By Sunday Isuwa and Chibuzo Ukaibe, Abuja –
Former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), yesterday warned moneybags waiting in the wings to sway the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates in favour of the highest bidder at its forthcoming national convention to keep off, saying the office of the party’s national chairman is not for sale.
This is coming just as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has formally announced his return to the opposition PDP.
Announcing his return to the PDP fold via Facebook, Atiku said his decision to rejoin the party followed series of consultations he had with party leaders and stakeholders from across the country.
Babangida who is fondly called IBB by his admirers warned against money-induced electoral process ahead of Saturday’s PDP elective convention holding in Abuja.
According to him, the party needs a chairman who is driven by uncommon initiatives and creativity.
In a statement signed by his spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua, IBB said he gets frightened by the monetary consideration that is likely to dictate who emerges the national chairman of the PDP rather than what the people truly want.
He stated: “The discussion is more on the side of heavy monetization of the process and ultimate ‘procurement’ of the position of the chairman by the highest bidder.
“This approach, in my humble view, defeats the whole essence of participation, free choice and voting which are the essential attributes of any democracy without inducement and outright manipulation”.
The former military president said, as one of the founding fathers and stakeholders of the PDP, they needed to collectively assure Nigerians and teeming members that they have indeed learnt their bitter lessons.
His words: “Following the defeat of the party in the 2015 election, it is incumbent upon us as leaders and stakeholders to use the opportunity of the convention to sober reflect on the challenges confronting us, identify our flaws and seek plausible ways to correct them in order to come out stronger in subsequent elections.
“An elective convention presents as it were, a rare opportunity and veritable platform to elect in a holistic manner a credible, tested, down-to-earth and truly urbane candidate with enough stamina, distinguished character and national acceptability who is driven by incurable optimism and passion for a united Nigeria.
“At this point of our political history as a party, we need a National Chairman who is driven by uncommon initiatives, creativity in ideas and a rich content of character to lead and stabilize the party in line with the laudable ideals of the founding fathers of the party. Such an individual must possess national recognition to be able to galvanize political opportunities and transform them into tangible outcomes in our democratic engagements”.
On why he and founding fathers formed the PDP, IBB said, “When we were conceptualizing the idea of the PDP at formation, we had in mind a party that offers platform for all Nigerians in their pursuit of legitimate political aspirations. The choice of her motto; POWER TO THE PEOPLE was in sync with our clear objective of recognizing the people as the repository of power.
“In any democratic engagement, the people decide the outcome of elections through popular and inclusive participation. The monetization of our electoral process is disturbingly eroding that power which should ordinarily reside in the people.
“I wish to plead that we tread on the path of caution and common sense, conscious of our recent history of avoidable political crisis”.
The former Nigerian leader continued: “At 76, and given the benefit of hindsight, my role both in context and content; is now more of advisory one to enhance any altruistic democratic process to elect credible leadership at various levels of representation.
“Rather than de-monetize the electoral process to provide ample room for more citizens’ participation, the idea of monetizing the process and trying to “procure” party positions defeats merit, offends good conscience and blurs fair play.
“At this critical stage of our political secretion, we need men of stature, discipline, character and commendable conduct to breathe fresh air into our party and not persons whose political relevance is the product of naira and kobo bargain across the counter”.
Babangida further observed that the PDP is in dire need of a national chairman that would not bend to the vagaries of individual selfish interest, but one who is strong enough to apply the rule of law without fear or favour.
He noted: “We must begin the process of interrogating processes that lead to outcomes and not just the outcomes. We must interrogate our leadership recruitment process and encourage our delegates to exercise the power of their thumbs in making their preferred choice among the candidates.
“Good name cannot be bought with gold or silver. Good name is the sum total of the individual’s conduct in his trajectory and his overall assessment through life’s enduring journey.
“On the strength of this, I wish to make a passionate appeal to our members, party leaders and the members of the Convention Committee to be fair and just to all, and allow the process to produce a National Chairman that would truly represent the conscience of the party.
“I do subscribe to the idea that consensus building, collective bargaining and constructive engagement are some of the ingredients that nurture any democratic process; such ingredients should be given enough room to flourish in order to birth credible and truly representative leadership”.
IBB noted further that the PDP must re-invent and re-enact itself on account of her recent history of factions and fractures, adding that the new leadership must be one that enjoys the confidence of the majority stakeholders and members in order to have a seamless transition.
To achieve this template, he said, the emergence of the party’s chairman must be through the outcome of delegates’ election without manipulation and inducement.
He stated: “One would have thought that after the 2015 dismal outing, followed by months of leadership tussles, individuals would have put to rest their selfish and egocentric interest and pursue goals and objectives that bear true testimony to the ideals of the founding fathers; but the sound bites of monetization of the process are utterly demoralizing and benumbing.
“It is my strong belief therefore that leaders of the party irrespective of their political interest would allow reason and level playing field to prevail in the overall interest of the party. I wish the party a successful and peaceful convention on Saturday 9th December 2017”.
Atiku Rejoins PDP
Meanwhile, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday put paid to speculation about his next political destination when he formally announced his return to the PDP.
The former vice president who made the announcement on Facebook, noted that the issues that led to his exit from the PDP have now been resolved.
