Sunday Magazine

Segun Sowumi: Internal crises may hinder PDP’s chances in 2023 polls

Mr. Segun Showumi is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun
State and a factional governorship candidate. In this interview with OLUFEMI
ADEDIRAN, he speaks on the crises in the party across the country and
inadequacies of PDP’s internal control mechanism

 

What do you think is responsible for the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party?

First of all, a political party is an organisation created by law that is expected to operate according to its own self-given constitution and the extant laws of the land which is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

Granted, our political party evolution in the country has been moving very slowly and we are lucky that when it comes to termed elections, we have spent a longer period in this democracy than we have ever spent in the previous republics.

So maybe some progress has been made, but the big challenge for political parties, especially for the PDP that is a very old political party, is that they have not fully accepted that you can’t play hanky panky in public space with your own rules and regulations. The law says that all free joining members who have paid their fees are members of a political party.

When you want to pick executives from the wards all the way to the national, it is expected that via the register of the party, supervised by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as an observer, political parties will allow the free-will of people to play out in the selection process. This is because if you remember very well, democracy is about a governmental process that wishes to give all the people an opportunity to participate and partake in that process.

So, for Ogun State, I think we must accept that within the Nigerian environment, because of our history, we are quite enlightened and we are also very determined to assert our rights and that will not be surprising. This is where Chief Obafemi Awolowo comes from and all of those great human rights activists, this is where the law is also respected and all that, so, over the years, our challenge has always been how would we bring about this process in such a way that even if anybody has a disagreement?

 

He himself who is saying he has a disagreement will know that he has not been cheated, he has not been undermined and the rules of the game have been followed, it is the failure to do this that leads us to the court and well, it is a good thing and it is a bad thing. It is a good thing in the sense that, that is how democracy is expected to be, the courts are the final arbiter on issues.

 

It is a bad thing in the sense that, over the years, you will expect that a stable party like PDP that has been around for a long time, the colours are the same, the symbol is the umbrella, the slogan is: ‘power to the people’, you will expect that they would have evolved to a level where their own internal mechanism will not be undermining their constitution to such a degree that other citizens or other members of the party will now act the way we act, but luckily, we always go to court and the court will eventually say this is the final position and that is our problem.

That problem comes with how do we pick our Excos? Is it free? Is it fair? Is it inclusive? Is it according to the law? When you finally survive that Exco matter, how do you    pick the delegates’ that are going to pick the candidates? Is it free, is it fair, is it according to law, is it all inclusive, is it transparent? That will now take you to how you pick the candidates?

Do they emerge from free, fair, credible primaries? before you can get to the election. So, we have become a nation, generally as a people in Nigeria who are excessively litigatious; it is even becoming a burden to our leaders and the court processes because the court now finds it very, very hard to manage our cases.

The last time I checked, pre-election cases in the Supreme Court were more than 1,600 and there are just a handful of judges in the Supreme Court who will manage them. If as many as 1,600 can be at the Supreme Court, do you know how many they would have to deal with at the Court of Appeal? Do you know how many they would have to deal with at the lower courts?

So we have to advise the political parties to make life easy for everybody – their members, the citizens, the public, the courts, the judges, the lawyers; make life easy for all of us by cleaning up your process, once we clean up the process. If you cannot emerge from a free, fair and credible primary, you will know and luckily there are more parties in the country now, some people can always go and look for their aspirations in other parties, but it doesn’t make sense for you to expect that free-born citizens of an environment will be blazingly cheated, they will scream and shout and beg and cajole and you will not answer them and then you will start saying why do they go to the court?

There is no way, that is the only way they will go and until we are able to understand that we will hurt democracy if we don’t clean up or understand that political parties are the first safeguards in a democracy, then it is going to be more difficult. So, in one breath, I expect us to mature out of this phase that we are in, but in another breath, I think we should do it quickly.

You initiated a peace move by visiting your closest rival, Hon. Ladi Adebutu; you also disclosed that you will be meeting with Jimi Lawal. What prompted you to do this and is the peace move yielding any result?

Well, when I opted to visit them all, I was visiting them all to thor the ice. You know when people are dragging position in a political space, in an African environment, in Nigeria, under our context, they can make or otherwise good relationship toxic. The words they will use, the counter words, the abuses, all the things they put into it can make the place toxic.

So if it becomes toxic, if care is not taken, it can begin to even assume the colouration of enmity. My thinking was that the first thing to do was to go and thor the ice, so that it stops being toxic and it worked, because before that visitation, it was not unusual for Adebutu to say things about me; it was not unusual for me to reply and even go haywire with him, it was not unusual, but after that visitation, we thored the ice, we began to become a little bit more retrained, we were not so happy attacking ourselves  and all that, so it worked. It was a difficult step for me because in this part of the world, there are always assumptions that are not true. When you go and visit, people think you went to go and get bribed, you went to go and get money.

