Chief Ola Apena is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State. In this interview with ANAYO EZUGWU, the former Deputy Chairman of the party in the state, speaks on Lagos State PDP and what the party is doing to reposition itself ahead of the 2023 general election, clamour for a president of Igbo extraction and calls for restructuring, among other issues
What is your assessment of the last by-election in Lagos State, mostly the Lagos East senatorial poll?
My assessment of the senatorial by-election is that, to some extent the election was free and fair, devoid of violence. But there was serious voter apathy.
What actually do you think led to the high voter apathy during the election; is it that people are not interested or because it was a by-election?
It could be as a result of not being interested because it was just a by-election. If it was a general election and we had this kind of apathy, then that will be solely blamed on not being interested probably because of the fact that people have always been at the receiving end of failed political promises.
But because it is a by-election and a legislative one, I do not think people attach much importance to legislative elections like they do with executive positions.
After the #EndSARS protests, a lot of political analysts thought that the disaffection of the people in Lagos over the government’s involvement in the protest would work in favour of PDP but when the election results were announced, your party performed abysmally. What do you think was responsible for such performance?
Let’s address the first issue, which is the assertion that the #EndSARS agitations could be of benefit to PDP. I do not think so because if you listen to those young men, they were condemning both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP.
They were talking about floating their own party. It is like they have lost interest in the old brigades, so for me, I do not expect any kind of political benefit from the #EndSARS protests. Talking about the performance of the party; I would not like to go public with some of my observations.
When we meet at the leadership level of the party, I will make it known because sometimes you do not want to wash your dirty linen in public. So let’s leave that for now.
As a chieftain of the party, is there still internal crisis in Lagos PDP?
There is no party that is free from internal crisis. Even the internal crisis going on in APC is monumental.
The only thing that is holding them together is the fact that they have the government, not only at the state level but also at the federal level as well as at the local government level. So, that is why you don’t get to see that. Any congregation of human beings, particularly an organization that is solely for governance, you can’t have but crisis. So, there will be crisis in any party and at any point in time.
What really matters is how the crisis managed. That is why in political party, there are structures like the executives, the caucuses like the state caucus, elders’ caucus, Board of Trustees, and so on and so forth.
All these organs are meant to be involved in managing day-to-day problems and crisis that may crop up in the cause of running a party. It is not unusual for parties to have crisis because there will always be competition for one thing or the other.
Once there is competition, there will be divergent views and opinions. The way individuals expresses his opinion differs from one another.
Some people could be violent in the way they express their opinions, while others could be persuasive in the way they express theirs. Some people may feel that they are being shutout, it might just be feelings.
They might not actually be shutout. So, talking about crisis, I think it is an integral part of a political organization. It is not even limited to Nigeria; see what is going on in America, elections have been conducted and even within the Republicans, there are opinions that some do not like the way President Donald Trump is going about it.
To everybody who is not part of the system, that is crisis. To me the parti managers are there to manage the crisis. There will be crisis and problems, but the quality of the party managers depends on how the manage the crisis.
Ahead of 2023 general election; what do you think PDP in Lagos should do differently to end its poor performance in the state?
I think you don’t discuss your strategies on the pages of newspapers, but there are certain things that one could discuss. Talking about level of preparation, the first thing in preparing for 2023 is to package the party to have a cohesive executive at all levels being it the ward, local government, state, zonal or national levels.
But specifically referencing Lagos, let’s stop at the state level, I think we should be doing ourselves a lot of good if we painstakingly assembly a crop of party manager; dedicated, committed and knowledgeable at all levels, who will manage the party at those levels.
Once we get is right at all wards, local governments and state, then the battle is half won.
Because when you have a knowledgeable, dedicated, committed crops of party managers at the various levels, they will surely put in place policies and programmes that will throw-up qualified and saleable candidates at all levels because the job of a political party is similar to that of marketer, who is marketing his product and programmes.
So, it requires serious effort to present a candidate, who will appeal to the general public and that job is for the party’s managers. I think our preparation for 2023 will start from the quality of executives that are in place.
