By Eric Elezuo
Dr. Adetokunbo Pearce is a senior lecturer with the Department of English Language, University of Lagos as well as the Publicity Secretary, Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party. He is presently the campaign coordinator for the election of Prof. Tunde Adediran as the chairman of the PDP, come December.
In this interview, he explained the reasons the PDP is sure to come back to power in 2019, citing the failure of the Buhari administration to deliver on its promises as one strong point among other juicy elaborations. Excerpts:
Could you briefly introduce yourself
My name is Dr. Adetokunbo Pearce, a Senior Lecturer with the Department of English, University of Lagos. I am also a public affair analyst as well as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
As a member of PDP you must have a lot to say about the party that ousted your party from government about two years ago
Well, we can say that the structure that outstayed the PDP in 2015 is not actually a political party but a political contraption. The contraption came together for one purpose only – to oust the Jonathan administration.
They succeeded in doing tha,t but now we know better; they have no policy, they have no direction, and that is why the party is virtually disintegrated as we speak now and their disintegration and lack of order and focus is also affecting the quality of life in the nation. There is no particular group, you can call APC: we have the Buhari APC, Saraki APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu APC and now Abubakar Atiku APC. The same confusion and disunity is affecting the National Assembly, the executive and Nigerians from all walks of life in a very negative and regressive way.
Can we break down this negative and regressive way? How has Nigerians fared in the last two and half years?
Well, since Buhari got into office, direct foreign investment has dropped by about 35%, the GDP is the lowest it has ever been, the stock market has dropped, the naira is the lowest at almost 400-1 dollar. It was actually about 500-1 until when luckily for Nigerians, the President had to go away for a while. But the point is that everything has gone bad and the most obvious to everybody is that the cost of living, which has gone up drastically; the quality of life has decreased incredibly. There has never been more poverty in Nigeria than we have now. There is hunger in the land through Buhari’s APC administration, not to talk of the insecurity everywhere; the South-South, the South-East, North Central etc. Everywhere is in disarray and all has to do with the way this administration has failed to put its house in order.
Is it a matter of this administration because this security thing has always been there even when Jonathan was in power? There has always been Niger Delta militancy, Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and others
That is true but every administration will have similar challenges. It depends on how you cope with the challenges. Look at what is going on in the South East now. There has always been IPOB, there have always been all these groups as you said very correctly but the Jonathan-PDP administration and others before it were able to manage the situation and it didn’t get to a crisis level. Buhari’s attitude which is very confrontational, undemocratic, aristocratic and very dictatorial, has created more tension in the land than ever before. Fulani herdsmen feel empowered and embolden to do whatever they want to do. The president has not said anything about these destructive herdsmen all over the country, and the prejudice is affecting Nigeria in a very damaging manner much more so than under the Jonathan administration.
Recently we were told recession is over. In your own and your group’s opinion, are we out of recession?
Well you ask the average Nigerian wife whether we are out of recession because whatever I say may sound prejudicial. Check your pocket and you will know we are still in recession. By by the way, recently a former Minister of Finance, and I think also former ambassador to the United Kingdom said that Nigerian may not ever get out of recession Saying we are out of recession is something that can be tested very easily. First consider the currency, if we were 380 naira-1 dollar during recession and we are still 380-1dollar today, it means things are the same. If our GDP has not gone up since a year or two ago then we are still where we are.
Let’s come closer home. If the cost of one paint of garri used to be 250-350 naira under Jonathan and is now 1200 naira and is still 1200 naira; we are still in recession. If a bag of 50kg of rice that use to be 9000-10000 naira under Jonathan is now 18000 naira and when you get it for 15000 you are lucky, then we are still in recession.
Unemployment is on the rise, illiteracy is on the rise, poverty is on the rise, people are committing suicide across the country because of poverty and hunger and someone says we are out of recession. Information is something this administration has toiled with. They say we have technically defeated Boko Haram, and Boko Haram is still at its peak, destroying and maiming people. The best way to check if recession is on or not is to look into your pocket and see what your naira can buy.
So what measurement did the government use to declare recession over
Well, like everything else, they just talk. Anybody can say anything they want to say. Recession simply means there is poverty, it means that your naira or currency is weak; it means that things are not functioning. All these indices show that we are still in recession. More so, companies are either laying off workers or are relocating abroad or even Ghana. They leave because the atmosphere here is not favourable to business, and no matter what the government says, what is actually going on is the evidence.
You mention something like they just talk, the government just talk! Kindly elaborate
Listen to the Minister of Information and you will see that everything he says is either a contradiction or misinformation. The man is going to go down in the rubbish heap of history that is what is going to happen to him because he has falsified everything. He even said that PDP members are the one funding IPOB
But he said opposition, not PDP members
Well he said opposition. Where is the opposition? The real opposition we all know is PDP. Go to any market place they will tell you the only opposition to APC is PDP and the opposition is just beginning to get itself together after the Supreme Court judgment that settled the differences between Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi. After the convention in December, then the APC will see real opposition but so far PDP is the only opposition.
