Eddy Olafeso, vice national chairman (Southwest) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, spoke on the optimism of the main opposition party for victory at the presidential election tribunal. He also spoke on other issues in the polity. Excerpts:
What has been the experience since you assumed office?
We came to office May 14, 2016; at that time, there was internal wrangling in the party, we were taken to court.So, essentially our main job in the Southwest did not commence until 2017. But thank God today, that we have held a couple of elections in some states and we have done pretty well.Across the country, the PDP did well in the 2019 general election, but just before the general election we had the Ekiti governorship election; it was a stolen mandate, but somehow along the line they covered up their tracks; despite our efforts, we lost.In the Osun gubernatorial election, we won; we did brilliantly well. The outcome would be decided by the Supreme Court very soon.In the 2019 election, we went into the presidential election with optimism; in this zone, we had a good outing for the party. In Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Eikti and Lagos State, and the result was close, the Southwest had the largest turnout for the presidential election.We won Senatorial seat, House of Representatives, we won Governorship in Oyo State. We have proved that we are far more relevant to resolving the crisis in the country than the APC. We have done exceedingly well.
But the PDP has also lost some elections and some states like Ekiti since you assumed office?
I did not lose Osun State; we all saw what they did, PDP won that election. The election, by the standard of the United State and European Union election observer team, was a fraud, characterised by violence, rigging and other illegalities by the police and INEC.
So, you can’t say our effort is not met with success. I told you that in May 29, we had 14 PDP governors across the country from 10; for us, it was a move forward.We should give thanks to the people who stood by their votes and made it count. In Osun State, we won the governorship election and they manipulated it; we have taken them to court.Journalists must be the eye and nose of the people; you saw the violence that they unleashed on Osun people; would you call that an election, we have to give kudos to Nigerians who were vigilant and stood to protect their votes.
Talking about the presidential election, Atiku is at the tribunal; are you confident he would get a favourable judgment considering recent events about at the judiciary?
The judiciary is still the last hope of the common man despite the challenges it is facing; the people believe in justice and doing their best to ensure that Nigeria is not humiliated, we are very confident that we would get a favourable judgment.
The PDP had relative success in the 2019 election, wining gubernatorial elections in states previously controlled by APC; what does this imply?
It is a testimony to our campaigns, rallies and general acceptance by Nigerians. Look at the state of the country. There is insecurity in the land, unemployment among the youths is high, the country has all manner of problems, the people want a move away from all these and that is the reason they voted for us.
How do you react to the conduct of the 2019 election and recent international election observers’ report?
We have said it before that there is collusion between INEC and the APC to manipulate the election to truncate the democratic process of the people, and it was created by INEC. Today, they would say they have a server, tomorrow they don’t have.But nevertheless, the Nigerian people have known the trust and they can’t fool the people anymore. We have told the people even before the EU and other foreign election observers’ report, that the election was far from being credible; so, it is not new to us neither is it new to the Nigerian people.
What is your reaction to the security situation in the country? Some are saying that government is trying, others say otherwise?
How can you say the government is trying? It is something that started from the Northeast and has gone round the country now. Presently, in the entire six geo-political zones, no one is safe. We hear they have over 800 cell camps in our southwest and our women are taken to be raped; our people are not safe.They destroy their means of livelihood, it is so alarming; it portends great danger for the country; this government can no longer secure the lives of our people, that is the first responsibility of any government which they have failed the people on.
The international community warned, the US has advised their citizens not to travel to 24 states in Nigeria that they are not safe. The Vice President was in the US the other day and he said the current security challenges were being exaggerated, how can you say that? What is happening is so unfortunate, where we are as a nation is bad; unemployment is still the same level, is it power? You know Obasanjo raised the alarm recently that 30 million people are out of school.Where is Leah Sharibu? What happened to those children, the tribe that was wiped out of Kaduna State because they are Christian and Fulani herdsmen wanted to take their land? Nobody is saying anything about that.And yet, the majority are suffering, it is not a place to be born this time; Nigeria is becoming an imperial state.
Eminent Nigerians have said the security situation would persist until Nigeria is restructured. To what extent do you agree with this?
It is not only vital, it is the only reason for survival, see the Nigeria state is a fraud, it was foisted on us and it is the reason the First Republic succeeded; because we were operating a regional government the regions were on their own.Since the military came and forge a unitary system on us we have not been the same; if the foundation is faulty what are you hoping to build on it that would survive?
