Chief Jackson Ude was a Presidential aide during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Trained in the United States and Canada, Ude, a presidential strategist, worked in the Public Affairs Directorate and later with Research, Strategy and Documentation with the late Oronto Douglas. He is member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In this interview, with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, the Abia State born politician speaks about the PDP and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration
PDP is preparing for a national convention on December 9 this year. From events so far, do you think your party has learnt any lessons from the recent crisis, particularly with regards to the imposition of candidates by the its governors?
I truly have not seen any visible lesson the party has learnt. Otherwise by now, PDP would have become a major opposition to APC. The party is currently in a timid mode. By now, PDP should have entered its War Room, mapping out a clear strategy on how to win the 2019 general elections. Instead, the party is just lukewarm, aloof and incapable of playing the real opposition. They are busy planning a convention in December and some are propagating ideologies that would allow some PDP governors who want to implant their stooges in the party, to do so. Until PDP becomes supreme, above its governors who continue to undermine party rules and regulations, it will remain incapable of learning any lesson. PDP governors are the ones holding the party down. They seem to be too powerful and untouchable.
Also, the honest truth is that it is going to be a difficult task for the party to win in 2019. PDP as it is currently constituted cannot defeat the APC. PDP is not an opposition. It has not acted like an opposition. It appears to have been so defeated that it finds it difficult to wake up from the heavy blows of the APC.
Look, the APC is already strategizing, they are mending fences. President Muhammadu Buhari is reaching out to those aggrieved within his party. He is going to offer Asiwaju Bola Tinubu two ministerial slots and another one for the South-west alone in his next cabinet reshuffle. With that, he will lock down South-west again using Tinubu. He has North-west and North-east already locked down. He does not care about the South-east and South-south, he can break the North-central. If he continues like this and keeps mending fences, he will get massive votes again and win a landslide victory. Even if former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, moves back to PDP, he would be returning with maybe one or two ministers. And what would be the electoral value of that to help PDP win? It would be insignificant to win. The PDP has no strategy at the moment. They have no plans to break APC’s strategy. If PDP has any strategy, right now, they would have taken the APC to the cleaners with the myriad of scandals surrounding a supposedly anti-corruption government. They would have buried the APC. Instead, they are still fighting amongst themselves, planning a convention and promoting aspirants with baggage. Check the list of aspirants for national chairman of the PDP, they are people whom the EFCC, working with the APC government, has fat dossiers of corruption on. APC is waiting in the wings for PDP to make that mistake of fielding a man with a file in EFCC. They would use their sledge hammer and destroy the person. PDP would be fighting to redeem the image of its leadership and before they finish, elections would be over and APC would emerge victorious again. This is what would happen. Except PDP elect fresh faces with no baggage or APC implodes, there would be no hope for the former ruling party. Even the PDP governors are not helping matters. Except for Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and sometimes Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, the rest are moles for the APC. They don’t fund the party or provide funding to put the party in a better position as opposition. They are largely aloof and perhaps waiting for another crisis so they can move to the APC. I know of some PDP governors who are already in APC.
Who are those governors?
I won’t mention their names. They know themselves. Perhaps out of fear of being probed for their past activities, they have been working underground for the APC. Some dine with Buhari/APC at night and in the day, claim to be PDP members. This is the problem PDP would be having except it weeds itself of those moles and disloyal members; it will remain as timid as it is now.
There is a raging debate over the concept of micro-zoning of PDP national chairmanship office ahead of the convention. On which side of the debate do you lean and why?
We have overstretched democracy in Nigeria to accommodate zoning. Now we want to stretch it further to accommodate micro zoning. What is micro zoning again for goodness sake? As far as I know, micro zoning is illegal, alien, and an aberration to democracy. It must not stand.
Micro zoning is simply the ideology of those who are hell bent on scheming out some very qualified persons from contesting at the PDP convention. Some governors and party leaders are looking for ways to impose their lackeys in the party and so the best way would be to ensure others are not allowed to contest because positions have been micro zoned to particular states. At a time PDP faces major credibility challenges, it needs to jettison anything like micro zoning and field credible candidates for all positions so that it can win the trust of Nigerians who do not see the party anymore as credible enough.
Your party has zoned the presidency to the North; do you think PDP has a candidate that can reinvigorate the party after the APC tsunami that swept the it away in 2015?
There was nothing like APC tsunami in 2015. It was all bogus. The votes Buhari recorded in Kano were bogus. The 1.9m votes, for which there were no void votes, remains an issue.
