A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun has declared that there is nothing wrong if the country should break up.
In an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, Oyedokun said Nnamdi Kanu, detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Sunday Igboho should be freed unconditionally. While explaining how the elders of the party intervened to save PDP’s embattled national chairman, Uche Secondus, Oyedokun also spoke on the current state of the nation, among other issues
What is your reaction to the present general state of insecurity across the country?
The situation is very unfortunate, and to make matters worse the ugly situation is deteriorating by the day. The present leadership has to do something fast to arrest the drift. Nigeria is fast derailing. This is no longer the Nigeria envisioned by the nation’s founding fathers. Travelling has become a nightmare. Even when you are sleeping in your house, you are not at peace, you no longer feel safe. But I strongly believe that we found ourselves in this sorry situation because we don’t have good handlers. We’ve politically fallen into wrong hands. But one thing is clear: the rotten leadership which we have is a reflection of the society.
There is gross indiscipline in the society, and whatever government is doing now is a reflection of the society. We should pray to God for divine intervention because cases of abductions, kidnappings and insurgency, rather than abating, have not subsided. As a nation, after 60 years of independence, Nigeria should be seen as a role model for other countries but this has not been the case. The present leadership should rise up to the challenge because all that is happening today in the country may have a boomerang effect capable of affecting the nation’s corporate existence. While we can’t totally put all the blames on the present leadership, one, however, must point out that the task of finding a lasting solution to the myriads of problems presently confronting us lies with the government in power.
The fact is that when people are generally not feeling comfortable, what it then means is that the government lacks acceptance. We’ve totally derailed as a nation. The youths who are expected to know better due to the level of their exposure are even getting worse. But whom do we blame for all these? It is elders because when youths are doing something that is not right, the elders are supposed to correct them. But the elders are not doing this. Nigeria needs leaders who are dynamic, and responsive. Nigerians have to ensure that those that they elect as leaders are those who can deliver results.
What will be your suggestion on how to tackle insecurity and these other challenges?
A lot of conferences at the national level have been held. Papers have been written, submitted and approved. Movers and shakers of the society met under Obasanjo, under Yar’adua, and lastly under Goodluck Jonathan administrations. Where are the reports? Have any of these reports been implemented? No, and this is part of the reasons why we have all these agitations here and there. People are now agitating for self-actualisation, but some people are standing up against this, that Nigeria should not split. But from whichever angle you look at it, Nigeria has to be restructured. What are the reasons members of the National Assembly who are the accredited representatives of Nigerians have for dilly-dallying over the issue of restructuring? Restructuring is imperative if we are to find urgent solutions, not only to insecurity but also other challenges facing the country. Right from the beginning, I never liked the slogan of change used by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to gain political power, and now I think I have been proved right. Where is the change that APC has promised Nigerians? APC just used the change slogan to get political power. They used it to deceive Nigerians. Look at the economy, look at the level of poverty ravaging the country, and instead of the party owning up that it has failed to deliver on its promises, it has been excuses galore. But Nigerians are tired of excuses; they want results. Even on this issue of restructuring, the party set up a committee which recommended that. But since then, we’ve not seen anything happening. We expected positive changes from APC but it is now negative stories. Where are we going? We should not ignore those behind the calls for self-actualisation. We should bring them to a round table conference and dialogue with them. Coercion will breed hatred; it will breed counter-reactions. It is dialogue that will solve all these agitations all over the country. Agitations for Oduduwa Republic, IPOB issue, and a host of others. Even if we go to war, we will still come back to the table to discuss. So why not discuss at the table rather than go to war? If we want to separate, let us separate peacefully, and that happens all over the world. There is nothing strange in that.
On restructuring, there have been diverse opinions and suggestions on how it should be carried out….
Personally, it has occurred to me that sooner or later that some sections of the country will have to go their own way. But if they have to go, I believe that there should be a procedure, and the procedure should start with restructuring. That is starting from the known to the unknown. We start from a situation where we will gradually start addressing the issue of self-actualisation in a very peaceful way. Applying force, coercion or aggression will not help. It will only aggravate the situation. Restructuring could be a gradual way to achieving that, and this is what some people are saying and I buy into that. However, I strongly believe that break-up is inevitable but it must be done peacefully.
You mean there’s nothing wrong with Nigeria breaking up?
No, there is nothing wrong with it. But it has to be peaceful because even if we break up, we will still have to be interacting one way or the other. We are closely connected, and we have Nigerians who have properties, and even family members in other areas outside their own region. We are so connected that we can’t be separated. But on this issue, everybody is entitled to his own opinion, and nobody should be persecuted for taking a particular stand. While some Nigerians are saying that it will be better for us to remain in a federation, others believe that separation or breakup is better for us. For those people like Nnamdi Kanu who is on trial over this issue, he should be released unconditionally. Same applies to Sunday Igboho. The man has never been violent, and he is fighting for his people. Sunday Igboho was agitated. He was moved by the plight of his people, and spontaneously he rose to the occasion. To me, that is self-defence, and he should not be harassed for that.
