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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Unongo: PDP Has Derailed

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Paul Unongo

Second Republic Minister of Power and Steel, Paul Unongo, recently spoke to reporters in Makurdi, Benue State, where he addressed critical national issues, including the right of President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015. George Okoh brings excerpts of the interview

Looking back at June 12 which turned 20 years recently, would you say Nigerian democracy has developed, particularly in the area of credible election?

I think the people who say Abiola won the freest election in the history of this country, it’s either they are just talking with their tongues in cheek or they are secessionists or they are people that have vested interest because I don't know what was free about an election that was held under the military. While we slept and deceived ourselves that we had a system that was democratic, I knew and I wrote about it and I've written about it again in a book called Tiv heritage that the military had given us some kind of aphrodisiac. We fell asleep while they were implementing a programme, deliberate institutionalisation of a political system in Nigeria.

They were testing it out and it has worked up till today. It is the same system that we are implementing that is very exciting to some people called democratic system. This is the system the military imposed on Nigeria; that is, to their surrogates, the young men and the old men- the military apologists that they wanted to impose on the country so that they would practise the same system, consolidate it as they watched from behind the scene. Those who see any serious value, different from what we have today in our so called 13/14 years democratic system are just jokers because not a single difference. It's the same military system we are practicing today.

As far I am concerned, Nigerians slept while the military perfected a system which they wanted to impose on Nigeria. And that military system had the simple mindset of protecting the interests of the money men of Nigeria, beginning with the military that made huge sums of money-made a lot of money and wealth. They allowed a few civilians to make, similarly. They formed themselves in the most formidable  political alliance, pretending and deceiving us  that they have formed political parties aimed at protecting the perceived interest of the most powerful that continues to waste our energy and resources and ruin Nigeria  up till today.

The same military dictatorship and collaborators of the military produced a system that suits primitive accumulation for themselves, their apologists and they have imposed this system on Nigeria and Nigerians are so scared of going on revolution. They are so afraid. When anything gets near, something will change everything and they’ll shy away. So these people have imposed this system. You were thinking this was going to be temporary? Some of us were shouting, you are thinking this is going to be temporary?

This is a well thought out political system. They (the military) want to change our political system and they will succeed if you acquiesce and they acquiesce. That was the system that produced Abiola; that was the system that produced Jonathan; that was the system that produced Obasanjo, who was part of the people that produced the system. So, I don't see anything excitingly different between Abiola's election, Jonathan's election and Obasanjo's election. They practised with the system that is institutionalised. Nigerians have done nothing about what has been imposed on them.

If that is the case, when is true democracy likely?
When Nigerians want. What is the meaning of true democracy? True democracy implies transparency, it implies respect for human dignity, it implies proper election, when one vote is one vote and two votes are two votes; when a person beats you with one, it's one. Is that what is obtained in your country today? I mean, it's so ridiculous you would see big people that run states as chief executives with the constitution and they just converted it. Nobody has written as many constitutions within a short time as Nigeria. And they deceive themselves that writing constitutions and changing constitutions would solve their problem because they are cowards. It will not. Look at the system we have.

When I used to go to school in this country called Nigeria 60 years back, as a small elementary kid 65 years ago, to us, one plus three always made four and four was lower than five. But today, my heads of government, only 35 human beings who run the fate of this country allowed camera to record the thing they called an election. They were voting and talking friendly.

And then, the man who is the returning officer, who is supposed to count so that they can show us transparency and fools like me watched. This man piled all the ballots and said, let's sort into the two candidates. This is Jonah Jang, this is Amaechi and then, he went on. These are the votes for Jonah Jang, put them on this side, these are the votes scored by Amaechi. Everybody was watching. These are the chief executives that are supposed to drive and institutionalise as well as solidify the democratic process. 

Amaechi got 19 and Jonah Jang, 16. Not a single person complained, no fight, nothing. Everyone was happy. They then said, well, by the conduct and rules of democracy, somebody has scored 16 votes, he's called Jonah Jang. Somebody scored 19, he's called Amaechi. So, the one who has 19 has always been more than 16 in the Nigerian democracy. But they tried to say 16 is now greater than 19 and they wanted us to stand behind them. Our heads of government, 35 of them ruling Nigeria could not believe and count that 16 is a lower number to 19? They are jokers!

