The immediate past National Vice-Chairman, South-West, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Eddy Olafeso, in this interview with Adewale Momoh, bares his mind on the state of the nation as well the recently held congress of the party in the zone, among other issues
Looking at the state of insecurity in Nigeria, do you see the country getting out of the challenge soon?
Nigeria is on a death row. It is on a death row economically, it is on a death row politically, it is on a death row socially. We just have to pray to Almighty God. Like Chief Robert Clark said recently, if things are like this within the next six months, Nigeria may have actually been gone completely. It is worrisome that most of the elites and political class are not seeing the handwriting on the wall; that we are on a highway to Rwanda. Things are falling apart, and it is no longer at ease in our nation. It is unfortunate that in 2015, we thought we have seen the worst. But at no point in time in the history of this nation have we woken up to this kind of pain, poverty and misery. Then, there we are, and the only solution is for a very civilized mind to prepare for another election, so that we can displace these characters who have actually joked with the destiny of the nation for over six years and bring in a more serious set of leaders to run the country. Whatever is happening in Kaduna is being replicated across the whole nation. No zone in the country is spared of this, and then, they have pushed Nigerians into labelling a particular tribe as the enemy of Nigeria. Anywhere you mention the Fulani person, it is like this is the enemy of Nigeria. I think things have just gone that bad, and the reason being that the government failed. I think President Muhammadu Buhari has actually abandoned governance; he is not there. When you have a President; he will have time to address you; he will show empathy and compassion; he will travel around and be there for the people. Was Buhari there for those students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in Kaduna and the other students kidnapped at Greenfield University in the same Kaduna and across the state? Look at the number of internally displaced persons across the nation, and we still carry on. And then, suddenly the presidency is left for Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, and they begin to contradict themselves from the beginning to the end. Nigeria, the giant of Africa is now the useless, irresponsible sleeping giant that may never wake up. That is the situation. I don’t think this will end very soon. It is like events have caught up with us. Inflation is over double digits going to about 20 to 25 per cent; unemployment is heading for 50 per cent amongst the youth, even amongst the elites and grown-ups. t is almost 90 per cent from age 45 to age 60. A lot of people are unemployed. Those that have actually worked and gotten to the level of pension were never paid. So, it is a nation lying prostrate. I don’t know how we can survive this till the election time of 2023. We live by the day; we don’t know who will be next. You don’t know who is going to be killed or violated; you don’t know whose right as a human being will be taken away from him. What is happening to Nigeria is so shameful. We are now an embarrassment to Africa. Thank God that the COVID-19 spared us. If it had happened the way it is happening in India today, you would have seen that there is no leadership and there is no government. I don’t know when this will end. As long as we have these crop of people still running the affairs of this country, there is no end in sight to the pains Nigerians are going through.
What do you attribute the continued insecurity in the land to?
No leadership, Buhari is absent, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is absent. They are busy stealing Nigeria’s resources in the most digital scientific manner that there is nothing more to steal. You are still conversant with the controversy of just printing the Naira. Tell me exactly what is going on in the country. Why this is going on is that there is no serious leadership. Buhari has failed. Remember what I said, we are on a death row unless something miraculous, something magical happens. This is a killing field. Chinua Achebe wrote: ‘There was a Country.’ You better believe it now that there was a country because this is no country as at today. For the political class, for the elites, if anybody is coming to Nigeria and wants to continue with whatever the APC is doing now, you will see that the country will conflagrate as quickly as possible. We have reached the limits.
Recently, some politics leaders like former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus said they could offer help to Buhari, so that Nigeria can come out this quagmire. Do you think the PDP can do better?
