Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Ebenezer Babatope has said that with the unfolding political developments in the country, the party must gird its loins effectively or be destroyed.
Babatope said that though the PDP is the major opposition party in the country, it has not been able to provide an effective opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Therefore, the party leader, who was Minister of Transport during the General Sani Abacha administration, wants the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, to get his acts together to lead the party to play its role effectively in the polity.
In this interview, Babatope, also bared his mind on the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government. Excerpt:
What is your assessment of the state of the country under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration?
Very bad under this administration; we are now tending towards full blown dictatorship under this administration and it is very bad. Full-blown dictatorship under Buhari. And it is a pity. Buhari is my age group, I have some sentimental attachment to him. He is one month older than myself, but we are in the same age group. We are both going to 77 years now. So, I want him to succeed. We don’t belong to the same party. I belong to the PDP. But I have that sentiment that he is of my generation. So, I want him to succeed. But we are tending towards full-blown dictatorship under Buhari.
Can you throw more light on that?
What happened to Omoyele Sowore is full-blown dictatorship. The man was released by the court and asked to go, 20 hours later, they arrested him inside the court. It is a very terrible affair.
The National Assembly is talking about introducing a bill to control the social media, do you think that the bill is necessary?
I wish them the best of luck. They are going to destroy themselves by that bill. I am sure they are going to abandon it. But if they don’t abandon it, they are going to destroy themselves.
There have been uproar about former governors who served for at most eight years, getting pension for life…
All I can say to all of them is to wish them best of luck. They are drawing money, getting cars. It is a terrible thing. I hope we don’t blow ourselves up one of these days because what is happening is frightening. It is very alarming.
The government is seeking the approval of the National Assembly to get fresh $22.7 billion loan, what does that portend for the country?
It is a terrible thing. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo released us from the debt burden. Obasanjo was able to free us from the debt burden. But now we are returning to it. I don’t know what one can say about that. If we return back to the debt situation, we are handing our country off.
How would you assess the current National Assembly, do you see them as capable as in providing the needed check to the executive arm of government?
I hope they are able to do so. But from the look of things, I doubt if they can accomplish that task, especially the Senate. From the utterances of the Senate President, I don’t see anything that will make us think that we have reached the Eldorado of our dream.
The APC said that the PDP is not giving the needed opposition, do you agree with the ruling party?
Well, they can arrive at any conclusion of their choice, but I must confess that the PDP is not offering effective opposition. No, we are not. That is the truth. We are not. I hope that eventually, we are going to change, Uche Secondus (PDP national chairman) should change gear and lead the PDP to give effective opposition; we are not playing it. It is correct, if they say we are not able to do so. I hope eventually one day, we will be able to play that role.
What exactly did you expect the party leadership to do that they are not doing?
I tell you the loss of Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections is something that cannot make one to be happy. And if we are not careful, if we will lose the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, then the country has had it.
Few days ago, a former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George accused the national chairman, Uche Secondus of highhandedness in the handling of party affairs, especially as it relates to the Lagos PDP, and recently former Jigawa governor, Sule Lamido accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of trading off Bayelsa State, what does all these disagreements portend for the party?
It doesn’t speak well of our party. Olabode George was correct. Look at what they have done in Lagos. They have installed mediocrity in Lagos. They have installed mediocrity and they are playing the game that mediocre can now have the day. Bode George was correct. I hope Uche Secondus can learn very fast and correct all these things, so that we can play effective role in the country and give the country a virile opposition.
In order words, you agree that Secondus is being highhanded in administering the party?
Well, I am not going to say that. But I am going to say that Bode George was correct to say that Secondus has not been able to play the game well. The loss of Kogi and Bayelsa is something, which is not helping the situation at all. It is something, which is very baffling to the mind; something which is offensive to the ear; something that can make somebody to cry. That is why I am worried if we don’t tighten our belts and ensure we win the coming elections in Ondo State, and also Edo State, then we are in for it in this country.
How would you react to Sule Lamido accusation against former President Jonathan?
I think we should be very careful about that. I don’t think Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will just sign off Bayelsa and say we should lose there. We must examine the issue very clearly. Seriake Dickson is a young man I like very much. And he has been playing the game very well. I want us to be very careful. Jonathan cannot just sign the state away. We should find ways and means we can reconcile all these things and make sure that we bring them together so that we can face the future with hope and with courage.
Your party caucus in the House of Representatives has been crisis-ridden since the inception of this Assembly, and the leadership has not been able to resolve it…
It portends very badly for all of us. I think Secondus should ensure that we support Elumelu. And ensure that he succeeds. He is doing very well there. Why is anybody raising any opposition of any kind against him? Let’s ensure that we support him. I want to appeal to Uche Secondus, he should let us support Elumelu and to ensure Elumelu leads us to the Promised Land. We should not jump the gun. And we should not do things in a way that will frustrate the efforts of Elumelu in the House. He is doing very well.
After the verdict of the Supreme Court on the presidential poll, one is surprised that the party has not called a NEC meeting to take an overview of these issues and chart the way forward for the party?
They have to be careful so that they don’t call a NEC that will break the party. I agree with Uche Secondus that we should take our time so that they will not break the party. We should systematically work towards rectifying all abnormally within the party and ensure that the party is put in proper perspective before they can call for a NEC meeting. I can’t blame Uche Secondus for that. We should be very careful, so that we don’t have issues.
Does that mean there are discontents within the party?
A party will not be a party without some level of discontents. All I know is that if we bid our time very well and then we play the game very well, we are going to surmount all the difficulties and ensure that we move ahead positively to embrace progress and success in all we do.
Are you not bothered that some state chapters of your party particularly in the Southwest are in crises?
We are going to be okay. I have no fear about that. Luckily we have a governor in Oyo State, who is level headed, I am talking about Seyi Makinde, who is going to achieve something for the party. What we should do in the Southwest is to make sure that we support Seyi Makinde leadership and ensure that no force on earth pulls him off. When we do that then we are preparing the ground for the party to move ahead and ensure that we have peace. And with the way the Buhari administration is going, unless the PDP guards its loins, unless the PDP puts itself together, we are going to be destroyed.