It’s unpatriotic asking Jonathan not to seek re-election – Uzodinma

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As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP grapples with the crisis it’s embroiled into, a chieftain of the political party and senator has stated that victory is assured in 2015.

According to Senator Hope Uzodinma, chairman, Senator Committee of Aviation, no matter what happens in the PDP, the party would clinch the presidential election through the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Uzodinma chided those canvassing that Jonathan should not seek re—election, saying that such move is unpatriotic.

In this interview, Uzodinma gives reason why Jonathan should seek second term in office, the crisis in the PDP and others.
Excerpts:

Your party, the PDP, has been engrossed in crisis for more than one year now. Why has the party found it difficult to resolve the crisis?
It is not true that the party has found it difficult to resolve the misunderstanding within it. The issue is that those who decided to cause the misunderstanding kept on shifting the goal post. The party leadership has always tried to make sure everybody is accommodated and happy, but they kept on raising new issues. And it got to a point when it became clear that some of them had issues other than the proper running of the party, as they had claimed. Take the issue of defection. It has nothing to do with whether or not the party is being well run because where they are going is not better run. The defectors had a different thing in mind. And since they have the right to pursue such interests, you cannot stop them.

The point to note is that it is not those of us who have remained in the party that are making the misunderstanding linger. As far as we are concerned, the PDP remains the best, even with its imperfections. It is those of them who left that made the matter look so gargantuan. They couldn’t make up their minds on time. I can assure you that when the defections are completed, the PDP will regain its composure.

So you think the party is losing nothing with the mass defections?
There is no mass defection. Ask yourself the percentage of people leaving, compared with the overall party membership. When you hear that 37 lawmakers have left the PDP for another party, you ask yourself, what is the percentage of this number compared with the overall membership of the party? The PDP still has the largest following in the country. It is like the Catholic Church. No matter how big a Catholic Church building is, you will still find some people standing outside during mass even though members leave daily to join new churches.

So are you not worried?
I told you earlier that there is a concern but as I also said, it is democracy at work. I believe that matters will be resolved in one way or another. I believe that the more the merrier but you cannot stop people from exercising their democratic rights of freedom of association even if you think that they are doing the wrong thing. You will be your own person and pursue your beliefs and allow others do same.

Many people attribute the crisis to the style of leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan. What’s your take on that?
There is no leadership style anywhere in the world or in any sphere of life that is error-proof. But having said that, let me hasten to debunk that notion, not just in respect of the PDP but also as regards partisan politics generally. A political party is not a military regiment, where people are ordered about. Every political party has internal machinery for checking crises. I find it incongruous when politicians claim that one person is lording it over them in a political party.

It means that such politicians lack the capacity to exploit internal party tenets put in place to ensure that things work according to the rules. What I have personally come to discover is that those complaining of high handedness are the ones who want to have their way all the time. Go to the states; the governors who complain of leadership style all behave like emperors. They do not call executive council meeting and when they do, they don’t listen to anybody.

It is not limited to those currently serving. That has been the trend. Even in the other political parties, if you open the pages of newspapers, you will see that members are complaining and talking about the same thing they were accusing the PDP leadership of. They are quarrelling over imposition of candidates. You would expect that for a party that is making a song and dance of the imperfections in the PDP, its leaders would try to show Nigerians a better thing. That is not happening.

If you have the penchant of looking for a scapegoat, you will not be able to make your own honest and genuine contributions to the wellbeing of the party. To cut the story short, it is wrong to blame anyone person for being solely responsible for the problems of a party as big as the PDP or any party for that matter. We are running a system where, for example, the governors have so much powers and control so much resources that they believe that they should always say what happens in the party. Such an attitude naturally would cause problems. You see, the problems facing our democracy are fundamental and we need more patience to walk through them.

There is a widespread belief that the current crisis in the polity is as a result of President Jonathan’s second term ambition. What’s your take?
It is quite unfortunate that our politicians deliberately talk down on our country, in a bid to pursue personal or sectional interests. Honestly, I find it difficult to reconcile that type of posturing with our quest for the inculcation and nurturing of political culture. Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa and here we are saying that the personal ambition of one fellow to run for an election he is constitutionally entitled to is the only thing that will bring the country down. I find it difficult to reconcile the two.

Not even in Banana Republics can such talks be entertained. Is it democratic to say that President Jonathan must not run for a second term? Some people even say the country will go to war if he runs. That is very disheartening, even obscene. Who are they speaking for? As far as I am concerned, it is unpatriotic to ask President Jonathan not to run for re-election because intimidating him out of it will mean creating an ugly precedence. There is only one legitimate way of stopping President Jonathan. It is the election itself. Why don’t the opposition wait for him at the polls?

