Professor Adewale Oladipo is the Deputy Director General of the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Council and former national secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with DARE ADEKANMBI, the Obafemi Awolowo University-trained Professor of Nuclear Chemistry speaks on why he thinks Atiku is the best to run the country, the crisis in the party, how the PDP stands across the country, among other issues.
The opinion of some observers is that former vice president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP do not appear serious about winning the presidential election judging by the manner they have left the crisis with the G5 folks to linger less than 100 days to the election.
Well, I thank you, to start with. That is not true. PDP is the oldest political party in the country today. We have never changed our name; neither have we changed our constitution, exception modifying it a few times. We have constitutional means of resolving crisis in our party and I can assure you that all the mechanisms for conflict resolution are being handled as enshrined in our constitution. You don’t expect us to go to the press and start publicising our efforts towards the resolution of the disagreement. Be that as it may, there are six principal offices for any political party that occupies the government at the centre. We have done it before. We have the presidency, the vice presidency, the Senate presidency, speakership of the federal House of Representatives and of course the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the chairman of the party. Ordinarily, you don’t start dividing an antelope until you really kill it. We are hunting right now and by the special grace of God, I am sure that all the six geopolitical zones will be more than adequately represented when we finally win this election. I am happy and I thank my uncle, Senator Bola Tinubu, for praying for us and I am sure the prayer he offered us during the take off of their campaign will be answered by God. He said ‘God bless PDP’ and I am sure God is going to bless us.
Our five governors are respected stakeholders in our party. You will recollect that about a week ago, a delegation of all the political leaders in Abia State visited Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The delegation was ably led by our governorship candidate in the state. There is no way a candidate will emerge without the knowledge of the sitting governor of the state who is also a member of our party. That tells you a lot about the efforts and the results that we are already getting. I can assure you that at the end of the day, every PDP leader and stakeholder will work for the success of Atiku in the presidential elections.
I am a Yoruba man from the South West. We just won in Osun Stat and I can assure you we will deliver the state in the presidential election. We the people from the South West will deliver for the PDP and we will get our due recognition by being well represented in Atiku’s government. We have done it before and we will do it again.
As far as you are concerned, it is matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Atiku becomes the next president. Where does your optimism spring from? All the signs we can see do not support such confidence as you have expressed.
First and foremost, Nigerians are not stupid. They have tried PDP for 16 and APC for about eight years and they know the difference. I am sure you as a journalist use diesel to power your generator. When PDP was leaving government in 2015, it was N160 a litre and now it is more than N800. I know you buy rice for your family. IN 2015, it was N6, 000 a bag but now it is N40, 000. As president, [Goodluck] Jonathan tried to remove subsidy by increasing pump price of petrol to N150 a litre and all hell was let loose. So, we reverted to the old price. Now, I can hardly see petrol to buy at my place in Osun State even at more than N200 a litre. The purchasing power of Nigerians has collapsed finally. Is it insecurity you want to talk about? So, Nigerians will look at what we are offering and what we were able to do in government. They will compare it what this current government is offering them and decide who they are going to vote for and I am sure they will vote for Atiku Abubakar. That is the way forward for Nigeria. You can see the programme he has presented to Nigerians. What is APC offering? They talk about Next Level. Is it Next Level of insecurity or what? So, APC is not an option. We just have to go back to the PDP as a people.
When you say APC is not an option, yet it is the ruling party and controls more states than the PDP and is consequently better placed in terms of structure to win the presidential election particularly in the North where the bulk of the votes will come from…
No, no no. I beg to disagree with you. Is that why the people of Jos stoned them when they went there for the take off of their campaign and they were begging the people in Hausa language to allow them to leave peacefully? Did you watch our rally in Maiduguri? APC tried to stop us from even going into the stadium. They withdrew all the tricycles from circulation, yet the stadium could not contain Nigerians who were eager to see Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Go to Kaduna State and see what is happening there. Our candidate was just on an ordinary visit to Jigawa State and the crowd was awesome. It is the same thing all over the North. I am happy you acknowledged that the bulk of the votes will come from the North. Who is going to defeat Atiku in the North? Nobody. Did you see what happened in Kano State? You will see what will happen in Sokoto, Kaduna and Katsina states very soon. All the APC Senators in Bauchi State have moved to the PDP. I give it to our Northern brothers. They know how to play politics and they are playing it very well.
Are you implying that Atiku is the consensus candidate the North has adopted?
He does not have to be a consensus candidate. He is the candidate of the people from the North. We are not even talking about consensus. We are talking of where the average northern has pitched his tent. You can see the endemic poverty up there on the streets. They know who will better serve them. And in any case, Atiku is not going to be the candidate of any particular region. He is going to be the candidate of all Nigerians and will also lead all Nigerians as president from next year. Atiku does not care where you come from. When he was the chairman of the National Economic Council, he brought in Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who to the best of my knowledge is not a northerner neither is she a Muslim. He also brought in Dr Akinwunmi Adesina who we graduated together from the great University of Ife and he is doing us proud right now. Atiku brought in Nasir el-Rufai not because he is a Fulani man, but because of his competence. He brought in Nuhu Ribadu and a lot more. Here is a man who had done it before and who will do it again. He also brought in Professor Charles Soludo who is still probably the best CBN governor we have had in the country. He was brought in by Atiku to come and contribute his quota to the development of the economy. This is exactly what Atiku is going to do again. He is going to assemble a team of seasoned administrators who will rescue the country from the abyss that we have found ourselves now due to what they call change.
