Did you foresee the splinter in the PDP?
No, I did not foresee a split as major as this; I certainly did not. What I saw was that there was going to be several disagreements and individuals would leave and join other parties, most likely the All Progressives Congress (APC). For one, I saw Rotimi Amaechi, ending up in APC because of the unrelenting hostility, which he was experiencing, both from Aso Rock (the president and his wife) and then the locally imposed PDP executive in Rivers State. So, I didn’t see him remaining in the PDP because they just didn’t give him any room to maneuver, to make a dignified return to the party. They wanted to humiliate him at all costs. So, I knew he was out.
The other person I thought was definitely going to leave was Nyako, the governor of Adamawa. He has been angry for a long time. You could see it in his countenance and in his words. He didn’t have anything to lose. He was doing his second term. I could see that in his eyes. So, I knew that he was going to leave.
But the others have been a bit of a surprise: Lamido, Wamakko, the Kwara governor and Aliyu; though Aliyu has been very vulnerable. He has spoken a lot, but I thought that at the end of the day he would retract back into the PDP. So, what has happened now is very major; it is an earth-shaking development. The PDP can pretend that it is an in-house affair, but it is actually an earth-shaking event.
I don’t see those people ever coming back. You can see that the man who schemed it all is Atiku. He is the schemer, coordinator and organizer of everything. He is a good chess player. What he did was first to create a platform in the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). He got PDM secretly registered. Nobody knew so he took everybody by surprise. Then, he kicked up such a force within the PDP that the party either has to swallow whatever is ingested into it and be humiliated and then allow him take over or he would have an excuse for leaving and then joining PDM with his group.
For example, demanding that President Goodluck Jonathan should undertake that he would not contest the 2015 election, that is mission impossible. Between Goodluck and his wife, Patience, that is the beginning and end of life. There is nothing that is ever going to make him renounce his ambition for 2015. Never!
Even though he has not said he is running.
He has not come out to declare his ambition, but everybody knows that his two legs are in 2015. Nothing will ever stop him from contesting. A nuclear bomb will not stop Jonathan from 2015 election.
Now, Atiku is a very smart and intelligent man. So, he knows this, but he doesn’t want to create a situation where people will say that he split the PDP frivolously and went away. So, he brought in this condition, knowing that the answer will be no. Then he would have something to hang on to and say ‘if only he had agreed to renounce his ambition, we would have remained and cooperated to make the PDP a stronger party. Since he has refused, on principle, we are leaving.’ And then they will declare for PDM. So, it is all stage-managed. It is a clever chess move for Atiku to actualize his determined intention to contest the presidential election in 2015.
So, you don’t see their efforts at reconciliation bearing fruits?
No, the reconciliation will fail. If you look at what Baraje is doing, you will know that they are not joking. One, he is opening a secretariat and then instituting more legal actions against the PDP saying that Tukur’s PDP and the executive should no longer be recognized; that his own should be the one recognized. But of course, we know that that is not possible. No court is going to say that. All those hostile actions are just laying the ground for this splinter PDP people moving en masse to PDM. Nothing is going to stop them. They are going to do that.
If that happens, what are Jonathan’s chances in 2015; bearing in mind also the recent emergence of the APC?
His chances of nomination will be much greater because virtually all the opposition to that would have been out. In fact, he will then be nominated without any primaries. That is step one. But the second step which is becoming president again in 2015 will be much difficult. Now, he has a narrower field of absolute and certain support in the country.
If you go to the South-South, he can only be confident of four states out of the six. Edo is already out and Rivers will be out. He will be left with Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Delta. If you go to the North, virtually all the North is going to pass him by. Already Kano, Borno, Yobe, Zamfara and Nasarawa are for the APC. There is no question about that. With this people going away, Sokoto, Niger, Kwara, and Adamawa are all gone. More than half of the North is already gone.
In those circumstances, he cannot rely on northern votes as he did the other time. And don’t forget that we have the CPC factor in the APC which is also very strong in the North. So, the North for Jonathan is almost a write off.
Really, he would be depending almost exclusively on the four states in the south-south and some states in the south-east. Imo is virtually out. But since APGA usually don’t have a presidential candidate, may be the remaining four states will vote for him. So, his chances will be much narrower. There is no question about that. And of course, forget west because they will vote en masse for the APC.
What role will his incumbency play in all of these?
It will not make any difference in this case. The opposition is just too much. Not just too much, it is an angry opposition; determined opposition. Then another factor which also is going to work against him is this northern obsession with power. The North is obsessed with power; especially the Hausa-Fulani and they will do anything (there is no limit to what they can do) for the so-called power to return to the North. That is the problem. It is a problem with me as a person because when you don’t look at the quality of a candidate and you are simply saying that power must return to the North, that is a problem.
They don’t care whether a donkey is fielded; it does not matter to them. They don’t just care about the consequences of having someone who is grossly inadequate holding such office. It is a sort of blind attitude to governance. So, we have a lot of problems ahead of us.
My hope is that plans like that should fail and that somebody should emerge because of his competence, record, character and the programmes he has for the country, for a change. In this mix in which there is no absolute certainty of anybody getting it, it is possible a good candidate will emerge.
How do you see the emergence of the APC and their strategy for 2015? It seems Gen Buhari is still interested in the race for the presidency.
The APC too has its problems. There are in fact two major problems, one of which is permanent leadership. What they have now is temporary leadership. But more worrying, more sensitive is who becomes its presidential candidate. Buhari is a very powerful figure in the APC, but in my view, it will be a mistake to field him. The man has contested three times already and has lost whether fairly or unfairly. Second, he is strongly associated with this extreme northern mentality. Let’s leave out the Muslim aspect. He also has the Huasa-Fulani mentality of power at all costs and also he does not have respect for other parts of the country.
The recent statement he made of equating Boko Haram with Niger Delta militants to me is an illustration of extreme insensitivity and so much commitment to the North. It shows that he can see no wrong by anybody in the north. We are talking of mass murderers who have killed thousands of innocent Nigerians. They have butchered Nigerians, butchered United Nations personnel, destroyed newspaper houses and killed their workers, destroyed so many churches and killed Christians as well as Muslims, and even killed school children in a boarding house.
How can any human being talk of accommodating people like that in any civilized democratic setup. These are people who deserve to be at The Hague being tried for crimes against humanity. So, for me, Buhari should not show his face. And if the APC puts Buhari forward, they have cut their chances of success by half.
Who would you rather tip for the post?
I have been thinking along that line because I am an APC man myself. My view is that the best combination would be Audu Ogbeh. He is one of the senior members.
Is he not too old for the job?
He is under 70. Buhari is older than Audu Ogbeh. Audu Ogbeh as president and Raji Fashola as vice president; that is the winning combination as far as I am concerned.
Some are even saying Tambuwal and Fashola.
No, no, no. Tambuwal has not established himself as anything. He doesn’t have exposure. I have seen him; he is doing well, but I think his time is yet to come. This man, Audu Ogbeh is a Second Republic politician and he was voted the cleanest politician in Shagari’s government; the most honest politician; the man who shunned corruption totally.
He tried to do it in PDP as chairman and he didn’t survive it. He was kicked out; he was almost killed. So, he is one of the cleanest and finest politicians we have ever had. If you put him there and you have a strong man like Fashola who has the energy and dynamism behind him, then you have a winning team.