are going to the vehicles in the United Kingdom (UK), in France, Western Germany, but these people are already giving date that between the next 10 years and next 20 years, they will stop the usage of these vehicles, yet we do not know how to produce spoke of a bicycle.
Minister of Science and Technology told us that we shall start producing pencils in 2019 or 2020, the economy is not diversified; it is only lip service. Yes it is possible to achieve all these in two years but the foundation must be seen to have been properly laid.
Some of us have continuously said that ‘yes the PDP may have failed to make sure that Ajaokuta was retrieved and Ajaokuta is made functional as the basis for our industrial development,’ to be able to create employment, to be able to get our youths readapted, but when you come in and you are still repeating what you found on the ground, then you are only looking for power, you are not ready to achieve any transformation of the systems and processes that were established before you came in.
The PDP in the strategy review committee have said that we are sorry to Nigerians for the mistakes that we made along the line, it was good that this thing happened, although painful that it happened to us, it has enabled us to seat back and reflect and they have been reflecting and they will continue reflecting until power is giving back to them in 2019.
And I can assure Nigerians that it will never be the same again. I can assure Nigerians that the problems and challenges, whether it is the foreign exchange, whether it is in industrial development, whether it is in employment for the youths, whether it is in health care, will be overcome.