In this interview with select journalists in Ilorin, Kwara State, former national chairman of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, shed more light on why his group wrote a protest letter to the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC). OLADIPO MAGAJI was there for WEEKEND LEADERSHIP
Recently, the nPDP issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government and the APC and demanded for some things. The ultimatum has elapsed and now what is going to be the next line of action?
When you look at the letter, I’m sure, we distributed some copies to the media, there was nowhere we mentioned ultimatum. We only advised in the letter but when the press came to say ultimatum, we kept quiet because the media has the liberty to use their language.
The advice we gave to the party was that within seven days, because of the time to the congresses that were imminent. We were warning in that letter that we had no time for the party to be able to win and plan towards the forthcoming elections. We were advising the party to let us sit down in the round table so that we can solve things out.
Some members of nPDP had dissociated themselves from your group. They claimed they were not consulted before you went on air on the ultimatum given to the APC. What is your reaction to this?
Incidentally, somebody reacted to this almost immediately, and that was the former Youth Leader of the then nPDP, Timi Frank. He responded to it adequately, even if he had not responded, we would not have responded for so many obvious reasons.
nPDP was borne out of some people that were not satisfied the way governance was being delivered to the people when we were in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and they happened to be leaders that cut across Nigeria. They included seven governors at the initial stage and finally it was brought down to five governors and about 20 senators serving then and non-serving, many members serving and non-serving of the House of Representatives.
It was a group that left due to poor governance, lack of respect for the rule of law, impunity of the highest order. If you looked at the address we presented that day at Yar’adua Centre in Abuja, those were the things we protested against. And so, we went into alliance with other political parties to culminate the APC. That is the journey so far.
Even if somebody had not responded the way Timi Frank had responded, nobody would have bothered because that was a large group of people and when you are coming among large group of people, you don’t expect not to have one or two black legs and when black leg resurfaces, you don’t mind; even in front of God, there are black legs. So, why do we bothered? As far as we are concerned, the defunct new PDP is a group that would continue to live for a long time, because it consists of leaders.
Not only that, these leaders are now bringing up vanguards, because what the group stands for is good governance generally; it stands for delivery of dividends off democracy to the common man. And today, we have a long way in the APC and we discovered there are some of those things, if not all, that made us to complain while we were in the PDP that are even worse than now.
If we are leaders that worth our salt, we should not be ashamed to shout out that what we cried against is now repeating itself. It is like the history repeating itself and the time is so short to call it history, just three years ago. May be that is how short human memory is.
In the letter, you talked about marginalisation of your group in the sharing of public offices. How?
Like I said earlier on, I said we stand for good governance and once good governance is absent, many things are absent. When we were in the PDP, we complained about lack of respect for rule of law and marginalisation of southern part of the country. We complained against impunity of government.
If you are at the preamble and first paragraph of that letter, all the things we complained against that time are the things are repeating themselves.
Now that former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who co-signed the letter with you, has left the APC for African Democratic Congress (ADC), are you saying the members of the nPDP are on their way out of the APC as well?
Oyinlola was the Secretary of the then defunct nPDP. His leaving the party (APC) for another political party, I think it is to send a signal to everybody that, that group has been so discontented a lot of time. We have been probably trying to bear and persevere, that is how we get to this point.
From his (Oyinlola) own end, maybe his followers back home could no longer bear it. Those of us who are leaders in our own small way, we are being directed by our followers and it is where their interest is that we go. So, probably, the signal that of Oyinlola should send is that those of us who are still remaining here, still have the interest of the APC at heart and we have been trying to suppress our followers that they should still be patient. May be that is the signal he should send. But you all know that patience has its limit of elasticity, no matter how elastic patience is.
There have been reports on the parallel congresses in some state chapters of the party. As a member of Board of Trustees of the APC, don’t you think this portends danger for the party?
I think parallel congresses everywhere, I have counted about 21 states where we had parallel congresses. My number may not be sacrosanct. But I counted 21 states. And I was asking myself, how many states does the APC control? You can imagine that. I have had the opportunity of chairing the PDP and the impression people have is that you don’t have internal democracy. As bad as people thought it was then, we never had 21 where we were having parallel congresses. As a matter of fact, there were three traditional parallel congresses or election areas when we were in PDP and we were always prepared for them.
So, for the party in government that controls may be 22 to 24 states to have 21 states where we were having parallel congress, even in the states where we don’t control, there were parallel congresses. In Enugu State, we had parallel congress there and it was even violent. It was all over the place.
That dates me back to the warning I sounded in 2016. In Rivers (State), we don’t control government there, you see the violence that is going on about parallel congresses. It is left to the party to decide what to do. But if you asked me as an individual, it is a dangerous trend and I think the earlier the party gets its act together, the better for the APC.
I tried also to look at who are the people forming these parallel congresses and I discovered that they have one thing or the other to do with government. If you don’t have ministers running parallel congress here, it is an official of the government. Then, what does that mean. They want to crash the roof of your own house on your head. Then coming to Kwara State, which I can tell you I know most. I tried to get information about some people who went and gathered themselves to say that they were running a parallel congress or something, and I discovered that they were brothers who felt they were aggrieved, and they thought the only way to lay their complaints was to do what they were doing. We are looking forward to what will happen. Like I said, it is history repeating itself. We have had this kind of thing several years ago but when the night comes, the bird shall go home to roost. When we were about leaving the congress site, some people came up with a song which we all know. That is “if I am the one who is heavy or you are the one who is heavier on ground, let’s meet at the voting arena.”
