The interim national chairman of the Action Democratic Party (PDP), Engr Yabagi Sani, believes his party, the much anticipated mega party, will reshape the political landscape. In this interview with MUAZU ELAZEH and CHIBUZO UKAIBE, he talks about the philosophy behind its formation, its merger plans with other parties and declares that it will take over power at the center in 2019.
Your party, ADP, prides itself as the much anticipated mega party that will redefine the face of politics ahead of 2019 but was the idea of ADP conceived and what is its ideological framework?
ADP is the mega party that will reposition democracy in Nigeria by putting in place structures that will deepened democracy from the polling units, through to the federal government level. What has been happening is that political organizations and parties have few people controlling them and they do what ever they like with impunity. That has affected the growth of democracy. We are where we are today because the tenets of democracy have not been observed; that is the government of the people by the people for the people has been lacking. Unfortunately, democracy in Nigerian has come a long way in the last close to 20 years and I think by now we should be able to know what is wrong or right. So the idea of ADP came from the almost 20 years of democratic experience, which has shown us that we need to do things differently. This is a party of people who know what is wrong and right, especially when compared to the third republic under presidency of Shehu Shagari, where we had party supremacy, all inclusive government and, to a very large extent, economic empowerment of young people. But considering our experience under PDP in the last 18 years and what we are seeing in APC today, it tells you that there is a way to do things which will address the yearning of Nigerians and another way to do things that will satisfy the few who take advantage of the situation for their own interest. So ADP is a mega party because it is party of the people by the people for the people and it will carter to the greatest good of the greatest number of Nigerians. Events in the world today have shown that politics is not like it used to be. No big man somewhere can easily direct people where to go and so on. Technology, specifically the internet, has broken all those boarders and has created a real global village, such that you can sit here and communicate with the whole world if you want. So, power has been given back to the people, especially the youths and women who constitute the bulk of the voting community. But what has been lacking, even with the advantage of technology, is the structure that will really give power back to the people. That is why we are introducing option A4 or direct primaries. In our party every card carrying member will have the right to vote in our party primaries. We won’t have the delegate system, where a few people will be assembled in a place and vote for people who they don’t even know. So that is why we call it mega party. People can now communicate in a mega way. In APC or PDP, even if you try to communicate, the delegate system does not let you do so. By the time you get to the voting arena the names that will be presented will not be the ones that will eventually appear. So there is no democracy and that is why they are in such a big mess and they can’t get themselves out of. In India, America, Ghana, Gambia the recent spate of elections show that there is a movement. So it is a transformation such that we need to create the enabling environment and mega party has come to do that.
Political parties have always sought power under claims of giving power back to the people. We saw that with PDP and even APC, but once in power, we see something different. What ensuring mechanism will your party bring to ensure that you really return power to the people?
What those parties have been doing is lip service because the structures are not there to give power to the people. There is Internal democracy in those parties. How do you give power to the people when you give them no choice from the beginning? In ADP, we have structures. For instance, will introduce a system called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which will settling of all party squabbles internally, unless the issue is a criminal case. We will resolve our squabbles within, we won’t expose ourselves to courts giving different interpretations. Members will sign that they will not take party matters to court. Judges are not politicians. So they cannot understand some of the underling reasons why they should decide in a right way to protect and ensure that the parties survive. As a matter of fact both parties do not have any philosophy. They don’t have any guiding principle. One person will not determine what happens in our party. Just because you are an elected governor or president does not make you the leader of the party. In our party, you can’t blow your car siren 100 meteres to the party office as a governor simply because you are coming to the party office as a member. When come you have to wait until the national chairman arrives. The party is supreme and will bring in the discipline that we need. We will also have the Founding Members Council (FMC) where all disputes must be resolved. So it is discipline that is lacking. But we know it. Those who played politics in 1983 know what I am talking about. The chairman of the party was always the last person to come to the meeting and the president must stand up. Making a governor leader of the party is like standing the pyramid on its head. It cannot stand and that is why they don’t have discipline and they do what they like. The party manifesto is thrown to the woods and the chairman is left to run after governors. The party must be organized and members must be accountable to the party. INEC does not put the name of a candidates on the ballot. It puts the party’s symbol. So even the system shows that it is the party that should superintend over the affairs of the institution. But today, we see the president or governor determining affairs of the party.
There are concerns that ADP comprises aggrieved members from PDP and APC. If so, don’t you think the reason for your coming is faulty?
We are a collection of concerned politicians not aggrieved members. After putting the platform in place those who feel aggrieved with their party can come. We cannot deny people entry into our party because they were not treated right in a certain party. Everybody is welcome. That is why it is an all inclusive party. But it is not a home for aggrieved members of APC or PDP, but a party of concerned Nigerians who want to ensure that we have a functional, dependable platform to nurture democracy so that we can address social and political issues. The political issues that we have today stem from party administration. You cannot expect any thing good from a child that comes from a home that there is no discipline and that is the bane of our problem politically. So we cannot address our economic and social issues. That is why every time you have groups saying we want to go on our own. There is no guidance. For instance we have a party that is in court but somebody should have told them to stop all the court actions. But, in a case where they said their leader is elected and has lost election, who then is the leader? Nobody. He is no longer the president or governor. That is why the chairman of the party must be the one to superintend over the affairs of the party.
You have said your party is open to defectors from both PDP and APC. But there is a concern that cross defections over the years, especially by persons, who are perceptibly tainted by corruption allegations has affected perception of administrations. But how will your party address such defections such that it does not give a sense of same of the same?
