2 parties may emerge from PDP – Donald Duke
A former governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke, is one of the prominent members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). He was in Enugu recently for a function where he spoke to select journalists on the party and other issues.
What’s your take on the ongoing crisis in the PDP?
The PDP situation is a very, very sad one not just for the party but for the nation itself because right now there’s no viable opposition; the opposition is in disarray. And what we have in the PDP now is ego at play; it’s just the ego of a few individuals that is bringing down the roof of the entire house. Maybe we need to take a deep breath, step aside and say, listen, what is best for the party and not what is best for me.
We made a mistake, and I say this bluntly. I believe that former governor Modu Sheriff should not have been invited to lead the PDP in the first place. Why? For 16 years, he was in the opposition party. He joined the PDP and within one year of joining it, he became the leader of the party. If you were a member of the PDP in Borno State, who for 16 years Sheriff was your adversary, I don’t think it would be a pleasant experience for you that he became your boss overnight.
But having made that mistake I repeat, having made that mistake - we have to learn from it. I believe that in August or thereabout there would be a national convention. Let us all come together because a lot of effort went into building that party. So, if in the next couple of months there is a convention and we guide ourselves properly, we can put all these behind us. But all this running back and forth to court and all that will not solve the problem because eventually, what will probably happen is that we are going to have two parties emerging from the PDP - what Modu Sheriff is holding and what Makarfi is holding. And when you want to fight an incumbent, you gather strength, you come together, don’t divide the party.
The APC defeated PDP in 2015, because they came together; the amalgamation of various parties and not the disintegration of parties. And so, PDP is still a very strong brand that has offices and network throughout the country. That is the strength, right? It should come together, put ego aside and build the party. Unfortunately, ego is the biggest problem in dealing with politicians. Each one wants to ‘show you who I am’ and at the end of the day, we are nothing, absolutely nothing; it’s the country that makes you something.
In one of your interviews with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), you identified
illiteracy as one of the banes of Nigeria’s electoral processes. Looking back at the election in Rivers, Ondo, Edo and the forthcoming Anambra governorship poll, what would like you say?
Well, electoral processes fail because there is a lack of awareness among the electorate; so we need to educate them, and the best way to educate them is experience. We need to have elections even more frequently. Elections are like events in Nigeria; every four years, we go for this event. But in a democracy, the election should not be an event; it should be the norm. So we need to have a checking system where every two years or thereabout, we go to the polls. It allows the electoral body, INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), in our case to improve on their performances. It also allows the electorate to learn and become more experienced, more aware of what will happen.
I think we should also stagger elections because one of the problems we have is that the entire country goes for election on the same day. That is not right. We should stagger it, so that may be the house of assembly or and the legislative house goes every other two years. And so every two years or thereabout, we have an election. That way we are constantly testing the process and bettering it. That’s what I mean by the awareness. Not really illiteracy. It’s not about going to school too much. It’s about awareness. But some people say it will lead to dominance by the ruling We made a mistake, and I say this bluntly. I believe that former governor Modu Sheriff should not have been invited to lead the PDP in the first place. Why? For 16 years, he was in the opposition party. He joined the PDP and within one year of joining it, he became the leader of the party
Not necessarily, because if the awareness is very strong by the electorate, they also become less tolerant of the dominance of the ruling party.e if they know that in two years they will be tested, that keeps the ruling party constantly on its feet.
When you were governor of Cross River State, you established TINAPA and the Obudu Cattle Ranch. But today, those projects seem to be ghosts of their old selves. How can those in position of authority sustain projects to prevent them from turning into huge waste?
Well, two things; we have weak institutions. If our institutions were strong, they will not depend on the whims of an individual regardless of what office he may hold. The reason there’s a failure of continuity in governance is the weakness of our institutions. So everything falls within the whims, within what the governor or the head of the institution may want to do.
I tell people that the resources we used in developing Obudu Cattle Ranch, for instance, which was at a time the best resort in all of West Africa, and TINAPA which we spent almost half of a billion dollars to develop, were not Donald Duke’s resources; they were resources of the people that had the appropriation of the state House of Assembly; so it was spent by law. Therefore, it is almost criminal to allow such enterprises to go to waste because of political proclivity, and it’s difficult to admonish legally those who fail to build on structures left behind by their predecessors. As I said before, the institutions are weak but the loss is collectively ours.
I tell folks that governance is a shift system. For four to eight years I am the worker, then the next four to eight years is another shift, and another worker comes on board. If each time there’s a shift we start from the beginning, we will never complete the structure, and that’s the weakness of the system. Today, we look at the United States and I feel people are concerned about where is Donald Trump taking America to. But I said there is nothing to be concerned about. The American institution is so strong that regardless of who is the leader, the country will still make progress. It will not fail because it does not depend on a Donald Trump or whoever it is.
It may be like the chairman of a board, giving some direction but the institution is so strong that regardless of who is there, it will succeed. Ours is the reverse, and that’s the bane of a developing society. So we need men of goodwill to strengthen and build our institutions.
In your public lecture themed ‘Now is Your Time,’ you spoke on the contributions of the private sector to education…?
(Cuts in) You know, there are certain sectors that all hands must be on deck, and education is one of such sectors; healthcare is another where it cannot be left solely to public authorities. Private enterprise and men and women of goodwill must invest in. In my lecture I said that this is the period of the Nigerian dream, like where we have a society that is literally in need of everything and so they (particularly the Nigerian youths) have vast opportunities of plugging into various sectors. And do you know I ended up my lecture by saying ‘he who dares wins?’ The truth is, the real failure is not the failing in enterprises; the real failure is failure in trial, and so my message to the students is venture forth, strive, don’t be afraid to fail, right? The surprise of this time is that the world is literally at your feet.
Mr Donald Duke