We crossed our legs and we are looking on the day of the elections because we believe that you cannot be a member of the family where you have benefited so much, where your foundation or what you say you are today was built and then you want to destroy that place, it is like the traditional biting the finger that fed you. It doesn’t pay, it is a law of karma. What goes around will come around. We are watching. As far as we are concerned, it is left to the party to take a decision. That they have taken a decision with us is very satisfactory. Because the team that came to supervise the election and even the INEC team were at the right place. And the right place was where we were, where my leader was, where I was and where the majority of Kwarans were. For us, we are not aware of any parallel congress.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has declared his interest for 2019 and your group has resurrected again. What would be the implication for him?
Those of us in APC are desirous that he comes back, hence that letter wrote. If you look at the content of the letter, what we are saying is that for us to win big, we must sit down so that we review and revisit all the agreement that we reached with ourselves before we formed the APC. We were only reminding the party. So, those of us in the APC are desirous that Buhari comes back, are desirous that our party wins Presidential election and the only way to do it is to ensure that everybody is carried along and those of us who felt aggrieved, this is the right time for us to complain so that we do not carry it to election period. It is not as if we are rebelling. But let me warn that every politician, individuals as a group, we have aspirations and every politician will go to where his aspiration will be fulfilled. That is the warning. If the APC is desirous of meeting the aspiration of every group that comes to the APC, all well and good. If not,
people will find where their aspiration will be fulfilled. This is the time to talk to each other, politicians across the country indifferent of political lineage, we are talking to ourselves. We can only wish the APC good luck.
Looking at your experience as former Chairman of the PDP and the nPDP, what do you think is the fault of the APC to the extent of division in the party?
If I were a chairman of the APC, I would listen to my followers. If I were the chairman of the APC, I would carry everybody along. If I were the chairman of the APC, I would rule by the constitution of the party. If I were the chairman of the APC, I would say the fact and damn the consequences, no matter whose ox are gored. If I am the chairman of the APC and I applied a rule and people were not pleased with it, I would resign. But if it is the minority that is not pleased with what I’m doing, then I’m doing something good and I would continue. I would make sure that the rule of law takes its stand.
When I was the PDP chairman after my transition from the post of secretary, I knew the work we had been doing as secretary to instil internal democracy and discipline into the party, and the discipline was at the peak by the time I left the chairmanship. The record is there. And it is unfortunate that immediately my team left, the PDP has not found its feet. It is because I was applying those virtues I just enumerated. I was listening to the people; I was taking advice from the right quarters. I was not looking at the basis to say you are the leader even the President, because the constitution gives me the mandate to manage the party. And if the President thought that he was more than the party, I would call his bluff, because the party is the one that made him the President. Without that platform, he can’t get there. May be those are the things the leadership of the APC could not do and that is why they found themselves where we find ourselves today. Whatever you are doing, you must be honest to yourself and to the people that you are interacting with. I always tell you, the moment I’m appointed into any position today, that is the day I will start preparing the day I will leave.
So, I do not fear anybody whether you will remove me or not. Like I said in 2016, the courage, honest of purpose, direction and rule of law were the things that were not properly observed. It is my personal observation.
The Senate and Inspector General of Police have been in the news in recent times over snubbing of summons and the latest is on the suspected cultists, who were transferred to Abuja from Ilorin. As a stakeholder in this business, what is your reaction to this development?
It is part of what we have been discussing here. It is lack of respect for due process, rule of law, absolute disdain for peace and order and flagrant disobedience to highest authority in Nigeria. What do I mean by that? If the people can disobey the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, what other authority is there in the Constitution, I don’t know.
To me, the invitation to IG by the Senate is in order. It contains in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I’m happy that senior members of bar are not keeping quiet at all. They said the invitation to IG is in accordance with the law. So, why does somebody supposed to ensure that the laws of the land are carried out, is now the number one person disobeying the law and the executive feels okay with that.
Something that got some us of worried sometimes ago even before now was the audacity of the IG to disobey the person that appointed him. Sometimes, the President was in Benue to empathise with the people and the President openly told all of us that IG flagrantly disobeyed him. As if that was a thing of pride even for the President and we all laughed. It was the most serious thing that I have ever witnessed. To me, that is arrant disobedience to the rule of law, and if things had degenerated to that level, that is anarchy and today, we believe that we cannot get out of the country and say we are Nigerians.
With this action that is being demonstrated, it is not Bukola (Saraki) that is being rubbished, it is system that is being denigrated. Once the system is weakened, then why are we saying we are fighting corruption? This is the highest point of corruption. When you run a government without respect for rule of law, it is highest point of corruption. As a matter of fact, it is an unspeakable action coming from the quarters that is not expected. And I appeal to government to correct itself with immediate alacrity, otherwise anarchy has already entered our corridor and it is knocking at our door. May God forbid it.
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