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Without restructuring Nigeria we are going nowhere as a country – Daramola

Nigerians are only waiting for court’s decision before they react – Daramola

Tunde Daramola, founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, former national executive committee of the party and former Lagos chairman of the Action Democratic Congress (ADC). In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he talks about the 2023 general election, the chances of the major presidential candidates, incumbent administration of Muhammadu Buhari among several issues. Excerpts:

You were not seen for several months; a lot of people think you had quit partisan politics; what happened?

I want to thank God for life. I had a stroke by the end of May while sleeping; it was strange to me to have a stroke while asleep, despite the fact that I am pharmacist; I have been proven wrong. I don’t snore while sleeping, upon observation in the United States it was observed that I had shortness of breath while asleep. It does not happen while I am awake. The heart opens up because it does not have oxygen, it makes clot and the clot mixes with the lung. So, once I was breathing, it was pumped to my cerebellum. My mental state was ok, except for my movement and balancing. The cerebellum controls the locomotion and balancing of human beings, and I thank God my children were fast to respond, taking me to the United States where I got a first class treatment.

After three weeks in hospital, I was discharged to start therapy; I went to the United States in a wheelchair. I am back; I walked with my two legs, it did not affect my mental state, physically I remain the same. The neurosurgeons were amazed at the speed of my recovery. They said it takes six months to one year, but after six weeks I was up and running.

You were in the process of resuscitating the Action Democratic Congress in Lagos before the health challenge, are you still with the party?

With all due respect, I don’t want to be associated with ADC, if not for the Coalition of Nigeria movement which was former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s baby, it is a corner shop run by portfolio people who are after money. CNM came, because they were unable to register it, they took advantage of ADC to participate in the 2019 election. Obasanjo wanted to remain a statesman; you could see the death of ADC is imminent. A serious party cannot sack its presidential candidate like that. The owner is a trader, and that is what he is doing with the party unfortunately, some people are paying to belong.

What is your next move?

I am PDP blood and water, PDP made me politically when we moved into PDP with the late Funsho William and Bode George we got a platform and built PDP in Lagos. I was the secretary of the party in Lagos then; I was also a national officer of the party. When you are talking about a serious party you talk of PDP. Also, the APC was formed with the amalgamation of other parties; they are now the ruling party. I regret associating with ADC. I am in PDP now, I have registered with my ward back, my ward chairman has seen me and we interacted.

Ahead 2023 general election, electioneering just begun, what is your take on the four major presidential candidates?

I don’t think there are any of the presidential candidates that I don’t know closely, except for Peter Obi, who was in PDP and running mate to Atiku in 2019. He knows better, if he does not know better he would not go and pay N100 million to get PDP nomination form, that is to tell you he knows the importance of a formidable front, a party with a structure. Obi had to forfeit the nomination form money in PDP, because the primary was competitive, so he defected to the Labour Party.

Kwankwaso left the APC and returned back to PDP before choosing to become his party’s presidential candidate. Why I started with those two parties is because those two parties are fringe parties, because they are not entrenched in the political system. You need a structure and to build a structure is not a joke. You are talking of 774 local government areas, 889 wards, and large polling units across Nigeria. It is not easy, and not something you can overcome in a year. PDP and perhaps, APC, you can trace their existence to such parties in the First and Second Republics, like Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the National Council of Nigeria Citizen, the Action Group and other fringe parties partnering with major parties for electioneering gains. In the Second Republic, there was a merger to form GRP, and the rest etc. You would know that these parties were also forced to merge into the SDP, NRC by Abacha.

Read also: 2023: PDP urges APC to show Buhari’s performance records, stop blame games

So you can understand that the current APC are mainly grouping and realignment of old forces that are entrenched in the metropolises. The Labour Party has no significant electoral victory in Nigeria.

Some years ago, the NLC leader jettisoned the Labour Party to PDP to run for the governor of Edo State. The person that runs under Labour Party for governor came fifth here in Lagos. This means that structure matters. Look at the United States, the dominant parties still remain Democratic and Republican, despite the availability of several parties. When Rose Penrose ran for president of the United States in 1992, despite being rich he could not win. This shows that structure matters. Peter Obi wanted to pick the PDP ticket but left for the Labour Party when he realised he could not win the ticket.

