What is your reaction to the recent merger of four opposition parties to challenge the ruling PDP ahead of 2015 general elections?
The People’s Democratic Party is not threatened by the merger, but it has to work very hard. The idea of merger is not a bad one. The situation where we have over 50 political parties in Nigeria is the worst thing that has ever happened to this country. There are some political parties that have never won even local government elections in Nigeria, not even a councilor, but they call themselves political parties and during the election they get allowances from INEC, why?
So I see no need why we should have many political parties in this country. Go to every state in this country you will find that there are two or more political parties. If you go to Imo State its APGA and PDP, if you go to Kogi State it is ACN and PDP, if you come to Benue State it is ACN and PDP, if you go to Lagos, its ACN and PDP, everywhere you go to in this country, there are two political parties. So the merger will reduce the bogus political parties we have in this country that are useless and have nothing to do.
Again, when you have a merger, you have a strong opposition that can put the major party on its toes. In other words, having the merger in place and not been able to challenge the leading party makes no sense again.
You must have a merger that can leave up to its expectation to make the leading party stand on its toes all the time. When you are in a competition, then you work hard. And that is what is happening in PDP, there is no opposition in Nigeria, and that is why people are saying PDP is not working, no matter how battered we (PDP) are, if there is no opposition we will still win.
The only thing that will move the opposition against PDP is when a good candidate is presented to challenge the candidate that the PDP will present. If that candidate the PDP fields is a bad one, then there is problem for PDP. So PDP must also ensure they come up with a good candidate.
Is Jonathan not a good candidate for the PDP?
Has he been a good candidate? I said it before that I don’t know whether there is a government in Nigeria. I have never felt whether there is government in Nigeria particularly the federal government, I have never seen the presence of federal government in Benue. So I don’t think Jonathan is a politician, I never looked at Jonathan as a politician. So if PDP decides to put Jonathan again to contest the 2015 presidential election, there will be serious problem in this country, and the opposition will just be laughing.
A cursory look at the political scenario in the country today shows that state governors have taken over the control of PDP; what is your reaction to this?
That is what I said, as soon as you have the money, he who pays the piper, dictates the tune. They control this party because they finance the party from the government angle right from federal, state and local governments. We have never had this kind of thing before. I was the sole administrator of (defunct Social Democratic Party) SDP in Benue State. (The late Moses) Adasu, the Governor of Benue then, could not control the SDP, he must go through the party for whatever he wanted done. He would ensure, he summoned a meeting with party caucus and table his problems and we decide for him on what to do, those things we do not want done, we will tell him no. But today, state governors have changed everything simply be cause they are financing their parties.
As a co-founder of the ruling PDP, are you satisfied with the state of affairs in the party in Benue state particularly the way and manner the government is run?
If you narrow this question to Benue alone, you will be very unfair to me, to Benue people and Nigerians in general. You see, I have been in politics for quite some time; I have been leader of political parties. In Benue I was the sole administrator of SDP having lost primaries in SDP I was invited to Lagos and handed over the mantle of leadership of SDP to me.
I made sure I delivered the governorship election to the SDP and I know what party administration means. But today, as soon as someone is elected governor, he becomes the leader of the party and that is the problem, not just in Benue, at the national level, Jonathan has assumed leadership of the party, PDP. He dictates, he decides for the party, the feeling now is he who pays the piper, dictates the tune. They provide finances for the party. In Benue state is the same thing, things are arbitrarily done.
So, I am not satisfied with the way Governor Suswam is running his administration in the state. From the national, state and local governments, I am not satisfied also. That is not how a party should be run. More so, those who are running the PDP at the three tiers of government are not the founding fathers of the party. Most of them came from other political parties; therefore they don’t have the idea of how the PDP is supposed to be run. So to answer your question, I am not satisfied with the way and manner the party is run in Benue state.
Two things are bothering Benue people, the frequent foreign trips of the governor and his inability to reshuffle cabinet. Do you think the concerns been expressed by the people are genuine?
Let me start from the last part of the question. When you are a governor you are at liberty in consultations with politicians in various areas to pick your commissioners and advisers. You pick them based on what you want them to do. And if you are satisfied with what they are doing they will remain with you until the day you are out of office. In other words, it means that the governor is satisfied with them, because the people of Benue State did not choose those commissioners for him, so why should you ask him to sack them. If the Governor is satisfied with what they are doing, there is nothing Benue people can do.
I am also disturbed by the frequent trips of the governor. One, he doesn’t need to take permission from me anyway, but I always want to know where is my governor going. Because we have given him the mandate to stay here and not to be going here and there except for good official reasons, or if he takes a leave, he can go anywhere he wants. But you wake up one day, you say you want to go and see the governor, they will tell you, he has already left for France, and he has already left for London, US, or other countries of the world. So honestly, I am disturbed because frequent travelling is not even good, you don’t know what may even happen. It is not good to be travelling in the air every now and then.
Secondly, the people who gave you the mandate want to see you most of the time even if you cannot solve their problems they want you around, and when you are not around it makes things difficult for the people.
You are a very strong politician from Zone A. The zone is already tearing apart over the 2015 senatorial election between Governor
Suswam and Senator Barnabas Gemade. Are you comfortable with the situation, and if not what is your advice?
Everybody has the right to contest for any position, but I think the race has not started yet.
Is that to confirm rumour that King Shuluwa too is gunning for Zone A senatorial seat in 2015?
What do you mean by confirmation?
Because feelers are that King Shuluwa will be running for Zone A senatorial seat. Is that true?
So you have said it, but I have not made up my mind yet.
If you finally make up your mind, will it be in the affirmative, considering that there are so many young men at the grassroots who are canvassing for you?
This question should not have come in now, but I don’t know why you people have decided to cage me and put me somewhere. Look, I am entitled to contest any position in Benue today. By the constitution, if I decide with my prayers and other people as to whether I should contest, I will go in for the race.
Irrespective of whether you are running for the Senate of Zone A, the Kwande people are of the argument that 2015 is their turn because all the other segments of the zone have tasted the position. Have they any genuine argument?
If you talk about that argument, I will say yes. I would also argue with them that in the whole of Zone A, all the people that contested or have won the senatorial seats were from Ipusu, the Ichongo people have never had it. So the Ichongo’s in Kwande and the Ichongo’s in Katsina-Ala and the Ichongo’s in Logo has the right to contest for the position.
Another burning issue that has cropped up in Tivland is that of governorship. The Minda people are clamouring that it is their turn to take the slot. But the Jechira people are putting up a strong argument that they had just half tenure not even a complete one and so should be given the mandate. As an elder statesman, what is your position on where the governor should come from in 2015?
Based on your question, the Jechira people have had a taste of it. I want to know whether the MINDA people have also had a taste of it.