According to his media office, Atiku’s return followed consultations he had with party leaders and stakeholders from across the country.
Declaring his return to PDP, Atiku knocked his former party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for letting the youths down, particularly in the area of job creation.
He boasted about his ability to generate jobs, adding that he created over 50,000 direct jobs and 250,000 indirect jobs in his home state of Adamawa.
After resigning from the APC two weeks ago, speculations were rife that the former VP was heading for his former party, PDP, where he is expected to contest for its presidential ticket ahead of 2019.
While the PDP had welcomed his resignation from the APC, it however noted that Atiku would not get its presidential ticket on a platter of gold, as he would have to fulfill the constitutional requirements of the party just like every other aspirant.
Announcing his return to the party yesterday, Atiku said, “Some of you may know that I was elected Vice President under the banner of the PDP, which is the political party I had helped to found some ten years before.
“And some of you may also know that I left the PDP four years ago when I believed it was no longer aligned to the principles of equity, democracy and social justice upon which we had founded it.
“I joined the APC as I had hoped it would be the new force that would help improve life for our people and I was excited about the party’s manifesto to create 3 million new jobs a year.
“The result has not been the change people had been promised or voted for, as in the last two years almost 3 million Nigerians have lost their jobs.
“And today with a record 25% of people aged 18-25 unemployed I can see how difficult it is for our youths to find a job. The key to creating jobs is a strong economy and that is what we are currently lacking.
“So today I want to let you know that I am returning home to the PDP as the issues that led me to leave it have now been resolved and it is clear that the APC has let the Nigerian people, and especially our young people, down.
“But rather than giving a long political speech on this matter I thought it would be more helpful to invite you to ask me questions and share with you my answers. You can post your questions on my Facebook page: facebook.com.atiku.org”.
Explaining his choice of Facebook Live to announce his decision, Atiku stated: “I want to reach as many of our young people as possible as I have an important announcement to make about the future of Nigeria.
“As it is you, our youths, who represent the future of our nation. I have found in my travels across the country that whenever I get into conversations with young people their number one concern is whether they will be able to get a job, for without a job they have no means of sustaining themselves or begin a family.
“And without the security of a job we cannot have security in our country. So, without jobs there is no future for you or for Nigeria. And I also know as a parent that the older generation is also concerned about jobs for their children and, too often today, for themselves as well.
“Creating jobs is something I know about as I have created over 50,000 direct jobs and 250,000 indirect jobs in my own State of Adamawa”.
The former VP continued: “And I also know how the Government can help create the right environment for businesses to create jobs. When I was Vice President in 1999 I was responsible for liberalising the telecomms sector, which enabled us to increase the number of people who could access a phone from less than 1 million then to over 100 million today.
“This transformation resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs from the top-up card vendors you see on every street corner to the many new businesses that fed off the mobile phone revolution”.
He further fielded questions on the Facebook platform.
Responding to a question from a person simply called Jide, on how he can know what young people want when he is not a youth”, Atiku said, “I meet young people every day. I have children and grandchildren and most of my employees are youths.
“The key to knowing what young people want is to listen to them. I’m good at that. Sometimes when I am on the phone with my kids they ask me are you still there, because I just listen to them without interrupting.
“Young people are on social media and so I go there. They tell me that their number one challenge is jobs.
“Terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, and other forms of exuberance they may lead to criminality are a symptom of the disease of joblessness.
“Once you can get Nigeria working again and get Nigerians working again, youth restiveness will ease and gradually disappear”.
Atiku’s Return Won’t Stop Me From Running – Makarfi
Meanwhile, chairman of the PDP caretaker committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, has said the return of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to the party cannot stop him from contesting the party’s presidential ticket.
In an interview he granted in the current edition of The Interview magazine, Makarfi said, “Atiku left before; he’s on his way back before the (party’s) Convention”.
In response to a question about his own interest, Makarfi said, “I have heard the rumour; it has been there since 2007…I have thought of it. By the time I leave as caretaker committee chairman on 9th or 10th, there’ll still be ten months to the party primaries. By any law or the party’s guidelines, I’m not excluded”
Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview, Azu Ishiekwene, described the edition as “the most revealing disclosure yet of the inner workings of the opposition trying to come to terms with its uncertain future”.
Makarfi also told The Interview that Fayose’s declaration of interest in the party’s presidential ticket, “is uncalled for and unhealthy”.
Apart from his comment on the build up of interest in the party’s presidential ticket, Makarfi said the PDP was expecting a harvest of defections after Atiku’s exit from the ruling APC.
“For some strategic reasons, don’t expect a lot of people to move to the PDP now. People are in APC for different reasons. Wait for the time when everybody will be on his own, you will see the influx of people into the PDP”, he said.
He further spoke on the bitter contest for the party’s chairmanship, probably the most dangerous threat since the Supreme Court ruling saved the party from extinction, and on his rival, former Governor Ali Modu-Sheriff, whom he said had sponsors in the APC.
Makarfi who came close to being the PDP’s presidential nominee in 2006 revealed, for the first time, how former President Olusegun Obasanjo schemed him out, even though an internal party assessment had returned him as the most favourable candidate.