In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust Saturday, media mogul and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Raymond Dokpesi speaks on the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, why a Southern candidate can’t win the 2023 presidential election for the PDP, his corruption trial, among others. He also tipped former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to emerge as the candidate of the PDP ahead of the presidential election.
The PDP is in a leadership crisis at the moment. As a chieftain of the party and someone that had sought to lead the party in the past, what is happening with the PDP and what is the way forward?
What is happening in the PDP, in my view, is not unusual. It is normal especially when you are approaching a major election like the one that is expected in 2023. The PDP needs to be repositioned. The PDP needs to review and see for itself the issues that the Nigerian populace have raised in the past couple of years. What led to the challenges of 2015 which made the PDP lose the general election? Some of us, including me, believed that we were manipulated out of power. So, as a result of what happened in the past, it is time to review and see properly how to reposition the party. We need to look at which of the policies to be adopted and who among the candidates would be best to drive it. You can’t do all these without a strong party’s structure. The PDP that used to be a winning machine was manipulated out in the last couple of elections because of some inexperienced people in the saddle. So, to be able to approach the next election properly, it is necessary to get the right calibre of people. Square pegs in the square holes and round pegs in the round holes and then, on that foundation, we start preparing for 2023. So, it is not unusual, it is normal that we should be able to look one another in the eyes and say this is where we want the party to be.
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Are you still aiming to become the chairman of the party, or have you seen a credible candidate to lead the party into the 2023 election?
Let me be emphatical and let me pledge to those that like me, those who always appreciate me for who I am that I am forever grateful for their support. However, I want to say emphatically that I am not interested in the chairmanship of the People’s Democratic Party. I am just regaining my sanity from the mental torture and the pain I went through in the hands of the APC-led federal government and I think that there must be a time to prepare properly and get yourself ready for the challenges ahead. So, for those reasons, I am not interested in the chairmanship of the party.
But there are quite a lot of capable hands who can provide that leadership. I believe for a change that the leadership of the party should move to the South West. I believe very clearly that in the South West we have people like Chief Bode George. We have Oyinlola Olagunsoye. Yes, I have heard Jegede (Eyitayo Jegede) mentioned as one of the possible candidates from the South West. So, if we have to look at it, we have competent people who can lead the PDP to the election in 2023 from the South West. Any geopolitical zone you decide to pick from, you will find people that are committed, loyal, and willing to ensure victory for the party.
So, you are not supporting the call for the PDP to present a candidate from the South ast in 2023?
The South East cannot win the election for the PDP that is just the truth of the matter. I don’t beat around the bush; I treat issues as they are and as I understand them. There is no candidate from the South East, even I dare say there is no candidate from the South that you put in the North today that will be able to win. It is going to be a humongous challenge.
If we are the Nigerians, I want us to be, if we believe in the unity of Nigeria and we also believe in equity, justice, and fairness, there is no reason we should not give it to the South East if the slot is given to the South. However, is there equity, justice, and fairness in Nigeria’s politics? The answer is NO! So, don’t let us over flog the matter. I think that whoever emerges as the president of Nigeria would have to compensate the people of the South East if truly, we want the emergence of the new Nigeria.
Do you mean that the PDP should seek its candidate for 2023 from the North?
That is what I have stated!
Won’t that deny the people of the South another eight years?
It depends on your arithmetic and what you are looking for. I belong to the Peoples Democratic Party and not the APC. So, the APC is free to do whatever they want to use as a strategy. In 2015, we presented a Southern candidate while they presented a Northern candidate and they were said to have won. So, what is wrong with us presenting a Northern candidate now while they present a Southern candidate? In the PDP, you are aware of the fact that President Obasanjo had a full eight years as a Southern candidate; he was succeeded by Umar Yar’adua, a northern candidate. Yar’ adua used two and half years during his tenure and the remaining of his tenure was used by Jonathan, who did another four years, making a total of six years for Jonathan. And since then, we have not had a candidate from the North. So, the North is still in deficit of the presidency if we are to look at it. Some people decided to be abstract but I am a scientist that is why I have taken it how it is. So, if you aggregate them, you can see that there is still a deficit in favour of the North. So, that should be part of what PDP should put into consideration. I don’t care about the age of the candidate but the experience, the capacity, the knowledge about Nigeria and the ability to unify this country.
The fact that President Buhari is adjudged to be a complete failure does not mean that every Northerner is a failure; it is just a lack of policy. Even during the military regime, Buhari was a complete failure but those who brought him and decided to force him on Nigerians owed Nigerians explanations on why they brought him. A leopard does not change its skin. Buhari can’t change his capacity, he was limited and that was why he was overthrown in 1985. So, bringing him back was just to rubber stamp that failure. We are able to find liberal Northerners, competent ones that are able to fraternise irrespective of the religious, tribe, and political differences and unify this country. So, our main aim is to get the person who can unify Nigeria.
You have quite spoken about the presidency. Maybe we should just talk about it more. What is your assessment of the last six years of the APC government?
I believe that Nigerians are in a better position to give the assessment but if you ask me, I will tell you that the government has performed woefully. It is a complete failure in every aspect of governance. The policies, the decisions that Nigeria needs in order not to go into poverty were reversed by those that are in power now when they were once at the helm of affairs and now, they are going back to them at a huge cost.
But the APC claims it is clearing the mess created by PDP during its 16-year reign, do you think 6 years is enough to fix this?
It is politics. If I want power, I must have a clear vision of what I want to achieve. It is not about giving excuses because you were given power to fix those things. Since they got power, what have they achieved? There have been excuses galore, pointing fingers at people but in most cases, they are lies. They have misled this country with their propaganda, lies and deceit in every aspect. They are blackmailing people with those lies but that is not what politics is supposed to be. Politics should be about nation-building, that I have offered myself to contribute to the development of the country and I should do so to the best of my ability.
The issue of insecurity and perceived inequalities have made some groups call for the breakup of the country. Do you think it is the right time for Nigerians to go their separate ways?
No, I think the agitators are absolutely wrong. I believe they even need medical attention. I believe that they are sick in their brains. This is not the time to break up the country. I was born into one united Nigeria and by the grace of God; I will fight for the continuous existence of Nigeria until I die.
What was it like going through a corruption trial before the Court of Appeal upheld your no-case submission?
It was very tortuous, it was very painful and most unfortunate that the people who were perpetuating that evil knew that they were not right but they said ‘it is politics’; that you want to destroy a fellow human being like yourself that you want to ruin a family because you want to achieve your goal. That is not justice. It is not what politics is about.
I salute the courage of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who attended the wedding of Buhari’s son. In politics, we can have differences in opinion but the common goal must be the development of our country, not the destruction of another person. I pray that the PDP comes back so it can show maturity and class by not toeing that rough and irresponsible path of the APC.
There are suggestions that you are asking the PDP to zone the presidency to the North in 2023 because you are supporting the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Am I stopping anybody from supporting whoever they want? I stand firm to state that Atiku Abubakar is the candidate to beat in 2023. He is competent, he is a liberal northerner, who is ready to sacrifice. He is not coming there to amass wealth or looking for a name. He is coming to serve Nigeria. He is religion-tolerant, tribal-tolerant to all parts of the country. I don’t know of any state or major town in Nigeria that Atiku can’t boast of more than 10 friends, so, that is the calibre of person to lead Nigeria. I offer Atiku to Nigerians for them to see a clear difference between him and the president that is there now.