National Vice-Chairman, South West, of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Eddy Olafeso has accused the APC-led federal government of bias against Southerners citing as an example, the recent promotion of 14 senior police officers to the rank of commissioner with 10 out of the 14 coming from the North. He warned that there may not be a nation called Nigeria after 2023 if the principle of zoning the presidency between the north and south is scrapped. He also spoke on other national issues in this interview by TUNDE THOMAS.
Many Nigerians are still reacting to the conduct of recent elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, what’s your own take on the polls?
It is a big setback for Nigeria’s democracy. It is a big embarrassment to Nigeria. Even the international observers described elections in the two states as a sham. For me, the elections in those two states were nothing short of a disgrace. APC has finally shown the kind of party it is. APC is known for plundering institutions, and what APC has done in Bayelsa and Kogi states is a shame. What APC has done in the two states has serious implications for the future of democracy in Nigeria, and the implication is that if APC and INEC continue this way then democracy in Nigeria will be endangered.
How would you rate INEC’s conduct of the polls in the two states?
Like I said earlier, the whole exercise was a total embarrassment. INEC is gradually proving that it has become a department of APC. The daylight rigging was also carried out in connivance with the security agencies. INEC under the leadership of Professor Mahmoud Yakubu has become a big embarrassment. What we are now seeing in the country is no longer elections but open war being waged against the electorate. To me, APC met strong institutions on the ground before taking power in 2015. The Police, the Judiciary and other security agents are now all at a point of being cowed and INEC can no longer claim to be a respected unbiased umpire again.
With your observations, what are your fears over the elections coming up in Edo and Ondo states next year?
I know fully well that nobody messes with an Ondo man. Ondo State people will defend themselves against any manipulation and rigging and our votes will count. What happened in Bayelsa and Kogi states is not possible in Ondo State. In Ondo State, we always stand for principles. INEC, Police and everybody coming to conduct elections in Ondo State must have that knowledge before coming. Ondo State people are peaceful, and we are peace loving but we will not allow any manipulation and rigging. Any attempt by INEC and APC to repeat what they did in Bayelsa and Kogi in Ondo State will boomerang. INEC and APC should therefore be very careful.
Some are saying that APC won the election in Bayelsa because of the romance between former President Goodluck Jonathan and APC leaders, and as such, sanctions should be imposed on the former President, do you agree?
All I know is that PDP has some internal challenges during the Bayelsa elections, and I won’t say PDP was perfect in all decisions that were taken before that election. Certain bad decisions were certainly responsible for PDP ‘s loss to APC in Bayelsa State but besides that, the conduct of INEC and security agents were nothing to write home about. But for us in PDP, we’ve learnt our lessons, we are not going to be crying over spilt milk.
We are going to explore constitutional means to get our mandate back, but if not it will be a lesson for the future. We must learn how to carry everybody along. I don’t want to judge former President Goodluck Jonathan when I didn’t see what he had done wrong. Jonathan is the highest-ranking member of PDP. I have absolute respect for his position and his person. For embracing the tenets of democracy, we must not diminish Jonathan by those frivolous thinking and accusations that were unfounded in reality and in truth.
What do you make of the Appeal Court ruling on the gubernatorial election in Oyo State, which has equally been generating a lot of controversies?
We in PDP are not only talking about it, but our own position is that PDP won the governorship election in Oyo State free and fair with our candidate who is the present governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, and the reality of it is that nobody can change the will of the people without repercussion. If anybody wants to do any manipulation or subvert the will of the people, they better watch it.
Our mandate given by the people will endure till the next four years when Governor Makinde will be given another opportunity to decide whether he wants to run again or not. We believe in Engineer Makinde. He has done well for the people of Oyo State. He is carrying everybody along. That judgment is not going nowhere because as far as I’m concerned, PDP has won the election. The people of Oyo State know who they voted for, and they will stand by their votes. Engr. Seyi Makinde should be allowed to continue the good work that he is doing.
