2023 polls will determine Nigeria’s survival –Segun Sowunmi

A founding member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Segun Sowunmi has served the party in different capacities in the past with the last assignment being the spokesman for the Atiku Abubakar for President Campaign Organisation. Now a governorship aspirant of the PDP in Ogun State, in this interview with OLAOLU OLADIPO, Sowunmi talks about happenings within the party as well as his aspiration. Excerpts…

Can we have your thoughts regarding the forthcoming general elections?

For the first time in the history of our country, the election scheduled to hold in 2023 is expected to be one of the watershed events in our democracy because no one can predict or hazard a guess as to who would be the candidate of either of the two major political parties. I mean the PDP and the APC. No one can also hazard a guess as to who will win the general election, so also for which zone would produce the next president for the country. In one breadth it seems to me that Nigeria’s democracy has now come to some level of maturity. The way we handle it, especially the political class and the managers of the country will be telling as to the level of maturity that our country has attained. If for any reason, we are careless, we may have very serious consequences that would impact on how we will continue to live as citizens of this country because for some reasons or the other, our tribal cleavages have now been made open. People are now beginning to wonder whether we can still retain our one Nigerianess or it is now to your tent Oh Israel.

From the way you have spoken, it seems you believe that the issue of zoning has become very thorny and strong in the country?

Well, the fact is that we cannot ignore the sentiments of people that are being regurgitated continuously non-stop. Governors of the South have met and they seem to have drawn the battle line to say that the Presidency must come down to the South. Within the South, there is also the genuine agitation by the Ndigbo relative to the fact that of all the major ethnic groupings in the South, they have not been opportune to occupy the Presidency. There is also the issue of how these political parties deal with this issue. For instance the way the PDP views it is slightly different from the way the APC views it or is viewing it. That is why I said, now that every zone having people buying forms from both sides, so I think that if it becomes a democratic decision of the parties we may accept it as a fact that we have evolved as a democratic nation but if it produces some consequences and agitations that would be very difficult to manage we may have to go back to the drawing board to look at how to rebuild things because as I am seated now, I have gone past primaries in my mind. I really do not care who becomes the candidate of my party anymore now. I am thinking of how to go about the primaries, whether we are going to harmonise the parties to be able to go and rescue the country or whether the people will be able to make informed decisions based on the critical thinking that we have. Like I like to say, it is a call to service and no human being should feel entitled. I believe that all those who have taken the form now are feeling encouraged to discuss the country and that God will help us produce the best government for the country. People are looking at the face but God almighty is looking at the heart.

If given the opportunity to offer a solution to the problem, what kind of advice will you give?

I will say that we must be calm and diligent by asking, what do we need now? We must be very firm in speaking to all the socio- cultural organisations in the country, to tell them in clear terms that yes! You are a pressure group but don’t heat up the polity. We must tell them that it is only political parties that are saddled by the Constitution with the task of fielding candidates for elections. You can rubbish them if you want but you must not push your cultural issues too much. These socio-cultural groups can still approach INEC to be registered as political parties to push their ideas. For now, there are only 18 registered political parties in Nigeria and that is more than enough room for anybody or group to try their luck with the process of primaries. Primary elections are very delicate elections, the delegates are people who ought to be very much aware of what is going on in the country for them to make informed decisions in the overall interest of all Nigerians.

The PDP is the main opposition party in the country, how do you react to the belief in some quarters suggesting that your party hasn’t played its role well as an opposition?

I think the nature of political parties is such that people contribute their very best to form the drivers and movers of such political parties. It is not that political parties should try to undermine themselves by putting round pegs in square holes and vice versa. You will have to manage with whatever has been produced but I will insist that it is not normal for people to assume that political parties must be calling people out for violence, by making the country ungovernable before they are seen as political parties. Political parties are meant to evolve some form of sophistry whereby their interventions would be ideological. So, if anybody expects the PDP to be undermining the current government by making the country ungovernable, that’s not politics, that’s chaos. In that regard, I concede that there is room for improvement but my main concern is that PDP used its eight years in opposition not to reform itself. One would think that the party would have sufficiently reformed itself. One should think that since the leaders of the party are saddled with the task of managing the country that ought to have provided an opportunity to look inward and reform itself to improve on how it conducts its affairs. These years in opposition should have created some form of new framework for the party. Unfortunately, I think they held their breath. All things put together, I pray that the best man eventually becomes the leader of the country.

From the way you have spoken, it seems you believe that the PDP is not well primed to take power in 2023?

No! The desire of the PDP to takeover power has nothing to do with reforming its internal operations. Anybody that gets the ticket of the PDP is as good as winning the election because we can see what is going on. All I am saying is that we need to deepen the democratic ethos of our own party. We are more experienced than the ruling party. They have done it for seven or eight years and we have been around since 1998. What I am saying is that our organisational ability ought to be better than what we have now. For instance, our accounting system and processes ought to be better than what we have now. We should evolve a better delegate system than what we have now. We should make sure that our system inspires the younger generation of Nigerians to join, a platform that would attract people with creativity. What I am saying is that in and out of power, the PDP must be a formidable political party. When you compare us with others, I can say that there is no party in Nigeria that is truly open and democratic like the PDP. All others are just election winning platforms.

Do you think the PDP has the right caliber of aspirants to wrest power from the ruling APC?

There is none of those candidates who can’t win the election and ultimately manage the country effectively. I believe that any of them that is picked will do the job very well. In the end, it will be up to the citizens of the country to make the right decision that suits them. I suspect that

You are aspiring to become the governor of Ogun state, what is motivating you to make this move?

The reason why those who had aspired in the past is the same reason why I am aspiring but more importantly, I have been around here more than any of them. I have advocated for development and re-orientation more than any one of them. I know the state and I know how the state is. I think that all things being equal, I will make a fantastic governor. I have told the people what I intend to do and those things have resonated with the people. I come from the senatorial zone that has huge electoral fortunes. I believe that this is the new time to run a new deal in Ogun.

People say that your ambition runs contrary to the zoning formula in the state?

Let me say this, as far as the PDP is concerned, the party has never zoned the governorship to Ogun Central. Starting from 1999, the candidate, late Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye came from the East, we had a governor of the state on the platform of the PDP in person of Otunba Gbenga Daniel. In 2011, we gave the ticket to a Yewa man and in 2015, an Ijebu, so also in 2019.




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