Daily Trust: The PDP seems to be in perpetual disarray months after the 2015 elections; why is it difficult for the party to put its house in order?
Senator Saidu Umar Kumo: The PDP as a party based on perspective has never been in opposition before. They came to governance since the return of democracy in 1999 and had been winning, winning and winning. So they don’t know what it is to be in opposition. This is the first time most of the people in the party from the leaders to members they are on opposition side.
Because of that we cannot be blamed for what is happening. There will be running around and hence the need for more time to stabilise and adjust to the opposition role. This cannot continue or remain like that definitely we will all come to terms that we are now in opposition.
So many things are happening with many people not appreciating the efforts the present leadership is putting in to build people’s confidence in the party. I can assure you that soon we will overcome it and assume our role of formidable and better organised opposition. Don’t forget that the difference of votes between us and the APC was about two million. This is enough proof that Nigerians still believe in PDP.
DT: But the PDP seems to be limiting itself to being a regional party with the South-south and South-east being the ones carrying its banner now; would it not be difficult to return PDP to national mainstreaming?
Kumo: It is not going to be difficult. But we are going to put more efforts into it. There is departure such that the entire northern part seems to have departed from the PDP leaving the South-south and South-east to have the majority of elected leaders in the country. This however, does not make us a regional party, we remain the truly national party and we would soon bounce back to serve the yearnings of Nigerians because the moment we overcome the present situation from now till April when we are going to hold convention and elect new leaders from the ward to national level, then Nigerians will see it. Now we have lots of challenges and you can understand that someone that never expected to be defeated after being the ruling party for 16 years would need to recover and re-strategise.
DT: Apart from the usual blame-game, what can you say was responsible for the defeat of the PDP?
Kumo: There are so many reasons attributed for the defeat. One is the jettisoning of the zoning arrangement; when the PDP was formed and became strong because of the type of arrangement which gives everybody a sense of belonging. But the moment the party deviated from it, it catalysed the crisis. There is also the high handedness of the PDP as the ruling party they did not take things carefully. Thinking that we would continue to win whatever comes. Many other challenges were created by the leaders of the party or those leading at government level among others.
DT: Many party leaders continue to defect to the APC, how do you think the PDP would bounce back as you hope?
Kumo: That is not new. It happened before even with the PDP. People wanted to be where the government is and now that the place (APC) is saturated and those who are there are there because they don’t know what to do and believe they should move quickly. But the APC is not where they are supposed to be because the orientation and ideology is different, they will be there and they will not find it easy. They will be back in PDP when we bounce back. There will be a keen contest when the PDP will have its presidential candidate from the north.
Then, tested politicians who can make things work are all in PDP. You can see that there is no reason for them to be in APC and I am sure they will soon come back. Let us wait and see but I can assure you that democracy has come to stay and then PDP would regain its lost ground sooner than what many may expect.
DT: What do you want to bring on board if you emerge PDP national chairman?
Kumo: What is happening today in the PDP is not to elect a new national chairman of the party but a national chairman that would lead the party till the next national convention, finishing the tenure started by Bamanga Tukur and recently left by Adamu Muazu. I am the one the PDP needs now. We have the knowledge, experience and the know-how having been in the opposition before as those who were in the opposition before that can lead the party well and not those who don’t have the knowledge and experience to lead the PDP in the present political dynamics of the country.
DT: PDP seems to have a problem with retaining their national chairmen, why is this so?
Kumo: The reason was that the PDP was in government. There were tussles and this time around there won’t be a repeat. It was because the party was in government across the country, leading to power tussle and personality clashes. But now with the reality to be faced, there is work, work and work, and nothing to fight over.
DT: There has been accusation of massive corruption in the party’s NWC of the party leading to the recent strike by PDP workers; what is the update on this?
Kumo: I cannot say much on this as I was not a NWC member. However, these are allegations and they must be proved. But whatever you do as a leader, you may be accused of one thing or the other whatever you do. But if the party leaders in my ward, state and our leader Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of my state (Gombe) choose and support me to emerge the national chairman to complete the region’s term, there would be changes and every member of the party would be proud of such changes and revolutions in the party.
DT: There were calls in some quarters for the Deputy National Chairman Uche Secondus to continue to act till the next national convention, what do you say to this?
Kumo: As an interested party now, there is the PDP constitution which is sacrosanct. If there is a major understanding in the entire organs of the party to act in a way for the interest of the party, we will all see it. So let us wait and see.
DT: The PDP is ruling in Gombe, but the APC is making strong showing here and there, don’t you see this as a threat to PDP and a setback for your ambition?
Kumo: The PDP in Gombe is very formidable we have the governor, state assembly and large followership. So there is no problem as the party is intact and all is well. The formidability of my party in my state was one of the motivations for my ambition. I also have to get the permission and blessing of my governor as the leader of the North-east and entire nation being the most senior of the governors of our party, also is the party leader in my state and the region.
I have already written to inform all those that needed to be informed, including the acting BoT chairman, PDP Governors Forum chairman, minority leaders of both chambers of the National Assembly. I would later reach out after I have secured the blessings of my state and region.
DT: PDP is celebrating its 17th anniversary, with the state of affairs of the party, is there anything to celebrate?
Kumo: There are lots to celebrate, PDP has reasons to celebrate. No matter what anyone may say, the PDP has contributed the most to democracy and delivered lots of dividends of democracy and that is what anyone can build upon. So the PDP has done lots positively to the development of democracy and national development.
DT: The PDP is likely to field a presidential candidate from the north, how do you think the party can spread its message on this to the entire country?
Kumo: Many Nigerians still appreciate PDP. Many of those that defected did so because they were not satisfied the way the PDP was run and the way the election was contested, even the way the campaign machinery was constituted. Whether we like it or not, PDP was in government for 16 years and the government had stepped on many toes. The north was looking for a messiah. President Buhari had been contesting against the PDP so he was formidable and those that left from PDP to APC would soon be witnessing crisis, as many were there not on sincerity but for one reason or the other to cover up some misdeeds, but I can assure you that PDP is going to bounce back. One good thing with the nation’s democracy is that one thing the PDP has been working for is true democracy with two strong parties. The PDP and APC have emerged as is obtainable in major democracies of the world, which is very important in terms of the way the world is appreciating us now. An election conducted and accepted by contestants due to the transparent manner the PDP conducted it. But internal democracy was injured in the PDP and the result is what we see now.