From Gyang Bere, Jos
Former Member of the House of Representatives and a Chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bitrus Kaze has said that the Peter Obi movement has dominated everywhere in Nigeria simply because of the mistake of the PDP and APC on the Presidential ticket. Kaze said he will not support Atiku Abubakar but Peter Obi because the party’s constitution recommended zoning and it is the turn of the South to produce the next President.
The aftermath of the presidential conventions of the political gladiators in the APC and PDP has plunged the parties into more crises, where do you think the country is heading to?
There is no time in the politics of Nigeria as far as I am concerned that it has become so difficult to define in very clear terms where the politics of the season is gravitating towards a particular area. APC as a ruling party, from their primaries from the local, state and national level, you hear a lot of complaints. At a time they were talking about 42 Senators defecting from APC and that is massive. PDP was a ruling party that make mistakes at all the levels and one would have expected by now that PDP would have learned its lessons and if there was any political party that was to be careful to ensure nobody decried any primary should have been PDP but PDP is not totally without problem itself at the National, state and at the local level. That has given opportunity for new forces, such as the like of Labour Party to prop up and they are really shaking particularly the younger generation of Nigeria. Just like the Governor of Edo state, Godwin Obasaki said that there is a loss of confidence in the major political parties and people are hopefully looking for something new, this is what I think is on ground at the moment.
What do you think is the danger of the fight between the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and stakeholders of the PDP?
It poses serious danger but when you mention Wike, that entails the post primary election. For me, PDP made a mistake before primaries. If you check from 1999, the National Chairman of the party was from Plateau State, the candidate of the party was from the South East, the Vice Presidential candidate of the party was from the North East. It gives you the mix of religion, tribe and region carrying everybody along. In 2007, that kind of thinking was retained, the presidency left the South West to the North West, the Vice Presidency left the North East to the South South, the National Chairmanship of the party left where it was to the South East, all sections of the country were carried along. In 2015 and 2019, Goodluck Jonathan became President by virtue of the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. Goodluck is from the South South and now looked at the North West for the Vice Presidency and shifted the National Chairmanship in a manner that carried everybody along. I am afraid that was lost in the 2022 PDP calculation. The National Chairman is from Benue State, the candidate of the party is from the North East and naturally you expect Wike, Obi, South West and South East not to feel aggrieved. This is not what PDP stands for, it was formed out of a coalition of like minds, people who wanted majority and minority tribes, Muslims and Christians and all sections of this country to have a party that commands their confidence and respect. The moment PDP decided that anybody can go for its ticket without zoning, one of the nucleus that defines PDP was lost by that singular mistake.
The North under PDP has argued that out of the 16 years of the party in power, it has not spent up to one term in office and that it should be given the opportunity to compete its tenure, do you buy into this argument?
There is no term for any party’s standard bearer; it was about the North losing the presidency, that was the grievance they raised about Jonathan on the death of Yar’Adua. We are not talking about ticket but presidency. President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North whether he is in the PDP or not; he is going to handle the presidency for eight years. The normal thing was for the PDP to sit and say the North has taken a shot for eight years, we will take this ticket back to the South; it would have been within the purview of the Southern coalition of the PDP members to look at the South West, South East and South South but PDP appointed someone who was interested in the Presidency and asked him to lead a committee on zoning and he recommended what suited him that everybody should be allowed to contest. The basis for which the PDP was established was to make sure that the minorities of the minority feels protected and the majority feels not shortchanged and therefore a mistake has been made that the candidate is from the North East and the Chairman of the party is from the North Central and that is why you are hearing of crisis to the extent that it has been rumored that some people have attempted to remove the National Chairman. Therefore, it beats my imagination that a party that was formed only to take over power, had no agenda of developing Nigeria; like APC had thought it wise that the presidency should go to the South and then PDP which has zoning in its constitution made the mistake of saying anybody can contest the presidency. Now, Atiku has picked the ticket, is there peace in the party now and what is the prospect of the party going forward.
What do you think can be done to remedy the situation?
If there would be any good prospect, will you hear of any crisis in the party. Do you honestly think, gauging the mood of this country, do you think the South is happy with PDP, do you honestly think so. Do you think that Southern Nigeria feel comfortable that somebody from the North has sat on the seat at Aso Rock for eight years and we are proposing again that another person from the North should continue, I don’t think they are happy.
Do you think Nigeria is ripe enough to have a Muslim/Muslim ticket or a Christian/Christian ticket?
