Dr. Emmanuel Agbo is the Deputy National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Secretary, PDP 2019 Election Review Committee. In this interview monitored on Arise Television, he speaks on the report of the committee and why it jettisoned zoning. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
You are the Secretary of the Governor Bala Mohammed-led committee that reviewed the 2019 general election and how PDP fared as a political party, but what is of controversy now is the recommendation of the committee that the party should jettison the idea of zoning. How did the committee arrive at this decision?
In the process of the review, we tried to see what we can do differently as we move towards 2023. Part of it came in as the recommendation that you just talked about. I would like to take you a little back to pre-1999. In 1993 precisely, an election that was adjudged free and fair was annulled by the military. It created what you can call some degree of despondency that resulted in some agitations in the South-West leading to the formation of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). That bitterness and ill-feeling was fundamentally part of the Nigerian state until we got into 1999.
Elders and leaders of this great nation came together and felt that there was need to critically look into that direction and look for someone of a statesman quality that would lead the state craftsmanship to unity and economic prosperity.
That resulted in all that transpired and the emergence of His Excellency and our leader, Olusegun Obasanjo. We, as a nation again are at a crossroad and the committee in the discharge of its assignment came clearly with the fact that Nigeria is at the brink. We are at the precipice and any other little push; very frankly, is going to take us into some catastrophe that we do not pray for. And so, in the considered view of the committee, notwithstanding that there where submissions, we have a six geo-political zones in this country and moving back to the last 30 to 40 years, two of these zones came out very clearly that they have not had their stake at the presidency of this country.
Whether it is in the military or democratic setting and these zones are South-East and North-East. But consultations across the country with stakeholders and all members of the party still came out that we are at a time when Nigerians are not seeking a regional leader. What Nigeria desires and demands now is a unifier-in-chief. This was what we met at the cause of this assignment that trust has generally broken down, confidence among components of this country is broken down, the economy is in terrible disaster, we have been plugged into recessions of all kinds, and unemployment is at its worse.
So, in the considered opinion of leaders of this country, notwithstanding whatever we are confronted with as in six geo-political zones and two that have not produced a president, what the country needs now is a detribalized Nigerian with strong character and will to unify the entire nation, and above all to build trust and confidence again in one Nigeria in all components of the country devoid of religion, ethnicity or tribe. At this point in time just like in 1999, we had a peculiar problem that we needed to solve and the peculiar situation of our time ranging from insecurity, deprivation of all kinds, hunger and people are killed on minute bases in hundreds and thousands, yet nothing is either being done and say about it? We must move from this. It is about time not only we apply the brakes but we must go into a total reverse gear to move Nigeria from where we are going.
These were the very conditions that confronted the committee at the point of that decision making after wide and duly consultations to say let’s throw the net open to all the zones and now do serious search in terms of the leadership recruitment on the bases of capacity, ability and statesman with unifying qualities.
It sounds like you have someone in mind and that has been muted by those who are rejecting the field wide open of the process because there are few people in mind and all of this is for them and not for Nigeria as a whole?
Let me state very clearly that neither the committee nor the party as it stands today has any candidate in mind. No preferred candidate in mind. If we had any it was easy for the committee to look for how to justify it and first of all narrow in terms of zoning to where such a candidate comes from. But if you look at it very critically in terms of in-depth work into the assignment by members of the committee, particularly when it has to do with 2023, going by happenings in the country, there is a need to radically in 360 degrees do a U-turn from this disaster we called the government to that which will bring back Nigeria into our good old days.
We need to do a holistic search across the length and breadth of this country, shutting out anybody can no longer be described as all-inclusive. If we are in any way making reference to the fact that there are general clamour and agitation in terms of north-south divide the proposition today by the PDP does not foreclose the candidate of the party going either to the south or to the north. And that is why it is widely thrown open.
