One of the leading aspir
ants for the governorship of Rivers State under the platform of the PDP is Hon. Nimi Walson-Jack. Like his other colleagues, he and his supporters boycotted the Ward Congresses of November 1, 2014 across Rivers State for lack of transparency in the processes. In this interview, he shares his opinion on key political issues affecting the PDP in Rivers State.
PDP in Rivers seems to have lost its unity and oneness because of the choice of a flag bearer. What solution is in sight?
PDP has not lost its unity and oneness. Jostling for elective offices is part of the democratic culture. The insistence on rights by members of a political party is normal democratic practice. What is in issue here is the hijack of a political party by an interest group and the subversion of the internal democratic process provided for in the Constitution of the Party.
Events in Rivers State PDP remind us of the caution by George Washington who said political parties, “are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
The first solution is the establishment of a caretaker committee that would ensure internal democracy and provide a level playing field for all aspirants. The second solution is the zoning of elective offices in the State as provided for in the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Zoning is clearly leading to division in the PDP fold. Can there be no understanding outside zoning?
The PDP and indeed, all political parties have practised zoning and rotation in all States and for all elective offices since the return to democracy in 1999, in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and those of the various political parties. The issue is the denial and the subversion of the entrenched principle of zoning and rotation of political offices. So there can be no solution outside zoning and rotation and the enforcement of internal democracy in accordance with the constitution of the PDP.
About 16 of you, mostly from the riverine are against the party fielding an uplander, especially an Ikwerre man. The argument tends to run against the tenets of democracy. Is there any evidence to support that Rivers people or PDP agreed to discountenance democratic dictates for a rather gentlemanly agreement?
I have been a student, teacher and practitioner of democracy since 1996, trained by the government of the United States of America. Zoning, rotation and affirmative action are all part of the mechanism of social justice entrenched in the operations of a democratic society. The point being made here is that zoning is acceptable as the moral content of democracy, which emphasises the need for equity. This then means that one ethnic group or one interest group should not dominate the others.
So zoning and rotation are not a gentleman’s agreement. They are clearly provided for in both the Nigerian Constitution and the PDP Constitution. The leaders of likeminded political associations in Nigeria who founded the Peoples’ Democratic Party on 28th July 1998 resolved, among others, to conform to the principles of power shift and power sharing by rotating key political offices amongst the diverse peoples of the country. This resolve is captured in both the preamble and Section 7(2) (g) & (h) of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), wherein the Party commits to promoting national and the peaceful co-existence of the diverse communities of the country. The party also strives to promote an egalitarian society founded on freedom, equality and justice.
In order to attain these aims and objectives, the PDP gives itself a Constitutional obligation in S. 7 (3) (c) of its Constitution to adhere to the policy of the ROTATION AND ZONING OF PARTY AND PUBLIC ELECTIVE OFFICES in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.
The PDP Constitutional obligation is in furtherance of the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), which states that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. The Nigerian Constitution declares in Section 14(4) that ‘the composition of a State …or any of the agencies of such government … shall be carried out in such manner as to recognize in the conduct of the affairs of the Government … the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples ….’
This fundamental position of the Peoples Democratic Party cannot be wished away, abrogated, suspended, or cancelled by any official or organ of the party except through an amendment to the Constitution of the Party. Only the National Convention has the powers to amend the Party’s Constitution. Incidentally, that power cannot be delegated. A State Executive Committee of the PDP has no power to take actions, or make statements contrary to the express provisions of the Party’s Constitution, especially one that requires a Constitutional amendment.
In the last 15 years, since the PDP won and formed the government in Rivers State, there has been absolute respect for the principles of rotation and zoning between ethnic groups, senatorial districts and the upland/riverine dichotomy. The election of Governors and their deputies have largely reflected an upland/riverine balance, and diversity in Senatorial districts and ethnic origin. Even the appointment to the offices of Speaker of the House of Assembly and other House Officers, Secretary to Government, and Head of Civil Service of the State have been a combination of merit, qualification, competence and an appreciation of the ethnic divide in the State.
Despite the attempts by some persons from one ethnic group to marginalise other ethnic groups, the political cohesion in the State continues to hold. Many years after the collapse of apartheid, the lesson of history is that no persons or ethnic groups were either born to be second class citizen, or hewers of wood and drawers of water. It has never been, and would never be in the Rivers State of our Commonwealth.
With the 16 of you against Nyesom Wike, PDP is not sure of success if they field Wike. Have you considered this consequence?