Just look at when we were in power. The exchange rate at that time was only N200 to a dollar, and the pump price of petrol was still about N87. Inflation rate was between 11 to 12 per cent. I remember. Unemployment did not get to about 40 to 50 per cent and yet within five years, we lost everything. Our debt profile was not this high when we were there. Today, you cannot even quantify how much Nigeria is owing, both local and foreign, It is that bad. Yes, they are right, Senator Bukola Saraki and the national chairman of our party. We have something to give. What brought about this insecurity? We have a borderless nation. Between Niger, Cameroon and Chad; between Senegal and other West Africa nations you just walk into Nigeria. It is on record that the National Identification Number (NIN) that is being issued in Nigeria is being collected more in Niger Republic. They walk in the way they want and walk back when they want to, and with them, came all these criminals with all the weapons you can actually think about in the whole world and that is the reason why they are over powering our army and all the security forces. Corruption has actually escalated. They suddenly took N1 billion out of the Excess Crude Account. I have nev-er known anywhere in the whole world where you take money to buy specific equipment or weapons to fight insurgency that you don’t itemized what you needed to buy. Where are those equipment today? Where are those weapons? Where are the helicopters? The moment you ask questions, they will say you want to overthrow Buhari. But what is Buhari doing there, sitting on the head of the nation. Does he want all the citizens to get killed before he decides that he is incapable? It is clear that he has woefully failed to secure our nation. His promises on economy, security and corruption; which of them has he done anything on? He is a complete failure in all fronts.
Some people are calling for the return of the military. Do you think the military can come back to stabilize things?
I’m a democrat to the core and whoever is calling for the return of the military is calling for anarchy. It is totally irresponsible. They were never trained for governance. So, on what premise are you going to get somebody to call for the military. Can you not trace the problem of Nigeria to the fact that these people came in and destroyed everything and yet they converted as quickly as possible to the political class and they continued their invasion of the locust? If somebody is that desperate, then he is not thinking, and he is a lazy person. Shooting yourself into government does not mean you’re going to do well when you get there. What we need to do is to be our brothers’ keepers, have conscience. Be that leader that God assigned you to be. Be willing to forgive and be willing to let go. I will never be party to anybody saying the military should come back. We have seen a lot of them and it’s more tragedy for Nigeria if somebody is contemplating that at this point in time.
Some people are of the view that if the situation continues like this, there won’t be elections in 2023. What is your view on that?
At every point in the history of a nation, when challenges like this come, the answer could be from within APC, or could be from within PDP. Like minds will rise and they will fight for the nation. For me, it is just two years away. By next year, a lot of the congresses, a lot of the conventions, pesidential primaries would have taken place, getting set for early 2023 to kick this man (Buhari) back to Daura. Honestly, that is what I believe. Our party will endure. Imagine what we have survived in this long 60 years or more of independence from the British. Of course, we will survive another 24 months, believe me.
Some Nigerians have been calling for true federalism and restructuring, while in some quarters, they believe that secession will be the solution to the challenges confronting Nigeria. What are your thoughts on that?
From 1966, things went very bad for Nigeria. They killed the essence of competition amongst ourselves. Since the abolition of the regional government in 1966 till date, you have discovered that Nigeria failed woefully. That’s why I said the military were never trained to run governance. They came, all they were able to create is chaos and that chaos is what we are still dealing with today. And in their own selfishness, they were creating states, whether they were solvent or not. In a country as divisive as Nigeria, you say the population in the Sahel region is bigger than the coastal population. On what premise did you create 19 states in the North and then 17 in the South. On what ground; every resource available in the South is used to manage and continue to nurture those very impossible states to actually grow. Many of them are insolvent. There is no way they can ever remain a state. Even the natural resources they have there, they don’t have the energy to use their brain to ensure they convert them to money. The total dependence on oil and the sharing of money every month in Abuja has rendered every of the states hopeless. So, as far as I’m concerned, doing that might require us to sit back and get hold of the 2014 National Conference report. A lot of the conclusions could have helped Nigeria do better. They just refused, APC came and refused, they never participated. Some of them were talking about restructuring. I