APC’s desperation in Oyo State will lead them to perfidy. APC’s eight years in power in Oyo State before Governor Makinde came on board were wasted years. APC wasted the opportunity given to them. I don’t know what APC is looking for again in Oyo State. It is very unfortunate that APC is even desperate to take over Oyo State, a state they’ve devastated.
How would you react to claims by some Nigerians that PDP as opposition party is not vibrant and vocal?
I disagree, PDP has been very active. As far as I’m concerned, PDP is vibrant. PDP has been speaking out on some national issues. You have poverty all over the place, and PDP has been speaking out against it. Everything has been going down in the country, under APC and PDP has not been keeping quiet.
Nigerians are now languishing in abject poverty. Even what to eat has become a major issue for many families, and PDP has not been keeping quiet. PDP can’t do anything beyond the framework of the constitution. Look at APC government borrowing money, and nobody knows what they are using the money for. Nigeria for the first time is now using 50 percent of her revenue to service debt. With the way APC is running the affairs of the country, Nigeria is dead on arrival.
APC has led Nigeria into economic quagmire, and there is no way out. Nigeria is in big trouble under APC government. It definitely stands to reason that any attempt by APC to borrow or take another loan will further add to Nigeria’s woes. What have they been doing with the loans they have been taking previously? How has it worked for Nigerians? Any attempt to take fresh loan by the Federal Government will further compound Nigeria’s woes.
How do you react to calls for scrapping of zoning in 2023 by some groups and individuals in the North?
Those calling for scrapping of zoning will regret it. If they scrap zoning, there will be no Nigeria beyond 2023. Mark my word, that’s what will exactly happen. Zoning is what has kept Nigeria together this far but if they now want to jettison it, it will have consequences. Any attempt to jettison zoning will have disastrous consequences. My appeal to Governor el-Rufai is that he should watch his utterances. He should watch his unbridled utterances about Nigeria. Without zoning, Nigeria’s corporate existence is in danger.
What’s your take on restructuring as many Nigerians have been giving it different interpretations?
Restructuring is the only hope for a united Nigeria. If we continue to carry on like this, I mean if we continue to carry on with this unitary system we are practicing, which we are deceitfully calling federalism, there will be problems sooner or later. The best thing for us to do is to restructure the country for the sake of equity, fairness and justice. Why the North is afraid of restructuring is because the North has become a burden on Nigeria. This is the part of the reasons the North wants the status quo to remain and this is the injustice we are talking about. Restructuring is the only way to go, if Nigeria wants to move forward. Without restructuring, there can’t be future for Nigeria.
How do you think PDP can regain power in 2023?
Currently, we are unifying ourselves, and we are pleading with Nigerians over the pains being inflicted on them by the decadent APC led federal government. It is not funny, there is hunger and poverty across the land. School drop out in Nigeria today is one of the highest in the world. Our economy has become stagnated. The world is closing down on Nigeria and we are also closing down on the world. It is obvious that Nigeria is not making any positive changes. Stealing and corruption have now become digital under APC’s government watch. No light, no water, insecurity is getting worse, Boko Haram insurgency is still festering, everything is getting worse under APC. Nigeria may collapse under APC, and I make bold to say that. The prognosis is just too bad. But come 2023, PDP will bounce back. We are already strategizing to ensure that PDP comes back.
What do you see as the way out of insecurity across the country?
State police is part of the solution, and this is part of restructuring we are talking about. But is the federal government taking the right steps to tackle the insecurity challenge? No. Look at the recent promotions in the Police––14 senior police officers were promoted to the rank of commissioners, out of these, 10 are from the core North. Is this fair? How do you think this will work in terms of providing solutions to the insecurity challenge? This is a clear case of injustice. It clearly shows that Nigeria is not a united country. Under APC, they are now treating people from the South like conquered people. But this will not endure for too long. It is just a matter of time.