What’s your take on the crisis rocking PDP? Some Nigerians have expressed fears that it may sound the death-knell of the party
The elders have met, because the crisis has been causing division among party members. While a faction is for Secondus, the other is for Secondus Must Go! Each faction has cogent reasons for its position but the elders now decided that we should give whoever is accused of ineptitude some chance, that we can’t have a crisis within tearing us apart, and then focus on how to fight external aggression. The APC is our external aggressor. We don’t want to fight them with a home or house that is not formidable. We want a united formidable front, and that was why we deviated from our usual way of asking the national chairman to go now. This time, it was agreed that we should give peace a chance. We have serious complaints against the present party administrators, but we decided that in the interest of the party, that we have to mellow down. There is no way PDP will die. If this what our opponents are expecting, they are making the greatest mistake of their lives. PDP is well entrenched, and come 2023, I assure you that the party will bounce back in a big way. There was even a time some people were suggesting that we should change the party’s name so that we can get more members, but we said no. That’s the name God gave to us as a party, and we are sticking to it. Although some people are running out of the party but some of them are also running back. Not only that, we have new members joining the party. As part of efforts to resolve the crisis, we are organising our national convention for October. We normally have it in December, but out of necessity we have to bring it nearer because we need to buy time in order to prepare very well for some state elections coming up next year. If not for INEC regulations, we could have even scheduled it for end of this August, but we have to give notice to INEC, and follow the rules. Otherwise the party would have moved the convention to an earlier date this month.
What are the implications of three state governors defecting to the APC
What I want to say on that is that some of these governors rushed to join APC may be having skeletons in their cupboards. But see what some of them even get when they rushed there. Many of these defectors, including those governors, are now worse off. They are not comfortable in APC. Do they even have a rest of mind? APC is just using them, and they will then dump them. Those that can survive in APC are only those that are subservient, and too docile to face challenges. The defection of those governors notwithstanding, PDP is waxing stronger. Any opposition would always want to find fault, but to me personally, I want to put all the blames for the crisis rocking the party on our own members. If we are not so divided, the opposition would not have exploited the cracks in our fold. But this time we are going to block all the cracks within the party so that the opposition will not take advantage. The crisis in PDP is self-inflicted. It is so bad that the national leadership of the party no longer has a grasp on the state chapters, and this is causing ill feelings within the party. This is exactly what is happening in Osun State. Elections are coming up next year, and yet the party’s national leadership has not been able to solve a problem that has been lingering for the past three years by illegally removing the party’s state chairman. We are still on the matter. Even if any party member commits an offence, there is a Standing Committee headed by Chief Tom Ikimi, it is the party’s national disciplinary committee, and that committee has not been allowed to function or perform its role over the matter. This may have a disastrous effect on the party’s fortune in next year gubernatorial election in Osun State, and even not only on that but also on the entire PDP in the South-West. Osun is holding elections next year, and this will be a test case for the 2023 general elections. And this is why PDP has to put its house in order in Osun State now. Can we afford to lose Osun? No, we can’t, and this is why all stakeholders must rally round to have an amicable resolution of the crisis in the state before the elections.
With the gale of defections, some are worried that Nigeria may gradually be turning into a one-party state…
No. I don’t agree with those saying that. If you notice very well, it has been a two-way traffic. As people are moving out of PDP, people are also moving in, and I believe that the situation will stabilise later. If people are still moving into a political party like PDP that is in the opposition, then it means that party is very good. There is no way Nigeria can become a one party state. We are too sophisticated and too complex for that. Nigeria is a heterogeneous society where you have people with different cultures and languages, and in that kind of situation, any attempt to turn the country into a one-party state will not work.
Former President Ibrahim Babangida recently implored Nigerians not to elect anybody above 70 as President in 2023. What do you say to that?
I don’t agree with him. What’s the age of President Joe Biden, the United States President? He is well over70. What about his predecessor, Donald Trump? He was also over 70 when he was in office. There are still some vibrant old men who can perform better than young people. Do you know that at retirement age , you can still find some people who are agile, and versatile to lead the country? I have developed an attitude about age, and I believe that if Biden can still do it at his age, and also Trump, why not here? We also have examples of other old leaders across the globe, and if they can do it successfully, why not here also? Age should not be a barrier as long as the person concerned is fit and competent.
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