PDP does not appear popular in the South-West, though your party won Osun State recently. With the APC presidential candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu coming from the region, it means PDP should just not dream of winning any space in the South-West where people appear fired up to go with one of their own. Ondo is for APC and even in Osun, a recent pro-Tinubu rally by Governor Gboyega Oyetola was attended by a large crowd of Osun people…
Well, I am happy you are analyzing it state by state. Let’s start from Ekiti. You know this yourself that Ekiti is a state of intellectuals, people that are well enlightened and who can think. In Ekiti, they don’t vote for you on the basis of where you come from. They vote for you based on what you are capable of doing. They know for sure that PDP is the only party that can allow farmers to go freely to their farms and will allow people to travel from Ikere Ekiti to Ado Ekiti without molestation. They know full well that PDP is the only party that can allow their children go back to school. So, don’t count on any sentimental votes coming to APC from there. Ekiti will vote the PDP way, I can assure you that. If you move to Ondo State, you will recollect Atiku won in Ondo State in 2019. PDP won there and we have two Senators from the state. So, what has changed? The only thing that has changed is that the civil servants in the state have not received their salaries for seven month under an APC governor. Doctors are leaving the state because they don’t get paid under an APC government. Farmers can no longer go to their farms freely under an APC government. Somebody like a former deputy governor, Agboola, who is a very wonderful politician, is back in PDP. So, PDP will have no problem winning in Ondo State. Osun is a no-go area for APC. You told me that Oyetola walked and rallied for Tinubu, you forgot to mention that they imported people from all walks of life. I don’t want to repeat what the people were shouting when APC was rallying. The only thing that sells in Osun today is ‘Imole.’ In fact, PDP will win comfortably in Osun. Go to Oyo State, who is the face of APC there? The votes in the South-West are for two of the candidates and between Atiku and Tinubu. That is the truth of it. By the special grace of God, we are going to win in the South-West.
You seem to be reducing the contest to a straight fight between Atiku and Tinubu. You don’t think Peter Obi of the Labour Party can create an upset for the two of them? He has got a larger army of youths everywhere
I have children and grandchildren. None of them has told me that Peter Obi is representing them. Well, presidential election is not a social media affair unfortunately. It is a serious business. For instance, in my federal constituency, there is no Labour Party candidate, in my senatorial zone, there is no Labour Party candidate. It is the same thing in most of the constituencies in Osun, Oyo and even Lagos states. The presidential election is about synergy between presidential candidate, the senatorial candidate, the House of Representatives candidates and others. Obi is deficient in all these areas. When Obi left APGA, he joined our party and now in Labour Party. I don’t know the party he will belong to on the day of the presidential election. But let’s assume he will stay in Labour Party till at least after the presidential election. He is somebody I like and he is a personal friend. But rhetoric and winning presidential election are two different things. You need a solid structure to win the presidential election in this country. It is not a social media warfare that will win it for you.
Atiku is talking about his five-point agenda and some skeptics are saying we are back in the era of highfalutin promise that will lead us to nowhere. During the week, he also unveiled his idea for the restructuring of the country, explaining how he will hit the ground running on that if elected president. Do you think this will sway Nigerians to vote for him? Politicians have mouthed restructuring only to renege when they get to office…
Will you prefer somebody who has nothing to offer to somebody who is offering you something? At least, someone who is telling you he is going to do something deserves to be listened to, deserves your vote than somebody who is not even talking at all. In any case, you must look at the antecedents of the candidates. When we were coming to power in 1999, we promised we would restructure the economy of the country and that was precisely what we did. Now, you can transfer money from your phone. You will recall that this was not possible in 1998. In 1998, we were practically begging our banks before we could deposit money. Banks are the ones looking for us now. We restructured the economic platforms of this country when PDP was in charge. We brought in GSM, made it possible for people to do business. We grew the economy of the country to become the number one economy in Africa. We became the first destination for foreign direct investment all over the world. Those were the promises we made in 1999 and we delivered on the promises. We promised good governance, transparency and anti-corruption crusade. We set up the EFCC and the ICPC. All these things were unprecedented in the history of the country. So, Nigerians should trust us when we say we will do better from 2023. All the promises we made, we fulfilled them. Our name is not All Promises Cancelled. We are PDP, we are not APC.
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About some months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigerians will hail him after leaving office and also admitted that Nigeria is a very complex country to govern after about eight years in office. Should Atiku win, will he be able to do anything differently given the expectations people had in Buhari and the confession he made almost after eight years?
