Saturday, May 8, 2021

Why I dumped PDP after 17 years – Ex-minister


Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
tiamin rice

Emeka Wogu, former Minister of Labour and staunch supporter of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, recently dumped the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but not many knew why he joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

In an exclusive interview, Wogu told the Sun why he defected to APC.

You were in the PDP where you were made a minister before you left, why did you leave?

I left the PDP after 17 years. I was there at the formation of the party in 1998 after we finished the elections under the General Sani Abacha dispensation after I won elections into the Federal House, representing Aba Federal Constituency on the platform of DPN, then it didn’t work, we were not sworn in. Then when the embargo on politics was lifted by General Abdulsalami Abubakar after the death of General Abacha, I came from the Chief Alex Ekwueme group, PNF, and then we started the politics of the formation of PDP. There were other groups that came in like the New Era, the Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu group and the Greg Mbadikwe and so many other young professionals who were based in Lagos mainly. Then I served under Chief Bola Ige in a committee set up during that time of the formation stages and we became a party in 1998 before the 1999 election.

I remained faithful member of PDP, although I had my problems too. In 2003, I contested senatorial primaries in Abia South Senatorial zone of Abia State and I defeated the then incumbent Senator Adolph Wabara who later became Senate President. In that election, it was free and fair, it was held in the Aba stadium and I scored 880 against three votes of Senator Wabara. But the signs of lack of internal democracy and tolerance started showing from 2003; there were so many other people who were stopped when I was stopped because the party hierarchy including the leader of the party, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo then president was bent on installing Wabara as Senate President. That did not deter me, I was still in PDP until I was appointed a Minister and resigned from the Federal Executive Council in 2014 to pursue a gubernatorial aspiration. There were many candidates who were vying to be nominated on the platform of the PDP to fly the flag in 2015 governorship election.

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All of us, prominent Abians for that matter came out for that position, but at the end of the day, the process was not transparent, so many people withdrew, but some of us continued and at the end of the day, the process was not fair as then incumbent governor was bent on having his way. I protested to the highest quarters, but nobody listened to me. That process passed, I worked very hard to see that the then candidate won the election. It could please you to know that the Ukwa/Ngwa declaration was done in my house. I was in that process; I made my people to work because I am a faithful party man. Most importantly, I was still part of the presidential campaign.

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After that, what we were seeking was for somebody to make peace, reach out to people, discuss with people, treat people decently, but that didn’t happen. Nobody was inviting some of us to the meeting of PDP. Then President Muhammadu Buhari is somebody I respect his pedigree, his antecedent to fight for justice, equity and fair play. I did not move out of PDP because of bandwagon effect, I was not running, I’m not a forlorn; I was not indicted and would not be indicted because I have always done things the right way. So, I went to APC in 2015 and I gave notices to the party locally here. They keep saying politics is local, so, if I’m excluded locally, am I in politics? So, I’m not in politics and presently I’m highly regarded in APC, locally, zonally and nationally. The principles upon which APC was founded attracted me and you cannot achieve 100 per cent, it’s a growing party; I’m not saying they’ve been able to achieve 100 per cent in real terms. So, my joining APC is personal, it has nothing to do with bandwagon effect.

How would you compare APC and PDP in terms of ideologies and adherence to internal democracy?

Okay, look at it, PDP was in power for 16 years and APC is there for just three years. APC is still toddling, APC is moving fast, they are learning at a great speed and I think other subsequent years will consolidate those push to become an ideal democratic example in Africa. So, 16 and three years, you can see it’s a huge gap, so, we should give time to President Buhari. But you can see there are positive changes in so many areas and we keep urging him to continue in what he is doing. One thing that happens in struggle for leadership is more of elite conspiracy, so, the problem of every leader in this country is when there is elite gang up, they want certain things to be done the way they want them, so, they want to control the levers of power to their own advantage and when that does not happen, they start having opposition and mostly the opposition comes manly from the elite and not the masses and what the masses keep praying everyday is for the economy to get better.

Some people are of the view that since the APC came to power, many states owe their workers several months salaries in arrears, what’s your take on this?