have never seen half-hearted mediocres and charlatans in my life like members of APC. They say this today but tomorrow they say another thing. I see Kaduna State governor, Nasir el- Rufai cutting a very sad and an unfortunate person. He said something about four years ago; suddenly it is looking at him in the face and he could not actually do anything. Look at what is happening in his state. Kaduna is almost as dead as any other state in the country. Five years ago, you had to negotiate with everybody to bring those kidnapped; last year you can no longer negotiate with kidnappers because that is not right. Look at what he did to those unfortunate students. May their souls rest in peace! How can he live with it because he has children. How can he live with the fact that this students died because the governor ran inside his cover because he was not ready to negotiate with bandits? When they were raiding southern Kaduna he was there; he negotiated. What a double speak renegade if you allow me to call him that. It is so unfortunate that what is happening will demand for us to sit and begin to talk about these things. I’m not talking about restructuring or what to do as states. Restructuring in such a way that you identify how you can survive in each of the regions to be able to rally and become part of a nation called Nigeria. You want to change the name, good luck to you. What has the name got to do with it because it is the same characters, who are thinking about restructuring are the same people, who will destroy whatever is restructured. They are there. They are like locusts. What is in their head is just this avarice. It is the greed that they brought into public life that they will continue to pursue. Are you going to bring Nigerians from outer space? Are they not the same characters? Good today, bad tomorrow; always looking for an advantage to ruin the nation. So, for me it is a welcome idea but does it resolve our problem? Hell no! What will resolve our problems is our heart. It is the humanity in us to build a better place for those coming behind us.
You talked about PDP taking over power from APC but it seems that your [arty is not serious about coming back to power…
We are very serious, there is commitment, there is leadership. What we need to do is to navigate the system that has been messed up by money politics. I can tell you that it will affect the opposition. Believe me, we could have done better. I agree with you, we have not done enough. Having 14 to 15 states should actually galvanize some level of actions. But I can see some internal wrangling and that is the reason some of us are willing to lead by example to ensure that our party comes together stronger. Days, months and years leading to the 2023 elections, we will see a stronger PDP because many of us think if PDP is not rising to the occasion, then the nation is doomed and we won’t let it. This is all the summary of our entire life of over 60 years looking at the nation; we felt that we will by now be the pride of Africa and the rest of the world. Then suddenly we are the shame of Africa and an embarrassment to the world. For me, we need to do more, I agree with you and leaders must understand the fact that it is not about them, it is about the people, it is about the party and not about personal self that have characterized all this long years that we have failed collectively. Nobody knows who is going to be the victim of what is coming ahead because the country has actually left its own best behind. They have consumed their own very best in kidnapping, in killing and all forms of unprintable violence that they have visited on the citizens. For me, that is what needed to be attended to. I know too well and I must put it on record that the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, is doing his ultimate best. If only he can be allowed to continue. He met this party with 11 states, we have come to 17 until some legal issues took some away from us and we are now hovering around 15. That is 50 per cent of the states. Let us give him credit for all he has been able to do, and many of those leaders who fought to ensure that at least, they keep faith with the party, Ayodele Fayose, Ladi Adebutu, Ademola Adeleke, Nicholas Tofowomo, Mulikat Akande and all those who were willing, when nobody was speaking up. They should be encouraged, and those that are not speaking up should by now do so. I hate when leadership is about election time. When you know we have few months to election, then you begin to throw up things. It won’t work this time around. People must show that they are genuinely concerned about the plight of our nation and the possibility of rebuilding it. Once you can achieve that, people will follow you. In this country, nobody is leading by example. They have soiled their hands too much. Look at the much hope the entire Nigeria had on Buhari, what did he do when he came in? The guy is not even aware of what is going on around him. When he returned from his medical trip recently and was asked about his plan for the country after the trip, he said ‘continuity.’ That is not the mind that can actually continue to nurture this country back to where it should be. We are in a very serious problem, and I repeat, Nigeria is on a death row.
Don’t you think the recent congress of the PDP in the South-West has further polarized the party in the zone?