With due apology to all my wonderful friends in APC and with due apology to the national chairman and national secretary of APC who are leaders of PDP in any case and who I am sure are just in APC for now and are going to come back home at the appropriate time, APC was a vehicle to grab power. It was just a collection of people. The idea was to push Jonathan out at all cost and they achieved it and became clueless after grabbing the power. PDP is a structured party. We have a BOT that meets regularly. Unfortunately, APC copied our constitution but they can’t copy our way of running the party. They are supposed to have a BOT that has never met. Atiku is contesting as candidate of the PDP, a party that has a culture of structured programme for governance. So, it is not even about Atiku per se. It is about PDP now, about a strong platform that we want to use to recover our country. I agree with President Buhari. The country is in a mess. When you vehicle break down, you don’t look for a good driver; you look for a good mechanic because it is when a good mechanic fixes it that a good driver will drive the vehicle. Nigeria has broken down. I agree with the president on that. This is why we must not allow the same set of people to continue to drive it. Atiku is the good mechanic we need to fix Nigeria which is currently broken down. We have fixed the country before. You will recollect that the country was on the verge of collapse when we came into power in 1999 and we were able to steady the ship of state and take the country to higher ground. By the special grace of God, that is what we are going to do again. The country is broken. We can no longer travel from Abuja to Kaduna. Just recently, I went home to Osun State because my cousin was kidnapped and shot. There is insecurity everywhere. That is the change that our brothers and sisters in APC have brought. The people in APC should just retire quietly, go home, rest and allow us to fix the country and then they can come back to enjoy the fruits of real good governance.
In all good conscience and as a South-Westerner who believes in justice, fairness and equity, do you think it is fair for us to have another northerner as a successor after Buhari who is completing eight years as president?
You said I should talk to you in good conscience and I am going to do just that. You will recollect in the Bible the story of the seven locust years. We have just had the seven locust years in Nigeria under APC. They call it cauchemar in French and we call it nightmare in English. It has been a nightmarish seven years sincerely and that is because of the emi lokan syndrome that was introduced into governance by the APC. I am sure majority of Nigerians will be regretting voting against Jonathan now. It is because of this spirit of emi lokan that brought his government into power and now we are regretting it. Must we now enter that trap again in 2023? Let us look for a good mechanic to fix Nigeria that is currently broken. Look, my brother, if you entering a plane and you are a Yoruba man like me and they say a Yoruba pilot should come and pilot that plane instead of an Igbo pilot who is competent to so do, which one will you choose? I will choose an Igbo man even if he will take me to Kaduna and still take me to Niger Republic, I will continue on the journey with him. I won’t say because you are a Yoruba man and you are incompetent or an incompetent Hausa man you should pilot the plane. That is the simple logic. This country is at a crossroads now. We need a competent hand, a man who knows about governance and is completely detribalized. When Atiku was investing in Port Harcourt, he knew he was from Adamawa State. When Aliko Dangote was investing in Lagos, he knew he was from Kano State. So, let’s us move away from this emi lokan or awa lokan sentiment. It has to stop. Let us go for competence and restructure the country so that we can move forward. I don’t want to go into the polemics of how many years southerners or northerners have spent since 1999. I am less concerned about that. As a Yoruba man from Ife, sincerely I prefer having somebody that is competent and will allow my children to live in peace, allow my purchasing power to rise and allow my small businesses to thrive than to bring somebody from Ife I know to be incapable of running the country. I don’t care about where people come from. The only one but there is that immediately we win the election, all positions must be spread according to the constitution of the country. The Senate President, Speaker of the House, SGF, the national chairman and so on. In my personal opinion, all the six geopolitical zones must have one each of the six cardinal positions.
We have been hearing this from people close to Atiku like Chief Raymond Dokpesi who have been saying if allowed to be president, Atiku will only spend one term and will ensure the South gets back power. A lot of people are skeptical about this. Have you heard anything like that from Atiku?
Our life is in the hands of our Creator. Don’t let us overstretch ourselves. If Dokpesi said anything, I am sure he said it in his personal capacity as Dr Raymond Dokpesi. He would not have spoken for the party neither would he have spoken for the candidate on this issue. We have not approached such issue in any of our meetings. Anytime we discuss it, then you can call me back and I will tell you. But so far, I have never attended any meeting where the issue of doing one term or two terms arose.
One of the spokesperson for Atiku, Kola Ologbodiyan, recently claimed five APC governors were in talks with Atiku and PDP. A lot of people considered his statement to be a political gunshot fired to win support. Some people didn’t take him serious. Do you know of such development as a key member of Atiku’s campaign council?
For me, Kola was very modest in saying only five APC governors are discussing with Atiku. I won’t say more than that. Just wait and see what is going to happen. We are keeping our gunpowder very dry for now. He was being extremely modest.
Are you saying more APC governors are going to join?
Is it not English we are both speaking now? Interpret it the way you want. All I can tell you now is that Kola Ologbondiyan was very modest when he told the press that only five APC governors are speaking to us. I have told you and you should believe me. By the special grace of God, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is the next president of Nigeria. I can tell you that for free. God will keep him and all Nigerians alive and healthy to witness his presidency. Keep this in your left hand so that you won’t use it to eat amala.