Executive Chairman, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Dr Samuel Nwanosike, speaks on the outcome of the just-concluded Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) special convention, and the way forward ahead of the 2023 general elections, in this interview with LINUS ALEKE
Your party has just come out of a presidential primary that has elicited so many reactions, what is your view of the outcome of the exercise and developments afterward?
For as members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, we consider what is happening in the party unfortunate. The party has decided to reward hard work with a bad fate. We believe that the PDP ought to show Nigerians that they have learnt from the mistakes of the past. Regrettably, it has come clearly to show us that they are even preventing themselves from Nigerians. They seem not to have learnt anything as far as we are concerned. First of all, they jettisoned the constitution of the party and everybody in Nigeria kept quiet. In 2017, before the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as a candidate of the party, the party zoned the presidential ticket to the North having had Uche Secondus as the national chairman of the party and by our party’s constitution. The party zoned the presidential ticket to the North and no Southerner contested that election the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, gave his best to support a friend, a young man who he believes has what it takes to reposition Nigeria as it then was to one of the best-growing nations in the world. But as we have it, in 2023, the party decided to throw their ticket open even after we told Nigerians that the national chairmanship position of our party has been zoned to the North, it is automatic that the party will zone the presidential ticket to the south. Close to the presidential primary, people started shifting the goalpost in the middle of the match, but as far as we are concerned, jettisoning the party constitution which says that the presidential ticket will be zoned either north or south, depending on where the party chairman comes from and we lost the match. It was a clear indication that something was wrong with the party, the PDP, to which we belong to. Now, governors of the South-South met for the very first time, in Asaba, which was hosted by the Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, and they came out with a communique stating that the next president of Nigeria should come from the south. And that was the position of the South-South governors, and that was the position of every other affiliate group that makes up the South-South zone. I remember very well that Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), had to commend Governor Okowa for hosting that event. Governor Okowa did not end there, he proceeded to attend the next meeting in Lagos where the South-South governors agreed that the next presidential candidate of PDP will come from the South, having had President Buhari from the North who has spent eight years in office. Governor Okowa also attended the next meeting in Akwa Ibom State, even the meeting in Rivers State. In all these meetings, he did not send his deputy, he was there himself, he did not voice any contrary opinion when the governors from the zone were taking a position that the next president should come from the South. Now, for us, we are saying it for the world to see that if a man who swore to an oath to protect the life and property of his people, who we consider the leader of the state, could hold a position within him and his colleagues to say this is justice for the people of the South-South and will go behind the scene to work against that same position, then there is something happening he needs to explain to the world. As far as we are concerned a true leader will stand for what he believes in. Jettisoning the position you took with others shows that you lack credibility and you cannot be trusted. Now, moving forward to the national convention, we saw a gang up from most of our leaders from the South-South. Especially governors from the South-South, having this fear that Wike has become popular and Nigerians have come to admire him, his courage, his movement, his ability to speak truth to power and to stand on the right side of the law. So, it became a thing of worry to them. Our position is that if you have an issue with Wike and you sat down with him in the South-South governor’s meeting and you took a position to say that this is where we want to go to and Wike didn’t oppose the decision but affirmed that he will stand by the decision they took as brothers. So, how dare you turn around and show to the people of Nigeria that you do not respect the agreement, you don’t respect collective decisions, and the only thing that drives you is your selfish interest. Governor Wike tried to explain at the presidential primary held in Abuja that he was not in this race because he is from the South-South. He did so because he is a Nigerian, he is qualified. But again, the position he had taken with his South-South brothers was sacrosanct. The constitution of the party, the Electoral Act, and the constitution of Nigeria are the ingredients of democratic practice in Nigeria. Our party constitution states clearly that the presidency should either be zoned to the South or North, depending on where the national chairman comes from.
Was that aspect of the constitution jettisoned before they went ahead with the convention?
Yes, it was jettisoned.
Did the party amend that part of the constitution or does it remain so?
It remains the position of the constitution of the party, even as we speak now. What they did was to do what they call a position taken by the National Working Committee (NEC), of the party to say that NEC had rectified, even when the party constitution had not been amended. You cannot rectify what is not known to the law. Their ratification was to the effect that the 2023 election should be thrown open. This is unfortunate because you cannot abandon the constitution of your party and make people look at your party as a party that cannot be trusted. INEC had said clearly, that any decision you take without obeying the constitution of your party, and anybody raises it before the court that you will pay for it. As far as we are concerned, the party’s constitution is clear. That the law has not been amended, and that you must either zone the power to the North or the South.
