Dr. Doyin Okupe is a former presidential spokesman, one time presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and currently a chieftain of the Labour Party. In this interview with GEOFERY EKENNA, he gave reasons for dropping out of the presidential race and his unalloyed support for former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi
The last time we met, you were in the presidential race, but all of a sudden you pulled out and started supporting Peter Obi. What were the considerations?
When I came out to run, I meant it. It was as a result of some inert, visceral reaction against debacle ineptitude that I saw in the system of governance of the country.
It was becoming pure absurdity that we have actually concessioned the country to bandits, kidnappers and everybody was looking helpless, these things really bothered and said if indeed there is no way anybody would attend to these issues because I know my personal capacity and ability, I then said I would offer myself to run and if I win, I am going to put a stop to all these that are going on.
But at the same time, during my consultation with some elders and notable figures in the country, including Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who appreciated my concerns for the country but said that as a righteous man that I profess to be, in truth which region do I consider should best be the president of Nigeria this time around, and I responded it should be the South-East because they are the only region in the South that has not been the president and if we agree that the North has completed his tenure, the presidency must go to the South, and when it comes to the South, it should go to the South-East.
After other consideration, I decided I would drop out of the race and support an Igbo presidential aspirant, a cursory look at all the aspirants at that time, it wasn’t difficult to see Peter Obi was a distinguished aspirant, he shouldered far above every other aspirant in that area.
Empirically, I just decided I will follow, that I will drop my ambition and follow him. I must also admit here that everything I had wanted to do, he would do better, he is more knowledgeable, he has more experience and his personal discipline is to such an extent that it is almost abnormal and his knowledge of the economy is superfluous.
I felt at this time, in this season for this country, the best man that can run the country, that reset the country, that can pull the country back from the brisk, that can set an agenda for growth and development, that can offer hope for the teeming youthful population, that can fight poverty and reduce misery, especially among young people is Peter Obi, that is why I supported and I am still supporting him.
When you started supporting him, you were both in the PDP, and the move to Labour Party shocked everybody, as his campaign manager, I wouldn’t know what prompted the movement?
We traversed the length and breadth of the country; we campaigned in every state of the country except Adamawa.
We went all over, we consulted with everybody including the stakeholders and when we came we were shocked, he is a very sensible and experienced person just like me.
Intelligently, we looked at what was on the ground and we analysed it, we saw that there is no future for us in that party and if we must carry out what we both have dreamt of, it is not going to be realized under that umbrella, the only reasonable thing that was left for us to do was to move out but what was required was courage.
We both sat down to look at it, we looked at the pros and cons but the desire to save Nigeria, to use this coming opportunity to rescue and reset the nation was by far more than any other sentimental considerations, with that, we decided to leave and then our story to Nigerians and we pray that Nigerians will hear the story and be convinced about our mission, it took a lot of courage and thinking,
we couldn’t really afford to consult to widely because there would be too much pressure on us not to go but we talked about this to a few people to let them know that we were leaving and we had no choice, there were a lot of things the party was doing even Peter Obi was being ridiculed at the state and national level.
It has become clearly a money game, cushion has been thrown into the wind but the passion to do right, the passion for service and to save the country was what propelled us to take that decision, once the decision was taken, I was the one that took the letter to the national secretariat to give the national chairman.
In all these, how much influence or consultation went on with a person like former President Olusegun Obasanjo because from the back channels we hear that the Obi project is highly supported by him…
I mentioned to you that we consulted a very limited number of people about that move, people to whom it shouldn’t ultimately come as a surprise, one of who was Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. There were others which I wouldn’t want to mention their names, but I can confirm that Obasanjo was one of the people Peter spoke it
…and he is one of his backers
He is a very strong backer.
Has he gotten the buy in of other Generals?
I wouldn’t know.
How do you feel about this threehorse race even though there is a fourth person, that is Kwankwaso?
Kwankwaso has already told Nigerians that he is working with Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he is really not part of the consideration…
Let’s look at it from a simple analysis. Peter Obi is South, Tinubu is South, Atiku is North. Atiku is disadvantaged because the president that is leaving is from the North, and from the South, Tinubu has just picked a Muslim as his running mate. All these put together, how optimistic are you about the project you are pursuing?
Even without all these events happening, we believe in one thing, and that is the need for change, effective
and true change in the country, the sufferings of the masses, and the hopelessness that has pervaded the Nigerian youths were enough and the answers that we are providing and the confidence the people have in the personnel of Peter Obi was enough encouragement to us, to give us a positive mind that we are on the right path and we will have victory.
Every other thing that has happened in our minds and the seriousness of what we are offering, the positive perceptions among the Nigerian populace and electorate, we have always been on top, many people criticized us on two pillars, they say we don’t have structure and that we only exist on social media…
…possibly the third one is that you are not strong in the North I agree with that. Some are true while some are not true.
Labour Party has come alive because it was a dormant political party before now, truthfully, it may not have the kind of structure that people are used, but no political party in Nigeria has the mass benevolence and support that Peter Obi enjoys today, perhaps, this phenomenon is more of a movement than that of political party, a movement doesn’t require the usual structure of political parties because it is ramifying, it is all encompassing.
The populace are essentially its structures, structure is about human beings, it is physical presence, an office or party flag, structure is that you have enough people in each polling booth to win an election, structure is that in each polling booth the people lining to vote are passionate enough about a particular candidate that they will not allow any nefarious activities to take place, the structure is that people who never used to vote, who never used to get out of their houses, who never used to obtain voter’s card, obtained voter’s card and get to vote on that day, that is the real structure, if that is the structure by definition, there is no party that has greater structure than the Labour Party presently.
Besides that, the Labour Party has in its establishment, some of the strongest institutionalized structures in the country, that is the Labour Congress, TUC, NUT, NULGE, PENGASSAN, Nigerian youths and market women up to the local government level.
Labour has all these structures in existence and they have been in existence ever since they may have experienced some measures of dormancy but Peter Obi has ignited them all, those who think we do not have structures will have something of a surprise coming to them.
As for northern penetration, it is true, if we put penetration of the South to be 80 per cent, the North will be about 20 per cent, but now that we have nominated a very able and capable, intelligent, businessoriented, focused young Nigerian as the vice-president, he is going to lead the penetration of this movement in the North, there is time for him to do so, he is a celebrated politician in his own right, he has been a member of House of Representatives, he has been a senator, he even defeated a former governor to gain the same seat, that is a serious-minded politician, we believe that in another 90 days, the fire that was ignited in the South will have totally encompassed the entirety of the North.
Have you talked about embedded interests like INEC, Police, and even the army that is mostly appointed by the ruling party?
I am asking that when you talk about structure, not just political party, we talked about INEC, for instance, we have most of the resident commissioners appointed by the present government where somebody like Tinubu has been a lot of influence when one looks at those, don’t you see the possibility of your expected victory shaky?
That is part of the structure I refer to, the police, INEC and army are all Nigerian citizens, suffering like any other Nigerian, most of them quietly, silently even sometimes, openly are OBIdient people, because they also have children, they also have a life they want to live, they are dissatisfied with the situation, although their jobs may not allow them to openly say that. If they cannot help us, they will work against us.
We have faith in the Nigerian people, we have faith in the message Peter Obi is giving, we have confidence in the probability of the skills Obi is planning to enact when he becomes the president and the acceptability of such requisitions by Nigerians so that no Nigerian will compromise this own life at the detriment of their children just to satisfy the rims and caprices of one or two people.
Let’s go back to history, this thing has happened before when policemen were sent to disperse rioters and they took off their uniforms and joined the rioters because they live in the same environment, there are no people especially born to become police, army or INEC, but we are all Nigerians, we are all in this mess and everybody is looking for a way out.
A pregnant woman is morose and thinking is it not going to be a regretful thing to bear a child in the situation Nigeria is in now; she doesn’t want her child to grow up like this.
That is what is making many people move away from the country, those who cannot move away will not work against what is going to work for them, they won’t do so, we are not afraid, we are not worried.
You are not worried about the challenges of the APC, PDP…
We are not worried because they do not have a message, we were saying it before that there is no difference between APC and PDP, enough evidence has now been made available to make that point clear, the two parties are fading away, they are devilled in the same problem, go and look at them,
I don’t want to bother myself with the internal issues in any political party but Labour Party is different from any of those two parties and people are not blind, they can see the futility inherent in continued to support these parties. People call me every day; leaders of the two parties saying their children are currently at home that they must become OBIdient.
There are so many instances where many people cannot change their political parties now, they feel that it would be a shame for them owing to the number of years they have spent in the political parties to abandon it now, but their hearts are moving away. It is just like when someone calls me to say his son has moved to the Labour Party; that I should help him look after him. That means something.
There is no parent who wouldn’t wish his son well. So if the son has crossed to the Labour Party and is requesting that I look after him, that means he is wishing his son well, indirectly wishing the Labour Party well while he is in another party.
…for nominal purposes
This is a national movement and we are still going to expand it by bringing it to a national coalition of other parties, so that PDP and APC will know that this is not a joking matter.
Talking about a coalition, I wanted to confirm some stories about the SDP in Benue State merging with the Labour party…
It is not just in Benue State. I don’t want to mention states, as at this morning, (Tuesday), I received messages from different people from three northern states that they want to collapse the structures of their party into Labour Party that I should link them up with the national chairman of the party, this just happened this morning and God is my witness, people have called me from the North, it is not just Benue, it is all over.
Is it only SDP?
It is not SDP alone, other political parties are also joining. This is a political hurricane that is moving; it doesn’t differentiate people, it sweeps everybody along on its path. Peter Obi is the arrowhead of a major political tsunami that has hit the country.
I am saying that even the stakeholders must be careful because this is a battle they cannot afford to lose, because the conscience of its people, the hopes of its coming generation, and the youths are inside the Labour Party, so how will one do it and say those number of people have failed, when they didn’t, it is impossible.
This is a major political battle that those who are in opposition to it cannot afford to lose. I just told of a parent telling me his children have moved to Labour Party, you heard the other day when the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, said that there is no household where there are no OBIdient people, tell me if they now said Peter Obi didn’t win, each household will be in turmoil. That is why I am telling you that it is a political battle that the stakeholders cannot afford to lose or to even toy with.
How do you think the ages of the candidates of the APC and PDP are helping Obi?
The ages of the two candidates are the ages that both old and young Nigerians no longer want to lead them. That is the truth; Nigerians don’t want anybody that is in their 70s to be their head any longer.
Even Babangida said it…
Yes, they want a younger generation to take up the leadership of this country, a more agile generation of people, a more knowledgeable generation of people, more dynamic, and flexible, with age comes rigidity, and the candidates of the two parties are on the wrong side of the expectation of Nigerians.
Peter Obi is 60 years old, and the deputy spanning over 48 years, when that is added together, the average is 54years, but for the other parties, when the ages of the candidates and their deputies are added together, they are almost 70 years. So they are on the wrong side in terms of age.
This is the first time we have two people who are going to govern the country who were born after the Nigeria independence, the first time in the history of Nigeria, and the first post-independent children, it is a different ballgame, it is a different kettle of soup altogether.
Beyond being the campaign DG of Obi, what is your level of optimism about this movement and sustaining it over the next eight months?
We have the wherewithal; we have the capability.
We have what it takes to sustain it and I am very optimistic that together we the OBIdient family of this country will be successful and victorious. We will form the government and it will be an all-inclusive government, women will have more than their fair share. It will be totally youthful and a youth-populated administration.
We might be guided by one or two elders so that things can be balanced up; it will be a government of the type we have not seen in the country before and this is what the country needs now, not old resurrects.