Hon. Chille Igbawua is the Deputy Director, Elections Management (North) of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation and a member of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Council. A former member of the House of Representatives, he is also a former governorship aspirant in Benue Atate and an ex-chief Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission. He speaks with PHILIP NYAM on the chances of PDP in the 2023 general elections and other local and national issues
You are a member of PDP, working closely with Atiku Abubakar whereas the G-5, of which your governor (Ortom) is a member, is at loggerheads with your presidential candidate. How are you managing this situation?
First of all, I would say that both Governor Simon Ortom and I are members of the PDP. Secondly, both my governor and I are members of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Council, though he may not have taken his seat formally at the campaign council.
Thirdly, we are all PDP members and we are working for the success of our party. The G-5, like you said, has issues and is trying to sort out with the party. But that does not conflict with the ongoing campaign. Other political parties also have problems and challenges they are facing. So, while we are going on with Atiku’s Presidential Campaign, the party is also working to solve that internal problem.
As a person, I am talking to my governor on a continuous basis. He wants the problem to be solved too and he has said so at every opportunity. Last Monday, he held a stakeholders’ meeting in Makurdi. I was not there but he said openly that he was open to a resolution of the crisis. On a personal basis, the last time we met was here in Abuja on a Friday preceding the stakeholders’ meeting. He came to Abuja and I went over and we discussed the interest of our party and this has been ongoing.
All of us want to win elections. In Benue State, my governor is a senatorial candidate and we are working assiduously to see that he wins that senatorial seat. You are aware that the PDP has all the three senatorial seats in Benue and we are growing forward and not backward. We don’t intend to lose any senatorial seat, especially now that we are going to form the federal government.
So, the conflict is a family affair in PDP and all efforts are being made to resolve it and I believe that it will be resolved most likely before the elections.
The PDP controls only Benue in the entire North Central. How do you intend to deliver the North Central for your party when the other five states are controlled by the APC?
You know that the 2023 election campaigns are very scientific and I may not be able to tell you what we are doing, because a hunter does not whistle while hunting, otherwise his prey will run away. But we are working very hard; we have set up structures at various levels- national and zonal structures.
And you know that the 2023 elections in the North Central is led by a former governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam, who is the zonal coordinator of the Atiku Presidential Campaign. But let me tell you that the PDP believes that this election will be lost and won at the polling unit.
So, we are campaigning at the polling units in every part of Nigeria. We have done a couple of campaigns; we were in Abuja and I believe those of you who are in Abuja must have seen the crowd.
We have also been to Kwara; we were in Nasarawa and the turnout was very good; in Plateau State, it was excellent. So, we have been on ground and the reception has been encouraging. And as election management manager, I talk to people, voters and I am able to decipher how people feel strongly for the PDP to come back in 2023.
So, I’m confident that we will do very well at the polls.
I am not a prophet of doom but don’t you see the PDP losing elections if the G-5 refuses to work for the party?
That is if this matter is not resolved? I thank you for confessing that you are not a prophet of doom, so I take it that you are on my side. Has any of the G-5 said that they are leaving the PDP?
They have not said so. Some of them are candidates themselves. One of the G-5 is seeking re-election as governor. I told you my governor is a senatorial candidate; the governor of Enugu State is a senatorial candidate and they are all interested in winning elections.
So, out of the five governors, it is only two that are not contesting on their own but when you have candidates for elections, it is as if you are there.
That being the case, when the results are out, you will see that they worked very hard for the PDP to win elections. None of them is leaving- from their body language and from their public statements, they are still with the party. Their spirit is with the party and their desire is to win elections. So, I’m confident, come May 2023, we will be moving to Aso Rock.
The APC has 23 governors as opposed to 13 by the PDP, while APGA has one. And these governors are very powerful in their states. How does the PDP intend to win elections in states controlled by the APC?
The governors are very powerful and nobody doubts that, but the electorate are more powerful. We are contesting against a political party that has failed so woefully. If you go to any rally, you will listen to the songs people are singing. People are tired of the APC; they are hungry and are feeling very insecure.
So, this is a genuine feeling and it’s not made up. The people believe that this government in power has failed and they have looked back at the good days of the PDP and feel they should return there. I don’t want to sound immodest but I will tell you that even among the APC governors, some of them may quietly be thinking that it is better for the PDP to come back. I may not have spoken to them but we Nigerians are very good at body language.
So, I believe that even in the APC states, PDP will do very well and win some of them.
The APC defeated PDP in 2015 and Atiku lost to President Buhari in 2019. What magic are you going to do to change the tide in favour of your candidate or party?
At the return of democracy, PDP was in power so there was no comparative analysis. So, people just felt that certain things were not right and people just said change and they followed.
Now, we have changed and people have seen that the change has brought nothing new. Now, it has brought pain and misery. Now, we have a basis for comparison. You are comparing this government with the PDP when you could sleep with your two eyes closed; now you can’t close even one eye.
We are talking about a government where the naira was worth a currency, now you know how much naira is exchanging for a dollar. We are in a government that the universities were on strike for a full academic year. So, the retinue of bad governance is inexhaustible and people are seeing these things and they are concerned about it.
They now know that between the two, PDP is better. And even if there is a third option, we have to talk about competence and experience. Among the foremost four presidential candidates, from what the media says, it is between Atiku, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi and Kwankwaso.