We cannot at this time predict how voters will react. Our interest here is to ensure that the flag-bearer of the Party emerges through the Constitutional process.
If you do not get your demand, what will you do next?
I have no escape plan. We know that our demand is right and we have confidence in the national leadership of the Party to do what is right. Our confidence comes from the fact that what we are asking for is a constitutional right, which and has been implemented in Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom and Adamawa States, amongst others.
Is there any atom of truth in the insinuation that some of you, the aspirants, are planted in PDP to destabilize it and cause it to lose to the APC?
First, I would speak for myself. I am a member of the PDP. I am not a member of the APC or any other Party. I was not planted in the PDP by APC or any other political party. As a matter of fact, I have associated with the PDP right from its inception.
I have never been a traitor in my life. Only moles know what moles look like.
Consultations for my Governorship bid commenced in January 2013, when there was no APC. So I could not have been a mole of a Party that was not in existence.
In any case, we should not lose sight of the fact that most of those who accuse others of being moles are themselves members of the ACN who left for the PDP just before the merger of the legacy Parties that formed it. So many of us believe that there is a grand plot to destroy the PDP by these men, who, themselves, are the very first to accuse others of being moles when issues of Party administration are brought to the fore.
Most of you have also been accused of doing nothing to help the party against its former leader but now want to be governors after Wike had single handedly bailed it from troubled waters. How true is this and why were you rather asleep when you should have worked?
The PDP was not in shackles so nobody can claim to have bailed it out of any troubled waters. To the extent that Wike, Obuah and Walter were in-charge when Governor Amaechi pulled out to join the APC, the PDP was not liberated from any person or group. The PDP was hijacked for a personal governorship ambition. Someone stirred-up the trouble and turned round to appear to be solving it and now demands the office of Governor as compensation for ‘liberating’ the PDP.
Despite the policy of exclusion of non GDI members from the State PDP, I have personally been involved in the retention and recruitment of new members for the PDP through these trying times. In the early days of the defections of PDP members to the APC, there is evidence that I made concerted appeals to defecting members to return to the PDP. That appeal contributed immensely to the avalanche of the return of defecting members to the PDP.
I have also contributed to building cohesion within the party. It is rather unfortunate that today support is defined only in terms of monetary contributions; that is the problem of materialism in society.
Your party hierarchy seems not to be paying heed to your prayers. What is happening here?
It is not true that the national leadership has ignored our complaints and concerns. The Party hierarchy is paying heed to our prayers. The establishment of the National Integration Committee for the South-South is an acknowledgment that our complaints are being addressed. Like the democrats we are, we have submitted our complaints through memoranda. We travelled all the way to Abuja to appear before the Committee. We are awaiting the outcome of the reconciliatory process.
It does not seem Wike is going to drop his ambition. Why can’t you all run against him or work in unison to ensure your own choice of candidate emerges?
Everyone has a right to have an ambition; whether to drop or pursue that ambition is a personal decision. But every ambition must be pursued within the confines of the provisions of the PDP Constitution.
It is not a case of our running againt any particular individual. It is about complying with the provisions of the Constitution of our Party and providing a level playing field for all. The aspirants are already united in fighting against injustice. However, when it comes to contesting the election, the aspirants will run based on their own vision and mission.
What’s your reaction to Saturday’s Ward congresses, which 16 of you reportedly boycotted?
The congresses were a sham. They did not hold in many Wards. The process was rigged. Cronies were appointed to officiate. First, we called for postponement and now we are calling for the cancellation of the Ward congresses in Rivers State. Our reasons being that the PDP in the State has been hijacked by an ethnic based organisation; the Administration of the PDP has been to the exclusion of certain members who are not members of the Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI); Non-registration of new Party members and revalidation of membership of old members who are opposed to the interests of a group in the State PDP; Illegal and unconstitutional removal of Ward, Local Government and State Party officers elected at the congress of 2012; the issue of zoning and rotation of elective offices; Refusal of the State Chapter of the Party to issue Delegates Nomination Forms to members other than those of the GDI; Refusal to receive / collect Nomination Forms obtained from the national Secretariat by some aspirants; and Chairman and Members of Congress Panel being loyalists, personal staff and associates of Nyesom Wike, while as Minister of State for Education.
Don’t you see the boycott as a likely end to your aspiration?
I have said that the Ward congresses were a sham. My aspiration cannot die because of an act of illegality. Nigerian political history is replete with illegal congresses that have been set aside or cancelled and proper ones conducted in which the true winners emerged.
