Francis Orogu is the chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nasarawa State. The former member of the state House of Assembly, in this interview with CHEKE EMMANUEL, speaks on the party’s chances in the forthcoming general election
How prepared is your party in Nasarawa State for the 2023 governorship election?
First of all, we have put our house in order and if you look at what is happening in PDP vis a vis what is happening in the All Progressives Congress (APC), you will agree with me that APC is finished. You will say that some our members in the state House of Assembly decamped to APC but the question is: Are they there? The answer is no.
If they are not there, is that a plus to them? No! Is that a threat to us? No! So, they are not there and they moved to weaker parties. The major reason why we lost election in 2015 and 2019 is because the party was divided across strong leadership of the party and that is who? Labaran Maku left the party for All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA and that created a faction for the party. Many of our members, who are in this party still sympathise with him because he is one of our own because he did not join APC. To us in PDP, once you don’t join APC, we don’t look at you as an opponent, particularly at that time.
The party saw him as someone who just protested and most of his sympathisers are our fulltime members and you can see the result of the 2015 election. Maku defeated PDP immediately he jumped out of PDP to APGA by coming second in that governorship election after APC took the lead with all their rigging. In 2019, we defeated APC with about 40, 000 votes. APC had about 140,000 votes, while PDP had about 180,000 votes. Our votes in Karu, which was about 110, 000 votes were cancelled for no reason but if you add those figures together, it is about 320,000 to 330,000 votes and that is more than what APC had. So, as long as we are concerned, we don’t have any problem.
For our members in the state Assembly, who left the party, they know that they have made the biggest mistakes of their lives. At a point, we wanted to sue them but it came to a point that I discovered that there was no need for that. Posterity will judge them and the judgement has been passed. Where are they today? They moved to weaker parties. As long as we are concerned, we don’t have any problem, we are better today and as you can see, we applied a mechanism to ensure that we do not have any internal wrangling except intentional ones.
We conducted the best primaries if not one of the best primaries ever conducted in the history of PDP in Nasarawa State and that is why there was no single petition to the appeal panel anywhere in PDP in this state not to talk of any member leaving the party after the primaries.
The only case we have about one perthe son leaving the party before the primaries was the chap in Wamba, who is propagating lies that he left PDP with 10,000 votes. How many people voted for PDP last year in Wamba? Where did he get the 10,000 votes from? So, we are good to go both for the gubernatorial and presidential elections. Our senators are doing very well; we have quality representatives both at the Senate and House of Representatives from our party in Nasarawa State. When you go close to them, you will understand that they are people of value and quality and not the kind of APC people in the state Assembly.
After the constitution of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, some members of your party pulled out and your party in the state have not been heard on the issue. What is your take on the matter?
Those who took that decision are not from Nasarawa State, so I don’t think I should speak on behalf of anybody that is not from the state. They have their state chairmen and leaders in their respective states, who should speak for them. But as long as the party is concerned in Nasarawa State, no individual has pulled out from the presidential campaign council of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. None of the appointed members of the presidential campaign council from Nasarawa State has pulled out from the campaign council at the national level that will warrant us to make any comment on the issue.
Some of those who said they are pulling out from the campaign council made it clear that they pulled out on condition, but if you ask me about my view, I will say at that whatever we need to do for PDP to take over this country and deliver us from the pending doom is worth doing. So, I wish to urge the leadership of the party at every level to plead with every aggrieved party member to give peace a chance, so that this PDP will win and take over both at the national and state levels because where we are now is like people found in a war zone. If you are in a war zone, you cannot conclude that you will be among the survivors at the end of the war.
So far you are in the war zone; you can only know what becomes of you if you are alive after the war. We are in a country where nobody can survive or only few can survive the hazard of having another APC government for another four years, So, that is the reason it is necessary to make sacrifice because every sacrifice is worth it to kick APC government out of power in 2023.
Recently, you were accused of romancing with a particular group in the PDP. Where do you belong, Atiku or Wike’s camps?
Well, it depends on what you mean by romancing; are they gays or political friends. What is Atiku camp and what is Wike Camp? The man you are talking about is the presidential candidate of this party, so as long as we are concerned, that will not stop him to relate with anybody. If he has friends that people are aware that before the primaries and he decides to maintain his relationship with those friends today, you cannot say because they are friends they share the same opinion over the issue of the national chairman of the party. And the issue on ground is not about Atiku’s Camp.
Atiku is the presidential candidate of PDP in Nigeria; Wike and his group have interest and their interest is on perthe issue of the national chairmanship. None of them is saying they want to take over or replace Atiku. The issue is the national chairmanship and for that reason, as the number one citizen of PDP in Nasarawa State, I have no business with the national chairman being in office or not, it is his choice.
They are quoting his statement but that statement can be ambiguous; it can also be explicit depending on the angle from which you look at it from. Ayu has the right to remain in office. He also has the right to resign but it is not our business to force him out of office. We won’t do that but he has the right to remain in office for a period of four years he was elected.
If he chose to do otherwise; that his personal decision. I disassociate myself from any statement that is meant to discredit any candidate of this party because as far as we are concerned, we know from the beginning that Wike may not be in the Atiku Campaign Council and if you are not a member of the council, you cannot pull out from what you are not part of.
What do you make of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) recently introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria’s electoral system?
I have confidence in INEC because what the commision has done in recent elections show some improvement and if the BVAS is applied the way it is designed to be applied in the coming elections, there is every hope that the elections will be credible. I was in Kuje during the Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections. I was on the team that monitored the council elections and the result was ten over ten for PDP.
The PDP defeated APC for the chairmanship and all the councillorship positions 100 per cent. I was in Plateau State for the council election that was conducted recently and PDP defeated APC and they went to court to do the mess. The BVAS worked excellently well and if you can see what happened in Osun State that would have not happened if not for the BVAS. Don’t forget the man said that he is related to Asiwaju and that place is his second home and he would have used the opportunity to prove a point but he couldn’t because there is some kind of sanity in the electoral system.
If the BVAS machine is applied the way it is designed to be applied, everything will go well and that is the only legacy President Muhammadu Buhari may leave behindl. He has added value to what he benefited from former President Goodluck Jonathan who did what he did at the time he was in office, which gave room for conduct of free and fair elections in this country. That was what President Buhari enjoyed but he deliberately refused to improve on it until his exist. Why didn’t he do that in the past eight years? He has managed to escape for eight years. So, in the 2023 general election, PDP in Nasarawa State is going to deliver the state for Atiku Abubakar and David Ombugadu.