Chief Willy Akinlude, two-term chairman of Mushin Local Government Area of Lagos State and former Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. He speaks with JOHN SILAS, on the PDP crisis, registration of new political parties, the monetisation of Nigeria’s electoral system and more.
Following the recent judicial declaration of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), some leaders of the party like former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and others have been trying to end the crisis in the party. How will you react to the intervention by these leaders?
I want to commend former Presidents of this country, General Ibrahim Babangida and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for their efforts so far. And I think the leaders of the party; especially Senator Ahmed Makarfi should show maturity and respect the rule of law. I want to praise Alhaji Makarfi also for going round talking to a lot of people that the party must be one and that members must unite. Unfortunately for Makarfi he even said that he has a committee that said they should expel Sheriff after the court’s judgement in Port Harcourt. That is so sad. If Makarfi’s group had won that case in Port Harcourt, they might have expelled half of the PDP members. Makarfi and other PDP leaders should now imbibe the spirit of give and take so that we can rebuild the PDP. In fact, let me tell you, PDP is not a party that we can just ignore. This is because when PDP was in power, apart from corruption, it did well. The economy was in good condition and everything was okay.
Some people are saying that the crisis in PDP has some external link; what is your position on this?
I didn’t see any sign that the crisis is being influenced from the outside, because Sheriff has been going round. He has gone to Chief Tony Anenih, General Ibrahim Babangida, and former President Goodluck Jonathan. With all his efforts, I don’t see any sign that there is external influence, but those gunning for positions are the people who are saying Sheriff cannot be part and parcel of PDP.
How has the lack of opposition party in the last two year, affected Nigeria?
Yes it has affected us because of the threat and actions of the government in power. Anyone that talks now EFCC will go to his place, the next day and within a week the person will be in soup. So, definitely it is not an easy thing for an opposition member to now come out, unless the few that is very courageous. Opposition members are trying but APC is witch hunting the PDP members and that has affected the role of the opposition.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration will be two years in May; what is your assessment of the government?
We saw a little bit of improvement when President Muhammadu Buhari was abroad for medical treatment and his vice - Professor Yemi Osinbajo was in charge of affairs. I think things were better a bit. Our President should do better; he should improve in whatever he is trying to do now. The APC-led federal government has not been able to perform very well. The economy is so bad and people are not happy. Foodstuff and other materials are very expensive right now. Definitely the government has to improve if they want Nigerians to reckon with them. You talk about assessment; I can only score Buhari’s government 20 per cent.
So with what you have said are you saying PDP will defeat APC in 2019?
Definitely, PDP will win the next election; people are not going to vote for APC with what they are witnessing now, especially the bad economy. But PDP must adjust its position, especially when it comes to issue of corruption which was the only problem that diminished its performance in government.
If you look at the present INEC, are you satisfied with its performance?
We don’t want inconclusive elections; INEC must play the expected role as a very good umpire. INEC has been trying, but it needs to improve, at least we have seen PDP winning elections in some areas despite being in opposition that means INEC is truly independent.
INEC recently informed Nigerians that several organisations have applied for registration as political parties. Don’t you think that we are having too many political parties in the country?
There is nothing bad in having many parties, but definitely only two or three of them will be strong enough to win large portion of elections. That is what we have in the United States and England. In the United States we have the Democrats and the Republicans. Even if INEC registers 200 political parties only two or three of them will command large following.
So you are saying that INEC can register more parties?
Yes. This is democracy and people should be given the chance to associate and carry out their civic duties.
There is also this defection of PDP leaders into APC; don’t you think this could create a one party state?
It is unfortunate for those people leaving PDP for another party; it means some of them are jobless politicians. Again some of them have cases with EFCC and they feel that being in APC will save them from the EFCC. It is unfortunate that somebody like Senator Ken Nnamani who is a good politician has defected to APC, but maybe he is gunning for certain position in future.