After saying the opposition is funding these dissident groups then he said they know the foreign government funding them. So which one is it? Governor Fayose of Ekiti said identify this people, charge them to court, bring them to justice; that’s all we want as Nigerians. We don’t want anybody funding anybody underground to topple the government; the PDP is not like the APC. Do you remember what happened during the campaign when Rotimi Ameachi, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and others, were boasting, threatening that if Buhari does not win, they will set up a pariah government. That is hate speech. Let them go and find out who is actually funding or don’t talk and accuse people irresponsibly as they have been doing.
Okay recently, the president was at the UNGA, and made elaborate speech. Can you point out few things that affect the life of Nigerians in the speech
Well, I am sure the reason you asked that question is because you couldn’t find much that affected the lives of Nigerians in the speech. His speech was just an exercise in theory. He wanted to show the world he still had his brains together, that he knew history and he knew what is going on in the world because he spent his time talking about North Korea and how America should deal with North Korea. He spent his time talking about Myanar and then he was adulating the state of Palestine. That was what the President spent his time doing at the United Nation. He thanked the UN for supporting the war against terrorism in Africa and against Boko Haram but he did not say that in spite of the effort of the UN to crop Boko Haram, Nigeria has failed to play its part, and Boko Haram is still threatening our lives. So that speech was an exercise of futility. The President just wanted to show that he knew what he was doing he wanted the world to see that he is well again, and we are grateful that God has spared his life.
Any possibility the president will run again considering his health and if he should stand for election in 2019 what do you think the general public would do?
The president cannot stand, he can only sit. He is not even strong enough to walk around not to talk of campaign for election.
But he stood to make his speech at the UN
For how many minutes? You remember how many times he collapsed during the 2015 campaigns. I don’t know how he is going to do this one. But even if he is well and strong enough and his party makes a mistake of making him the candidate all we have to do is point to his record. Nigerians will vote and they will vote based on what you have done. Don’t forget that the reason Buhari won the election was because the propaganda was so strong and the promises were so glowing. He promised he would end Boko Haram within two months; he was a general he knew what to do, but two years after, Boko Haram is still there. He promised that he would make the naira so strong that it will be at par with the dollar, but we have it worse than before. He has not succeeded in anything, he said he will be giving 5000 to the unemployed youths; nothing; he said he will be giving free food to children in school can’t do it; promises made promises broken; he never kept any promise. So if he comes to campaign again people will ask him on what basis should we vote for you? On the basis that he has been a very ethno-centric president when making appointments. The first 28 key appointments Buhari made started the disintegration of Nigerian unity, leading to the springing up of groups in the South to agitate. He has shown that he is not the Nigerian president but the president of the north because of its appointment and his utterance about being concerned for the 97% who voted for him and not for the people who voted 5% works against him. In his first 28 key appointments, seven were from the North-west, his own zone, seven from North-central, seven from North-east, only four from South-south and three from South-west and zero from the South-east. What does that tell you?
Don’t you think its matter of ability; it has to do with those who can do the job
If you’re talking of those who can do the job, if that’s actually what you want to say, then where do you have the higher rate of skill development and literacy? Is it in the North-west? If you want to use that, then the South-east should be everywhere in government. It’s not about skills. What about when he was appointing security chiefs; out of 14 security chiefs 11 were from the north while 3 were from the south. The president has shown that he is ethnocentric, nepotistic, prejudicial, and does not represent Nigeria. He has failed the people and he will fail if he comes back for re-election.
Now for him to come back for election and fail means that other political parties have put their houses in order. Let’s come back to the main opposition party that’s the PDP. What’s your party doing to put their house in order?
Unfortunately, PDP had this challenge immediately after they lost election after being in power for so long. There was confusion and disarray, especially with the Sherriff/Makarfi situation. But all that is behind now as the Supreme Court has ruled. I know after our convention, as a lot of restructuring and reorganisation are ongoing, the officers and national working committee will be in place, that will be the end of APC.
Most times conventions are supposed to mark the end of conflict in the party and most time is actually the basis for conflict in the party what are those things that PDP is putting in place now because a lot of people are showing interest for the chairmanship position. Is there anything they are putting in place to enable the consolation and consolidation immediately after because only one person will emerge?
The reason I am optimistic now is based on what I saw at the non-voting convention of august 12, 2017 in Abuja where all the people came together from across the country. The party is more united now than before. If we had tried to have a convention before the Supreme Court, there would have been chaos, the same reason APC after 2 years in office they cannot hold a convention. If they do there will be blood shed because the Buhari group will be fighting the Bola Ahmed Tinubu group; Bola Ahmed Tinubu Group will be fighting Saraki group, Saraki group will be fighting Abubakar Atiku group, and the cycle continues. We are not like that anymore we are now united under Makarfi and the threat of confusion is behind us. We have learnt our bitter lesson. We are going to the national convention as a unified party and we are going to emerge from that convention even stronger and ready our common goal is to defeat this APC government that has done so much damage to the life of Nigerians and to the structure of the country.
