A former Minister of Aviation and current Special Adviser, Strategy and External Engagements to the Chairman of the main opposition People Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Osita Chidoka, has debunked the insinuation making the rounds that some sections of the southeast leaders were opposed to the emergence of Gov. Peter Obi as the vice presidential candidate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential flag-bearer of the party.
He said the governors of the zone who convened a meeting in Enugu to discuss the selection of Peter Obi merely expressed misgivings about hearing such important information about the zone from the social media first, and felt that as stakeholders of the party, the party had omitted to carry them along adequately. He clarified that the leaders main concern was to ensure that going forward this will not be the template to be used in decision making processes that affects the zone or the country.
“You cannot give a vice presidential candidate to a presidential candidate. You can only make nominations but it is his prerogative to choose… Its about who he wants to work with. And I believe by terms of engagement, relationship and chemistry and to give the ticket a balance, Peter Obi is a very good choice for him”
In a riveting interview with Gimba Umar, the anchor of the breakfast morning show on Channels TV, Sunrise Daily, Chief Chidoka put to rest all outstanding issue regarding the “miscommunications” during the annoucement of the party’s running mate. He x-rayed the current state of the nation and his party’s chances of winning the 2019 general elections.
We have served you both the video and a transcript of the interview below.
Q Is it true that all is not well with the choice of Peter Obi for the southeast region?
Ans All is well with the selection of Peter Obi. I have written extensively that the meeting we had, had nothing to do with the person of Gov. Peter Obi. The presidential candidate of our party had intended to engage further with other stakeholders of our party but somehow the information came out via social media and the southeast leaders felt that if the presidential candidate consulted with some people he consulted with them also because there are some home keeping issues that needed to be done before a formal annoucement.
As the Ebonyi governor said, his point was to ensure that this was not going to be the template for future engagement. And that was duly noted and the candidate sent a message that he was traveling abroad that night but upon his return he meet with the leaders to iron out the miscommunication. I believe in politics all stakeholders always want to be in the inner room when decisions are made. And the most momentous decision now was that of the vice presidential candidate. So they were wondering if future decisions will be made with them hearing it from social media first. So the reaction was spontaneous but it had nothing to do with Peter Obi. The reactions to the appointment in the southeast has been quite positive, and for all of us feel it is something of pride for us.
Q You ran for governor of Anambra State under UPP. If you had the closed door meeting of stakeholders with the presidential candidate, would that have possibly come up with a different option for vice presidential candidate? Could that have put you on a stead to have been chosen instead of Mr Obi?
Ans No, you cannot give a vice presidential candidate to a presidential candidate. You can only make nominations but it is his prerogative to choose. The fact that he even involved anybody in the process was just his politics of inclusion. He is not required to do so. Its about who he wants to work with. And I believe by terms of their engagement, their relationship and chemistry and to give the ticket a balance, Peter Obi is a very good choice for him.
Q If Peter is good by the eastern part of the country, then why does it look as if more consultation would have been needed which could come up with a different choice that’s not necessarily Peter Obi.
Ans No, the presidential candidate had names sent to him from several places. Remember this is a national position. The southeast may have been asked to suggest names and I think he may have gotten some suggestions. But the fact is that it is his prerogative to make his choice. Nominations are one part of the story, but the actual selection of a running mate is that of the presidential candidate, and he has exercised that right and we all respect his choice.
Q So why did you kick against it in the first place? It is in one of the newspapers.
Ans No, I didn’t kick against it. That’s what Donald Trump would call FAKE NEWS. I didn’t even speak at the meeting nor to anybody. I congratulated Peter Obi the same day the news broke. I was at the meeting as an Igbo leader and also as the special adviser to the party Chairman which meant I was there to defend the party position. So, I didn’t express any opinion because it could be misconstrued as the opinion of the party chairman.
Q But Gov. Umahi, chairman of the south east governors forum said that people from other regions should not dictate for the southeast who it should select for the position. What does this mean to observers? Does it mean there could have been a better way to go about this?
