Kola Ologbondiyan was special adviser, Media and Publicity to former Senate President, David Mark, for eight years and ex-deputy editor at Thisday Newspaper. The crack journalist spoke with AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE on the current narrative in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and why he feels it’s time to change the party’s image making circle. Excerpts
What are your convictions for aspiring for the office of the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP?
There is a perception problem about the PDP. Because the PDP has invested in me I believe that I have what it takes to correct this unfortunate misconception. I want to apply my experience, commitment and loyalty in revamping its image and effectively propagate its values and ideologies, building on the work already done by our leaders, who have made tremendous sacrifices in stabilising the party and repositioning it especially at the heels of the unfortunate electoral setback of the 2015 general election. In spite of the challenges, these leaders ensured that the PDP remained the credible brand and I am focused on building on the solid foundation and frameworks to further reposition our great party for the task ahead.
The job of the PDP National Publicity Secretary is a very serious one. What makes you think you are qualified for this position?
What qualifies me for this job is that in the first instance, I am a Journalist, and I am a very active member of the party. I have been around from the formative stage of the party and I have been involved. I was very close to one of its founding fathers and was among those who provided ideas on how to build the party. I remained a strong supporter up to 2007 when I formally joined the party.
In 2011, I contested on the platform of the PDP to run for the House of Representatives. Though I lost at the primaries, I have remained an irredentist member of the PDP and have been very active at the ward, state and national levels. I have also had the privilege of serving as the special adviser to the president of the Senate elected on the platform of the PDP between 2007 and 2015, a responsibility I discharged creditably.
I can assure you that there is no aspirant running for the national publicity secretary that is better qualified than I. If there should be such an aspirant who believes that he knows the party more than I do or who believes that he has worked for the party more than I have done, or who have propagated the ideals of the PDP more than I do; the principles of true federalism, social justice, equity, fairness and economic empowerment of citizens; I challenge that aspirant to an open debate.
You have remained stable in PDP even at a time some people have been quite politically mobile; leaving the party to other platforms. What convinced you to remain in PDP?
I have remained loyal to the PDP because I believe in its ideology and vision. PDP is the only platform that guarantees all Nigerians the equal opportunity to express themselves and to aspire to any position despite ethnic, religious and class considerations. The PDP treads on the path of rule of law, equity and true federalism; the basic principles of democracy. This party has also allowed political pluralism making it possible for other parties to freely contest elections without molestation. So the ideology of the PDP is completely in tandem with my convictions as a person. Some of those contesting for the national publicity secretary have moved from one party to the other, but I have remained in the PDP, which is indicative of my commitment and loyalty to the party.
The PDP is in the opposition and it has a public perception issue. How do you intend to turn this around?
What is called PDP image problem today is a perception problem and how did we get it? It came from the APC, which is now the party in government. They wore us a toga of corruption and called the PDP a party of corruption. We are out to reset this narrative and nobody can do it better than a professional Journalist who also has very strong experience in political narrative; somebody that has been tested and discharged to have performed creditably in handling this type of issue.
The point is; if you call PDP a party of corruption because some of our members have been accused and arraigned, but not convicted, what do we call the APC, who’s Secretary to the Government of the Federation, was indicted to have spent hundreds of millions of naira to cut grasses? Rather than allow the law enforcement agencies to invite, investigate and prosecute him, an administrative committee was constituted. The findings of the committee were kept for months, at the end of the day we had an administrative report removing him as SGF and bringing in his cousin as the new SGF. This type of thing never happened under the PDP. The PDP government was known to have investigated, tried and even convicted its members found guilty of maleficence.
Even at that, as we speak, there is no court of competent jurisdiction in the land where PDP has stood for the charge of corruption. The PDP has never been charged; it has never been tried and convicted. So those saying that PDP is a party of corruption are just being emotive and nothing more. But Nigerians have seen through all these. Nigerians have discovered that they were lied to; they have discovered that the APC just rode to power with the instrumentality of propaganda.
One thing about propaganda and lies is that though they can help you to achieve your heinous agenda, they will fail at the end of the day and show themselves to be nothing but lies. So we have a situation where Nigerians have seen it all; they have seen the deception of the APC and they are now putting their hope on the PDP. I can assure you that the PDP remains that viable platform that Nigerians will use in 2019 to chase out this government that has wrecked our nation.
So, we have already mapped out our professional strategies and we will vigorously apply them across board to project the right image of the party to the people.
For the office of the national publicity secretary there seems to be a large field of contestants. As at the last count, there were five and there is this speculation of having a consensus candidate; what is your take on this?
Let me elaborate on this notion of five aspirants. The position of the national publicity secretary was zone to the north central and the north central micro-zoned it to Kogi State. In Kogi State, there are three aspirants running for the position. At a meeting on Thursday night, the northern leaders reinforced the fact that the position has been zoned to Kogi State. Out of the five aspirants, one has withdrawn for me. I am talking of Hon. Shola Adedoyin, who in his magnanimity of purpose and in recognition of my capacity to deliver wrote and openly withdrew for me. So in Kogi State we are left with three aspirants; myself, Barr. Kabir Usman and my friend and brother, Farouk Adejo-Audu.
Now talking about zoning the position to Kogi, a lot of issues were considered. You will recall that in time past, Senator Tunde Ogbeha from Kogi State declared his interest for the position of national secretary, a position then zoned to the north central. Alhaji Kawu Baraje from Kwara State vied for the same position. Senator Ogbeha was told to withdraw for him and he did. So one good turn deserves another. Also among the leadership of the north central it is a known fact that the position has been zoned to Kogi State.
So as we speak now there is no consensus yet on the matter?
As at this moment no candidate has been endorsed. After the meeting on Thursday, the leaders of the north central were asked to go home and talk to aspirants with a view that some will step down for others.
Finally what will be your focus as you assume office as the national publicity secretary?
Basically, my immediate focus in the PDP is to take off this odious garment of corruption. PDP is not a party of corruption. To the credit of PDP, in the last 16 years, we were able to rescue Nigeria from the throes of military dictatorship and sustained democracy in Nigeria. To the credit of the PDP, the nation was rescued from huge foreign debt overhang; the economy was revamped to become one the fastest growing in the world and our critical sector were revitalised. I also know that as a matter of fact that the EFCC and the ICPC the APC is talking about today are creations of the PDP. These are verifiable facts. So we must redirect the narrative and put the records straight.