Are you going to take advantage of that position of the constitution to approach a court for interpretation?
We are politicians and we are waiting for the leadership of our party to do the needful. Right now, you can hear that different stakeholders in the party are disenchanted, and people are angry. Again, apart from what they did before the convention, Wike believes in the unity of the party. He was approached by the candidate of the party and his team to say please my brother don’t bother reacting to the misgivings and misnomers that happened at the convention. For instance, there was a clear breach of the convention practice and processes, Governor Tambuwal had his time to speak as an aspirant of the party, just as other aspirants had their time to speak but as the election was about to commence, Tambuwal breached the protocol as allowed by the national chairman of the party. He went straight to the podium to make a second speech. Why campaign for another aspirant when a motion has been moved for the convention to be declared to be in an election mood? That was wrong. The leadership of the party appealed to the conscience of Wike to say please, let us not follow this part, we will dismember this party, and Wike accepted. It was still the candidate of the party that approached Wike and the stakeholders of the party in the state to say, I will want to work with you as the vice-presidential candidate of the party. Wike said he could not decide on his own, that he would need to meet with the leadership of the party at the state level and other governors who were on the same voyage with him to rescue Nigeria, to look at the offer that he had made and come back to him. Wike held these meetings and went back to the candidate of the party and told him that he had accepted the offer after wide consultations. As if that was not enough, the party leadership went ahead to constitute a committee headed by prominent members of the various stakeholders we have in our party. For instance, the PDP Governors’ Forum had input in that committee, the National Assembly had input in the committee, the National Working Committee (NWC), had input in that committee, headed by the deputy chairman of the party (North), and that panel went into a process, in that process, Governor Wike was nominated as the decision of the party after scoring 16 votes out of the 19 persons that were in that committee as was constituted by the NWC, headed by Senator Iyorchia Ayu. But unfortunately, we can now see that some set of people in the party decided to gang up against that Governor Wike’s nomination. This is because the nomination attracted jubilation, all the media space was excited that Atiku and his team had gotten it right by accepting the nomination of Wike as the vice-presidential candidate of the party. Because of one man’s interest, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, we don’t know why he decided to take these steps to destroy the party, which Nigerians had come to see as a credible alternative. He decided to jettison the committee decision and sent a different name, pretending that he sent three names to the candidate to choose from. For us, it is in the public domain, that Wike was the choice of the NWC of the party, the presidential candidate, and other critical stakeholders in our party. But having come this far, for us as party men, we believe that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and we are waiting for the leadership of our party at the state level and federal levels to take a position on the way forward as a people. We cannot agree that one man called Senator Iyorchia Ayu will decide for the entire party. We disagree with that position that is not how a political party that wants to win an election should run.
You said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, what opposite reaction are you envisaging?
I have just told you that you cannot jettison a decision you have taken because it did not go your way. In a family that is not made up of only you, but made up of you and other persons, and those persons are those who will deliver this presidential candidate in their local government. We have 774 local government areas in Nigeria. The national chairman comes from just one, and he will only be responsible for delivering that particular local government. But as far as we are concerned, his personal decision cannot override the decision of the entire party. So, we would wait to see the reaction and the decision of our party leadership. That is why I said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, it is a normal phenomenon in life.
I understand that the bulk of the National Working Committee members was not present when Okowa was unveiled. What does that portend to your party?
That is what I am just explaining to you, that everybody feels insulted, if you wanted to make it a one-man show, Atiku Abubakar after he won the nomination as the candidate of the party has a right, even in his acceptance speech to announce his preferred vice-presidential candidate but he decided to allow the party based on the agreement and the guidelines that were established by the national working committee. If you look at the guidelines of PDP, you will see it there clearly, that the decision to choose who will be the running mate of the candidate will be taken by the party, not by an individual. But because the committee set up by the National Chairman did not do his bidding, he was shocked, he never believed that that will be the outcome of the committee exercise. He decided to cause trouble and shift the goalpost and took a decision that was supposed to be the collective decision of the party. He made it personal affairs and that is why the national working committee who are expressing their waves of anger, decided to stay away from that function and it has been seen clearly that they had nothing to do with that decision. That no one man can foist his decision on every member of the party.