Gyang Bere, Jos
Former Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Istifanus Mwansat has justified the establishment of regional security outfits because of the failure of the government to protect the people. In this interview, he speaks on various issues.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is passing through crises across the country, particularly in Plateau State, how best do you think the internal wrangling can be resolved?
The PDP was built on a very strong solid foundation; the PDP brought back democracy in this country because when nobody could dare the military, the founding fathers of PDP went into the lion’s den and delivered the message that their time was up and issued a red card to late Abacha. Our father and leader, late Solomon Lar led that delegation; he delivered that red card to Abacha where nobody dared to go and that kickstarted the process of democracy coming back to this country. Not long after that, Abacha died and on the strength of that letter, Abdulsalami Abubakar, when he took over, didn’t stay longer than necessary, and now we have democracy. The founding fathers, Lar, Ciroma, Rimi and others formed what we have today as PDP; that is why there is no individual, dead or alive that has the capacity to liquidate PDP. When Sheriff came up, almost everybody thought the time has come for PDP to wind up but because the foundation was very solid, it survived it. PDP is a large party; it’s like a polygamous family, one man, 10 wives, 100 children; there is no way in such a family you will not experience misunderstanding, disagreement, in-fighting, rivalry, so on and so forth but despite this, it is still a family affair. Once there is no friction, there is no pushing in a large family; you know it is a peace of the graveyard; the peace is just superficial; what is under is better imagined. What is happening in the PDP today particularly on the Plateau, for me, is not a problem; it is just a procedural problem. Damishi Sango resigned as the state party chairman and the constitution of the party is clear; section 4, sub-section 6 is clear that the zone from which Sango comes from should produce a replacement. Before then, the deputy steps in to hold brief while the zone produces a replacement. Today, the National Secretariat has given the deputy an appointment as Acting Chairman; they have gone further to direct him based on the requirements of the constitution to liaise with the State Working Committee particularly the office of the organizing Secretary to conclude the process of replacing Sango with somebody from the zone which of course, is Plateau North. The Northern zone met and the right people were there. When you look at the composition of people that sat, the six local government Chairmen were at that meeting; all serving members of the state Assembly from the zone were at that meeting; all members of the National Assembly from that zone were at that meeting; majority of the SEC members of the party from the zone were at that meeting. The constitution of the party says even if it is SEC meeting, when you have one third of members of SEC, you have formed a quorum and you can sit and take a binding decision; that meeting was convened by the zonal vice Chairman, North, which was properly constituted; all the northern zone officials of the party were in attendance. Then some Committee of friends met under the name of stakeholders; what do you mean by stakeholders in a political party; it is not a recognised organ of the party in the constitution; the fact that you are a member of PDP means you are a stakeholder but you are not a member of SEC.
The governorship seat is coming to Plateau Central in 2023, what should Plateau people be expecting from you as critical stakeholders in the zone?
What Plateau people should be expecting is that Plateau Central I can assure you, will present to Plateau people the best of material that Plateau has never witnessed. Because, the central zone is a reservoir of people that are genuinely committed to the development of this state, genuinely committed to the security of this state. I can assure you, whoever Plateau Central will present in the PDP, the worst, when I say the worst in quote, the worst of the candidate PDP will produce will be way ahead of the candidate any other political party will produce for the governorship seat of this state because we know what it takes to govern a state. I am happy that the APC has been given the opportunity to govern this state also for about eight years; that gives us an opportunity to compare because if APC had not been given the opportunity to govern this state or to produce the President of this country, the story we would have been getting is that Nigeria would have been like what they get in Singapore and that Plateau would have been like California; we would have turned the country and this state into mini heaven. God in his wisdom say this is the opportunity, go and prove yourself; they have proven themselves wrong because we have been taking 20 years backward in terms of everything we can think of. Infrastructurally, socially, economically, educationally, health-wise, we have been taken backward; security-wise, we have been taken backward. What the hersdmen are doing now, in over 20 years, Boko Haram never did that. When you talk in terms of number of people that have been killed in this country, are they just coming into this country now or it is because they have one of them who is the President of this country and it gives them the leverage to do whatever they want to do. I think we should reason, we have been taken backward 20 years to the days of the locust. I am happy that Nigeria is a God’s own country. Plateau is God’s own State and God will never over look the tribulations, the persecutions, the adversity His people are going through. Plateau will recover and God is going to use the PDP platform to recover Plateau.
