Former Education minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, in this interview speaks on his ambition to become the next National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). MUYIWA OYINLOLA met him.
Why do you want to be National Chairman of PDP?
For Nigeria to return to democratic governance in 1999 after many years of repressive military rule, it took the concerted and sacrificial efforts of patriots and leaders of the political class to plough the grounds from which the 4th Republic political parties sprouted.
It could be rightly said that the PDP, the dominant national party that came out of that era, is a product of robust and vigorous political engineering. The party came to being from the aggregated patriotic efforts of leaders and key political actors from diverse political backgrounds, orientations and ideologies from across the country, which played leading roles in engendering the new democratic dispensation which we currently enjoy.
On account of its pan-Nigerian attraction at formation and grand allure as an all encompassing veritable vehicle for national integration, socio-economic redemption, its vigorous mobilization drive and vast reach across the nation’s political landscape, the PDP was able to win elections massively at all levels across the country, and thereby went on to formgovernment in majority of the states and at the national levelin 1999.
The party, in the intervening sixteen years, was able to deepen democratic principles and provided political leadership and good governance for the country.
It also initiated and successfully implemented a number of landmark reforms and also executed unprecedented number of basic infrastructure, development projects and programsacross all sectors of our national life. Legacies and evidencesof the PDP sixteen years are everywhere for all objective minds and rational analysts to see and appreciate.
But those sixteen eventful years, undeniably brought upon theparty huge challenges, especially in the critical aspect of being able to manage its successes because the umbrella grew so big and unfortunately began to manifest some structural defects.
The size of the party and the huge electoral fortunes it recorded obviously created a false belief in the minds of the managers of the party to the effect that it was too big to suffer any major reversal of its political fortunes and was set to be in power ad infinitum. But, alas, 2015 proved all that our self-delusion wrong as the party was rudely upstaged and shoved aside from power, and that shocking blow was followed by a prolonged debilitating leadership imbroglio which took a heavy toll on the party. Of course, we have learnt our lesson, but in a hard way. The over eighteen months leadership crisis we went through which almost got the party under was an episode in the life of the party that I am sure no well-meaning PDP member was proud of, especially those of us who had theprivilege of being part of the formation of the party.
But thank God, all that bitter experience belongs to the past! The PDP now has a golden opportunity of a new beginning torework its structures and reposition for a future that holds great promise.We are now in a critical moment of reflection that requires that we ask the right critical questions and proffer answers with all sense of sincerity.
Mindful of the foregoing, and out of the profound love for the party and the sense of obligation that I have as one who was there at the very beginning of the building of the party, I took it upon myself to interrogate the situation which we presently find ourselves with a view to knowing how and what brought us to where we are, what held us down, what were those things we did that we ought not to have done, or ought to have done differently, and those things we ought to do that we did not do.
From my findings from deep interactions with a vast majority of members across board, I found out that all the challenges of the party boils down to the need to figure out how to administer the party with a high sense of moral rectitude to correct the mistakes of the past and not return to our pastmistakes and learn to conduct our affairs more transparently, ethically, intelligently and in a smarter and more result-oriented manner. Conscious of the forgoing, therefore, and considering the privilege of my training, wealth of experience, exposure, deep knowledge and understanding of the workings of the party, I consider myself sufficiently equipped with the requisite capacity to put the party on a strong footing again by fixing the problems, extricate it from the suffocating grips of self-destruct and move it forward in the right direction for true greatness.
Since a tree does not make a forest, are you sure you will be able to achieve this feat of reviving and transforming the Party?
I have no doubt that all well-meaning members of the party across all organs and levels are in concurrence with me on my submission that there is a compelling need for the party to be reinvented, rebranded and repositioned to its original position of strength as the nation’s flagship political organization. To achieve that, we need to commit the party into the hands of someone who has the know-how, and I believe I am that person because I possess in rich measure, what it takes to help the PDP overcome the past, to change its current unpleasant status, to engender the culture of doing the right things and make right decisions in line with the provisions of the party constitution and tenet of democracy; to fight and withstand all forms of threats and subdue obstacles on its way to victory in the next general elections. In this regard, I pray those to be elected along with me will be as committed. We have great men and women of integrity and patriotism in the Party. They shall certainly play their parts.
I believe that through my well-articulated policies and programs, we can very quickly, build the old ruins and give the much-needed fresh lease of life to the party by providing moral and political leadership, reconciling all members of the party, restoring the confidence and, create a new basis of trust, shared ideals and loyalty of party faithful, building mutual reinforcement of generational relationships between the older and younger generations of the Party, removing all forms of anti-democratic cultures of impunity, imposition and subversion of the will of the people, in the operation and management of the affairs of the Party, and returning it to those noble founding principles and values upon which it was founded in 1998, creating in everyone, a sense of belonging by giving the party back to the members, and ultimately build a strong, well-functioning and wholesome political organization that will fix the cracks in our national life, engender an all inclusive and just society, and return the nation to greatness starting from 2019. That is in summary, the reasons for my aspiration to become the National Chairman of the party.