This question has also propped another question in my mind as to what has triggered you to ask a question of Muslim Muslim or Christian Christian ticket. This argument has become prominent because it was set in the subconscious minds of Nigerians that if the President is a christian, then naturally, the Vice should be Muslim but we have become so arrogant that we are pretending that it doesn’t matter. I have spoken and I will like to speak again that I don’t care wether it is Muslim Muslim ticket or Christian Christian; the issue in contention is that, is it proper in the country within our context of several tribes and several religions, for a Muslim to be President in Nigeria for 8 years and then you bring another Muslim to continue as a President. As a christian, I feel shortchanged, I will not stand for that and I will never. To me is not fair; to me, it is improper.
Are you saying it is morally wrong for a particular religion to come back to power?
We have never had a situation where in this country the President is a Christian and the Vice is a Christian. There has never been a time in Nigeria by mere thinking that there has been a Christian/Christian ticket. The Muslim/Muslim ticket happened 30 years ago when I was elected Councilor but christians tolerated, canvassed and voted for Abiola not withstanding that his Vice was a Muslim. I want to ask, will there ever be a time that a christian will run as a President and pick another Christian as his Vice, will there be all peace? That is a difficult question to ask and that is my opinion.
What do you think the PDP should do in Plateau to win the 2023 election?
Reach out, reach out. If I were in the shoe of the gubernatorial candidate, the day I got the ticket, I will look for the other interest groups within the party and plead with them that I want to work with you because the government is going to be our government and not for a few; give me a running mate but that didn’t happen. When they emerged, they should have still gone back to say now that we have picked the running mate, please bear with us, it may not be Deputy Governor, other positions are there, will you kindly forgive us and see how we can midwife this process to victory and assure that everybody would be carried along in confidence. As I speak to you, with utmost respect, I have not seen that happen especially with other key stakeholders in the party. For me, I have been given a privilege of visiting me but I am one bit of the party but what about other stakeholders. I am in PDP, I will work for PDP to win but sometimes I am the type that love to speak bluntly.
At the moment, what is your advice for PDP in Plateau State?
We should learn from our mistakes; when I say mistake, I meant what happened in 2015? It was a winner takes it all that led us to where we are. In the first place, why should there be a cabal; PDP is our party, people should be given a sense of belonging.
Being a PDP member, will you be happy to see APC return to power?
How can I be happy? For Christ’s sake, how will I be happy or how will I want terrorism to continue? When we left office in 2015, we were exchanging a dollar to N197 but the last time I attempted to change a dollar in Abuja in the black market, it was N607 to one dollar. A bag of fertilizer that was N5000 and people were decrying the cost is now about N30,000 and foreign rice that was N8000 because people were rejecting local rice at the cost of N5000 today, the bag of foreign rice is N33,000; how can I be happy. Let me borrow from Obasanjo, if I am happy for APC to come back, God will not forgive me.
Many Governors are aggrieved on the choice of Ifeanyi Okowa as Vice Presidential candidate, what do you think can be done to right the wrong?
Lt me be honest with you, the mistake the PDP has made in my view is not an issue of Okowa or Wike, it is the issue of the Presidency. Atiku ought not to be our candidate and indeed anybody from the North. Let me be honest with you, I won’t work for Atiku because it offends our social, religious and indeed our economic sensibilities; it offends the sections of Nigeria that somebody in the North West will be President for eight years and you expect another person in the North East with the same religion like the former to be there for eight years. It will be a betrayal of trust for me to commit myself for such project, I will not. For me as a person, I am at home with Peter Obi and this is what I will suggest to our people; we should give Peter Obi our votes because it pronounces justice, carries every section of this country along and I am not afraid to say it; I am prepared to say it anywhere. If the PDP is able to take the ticket from the North and give anybody in the South, irrespective of whoever the person is, I will support him. But to the extent that the PDP has infringed on its own constitution, I will be faithful to the PDP constitution to consider a Southern Nigerian and I will support anybody from the South and the closest is Peter Obi.
Who will you support at the sate level?
I am PDP fully.
In view of the current Obedient movement in Nigeria, what will you say are the chances of the three presidential candidates of the PDP, APC and Labour Party?
You will have to look at these Presidential candidates within the content of their own characters as individuals, then you have to look at the history of the political parties whose flag they are flying and finally, you have to look at the interest of Nigerians and what are Nigerians saying. Like Peter Obi or not, you can be a die-hard PDP; you can be a die-hard APC, Peter Obi movement is reigning and ravaging everywhere in Nigeria; nobody can fail to take cognizance of that. It is simply because Nigerians feel both the APC and the PDP on the Presidential ticket disappointed them; therefore, I don’t discuss what PDP should do with Okowa, I don’t discuss Muslim/Muslim ticket, the constitution of Nigeria provides that the country should be administered in a manner that commands national loyalty. In the case of Plateau, PDP learned from its past mistake; it zoned the gubernatorial seat to the Central Senatorial District which is correct, proper and we will support that.