There are three tiers of government, what the man at the head, that is the president and the presidency do is to supervise governance in all the federating units including the local governments, so, its complementary. It is possible that if those complementary roles are not played at certain levels, it will affect the head and what has the head done since he came in, augmenting, giving them more money outside the constitutional allocation, to assist them at those levels, sub-national and then local government levels to be able to pay salaries. And if salaries are paid, it will have a cascading effect, workers and pensioners will be paid and when these are done, will there be any problem in any economy? So, everything has been done to reflate the economy since the recession, including the bailout fund the Federal Government gave to states. You give somebody a parachute to bail him out of a crashing plane, is it not for him to land safely? These monies were given to the states by the Federal Government to be able to improve the people at that level and you agree with that when you pay salaries and all that, the economy will be better. But you find out that some states and some local governments still owe salaries, don’t Nigerians at that level deserve explanations, must it be the president that must explain what the bailout funds were utilized for?. He has explained that the funds have been disbursed and he kept on pleading with them to use them appropriately, but I must state that some people have used their own appropriately and you should do your investigation and tell the people who have not used their own appropriately.

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Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo has come out severally to say that President Buhari has not done well and does not deserve a second term, what’s your take on this?

Well, my only comment is that Obasanjo is not Nigeria, he does not represent Nigeria, it’s his personal opinion. The assessment of whether Buhari has done well belongs to Nigerians and they will express it doing the next election. I think, it’s former President Obasanjo’s personal opinion, I don’t want to join issues with him and I know most Nigerians do not believe in the assessment. These assessments keep coming out since he left government, but very soon we will know the reason he made that statement. But my own assessment is so far, so good, President Buhari has continued to do his best, to move the country forward like every past president has done. Obasanjo did eight years and Nigerians have assessed him and it is on record; then president Buahri just got in, you should even allow him to finish the first four years and then go ahead to his elections. There is no comparison between Obasanjo and Buhari’s tenures because the time limits are different. Prices of crude oil when Obasanjo was president and the prices now are totally different.

The leading opposition party, the PDP said they are going to take over power in 2019, are you worried with that statement?

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You see, when you are in opposition, you play the role of opposition. It’s a statement; rather than discourage us, it will encourage us to push and make sure that that statement does not hold water. You see, our original party, people have left in droves, recently, the party has lost so many BoT members like Prof Jerry Gana, Senator Hope Uzodinma and the rest of them; so many have left, so, let’s watch out. It’s too sad we did a self destruct in PDP, the impunity was so much, what some of us needed at that time was sorry, this thing has happened, please come and join and help us deliver the party, which I did without anybody urging me. But when I was isolated in Abia, I wouldn’t remain and so I went to seek relevance and I’m happy that I’m relevant in my new party and will remain relevant and respected.

With the way things are going, are you optimistic that APC will win in Abia in 2019?

Just do your assessment, between when APC arrived Abia State and now, it’s a party that has attracted a former governor of the state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, senators in their numbers, about four senators and a whole lot of state Assembly members and local government chairmen and others, including somebody like Prince B.B Apugo. With the calibre of people and with the following we’ve seen, the chances are high that we are going to take many positions in Abia, including the biggest one – the big job. And it is not going to be through castigating the incumbent governor, it is through strategic moves and I have seen the moves and PDP has not seen the moves and the other parties are working hard too. Apart from us, APGA is working hard and the new entrant SDP is working hard, so, if any party including my former party would continue to leave in delusions, there will be surprises, but those surprises will be in favour of APC. We are going to take 90 per cent of the positions particularly the occupancy of the White House (Government House), we have the strategy to take it.

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How do you assess the present government in Abia State?

I am not blind, I am not deaf, I have heard, I have seen and I’m assessing, so, it is clear, even the partially blind person can see, partially deaf can hear; so, I have put my ears on the ground and I have heard the ranting of the ants. So, I am still in the assessment process, we will speak at the appropriate time. I wish the governor luck in governance and I wish our own party luck in the elections because we are going to give good governance that has never been seen in the state before.

NAN/The Sun

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