From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
In the run-up to the 2023 general elections, the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, has expressed optimism that the leaders of the party across the country will close ranks in the interest of Nigerians.
Ologbondiyan in this interview, said there is need for all the PDP candidates at all levels to be conciliatory and magnanimous in their approaches, ahead of the 2023 polls.
Prior to the PDP primaries, some leaders of the party like Peter Obi, Rabiu Kwankwaso dumped the party and their exit is believed to have affected the support base of the party. So, what are the chances of your party in the 2023 polls?
I think first and foremost, we must preach to the need for reconciliation in the party. And the need for those who have emerged as candidates at the various levels, be it in the state House of assembly, be it in the House of representatives, be it in the Senate, be it for governorship and be it for the presidency; we all need to return to the base and we all need to be conciliatory, and be magnanimous in our approaches to the general elections. I think that is the first thing.
But when we talk about chances of the party, what we need to understand is the fact that it is not just about the party, it is about the aspirations of the ordinary Nigerian out there; what they desire. Are they satisfied with the system of governance that we have experienced in the last seven years? And if they are dissatisfied, as I believe and, as we know that Nigerians are today, will a replacement of the manager or the candidate of their party, make a difference? The answer is No. There’s nobody in APC today that can claim that Buhari is the cause of Nigeria’s problem and if we recall, in one of the statements we made for the PDP, while we were in office, we did envisage what is happening today by saying that, it will get to a point where the leadership of APC will want to isolate president Muhammadu Buhari for the blame to take responsibility. But there’s nobody that is in APC today that will say that in one form or the other he didn’t participate in the governance of President Muhammadu Buhari. And as such, they should also be prepared to share responsibility of their failures with President Muhammadu Buhari. And having said that, the aspiration of the average Nigerian is to see the APC out of office, and when you stretch that discussion, you will also come to a conclusion that the major party that is out there, that Nigerians have experienced and in whose tenure life was far better than what operates today is the People Democratic Party. So, the PDP at the end of the day is an aggregate, it is going to aggregate the feelings, the pains, the inhumanity that Nigerians have gone through in the last seven years in the new government that will be formed by the incoming president by the grace of God, Atiku Abubakar.
You have your natural power base. The South East used to be a strong base of the PDP. However, in the last four years, the APC has made considerable inroad into the South East, with the control of two states. In the North, the exit of Kwankwaso is believed to be a drawback for the PDP in parts of the North. How do you feel about the development?
Let’s take the issue one after the other. Let’s take the issue of APC having two states, APC never won elections in the South east; you and I know that. In the case of Imo state, we had our governorship candidate, who emerged and won the heart of the people and he is Emeka Ihedioha. He won by popular election. However, through one form of manipulation or the other, which APC is used to, which Nigerians know them for, they seized Imo State. They didn’t win by popular votes and if you go to Ebonyi, they did not win election in Ebonyi. What happened was that Governor Dave Umahi left the party and defected to the APC.
So, it wasn’t as if we had an election which the APC won. In the hearts of the people, I do not believe that they will despise the PDP, and I know that the structure of the party in this respective states are still standing.
When we go to Kano State, our performance in Kano in the 2019 election left more to be desired but we will not go into the details of what transpired. But I believe that we still have our chunk of votes in Kano, so plus or minus I think that largely, Nigerians are with the PDP.
Are you confident the INEC will conduct a credible election in 2023?
I think the introduction of BVAS and going by the election that held in Ekiti, I think largely you can say that there’s some level of improvement.
And I think that the biggest problem is the issue of “see and buy”, vote buying and I believe that INEC and the security agencies must have a way of stopping or discouraging the issue of “ See and buy”, which is vote buying. I believe that INEC still does more than what they are doing to improve our electoral process.
There are talks of establishing Electoral offences Commission, what do you think in that regard?
I think in the following analysis, APC has done much damage to our electoral processes. It has done heavy damage to our electoral processes. It has worsened the situation through which it was elected in 2015. If you compare the 2015 elections, President Muhammadu Buhari came out and said that it was technology, which was the card reader that made him to win the election. But rather than improve on that process, every subsequent election has been a worst form of the 2015 that brought the President to office, except for the introduction of BVAS which has been tested in Edo, and in Ekiti now.
That is why I said the APC has worsened the electoral process and rather than improve in the election that brought President Muhammadu Buhari into office, it made a parody of every subsequent election. So, I believe that part of the recommendations that will heal, that would stop vote buying and stop “see and buy”, is if we will allow for a judicial process in which violators of electoral process are not only prosecuted but are punished; that is what can give us some level of sanity in our elections.
You started by saying there is need for leaders of your party to close ranks, ahead of the 2023 elections but the gulf among party leaders seem to be widening.
I can assure you that the PDP is a family. It is one family. The contentions that you are seeing today, are normal after every election. But I can assure you, and through you assure Nigerians that the party will come back together, united in the interest of Nigerians who are daily demanding an end to the inhumanity of the APC administration. We will come together and ensure we go into the election as one united family and win the 2023 election.