Ans No, the governors point was that there was some consultations in Abuja but there was no governor from the south east among them. And we said the candidate has noted that and he will meet you when he returns. I believe the governor’s point was an important point to him and he made it strongly. And we reasoned that it is better to discuss it with the presidential candidate himself.
Q Why was he concerned that no one was nominated from Ebonyi and Imo States and he was asking if there was anything wrong with the Ebonyi man being nominated because he feared further marginalization of the Ebonyi man?
Ans Yes, he is the governor of Ebonyi State and he has every right to push for the agenda and interests of his State. As governor, he is the chief spokesman for the State. He is their governor and Ebonyi people expect him to represent their interest everywhere an issue of southeast is discussed.
Q Will the issue be represented on Atiku’s return?
Ans No, the matter is gone. We’re done with the nomination. What Umahi is saying is going forward, when there is any nominations they should be sensitive to the diversity of the southeast and that’s a valid point. But that is not Gov Peter Obi’s problem. He didn’t make the list nor appointment. The point is that people should understand the diversity of the southeast, and I think the presidential candidate will note that going forward.
Q Just to have everything cleared up; a list was presented with nominations, we didn’t have anyone from Ebonyi and Imo states. Shouldn’t those people feel excluded from the process?
Ans Its not only the vice presidential slot that will be nominated in the pre and post election. There are going to be multiple appointments that the president is going to make. It’s a valid point for Ebony and Imo states to make and it is good for everybody to note the diversity of the southeast, but that does not amount to marginalization of the two states. For the purpose of the point made, the party has noted it and will look into it going forward.
Q So, Peter Obi stays as the nominee of the PDP for 2019.
Ans Done deal.
Q Now we have Senate President, Bukola Saraki, now the DG of the campaign. What mileage would this bring to the Atiku campaign?.
Ans A lot. First, I must say that INEC should learn a lesson about the transparency of a process from the PDP. Once a process is transparent and legitimate people are bound to accept the outcome of that process. This is the one time that presidential candidates have gone through a process and all of them accepted the outcomes because the process was clean. So you can see that all the presidential aspirants who contested are accommodated in the presidential campaign council. It shows the unity in the party. In 2014 PDP had a sole candidate in Goodluck Jonathan, it was APC that went through a serious primaries and they all accepted the result. But by 2018, the reverse is the case. Now in APC they are writing 14 million when they don’t have up to that number of members.
Q Do you have a proof that APC don’t have that number of members?
Ans Yes, they don’t. In the height of APC popularity in 2015, it had about 15 million votes in the general election, so it could not have 14 million votes in 2018 for a party primaries where all the voters are not involved. That is odd. That is impossible. The point am making is that the situation has flipped and it is PDP that has a free and fair primary election. So that says that the appointment of Saraki is a strategic move and to ensure that the unity we achieved in Port Harcourt convention we carry it to the election in 2019.
Q So, you have all these coordinators. How do you get the chuck of votes in the northeast and ensure there is a division of the votes between the PDP and the APC because that will be the turning point if PDP must win?
Ans First the election 2019 will be a referendum on the result or outcomes of the four years of APC. So, when you look at Nigeria today, the result will be staring everybody in the face. In the last three years, the APC narrative was that nothing was done in 16 years of PDP. But PDP inherited an economy with a foreign reserve of $3.8 billion and handed over about $30 billion to APC in 2015.
Q Remember that Nigerians cried out that PDP has destroyed the economy and voted them out.
Ans It is what I call voter fatigue. Every time a party is voted out of power it doesn’t mean the party hasn’t done well. It didn’t mean for example that because Americans voted out Democrats that Obama didn’t do well. The reality of the Nigerian economy of the 16 years of PDP is a matter of fact not opinion. The 1990’s was a wasted decade. PDP met the economy at 2% growth rate, we left it at growing at 6-7%.
