Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the just concluded Edo governorship election, Nigeria at 60, restructuring and other issues. Excerpts:
Your party, the PDP just secured victory in the just concluded governorship election in Edo state. How do you feel?
I feel so elated for a hard battle won. It is a collective victory for all of us. Like I said on my social media page, this victory is historic, the aroma is sweet and its lesson for political godfathers will last a lifetime. The people’s power will always prevail. Once again, congratulations to Governor Obaseki, his deputy, Phillip Shaibu and the good people of Edo state.
Nigeria will be celebrating 60 years of independence as a sovereign nation on October 1st, how far do you think we have come as a nation?
I think we might not have been able to reach the expectations of our founding fathers. However, prior to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, I think we were progressing as a people. Painfully however, the last five years has expanded the divisive tendencies in our nationhood. It is shocking that under a watch of our President that served the Nigerian Army and rose to the position of Major-General, our nation can become so divided to an extent that ethnic demands have overridden the bands of unity.
I don’t know how the Buhari administration will want to manage this and take us back to a united country. But like eminent Nigerians have said in the last few weeks, we have become much more divided than we have ever been in the last 60 years of our nation.
The Presidency, through Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media said the division in the country did not start under this government and that Nigeria has always been divided. What is your take on that?
I think Femi Adesina’s argument is far misplaced or maybe he did not understand the context of the question he was responding to. What Nigerians are saying is that there can be conflicts and divisions, but we have not had a President whose policy direction and approach to national cohesion has been this divisive. We have never had a President whose policies have demonstrated a huge division in our nation like President Buhari. We are not saying there have never been grounds for people disagreeing or have challenges; after all, we have had a civil war. But what we are saying is that we have never had a leader, a President whose actions and policy direction has demonstrated a huge division in our nation like President Buhari. That is the question Femi Adesina ought to have responded to. It is disgusting and painful that a government that came into office on a mantra of change, saying that things were not going well under the previous administration and that if elected, they will come and repair the crisis area in our nation, to have allowed itself by the manner of the leadership it is providing for the nation. It is worthy of note that this division is affecting their policies.
How do you mean?
For instance, President Buhari said agriculture is the main focus of his policies. He also said that the youths should go back to the farm. But today, if you go and plant, Fulani herdsmen will come in and destroy your farmland. No matter what you do, you cannot get justice. We even have a situation where the Presidency said we should go and live with our neighbours. So, these are the tendencies that have become worrisome in the lives of our nation. We have never had a President whose policies is driven on the basis of where he comes from; a president whose policies of his administration can be manifestly seen that he taking side with a particular region of the country. Will that encourage unity in our country? Will that foster the spirit of togetherness? All these actions have failed to enable us more than ever before to see ourselves as one Nigerian. Part of the legacy President Buhari must work towards leaving behind is that of a united Nigeria because no matter how Femi Adesina wants Nigerians to believe that the country has always been divided, it has never been this divided in the history of our nation.
Do you agree with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s position on the state of affairs of the nation under President Buhari?
There is no Nigerian that has the love of this country that will not speak in the manner Baba (Olusegun) Obasanjo, Prof. Wole Soyinka and other eminent Nigerians have spoken. In whatever way you look at it or in whichever manner you want to ascribe the blame of our crisis, what Nigerians are saying is that we have never had it this worse under this administration. When the presidency was attacking Obasanjo, our party counseled President Buhari to listen to the voice of wisdom. His approach to governance is to say the least, very disappointing. Those who packaged Buhari in 2015 gave Nigerians the impression that he was coming to make the difference and be the Messiah that Nigerians have been waiting for. Can any of them now in their clear conscience say they have been justified given what has happened in the last five years? They cannot, because the performance of the administration has been a disappointing one.
One major issue that has continued to dominate the political space is the restructuring of the country. The APC-led federal government has refused to implement the reports of the 2014 national conference but rather set up the El-Rufai committee on True Federalism which has already submitted the report. Why do you think the party has not done anything in that regard?
For us in the PDP, we did not for one day took the El-Rufai committee on restructuring serious. Part of the campaign that was made by the APC in 2015 was restructuring. They have not by any effort come close to their own promise. In whatever way you look at the administration, it has manifestly failed. If you make a promises, even if you can’t fulfill all, you can still walk around part of the promises and provide hope that even after you have left office, any office that is coming after you will be able to do part of what you have left behind. The reality is that this APC government is not prepared for restructuring. They cannot deal with it and they cannot fulfill any promise. In a tenure of eight years, we have had this government for five years. By next year, politics will begin in full swing while governance will take the backseat. So, what is left for them to do.
The APC recently said Nigerians should calm down that restructuring has already begun. Are you saying the party is not sincere?
When you talk about restructuring, it appears to different people from different angle. There are those who believe in devolution of power as restructuring. To these ones, to restructure Nigeria, power must be taken from the centre and given to the states and local governments. There are others who believe that the 36 states and FCT is not working and as such, we must go back to regionalism; that is also restructuring. There are those who believed that a bicameral legislature is too expensive and that we should go back to a unicameral legislature; that is also restructuring. There are those who believe that the states should be allowed to have their own police while there are others who believe that even the local councils should have their own police; it is still restructuring. There are those who believe that the traditional rulers should be given roles in the constitution in such a manner that they can look over their domains; it is also restructuring.
There are those who also believe that each state should be allowed to manage its resources and return a percentage of those resources to the centre, in order to enable the centre run its affairs. That is also restructuring. So, there are various ways of restructuring that Nigerians have expectations.
In all these angles of restructuring that I have explained, which one can you point to that the Buhari administration has attempted to implement? None! So, as far as we are concerned in the PDP, we have seen the eight years of President Buhari as a passer-by years. We do not know in concrete terms what Nigerians will be able to point to after the eight years of his administration.