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Why Fears Over INEC’s Independence Lingers – Akindele

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Chief Olukayode Akindele, was the chairman of the now rested Fresh Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was also a presidential adviser during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He speaks on some issues affecting PDP as well as other national issues. CHIBUZO UKAIBE brings the excerpt.

 

We are approaching a major election in a matter of days what is your feeling about events playing out in the political space?

It is very unfortunate that there is a lot of insecurity and instability in the polity.  However, I am confident that the way PDP conducted it’s primaries with integrity and sincerity, it is a good signal for the future and if we can maintain that posture and work hard towards 2019 and show people the way things are done, I think it will augur well for Nigeria.

What about the APC?

Everything that is happening in APC, almost on a daily basis, indicates that it is not well with the party. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The use of unpolitical and undemocratic forces to sustain it will not augur well for Nigeria’s democracy. Also it is very instructive that Jonathan’s book came out at this time. I won’t say much about the book other than to note that it shows that we must put the nation first. That is what I will conclude on Jonathan’s book. Whatever one thinks of Jonathan, he tried to put the nation first. So what I am hoping is that this government will put the best interest of Nigeria first.

Do you think your party, PDP is doing what it ought to do to win in 2019?

The party is doing what it can do. You have to remember that it is a party in opposition and party in government are not playing by the rules and not being fair. But PDP as a matured party is taking them on headlong. We have to consider the poor masses. Look at what happened in Osun. So we are doing what we can do in order not to add to the instability in the polity and I have to give alot of kudos to our leaders that they have tried to show maturity and we must commend them for that.

But most political office holders, including governors from the South east are displeased with Atiku’s choice of former governor, Peter Obi, as his running mate. Don’t you fear it would affect the party significantly?

I hope it will not. It is a pity the way he (Peter Obi) emerged. I feel the Atiku Campaign Organisation was too hasty. Once he became the candidate of the party he should have allowed the party to weigh in. If that had been done (of which I am sure it was not done) it wouldn’t have generated the kind of misunderstanding and ill feelings that it has generated. The candidate is the best candidate as far as I am concerned. But it should have been done in an inclusive and more transparent manner. That is what I feel. We will over come that and we are already overcoming it.

What suggestion will you give to address this seeming impasse?

There is no suggestion. We are leaders in our party. We the leaders have spoken and have accepted the situation and we have noted their grieviances and I have no doubt that the former Vice President and many of the concerned leaders are already reaching out to them quietly behind the scene which is where things like that are solved and you will agree with me that in recent times you have not been hearing anything about it. Therefore it means that they are accepting the situation and moving forward.

Majority of the elections held since 2015 have been won by APC, doesn’t that portend gloomy prospects for PDP?

That is a big laugh. What the ruling party has done is to play the game the way that most ruling parties in Africa do. However, thank God that in Nigeria, we have precedence of court decisions. I am sure that by the time one or two of those elections are fully addressed in the courts, the outcome of these elections will be reversed.  I have no doubt about that. It has happened in the past. Fortunately we still have a credible Judiciary. I am certain that in states like Osun, the illegality will be reversed by God’s grace. Bottom line is we have to be aware and well prepared. We must have good structures on the ground and have good agents and keep our eyes wide open. We cannot take it for granted that because this government has failed we have won automatically. They won’t give up easily. Not everybody will be like PDP under Jonathan. We will fight a good and by God’s grace we shall prevail.  At the end of the 2019 general election, PDP will emerge winner.

Let’s look at campaigns. Your presidential candidate released his campaign document recently. Do you think it captures the essence of what Nigerians should look forward to?

First, let me correct you. The campaign document should be and  is a PDP document. It is not Atiku’s campaign document because once he becomes the candidate, he becomes the candidate of the Party. The campaign document is okay but as we go ahead there will be reasons to refine it because we the leadership will offer our experience, professionalism and strategies. We also have the CUPP and other interests to consider, so we must make ourselves flexible. We must take many  things into consideration but it is a first step. I have no doubt that before the end of this year we would have restructured things that the people are not too happy with in this document. We cannot please all the people all the time but right now it is a good starting document. PDP will run a campaign based on issues.