We are going to have our convention next year, where all levels of executives will be either re-elected or we bring fresh blood into it.
Of course, there is going to be dissolution of the current executives, so it will be an appropriate time for us in Lagos State to really go down and strategize on putting round pegs in round holes as far as the exco is concerned, devoid of sentiment, nepotism and favouritism.
The National Chairman of your party, Prince Uche Secondus, recently said that PDP is not discussing 2023 yet, but as a chieftain of the party, which geopolitical zone do you think should produce the party’s presidential candidate?
I don’t expect him to tell you that the issue is on the table. I’m sure it is already on the table, probably he is still consulting. But if you look at the Nigerian political system, the pendulum has always been swinging towards one part of the country, which is the North. But from 1999, PDP as a national party came up with the rotational presidency.
Our party came up with the idea of dividing the country into six geo-political zones; North- West, North-East, North-Central, South-West, South-East and South-South.
And we identified six key positions that should first and foremost go round all these geo-political zones on rotational basis – the office of the president, the office of the vicepresident, the office of the national chairman of the party, president of the Senate, speaker of the House of Representatives and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Those were six key positions identified by PDP in 1999 as basis for getting everybody involved. Of course, before we talk about the zones, we have two political divides, the North and South.
Usually, when the presidency comes from the North, the vice-president comes from the South.
Then, the North will now decide which of the three zones it will zone the presidency to and the South will decide, which part of the South the vice-president will be zoned to vis-à-vis the other positions I have identified. If you look at what has happened from 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo came from the South, particularly from the South- West. Thereafter, Umaru Yar’Adua came from the North-West.
Later, Jonathan came from the South-South and thereafter Buhari came from the North-West again. If you ask me as a Nigerian, what is equitable, fair and just is for the presidency to come to the South this time around and go to the South-East.
This is because the zone has never produced a president. All they have ever had was the brief stay of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was a ceremonial president and the time of Aguiyi-Ironsi, who was just a military man.
When you talk about political arrangement or let us limit ourselves to 1999 till date, the Senate presidency has gone there. Apart from that and maybe, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, I think if we are going to be talking about fairness, justice, the next president should come from the South but it should go to the South-East.
Then we will all decide because the president is not going to represent only the South-East but all Nigerians. I believe so because if we are saying that we don’t want the Republic of Biafra to be, we don’t want them to secede, we should let them have a sense of belonging feel by allowing them to produce the next president of Nigeria come 2023.
What is your opinion on the call for restructuring of Nigeria?
My opinion is that without restructuring, Nigeria remains a mere geographical expression. Nigeria can never transform into a nation or a country rather because we are bundles of nations; the Igbo nation, the Yoruba nation, the Ijaw nation, Itsekiri nation, the Hausa nation and the rest of them.
We have not been able to graduate into a country because every Nigerian thinks about his ethnic group first. We have never really natured into nationhood because of the lopsidedness of things. So, restructuring is the only thing that can save this country. Let there be serious restructuring. Let there be devolution of power.
Let us reduce the concentration of power at the centre. Let there be resource control.
Yes, if you are producing something or even if it is a God given resource that is in your backyard, you have a right to enjoy more of such resource. In the South-South; they have oil and we have oil in other parts of the country too, let it even be that 40 per cent of what is coming out of oil is retained in those states for their development.
The remaining 60 per cent could be go be used to fund national institutions like the military, immigration, customs and probably the prisons. Even under a proper restructuring, the prisons should not be under the exclusive legislative list. The states must have their prisons and then there could be federal prisons. The states must have their police, then, there could be federal police too like they have in America.
They have the FBI that is federal in nature and all other states have their police. Even counties and universities have their police but in all these police system, they have a common command structure in terms of communication. They have a data base that a policeman from Missouri can access records of anybody living Texas.
If you drive your car to Missouri and you commit a traffic offence, with the push of a button, the police in Missouri do not even need to come to Texas because all your records will pop-up on the computer. So we need restructuring because it will engender competition, which will bring development. That is the only way out for us in this country.