New Telegraph

PDP must overhaul its leadership ahead of 2023 – Afegbua

Prince Kassim Afegbua is a former Commissioner for Information in Edo State and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he speaks on the leadership of the party and what the opposition should do ahead of the 2023 general elections in order to salvage Nigeria. FELIX NWANERI reports

You have been quiet since the governorship election in Edo State in which you pitched your tent with the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Are you still a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?

My silence is instructive. I need to do stock-taking, strategically dissect issues after the election before I can chart a road map. My membership of the PDP is still very much in place even though I am not begging to remain a member of any party anyway. I can choose to remain neutral in terms of party affiliation but it has not gotten to that stage yet.

I still remain a PDP member despite my support for the APC candidate in the last election. I have no regret about my position. In fact, given another opportunity, I will still support the APC candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu. For me, it is not all about political party affiliation, but the individuals, who stood for election.

The PDP leadership who were branded tax collectors provoked my decision to support the APC candidate, coupled with other factors. No one is a slave to any party. We are all contributors to the growth of the party and to surrender all the structures to one individual just because he has state funds to throw around, was to me, undemocratic. But that is a discussion for history.

Have you been able to reconcile with the governor?

There is nothing to reconcile with the governor. I am older than him in the party. He only came because he needed a platform to contest election. After his second term inauguration, can you name PDP members in his administration five months after? Yes, I was purportedly suspended for one month by my ward executives, which terminated on September 2, before the election of 19th. So, there is actually nothing to treasure about suspension or no suspension. I am not an employee of the PDP like the national executives who are plundering the resources of the party.

The present leadership of the party is gradually killing the party and weakening its structure on a daily basis. What is key about anyone is the validity of the single vote narrative. I am entitled to one vote and those of my followers who believe in me. Those who campaigned against my person, saying I was a television politician, were shell-shocked that we delivered Okpella to the APC. That, to me, is enough food for thought. We were able to make a point that if leaders don’t perform, the people would respond by the thumbs.

You wrote a piece barely a week ago, asking the PDP to wake up in its role as opposition party. According to you, the party is not playing its role in line with the expectations of the people. What informed your position?

I am only sounding a note of caution to anyone who cares to listen that if the PDP is desirous of winning future elections, it must consciously engage in internal reforms to rejig its apparati. The present leadership of the party cannot be sustained to manage the 2023 elections because of several contradictions. They are not interested in victory but their pockets. They build gigantic houses, home and abroad and some are even trying to run gubernatorial elections. The headquarters of the party is left without payment of salaries to staff.

There is too much of pretense. They watched on as the party is gradually loosing members, who should be able to add flesh to the body and soul of the party. Former Speaker Yakubu Dogara left the fray, followed by former Governor Gbenga Daniel and former Speaker Dimeji Bankole. Governor, David Umahi also left and thus depleted the fortunes of the party in that zone, and a couple of House of Representatives members defecting to the ruling APC that has crippled the economy of the nation, rendering the populace helpless in the face of joblessness and unemployment. The PDP ought to be gaining momentum but the reverse is the case, and you see the leadership displaying such inertia as if all is well. When the APC was looking for power in 2015, it strategically engaged with the Nigerian public.

Our PDP leadership and exco members are too overfed with potbellies everywhere unable to constructively engage. By now, with solid leadership, the Nigerian audience ought to be looking up to the opposition for alternative voices and solutions to their deafening problems. We need new hands and total overhaul to be able to engage the APC and its marauding mentality. Why would you be talking about zoning at a time when you have not put your house in order. Is it all about the presidency? What are your sell-ing points in 2023? Have you come up with policies and programmes that could respond to our present predicament? Have you been able to sell them to the public in a way that they would look up to the party? What is PDP’s position on the economy that has been grounded by the APC? What is the position of PDP on the insecurity across the country? Have we held workshops and seminars to collate ideas on how to manage the situation? What is our blue-print for combating insecurity? What about infrastructural decay and the gloomy economic situation that has impoverished the populace? The PDP leadership is just sitting there like lame duck operators, waiting for every election to sell forms but you never know what money realized is used for. So, for me, I want to see a new thinking in the party, new leadership, total overhaul. If we are not careful, we run the risk of losing Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo and Ben Ayade of Cross River states, respectively to the ruling APC. That will not augur well for us.

