The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, recently interacted with journalists in Abuja over the state of the party. OLAWALE RASHEED was there. Excerpts:
WHAT exactly is the source of feud within your party?
The media has mentioned so many reasons responsible for the challenges we are facing. But let me start by dwelling on my agenda when I was elected chairman of the party. I came with an agenda duly approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. It is a three-point categorisation of Triple R and Triple E. The Triple R stands for genuine reconciliation process for members to embrace the party and its programmes, while aggrieved members would be given a sense of belonging. This is to be followed by the reformation of the party and a process of rebuilding, based on equity and justice. The Triple E agenda focuses on energy, environmental sustainability/food security and education.
I was of the opinion that we cannot continue as we are doing, if the party is to respond to the aspirations of Nigerians. So, we launched our programmes with the best of intention. We are looking at all party members having a say in the running of the party, internal democracy and deepening of democratic culture within the polity. These are great ideals.
So, what went wrong?
You must accept that change is a difficult thing to accept. Many people find it hard to accept the agenda because it is something new. They are used to doing things the old way and any idea of new ways is expectedly resisted. So, I would not say that anything went wrong, except that we insist on due process, constitutionalism and internal democracy.
Would you say your agenda has failed?
No, far from it; an agenda to restore the party cannot fail. We are reaching out to those who are aggrieved. We are telling them why we embarked on the three Rs. Why the entire 12-point agenda is good for the party.
But people left the party, citing you as the problem?
You should ask them what it is that made me to be the problem. I am not the problem; rather, I am an asset. You see, at this age, I only want the best for my country. I have been directors of this and that; I have seen it all. So, now, I am not seeking elective or appointive position. I am only saying we should do the right thing.
One of your critics called you a virus. Are you saying the party has not collapsed?
PDP cannot collapse; we remain the party to beat in future elections. Yes, I responded by saying I am a virus for good governance, internal democracy and due process. I told them that I pray that the virus catches up with them. Let me tell you that Tukur is not the problem. The issue is about principles; asking that we reposition our party by doing the right thing. Ask them what my sins are; they would struggle to mention one.
Are you not worried that the crisis is threatening to destroy the party, especially with defections from it?
We are all worried and that is why we are putting in place some measures to ensure rebuilding and reconciliation. We are starting series of strategic meetings that will change the fortune of the party for good. You see, the current challenges cannot overwhelm us; we are turning the corner, I can assure you. On those who defected, they had made serious mistakes. Can they win elections with their new party when confronted by the PDP? They are making mistakes. We had test-run this fact in Adamawa State where we had a bye-election and the PDP still won.
You know we had a meeting with the Senate caucus, the House caucus and the PDP Governors Forum. Everything went well. We are taking actions more proactively now.
Frequent reports of your resignation or sack always feature in the news media. How do you take such reports?
Well, I am here elected as the chairman of the party, doing my best to ensure we return to the path of due process. I read those reports, but as you can see, I remain the chairman of the party. May be I should ask you journalists to answer the question.
Your critics said you are stubborn as a leader. Can you bend a bit to safe the party?
I have been bending backwards to accommodate all interests and I will do more. The problem is what exactly am I supposed to bend for? I don’t want go into details of grievances of those who left. But I won’t be party to anything against justice and equity. You journalists wrote about their grievances. But if you ask me to do something wrong and I refuse, why should that be a crime?
In a situation where people have a mindset on an issue, it is difficult to reconcile with such persons and that is what is playing out. I cannot tell you I am not disturbed by the development in the party. It hasn’t been a healthy one because much as we believe that the party still enjoys good standing among the electorate, we know the strength of a party is in the membership it commands.
I have viewed the issues in the party and I can assure you that I can take any lawful condition the aggrieved members come up with to make sure peace reigns in the party. I have heard it many times from outside and the media that I am the problem of the party, but I challenge you to have audience with the aggrieved members of the party and ask them if I have not had private audiences with them.
Whenever they are with me, I ask them from a sincere mind what exactly I have done to be the problem of the party, and I can swear to you that none of them ever told me what the problem I constitute is.
Are you planning to step down?
I have a job to do as the PDP chairman and I cannot throw in the towel in the middle of it, just because certain individuals known for selfish motives got to the media to fund fictitious reports often crafted to precipitate crisis in our party and ultimately cause its fall. Those who wanted to hijack the party structures at all levels ahead of the 2015 general elections were the ones stoking the fire to balkanise the party.
The crisis we are witnessing in PDP is about 2015. The promoters are members who wanted to be president at all costs; they are those who wanted to be vice-president at all costs and those who wanted to seek re-election as governors. Most of them felt if there was no crisis, their different ambitions would not be fulfilled. The same set of party chieftains averse to institutional change has been frustrating the reforms initiated to deepen democratic ethos in the party.
If you check it very well, the people who say Tukur must go cannot lay hands on one reason to justify their wish. I did nothing to violate the constitution of the party. I did nothing to wrong anyone. I did nothing to soil my hands in anything. My conscience vindicates me every time. So, I am free as the PDP national chairman.
Now, some people said I am not a friend of the governors. But they forgot that during my campaign, I visited all of them one by one to sell my programmes for the party. We started with the process of reconciliation and asked estranged members to return to the party. Some people opposed it.
We said in PDP, internal democracy should start with transparent elections and in some cases, consensus. But those who opposed reform preferred selection and imposition of candidates during elections. They prefer the way of dictatorship, rather than being democratic. And when these are not allowed, then, they say Tukur must go.tweet