But the fear is that he has incumbency advantage…
The question really is, what is the big offence that Jonathan has committed that he should not even be allowed to stand for an election he is constitutionally and legally entitled to? Tell me, what is the offence? I have never seen this type of thing. The opposition is already celebrating victory that it will take over power in 2015. Good, but why still insist that Jonathan must not run. They believe that they have gotten every thing to remove the PDP from the control of the Federal Government. And the PDP says okay, but you cannot tell us whom to field as our candidate. Is that democracy? Tell me. And my problem is compounded with the realisation that the “you must not run” order is coming from a few elements in the opposition parties, whose views are not in any way representative of that of the generality of the people of Nigeria. This means they are imposing their views on the masses of the people.

When did they conduct a plebiscite where the Nigerian people said President Jonathan must not run? I concede that every individual or group has the right to seek for power, but it has to be within the context of what is democratically permissible.

But it is not only opposition elements that are making that demand. Just a few days ago, Professor Ben Nwabueze, a highly respected Igbo man, repeated his advise that President Jonathan should not run for the 2015 election…

Nwabueze is entitled to his opinion, but the generality of Igbo are in support of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Igbo are behind him. As the chairman of the political contact and mobilisation committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, I am in a position to confirm that to you. In other words, Professor Nwabueze was not talking on behalf of Igbo. In any case, I cannot see why the respected elder statesman is making an issue out of the matter. He had made that statement before and it was widely reported in the media. So, to go to the press again on the same issue is, with due respect, unnecessary.

The renowned professor was once the Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo for years. Has he tried to find out what the position of Ohanaeze is? Any way, the long and short of it is that Igbo are solidly behind President Jonathan.

The issue is not necessarily the constitutionality but that Jonathan had an agreement to do only one term. What do you say?
Agreement with who? You see, we are, knowingly and unknowingly, battering the democratic integrity of our country. Nobody should be talking of an agreement. When did the signing of an agreement become a requirement for running an election? They talk about morality but the truth of the matter is that the morality issue is hear say. We should nurture our democracy on things that are empirically verifiable, not guesswork. Tomorrow, the matter will get to the state and local government level. Tomorrow, some people will wake up and claim that Mr. A or Mr. B entered into agreement not to run for an election, and would want the people to help them to enforce it. Such things are not enforceable and we should stop ridiculing our country. Let those opposed to President Jonathan running for a second term wait for him at the polls if he decides to run.

Now, suppose the president calls you and asks for you opinion as to whether he should run or not. What will you tell him?
I will tell him to run.

You think he will win?
Of course, he will win square and neat.

What is the ground of your optimism?
One, President Jonathan has done creditably well to deserve re-election. It is not for us to begin to list the things he has accomplished here and which are quite many. The giant stride his administration has made in sundry areas is there for everybody to see. We are talking of the unprecedented transformation in education, aviation, agriculture, the power sector and the rail transportation system.

But by far one thing for which Nigerians most appreciate him is that he has widened the democratic space in the country. He has shown an uncommon flair for developing democratic institutions, which are intangibles. In nurturing democracy, what matters most are the intangibles. You see, anybody can put his signature on paper and approve the construction of thousands of kilometres of roads, give thousands of electricity and water projects and what have you.

That requires no rigour. Those are important but what new democracies like ours need are the intangibles, things that you cannot see or touch yet they are the most fundamental issues in the sustenance of democracy. Those are the issues we are concerned with. President Jonathan has given us a lot of that. He has not concerned himself with making himself a strongman but with building strong democratic institutions, letting Nigerians develop the necessary culture of democracy, not bravado. People accuse him of not throwing his weight about. Even within our party, you sometimes hear people say he should have used his Presidential might to do this or that for the party or certain individual members.

Take the governorship elections that have been held in some states. It is not a secret that some people had expected him to corner those states for the party. But he allowed the people to elect the leaders of their choices, irrespective of party affiliation. Such an attitude may not go down well with desperate politicians but ultimately, the entire nation benefits.

Let’s paint a scenario, where the PDP loses the presidential election in 2015. What will you do, for example?
Of course, I am not the type that will say that I will go on exile. I will remain here and continue to make my own little contributions to the development of our dear country. And I believe that will also be the attitude of so many others. But such a situation will not even arise. The PDP will win the presidential election and also win more states.

The opposition parties have remained insistent that the president is shielding corrupt elements in his administration and is not doing enough to curb corruption. What is your take on this?
The allegation has become too common place to make any meaning. The way they talk about it, in my view, trivialises the issue. I do not think the matter is as simple as that. Again, we talk down on our country by saying that one person alone should fight corruption. If it is something one person can handle, then the problem is not as compounded as it is said. The fight against corruption is a collective responsibility of all Nigerians. There are machineries for fighting corruption beyond the person of Mr. President. There are agencies that are directly saddled with that responsibility.

What Nigerians should do is to insist that those agencies are strengthened, to be able to carry out their responsibilities more satisfactorily. The point one is making is that, yes, there is corruption but to continue to sound as if the president can decree it out of existence over night is to make a joke of a very serious issue.

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