It can’t be because we have the Funding Members Council. When you defect from wherever you are coming from the philosophy of the party must be protected. If you come, you have to tow the party line. Even the president has to tow the party line. In other places, people join because they think it is a mad house and that the president does not even recognize the leadership of the party. The party does not know what the executive is doing so it is a mad place that we have today. Even problems that should not arise are coming up because no body is in charge. But the laws and institutions in Nigeria are asking the party leadership to take charge. The fact that we don’t have independent candidature today, shows that the onus lies on the party to take charge but today they have handed over to elected public officials to do what they want. For party supremacy has to be there.
In Nigeria today, at the heart of party politics is money. There is so much emphasis on money. In practical terms, how will your party address ‘money bags’ coming in to hijack the party?
The structures of our party is funded by the people themselves. There is no money bag somewhere giving us money somewhere. All our offices are furnished by our members, we have our structures funded so when the money bag comes, what will he tell them? You don’t own the party, you are not the one financing the party? Of course, if you want to run an election, you must be able to provide for the logistics; you should print your posters and open your campaign offices. You prosecute your elections and win after we give you the go ahead. But you cannot say that I am the one who established that party structure or funded the national office. That is what we are trying to do. And it is happening already. People are coming together and establishing structures in the states. When INEC came here (Abuja) they came on their own nobody game them any money for their logistics, which means people are internalizing the discipline of the party. We will make sure that the party is properly funded in order to deliver on its mandate.
How will you fund the party?
Even government funds itself. If the party engages somebody to carry out an assignment they want to fund the party. If the party engages somebody to do a certain assignment, it will make funds available for them. We will find a way to raise those funds. And it won’t be in a way that somebody will go and beg anybody. By our constitution the party is allowed to raise funds through its organs so that members of the party, working for the party directly should be adequately catered for and not be beggars. We won’t beg people for money
But in practical terms how will these money be raised?
I said through our organs. If you want to run an election through our party they will give you a fee for nomination and express of interest forms and other levies. That is allowed. The party will sit down and come up with sources of income to run the party affairs. There is nothing illegal about that, it is in the constitution. It is done internationally, there is no way you can pauperise an organization that you expect to deliver quality service.
Are there political parties that have agreed to collapse their structure into ADP?
So many of them.
Like which ones?
I can’t tell you that, it is not right. There are so many of them believe me.
Are you also considering a merger with any of the major political parties?
If you have a party that has the kind of philosophy we have and what we stand for, then we can agree that this is how we have to go. They can come in.
They are the ones that will come to seek a merge with you not you seeking them?
There is no reason why we will go and seek a merger with anybody. What for? We know that what we are doing is the right thing, it is for the people. People have already accepted us by and large. So why will I go and ask a party to merge with me, for what? Is it to be popular or what?
Will you contest the 2019 presidential election?
And you think you have the structure, as it stands, to contest such election?
Just wait and see. You will be amazed…(laughs). You are in for a pleasant surprise.
Nigeria is passing through serious challenges what do you think are the quick fix measures ?
First you must have addressed all the issues in the administration of our political parties, because that is fundamental to governance. There has to be discipline. All the talk about corruption is because there is no discipline in the administration of the party producing the people that are really running the government. But beyond that when you look at the economy you cannot divorce it from the vagaries of the oil and gas sector. If you cannot organize the oil and gas sector, the economy as it arranged today, is what you will get. The focus is in how to properly organize the sector so that the income, backward and forward linkages between the sector and other sector will become something that will give us the results that we deserve. God has endowed this nation with enormous resources. If we can organize what we have for now, while I can’t say all our problems will be solved, but we will definitely have the right perspectives. We will have no business with hunger. We are making a lot of money but it is not coming into the coffers of government. NEITI and any discerning observer can tell you that. And this is happening because we are not organized. This is a sector that is amenable to organisation because it is not a Nigerian sector per se. Oil and gas is not Nigerian, it is an international organisation, if it is working in UK, US and other developed societies, why can’t it work here.
Besides the disorganization in the sector, as you have described it, are the activities of the militants and the back and forth between the federal government and the leaders of the region over the situation of things in the region. What model would you suggest in addressing the issues in the region?
Let my use this analogy to pass across my point. As a farmer, you produce crops which are subsequently organized by government. You see foreigners come in to pack the farm produce, they process some of it and export the others. Yet almost 70 percent of the produce does not go to the government, because some of the farmers are collaborating with the foreigners. More so, the 30 precent that gets to the coffers of the government you don’t see anything to impact you positively. What will you do? If somebody from thousands of kilometers away come and steal what you own, you see it and have no right to touch it. That is what is happening. We produce crude oil, but we don’t know how much we exporting and producing. As we speak today, NNPC does not know because it does not have a direct link to the processing computers of the IOCs to know how much we produce per day. They have to call the operators, this is despite the fact that 60 percent share of the industry is owned by government. But because the IOCs are the ones operating it government does not know what we produce, even with all the technological advancements today. So why shouldn’t the Niger delta people be annoyed and bomb the whole thing. After all, Nigerians themselves are not enjoying the proceeds. That is why I say it is like a conspiracy, we need to wake up and organize it, like it is done in other climes. Technologies are being used to monitor these things, yet we claim we can’t do it. A whole nation, in this day and age, will say it cannot monitor our assets, the life wire of our economy. By the time we organize the country the way we have to, by 2019, Nigerians will see what will happen. It is sad that we cannot monitor what is happening in that sector and the world is laughing at us.
What do you make of the anti corruption war?
The government is just chasing shadows. And it will get us no where. The real problem is there, how can I be chasing a certain Tompolo, who has stolen, and now I know I have the mandate to stop him from stealing further, and I spend all my time chasing that person. What of the remaining things I have a responsibility to manage? Why can’t I look at my regulatory agencies. How was this man able to steal? Look inwards. But again, we are not organized. Our regulatory agencies are not organized. They are not properly empowered. Yet, we waste precious times chasing shadows.