In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, the Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Walid Jibrin, spoke on the leadership crisis rocking the party. He however believes the PDP can bounce back in 2019.
What is your impression of the events surrounding the recent rerun elections in Rivers State?
The BoT is viewing with great interest the happenings in Nigeria’s political scene, especially the barbaric and anarchical exhibition of inhumanity to man by man and deliberate diversion from constituted laws in Rivers State that deprived our party from winning all the seats contested in the rerun election. In this regard, we commend the effort of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, for his bravery by standing firmly to protect the rights of his people, despite the presence of federal might during the elections. The governor deserves a special award for defending the course of truth and protecting the rights of his people. The success recorded in Rivers by the PDP, is a testimony that Rivers is fully a PDP state and will continue to be so. The lesson to be derived in the Rivers election is for PDP to remain united and solid to enable it win the 2019 elections.
There has been so much talk about PDP considering a change of its name as a way of rebuilding itself, is this really what the party intends to do?
The hullabaloo about changing the name of PDP to a new mega party is dead on arrival. The PDP being a model and acceptable party in Nigeria and amiable and acceptable brand in every household in the country should never be allowed to die. The PDP being well established by our founding fathers should never be allowed a change of any name whatsoever.
I am very happy that Tinubu has denied it. He said he would not join any party that is abusing them. So he openly said he was not for a mega party. Anybody thinking of that it is his imagination because the PDP has not sat down to discuss and take a decision on any mega party.
That said, I congratulate the hard working committee of strategy hoping that their recommendations will pave way for genuine improvements in our party. The Prof. Jerry Gana committee is working and the pending cases in the appeal court didn’t allow us, BOT, to hold meeting for now because we respect the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies and don’t want to go contrary to them as it will affect our role as conscience of the party. So we want the Prof Jerry Gana committee to conclude its work and for the judiciary to give verdict then we will sit and review it. We have received encouraging reports that our good friends that left the party are willing to come back after the treatment of our illness which is being properly handled.
As for parties that are ready to join forces with the PDP for any purpose, the BoT has fixed a meeting to review the whole situation and we will give a fatherly advise accordingly. We urge all members to remain calm, law abiding and always respect constituted authority.
We assure them that nobody will change the name of their party. And they should be ready to support any move by the leadership to improve the lot of PDP.
Let me also advise that not body should use the current situation we are in to use his personal ambition to destroy the party, especially those with presidential ambitions. We want to see their contributions towards the development of the party first.
We want well committed members of PDP and the electorates are becoming wiser everyday in choosing their leaders and not those who are only interested in positions but those ready to serve the party and Nigeria.
How optimistic are you that the pending judgements would be favorable to upholding the PDP?
I am not the judiciary. They know best on what to do. But every person who is in this kind of situation is always hopeful and we shall remain hopeful.
Sen Ali Modu Sheriff has said his leadership of PDP would hold a national convention in the first quarter of this year, are you aware of this?
I read about it. But we have never taken any decision on that yet. I think the Prof. Jerry Gana committee will put us through and give us a recommendation. I am sure they will soon finish their job. I think the decision is not for one person or organ. We have to meet by that I mean, the national caucus, BoT, national executive committee, to take such decisions. It somebody has said so maybe he is just suggesting it.
The BoT, under your leadership has been in the fore of resolving the leadership problem, but the sheriff group, specifically accused the BoT of being unfair and to have gone comatose in the affair of the matter. How do you reconcile this?
When I read the story by Ahmed Gulak, he didn’t abuse me as Sen. Walid Jubril. He talked about BoT’s stand. At any stage BoT will always take a stand. Whatever stand we take is the stand of BoT and not Walid Jubrin…
So at what point did the reconciliation process breakdown?
As far as we are concerned the reconciliation setup by the BoT and led by Prof. Jerry Gana is not dead.
But Sheriff claims that it is the Makarfi group that is no longer interested in the reconciliation talks. He noted that he suggested that both of them should step down and for committee to take over but that Makarfi didn’t agree to it?
He (Sheriff) said he was ready to step down provided Makarfi steps down, he would also step down. That is my understanding. More so, we have a reconciliation committee and they have not given us a report so it means they have not concluded.
We have the reconciliation committee setup by BoT, under Prof. Jerry Gana. Then I understand that there is a reconciliation intervention by former minister of defense, Gen. Aliyu Gusau. We have also had various reconciliation groups, I think about more than five of them, including the Governor Seriake Dickson and Sen Ike Ekweremadu committees. We have some individuals who have also tried to help. At a particular stage they (Makarfi and Sheriff) were talking about a number of representatives that they would bring to a round table. At a certain stage again there was no conclusion. So all these committees we are talking about, have so far being unable to come to conclusion. Maybe this committee by Prof. Jerry Gana on strategy and internal democracy, will pave way for a solution for us.
Is Gana’s committee talking to Sheriff?
They have formed various committees. It is left for them to make an arrangement if they want to do so. But we gave them a job to do and we are not interfering with the modus operandi of the committee.
Going by the courts adjournments over the crisis what do you think will be the chance of the PDP as preparations for 2019 gets intensifies?
Did they say they will not be able to give judgement. Are they not law courts? How can we say a law court cannot solve a problem of either criminal or civil cases. Cases are ended in Supreme Court.
The concern is the way the case is dragging and how it might impact on your party’s resurgence?
We don’t want to interfere or go to the judiciary and say this is the time we want judgement. They will use their own commonsense and their rules. For instance, the Appeal court in Abuja said it cannot rule until the one in Portharcourt rules because it will be contradictory if they rule now. So we are waiting.
Do you think PDP stands a chance of returning to power in 2019?
PDP has great chances ahead of 2019. The party is being looked at and there are a lot of improvements going on. We are looking at our past activities. When we lost the presidential election in 2015, we setup a committee for post mortem under the leadership of Sen. Ike Ekweremadu and I was the secretary of that committee.
We looked at the reason why we failed and I am sure this committee (Gana’s committee) will further look into the work of Ekweremadu’s committee and then they will be able to give us solutions to resolve the problems. We are sure of that which is why we said PDP, looking at the letters has no problem. Maybe the characters are the people causing the problem. So let us deal with such things that led to the failure. Whether we change the name of PDP it will not solve the problem if we don’t touch the characters that contributed to killing the party. The PDP word is calm and innocent. What is wrong with word PDP? It is innocent.
We will look at the operation, at what happened and we will reach a conclusion.
Do you agree with notion that there is an influence of the ruling party, APC in the leadership crisis rocking the PDP?
Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion. When you see signs of things happening and you match the happenings with reasoning then you might be right to say this is the right thing. There are a lot of signs to show that probably things are being done just like that. But whatever is the case, whether it is the outside forces or not, we too have our problems within. So we should be able to deal with our problems first. We should correct ourselves as party members and we can do that by doing the right things. When you do the right things, nobody will come and do the wrong things for you. That is what we are trying to do now. So while you can’t rule out the possibility of outside forces, the right things must be done now.
Going by some of the elections conducted so far, do you have any fears of free and fair elections in 2019?
The country has to change its attitude. I think Sen Ahmed Makarfi has addressed this issue at a world press conference that there is fear for future elections if what happened in Rivers State will continue and that it is a bad omen for democracy in Nigeria. Why should people be killed. Somebody should be free to go and vote and leave the place. There shouldn’t be any fighting or killing at all, I see a police office was beheaded and many individuals killed that is unacceptable in a democracy at all.