You think this will not fall back on you and your country? What are you teaching our children? So, I don't see any difference to what happened to Abiola and what has happened now. Abiola claimed he won, Abacha who produced the system together with his friends- the Obasanjos said no, you didn't win. Okay, Amaechi felt 19 is greater than 16, he claimed that he won. They said we sack you; we want to show you that 16 is greater than 19. What is this kind of nonsense in this country? We became independent first of October, 1960. My God, we have been a country for one hundred years now, we cannot even count? And we said we are democratic and we cannot say somebody who has 19 votes out of 35 is higher than a man who has 16 votes, what is wrong with us? What is wrong with the African? What is wrong with the Nigerian?

Kenya ran an election, because of the past history of Kenya, we expected people to fight and kill themselves. They declared that Odinga didn't win, that Jomo Kenyatta's son won. People didn't like him, the white people were afraid; they expected people to complain but they said no. The electorate expressed their wish. If you have any problem with this young man, that's your business but this election, the person with higher votes was declared president.

And a country that's older than Kenya could not conduct a small election of 35 people. They will allow us to watch the voting, after watching the voting, somebody has 19, somebody has 16, they want me, Paul Unongo at 77 to sit down and watch the debate that 77 can sometimes be lower than one. So, if I have a child today he's older than me. This is my problem. And you people, you go round asking about this great democracy; there's no democracy here.

But this crisis is within your party, isn’t it?
Yes, they don't believe in party politics in PDP. When I formed the PDP, I had ideological orientation in my head. I stated and I repeated it, quote me correctly, when I formed the PDP, it was a liberal democratic party. PDP was Peoples Democratic Party; it was supposed to be based on the principles of liberal democracy. I registered that party with a hundred thousand naira. I defined the philosophy for anybody in Nigeria. Then I saw most of my friends to my chagrin, I called some people, I showed them the idea I was developing. I told them I had developed this system and I was going to push it to Nigeria. If we can, we should work to push Nigerian political system, not by military might, to take advantage of the military interregnum in the political process where they decreed two political parties. Let's have two parties that are big, a little to the left, a little to the right and stop canvassing for votes from Nigerians on the basis of our tribes.

We should start canvassing on the basis of principles of governance. If we become government, we will use liberal democracy as our philosophy. We will use the interest of the majority as the principle of our actions. We will provide for the ordinary people that are not powerful. We will fight poverty not with mouth but by doing physical things like empowering them and making facilities like health, water and electricity available to them without taxing them. They had nothing to be taxed anyway.

So, I was excited and I felt I was a philosopher. After all, I've been writing constitutions in Nigeria since 1957 and now, I will put it in practice. I called two young men and showed them and even told them I have already submitted it to INEC and have been holding meetings with INEC for three months. I don't know whether they panicked; they are still alive. They took my ideas and took two copies of what I had already presented to INEC. That night, one of them produced a car and they put one person, unfortunately for them that person was my cousin. They gave a brand new station wagon. He drove all the way to Kano and gave a copy of this thing to Abubakar Rimi, begging Rimi that he should run to Abuja to go and register their own thing, also called PDP because this madman, that is me, doesn't know politics. He's not even interested in winning election, he can't even win election; he just talks.

So, this is a good idea, this is a good thing, let's do it, let's take it. And when they took it, then we had a crisis at INEC. They said this thing has already been registered by Paul Unongo and he has attended three meetings in the last three months. So, some of them said well, look at us, we are the greatest people, we are the biggest men in Nigeria- the Solomon Lars, the Abubakar Rimis, the Ochaigwus, that man has no money. INEC didn't know what to do. I said don't worry, look at the name of registration and tell this big men that are all my cousins and friends and former political people that what is the quarrel for? Can we have a dialogue and agree on a philosophy. The easiest thing is, since you are all the heavyweights and I saw my former president and vice-president in that formation, who am I to go and fight them?

I want the politics of, not consensus but democratic politics. If you and I agreed on the principles of PDP which I have already formed, I'm prepared to surrender the name. I wanted to be, not even a candidate; I told them all I wanted to be was chairman of the party so that I can drive it ideologically.

I then went and talked to the chairman of INEC then, you know who he was. I told him all my masters, employers and friends are in the formation Abubakar Rimi has brought called PDP. So, refund my one hundred thousand. This is history; it is factual. I was disappointed in the two people that I revealed this thing to because they are my cousins from Benue. And the way they treated me, they consolidated the fact that they didn't want me in the formation but assured me that when we get to convention, they will make me chairman. Do you know what? Benue people decided that the philosopher who produced PDP, who produced governance in NPP including Solomon Lar, that his people didn't want him.