Secondly, there was no APC tsunami because they lied their way to power using propaganda and the Western media. I attended a meeting at the White House in 2014 as a member of the Presidential Delegation to the White House on Nigeria’s preparedness for the 2015 Presidential election. The then opposition APC had a delegation in that meeting led by current information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the current Vice president. In that meeting, Lai Mohammed was busy discrediting the Goodluck Jonathan led Government before the White House Director, African Affairs. After the meeting, while we were returning to our hotels, we were all in the same bus and Doyin Okupe asked him why he needed to tell so much lies to sell his party to the White House. Lai Mohammed responded that at that time, the APC would say anything against the Jonathan’s led government whether it is true or lies. And he did exactly that. The resultant effect of that is that, Nigerians bought into APC’s lies and voted for them. Today, we have now seen the effect of believing in the lies of an incompetent government.
To answer your question, there are a lot of credible candidates or persons who are members of the PDP in the North that can defeat Buhari and APC. Mind you, the APC can no longer be running on anti-corruption or the change mantra. They squandered that mantra already with the deluge of expose of APC leaders including the Presidency’s involvement in corruption. We have the unresolved $25bn illegal contracts scandal in the NNPC for which Buhari’s men are deeply involved. We have the Maina saga for which Buhari’s men are neck deep in with documents showing the culpability of these men. So, its going to be a level playing ground where no party would be seen to be cleaner than the other except for the fact that one has power of the security and INEC, and it can use them effectively. And that is, if Nigerian would watch their votes being stolen.
PDP needs to immediately enter its War Room and redesign a winning strategy. The party has the man power and personnel that can defeat Buhari and his team. The party needs to start asking questions about the credibility of the president who ran under an anti-corruption or change mantra. There are so many strategies that can be adopted to finally nail the APC government. Only a vibrant, rebranded PDP can do that.
At the level of governance, what is your assessment of the APC administration?
APC was never prepared for governance. In the last two years, we have seen them for what they can offer. It has been zero on all fronts; not even on the Boko Haram that they were taunted as capable of defeating. It is zero on the economy, zero on job creation, zero on security, zero on good governance, zero on education, zero on policy. They are simply scoring high marks on propaganda and lies. Go to the streets and do a vox pop on the truthfulness of the APC regime. You would be shocked to know how Nigerians now see them.
But the question remains how did we get here? First, APC was looking for how to win at all cost and they went to bring Buhari. They know he has followers among the core North. The South-west, was angry with former President Goodluck Jonathan, so they did an alliance with the Buhari people and packaged him as one who can fight corruption. He was dressed in all the traditional attires of major tribes in Nigeria and even given an Igbo name. Nigerians fell for it and voted for him. Today, all those high hopes and promises made by him and his party have evaporated into the thin air. The real Buhari/APC that was never prepared for the task of building Nigeria, fighting corruption and cleaning up the alleged rots created by the Jonathan Government has now emerged. We now have a government that has lost its voice in the fight against corruption. Under this government, only opposition politicians are corrupt. Once you are in APC, you are deodorized. You are only sacked from position when public opinion appears too harsh and unfavorable to the government. Look at the Babachir Lawal case. It took Buhari more than a year to act. Babachir Lawal was indicted first by the Senate and by a Presidential committee headed by Vice president Yemi Osinbajo. Buhari studied the reports for more than a year before acting. He did not act until the Abdulrasheed Maina saga nailed his government. We have been asleep to the necessity of quality leadership in Nigeria. We need to wake up. Gone should be the days when leaders are selected based on tribe, religion, ethnicity or ability to chant a mantra. We should be able to hold leaders accountable for not keeping promises. If we cut a slack for a failing leader, we cut a slack for quality of life, we cut a slack for quality of education, infrastructure development and create a monumental problem for generations unborn. We have cut too much slack for the APC. We need not consult a soothsayer to know that this government has failed on all fronts. The time is up for this government. They should ship out and allow people with quality ideas take this country to greater heights. We must not fall gain to those chants and mantra of 2015 that were never questioned.
At this point in my life, I do not care what party affiliation or tribe the person belongs, I want quality leadership, I want to see development in Nigeria. I want a leader who won’t remind me that I am a minority, I don’t want a leader who would divide this country on the basis of those who voted him or who didn’t. We must look for that leader ahead of 2019. And if we can’t find, I would offer myself to run for president.