Chief Sam Nkire is a seasoned politician and member of the board of trustees (BOT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He spoke to reporters recently in Abuja on his Part and the 2019 general elections. OKEY MUOGBO was there for The AUTHORITY Newspapers and present excerpts from the interview:
You recently returned to the Peoples Democratic Party, having had a sojourn in APC. How do you look at the push for their (PDP) presidential convention so far?
I think PDP has a great chance to form the next government come 2019 because it appears to me that PDP has learnt its lessons. You can see that even among the aspirants, there has been no one aspirant that has spoken to other contestants or even another contestant in a very bad light. They all talk about what they can do. They don’t tell you what the other man can- not do. So, you can see that it appears to be a family affair. They are qualified and experienced and most of them are without blemish. People talked about change PDP. Today, people are talking about change the change. So, if you look at them and look at what APC has done in three years, you will see reason to change the change.
You talked about the quality of aspirants in the PDP. Can you dwell on it because some people have the impression that they don’t have quality; that’s why there are so many of them that are contesting for the presidency?
Somebody like Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria, he has the experience. The former Governor of Kano State, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, as far as I’m concerned has been one of the best Governors Nigeria has had till date. If you look at his records, if you had been to Kano ten years ago and you went to Kano in the last five years, you will notice the difference. Some inquisitive people just travelled to Kano to see the wonders he did in four years. He had worked well too when he was Governor from 1999 to 2003. When you count it all, that’s enough to elect him as President.
Do you see any in-fighting among these 13, leading to a sort of collapse in the system of the PDP?
This infighting that you see is, per say, not infighting. People are jostling for recognition. I won’t say for power because it’s not just power they are looking for. They are looking for opportunity to serve and when you know you are qualified to serve, you will go for it. So, you will find that if the party you are in doesn’t have democracy in its DNA, it will not allow 13 people to vie. You can see people on the other side, they just have one candidate. You can’t tell me that there are no people in that party who want to vie or who want to offer service. So, you see that what we have is expression of democracy. People are allowed to aspire.
These aspirants, you recall that they have been on campaign train and most of the places they’ve gone to, it’s these aspirants that provide accommodation and everything within the PDP family. I give you three examples; when Kwankwaso went to Kebbi State, I was in his entourage. We were hosted by another presidential candidate of the PDP, that’s Tanimu Turaki. When we went to Sokoto, we slept in Soko- to State Presidential Lodge provided by another aspirant the Governor of Soko- to State, Governor Tambuwal. So, these people are just having fun. In Gombe, even though the Governor was also campaigning in Nasarawa, he provided us lunch and made sure the Deputy Governor treated us well. So, people outside are just trying to paint PDP black. Like I told you, what I saw and joined is new PDP.
Kano is critical, both in the primary and the general election. What structures does your party have to use in Kano to make sure it gets the advantage?
In Kano, you are a journalist, you may even have more in your dossier than myself. But let it come from me be- cause I believe that PDP is go waso’s Senatorial District gave him 780,000 votes to become Senator.
Is the PDP ready for the antics of the ruling party like when his Excellency, Kwankwaso wanted to launch his campaign and they took away the venue from him. Are you ready for this kind of antics?
We are going to meet them strength for strength. If you are not strong, you cannot make a successful opposition party. The reason APC is in power today is that they became determined, they closed ranks. As soon as APC found the right candidate then, they moved into Aso Rock. Buhari was the right candidate then. But you find that along the way, he derailed. If PDP should find the right candidate, which in my opinion is somebody like Senator Kwankwaso as of today, the ride to Aso Rock will be smooth. So, you find that the party leadership knows and understands what is needed for PDP to return to power.
I like the picture you painted about collaboration among aspirants in different states. But the impression out there is that this compression will make or mar PDP; that PDP will not be able to manage the “grudge.” At the end of the day, your aspirants pulling out, either before the convention or immediately after, to team up with the ruling party. Don’t you see that possibility?
I can tell you from experience and what I know, there is no single PDP aspirant that I know of, who will leave, simply because he didn’t get the ticket or the party doesn’t give the ticket. I have been the National Chairman of a party that produced two Governors Progressives Peoples Alliance, PPA. I have it on authority and I have also known the antecedents of aspirants. If you do a free and fair, transparent primary, nobody will leave. If the party has a common goal, if everybody agrees that it is not about self, it’s about the country, if every- body is convinced that the party in power is not doing well, just as APC then agreed, it’s easy for every aspirant to drop personal ambition and then support the winner.
What is your advice to the PDP aspirants?
I will advice that all the aspirants should be good sportsmen. It shouldn’t be a do or die affair. Like I told you, there is none who cannot be a President. But I think the PDP and the aspirants should have in mind that this is a contest that must be won. Looking at the outcome of the Osun elections, it looks as if APC is redefining our elections as do or die affair. In 2019, will the PDP be ready for this “war”. PDP will be ready for the war, but I can assure you that PDP will not carry arms.
If Nigerians will allow this kind of brigandage to continue, so be it. If the outside world will allow this kind of archaic regime to go on, so be.
The PDP will not invent their own police or INEC or SSS or DSS or whatever you call them. You see a situation where on an election day, the policeman in uniform thinks he is working for the ruling party. You see INEC thinks it’s working to return an incumbent President. This must be condemned, not only by PDP but by the whole world. It’s not about PDP. It’s about Nigeria.
What strategy is PDP putting in place to defeat Buhari in 2019?
For me, APC and Buhari have defeated themselves by their policies, by the kind of government they have run. As far as I’m concerned and everybody knows it, they haven’t done well in economy, they’ve not done well in security, they’ve not done well in infra- structure. The people are going to ask them to answer to all these things.
PDP will do what it ought to do as a political party. PDP will campaign, PDP will remind the people of some of these failings of the ruling party and I’m sure it will elicit a lot of antagonisms, which will result in voting them out. But above all, the work of campaigning against APC has been done for the PDP by the poor governance that APC has given to Nigerians.