About five of you vying for this office from the South-West risk the chance of losing against Chief Raymond Dokpesi and Uche Secondus from the South-South unless you present a common front. Is there any possibility of the South-West presenting a consensus candidate ahead of the Convention?
Consensus building is an integral element of democracy. It is good and desirable, but it means different thing to different people. In this particular case in question, it refers to a situation of voluntary withdrawal from the race by anyaspirant or aspirants. I believe it is not an ideal that anyone could be coerced into accepting, but it should be taken as a matter that will evolve from self-appraisal by the individuals concerned.
It will be a welcome development for any of my brothers in the race who is so guided to do so, but for me, the issue of withdrawing from the race or stepping down does not arise because I am running on a deep conviction of the need of the Party for the experience and capacity that I possess; the refreshing hope that I represent, and the great value that I can add to change the fortunes of the party.
I came into the project with a deep sense of mission, well thought-out blueprint and a grand vision to take the party out of its current disadvantaged position and reposition it as an enviable and a model political party, not only in Nigeria, but in the continent.
In the event of an agreement on a consensus candidate, will you be ready to step down if it does not favour you?
All the aspirants come with great credentials, but with a sense of modesty, I can confidently declare that I do not see anyone else who can implement and execute the tailor-made programs which I have painstakingly designed and conceptualized in my mind for the redemption and rejuvenation of the party. No other person can bring to life what I envision for the party.
Looking at my mission statement and blueprint, it could be rightly said that I am on a rescue mission in the true sense of the word; and truly speaking, the party, at this critical juncture, is in need of the rescue anchor that I hold. For metherefore, the issue of whether a consensus favours me or not is not an issue; that is not even on my mind.
If eventually, there is going to be a consensus arrangement, since I am keeping faith with God’s divine promise, the facts on ground point to my direction as the one that such arrangement will certainly favour based on my pedigree. This project is heavenly ordained, and I am keeping faith!
Your aspiration for this office is being said to be against the run of play in the PDP, considering the fact that the present National Vice Chairman of the Party is also from the same Ondo/Ekiti axis like you.
That is an inconsequential argument. The fallacy in that line of argument is crystal clear. There is absolutely nothing in the constitution of our party that makes the issue which they are canvassing to be capable of jeopardising my aspiration. The truth of the matter is that I am running for National Chairman which is the apex office.
The National Chairmanship office is open for anyone that feels he is qualified from any state of the South, particularly the South-West to put himself forward for, and that is what I have done. I am not in contest for zonal leadership of the party. The post of National Vice Chairman is an internal arrangement within the zone and it remains as such.
What will you say are the major challenges of your party?
The challenges of the PDP are well known to everyone. It is a statement of fact that at the peak of its success, the party derailed from the ideals and principles that defined the ideology, character, spirit and ethics of the party at its formation. It lost contacts with the members and was takenover by some powerful few who, with brazen impunity,subverted the will of the people repeatedly and jettisoned the sanctity of internal democracy, rule of law, fairness and equity.
The ineffectiveness of the structures of the party and the inability of its organs to function rightly are challenges that we have to deal with through effective organizational mechanisms for the party to move forward, and that is what I am prepared to do, and will be done under my watch as National Chairman by the grace of God.
Why is winning the next general elections of utmost importance to your party?
The answer to that question is simple! It lies in the incontrovertible facts on ground, which are evident in the unprecedented hunger, poverty, socio-economic tensions, the obvious stress and strain on citizens’ psyche; the despair, despondency and manifest discontentment that pervade our national landscape today. The APC government has demonstrated an unfathomable and unacceptable lack of sensitivity to the plight of the people and it is very clear to Nigerians that they were conned through sugar-coated propaganda that they are the messiahs of the times. They have not only failed in engendering the much anticipated stability and democratic consolidation that are necessary for peace and integration which are preconditions for sustainable national development, they have shown to the whole nation that they are no longer worthy of the trust of the people on account of their poor economic governance, narrow mindedness, divisive orientation and serial lies.
In the annals of our national life, our country has never been this polarized! This government has allowed our country to relapse into deep crisis and has widened our fault-lines in a most dangerous manner.
The foregoing among many others, are the reasons why PDP winning the next general elections and taking over power from the APC is of utmost importance not only for the party, but for the larger interest of the nation, asurely, the tide will turn against them in 2019.