The leader of the New Peoples Democratic Party in the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, in this interview with SUCCESS NWOGU addresses issues bordering on their demands from APC leadership
Your group, nPDP, gave an ultimatum to the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari. Specifically what were your demands?
The demands are in the letter. They are not demands actually, they are requests. They are requests arising from observations; and the observations are that particularly the nPDP were not being carried along, we were not being given the due recognition and where we even strived to desire positions, they were met with disdain and strong opposition; they were refused and rejected and we do not know what we have done wrong.
We quoted examples of such disdain when we were looking for the positions of the Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives. They were met with stiff opposition in spite of the fact that the party had zoned these positions to the various zones where the candidates come from. Up till today, we still realise that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is still being tried for round-tripping. For what! The case (at the Code of Conduct Tribunal) was dismissed and the Senate President was acquitted and yet they went on appeal. On what? So these are some of the examples. I can go on and on. These were observations and we said we have got to sit down and review our agreement.
If you look at the letter, I am sure we distributed some letters to journalists who were present then and we evengot it published online. If you look into that letter, there was nowhere we mentioned ultimatum. What we said in that paragraph was ‘we advise’ but when the press came up to say ultimatum, we kept quiet because the media have the liberty to use their language. The advice we gave to the party was that within seven days, because the time to the congresses was nearby; the party should look into our issues.
Remember, we had already held one congress; that was the ward congress. We were warning in that letter that the time was close and therefore we had no time for the party to be able to win and plan towards the forthcoming election. So we were advising the party to allow us sit on a round table so that we could sort things out.
There is this claim that your group actually helped the APC to sack the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015. How true is that?
That is not for me to say. What is for me to say is that we contributed a lot to the emergence of APC at the centre. And the facts are there. As we said in our letter, the facts are stubborn; they cannot go; they refuse to go. The results of the elections showed that the nPDP-controlled states that brought the 2.1m votes that sent PDP packing. The public is there to judge, I am not the one to judge. It is not as if we are grandstanding, it is a fact that is there on the record.
It is learnt that your group may withdraw from APC to join forces with others to sack Buhari’s administration. How true is this?
We are not outright looking for people to talk to. And I would not deny the fact that people are looking for us to talk to us. We believe very sincerely that APC will still do something to a point that we believe that President Muhammadu Buhari could still be our candidate. For us not to be diverted, for us not to dance to the people that are calling us, that we should sit down with them, that is why we wrote the letter. We hope and pray that the letter will be carefully handled.
Olagunsoye Oyinlola was the Secretary of the then defunct nPDP. He has left the party for another political party. That should send a signal to everybody that the group has been so discontented long time. We have been probably trying to bear, to persevere; that is how we go to this end. Maybe from his own end, maybe his followers back home, could no longer bear with it.
Those of who are leaders in our own small way, we are being directed by our followers; we are not the ones that direct them. It is where their interest is, that we go. At times, we tell them No? No? We are not going to that direction; this is where we will go. But if you look back and you do not find these followers, then why are you calling yourself a leader? Except you have to modify their thinking and follow their way. So probably, the signal that Oyinlola’s defection has sent is that those of us who are still remaining here still have the interest of APC at heart and we have been trying to suppress our followers that they should still be patient. Maybe, that is the signal it should send. But you all know that patience has its limit of elasticity, no matter how elastic patience is…..
Which of the coalition are you interested in and why?
There has not been a coalition yet! Has anybody come up with any this year? We have been having many people register political parties and they are meeting; so there has not been any particular coalition. But what we know is that, as politicians, people are coming to talk to us and we said, “we are coming, we are coming.” We do not want to drive one another away because we are friends. We do not want to say we are not coming.
Obasanjo’s coalition has joined African Democratic Congress, will your group be part of that?
Hmmmhhh? Obasanjo’s ADC is a new political party. And everybody would want to see what the party is up to. If you are asking whether my group is going to join, I am just providing leadership for the group. The people in that group are leaders in their own right. I cannot take an arbitrary decision and say, ‘this is what we are doing.’ It is not in order. When the group is ready to say we are staying in APC or we are getting out of APC, it is not going to be kept a secret.
