Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, has said that any plan to form a Third Force for the 2023 general elections will be dead on arrival.
Ologbondiyan told Sunday Sun in an interview that the alleged failures of the APC-led Federal Government will make it very easy for opposition party to regain control of the reins of power in the country.
The PDP spokesman, who also spoke on the chances of the party in the Southeast in the next general elections, the crisis in state chapters of the party in the Southwest, noted that the recent defection of the Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, to the ruling party will not affect the fortunes of the opposition in the state. Excerpts:
The PDP is enmeshed in a leadership crisis in the Southwest zone, with the party torn between Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, and former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose. Besides, almost all state chapters of the party in the zone are in crisis…?
(Cuts in) It is not too much of a challenge for us in the PDP. What happened in the case of the Southwest that you are talking about is just a misunderstanding of process between former Governor Fayose and Governor Makinde. And don’t forget, Fayose and Makinde have personal relationship. I think whatever is happening politically will be put behind them. We don’t consider that as a challenge of leadership. We don’t see that as a political crisis, at all. And I am just been honest with you.
But most of the state chapters in the Southwest are in crisis?
I will give you examples. In Lagos, it is more like a peace of the graveyard, with the leaders accusing the national leadership of creating crisis in the state. In Ogun, the intra-party crisis is still raging. In Ekiti, Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi are at dagger drawn and you said there is no crisis?
What you consider as crisis, I can say are media creation. I can say so; because, the people you are talking about, outside what you see in the media, they are relating. That is why we believe that at the appointed time, perfect reconciliation will be done and things will move smoothly. We have done congress in Lagos; it is not in contest. We have done congress in Ogun, it is not in contest. In Ekiti, there is a conflict of interest, within the party between Governor Fayose and Senator Olujimi. I can clearly say that Governor Fayose and Senator Olujimi are the same side of a coin. I believe, and the party also believes that within time, that also will be harmonised. In Osun, we did not change the existing structure of the party. There were complaints against the then chairman, Hon. Adagunodo.This was investigated at the NWC. And we discovered that there was somewhat loss of confidence. And we sat down with Adagunodo and he accepted, without any force from anywhere, that he was ready to go. He was ready to leave. While he said that he was bringing his resignation letter to the party, which he agreed to by himself, not under any form of influence, he now went to court against the party. That is where we are. In Ondo State, we don’t have any crisis. In Oyo, there is no crisis. We have some contestations in certain states over certain interests. But it does not mean that in totality we are in crisis.
The PDP seems to be losing ground in the Southeast, from controlling five states, you now control only two states, with the defection of Governor Dave Umahi?
You see having a governor in a state confers an advantage. But are you saying that when PDP defeated the sitting governor in Bauchi that the APC had no governor? It doesn’t follow. In Ebonyi, where you are talking about Governor Umahi, the people have not shifted their support for the PDP. As we are speaking, the leaders of our party in Ebonyi State are still intact. We have lost nothing . In the entire Southeast, even in Imo where our governorship was taken through the court, the people are still standing with the PDP and they are waxing strong by the day. So, for us, when you say “oh, you have lost ground, “ which ground? Power resides with the people and at every election, they will showcase it. And we believe that the people of the Southeast- the educated, egalitarian, independent minded people of Southeast are with the PDP. So, we have nothing to fear. We have nothing to worry about.
In the aftermath of Umahi defection, the NWC dissolved the party’s structures in Ebonyi State. And members of the dissolved executives are insisting that they have not served out their tenures. What is the basis for that decision. Is it constitutional?
The decision was taken on the basis that Governor Dave Umahi, for whom the APC has already dissolved its structure in Ebonyi, cannot at the same time retain control of the structure of the PDP, which he has left and even burnt the bridge behind him. Every action we have taken so far is constitutional. The NWC acted on behalf of NEC. And NEC has ratified that decision. Everything that we have done is within our constitution. And you know we cannot stop them from challenging our actions. But our constitution is on our side.
Isn’t this a recipe for crisis in the Ebonyi chapter?
No. The people of Ebonyi State that are members of the PDP were the ones that nominated people for the caretaker committee. The NWC didn’t act on its own. No. The only thing is that we have taken the structure away from the man who had left the party and we are returning it to the people to select or elect their leaders. That is where we are. Or you want Governor Umahi to hold the APC structure on the left and hold the PDP structure on the right? That would be unfair and that would amount to absurdity.
The reason advanced by Governor Umahi for dumping the party was that the PDP has been unfair to the Southeast and that the party should make categorical statement on the zoning of its 2023 presidential ticket…
(Cuts in) When did he discover this? He knows it that this is not the way the party runs. We believe, except now that he has joined the APC, that he is politically savvy enough to know that that is not the way the party runs. Is it because President Muhammadu Buhari has not been able to carry out the responsibility of his office and three clear years ahead of election, we are already fighting over candidature? Is that why anybody can think that party can be blackmailed and enforced and stampeded to take decision without consultations?
Recently , top shots in the PDP have been defecting to the APC. First, it was former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, now Governor Dave Umahi and there are talks of two or more of your governors on their way out of the party…?
There is no governor that is leaving the party. That is the belief of the PDP. We also believe in the PDP, that we will continue to reconcile our members and our leaders, in order to continue to hold a united front. The PDP is an institution. It is not a matter of convenience for people to say “oh if I leave the party, the party is dead “. It is a lie. It is totally incorrect. And that is what Governor Umahi is suffering today. Governor Umahi thought that if he left the party, the party will crash. The party will be in shambles. People will follow him. Did you watch his official decamping? Did you find any notable Southeast member of our party standing with him? Did you? He has discovered he is standing alone. Nobody is with him. You know the names in the PDP in Ebonyi State, did you find them going with him to the APC? You know the names in PDP in the Southeast, did you find them going with him to the APC? That is why we said in the PDP that he acted for personal reasons and that at the fullness of time, Nigerians will know what his reasons are. He did not act in the interest of the Southeast. And he should not try blackmail our party.
How prepared is PDP for 2023?
We are very prepared. Nigerians have discovered that they were beguiled. Nigerians have discovered that they were misled. Nigerians have discovered that APC has no plan, even for itself. A party that is five years old going to six years, it has no board of trustees. It has no group that acts as its conscience, that is the meaning. It is a party that is dependent on an individual. And Nigerians have realised that it is just a business enterprise of two persons, whose purpose was to grab power. After grabbing the power, they don’t know what to do with it. They have no plans. Look at the way Nigerians are suffering. Our country has become almost bankrupt, because of planlessness, in the last five years. Look at the insecurity, that they said the General was coming to reduce. Look at where we are today. Bandits have taken over, kidnappers have taken over. Traveling from Abuja to Kaduna is a problem. So, Nigerians know already that Nigeria is better with the PDP.
Some persons think that it should be neither PDP nor APC in 2023?
They are those who have lost out in the APC. The other leg of the enterprise. Who have discovered that there is no way any longer. Who are being frustrated. We are already thinking that “oh, we can do a repeat of what we did in 2014, by breaking the various parties and forming a central one “. What they need to know is that Nigerians have gone beyond that stage. Nigerians have come to accept two major parties. And our own party is impregnable. So, those, who are working on the Third Force should better go and sit down and have a rethink.