The LP has millions of supporters who are vocal youths, who show up during political events, vocal on social media with money to donate. But majority of the wards and polling units are in rural areas; this is not an easy mountain to climb. What the country needs now is a leader irrespective of tribe or ethnicity. The APC has failed despite the promises, there is doubt about that, but fringe parties are incapable of winning in major elections, they would affect the outcome by affecting the fortune of front line candidates. So, the major parties need to be wary of the candidates of the fringe parties.

What is your take on the crisis in the PDP, would it affect the chances of Atiku Abubakar?

I don’t know the age of Governor Nyesom Wike, but I believe he should be in his late 50s or so, there is no doubt that he is a performing governor, seeing what he is doing in Rivers. He lost the presidential primary election; I don’t think he should hold Atiku responsible. We have to move on, the issue can be resolved; it is a family matter which I believe the BoT would intervene. I don’t want us to continue to delve on the presidential primary, Atiku has won, let’s move forward. The general election is here.

Wike had his man Secondus as chairman; it was the same Wike that pushed Secondus out for reasons best known to him. They encouraged and supported Ayu and now all this talk; we should not spend all our time on Ayu rather than campaigning for the general election. But I agree, PDP has a formula that when the presidential ticket goes to the North the chairman goes to South, but what is at stake now is to salvage Nigeria. I think winning is more important than Ayu’s resignation. If Atiku wins, we can look into the issue of moving the chairman to the South. Ayu has four years legally in office. It would be resolved; I believe the pact way to a better Nigeria is Atiku; because Atiku has said he is ready to devolve the polity. Atiku is ready to create opportunities for the youths.

But his critics may not agree, they say Atiku is part of the old-guard that has gotten Nigeria to where it is now. How do you react to that?

What Nigeria needs now is a transitional leader, we need someone who would transform and restructure, and without restructuring we are not going anywhere.

They must devolve power. The national grid should be dissolved to allow private companies to supply power. When you devolve power state control their resources and allow power of the Federal Government allow state to pay royalties to the Federal Government.

What is your take on amendment to the Electoral Act, would that aid free and fair election next year?

It is the right step that would move us forward; with this collation centres where the fraud is done is checked. Meaning that, you can know a result from the polling units where it would be transmitted. We saw it in the Osun State gubernatorial poll, without that I am sure that election would have been rigged. It is not for some people to sit and be cancelling results that do not favour them at the collation centre. Until now, people did not believe their votes could count; INEC must give people that confidence; more needs to be done beyond just transmission of results.

Some Nigerians say that incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari administration has failed. What is your take on that?

Buhari has failed; APC came to deceive and defraud the nation. They were not sincere to the nation. The APC has actually advanced poverty and corruption. What happened to APC promises? What happened to the restructuring they promised Nigerians? But they denied it; that is why a lot of people fell for APC and supported the party.

What happened to the security they promised to tackle? They did not do this; instead they increased their romance with herdsmen and Boko Haram; they introduced RUGA to take over Nigeria and settle herdsmen which would have become their foot soldiers to terrorise us. What happened to the naira they met at N150 to a dollar? What happened to the fuel at N79 per litre; they have increased more than 100 percent since they assumed office.

Did Bola Tinubu ever criticise Buhari for ones as the national leader of the party? What we see is eight years of destructive administration of Buhari but Tinubu kept mum because he wanted to take over from him. Tinubu is culpable in the destructive failure of Buhari; APC is a retrogressive party and we can see where we are now.

So, are you saying smaller parties would not pose any challenge to the bigger ones next year?

Smaller parties do not have the political structure in place in Nigeria to compete. I would give the demographics of Nigeria’s population- 52 percent of the people are in the rural areas, 48 percent are in the urban cities; 14 years below 42 percent, 25-40 form 30 percent of the population, while 65 above are only 7 percent.

The youths don’t show up at political events, on Election Day, they would be tired, either from parties or so. They have money to spend and are vocal; Peter Obi’s supporters are among this.