What are some of the promises that APC made that were breached?
We were not carried along. We were not recognised. Where we thought that we wanted to run for elective position, we met stiff oppositions, and when we give advice, they are not taken. The major thing that any average politician would want ever is recognition. These are some of the things that were breached.
If you look at the preamble of that letter, we said we stand for good governance and once good governance is absent, many things are absent. When we are complaining, when we were in PDP, we complained against lack of respect for the rule of law; we complained against marginalisation of certain parts of the country; we complained against impunity of government and so many things. If you look at the preamble and first paragraph of that letter, all the things we complained against that time are the things that are repeating themselves.
But notable men among you hold high offices such as Rotimi Amaechi who is a minister; the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; the Governor of Sokoto, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, etc, why are you not satisfied?
I have told you about Saraki. I have told you about Dogara and the stiff oppositions that the APC, particularly the executive, gave to them. In the case of Tambuwal; he is a governor elected by his people. I did not want to talk about it but now that you have asked this question, it is provoking. Are you telling me that the letter written by the so-called group of Abdullahi Adamu stating that our people were made chairmen of Senate committees, abusing and insulting the intelligence of Nigerians, that those are positions? These are statutory positions in that arm of government for God’s sake. They know what we are talking about. Anyway, we are happy about their letter, because they think Nigerians are myopic. Nigerians can now see who is deceiving who.
Some of your members in the nPDP have been dissociating themselves from your group, saying they were not consulted before you went on air to address the press? What is your reaction? Does it mean that they were not carried along?
nPDP was born out of the people who were not satisfied the way governance was delivered to the people when we were in PDP and they happened to be leaders that cut across Nigeria. They included, at the initial stage seven governors, and finally it was brought down to five governors and about 20 senators serving then and non serving; many members of serving and non-serving House of Representatives; and also many members who are leaders in their right and stakeholders from many states. So it was a group that left as a result of poor governance to the people, lack of respect for the rule of law and impunity of the highest order. Those were the things we cried out against. If you look at the letter, and if you look at the address we presented that day at Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, those were the things we protested against. So we went into alliance and into merger with other political parties to collapsed the party into APC. That is the journey so far.
The nPDP was a large group of people, so when you have large group of people, you do not expect not to have one or two people with different opinion and when they surface, you do not mind. Even in front of God, there are people of divergent opinion. So why bother? As far as we are concerned, the defunct nPDP is a group that will continue to live for a long time as long as the political situation in Nigeria continues because it consists of leaders and not only that, these leaders are now bringing up vanguards. What does that group stand for? It stands for good governance and delivery of dividends of democracy to the common man. That is what we stand for and today, we have travelled a long way in APC and we discovered that there are some of those things, if not all those things, that led us to complain when we were in PDP, that are even worse now.
If we are leaders that’s worth our salt, we should not be ashamed to cry out that what we cried against is now repeating itself. So, it is like history is repeating itself. And time is so short to call it history; it is just three years ago. Maybe that is how short human memory is.
So do you want to go back to the PDP?
That’s a question for the future.
Is it true that your group demand that PDP changes its name before rejoining?
There are people who are demanding name change. It may not be my group. Why don’t you find out from other groups? The PDP came out to say that they have wronged Nigerians. They have apologised. I think you should ask PDP too whether they are trying to change their name.
Why is it difficult for the Saraki-led Senate to work harmoniously with Buhari’s government?
Why is it difficult for Buhari-led government to work with the 8th Senate? I am asking you that question?
I am not in Buhari’s government.
And I am not Saraki’s senator.
But you have an insight?
Because I am a politician.
You and I are on the same platform. You are a voter and I am a politician. The difference is that I am a professional politician and you are not one. But we are all Nigerians. These things, we must not joke with them. It is unfortunate. A member of parliament cannot be treated with the disrespect and disdain that these people are treating members of parliament in Nigeria. For whatever things Dino Melaye must have done, being dragged in the streets. Dragged on the street? Every individual has his or her own idiosyncrasies. You cannot say because you hate a Dino Melaye, you are treating parliament the way you are treating Melaye because that is the symbol of parliament. In the law of Nigeria, anybody in the category of being a senator, whatever offence they are charged with, they can be bailed on their own personal recognisance. It is in the law, talk-less of dragging a member of the parliament on the street.
