PDP’s culture of impunity not yet over - Barr Maidugu
Barrister Bashir Maidugu is the deputy national legal adviser of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust, he said at the backdrop of last weekend’s NEC meeting of the party that it was yet to learn its lesson from the culture of impunity which led to its woeful defeat at the 2015 polls. Excerpt:
The first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting after the PDP was defeated in the 2015 elections held last weekend and there were reports of discordant tunes emerging from it. As a senior member of the NEC from the North-East zone and was in attendance, can you give an insight into what really transpired at the meeting?
Precisely I cannot discuss the subject of our meeting publicly because it is confidential. However, politics is about people who are supposed to know certain things and as politicians, we can discuss strategies in meetings but policies and subjects that are supposed to be known by people must be disclosed to them. This is one of the reasons why political parties engage in campaigns to educate members of the public about their policies and programmes.
Coming to your question about the NEC meeting, there was an agenda and we discussed it at the meeting. One of the things on the agenda was the Ike Ekweremadu report which was discussed extensively and adopted at the NEC. Like you rightly noted, that was the first NEC of the PDP since the 2015 elections. I must tell you that after the 2015 elections, PDP members are generally angry and a lot of allegations have been laid before all of us. And if a person takes any decision in anger, he would stand to regret it later; it was therefore good that NEC was not held in the first three months after the elections because it would have led us to taking decisions that we might regret later; which could include throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
In view of that, the NEC that was held last weekend was in order. The resignation of Adamu Mu’azu in May which led to the taking over of the leadership of the PDP by the deputy national chairman, Uche Secondus, was in my opinion a decision in error. This is because, whatever decision that was taken that led to Mu’azu’s resignation should have been a collective decision. All members of the National Working Committee and the National Executive Council are to blame for the loss of the party in the last elections; all of us are to blame. The most important factor is the violation of the zoning formula of the PDP. Remember, the party zoned the presidency of the country to the northern part in 2007 which led to the emergence of the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua as the presidential candidate, who later emerged as president and could only rule for two years. Thereafter, providence gave it to Goodluck Jonathan who naturally took over with our full support and ruled for another two years. And with our understanding, he was given a mandate of four years with a commitment to handover at the end to a northern candidate which he reneged and this led to the rejection of the party in the north. That action was the sole cause of our party’s defeat in 2015.
If we had a good northern candidate, we wouldn’t have lost that election. In any case, we have so many shortcomings in the last 16 years but recorded so much achievements. The NEC, after the loss of the 2015 elections, we ought to have discussed the resignation of Mu’azu, who should take over from the North-East which is one of the bedrocks of our party’s principles. In the recommendation of the Ekweremadu’s panel that reviewed the 2015 elections, the overwhelming opinion of the panel which led to recommendations was that the zoning formula of the party should be strictly adhered to. And here we have seen that the North-East is not being asked to replace Mu’azu. From all indications, the NWC has no intention of bringing up this subject for discussion. I am from Borno State in the northeastern part of this country and I want to make it clear that we will resist a situation whereby the North-East would not be allowed to complete its tenure. This is because, the office of the national chairman was zoned to the North-East but Bamanga did only two years while Mu’azu did just a little over a year. Therefore, whatever it is, we have to complete that tenure even if it is only one week; at least we will be in a situation whereby the national party (PDP) is being led by somebody from the southern part of this country.
We have only two governors from the North and they are from the North-East, and after the period whereby the office of the national chairman is supposed to be zoned to the South,, another southern person will take over; we in the North have to have a strategy of winning elections. If we are violating the zoning formula, it is part of the impunity that led to our defeat. Therefore, I urge the NWC members to come out and state clearly that replacement for Adamu Mu’azu would have to be this month.
Are you implying that this matter was not tabled for discussion during your last NEC?
It was not tabled; it was not part of the agenda. In fact, I raised my hand and wanted to speak that the North-East have something to say several times but I was not recognized, and they eventually called for closing prayers. This is because nobody wanted it discussed from the high table.
Apart from the Ekweremadu report that you said was adopted, what were other major points of the NEC meeting?
The other issue was the biometric registration which was taken in 2010 but never implemented. The NWC now found it auspicious to implement it and a committee was set up to that effect.
You have blamed your party’s failure in the last general elections to the NWC and NEC, can you throw more light on this?
We are to blame in the sense that democracy is about people. There were impositions of unpopular candidates across Nigeria. Not only that, some of the rules and guidelines that were laid down were not strictly adhered to; they were flagrantly violated with impunity and this led to our loss. Unfortunately nobody raised his hand to question anything, which is why I make bold to say that we need to change by telling ourselves the truth. We have to call a spade a spade; where there is mistake, dishonesty and selfishness, we have to point it out and discourage it. And to tell you the truth, we need to think outside the box in the PDP if we must make any relevance in 2019.
If we continue this way, I do not see us making headway in 2019; you have to think outside the box, bring in new people and fresh minds to inject new ideas in the system.
Would you then say that the adoption of Jonathan as sole presidential candidate by your party in the last election was part of the factors that led to your defeat?
These are some of the things I am talking about; I don’t want to be specific. But these are some of the mistakes we made that led to our loss and there is no doubt about it, we must call a spade a spade. It started with the governors’ forum which adopted Jonathan and presented to the caucus which then adopted him and presented to the Board of Trustees who in turn adopted him and presented him to the NEC. After all these bodies have adopted him and presented him to NEC, it could not oppose. That was how Jonathan emerged which was a costly mistake we made.
Jonathan’s problem in the last four years was his failure to address three major things that actually made Nigerians to reject our party. The first one is insecurity, the second corruption and the third one was lack of general discipline in public service. The point is that impunity must stop in PDP.
Do you think the party is learning from its mistakes with a view to forging ahead?
No! There is no sign; from what happened during the last NEC, I don’t think we are learning from our mistakes. It is rather back to square one! If we have learned our lessons after the defeat of the party in 2015, we ought to have told ourselves the truth but we are not telling ourselves the truth.
Interestingly, the PDP has also zoned the 2019 presidency to the North; do you think this is a step in the right direction?
Obviously this is an afterthought; this ought to have been done in 2014. It is a bad strategy but it is better to be late than never. Let us see how the game will play out. To me, it is very early to come out and say you have zoned the presidency to the North, it ought to have been done maybe next year or after the convention or when the party’s national offices are zoned; that is when the presidency can now be zoned.
Your party has been witnessing mass defections of members to the ruling party, the APC. What do you think is responsible for this and what do you consider as the way forward?
The action I have spoken to you about is one of the factors leading to mass defections from the party. There is impunity. We have set rules that have been established but they are observed more in breach. In advanced democracies, you cannot talk of violating rules because once you violate rules, you are an outcast.
Barr Bashir Maidugu