We met a 70% poverty rate, we left it at less than 20%. The economy had no savings, we left an excess crude account. We had no institutions fighting corruption, we left it with 2; EFCC and ICPC. There were no NIPP, we left it with 12 NIPP (independent power projects) projects, to generate power. It is the reality that the economy of $550 GDP was far more diversified and the growth was from the none oil sectors. There was no communications. Today there is a thriving telecommunications industry with 80 million lines. There was no Nollywod industry, see where Nollywood is today.
The airlines, the banking consolidation. The point being that all the growth are matters of fact. But the voters have a right to be tired of a party and a brand. People get tired of a brand and you need to remake. PDP has gone into a remake mode and has come back. No party in the world wins elections forever. Even President Bush had 92% approval rate in 1991 and still lost the election to Clinton. So Nigerians must understand that election loss is not the end of a party. But as we go into the 2019 election Nigerians will be confronted with the reality that a government that came after PDP, but look at the economy and society they inherited, today we have more internal crises, more people dying. The government doesn’t even have an economic adviser, we have no idea of the economic philosophy.
Q The government has an economic team.
Ans Yes, but the president has no an economic adviser. The president has advisers on media, political affairs etc., he needs an adviser to articulate if this is a State or private sector-led economy and if it is going to be an private economy, what are we going to enable the private sector-led economy to thrive.
Q So, is that what pdp is going to do now.
Ans Yes, PDP will do that. We started the liberalization of the banking sector. All the commanding heights of the economy were privatized by PDP. And very importantly, the freedoms Nigerians enjoyed under PDP, both the press and individuals have been hamstrung under this government. So I believe people in the regions of the country will be confronted with the report card of this government and they will make a choice and it is their right they make the choice.
Q Chidoka, when you speak of all the things you will do, are you mindful that there are other parties that Nigerians are passionate about not just APC and PDP, that could change the dynamics in 2019 greatly.
Ans Well, we look forward to that. That’s part of the evolution of politics. It is a fact of life that the digital mechanisms of today like telecommunications has made it possible for people to reach a larger number of people at a shorter time than before. I believe that any party that is innovative, that is able to win the trust of the people and communicate the pain points will make an impact in the election. But that also requires you to have a strong organizational capacity, capacity to man polling units all over the country, capacity to take your message to every nooks and crannies all over the country and not just those on social media.
There are only 22 million Nigerians on Facebook and 3% of Nigerians are on twitter, 80 million Nigerian on telephone. Even if you use Whatsapp and test messages, there is still need for have physical touch, to have ward, local government and state executives of the party. These organizational capacity is hampered by the inability of the Nigerian middle class to put their money where their mouth is. All over the world, its the middle-class that drives change. It is the one or ten dollars contributed by Americans that propelled Obama to power. So to think of coming to power, you need to find a situation where donations will drive this growth. So, the PDP is waiting for that. We have the structure and capacity.
Q When you ran for governor, it was not under PDP. Why did you change?
Ans As at the time I left PDP, it was under the leadership of Alhaji Mode Sheriff whom I opposed. He was brought in to the party as chairman, and I was vehement that he didn’t embody what the PDP stands for. And he made it clear that he will have nothing to do with me either. He even threatened to storm out of a meeting if I was going to be the MC. In any event, I left and ran (for Anambra State governor) under a relatively new party.
But I believe what is at stake in Nigeria today is for us all to come together and elect a government that understands the need for inclusion, that reflects the diversity of Nigeria, a country where though tribes and tongues may differ in brotherhood we stand. We need Nigerians to go back again to remember the words of our old national anthem, “Oh God of creation, grant this our noble cause, help us to build a nation where no man is oppressed”. And that is what the PDP offers to Nigerians.
Q Just to remark that Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu is the Special Adviser to the president on economic matters. I must thank you so much for talking to us.
President Buhari has not appointed a Chief Economic Adviser.
Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu is the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters in the Office of the Vice‐President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
False fact check by @channelstv
— Osita Chidoka (@osita_chidoka) October 17, 2018