Is the party doing anything to keep Modu Sherriff back as he must have been agrieved after losing out?
I don’t know what role Modu Sherriff will play. I understand he recently endorsed Chief Bode George for national chairman but don’t forget Moduf Serif was not a member of the party till about a year before he became chairman. So his membership is roughly two – three years, he doesn’t have a lot of power and strength within the party. But if you ask me, Prof Tunde Adeniran is the most qualified. He is a former Minister of Education, former Ambassador to Germany, Founding member of the party and very strong in integrity and experience, Chairman of the Presidential Inauguration Committee 1999 and basically he has been mentor and supporter of more than 18 youth and students groups across the country. So he has a very good chance. So if we have people like that in office then the PDP is really ready to bring real change, progressive change to Nigeria that’s what we are looking for. And I must mention, he is one of the few party members who are yet to mess themselves up with cross carpeting.
What would be the next slogan of PDP?
Change the change…(laughs)… change the negative change for progressive and unified change.
The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose has been known to be vocal against the government. Is he speaking for the PDP?
They are PDP members so in that capacity they were only speaking from their position as Governors and that was the only voice PDP had in terms of opposing Buhari administration.
That means it was exactly what PDP wanted to say
Yes… well they were not elected to be publicity secretary for PDP but as stake holders in PDP, sure, because since they were not elected to speak for PDP you can only say they were speaking for PDP as leaders of PDP as Governors in their own state, as stake holders in this structure we call Nigeria.
Has Lagos PDP been unified under one umbrella?
Well we are working towards unity in Lagos and again the unity would come after election. After we have had our state congress and people have emerged. In October/November, there is going to be election and whoever emerges would be recognised. No more faction.
Will there be any kind of merger because that was exactly what boosted the APC in 2015 People like Raymond Dokpesi are no more in PDP and there are other political parties. Is PDP planning any kind of merger?
Well with due respect Raymond Dokpesi is still a member of PDP you know when the tension was so much in PDP people looked for some solution but Dokpesi is still a member of PDP
So what happened to APDA?
I don’t know, but as you know, PDP has a very formidable structure across the country; 11 governors and dozens of members in the National Assembly. PDP is so strong that it doesn’t need a party to start forming coalition. What you had with APC was a contraption. You have these people in APC that are not really members of the party; Buhari is still CPC. We have people like Saraki that you’re not sure if they are still PDP or APC. So this is the problem. We don’t have that problem in PDP. Once we get our convention together and we have our state congresses, and people emerge in the states, we are good to go.
What would the Nigerians expect in 2019?
Well personally I’m not interested in PDP just wining election because APC is weak and they can be defeated…no! We need a government that understand that the way Nigeria is structured must be rearranged; there must be restructuring – geopolitical restructuring – a Federal system where all the geopolitical zones will be represented equally. You cannot have a North West geopolitical zone with six states and South East geopolitical zone with 5 states. The 2014 National Confab has made a recommendation to rectify that anomaly. You know if something is unfair you will never have peace until you correct it. Consider another aspect of restructuring any administration in place must consider other wise there will be no peace. Lagos State with about the same population with Kano State according to the National Statistic Kano state has 20 local government areas while Kano has 44. That is not fair. Jigawa that was scrapped out of Kano State has 27 local government areas and Lagos State that can swallow Jigawa 50 times has only 20.
And that puts the south in a disadvantaged position in the National Assembly when far reaching decisions are made. Maybe people were not aware before, but it has come to the fore now and we must deal with it. That is one good reason I said Buhari-APC cannot win election because he is opposed to structuring. Nobody in the south and North central is going to vote for him.
What is the PDP promising Nigerians to get their votes?
First, the idea of reorganising Nigeria to make it better for everybody, The physical restructuring means that the constitution will be amended in such a way that the natural resources in every state is taken out of the exclusive list so that every state can have direct access to their mineral resources.
If they have that as they have in other federations of the world, there will be wealth. Imo State can use its gas to power the whole of the south east; Enugu with his coal, Kaduna/Sokoto with gold, Ondo state is sitting on the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world. Ondo and Oyo states can use that to develop the whole of the south west to make it like Dubai or London. These are what some of our leaders don’t realise and these are what restructuring is all about. I am speaking from what I know PDP is promising but if they don’t keep that promise then they have to face the consequences. PDP has the potential to provide progress as the worst of PDP is 100% better than the best of APC as we have it now.
What will convince Nigerians to vote out APC is the poverty they are going through now; the insecurity and, the hunger that everybody is experiencing. If you talk to anybody in the street of Nigeria today they will tell you they are waiting to vote APC out and vote PDP in.