Veteran Journalist and politician, Farouk Adejoh-Audu, former Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker of House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, is a personality with a flat-out opinion on national issues. His opinion may be blunt but they are not hard to impress or penetrate. To Farouk, who is also former Special Adviser on Public Affairs and Strategy to former Governor Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State and runner up in the contest for the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the theory of the origin of ideas and the orientation that characterizes the thinking of all the parties in Nigeria is that which causes ruin and lasting injury in Nigeria’s politics.
In this interview, he spoke on various issues.
Before the quiet we have in your party now, there were a lot of litigations with regards to the primary election concluded recently and the PDP appears to have gone back to its old ways. How ready is PDP for the 2023 election?
Let me say I do not understand what you mean that the PDP appears to have gone back to its old ways. The truth of the matter is that the PDP remains the best organised party in Nigeria even though we lost election. We didn’t lose the election because our party was not organised but because of other circumstances. Having said that and as it is, everybody knows that it is only going to be by the grace of God that the APC would survive till 2023. It is not because we are wishing them ill but because they are already self-imploding. Truth of the matter is the 2015 and 2019 elections…yes, in 2015 we agree there was a crave for change and people were familiar with the same problem of an extended period of time; there was an appetite to see something different, but by 2019, we know that people were tired of that difference and no matter what the court says, we all know that APC didn’t win that election. And come 2023, all things being equal and without Buhari being the hero they take to war, I don’t see how APC can defeat PDP. Now, coming down to what happened in Edo State with some people going to court in Rivers State, one thing you can always give credit to the PDP for is that we have never had any intractable crisis to the point that APC has had. APC has lost a complete state; all its candidates were declared not elected because they were not candidates in the eyes of the law because of crisis. That kind of thing has never happened in PDP. Go to Rivers State, you discover that APC could not produce a candidate because of intractable crises. We have always said one thing: that PDP is a family. No matter how strong the crisis in the party is, by the time our leaders put heads together, at the end of the day something that would be pleasing to at least majority of stakeholders would be arrived at. My confidence in the ability of our leaders to resolve crisis has once again been demonstrated. You can see the honourable member who went to court withdrew his case and the matter was resolved in a family way. You can also see how they resolved the problem with aspirants and now we have a candidate without any protest arising from the primary election. I can assure you that we will win that election in Edo State.
Can you just make an assessment of the APC in power at the centre and across the states in the past five years?
I don’t know if you want me to rate their performance; but if it comes to performance, I do not think anybody needs to tell you about that. APC is a failure. Their work line was change, but they have provided no change in anything. As a matter of fact, if you tell them something, they will go and point to something that the PDP did. So what they have done is either to reinforce what PDP has done or do something worse. They talked about security, economy and corruption; those were their three cardinal points for campaign, but in all of them, we know that they have failed and we also know that APC is more corrupt than any other party. Corruption is not just somebody embezzling money…even at that, in broad day light we know Abacha loot came here and they woke up one day to say that they were giving $17 million to some lawyers, money that has been negotiated and kept in the bank waiting to be given to Nigeria for more than 10 years before they came, that was being released already in installments. They now came and said somebody had to be consultant to them, two unknown lawyers, with all due respect. The former Minister of Finance was the only person who was known to have opposed that deal and all of a sudden, it was said that the Minister didn’t do NYSC again and she was rail-roaded out of office. That was the only person who opposed that deal. There are so many other things but let’s leave that for now. But when it comes to APC as a party, these are people who are…I think they were also surprised that they won the election in 2015. They were not ready to be a cohesive party because the machine that was brought together to win election, Buhari contested elections under CPC and got nine million votes and they felt that if they built an election winning machinery around Buhari and they brought people from South West and other places, that was all they did. Now, the chicken has come home to roost. In APC, you will not be a candidate if one godfather says you cannot be a candidate. It has happened repeatedly. A whole governor in Lagos State was prevented from contesting and nothing happened. That was exactly what they were trying to do in Edo State before the Edo man started fighting. This could never have happened in PDP. They are not organised in any way. They have not held NEC meeting for two years since 2018 until lately.
Now, let’s look at ideology in relation to all the parties, whether APC, PDP or the smaller parties. It’s like money is the ideology in all the parties. Why would parties not have ideology?
What we have in Nigeria right now and right from 1999 are associations that were coupled together to win elections. You recall what was G13 that went to G32 to form the PDP; people of different ideologies gathered there and I remember that people like Adamu Ciroma and others… because I covered it then as a journalist, what they were emphasising then was a party that was big and strong enough to discourage the military from incessant intervention in politics. Then you had the APP which later became ANPP, the grandfather of the present APC and the Alliance for Democracy, AD. What we discovered was that the people who were in APP were far right, not center right. There were people like late Umaru Shinkafi, that is the conservative, extreme ultra conservatives, core conservatives who went to form an alliance with the leftist party which was the AD. They formed an alliance with so much ease to contest the 1999 election. So ideology has never been the focus since 1999 and that is why we are having problems because there has been no difference in government in terms of political ideology. The PDP government that people complain about is far better than this APC. They are not doing anything differently. The people who are the major bloc in the APC, the Tinubu people we know that their background is socialist economy and all that; but they have never done all that. All the free education that Awolowo did based on the ideology of their party at that time, none has been demonstrated in APC. Rather, what they demonstrate is fraud. They will tell you that they are feeding school children but they don’t. Take, for instance, during this lockdown, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs claimed to have spent billions on the feeding of school children in Nigeria. Where did they feed them? Is it in their parents’ homes? Nobody, as I talk and I stand to be corrected, knows any child that has been fed by this ministry all through this lockdown and yet billions of Naira went to them. They also said they shared some other billions of Naira to poor people during the lockdown. Nobody knew the poor people who collected the money. That is the closest they would have gone to socialist ideology but it never happened. Instead, it was an excuse for fraud. So our parties in Nigeria right now are not ideologically driven. I am sorry to admit that.
You wonder why things are not working in Nigeria. Is it the system, leadership, followership or what?
We cannot continue to beg the issue. The problem we have in Nigeria is leadership. If leadership is right, followership fundamentally will become right. If we have the kind of leadership that can pave the way, that people can trust, that people will be proud to follow, there is no way things will not change. Take, for instance, why did you think that Buhari garnered so much votes in 2015? Why? This is because people believed that he was trustworthy and a shining example of a leader. So, a lot of people came all out to support him. Nigerians are hungry for good leadership; unfortunately, we are not getting it. Politicians only exploit this hunger by Nigerians for good leadership to dupe the people electorally. That was what happened in the case of Buhari.