From Mariam Aleshinloye Agboola, Jos
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State has been quiet for sometime. But now that aspirants are warming up for the electiion of new executive officers, members are optimistic that the party would come out stronger and spring a surprise in 2019. According to the State Organizing Secretary, Mike Dachom, those who petrayed the PDP in the run up to the last elections are now regretting their action, as it is now apparent that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government is at a loss. In this interview with Sunday Sun, he said the party had lost touch with the people.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the Plateau seems to have died with its governorship candidate, the late Senator GNS Pwajok. Why is it so?
It is not that the party is dead in the state but we have decided to go back to the drawing board and see how we can salvage it; create hope and opportunity for our teeming supporters; including those that have never been in the party. The past one year has been eventful for the party because more or less it was more of soul searching. We needed to know what went wrong. Now we have been able to get a direction for the party.
We must agree that our losing out at the tribunal and the eventual death of our governorship candidate, Senator GNS Pwajok really affected us. That, coupled with the winding down of the tenure of the executive council which was expected to have been replaced through congress between February and March is also a factor. It was the NEC that extended the tenure of all the executive councils in the country by postponing the congresses of the party; thus keeping us in office till now. The focus has been more on the elections.
The decision of the chairman of the party in the state, Dr. Haruna Dabin to contest also led to the quietness of the party. When he left, the deputy chairman stepped in and because of the depletion we had in the working committee and looking at the time that will be needed to fill in those vacant posts and seeing that the tenure was almost coming to an end, we decided to wait for the congresses to usher in a complete sewt of new persons. This was what made it look as if PDP was dead on the Plateau. The party is now well positioned and we are coming back very strong.
Plateau State never had any party other than PDP right from 1999 until 2015 when it was defeated. But then, apart from the governorship, PDP still has structure right from the State House of Assembly to the House of Representatives and the Senate. In both the state and Senate, there is nothing the All Progressive Congress (APC) can do without the PDP. It needs the party to get the two third of the votes. Though we lost a couple of seats in Plateau House of Assembly, which is not very encouraging; it is still a balanced house for us.
How prepared is the party for the congress?
We are fully prepared for the congresses which will start from the 23rd of April. This will be the first time we will be going for our congresses in Plateau state without a governor in place. This means that the challenge will be more because everybody will want to get whatever position he is vying for. In the PDP constitution, there are provisions for zoning and for consensus. We are trying to see how we are going to abide by those provisions. When we used to have congresses with a governor in place, the governors had always intervened because it was impossible to please everybody. In politics, the minority will always have their say and the majority has their way. This time around, we are not going to have any governor intervening. If we do not go back to the provisions in our constitution, we may not be able to come up with very credible representations. Right from time, the provisions have been there, but we do not seem to go by them. It was the attempt to go outside the rules that we got us into having those clashes of interest, which led to the problems within the party. People always say PDP does not have internal democracy and we hope the congresses will put an end to that.
So far there are those that have indicated interest for some of the key positions, especially for the chairmanship position in the state and it happens that all those interested are from the northern zone. This means that the natural zoning has already taken place. Nobody has indicated interest from the other two zones. Those interested in other positions are silent for now because the most important position is the chairman. If we get the head right, we shall certainly get the other positions right.
Is it true that the party has endorsed a candidate from among those vying for positions?
That is not true. If you notice it, what PDP is doing at the national level is that it is trying to woo back all the governors that have served under the party from 2007 till date. We are trying to keep whatever had happened in the past behind us so that we can focus on the congresses. On the Plateau, we are trying to do same. We must certainly reach out because virtually all the PDP members were either wronged or had wronged somebody. If one refuses to forgive whosoever has wronged him, it means that person is planning to destroy the House.
We have provision and procedures for punishing whosoever did wrong at any level if there are evidences. But these are areas we are handicap because some of these issues have to come from the units. Every politician belongs to a particular polling unit and whatever crime he has committed has to come from the polling unit and if those within the unit could not raise such observations either at the ward or at the local government level, it will be difficult for the other organs of the party in the state to start sanctioning.
What lessons has PDP learnt and how will it guide you in future elections?
We have learnt big lessons from the election. Even some of those people that went and did anti party activities are now being haunted by what they did and are even agitating for positions within the party. People are even asking these people questions that ‘you know what you did and we know you did it and now you want to come back and contest for elective position in the party’. What you may see coming out of these congresses is that people who actually went and did anti party activities, during the election will not go unpunished by the party men themselves.
Even if we decide to clear everybody at the state level, the people knew what has happened and will do the needful.
This is because if anybody who has done anti party activity eventually emerges as a leader, it will create room for another person to do the same next time and there will be no basis to challenge such a person.
We have been able to identify those members who did anti party activities during election but we do not have substantial evidence to nail them or punish them. We have learnt a big lesson from the last election and I believe we will not see a repeat of it. We will surely overcome those challenges; more so that our build up is coming two years before 2019.
You said people who did antiparty activities are now regretting it, so what are their reasons; did they not get what they wanted from the APC?
Part of their regret is that the present government did not offer them any alternative better than what PDP gave them. So it was even better for them to remain in the PDP. This is a government that cannot even help itself not to talk of helping others.
There are even agitations from the APC members that we should please, just hold this party (PDP) for them as they are coming back. That tells you that so many things are wrong with the government.
While we do not want to join issues with the present government, things are there for people to judge. For a government that is well focused, in the first one year, one must see what it has for the people. From what is happening, it is not certain this government has communicators that could truly communicate to the people what it intends to do for them and tell the government what the people expect from it. This government seems to be at a loss. Even looking at the budget at the federal level, it calls for serious worry.
However, PDP as we are today has to ask Nigerians to forgive us. I think God made us lose election for a purpose. Now we have pursed, have look at what happened and find out why we could not get it right. Certainly in 2019, it will be a different ball game.
What is your take on the emergence of Ali Modu Sheriff as the PDP national chairman that generated a lot of tension?
I do not know whether you have not noticed that there is some level of stability within the party now. Where is the tension now? When people first heard about him, a lot of questions were asked about his background. You should know that Ali Modu Sheriff had never been in PDP and PDP has never won Borno State. Right from inception, Borno State has always been in the opposition party. This man was received in PDP towards the end of Jonathan’s administration in 2014.
He participated in all the elections that took place in 2015. The party decided to give the national leadership to him because he is an unknown man in the PDP. Sheriff, was part of ANPP, he was founding father of CPC and financed the parties during the ANPP and CPC era.
Now he decided to dump the APC for the PDP. As someone you never dined with, it is difficult to preempt his way of thinking.
It was a good strategy for PDP to bring him in. If we had brought in somebody within the PDP, within those 16 years of PDP existence, he should have done something wrong that people will now be reminding him of now. Even if Sheriff had done something wrong, it was in another party and it would be difficult for anybody to work up to Sheriff in the PDP to challenge him.