Simon Imobo Tswam, is the Special Adviser to the National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Iyorchia Ayu. In this interview with JOHNSON BABAJIDE, he sheds more light on the clamour by a group in the PDP led by Rivers State governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, for the resignation of his boss and why the PDP chairman will not heed their call, among other issues.
What has your boss, the National Chairman of PDP, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, done since he assumed office?
The chairman came into office in December last year; we all know the process that threw him up. He is the first chairman of PDP to have emerged through a broad national consensus. All the six geopolitical zones adopted him as a consensus candidate. Since he came on board, a lot of good things have been happening to the party. If we cast our minds to the time he came into office, PDP was near paralysis. Things were down; nothing was happening. It was like the party was going into extinction. So, the first task he had to contend with was to unify the party.
Coming from that broad consensus, it was easier for him to hit the ground running, unifying the members at all levels. Before he took office, he organised a retreat so as to chart the way forward. All the stakeholders across the country gathered in Abuja and brainstormed on the state of the party and state of the nation and the way forward. After that, the leadership under his watch began the process of rescuing the party and these efforts yielded huge success in the elections that followed in the Federal Capital Territory. You will remember that PDP won in all metropolitan centres. PDP won 80 per cent of the councillorship election except the area councils.
After that, we moved to Cross Rivers State, Plateau and other areas where the party did very well, and the climax was Osun State. PDP won the Osun State election in 2018 but the party didn’t get to office for obvious reasons, but this time, people were determined to do everything that mattered and won decisively to stun the sitting governor and his party. So, all these successes were achieved because of the good leadership the national chairman is providing. Now, Nigerians have seen PDP as the next party in government; it also shows clearly in the poster of our party presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku. The party is very prepared and ready. Our message to Nigerians is that they should keep hope alive. PDP is coming.
It appears that all of you in PDP are so confident, forgetting incumbency factor of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)?
On the issue of incumbency, if you recall in 2015, PDP was in power and lost the election despite the so-called incumbency factor. Then, APC deceived Nigerians with propaganda, lies and empty promises on security, the economy and ending corruption. Almost eight years down the line, it is now clear that APC is a party of propaganda, a party of empty promises and excuses. So, you ask yourself, why will Nigerians vote APC when all the three mainstays of their campaigns were not fulfilled?
Remember that the party inherited the fastest growing economy in Africa, the biggest market, but seven years down the line, our economy has collapsed. At present, the government is living on borrowing. What of corruption? If corruption was a small boy in 2015, by 2022 it is now an adult with beard. The scandals in ministries and agencies are mind-boggling. For instance, during the COVID-19 lockdown, this government said it fed children who were in their houses with a huge sum of money. That is mind-boggling. In fact, right now, this government has stopped fighting corruption; it has surrendered completely to corruption.
What about security? At the time this government came into office in 2015, the insurgency was limited to the North-East, but six months to the end of their eight years tenure, bandits and insurgents have taken over the country. In some places, farmers have to pay levies to go to farm. In 2015, we didn’t know anything about bandits. We were contending with Boko Haram, but today we have bandits, Boko Haram. They are holding the country by the jugular. In some parts of North-East and North-West, these bandits now enter houses and kidnap people. We didn’t have something like this in 2015. Today, you cannot travel by air; you cannot travel by rail or road. So, APC has no excuse at all; it is not an understatement to say Nigerians have seen it all. They are now yearning for PDP to come back. That is the reason you see people defecting to PDP across the country.
For instance, in Katsina State, where the president comes from, a strong APC member defected with his supporters to PDP and donated his building. Nigerians are disenchanted with APC. Is it North-East or North-West, South-South, North-Central, South-East and South-West? Everywhere, people are tired of APC. So, to answer you, it is not over-confidence, but we are sure that people have realised the empty promises of APC and having seen how the promises are seven years down the line, people’s eyes are opened and waiting for PDP to come and continue from where it stopped in 2015: A task of rebuilding the country and reclaiming our glory as the giant of Africa
Do you think your boss, Dr Ayu, will bow to pressure and be willing to resign as National Chairman of PDP?
It is not question of whether he will be willing to resign. I mean why should he resign? Why are they saying he should resign. People do not understand the whole thing. Why should a man elected for a four-year tenure and who has not done one year be asked to resign?
But there was an agreement that if Atiku emerged, he would resign?
Have you seen the agreement? We are intelligent people. We are not in the Stone Age. [b]They say there was an agreement. Where did he sign the agreement and with whom? At what time? People just say it in the media and in the street. What I want to say, because I have seen the video, is sure Dr. Ayu said two things. Prior to his emergence as National Chairman of PDP on Channels TV to the effect. The journalist asked him, if a candidate emerges from the North, what would you do, given that you are from the North-Central? And Ayu said, luckily, for me, PDP has not married party’s positions with party’s executive positions. He said something very pivotal. He said if a candidate emerges from the North and the party said he should step down based on the issue of balance, he will step down. But the question is, has the party spoken? So, rather the party at the last NEC meeting gave him and other executive members an overwhelming vote of confidence. So why did the party not ask him to step aside, following the emergence of Atiku who is from the North-East. The party knows that if Ayu resigns now, it will throw the party into a constitutional crisis.[/b] If he resigns now, he will have to hand over to the Deputy Chairman North, Ambassador Illya Damagu, who is from Yobe State. So, if you say Ayu should step down because he is from the North-Central and Atiku North-East, Damagu is from North-East. So, what would you do with North-East? If he leaves, NEC will meet to appoint an acting chairman. But the constitution of the party says his successor is to come from the same zone. So, if you say Ayu should resign because he is from the North, it doesn’t change anything. And we are saying that the party is a constitutional creation. That is why when they asked Atiku in Lagos, he said the only way this can be resolved is if the constitution of the party is changed.
The only way Ayu can go and the North will lose the chairmanship is if the party holds another convention outside an amendment to the constitution. We have six months to the elections; we should be talking about winning elections and not talking about forming convention committee. The party holds that it is not feasible right now. So, the party is quiet. After election, the party may decide. People who are saying he should resign, what if the party loses the election? It is another point we are not factoring in. People say these things, because they are not mindful of history. In 2006, the National Chairman was Amadu Ali, Umaru Yar’ Adua was presidential candidate. He later won his election and Amadu Ali remained in office. Throughout 2007, he was in office. It was in 2008 that the party held a convention and changed him.
In 2009, Umaru Yar’Adua died and Goodluck Jonathan took over. The party’s chairman then was Vincent Ogbulafor from the South-East. He was in office until he had issue with the Presidency; he was taken to court and ICPC and he resigned. Who succeeded him? It was [Dr Okwesilieze] Nwodo from the same South-East. So that is the tradition, if Ayu leaves, the person who will succeed him will be from the North-Central. There was no question that Ogbulafor should resign because he was from the same zone with Goodluck Jonathan
Benue sons are in the eye of the storm. Is there any love lost between Ayu and Ortom?
There is no issue between the chairman and his governor. Both of them are united in battle to displace APC from power so that PDP will come back to office on a rescue mission. If there is any problem between them you will know.