From Gyang Bere, Jos
Former member of the House of Representatives and former speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly, George Daika, in this interview said with President Muhammadu Buhari running on the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have an easy ride to the villa next year. This is even as he described the Plateau state governor a failure.
The PDP has concluded its National Convention, what are your expectations from the new leadership?
I wish to commend the out gone National Caretaker Committee Chairman of our great party, led by Sen. Ahmed Makarfi who in spite of all the turbulent period of court litigations and other challenges that emanated from the failed Port-Harcourt convention, had remained firm, consistent and resolute in his quest to pull through all the crises and got the party repositioned by conducting free, fair and credible National Convention that ushered in the present set of National Exco led by Prince Uche Secondus, an astute and an experienced party administrator with his team of officers of high integrity and vast political knowledge.
But all hands have to be on deck, we must eschew our personal differences and put the interest of the party, our people and nation first. We must create an enabling environment for them to perform exceedingly well, to also avoid past mistakes that caused us 2015.
I am of the belief that the era of impunity, imposition, lack of internal democracy is over and gone with the 2015 bitter experiences. Though, the expectations of Nigerians are quite high on the new national leadership of the party to pull us out of the present predicament, I know they have the desires, capacities and capabilities to deliver, though as mortals, they might have their shortcomings too but we must also learn to be appreciative, corrective objectively and tolerant in dealing with one another so as to achieve the goal of kicking out the clueless APC- led government at all levels come 2019 God willing.
The party has constituted a reconciliation team; do you think they are doing enough in reconciling aggrieved members of the party as a result of the fallout of the convention?
Yes, a reconciliation committee was constituted even before the convention headed by governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson and the former President, Goodluck Jonathan who is passionate about our return to power in 2019 is also involved in the reconciliation of aggrieved members. Two days after the swearing-in of the new executives, they have been going round the country to meet the aggrieved members who quit the contest out of anger and those who rejected the outcome of the convention, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Chief Olabode George and High Chief Raymond Dokpesi and others, to ensure they remain in the party ahead of 2019 struggle because the party needs them to return power to the people come 2019 by His grace.
From the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari, he is interested in re-election; do you think PDP has what it takes to stop him?
If Buhari is contesting election in 2019, I think that should not be a problem for us as a party; with his inability to fulfil any of his campaign promises, the hunger and hardship Nigerians are going through, it will be easy for PDP to push Buhari away if the right candidate emerges. I want to assure you that Buhari will find it extremely difficult, it is not going to be like 2015 where they used propaganda and all sorts of lies to deceived Nigerians against the PDP. Nigerians today have compared between PDP and APC and they know which way to go. With the current awareness in the country, it will be very difficult for Buhari to make any impact. If Buhari runs on the ticket of APC in 2019, PDP will have a free ride because, truly speaking, with Buhari as a candidate, it will just be a walk over for us. People who believed and sponsored Buhari’s campaign in 2015 are today disappointed, they have been chained from seeing the change, the change Buhari brought is a negative one and Nigerians are not prepared for Buhari in 2019.
There are insinuations that Buhari might pick former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as running mate in 2019; though, Tinubu has debunked it, should that happen, don’t you think PDP will lose South West completely?
Buhari/Tinubu is already a ticket dead on arrival, that will be the worst decision and we are praying for that insensitive arrangement. We are waiting for whatever they want to do and Nigerians are prepared and ready to change the negative change for a better change that is why over 10, 000 APC members decamped recently in Katsina to PDP and many more are still coming.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar defected recently to PDP when he realised he was not going to get the presidential ticket in APC. Should PDP give him the ticket, do you think he can beat Buhari?
I don’t think he came to the PDP just to contest presidential election. He said it that he thought the APC during her manifestoes was really coming to effect change that will impact positively on the lives of Nigerians, only for him to discover that the APC is a party of deceit, and all its campaign promises have not been fulfilled. So he wants Nigerians to be rescued that is why he decided to come back to the house he built, the house he has contributed immensely to its development. Atiku is a politician who has national spread, his political structures cut across the whole Nigeria and that will not be difficult for him to emerged as a presidential candidate in the PDP based on his past antecedents, coupled with the report from the United State where he has been cleared of any allegation of corruption. I don’t see Atiku as someone who will not make positive impact, if he contests the election, He has worked for the unity of Nigeria and he has been tested and trusted, I don’t see him finding it difficult to clinch the ticket of PDP, we are happy about his coming back home to further strengthen the party. Sen. Ahmed Makarfi has said that Atiku should help PDP to secure the villa in 2019, which shows that Atiku is a force to reckon with in the country. Makarfi believes that Atiku can do it himself or support anyone who emerges to sack APC from power in 2019.
