FORMER Senate President and member Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Adolphus Wabara believes that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has its good and bad sides . While he praised the ongoing war against corruption , he argued that the administration has not done well in addressing economic issues. But beyond that, the former Senate President in this interview with IHEANACHO NWOSU, is of the opinion that the President must be wary of some personalities that swarm around him. One of such people he said, is former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, claiming that the latter would hurt the President if he continues to allow him ample space in his government. He also spoke on the crisis rocking the PDP leadership. Excerpts..
As a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, how are you reading this crisis that is threatening to kill your party?
First of all, the PDP is just like a beatle. A beatle people generally say never dies.There is nothing that can kill PDP, no matter the factions, no matter the factional politics going on there now. I think for the problems, I don’t want to apportion blames. We have come out of it now. So we are looking forward to how we can bring the factions together. We pray that this does not repeat itself. PDP is not owned by any individual or group of people or organization. PDP is very national in nature. Since we lost the Presidency, it would appear that the 12 governors that we have are in charge; but in the future, the governors should reach out and consult widely before they take certain decisions.
I feel a little bit disappointed when we hear and read in the print media the reason behind the decision on the outgone oNational Chairman of the party. Some of us kicked against that decision and wisely too, not because of any personal problems with the person in question; but because of our knowledge of that person. As a result of that singular decision, you found so many factions emerged. There were group of former Ministers, the PDP Rescue Group which I belong; the stakeholder group and the Jerry Gana Group, which tells you that that was indeed a very bad decision and it is that same decision that manifested in its unacceptable manner during the convention in Port Harcourt last weekend. But we thank God that God really salvaged the situation there and we are where we are now with seven-man Caretaker Committee.
Do you not think that the BoT is exaggerating its importance when it claimed that the running of the party should be handed over to it?
The Convention has taken a decision and no other organ can change that decision of the seven-man caretaker Committee. The seven-man caretaker committee cannot function without the BoT. They must work hand in hand to really get things going again in the party.
Does your Constitution recognize this Committee? Is there a provision to have such Committee in place?
Our Constitution is not static. We regulate ourselves and of course we call it another Doctrine of Necessity; otherwise, the party would have been buried in Port Harcourt if they didn’t come out with that idea of a seven-man caretaker Committee which is made up of very experienced party administrators in the person of the former Governor of Kaduna State, Makarfi and of course Senator Ben Obi. It’s not just about the Constitution but we can regulate ourselves so that we find a way out, just as David Mark did in the National Assembly by creating the Doctrine of Necessity. That was exactly in my view, what happened in Port Harcourt.
You said the crisis is over now and that you are only praying that it will not repeat itself. But can we really say that the crisis is over, when the National Secretariat is sealed off and the factions are still on their own and have even gone to court?
I think much will depend on the BoT and the seven-man caretaker committee. There should be reconciliation. I’m just coming from a meeting now and I noticed that while we were at that meeting, a member of the seven-man Committee came in there and invited one of us and handed over a letter to him. That person is a member of the stakeholders – the Gana group. Contacts have also been made with the BoT Chairman, the Ministers’ Forum and what have you. So, everybody is eager. Nobody wants the party to die. Everybody before Saturday wanted someone out. That person is out now and I don’t see any reason why the groups or the factions will continue fighting since the main obstacle is out of the way now.
One of the things they talked about is rezoning of some key offices that was done before the Port Harcourt convention. Are we going to see a reversal?
It was part of the resolutions of the Convention. As a matter of fact, at the last BoT meeting, I raised the issue when we elected Walid as Chairman. I was very much in support of Walid being the Chairman of BoT. But as soon as he was elected it dawned on me and I raised it at that meeting that this party is creating a picture that it is now a Northern Nigeria party. I said congratulation Walid, but BoT Chairman is from the North; the National Chairman has also been zoned to the North; then the Presidential candidate of the party will also emerge from the North. So, where is the position of the South as a whole? I raised that issue and I called for the suspension of the convention, pending the resolution of this problem. That was when they came again with the idea that in 2018, the National Chairman will revert to the South as soon as the Presidential candidate emerges. The problem we had up till that Saturday is a function of interest. Everybody was positioning himself or herself ahead of 2019 and that is exactly the problem. We would have fallen into the same problem we had in 2015 if they had succeeded in going ahead with the Convention, Modu Sheriff emerging and dropping in 2018. How many months will it take the new Chairman to lead the party into victory in 2019. So, we would have had a repeat performance of what happened in 2015 with Muazu who was there for less than one year as a game changer and nothing ever changed.
As God would have it, the Convention said that has been dropped. There will be rezoning of all the positions and everything will be clear. I want to believe that the seven-man caretaker Committee will zone the National Chairmanship of the party to the South and possibly to the South West. The South East probably will take the Vice Presidential position. If that is done, we will be ready for 2019.
Are you not startled by this revelation that is coming out regarding who collected what during the last election in the campaign that you also participated in. Are you aware that some of this money changed hands?
I never had the faintest idea that such money exchanged hands. I’m sure many Nigerians are really startled that such amount of money in dollars in billions exchanged hands. I don’t think any Presidential election in any part of the world has spent the type of money that was spent in the last election in Nigeria on election. Everybody more or less participated in the booty. So, anybody found guilty should be prosecuted.
How much have these revelations destabilized the PDP?