If you are joining any group/party, is your group formidable enough to join on your own terms?
It depends if any other group wants to join us. If they want to come, let them come. In our own case, how formidable we are? Check our performance in the party in the 2015 elections in APC, you will know how formidable my group is.
Why do you think that the nPDP has been sidelined in the APC all along?
I have told you that.
This has happened since the beginning of this administration but why are you just giving ultimatum and taking action?
We did not give ultimatum, we just gave advice. You may ask why is it happening now?
Of course yes, in a family, when a fight begins, when complaints begin to come up, it is not the day you start the complaint that you break up, you do not fight to finish. It is a family affair. You must have seen that this thing has gone to this period and we have tried our best and we could not settle it, then I have to bring in a third party. So it is in the court of Nigerian public. That is why we brought it out.
It appears that this administration thinks you are more corrupt, why do you think that is so?
That we are more corrupt, in what sense?
Maybe, that is why you are kicking against this administration?
Is this administration fighting corruption? Why is the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, not obeying the rule of law? Why is the IG disobeying Mr. President? The invitation by the Senate to the IGP is in accordance with the law, so why does somebody, the chief person who is supposed to ensure that the laws of the land are carried out will now be the number one person disobeying the law? And the executive feels okay with that?
Something that gets some of us to worry even before now is the audacity of the IG to disobey the person that appointed him. Sometime, the President was in Benue State to sympathise with the people there. And the president openly told us that the IG flagrantly disobeyed him. He said, “I asked IG to come to Benue, I did not know that he did not come here, I did not know that he went somewhere to sit down;’ as if that was a thing of pride, even for the President. And we all laughed about it.
It was the most serious thing that I have ever witnessed, very serious! It is not a question of being high-handed or whether we are in military era or not. It is a question of the provision of the law. The IG is very junior to the President. To me, what IG did is arrant disobedience to the rule of law. And if things have degenerated to that level, to me that is anarchy. That is real anarchy.
The non-compliance of the IG to Senate invitation is having a lot of (negative) effects outside the country. With this (IG’s) action that is being demonstrated, it is not Saraki that is being rubbished. It is the system that is being denigrated. And once the system is weakened, then why are we saying we are fighting corruption? This is the highest form of corruption. People just think, ‘it is when you take bribe or embezzle money, those are the only corrupt acts.’ No! When you run government without respect for the rule of law, it is the highest form of corruption. When you do not strengthen your system, it is the highest form of corruption. People steal goat and you are jailing them for three years and people are there disrespecting the law of the land.
As a matter of fact, it is an unspeakable action coming from the person that is not expected. I appeal to government to correct itself with immediate alacrity, otherwise anarchy has already entered our corridor and it is knocking at our door. May God forbid it!
A far as we are concerned, there are many ways to fight corruption. As we know, this administration is making attempt to fight corruption, but it has not been fighting corruption.
But who or what do you blame for this problem? Is it the President, the defunct Congress for Progressive Change or the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria factions of the party?
The problem of sidelining you.
Who did we send our letter to? It is the party; we are not saying Buhari or any other person. It is our party.
Do you support President Buhari for 2019 presidency?
President Buhari has declared for 2019. Those of us in APC are desirous that he comes back hence that letter we wrote. If you look at the content of the letter, what we were saying is that for us to win and win big, we must sit down so that we review and revisit all the agreement that we reached with ourselves before we formed APC. We are just reminding the party. Those of us in APC are desirous that Buhari comes back. We are desirous that our party wins presidential election. And the only way to do it, is to ensure that everybody is carried along. Those of us who felt aggrieved, this is the right time for us to complain so that we do not carry it to the election period; that is why we wrote. It is not as if we were rebelling. But let me warn that every politician, individual and as a group, we have aspirations. And every politician will go to where his aspiration will be fulfilled. That is the warning. If the APC is desirous of fulfilling the aspirations that every group wants in APC, well and good; if not, people will find where their aspirations will be met. This is the time to talk to one another who are politicians and across the country in different political lines. We are talking.