There has been serious agitations by the North and South about the 2023 Presidency; will it be right for the North to retain the Presidency beyond 2023?
I think the process of next election starts immediately you finish an election, so the preparation for 2023 commenced immediately after the 2019 election. The end of one election kickstarts the beginning of another because the outcome of one election determines or provokes people to begin to think of what next. Talking about the agitations from various sections of this country toward the 2023 election particularly as it affects the office of the President, what I feel is that the divides in this country, politically speaking and as far as election and positioning of the President suggest that the country is divided into two -the North and the South. You will agree with me because when you have the President from the North, they say North, and not any of the geo-political zones; then they will say the Vice President should be from the South; these are the two divides. So what I am saying is that our own democracy is a developing one; we have not got to a stage when where you come from does not really matter; all we will go for is merit and in any case, whichever zone you go to, if what you are looking for is merit, you can still find people that are qualified to run this country on the basis of merit for peaceful coexistence. I feel very strongly that as it has always been North, it’s just fair for the North after Buhari to allow the South to produce the next President. But again, this is politics; maybe certain factors may come to play or superior reasoning may prevail and then the South may say the North should keep it; these are all possibilities. But for me, I feel very strongly that for togetherness, it will be fair to allow the South take a shot on whatever political platform; I think the people should be allowed to aspire. Again, this is an understanding; it is not a straight jacket thing, that if you don’t do it, you are breaching any law, no. Therefore, even in the approach of people discussing this issue, maturity must come in, decorum must come in, arrogance must as much as possible be avoided. When you find some people telling you that some youth group of a particular region are threatening the corperate existence of the country, telling you if this does not happen, that is not the way you live in a country because you cannot live in a country at the terms of certain group of people. There has to be understanding, because at every point in time, we had sought for the understanding of one another. If the President is coming from the South, he needs the North to succeed. If the President is coming from the North, of course he needs the South to succeed. I tell you without the South West supporting Buhari in 2015, there is no way Buhari would have become President; he has tried it several times in this country and he always lost but for the first time, when the South West agreed to support him in 2015, he won. It tells you that there is no one region that can stand on it own and deceive people that it can produce the President of this country.
In an event where we have superior reasoning in the APC, what do you think that the likes of Tinubu who literally nominated the President will do?
Well, it depends on the issues you bring to the fore that will amount to superior reasoning and again, I will also ask whether the South is synonymous with Tinubu in in the first place. Once people talk about the South, they think once it gets to the South, it is Tinubu automatically that will step in; it is not an automatic thing. Tinubu has issues with the South, particularly the South East; he has Jos issues. It is not everybody that is singing Halleluya about Tinubu. I think we must purge ourselves from this belief that when you talk about the South as far as APC is concerned, then you are zoning it to an individual; no I don’t think so. Also, I don’t think that when you are talking in terms of merit, capacity, intellectual capacity, the managerial acumen, exposure of people from the South West, you can’t say Tinubu is the best. There are many people far ahead of him; if it is in terms of merit, we must not draw a conclusion that if the APC says the Presidency is going to the South, then it is an automatic thing for Tinubu; you will be surprised that if APC now says the Presidency has now been zoned to the South, you will see the number of people that will come out; you will be surprised that at the end of the day, Tinibu will not even pick the ticket.
Many believe that your party, the PDP had the opportunity of taking back power in 2019 considering that there was hunger, hardship, insecurity among others caused by the failure of the present administration. Why do you think the PDP failed to launch itself back in 2019?
As I told you earlier on, the elections for 2019 have been won and lost; as a politician, let me tell you frankly that by my assessment and understanding, PDP didn’t lose the election at the ballot and that is why the agitation for Mr. President to sign into law the amended Electoral Act was very high. It was deliberate that the President didn’t sign that Act, because the Act as it is now, will possibly give them the opportunity to manipulate the process the way they did. If you see the involvement of security agencies at the poll at every level, you will agree with me that PDP never lost that election, whether presidential or whatever you call them. Now if you go back to the Tribunal, first you could see the composition, even from the Appeal Court, when the team was constituted for the Presidential Appeal.