By Chinelo Obogo
Osita Chidoka was a former Minister of Aviation, and Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). He speaks on the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and how the government can tackle the economic recession among other issues.
The Appeal Court gave a judgment regarding the leadership tussle in the PDP which seemed to have further divided the party. Do you think that your party will survive this crisis?
Actually, I have not seen the judgment, so I am waiting for more information before making any conclusions. As it stands, I really do not know what the details of the judgement are so I cannot make any informed comment. I would want to study the details to know the reason and the logic behind the judgment to understand what the issues are. I really cannot comment based on one line of judgement.
What would you say is the problem of the PDP, and can you honestly say that it has conducted itself as an alternative platform that Nigerians can look up to and vote for in subsequent elections?
PDP is suffering from the effect of the loss of an institution that since its inception has been in power, and this is its first time outside of power. It was in power for 16 years and has no history of being an independent opposition party. It also has no history of working outside of the government.
It would take some time for them to find a new equilibrium.
Do you think that the party made a mistake in the first place by allowing Sheriff, who was a founding member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to emerge as its acting chairman?
I wills say that what has happened in the PDP so far is that because our internal processes has been stunted during out time in government. The president, vice president, governors and other chieftains were always in charge of the decision making of the party, so to have a decision making process without these offices is now proving difficult. So, the institutions of the party are just coming back to life, devoid of executive control. So, whatever choices we make and whatever we do in the process is influenced by the absence of an internal mechanism.
One your senators have suggested that the party should adopt Sheriff so that it can plan a convention where executive members would be elected. The Senator said that if the party insists on going to court, it would only be heading towards destruction. Do you agree with this assertion?
I did not read the Senators statement and neither have I read the court judgement, so I cannot make any informed decision. However, the most important thing in a democracy is for court judgements to be respected. It is either we accept the judgement or we appeal. As a political party, we can also have political solutions to our problems that may not be fully legal.
Are you not apprehensive that more prominent members of your party would eventually defect because of the wrangling?
Those who want to defect would defect whether there is wrangling or not. There are those who joined the PDP because it was the party in power, such people would eventually go to the next party in power. There are those who agree with the fundamental principles of the PDP and such people will remain to weather the storm.
What are those fundamental principles?
PDP has the ideologies of that encourages the national strategy of inclusiveness; a free market economy and a modern technocratic form of governance that allows for dialogue. These are the hallmarks of the PDP. In terms of inclusiveness, PDP gave every part of the country a sense of belonging when it came up with the idea of zoning. PDP built the institutions that are driving the economy today. It encouraged the free market unlike the All Progressives Congress (APC) which is still debating whether to allow the naira to float or not. The strategies used by this government are outside of the free market. The government is still talking about a prohibiting the importation of goods, having new national airline and shipping line, which is taking us back to where the PDP moved the country away from.
With respect to banning of some imports, the reason being given is that the country is import dependent, and because of that, it put a lot of pressure on the naira which accounts for its free fall. Do you agree?
If they say that banning imports would strengthen the naira, then why was the ban reversed? In a free market, when you go to buy yams, you can’t tell how many yams are in the market, so you price it according to supply and demand. If tomorrow you are told that there are only 100 yams remaining in the market, I am sure you know that there would be stampeded. Or if you are told that a bank is folding up, there would be panic withdrawal of funds from the bank. The main purpose of a free market is to use pricing to achieve economic goals, and then allow the forces of demand and supply to determine the rate with which people procure dollars. If you feel that there is distortion in terms of subsidy on the dollars, then you allow it to float to force for local production. It is not that simple, but I am just saying that there must be a philosophical framework for development policies. We should not be reacting only when there is an absence of one thing or the other. There must be a consistent policy because investing in an economy requires confidence and that confidence can only come about when people know that there is a consistent policy. It must not have to be the PDP-type of policy, but they should have their own policy which would be captured in a philosophical framework that people can predict with confidence where the country would be in five or ten years.
Would you then say that the problem of the government is the calibre of people in the cabinet or its policies?
I would not want to go into the issue of the capability of those in government because Nigerians voted for them. What I would rather say is that the policies of the government are not clear to me. When I understand the government’s philosophical leaning, then we can be able to evaluate their outcome based their goals. For now, the goal of the government is not clear.
Petroleum marketers recently said that subsidy is back in full force despite the fact that Nigerians are buying petrol at the rate of n145 per litre….
This is because the naira has been devalued. If the government had allowed the price of petrol to float, then the market would begin to self correct itself and the government can then intervene and say we want to reduce the price by doing xyz. If that happens, it would be a clear intervention with clear rules that all the players in the industry would understand.
The layman on the streets may not understand the concept of floating the naira and the market seller would attribute the high cost of even products produced in the country to the fluctuation of the naira…(cuts in)
When you go to the market to buy goods, there are no fixed prices because the market only reacts to the forces of demand and supply. When tomatoes were scarce, the cost of buying tomatoes went up. When there was abundance of tomatoes, have you heard anyone complaining about the high cost again?
There are still products produced in the country that has increased in prices drastically. How has the fluctuations of the naira affected them?
If it has foreign inputs like fertiliser and the price of fertiliser has gone up, or it has input like tractors, and the farmer pays money to lease a tractor, definitely, it would affect the cost of local production.
Would you contest for Anambra governorship?
When the time is right, I would let the public know if I am contesting or not.