Go and check, there is no party including the APC that has fielded candidates in all positions across the country, except the PDP. PDP has fielded candidates in all the 900 state constituencies, the 360 House of Representatives and the 109 senatorial seats and the presidency.
One of the party’s has fielded only 30 senatorial candidates. How do you expect such a party to win presidential elections? It means, they have accepted failure from the beginning.
The confidence is there because we have a candidate that has the experience, the competence and has operated in the presidency before. And there are records to show that when he chaired the economic team, most of the benefits that we are getting now, whether it is the GSM or whatever, these were started during his time. So, we are confident that Nigerians are saying before we did not know but now, we know. Like I said, there is a basis for comparison.
At the time Atiku lost, there was little basis for comparison and having just tasted one civilian administration, people. Go and ask those who are polygamists; they will tell you if they knew, they would not have married a second wife.
This is the situation in Nigeria today. We are very confident that we are far better than the APC and Nigerians will vote for us this time around because they have tasted both parties.
It seems the PDP is paying more attention to the G-5 crisis. Can you confirm that the party has no other problem from the convention apart from the G-5 disagreement?
It is not possible that we may not have other issues but issues which arose from political parties are often approached using the internal conflict resolution mechanism of individual parties.
This is being done. I was a governorship aspirant on the platform of PDP in Benue and was in fact, the chairman of the Forum of Aspirants. And we had been in the contest for a long period and at the eleventh hour, we were told, they will be zoning and the zoning was done and those of us that didn’t favour us had to step back.
This was painful but one has to consider the personal pains against the backdrop of public interest. I do not think that the PDP have any extraordinary problems that arose from the primaries, although we have issues in some states but there are no factions. Rather, we are growing stronger that we did not win and states that we did not make 25 per cent.
Remember, I told you this election is scientific and we are following every vote. Some Nigerians believe that the Buhari administration did not handle the issue of insecurity dispassionately and your presidential candidate is also from the north and same ethnic stock.
How would you assuage the fear amongst some Nigerians that the current insecurity may continue or even worsen with an Atiku Presidency?
Our presidential candidate has a clear manifesto and he has already tasted that position. We know that he has a clear strategy to counter the current insecurity in the country.
And we should also understand that security is a very delicate sector. We are one nation but we are broken down into component units and that is where you have a cumulative problem. But you cannot have security in a country that you have very porous borders.
You cannot also have security in a country when you don’t know who is who or who is there. The first principle of security, which I know is that you must know where everybody is and what they are doing. So, the developed nations that handle security very well, don’t do the things that we do.
If you go to Washington, you can walk into the White House and nobody will ask you any question because they are watching you as you are coming. It is not like here where you see security men with guns. Security, like our presidential candidate has said, has gone digital and we don’t need to go analogue to fight it. If you read the details of his manifesto, at least you will see the synopsis of what he intends to do. He cannot disclose the details now because it is a security matter.
Our presidential candidate has invested in this country and needs security to protect them, he has a family that is spread in most parts of the country and he is interested in the security of life and property of others. I also believe that the way you approach security from a civilian perspective is different- it is not always kinetic; sometimes the non-kinetic aspect will give you better results.
You have exuded a lot of confidence in the capacity of Atiku to win the presidency but many analysts are of the view that the rise of Peter Obi of the Labour Party may have taken over the South-East and South- South, which have been the strongholds of PDP since 1999. How is the PDP handling this threat from the Obidients?
It is not proper when you just envelope a region. Somebody will just sit and say south south belongs to the Obidients. Which party is in charge of South South? Is it Delta where the vice-presidential candidate, Okowa comes from?
Is it in Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers where the PDP is in the saddle? Is it in Rivers?
Is it in Edo where Governor Obaseki is in charge? So, South South is completely PDP. And we are not worried but are happy that at least there is a third force.
When you talk about winning the elections, the Obidients are a good phenomenon to grow up and contest elections. We have listened to every social media propaganda and we are also going to the field. Now, in the south east, we have grown beyond tribal politics. PDP has fielded candidates in every constituency and position in the south east.
Several of those in the south east are serving in the government whether in the executive or the legislature and they are contesting the positions with all their might and resources. And mind you, the electorate is not so sophisticated so it may be difficult of you to start telling people to vote for this candidate from this party and another candidate from another party; you will confuse them. You may end up being the loser. The Labour Party is doing great at the level that they are.
One, because they have never participated in any presidential election seriously as they are doing now. And maybe the present candidate is more visible because of his political antecedents. But I want to tell you that the Labour Party is a party of the future. So, we are going to have our South South very much intact and we are going to win in the south east even though we may not win 100 per cent.
There have been rallies in the two south east states and you are in the media and saw what happened. If in the face of insecurity, people can come out the way they came out in Anambra and Imo, then you should know what I’m talking about.
Do you have confidence in INEC to deliver a credible election in 2023?
I want to believe the INEC chairman because he has cleared some of the issues that were capable of stirring doubts in the minds of people.
He has said BVAS has come to stay and electronic transmission of results has come to stay. So, on that day, when we go out to vote, nobody is waiting for collation. Once you vote, you will see the result. The era of snatching ballot boxes and running away with ballot papers has gone. If you get hold of the BVAS equipment, you can’t use them.
If INEC had reneged on the use of BVAS, I would have lost hope but Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has insisted that the use of BVAS has come to stay. And the process is that once you thumbprint that’s all and if you transmit the result, the machine cannot change it because everybody has it.