For the PDP, it is total restructuring that can save the country, you know the Federal Government controls everything; look at how the Federal Government is taking share of the revenue of the country; see how much is given to the states and the local governments; we need to go back to where we were before.
Those advocating for restructuring are not saying something new; and you as a journalist you the trust. The military kept us in this situation; this is a military-styled state and they did everything they did, used the resources of a zone to develop another zone.Most of the states are not sustainable, neither can they survive; they are exploiting other people to maintain those places. Is just a matter of time Nigeria cannot survive like this.
But the APC has said the PDP should have implemented restructuring when it was in power?
Yes, why did they not implement the constitutional conference of 2014 report? At a point, we were ready, we lost that election in 2015, but does it mean because the PDP did not implement it, APC can’t do it?That argument is backward, it has no place in developmental democracy; just because one party did not do it does not mean you can’t do it. I don’t even want to hear that argument, because it is retrogressive, they came and say there is nothing called subsidy but now they are paying trillion for subsidy.How much of our resources is been used for debt serving? This is an insolvent nation, it is obvious that this nation is sitting on a time bomb and would explode very soon.
Do you mean that restructuring would be the focus of any PDP government at the centre?
That was the focus of Waziri Adamawa, Atiku, when he ran for the president; that is why many of us supported him and the Southwest voted for him. We remain resolute that unless there is review and restructuring of the country, this country would totally collapse.
What is your reaction to the crisis in Lagos PDP?
We are on it; I don’t want to talk much about it, but we are serious about reorganising the PDP in Lagos State; the party would sit down to access the election and very soon everybody would see what we are doing. We would bring all the stakeholders to a roundtable, everybody under the same umbrella.
Segun Adewale is still insisting he is the chairman of the party in the state; have you reached out to him?
No, I don’t know who Segun Adewale is; he is not known to me, and he is not a member of the party.
Are you bothered that so far, the President and state governors have refused to appoint ministers and commissioners, respectively?
Why would it worry me?We predicted initially that the President would behave like this; he has no capacity, he did it the first time, even when this ministers are appointed it would still be the same old story. It is a government of lowest expectation, why do you think Buhari would change? Does he know the expectation of the people? So, why do you expect him to be different from yesterday? He did not promise anything during his campaign, so why are you expecting anything?Nobody voted for them, they lost that election; it is an illegal government; it is a government that has no legitimacy, that is why we are in the tribunal.
There are talks of electoral reforms and part of it is delisting of smaller parties by INEC; how do you react?
We queried that abnormality by INEC; why should 91 parties be contesting election? Even when we know that so many of them would not win any elective office, INEC must take a look at it and make amend. We must be serious as a nation; no country develops without some level of seriousness, where in the world, universe do you have 91 parties contesting elections?
INEC said the move was to open up the democratic space?
What do you mean by opening up the democratic space? Does it prevent the rigging, security personnel’s interference in elections? Why do you think because you have 91 parties it would open up the political space; it would not.
We have about three political parties in the country now; it is either PDP or APC and few smaller parties that won one or two positions or the other. What is INEC waiting for to weed these parties out? they are just generally unserious?
What other electoral reforms are you advocating for?
There is nothing wrong with our electoral law; it is the usual Nigeria factor that is the problem. If you reform 20 times and our people are still the same way they are, you would still have the issues.
If you write the law 20 times and the operators are the same, the problem would still be the same. There is death and misery every day and nobody is saying anything about it. For the families of the people in this very failed state of Nigeria, they have different notions about this country; to me, it is not about reforms, it is about change of attitude.The President does not know what is happening, he is constantly absent.
What is your view about Buhari’s anti-graft war?
The anti-graft war has failed because it is targeted at the opposition; how many of their governors have they arrested and prosecuted? They are only after PDP leaders who refused to join them.What is happing now is when you join the APC, they forgive you, it is the end time.Corruption would become a problem, the last four years the country has stagnated; look at the economy, health, water supply, everything is in bad shape.Do you know the amount of debt we have today? We have mortgaged the future of our children; it is just a pity, they came; they made promises to the people and let me tell you; the people know that they did not vote for them, they don’t have the mandate of the people.We have gone to the tribunal, the people are sure that this mandate would be gotten back; justice would be done, that is why we have the judiciary.