What is uppermost in the mind of the party and the committee is that in the search for such a leader, we must have the leader in the mode that would bring Nigeria together and rescue Nigeria because you would agree with me that a lot of institutions have been compromised into total and absolute silence in the face of what is a mere authoritarian government where blood spillage is like pouring water. So, the search for leadership is a fundamental issue of time and all the issues that are going to be addressed in the search for this new leader would be built into it when the time comes. The person must satisfy, take for instance I started by telling you that in 1999, the same PDP went all out to satisfy a particular agitation that was almost tearing Nigeria apart at that point in time consequent upon the annulment of the 1993 general elections. The times are now slightly different, we have a hardheaded enemy bedevilling and diminishing the entirety of this nation called Nigeria and we must address that question through the leader that is purposeful and going to be all-encompassing. It is after this that we can begin to satisfy what you can call regional balancing but at the point where we are today, we must agree that if Nigeria is in the ocean, we must go to the ocean to find her if not we will wake up one morning and Nigeria will be history. And I think we are not praying for that.
Are you saying that the detribalized leader can’t come from the South-South or South-East? Secondly, the 1979 electioneering process was not zoned because there was a deliberate attempt to bring the country back again nine years after the war ended. Why is it that when it is the turn of the South-South and South-East, is when the PDP is reneging this gentleman agreement?
In my considerations, I have been opportuned to dispell whatever you are going to consider as rumour or whatever you say is the narrative out there. Today as we speak, a detribalized Nigerian that we are in search of can come from anywhere. And we are praying and believing God that He would raise him from anywhere in this country and that he would stand out like that shining star. And everybody would know that this actually is who we need at this point in time for this job. The problem we have at hand as a nation overwhelms any regionalization of the leadership of this country. If you attempt it now, we might be solving one smaller problem and creating a greater and bigger problem. But I agree with you, even in the report of the committee as part of our findings through the consultation processes it was clear that moving 30 to 40 years back whether military or civil that four out of the six zones have produced the president. And that two zones stood out that have not, then the question now is, satisfying this as a national problem that we have, does that solve the larger insecurity problems, trust problems, confidence problems and economic problems? Thirty-three per cent of our able population today is unemployed. Are we only trying to solve the problem of moving the presidency from one place to another place and at the end of the day our problems remain with us? Mind you we may not get to 2023 with the way, things are going. The general prayer of all Nigerians is that since we are running a constitutional government and the only opportunity for change is through the electoral process and that God should continue to hold the tin fabric that is holding the nation till 2023. And in search for that true leader that will now unite us together and pull us out of these problems, it can definitely at this point in time base on national interest. And I agree with you, the committee agrees with you and that is why we came out to say in the consultation processes these came out clear. But the present situation we find ourselves as a nation, the search even in southwest, north-central, northwest, northeast, what is important is, can we truly bring ourselves back together again as one nation and thereafter say before we got to this place we had a problem. That problem is solved and then we need to go back to the next stage of the problem. So throwing it open is not intended to shut anybody out at all. On the contrary, it is to give us an opportunity to look in details at those that are going to come from the very zones you and I are talking about today and to do a comparative analysis with whoever is going to be thrown up from any of the other four zones of the country. I think the time actually calls for a true nationalist order than any regional oriented leadership.
Apart from zoning, part of the assignment of the committee was to find out why PDP lost the presidential election in 2019. What were the specific findings of the committee with regards to PDP’s performance in 2019?
The recommendation is embedded in the report and the report would be officially made public by the party. So, that singular aspect that you seek and ask now is for the consumption of the leadership of the party in trying to navigate its way towards 2023.
You made reference to the search for a true nationalist, is there going to be a search for a true federalist because the real issue here is restructuring?
I can assure you that the last constitutional conference in this country was organized by a PDP government. And part of the recommendations of this committee is either we visit that 2014 constitutional conference and begin to implement its recommendations or we organize yet another constitutional conference with all component parts of this country. And that is about the only way we can strengthen the bond of unity and love that would give us that golden opportunity again to strive for our greatness as a nation. And so completely and totally without paying any form of lip services, the party believe that we cannot be doing the same old things and expect any new result. Nigerians have spoken very laud. The general agitation is not to dismember the nation but to see some certain level of devolution of power and authority. And yes, this is on the table for the party. Until the party makes the entire report a public consumption you will see that truly we stand by restructuring because that is the only way for the country to move to greatness.