I wrote the constitution of NPP in a manner that the secretary of the NPP was like the secretary of the communist party and the chief executive of the party. I said Solomon was with us in UMBC. And I put Solomon as governor. Because I was a Benue citizen, Benue citizens felt I was inferior to Solomon Lar. They didn't even tell me that the meeting was going to take place at such a time. They lied to me and told me a different time. I packed ten vehicles, parked Benue citizens and went with them to Abuja. They danced because their son was going to be the chairman of PDP. They went and held the meeting. I was sitting in my hotel and one of them kept assuring me as soon as the meeting starts, we'll tell you and you can come.

It is true, he never told me until the elections were held. Then somebody came to us and said, Oga sir, we have been sitting here to go and attend PDP convention, the convention is there taking place and is on television, can you turn on this television? The television was turned on. I called this man and he said, ‘em em, sorry sir, we'll come and explain to you’. So, I left PDP joined forces with people and we founded ANPP. So, when Obasanjo and my master, Ali, came and were begging me, I knew they were deceiving me.

Do you see the emerging mega opposition party wresting power from PDP in 2015?

I don't think that far because I have no confidence. Are they different from the people in PDP? They are the same people who are bonding, going round and round trying to form a party to wrest power from this people but the question is, if they wrest these power, are they likely going to be committed to the ordinary people? Are they going to be committed to ideological orientation to allow properties to develop? Are they going to give us freedom or will they do the same thing like our party that is muzzling everybody now? Governors that deceived themselves that you can express yourselves; when you express a contrary view, including Paul Unongo, they’ll deal with him. They are shut out from being old. How do you stop an old man from being an old man? This PDP of mine does wonderful things.

Do you support the call on President Jonathan to re-contest in 2015?
I don't just support people. I have a programme. You would have asked: is Mr. President implementing my programme and would I help him to improve? No, no, no. This is not a very good question. They want the president to hear that I support him, so that he could send money to me. I cannot sell my conscience by telling him in advance that I'm going to support him when I don't know his programme. I like some of the things he's doing; I don't like some of the things he's doing. Unless I dialogue with him. I'm not a kid.

I belong to an organisation known as the Northern Elders Forum, we are a political organisation; we want peace, stability and the progress of Nigeria, particularly northern Nigeria because the stability of Nigeria is northern Nigeria because it has a huge land mass. If there is peace in the north, if there is stability in the north which is two-thirds of Nigeria, there will be peace and stability in the rest of Nigeria. So, I am loyal to the Northern Elders Forum; I am the deputy leader and the spokesman. Once a decision is taken by the Northern Elders Forum as to who we should give all support as the President of Nigeria, we know that person will win.

We feel the north has not been treated well and we have statistics right from the time Obasanjo became president of Nigeria. We are talking about structural allocations. Perhaps, when you see them and abstract them and put them at the time of the various presidents, perhaps you will be angry the more during Obasanjo's time. Perhaps, you will say Jonathan has tried, I don't know. But we will do that exercise when it comes to supporting anybody. However, as a predisposition, we are predisposed. That I must tell because I don't want to be misquoted in having a president come from the north after doing many years. When Yar'Adua appeared, he was very sick he couldn't do anything.

As a member of the Northern Elders Forum, you met with the President recently on the security situation in country, what was the discussion on security and how would you appraise the situation so far?

We've been advising the President. In Nigeria, we don't see achievement to be incremental and I don't blame Nigerians, they are correct. Everything is secret; they don't take Nigerians into confidence. We of the Northern Elders Forum are very worried that security of Nigeria was so threatened that living in this country became too precarious and people who were too scared were taking off from Nigeria.

We understood that. We have taken steps to bring this situation back to normal. Together we believe if we contribute our quota, we will solve the problem. So, we stayed and wrote copious suggestions to Mr. President. In fairness to Mr. President, he granted us audience when the thing became too much and he saw us face-to-face and discovered that he had paid hirelings that always hang around power corridors who were telling him about the bunch of northerners who floated Boko Haram and who don't want him as a Christian president that he is. But I particularly told him to be very far away from them.

By constitution, Mr. President swore to protect every Nigerian and the territorial integrity of the country and this thing, whether it his political opponents that created them is completely immaterial. The thing was threatening finance as almost everywhere was out of control. We told Mr. President, this is a very serious situation, don't just look at Boko Haram; it is a multi-faceted problem you have at hand and approaches should be multi faceted. He agreed.

Our position is that Mr President swore by constitution to protect us and give us security in our country and proceeded to swear to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria. If anybody comes and starts appropriating some parts of Nigeria and telling people I'm going to declare this part of Nigeria part of Chad, part of Niger or part of Mali, he should tell that person off. So, we are not opposed to Mr. President declaring state of emergency.

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