 

No, that was not it. It was purely to say, look, let us accept that there are some things that are common to us. What is common to us is that we are all members of this party; what is common to me and Adebutu, at least to the best of my knowledge, is that we all accept that we want to support Atiku Abubakar in the presidential election.

That is common. The only area of disagreement is: ‘your primary is valid, my primary is valid, I want to be a candidate.’ That is all there is and I was broad minded enough to know that four people can’t sit on the ticket at the same time, so some kind of compromise, give and take, had to take place and that was why I went there. And to a large extent, when I reflect on the comments passed after the event, I still think it was the right thing to do. A leader does not do only what is convenient; a leader must do what is expedient and what is expedient must not exactly be too convenient, but it must be done.

That is what leadership is about. So I was happy I went there. I’m happy that some of the cases have been adjudicated at the Court of Appeal and among the ones that have been adjudicated at the Court of Appeal, Seriki has said he is not going further, and has aligned with Adebutu, which is fine, very good. I believe that Jimi  Lawal’s case is all but done.

It is within his right to go all the way to the Supreme Court, if he wants, but he has had too many cases and therefore, we will see how that goes. But there is only one case that I have, I have not created one million cases to be disturbing everybody and be wasting everybody’s money and time or even wasting the time of the court. It is just one case and that my own case is alive and well at the Supreme Court.

 

We are praying very fervently that the Supreme Court judges will call it quickly because there are some fundamental things that that case is going to determine. One of the fundamental thing that that case is going to determine is that that case is probably going to settle issue of jurisdiction which had been settled at the Court of Appeal anyway and I believe very strongly that by the time it gets back to where it is going to go to in the trial court, I believe very strongly that, what I have asked for is that you cannot build something on nothing. I have been caught with ‘should I proceed, should I let it go, should I leave it?’ But no, society does not learn from sympathy and pity, society learns more from consequence.

So we have extended our hand into jurisprudence. It is expensive; it is time consuming, but I believe that by the time we are done with this, fundamental and significant lessons will have been learnt all around, and hopefully, depending on how the courts rule, it will not be a mistake in the future. The Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria as a political party had been around for some time and I have never left that party. I can boastfully say that I’m one human being who had never ever left the PDP.

I can’t say the same of the others. I have stayed here, I have pushed, I have looked for reconciliation, I have reconciled people, I have pleaded with people to not go, I have even fought people that left, therefore I have a duty to ensure that the process will improve itself in the long run because at the end of the day. You cannot keep doing the same thing, the same way and expect a different outcome.

And people cannot sit down in the office of the national headquarters of a political party and insist that what we can see going wrong in our own area, we cannot talk about it.

It is even ironic how the federation is; it is one of the reasons why you will see that in Nigeria instead of us to attack the local government and demand performance from them, instead of us to attack the State Governors and demand performance from them, we tend to only attack the Federal Government, forgetting that it is from the base of a pyramid that you can uproot bad character. I think that that is what is there, but I’m very hopeful that we will resolve it one way or the other.

Can you sacrifice your ambition for the peace of the PDP?

Reconciliation is a very useful tool even in war. Even when people go to war and they are bombing and shelling, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, they are still going to have to come to the table to talk about peace. And sometimes, peace is even more difficult than war because war is very straightforward. We are trying to destroy ourselves, but peace is sometimes very tough because you have  to now look at all the issues.

What type of reconciliation will be acceptable? That is the question. Does reconciliation mean that I leave the table with my followers empty handed, with nothing? If that is reconciliation then that is not reconciliation at all and there will be consequences on all sides. I have looked at the political space for PDP in Ogun State and without being immodest, I’m a factor. I concede that Adebutu is also a factor and Jimi to some extent is a factor too.

I don’t see how we can happily or easily prosecute 2023 elections without accepting that these are factors. If we are able to plead with the people that are with Jimi Lawal because he is new in our party, we can reduce the import, but how do you disregard a Segun Showunmi who has been here talking, speaking, tuning up and down, having meetings, driving people across nook and cranny of the state? I believe that and I do not discountenance Ladi Adebutu himself because for whatever it’s worth, he gets up every day, calling people, feeding them.

It also amounts to something, so I feel that…I’m very disappointed in the national executive, I’m extremely disappointed in them and I have to put that straight. I didn’t think that a party as big as PDP would allow itself to be bugged down for so long. There are too many crises in the party, even in Katsina, I’m hearing stories about their chairman not being so happy.