I really don’t think it has. Don’t forget that you are innocent until proven guilty and that has to be in the court of law. That explains why you find the likes of (Olisa) Metuh before last Saturday, doing his job and all of them that have been mentioned so far are going around doing their thing, until maybe the day of judgment. In a criminal matter, the onus of proof is on the prosecution and it must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt for you to jail someone on a criminal charge. The EFCC, because of the enormity of their commitments, you find that they are not handling most of the matters professionally. We might end up having people escaping from jail on technical grounds.
You said you have no problem with the way they are handling the anti-corruption war so far. But some people have raised the issue of party funds; that the probe so far has not distinguished between party money and funds from the public coffers. Some have said that If you are probing public money, it should not be mixed with money that belongs to the political party, which the party used for election purposes. Don’t you see the EFCC is mixing these together?
I don’t think they are bringing everything together. We are all Nigerians and we knew how much the PDP raised during the presidential campaign – about twenty something billion Naira, not dollars. But what we are hearing is different. If you subtract twenty something billion Naira from that, you will find that the whole thing is startling. But Buhari cannot get all the money that is involved, even if he is able to jail all them. I’m being very practical.
As you said, no one is guilty until proven guilty. Now, the same court had approved bail applications of some of these suspects, but none of it appears to enjoy the support of the arresting authorities. Is this in itself not an abuse of the process?
There are two sides to a coin. I don’t want to believe that the EFCC or the ICPC will keep suspects unnecessarily. There was a case that they mentioned and they gave reasons why they were still keeping the person. That’s why they moved out of Abuja; they now obtained holding charge from Lagos. You cannot blame the judiciary for doing that. If they get court judgment to continue to hold someone, then you cannot fault that. It’s just that we are alarmists. We want things to happen now and I think people are also getting a little bit tired.
The South East has been crying of alienation by the Buhari administration. Are you people not overdramatizing your political situation? Do you really deserve what you are asking for in this administration?
I think we do, so far as we are part and parcel of this country. Mr. President was very clear – although that was unfortunate on his own side – to say that he was not going to touch those who didn’t vote for him. That should not come from the President. Rather, you should woo your enemy so that when you are now seeking a second term in office even if he is not interested but for his party, then those people will say we didn’t do anything for this man and we got this and that. You don’t make such statements because you are not dealing with ethnicity. You are dealing with people and that explains why if you come to the East today, nothing is happening in terms of federal roads and other facilities. But we hope in the next couple of years, Buhari will remember that the East is part of the country.
What do you say to those who say it will be near impossible for PDP to resolve this issue because the people who are the pillars of the party, a lot of them have either been chased out of the party or have been forced out of the party because of the impunity that the party became known for in its later years. They also blamed former President Obasanjo for sewing the seed of this crisis you are having today by being the first person to hand over the structure of the party to governors?
I’m sure that the BoT and the seven-man caretaker committee will address those issues. There will be very effective reconciliatory moves to get the founding fathers and mothers of the party together – the likes of (Dr. Alex) Ekwueme and all of that at least to continue to advise and lead the party aright.
I don’t want to talk about Obasanjo. Whatever problem we have in the PDP, he laid the foundation for those problems, just for his own benefit. I don’t want to talk about him at all because of my personal issues with him. I know that if we hadn’t had somebody like Obasanjo in the PDP, probably the party would have been stronger today. That’s all I want to say about him.
Many also feel that Obasanjo’s hand is seemingly in the problem that you are having right now. Some of his men who are fighting are believed to have links with him?
The problem with Obasanjo is he pursues his personal interest all the time and he’s a tactician. We worked together. If you are standing here with Obasanjo, if you look a mile from where you are standing, you will find him there. That is the type of person he is and it takes people like us who really understand him to talk about him. I think we will leave that for another day. He has so many people planted here and there. He has his hands in so many things in his government. But you probably will be lucky to pin him down to them. People are suffering on his behalf, whereas he should have been the person facing the music.
Do you regret becoming one of his loyal core men at a point in your political career?
I wouldn’t want to answer that question now. But I must thank him though for making me what I am. Without him, I wouldn’t have been the Senate President – that’s between myself and my God. He made that possible and I remain eternally grateful to him. But it’s his interest first all the time. If I go into that, how I exited and what have you; in fact in your papers, somebody wrote that I was impeached. I was never impeached. I voluntarily resigned to go and face the music. Where I studied, we were usually very rugged and we know that diamonds are not forever. When things like that come, we take the right step.
Obasanjo wanted a third term and he thought he had a willing horse in me but I refused and that is where the whole thing started. Some of his aides now told him that I even wanted to take over his job as the President of the country and stuffs like that. But I don’t want to talk. I leave everything in the hands of God.
If you are to advise Buhari on how to handle somebody like Obasanjo, what would be your advice?
Buhari should be very careful. He should be very wary of Obasanjo because Obasanjo will hurt him. All he is doing around Buhari now is to feel his body language to know whether he has any plans in exposing him. The moment he now finds that something like that is not happening and Buhari becomes a lame President, Obasanjo will hurt him, preparatory for the next President that is coming in because he must be in the Villa to protect himself from going back to prison and what he does is to run down whoever is there at the appropriate time to paint a picture that he is supporting the incoming so that that one will draw him closer again. By so doing, he is shielded from being thrown back into prison. The Sun