Former Education minister, Professor Tunde Adeniran, was a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) until last week. In this interview with select journalists, Adeniran speaks about his reasons for leaving the party and why he believes that neither the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) nor opposition PDP can provide leadership for the country. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there.
You recently left the PDP. Why did you opt for the Social Democratic party (SDP)?
We are being guided by a definite philosophy called orientation. We are social democrats, we believe in the welfare and wellbeing of the people. We believe that there are certain irreducible minimum an average Nigerian is entitled to. We believe for instance, that education is the key for the future. Without education, we are nobody. We believe that education should be made free and compulsory for every Nigerian up to the secondary school level. The second area is health. Before you can be anything in terms of growth and development, you have to be healthy. That is why we believe that health issues should not be played with. The healthcare delivery system has to be overhauled in such a way that people will have access to basic healthcare facilities. Health insurance is one of the things we believe in very much. You see the Nigerians of old age, they can no longer afford the drugs; they can no longer take care of themselves. I have visited virtually all the continents of the world; I also had the privilege of visiting about 56 countries. I do not know of any that is as blessed as Nigeria in terms of both human and material resources. Our vegetation, you look at it and ask, ‘why should Nigerians be hungry?” There should be no hunger in this country for goodness sake. And that is why we believe that agriculture will be handled in such a way that hunger will be pushed out. Nigeria doesn’t have reasons to be hungry. As social democrats, these are some of the things that prompted the SDP.
Was there consultation before you joined the party?
Apart from the core values that we share with that party, we asked our team to go round. We also went round when it became apparent that the present party and the PDP can no longer divorce themselves. They seem to have a covenant with impunity and imposition. So I feel that an alternative has to be considered. In the consideration of an alternative, the APC is a no-go area because the damage that it has done to this country within a short time shows that we cannot entrust this country into the care of the APC with just one additional year after 2019. It will be a greater disaster because we are already in a disastrous situation. During the consultations, people felt these values that are entrenched in the programme and philosophy of this party, we share them because we could have gone ahead and registered a new party. But what we are looking for is already on ground, we can build on it, we can remodel it, we can reposition it the more. Then of course, when you are coming up with new parties, there is the tendency to have as it is inherent in party formation some elements of what you can call possibility for crisis. So you do not have a perfect situation in an arrangement whether it is a family you are putting together or a political party. In the history of the SDP, you can see that relatively, it has been crisis-free. It is also national and not driven by primordial, parochial or sectional tendencies and they have not deviated from that. We did a thorough survey; it didn’t just come from the blues. We are thinking of making it a more people-oriented party.
In 2015, the SDP fielded candidates but didn’t do well at the polls. What gives you the courage that it will win elections in 2019?
Yes, it fielded candidates but it was a small party then; it didn’t attract large followership. But now that we are coming in, it is going to become the biggest party because of the potentials, because of the attraction to the younger generation. It will be dominated by the youths; so some of us who are the older generation will just be there to mentor, to make sure that we add value to whatever they have to offer Nigerians then we take the backseat.
Don’t you think the PDP will feel betrayed about your exit?
No, it is the other way round. It is the PDP that has betrayed some of us. The PDP has betrayed us because what we all subscribe to, when you go back and read the preambles of the PDP, you will know that the party has betrayed many of us. We started this party and when you see the mission and vision of the party being aborted, you see so many things happening. If you use me as a reference point, in the past, I had the mandate to go to the Senate, it was taken away from me, given to someone who did not even contest; who was not even a member of our party. I didn’t leave the party because I felt we needed to work; the answer was not to leave. On two or three different occasions, other parties had attracted me because of some of the things that I went through but I said no, I am not an opportunist. I didn’t come into politics to be seeking for positions and then if I am not I will leave the party, no, that was not the motive. There is the need to serve the people but when it starts getting to a situation where that opportunity to serve the people could no longer be there, there will no longer be justice, it is bad. If some other people are elected through a fair, credible process, I will work. I have done it in the past. I will work with them. But the principle involved is that you cannot continue to do things the wrong way; you are destroying the future. When you go against the principles, policies, programmes and vision of anybody, it is sabotage. So the people behind it are people who have betrayed the trust. Sometimes when I look back and I think through, those who have gone; founders of this party like (Abubakar) Rimi, (Alex) Ekwueme, Solomon Lar, I feel they will be shaking in their graves to see what is happening. Those who are still around, why would someone for instance, Jerry Gana who is spending like 18 hours per day since the formative years of this party leaves such a party? He was involved at every critical stage of the formation of the PDP but he decided to leave. So it is a painful situation.
Is the movement of aggrieved chieftains of various political parties to the SDP and especially some former ministers who served under President (Olusagun) Obasanjo a fulfilment of his recent proclamation?
The way I look at it is that former President Obasanjo is a very passionate person when it comes to the issue of Nigeria and Africa. And what I see in this regard is the meeting of minds and God is also at work. While we were thinking about how to rescue this country, I have seen this as a decisive action. We have to change the narrative; we can’t afford to leave this country the way it is. I believe that when we were thinking about how to rescue this country, he too was preoccupied as an elder statesman, what could be done to redeem the nation, to rescue the situation. What he is coming up with, the Coalition for Nigeria is in tune with what we are doing and what we also believe in. There should be a third force; the coming together of people who are determined to rescue this country. At the time he was raising the issues, of course, all the issues he raised, many people felt the same way but they were not being as courageous as he had been. We share views and we also believe that people who also believe in this will join us to work together.
Did you meet with former President Obasanjo before your defection to the SDP?
We always have the opportunity of meeting the former president. He is a very active person and where there are issues being discussed about Nigeria, Africa and even the world, you will always find him there. So we interact with him from time to time and as far as this party is concerned, he is not going to be a partisan person and I believe he said it himself. He is an elder statesman but he will not shy away from encouraging a movement that will salvage this country.