I look at Kano, I’m hearing stories about people fighting. It is all over the place. I’m disappointed that for a party that is in the opposition, who for not having the responsibility of looking after people’s salary, solving problems over the last four years, I’m disappointed that our internal mechanism for reconciliation is not as strong as I would have wanted it.

I would have expected that our reconciliation technique is very strong because human nature and human organisation can produce crises, there has to be a deliberate process by which you take care of it and you cannot take care of a crisis. If your mindset is that the one that is bringing money to you or the one that is bribing you is the one that is right, that can’t be democracy, but I believe that by the grace of God Almighty, maybe I should make one more move to make sure that I can still bring everybody together again, and say ‘look gentlemen, what are we going to do?’ I don’t think PDP can survive one more disappointing outing in Ogun.

I don’t think so, I think we had a disappointing outing in 2019, we were barely third or even fourth. We were beaten by APC who won, we were beaten by APM who came second, we were beaten by ADC and we came fourth. I can’t imagine us surviving another disappointing outing. If we win or if we don’t win, that is not the point. The point is that we can be dismal in that election and with the rise of the Labour Party (LP), the party looks like the party of the future.

I don’t know what they will do in this election. I don’t know how well they will do in this election, but if they are discipline, it could even upstate PDP in the long run as a party because at least you can dash them some ideological under-  pinnings which is a little bit pro-leftist socialist party and then what will PDP be standing on, this continuous crisis that we are waiting our money, time and energy on, we have been here for too long.

So, I pray I can find the courage to get up again and call people, but when you call them, you start hearing, ‘he went to collect money’, it can be frustrating because I because that political parties are the first safeguard in a democracy and that we should not put a fait accompli on people by not allowing quality materials to step out of parties, if you make the party too difficult for good men to participate, then it m and that you have even decided the election on behalf of the people.

Look at what is going on in the country now; look at the candidates across the parties, with profound respect to them, if we had been creating a better political atmosphere, when will our Barack Obamas come? When will our own Emmanuel Macron come?

When will our own Rishi Sunak step forward? There is no reason for us not to create the environment for that, but the rate at which we are going, we have converted our politics to only the play field for ancestors, why should it be so? You have asked a question that has provoked me to think again that probably after the holidays I should figure out a way to go around because there is no time.

There are allegations of external interference by other parties. How true is this?

The problem with people is that a human being who has done wrong instead of him to honestly and truthfully admit that he has done wrong will start looking for reasons to say people are being used externally, no, you can’t do that. I mean, if the Excos didn’t go ahead to buy form for you, what will be my reason for being angry?

If the Exco bought form for you, have they not been biased even we start? And when I wrote the national, why didn’t they act on it? Did any external forces force you to go around the place, telling everybody that the Exco bought form for you?

They did primaries in the local governments, in the wards and all that and then you get to the place where they are supposed to do the convention or do the primary, you start to do hanky panky; lists were flying up and down. I’m not supporting or opposing any other person, but is the truth  and the absolute truth of the event not clear to those that were there? Whatever anybody wants to say, the truth and the absolute truth of what transpired is clear to the people.

 

The fact that some people are losing cases in courts does not mean that they were wrong or does not mean that they were telling lies; they are not telling lies. It was a shambolic process. You may be getting the support of the national, but that does not make you truthful and when you have done something that all of us can see, you can’t now come and start saying somebody is sponsoring someone, who is sponsoring who? Who is the external person?

If you don’t tidy up your house, who is going to lose? Is it me they are sponsoring or is it Jimi Lawal? Nobody is sponsoring anybody. The fact of the matter is that the right things were not done; maybe they thought they could bully people, they could not bully me and certainly I’m sure they cannot bully Jimi Lawal and they can’t even bully Segun Seriki.

You can’t bully all of the people all the time, so if people are resisting your shenanigans, how does that constitute to external forces sponsoring people? There can be an unintended advantage for external forces, I mean instead of us doing a full-stream campaign, we are still in court, of course it will create an advantage for the APC in Ogun and some other parties, but you have to look at the cause.

Did the governor or the party in government tell you to do your process anyhow or are they the ones that told you not to know your own constitution so that you can obey your laws or are they the ones that told you to go and tamper with lists?

It is hard enough for them not so rich to stand and challenge the supposedly rich, but you members of the media don’t make it more difficult for us. The fact that somebody may have some access to some money now does not mean that others who don’t have access to that type of money are wrong.

In fact, society is supposed to lean more on the side of the weak than on the side of the rich because what it takes somebody like me to prosecute this process, to follow it through, to remain on point, to do all these things is quadruple the efforts it will take them.

 

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