If Atiku gets the PDP ticket, do you think he can beat Buhari in Kano and Katsina, which are considered the strongholds of APC in the north?
I believe with the current happening in the country, Atiku can beat Buhari in his home state. We have seen people decamping from APC to PDP and that shows clearly that Nigerians are tired of APC. I believed PDP can defeat APC in Katsina, you could see it even when former President Goodluck Jonathan went on a condolence visit to Kano, you saw the overwhelming crowd that came out to received him at the airport, chanting songs, we want you back, we want you back’ and that was because Nigerians are really suffering and they are yearning for the return of PDP.
I want to say it here that we have to be careful during our presidential primaries so that we will not introduce issue that led us to lose the election in 2015. PDP has all it takes to win the presidential election, all aspirants should be given a level playing ground, there should be no imposition, politics of money bags should be avoided, and we should allow the people to decide whoever they want, with this, certainly we will bounce back in 2019. It is my desire that aspirants from the north central should be accommodated; the contest should be narrowed down to North Central and North East who have not produced a democratically elected president in the country before.
The governor of Plateau State Simon Lalong in 2014 supported Atiku Abubakar during the APC presidential primaries, and Atiku has defected to APC, do you see Lalong as an orphan in the APC?
In as much as I don’t see Lalong as an orphan in the APC, he is already a failure in Plateau State. It is clear that nobody will contest the party primaries with him ahead of 2019. It is true that he has been an Atiku’s boy but it was a matter of circumstance. If you remember very well, when Buhari emerged as President, Lalong did everything to endeared himself to Buhari, he was doing everything to please Buhari and that shows he has abandoned Atiku even before now. But certainly he is not going to make it in Plateau because he has failed to produce the desired result; there is no presence of governance in Plateau despite huge intervention funds provided by the federal government. It is rumoured that about seven governors and some members of the national assembly are coming to PDP, Lalong may be one of them, but personally, I don’t think Lalong is coming to PDP because he will not get the ticket to contest; he is going to start from the long queue of aspirants in the PDP.
If Lalong becomes the APC flag bearer in Plateau, do you see PDP defeating him?
I will say this with confidence that if Lalong is given the APC ticket, PDP should go to sleep and wait for swearing in next year. He got the mandate in 2015 by default; there was lack of unity in the PDP coupled with a lot of impunity. But now, we are united stronger than ever and we now know what it means to be out of government, we are well organised to take over power by God’s grace in 2019 irrespective of whoever APC fields in as their candidate. I am also praying that the PDP should allow the will of the people to prevail during the primaries.
Plateau people are tired and fed up with Lalong’s government, they have not seen any positive impact, there is no advancement in the economy, hunger is everywhere and it is consuming the people, despite the huge sum of money his government has collected from the federal government, Lalong has not used it wisely, he has failed and his failure is in favour of PDP.
People have been drumming support for you to contest the governorship election, have you made up your mind to run?
People are really agitating that I should contest the PDP primaries for governorship election come 2019 in Plateau. As a grass root politician and somebody who believe in God and in the will of the people, I am still praying and consulting over it. Not that I don’t have ambition, as a young man, I should be ambitious to serve the people of Plateau State since I have the capacity and the enablement, especially now that they are calling on me. I don’t think I will say no to that with the support of the elders, youths and women in the state collectively, we shall take over governance from the APC. We have absolute confidence in our party chairman, a former sports minister, Damishi Sango, who understands the tricks, intrigues and politics of how to win election in the state, to lead us to victory.
The state PDP chairman was kidnapped recently and ransom was paid for his release, do you think his kidnap was in connection with 2019 election in the state?
Well, a lot of people have been kidnapped and ransom paid along the Jere-Abuja road, he is not the first person to be kidnapped but that does not take it away from his political relevance, particularly his support for Prince Uche Secondus, the new national PDP chairman.