Chief Patrick Okomiso is former governorship candidate of the defunct ANPP in Cross River State, now a chieftain of the PDP. In this interview with ANDREW ESSIEN, he talks about the crisis in PDP and why he is backing the factional national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
You are one of Ali Modu Sheriff’s supporters. Has it anything to do with the fact that you were in ANPP with him in the past?
No. In fairness, Ali was in ANPP with me when l ran for the governorship of my state, Cross River. I didn’t leave ANPP in quarrel and l didn’t leave ANPP because Ali Modu Sheriff left. I left before him but the reason why l am backing him has nothing to do with the fact that we were in ANPP together. No, that is not the true. During our ANPP days we were not close. I was close to former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, my brother and my friend. I was close to other persons in PDP more than ANPP because of my outrage. However, Ali Modu Sheriff met me again in PDP. I am one of the concerned stakeholders in PDP that participated in parallel convention in Abuja, the other side had theirs in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Now, in the course of that, l was one of those that said the party should be united. I happened to put a call across to Ali Modu Sheriff and l told him l needed to see him and he said fine and we met. We sat down and we talked and his story is quite different from what the governors painted him to be and l said why. Why are you not making the party to know what you stand for and not what they are painting you? At that point in time l decided to back him because he has the same idealogy with me.
Let me be very blunt, l went to the party secretariat – Raymond Dokpesi and I – to takeover the party secretariat during the crisis. So, l was an actor during the crisis and we wanted to takeover the secretariat from him, Ali Modu Sheriff and even then, what l said-l should be quoted anywhere in the world- is that l confronted Raymond Dokpesi and said let us takeover this secretariat and push the governors out. Let us push Ali Modu Sheriff out and bring in the BoT and takeover the party but l went to ask Ali Modu Sheriff, what was his problem, doesn’t he think there should be peace in PDP and he told his story and the same thing l was fighting in concerned stakeholders of PDP was the same that Ali Modu Sheriff was fighting, that the governors are destroying the party.
For instance, the governors would choose somebody from a ward and decide he should be the one to lead in that ward even when they are not from the ward and this is the same impunity that made PDP to lose election. President Jonathan was a very good leader; he has his weak points. There are issues that he didn’t take step by step. I remember few times l had to see Jonathan and tell him somethings were wrong but because he felt that he has given you an opportunity that you should do the right thing. So, Jonathan took some steps that were really, really necessary but he lacked the ability to monitor his aides; he lacked it. He didn’t know how to monitor his staff and if you go to tell him that this is what your staff are doing or this is what so and so appointee is doing, he lacked courage to tell them to their face that this thing is wrong. That was where Jonathan got it wrong.
Jonathan allowed the governors to dictate for him, that was why we failed the elections. We have had about 16 months in the new administration and you can see the difference between when former President Obasanjo came in through PDP, between when Late President Yar’Adua came and between when President Jonathan came in and what the difference has been from then till today. None of these persons came and met oil at a hundred million naira per barrel. That is the truth. So, the economic situation now is not as been painted as a result of past administration. No. Every person who comes into government should not expect that somebody should leave money for him to come and spend, he should generate funds. No leader is working to keep money for another person to come and spend. Every leader should come with a blueprint and a mindset of what to do and how to generate money to do them.
How necessary is the crisis in PDP now?
The crises in PDP are not necessary at all at this point in time, when we are supposed to be providing opposition to the Nigerian citizenry especially at this critical point of economic recession. We are supposed to be the shock absorbers of the government or the Nigerian people but unfortunately we are fighting ourselves on a very bad part because of ego. Ego in the sense that nobody wants to listen to the other person and it is a very unfortunate situation. Nobody is interested to listen to each to know what is the way forward, which is wrong. So, l think the mistake of the party is not the mistake of the general. It is a mistake that some people believe that impunity is the key word to life.
You just talked about ego. Many party members believe that the ego is coming from Ali Modu Sheriff.
Let me say this; Ali Modu Sheriff did not demand to be the national chairman of PDP. He was in his house doing his things and accepting responsibilities of his family when a few governors cornered him in Port Harcourt and Yenegoa and said he must be chairman. Indeed, they traced him back to Abuja and forced him to accept the responsibility of becoming the PDP national chairman. When he accepted, he did well. The governors brought him in with impunity and would it be right for them to through him out with impunity. Look, all the national chairmen that we have had in PDP were all thrown out by the governors. So, for this one we should stand by him to throw out the governors. Ali Modu Sheriff is not the problem of the party, the problem of the party is the governors. This one said, oh he wants to be a President, he has a right, he is a Nigerian. Why do you want to be a governor and you became a governor. It is because you have the right and because you are a Nigerian. The foremost thing that qualified you to be a governor, Senator, a councilor, etc is that you are first and foremost a Nigerian. Am l right? Ali Modu Sheriff is a Nigerian. He came in when the party was dead and he revived the party. The governors saw the way he was going- the same governors that brought him – and try to throw him out and some of us sad, no there should be rule of law, the party has a constitution.
How did Ali Modu Sheriff revive PDP?
Before Ali Modu Sheriff came, when you go to the National Secretariat, you will think it was grave yard. The staff were not paid, nothing was done, the NWC was just there but he was able to go round the whole states and revived the party. He organized congresses and the party began to move forward, people began to say oh there is a leader then the governors went again to say let them remove him. They would have allowed him to complete what they started and let him back out honourably.
Some persons believe that he deviated from what he discussed with governors to lead the party.
Why should the governors feel unsafe. Does the party belongs to them? The party belongs to Nigeria; the party belongs to the masses. The era when a governor dictates what happens in a political party should be over. Nigeria has had democracy for abour 18 years now, why should a governor dictate for a party. Who are these boys and what were they before they became governor for them to dictate what happen. They even go to the extent of dictating who becomes a councillor in another state. Let us call a spade a spade. The worst thing that has happened to Nigeria is the governors forum. These are people who use public funds the way they like. Go to each of the states and see the money they said they have collected in the past 16 years and see if the works that have been done in the states are equivalent to the money they collected. These guys had no money when they came into government. I keep agitating that during the military era governors take money from federal purse but those monies were tied into projects. If we have to amend our constitution and monies given to governors are tied into projects, governors embezzling money would stop. This is the truth. The reason why people are killing themselves to be governor is to steal money. Because of the impunity they would carry somebody who has not prepared to govern a local government and put him to succeed them as a governor. Let us stop this. So, what Ali Modu Sheriff is doing is 100 per cent right. Good thinking people should back him to destroy the governors forum. Let every Nigerian child has the right to become whatever he wants to become.
What is your opinion about the judiciary on this PDP crisis?
Not just the PDP crisis. The problem Nigeria has are lawyers. All the lawyers are our problem, big problem. Lawyers l mean those in the bench and those in the Bar. There are lawyers, when you bring them a case they would take money to go and settle a judge but you will see somebody who stole handset of N3, 000 being sent to 15 years imprisonment and a man who stole a N100 billion is being asked by the court to be allowed to go for medical treatment abroad. Have we ever seen a Judge in America who said an American who stole $1 should be allowed to go to hospital in India. You will die in that America. It is only in Nigeria that such orders would happen. The mistake that the President is doing is that he has not taken the anti- corruption war to the judiciary. A man stole money to the extent that he has to put some in his overhead water tank and he went to court, court gave him bail; court gave him three months imprisonment and a fine of N600, 000. Is this a country? So, it is not only within the political class that Judges are doing this. No. Our Judges should go and die in shame; our lawyers should go and die in shame. The most corrupt person in this country belongs to the legal profession.