From Petrus Obi, Enugu
A former Commissioner for Finance, Lands and Urban Development in Enugu State, Deacon Okey Ogbodo is a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). An acclaimed “Practicing Minister of the Gospel”, former banker and trade Unionist, Deacon Ogbodo, now PDP chairmanship aspirant for Enugu State, in the forthcoming party congresses fielded questions in the state capital on a wide range of issues concerning PDP, and state of the nation.
What is your take on the on-going efforts by PDP major stakeholders, notably governors and ex-Ministers, to reposition the party especially with the installation of a new national chairman?
Those efforts are in the right direction and are indeed welcome. We need to reposition our party, the biggest political party in Africa, and repackage it. And I think on those scores, everybody is on the same page. A party as big as the PDP, after the misfortune of the last general election, would always take stock, re-appraise and re-strategize to put itself back in a position in which it would be able to play the role of a shadow government and ultimately regain power at the earliest opportunity.
In your opinion, is Alhaji Modu Sheriff the man to do the job for PDP?
Alhaji Sheriff, as former governor, has the stature to do the job, if he has conviction. So many people would normally be qualified for the job at once, but only one person would get it at any point in time. The person who gets it should be supported to succeed. All of us, as party men and women, desire electoral success and we should all support whoever gets it to take us there. There is hardly anybody that would emerge as national chairman, whether interim or substantive that will have 100 per cent support from all segments and regions of the country. What I personally consider especially necessary is for the support enjoyed by a leader to be substantial and widespread.
Major organs of the party, including the NEC and national caucus have all met recently and subsequently released guidelines for impending party congresses; are you comfortable?
Yes I am. We have been expecting the guidelines. It marks the beginning of the restoration process which we have prayed for. Our desire is that the whole process of rebuilding the party structure down the line will be transparent and a true reflection of the wishes of party men and women. May God help us.
In your assessment, what do you think went wrong for PDP in the last general election?
It must have been a combination of factors but it would be too simplistic to begin to speculate on probable reasons without a proper fact-finding. A body, I think has been set up to do a post-mortem and at the right time; we shall be guided by that report.
So many people have blamed lack of internal democracy which allegedly brought about defections, etc.
That is neither here nor there; even some people who lost nominations fair and square, and those who couldn’t realize their personal aspirations due to entrenched equitable policies such as zoning, blamed a so-called lack of internal democracy. There would always be contests in any democracy; it can be intra or inter party. The difference, however, is the spirit with which you compete. If you are a fair competitor, fine, but there would always be the do-or-die specie. So, to put your question in perspective, the presence or absence of internal democracy at any given point in time is relative. And if indeed there was lack of it, it might just have been one factor out of many.
Your aspiration to be State Chairman of PDP, how possible is it; does the party’s zoning arrangement favour you?
Since the beginning of this dispensation, PDP has entrenched and practiced the principle of zoning more than any other party in this country and this is not about to change as far as I know. I am from Enugu East Senatorial District whose turn it is to produce the next state chairman of the party. It is also instructive to point out that I am also from the Enugu South Local Government Area whose turn it is also to produce the state chairman for two reasons. One of the reasons is that of equity and fair play, while the other is with regards to the spread of major political offices so far.
There has been a gale of defections from the PDP to APC. What does it portend for PDP?
You must appreciate that defections have also been happening both ways; some people have moved from APC to PDP, as you may know. But essentially, the right to freedom of association is well protected under our laws, both locally and internationally. People are looking for convenient platforms, suitable for their own aspiration. But remember that PDP and APC are not the only political parties in Nigeria; they might be the two most dominant ones. I believe that some people who left can still be persuaded to return if the circumstances that made them leave in the first place are satisfactorily addressed. In our own case in Enugu, if I am privileged to lead the party as Chairman, it shall be my own lot, my challenge, to enter into dialogue with some of our erstwhile leaders/stakeholders who had left to see the possibility of their coming back to the party they contributed to build. You don’t build a beautiful house and, thereafter, abandon it for somebody else to occupy while you proceed to rent another apartment for yourself elsewhere; PDP is where they belong. We would always be happy and proud to have them back in the fold.
PDP has had its electoral victories in Abia, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, upheld by the Supreme Court, while it was also able to grind out a hard-earned victory in Bayelsa State…
Exactly, those are obvious good omen. I have strong faith that PDP shall be great again. We shall rebuild nationally from ashes of the last electoral defeat at the centre. In our own case in Enugu, we have never had doubts about where we want to go. And the other core PDP States remaining intact would obviously help in the restoration of the party at the national level. I also use this opportunity to place on record, my faith in the nation’s judiciary. Indeed, it remains the last hope of the common man.