Prince Kassim Afegbua, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) served as Commissioner for Information in Edo state under the Adams Oshiomhole administration. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he said it is time for PDP to retool its leadership by sacking the Uche Secondus-led executives and replace it with a more proactive executive. He also said the party is not living up to its role as a major opposition party expected to hold President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to account. Excerpts:
You wrote a piece barely a week ago, asking the PDP to wake up in its role as opposition party. According to you, the party is not playing its role in line with the expectations of the people. What informed your position of trying to stir the hornet’s nest?
You see, I am only sounding a note of caution to anyone who cares to listen that if the PDP is desirous of winning future elections, it must consciously engage in internal reforms to rejig its apparati. The present leadership of the party cannot be sustained to manage the 2023 elections because of several contradictions. They are not interested in victory but their pockets. They build gigantic houses home and abroad and some are even trying to run for gubernatorial elections. The headquarters of the party is left without payment of salaries to staff. There is too much of pretense. They watched on as the party is gradually losing solid members who should be able to add flesh to the body and soul of the party.
Former Speaker Dogara left the fray, followed by former Governor Gbenga Daniel, former Speaker Dimeji Bankole, a serving Governor, David Umahi also left and thus depleted the fortunes of the party in that zone, and a couple of House of Reps members defecting to the ruling APC that has crippled the economy of the nation, rendering the populace helpless in the face of joblessness and unemployment. The PDP ought to be gaining momentum but the reverse is the case, and you see the leadership displaying such inertia as if all is well. When the APC was looking for power in 2015, it strategically engaged with the Nigerian public. Our PDP leadership and exco members are too overfed with potbellies everywhere unable to constructively engage.
By now, with solid leadership, the Nigerian audience ought to be looking up to the opposition for alternative voices and solutions to their deafening problems.
We need new hands and total overhaul to be able to engage the APC and its marauding mentality. Why would you be talking about zoning at a time when you have not put your house in order. Is it all about the presidency? What are your selling points in 2023? Have you come up with policies and programmes that could respond to our present predicament? Have you been able to sell them to the public in a way that they would look up to the party? What is PDP’s position on the economy that has been grounded by the APC? What is the position of PDP on the insecurity across the country? Have we held workshops and seminars to collate ideas on how to manage the situation? What is our blue-print for combating the insecurity? What about infrastructural decay and the gloomy economic situation that has impoverished the populace? The PDP leadership are just sitting there like lameduck operators waiting for every election to sell forms whose money, you never know what it is used for. So, for me, I want to see a new thinking in the party, new leadership, total overhaul. If we are not careful, we run the risk of losing Governors Makinde of Oyo and Ayade of Cross River to the ruling APC. That will not augur well for us.
But don’t you think it is better to channel your grievances to the leadership in a more private way than recourse to the public space?
It makes no difference because the executives of the party are big men who hardly pick calls. They hire jets to criss-cross the globe in search of nothing. Even where they should take commercial flights, you often see them on private jets at a time that we criticise the ruling party of wastages. If you behave like the ruling APC, is there any moral basis to criticise them? Whatever platform I used is immaterial, what is crucial is the message of wake up which to me is a clarion call to refocus the party for better engagement in 2023. We need vibrant persons with creative ideas to pursue the goals of the party.
This idea of lobbying for continuity of the present lame duck leadership will cause a lot of disconnections within the party. We need to wake up and begin to think. You have vocal people like Senator Dino Melaye, former Governor Ayo Fayose, Governor Nyesom Wike, Kwankwaso, Sule Lamido and Governor Tambuwal who should consciously be encouraged to take stronger responsibilities to advance the cause of the party. What is wrong if the PDP decides to form a shadow cabinet like they do in the United Kingdom, to provide an alternative thinking to what government might be thinking and doing?
The APC is largely uncreative, and has grounded governance in a most ridiculous manner, but the PDP which ought to fill the void, is also caught sleeping on duty. Isn’t that a double jeopardy for a country that is desirous of utility-driven leadership?
Are you suggesting that the entire executives should be changed or overhauled to position the party better or just a few individuals should be shown the exit door?
However they intend to do it, we need action, we need results, not excuses. Does it not bother you that a PDP Governor was attacked with the intent to kill him, and all you heard from Wadata Plaza was just press statement. If it were pre-2015, you would see General Buhari leading the charge in a protest to show that the government lacks capacity to preside over the country. But this PDP executives are too engrossed in sleeping on duty. So, my point is that, we should take a deliberate step to refocus the party, and set it on the path of stronger contestation for power. The time to engage that is now. Get the party retooled, rejigged and repositioned, get some brilliant minds to be more active and continuously put the party in the consciousness of Nigerians. We cannot endure the sufferings which APC has plunged the country. 33% unemployment is a ticking bomb waiting for explosion. This country is on the precipice. The opposition party should be able to rally both local and international communities in its effort to get listening ears. Submit petitions to all the embassies in Nigeria, tell Nigerians why the APC should be shown the exit door. This present exco of the PDP cannot deliver on those ideas, they are too withdrawn from the citizenry, too comfortable in their sleeping zone. They need to wake up.
The party recently threw open its zoning formula and seems to suggest that anyone can contest from any part of the country. What is your take on that?
You see, for me, it is not just about zoning, but how do you build the party to ensure that whoever emerges the candidate has a veritable opportunity to win the general election?. When you are losing strong politicians in the different zones or states, you are whittling down your influence. And the proper thing to do is for the party hierarchy to sit back, do stock taking, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and see how to fix those lapses. You need a viable, strong and credible platform to pursue your goal of ensuring you defeat the other party. Former President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t run down the economy in this manner when he lost election as an incumbent. President Buhari has brought colossal damage of monumental proportion to bear on our economy since he came. We are now rated number one in global terms in the area of unemployment and joblessness. We are the poverty capital of the world. We have assumed the headquarters of insecurity in the world; kidnapping, armed banditry, insurgency and killer herdsmen syndrome. The country is sprawling on the floor unable to stimulate any enterprise. How do you sustain such a government and yet allowing it to declare that it will rule for another 32 years? Isn’t that stupid? Isn’t that crazy? How can a party that has introduced suffering in whimsical strokes be the one to be talking about succeeding this bellicose leadership? It is just because the PDP has reneged in its responsibilities of being the alternative voice for the hapless millions of Nigerians. So, as a party, we need to take deliberate steps to rekindle the spirit and propel everyone to action. If we allow Governors Makinde and Ayade to exit the party, we will end up licking our wounds. So for any candidate to be viable, the party has to be viable.
What would you suggest the party should do if it unable to carry out its convention to elect new executives?
2023 is still some two years away, so the party has ample time to take the necessary steps to refocus and reposition. This present Secondus-led executives have outlived their usefulness, except we want to prepare for the 2023 just for the sake of it, and not ready to win election. By now, the party ought to be generating ideas on how to combat insecurity and set a template for solving the twin evil of kidnapping and banditry. It will shock you to know that the Buhari-led Federal Government has not been able to procure the necessary ammunitions and other equipment needed to make the Boko Haram fight more result-driven. They still depend on the ones bought by former president Jonathan. All the failed promises of this government should hunt it, but they are making them develop more strength, some kind of strength in their collective failures. But the PDP is not cashing in on that. Please, tell the PDP to wake up. Nigeria is at the cliff, the edge of the precipice, it can capitulate at the slightest prompting if nothing serious is done to rescue it.
Source:- Independent Ng