Ex-APC National Chairman Tasks Party On Responsive Leadership
Chief John Odigie-oyegun, former National Chairman, All Progressives Congress APC), has charged the party’s leaders to be more progressive and responsive to the people.
He said this at the public presentation of a book”APC’S Litmus Test, Nigerian Democracy and Politics of Change”, written by Dr Salihu Lukman, Director-General, Progressives Congress Forum (PGF) in Abuja, yesterday.
“We are in charge today, a progressive government, a progressive regime, and I think it is proper that we show to the nation that when the people want some degree of change, “we should be responsive to it, we should address it, compromises have to be made, there’s no question about that,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that the APC document on true federalism was still being worked upon before its release.
Odigie-Oyegun said the ideas of people from different parts of the country would be different up to the extent that they would want to go with the proposals in the document.
He said it was however, necessary, vital and mandatory in the interest of the survival of the country that issues regarding federalism were addressed.
“We cannot continue to allow the subject to become something that threatens our nation at any turn.
“So, the earlier we address it, the earlier we show that as a party we are responsive to the feelings of the people, the desires of the people and the wants of the people.
“It becomes easier then, to diffuse the kind of stresses that the nation is passing through today,”Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that for those at the formation of the APC, the uniqueness of its Constitution and its manifesto promised change was meant by all members with their hearts and beings.
He said unfortunately, the forces of economics had made things not quite the way it was planned.
The APC former national chairman said there was need for the party members to do everything possible to keep it not just alive but very virile.
He added that in spite of general belief, the APC was one party that had put together things that meant hope for the country.
He said the fact that things were bad and people were angry and hungry was not questionable, saying that these were worldwide phenomenon.
Odigie-Oyegun decried the current security challenge in the country.
“It is my hope that we will begin to get control of the security of this nation,” he said.
PDP Rep Harps On Justice, Dialogue To Secure Nigeria
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), House of Representatives member has enjoined Nigerian leaders to tow the path of justice, equity, dialogue, and rule of law in the country.
Rep. Toby Okechukwu, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, said this in a statement issued on Saturday in Abuja to commemorate the Democracy Day
He added that such path would help to arrest worsening insecurity and arrest separatist agitations across the country.
Okechukwu said that opportunities still abound in preserving the nation’s democracy and reconstruct the union to a more workable piece.
He said that June 12 was designated Democracy Day in honour of a symbol of the nation’s democratic struggles, the late Chief MKO Abiola.
He added that Abiola was unjustly denied the opportunity to exercise an overwhelmingly popular mandate handed him by the Nigerian people on June 12 1993, but only to be celebrated at death.
“The greatest debt the governments and leaders of Nigeria owe every part of this country and every Nigerian is a sense of justice and equity according to the letters and spirit of our constitution.
“The golden rule of justice is to do unto others as you would have them to unto you,” he said.
He called on the Federal Government to take conscious steps to do things that would promote national unity and earn it loyalty.
He also called on leaders to be proactive in creating a clement environment for peace to reign to arrest the present security challenges in the country.
Okechukwu commended the leaders of the South East and the Federal Government for the June 11, dialogue in Enugu to deescalate tension in the region.
He stated that it was a right step that should be sustained and replicated nationwide, while wishing Nigerians a happy Democracy Day.
Democracy Day: PDP Lawmakers Wants Observance Of Rule Of Law
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has called for strict observance of the rule of law to improve democratic practice in the country.
The caucus made the call in a statement by its Leader, Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers) last Saturday in Abuja.
Chinda called for an environment that would guarantee freedom of speech and standard operations for the fourth estate of the realm.
The lawmaker stressed the need to place greater value on Nigerian lives and for decisive and pragmatic steps to end the avoidable deaths in the country.
He called on the government to restrain the Police and other security agencies from further unleashing violence on unarmed youths and other peaceful protesters.
“They choose to go out and exercise their rights in commemoration of Democracy Day.
“June 12 is a symbol of democratic freedom and supremacy of the people’s power and should be respected by ensuring that all the tenets of democracy are adhered to in all ramifications.
“June 12 is not only about introspection, it is about renewing the commitments of all to the growth of democracy in our dear county.
“It is about ensuring that our country is never again enveloped by darkness, hemmed to the abyss by the sinister forces that threaten our collective rights and freedoms,” he said.
Chinda urged all Nigerians to hold on to democratic principles in spite of the challenges facing the country saying that “good will triumph over evil.”
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