Don’t you think it is better to channel your grievances to the leadership in a more private way than recourse to the public space?

It makes no difference because the executives of the party are big men who hardly pick calls. They hire jets to criss-cross the globe in search of nothing. Even where they should take commercial flights, you often see them on private jets at a time that we criticise the ruling party for wastages. If you behave like the ruling APC, is there any moral basis to criticise them? Whatever platform I used is immaterial, what is crucial is the message of wake-up, which to me is a clarion call to refocus the party for better engagement in 2023. We need vibrant persons with creative ideas to pursue the goals of the party. This idea of lobbying for continuity of the present lame duck leadership will cause a lot of disconnections within the party. We need to wake up and begin to think. You have vocal people like Senator Dino Melaye, former Governor Ayo Fayose, Governor Nyesom Wike, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, ex-Governor Sule Lamido and Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who should consciously be encouraged to take stronger responsibilities to advance the cause of the party. What is wrong if the PDP decides to form a shadow cabinet like they do in the United Kingdom, to provide an alternative thinking to what government might be thinking and doing? The APC is largely uncreative, and has grounded governance in a most ridiculous manner, but the PDP which ought to fill the void, is also caught sleeping on duty. Isn’t that a double jeopardy for a country that is desirous of utilitydriven leadership?

Are you suggesting that all members of the party’s executive should be changed to position the party better or just a few individuals should be shown the exit door?

However they intend to do it, we need action; we need results, not excuses. Does it not bother you that a PDP governor was attacked with the intent to kill him, and all you heard from Wadata Plaza was just a press statement? If it were pre-2015, you would see General Muhammadu Buhari leading the charge in a protest to show that the government lacks capacity to preside over the country. But the PDP executives are too engrossed in sleeping on duty. So, my point is that, we should take a deliberate step to refocus the party and set it on the path of stronger contestation for power.

The time to engage that is now. Get the party retooled, rejigged and repositioned, get some brilliant minds to be more active and continuously put the party in the consciousness of Nigerians. We cannot endure the sufferings which APC has plunged the country. Thirty-three per cent unemployment is a time bomb waiting for explosion. This country is on the precipice. The opposition party should be able to rally both local and international communities in its effort to get listening ears, submit petitions to all the embassies in Nigeria, tell Nigerians why the APC should be shown the exit door. This present executive of the PDP cannot deliver on those ideas, they are too withdrawn from the citizenry, too comfortable in their sleeping zone.

The party seems to have jettisoned its zoning arrangement, which implies that anyone from any part of the country can contest for its 2023 presidential ticket. What is your take on that?

For me, it is not just about zoning, but how you build the party to ensure that whoever emerges the candidate has a veritable opportunity to win the general election. When you are losing strong politicians in the different zones or states, you are whittling down your influence. And the proper thing to do is for the party’s hierarchy to sit back, do stock taking, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and see how to fix lapses.

You need a viable, strong and credible platform to pursue your goal of defeating the other party. Former President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t run down the economy in this manner before he lost election as an incumbent. President Buhari has brought colossal damage of monumental proportion to bear on our economy since he came. We are now rated number one in the area of unemployment and joblessness. We are the poverty capital of the world. We have assumed the headquarters of insecurity in the world; kidnapping, armed banditry, insurgency and killer herdsmen syndrome. The country is sprawling on the floor unable to stimulate any enterprise. How do you sustain such a government and yet allowing it to declare that it will rule for another 32 years? Isn’t that stupid? Isn’t that crazy? How can a party that has introduced suffering in whimsical strokes be the one to be talking about succeeding this bellicose leadership? It is just because the PDP has reneged in its responsibilities of being the alternative voice for the hapless millions of Nigerians. So, as a party, we need to take deliberate steps to rekindle the spirit and propel everyone to action. If we allow Governors Makinde and Ayade to exit the party, we will end up licking our wounds. So for any candidate to be viable, the party has to be viable.

Read Previous

Youth recruitment: You’re unfit to be president, Bode George tells Tinubu

Read Next

Anambra guber: Okafor promises to make Nnewi industrial hub

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *