The National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, in this interview, speaks on why the party kicked against the nomination of a presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie, as a national commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), defection of some PDP governors to the ruling party and other issues. FELIX NWANERI reports
Your party played a huge role in the opposition to the confirmation of the Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Lauretta Onochie, as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Why did your party take that decision?
It is in line with the provision of the constitution that forbids the card carrying member of any political party from being nominated into the electoral commission. INEC should be controlled by non-partisan people. That is stated in the law establishing the commission. For us in the PDP, we see her as somebody who will go to INEC and write results for the All Progressives Congress (APC). We also believe that she will pollute the fairness of INEC in the forthcoming 2023 general election. Her nomination, which is in total affront to paragraph 14 of the 3rd schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), was a very dangerous machination by the Muhammadu Buhari-led APC [residency against our electoral process, in the attempt to subvert the will of the people in the 2023 elections. On this note, let me commend Nigerians including civil society organizations, the media as well as other political parties, for joining forces with the our party in fighting for the sanctity of our electoral process by resisting Onochie’s nomination. The stiff resistance displayed by Nigerians across board, in repelling this vicious attempt to hijack and pollute the electoral commission, underscores their collective and unwavering determination to resist and kick out the APC in 2023.
Despite her rejection by the Senate, there are fears in some quarters that President Buhari may re-present her for confirmation. Are you also nursing this fear?
Her rejection by the Senate is the triumph of the will of Nigerians and a victory for our democracy. We hope that President Buhari will respect the will of Nigerians as represented by the National Assembly by not re-presenting her for confirmation. We believe that in a country of over 200 million people, we can always find a competent Nigeria that is not partisan to be nominated into INEC as a national commissioner.
You cited intimidation as the reasons why PDP governors are defecting to APC. But some Nigerians are asking why any governor will be intimidated if their hands are clean and they have no skeletons in their cupboard. Do you also share this view?
The truth of the matter is that the governors who have defected so far are protected by the immunity clause in the constitution. So, why should that governor feel intimidated in the first place? If you are doing a second term as a state governor and President Buhari is also in his second term, why will a governor allow anyone to intimidate him when he is already protected by the constitution through Section 308, which provides for immunity? So, that is the issue that one needs to ponder on. For us in the PDP, we believe that anybody who truly love Nigeria and wants the peace, progress and stability of the country will not at this critical period in our nation’s history defect to the APC.
What is your reason for saying that?
What has the APC got and what have they done to better the lives of Nigerians since coming to office? Anybody that defects to the APC at this moment has demonstrated the fact that he is a betrayer of the hope of Nigerians who are eagerly awaiting for 2023 to push APC out through their votes. Nigerians are really suffering under this ruling party, the economy has become worse under their government and they are clueless as to how to salvage it.
Corruption is at its peak under this government. The President promised three cardinal programmes in 2015, which are fighting corruption, tackling insecurity challenges and revamping the economy. Till date, he has not fulfilled the smallest part of any of the three promises. So, what is the attraction of these people to join APC at this moment?
Politically, these defectors are scared of 2023 because APC has promised them that they will write results that will only favour their members. But the truth of the matter is that what we will do is to deploy our various representatives to make sure that this National Assembly does not provide for a law which will enable them to write results.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently invited some members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) for questioning over the petition written by Prince Kassim Afegbua, a member of your party. Do you think this is also part of the intimidation by the ruling party ahead of 2023?
It is all a mind game. What the APC is trying to do is to achieve a situation where there is only one party in Nigeria. They wanted a one-party state by all means. It is very unfortunate that the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, who used to be on the side of the people before now will allow himself to be used as someone who is canvasing a one-party state. That is why APC is struggling hard to kill opposition parties in Nigeria, so that they can become the only party in the county, thereby continuing their misrule of the country.
The Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media in a recent article said with the gale of defections in the PDP, the party may become an empty shell before 2023. What is your response to that?
In the first place, I know quite well that Femi Adesina understands the meaning of the word ‘gale.’ So, I think he is using that word to achieve a particular purpose. By saying gale of defection, you are suggesting that everybody has left the PDP, which is untrue. The foundation of his commentary is very wrong. It is completely wrong for him to say that because three governors left the party, PDP will cease to exist. It is totally wrong for him to say that and I think he should respond to the situation they have put the nation into; mass hunger, insecurity and economic woes. APC is a party that claimed to be fighting corruption but cannot prosecute its members who are found to be corrupt. Right now, they don’t know how to go to the public space in 2023 to campaign. So, they are working hard to destroy the hope of Nigerians, which is the PDP.
Are we going to witness defection of APC governors and leaders to PDP as we approach the next general election?
We believe that APC governors and other leaders in their party will also defect to the PDP. We are working strategically on that. If you look at the APC itself, they are also in crisis. If you recall what happened in 2018, during the build-up to the 2019 general election, governors, senators and members of the House of Representatives left the APC for PDP. So, we believe that more Nigerians, irrespective of their position are going to align with the PDP and ensure that we are voted into office as the ruling party in 2023.
Your party has vowed to pursue its case against the defection of some of its governors and members of the national and states Assembly up to the Supreme Court, should the need arise. Do you see the PDP regaining the lost seats?
We are in court. We are in court because the free will of citizens in the affected states, especially, in Zamfara has been trampled upon. There has been a judicial pronouncement about the fact that a candidate for an election must be sponsored by a political party. The mandate these people received was not a personal mandate, it is the mandate of the PDP; they left our party, they can very well leave the mandate freely given to our party behind.
Is the party in court because the defection of these governors will affect its chances in the 2023 elections?
The PDP is an institution which the Nigerian people at all levels have known and accepted since 1998. We have no doubt in our minds that Nigerians who have experienced the famine, ineptitude and devastation, which the current APC administration represents, will vote massively for our party. Those who left us to join APC will soon realise, like many have, that the APC is not a party of progressives but a gang of persons desperate to hold on to power without responsibility.