The Ayodele Fayose group flagged the olive branch to everybody. I was the first sacrifice, just because I know that I won that election but it doesn’t really matter to me. It is not a personal victory, the party is far more important and you have seen the letter of appreciation written to me by the National Working Committee (NWC). To me, that is far better than a Certificate of Return. I have spoken with Governor Seyi Makinde, I’m willing to work with Taofeek Arapaja and I’m willing to work with everybody. I think between me and all the leaders, we must do everything possible to bring Governor Seyi Makinde, former Governor Ayodele Fayose and all the key leaders together. I see some clowns making noise all over the social media. But do you win election on social media? We must all come back home. Go to your unit, ward, local government, senatorial district and state. We must begin to embrace one another. I’m not bothered about anybody again. I don’t want to talk about what happened during the congress in Oshogbo, it has come and gone. I have conceded. I’m willing to work. My desire is to continue help build the party in the South-West; that is the most important thing to me. I’m a living example of somebody who believes in this party. I have never decamped from the party for one day. I keep on moving on, no matter the injury, vilification and blackmail, we are here and we will continue to be here. We will continue to tell the other people that it is about time we recognize the fact that we all must work together to survive. I was expecting the key leaders of the party in Ondo State to call me. I’m yet to hear from them but that does not mean in my own team and group, we move around and we have forgiven everybody. It doesn’t matter anymore. It is unfortunate we lost the case against Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in court but quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit. I still encourage the party to do the best it can to see if there is anything it can do to bring back whatever it feels is right. But truth remains that we must begin to prepare for the future from now. There is no divide that cannot be rebuilt; it depends on the sincerity of purpose.
Governorship elections will be coming up in Osun and Ekiti states next year. Do you think PDP has what it takes to win the two states?
It depends on what we do from now on till that election. We must bring ourselves together. Some of us are working underground to ensure that there is peace everywhere and we must not relent. Ekiti will come first. We must reduce the number of our people competing. At the same time, the leadership must understand that competition is not at all cost. People like us have walked away and we are still alive. For me, I will continue to work with all the other leaders to ensure that we win Osun and Ekiti states but what we do from now till that time will define what will happen to us. We cannot sit at home and be wishing for the ultimate best, when we have not worked for it.
The PDP in Ondo State seems to have gone to sleep after last year’s governorship election. Don’t you think that will give APC the opportunity to continue to have an edge in the state?
I cannot deny that; you are very right. It is worrisome but that is what Fatai Adams wants, otherwise, he should have been on the road talking to all the leaders. He doesn’t call anybody. But for us, we won’t allow anybody to kill the party. We must continue to do the best we can, and for me, it is about time. I remember during the court case, I sent a text message to Eyitayo Jegede and I expected him to reciprocate by either sending a text message to me or call, I have not heard from him. Some of us don’t have any other life apart from PDP. Some are constantly migrating; I have nowhere to go, so we are not going to allow Fatai Adams to destroy the party without us screaming for the rest of the world to hear that he must do something. Since they came from Oshogbo, apart from fighting Eddy Olofeso, they have done nothing. They won’t call meetings or invite those of us who are not in their group. How can you lead the party with that kind of behaviour and attitude? It is disgraceful what is happening to us but I know we will overcome because we are all waiting to become one family. You are interested in fighting yourselves and you are not interested in confronting APC with all the arsenal and force you can muster to ensure that you dislodge them out of government. It is really unfortunate. But I know it won’t be for too long. There will be a reawakening of our party and the reawakening will make us stronger. If there is anything Fatai Adams needs to do, he should do it now to bring the party together once and for all. It so unfortunate we no longer play the role of opposition. We allow the governor do whatever he wants; there are no press releases, no briefings and meetings. They are satisfied with just being the officers of the party and that is it. It cannot be like that because we need to win back Ondo State. They will sooner than later know that it is not the way parties are run. I was once the secretary of this party and I know what we did to come back in 2007 to 2009. They had to work very hard.