There is so much to talk on personalities and irrelevances. PDP campaign will not be based on personalities because there is nothing to compare between the personalities of the present leadership of this goverment and that of PDP. PDP has experience and well established political characters who have managed government and private sectors and succeeded in doing so. I therefore believe that we must concentrate on issues that affect the masses, like restructuring, security, health, education, electricity, transportation and roads. Those are the issues we must face. Everything that this government is claiming to have done, were initiated by PDP government.

And of course it is not a favour to Nigerians that this government is finishing them. It is their constutional responsibility and civic duty that they need to do. So they are doing what they have to do because we set the template for them. They have to follow that template because they have no choice. There is nothing they have started from scratch and there is nothing they can start from scratch because they don’t have what it takes. The four years, we are out of government is very crucial and good for us because it has afforded us time to reflect. We have been able to reflect so by the time we get back to power in 2019, you will see the trajectory of progress and development that will transform the nation.

Restructuring is one of those issues he has harped on. But what does it really mean for you?

Restructuring means putting the best foot forward, doing the right thing for the country and the way to do so is to restructure. That means having sustainable economic entities that can adequately address the need of its citizens. Today we have situations where some states cannot pay salaries, they depend on federal government largesse, cap in hand. We need to restructure so that we have economic entities that are symbolic of growth, stability and progress. That is what restructuring will achieve. Whether it is in the original regional formation or not, we must address it. I have no doubt that PDP under the leadership of Atiku will address that very firmly. We are still working on it.

Your party has raised concerns about the partiality of INEC do you share that view?

I do, not because the party has raised it. And also not because we are in opposition. But an independent electoral commission cannot be independent it is under the ruling goverment, whether APC or PDP. We must start looking at a future where INEC will be independent like the judiciary or be under the judiciary. There must be a way of making them independent, I don’t think they are truly independent. Even if they want to be, they lack the structural capacity to be independent.

A campaign against your party’s return bid in 2019 is that if PDP returns corruption returns? Those who argue against the backdrop of the alleged corruption saga involving former petroleum minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. What’s your view?

That is a very unfortunate scenario, in fact it shows a party that does not have  issues to talk about because corruption did not start in 1999. The first military coup cited corruption. The coup that removed the current President then as a military head of State accused that government of corruption. What is important about corruption is the strengthen our institutions structures. PDP with the experience we have had is in the best position to address it. You talk about Dasuki but how many ministers served under PDP in the last 16 years and how many have been accused of corruption? How many people have been convicted and jailed? It is so insignificant. I am not saying it is not important. But it shows that over all, we are a stable upright party. There must be some black elements and we have seen them.

I don’t know whether this government has brought out three ministers under Jonathan that can be accused of corruption? Even members of the National Assembly, how many were brought out for corruption in the last 16 years? But the easiest way to cover up their failings is to blame PDP for trying to bring back corruption. In fact that is the last thing PDP will do. It has learned it’s lesson. You don’t reinvent democracy, you just correct yourself and we are doing that.

That is why we had a transparent primaries in Port Harcourt, Rivers State which was  nationally and internationally acclaimed to be the best ever. None of the 12 contestants have disassociated themselves from the outcome or  have gone to court or have left the party or is not in the Presidential Campaign Council. It has never happened in Nigeria. People must acknowledge that. See what is happening in APC. The pity is that we ourselves are not beating our own drums and actually acknowledging our feat on the roof tops.  In fact I expected to see a daily advert on the success of the primaries showing that PDP has come of age.

How do you think PDP will perform in the South west ahead of 2019?

The situation in South west is not strange and it is not unique. The region has been in a situation where over the last 16 years, the Jagaban has invested a lot of political mileage. Changing that is not very easy. However we know that in every South west state, PDP will have more than the 25 percent that it requires. I can also assure you that we will have governorship seats in at least three of the six south west states.


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