PDP-logo

Dr. Emmanuel Agbo, an engineer by profession served two terms as the chairman of Benue State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). A top contestant for the office of the Deputy National Secretary of the party in the botched national convention of August 17, 2016, Agbo was equally  the chairman of the Conference of PDP Chairmen. In this interview, the PDP chieftain dwells on the leadership tussle tearing the party apart, insisting that it was being instigated by the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).

Excerpts:

As a key stakeholder of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), how worried are you that the party failed twice in three month to hold an elective national convention to put in place its new leadership due to internal squabble? How did the party degenerate to this level?

Well, it is my honor and pleasure to have you here. First, I want to say when as you read along the lines comments that had to do with the present state of affairs within the PDP and words like having degenerated and all of that are used, for some of us we take exception, not because you used it now, but because I think it has come up too often and as an insider, knowing fully well that the party has in no way degenerated to any form. It is just public perception. People staying outside and thinking there is a recline or a decline based on what they see happening within the party. And so I feel very, very happy that this is an opportunity that what looks like the real state of affairs of the party could be presented to the people. First, the Peoples Democratic Party, having lost elections like any other political party anywhere in the world, membership as at when we held sway were made up of those who were convinced by the principles of the party; those who believed in the party and were going to be members of the party, notwithstanding whatever the party found itself and fair-weather politicians who one, don’t even have the characteristic or charisma of party building; but because politics is the in-thing and out of joblessness they found themselves within the system or the spheres of the political class, and those are the people that are very easily available to peddle lies and rumours from one place to the other to gain favour. When we lost and power was no longer there; there is no lie for you to peddle from point A to point B to earn them any favour, they moved in droves. A few of those particular ones left. And for me, it’s good riddance to bad rubbish, because at that point we now know those who were actually and properly PDP in content and context, who are prepared to stay back, reorganize, rebuild and reposition the party at all levels for victory. But much more than repositioning the party for victory because of the new role we found ourselves today, they are prepared as members of the party playing that role, to present an alternate platform for Nigerians. And while doing that ensure that the government of the day presides over the collective will and aspirations of our people within the tenets of acceptable democratic practices everywhere in the world. There are those who did not leave as at when we lost in the first two, three months, and not sooner than four, five, six, seven months and the party that is in power had what you can give the pegs of offices based on the electoral victories that they had. They had done all the appointments and nothing what left to be given. Those who had not moved at the time, now said even those who moved before us are not being patronize, so what are we joining them for? That is the third class of people who still felt and say okay let’s stay back. Them staying back their positions were being consolidated as to stay within the PDP by the daily failings and failures of the APC administration that couldn’t come to terms with governance of a multi-lingual, very complex state like Nigeria. Once there was no economic policy to address the fall in the oil from the international circle, once there was no policy coordination, there was no direction being given and very critical offices that those in the helms of affairs are supposed to actually be well grounded in those offices is in terms of being very knowledgeable, unfortunately the APC made it things for those who contributed towards the elections or whatever for the success.

You haven’t answered my question as to whether you are disturbed by the situation the PDP found itself at the moment where it could not elect its new national officers from two conventions in three months?

Honestly and frankly, Dr. Agbo Emmanuel is not worried. I am sure that will surprise or shock you. But I state it deeply from my hearts of hearts that Dr. Agbo Emmanuel is not worried.

Why are not worried?

I will tell why. The failings of the government of the day in addressing critical issues affecting Nigerians have always be placed on the doorsteps of the Peoples Democratic Party. They’ve not been able to do any single thing; it has been the PDP. That they took one full year demonizing the Peoples Democratic Party to the extent that Nigerians themselves who rose along that line with them today are telling them, look, this blame game must be over; enough of the blame games. They are igniting the judiciary and unfortunately a few of those who agree to play to their whims and caprices, to give judgements that will destabilize the process within the PDP. The onus is on PDP to continue to let the nation and the international community understands that in 16 years the party governed with one cardinal principle – the ultimate supremacy of the rule of law as the bastion of a true democratic state. And so, today in opposition we can’t be lawless. It is an entrenched principle in our constitution for clear separation of power and an independent judiciary whose pronouncements and judgements must be respected. And so, if we are keeping to the tenets, and our belief in one of the very foundations for the creation and establishment of the democratic party in Nigeria the rule of law and upholding judgements of the judiciary, it cannot worry me. Whatever and whoever found himself in this game what is not to the advantage is time. And I know based on the quality of distinguished and eminent Nigerians that brought themselves together albinitio for the formation of the party; those that have garnered experience in the management of both party and men over the last sixteen years; who have stayed and remained within the party, we don’t need more than one year once eventually the leadership is put together at the centre to again mobilize Nigerians to take maximum advantage of the absolute catastrophic failures of the present day administration. And so, if anybody thinks that, yes, as they move in and out of court it is going to destabilize us, I have one good news for such person that these court processes definitely like any other thing that has a beginning will also have an end.

From the way you are sounding it does appear you want to agree with those that have said APC has a hand in the PDP crisis?

It is not the issue of whether I agree with them. Once the theatre of war for the supremacy and leadership of characters in APC was pulled off, the rug was pulled off their feet as far as who was to be chairman of BoT or no BoT, a party that is in government, a party that put themselves together and providing leadership does not have a conscience because the Board of Trustees is supposed to be the conscience of every party. And having failed to provide that platform for their membership to do a contest and come out with a leader at that level, once the party said no we no longer have a BoT, there will be no chairman of BoT and all of that, the theatre of war of leadership by those characters moved into looking for who are willing tools in the hands of the PDP to manifest that supremacy. You may not be able to understand what I am telling you. But that is the absolute truth. To the extent that we ourselves know that some of the people who are running for frontline positions within the PDP are being sponsored by APC members. But you see the good thing is, not only that the leadership in PDP is aware of this, the delegates are aware. And if we had had an elective convention, both their pay fathers and themselves would have been totally very disappointed because they would have been rejected. This time there’s absolute resolve on the part of both leadership and followership of the party to recreate itself in a way and manner that those we believe are 100% PDP takes leadership. So, it is not an assertion by group of people that APC have a hand or does not have a hand. But what I’m saying is we see the hand clean and clear. It is very clear that not only are we seeing the hand, but the hand to the face and we know who those faces are. But of course it is not for us to jump to the rooftop and say, Mr A we see you standing behind Mr B and say please go leave our party alone and all of that because we know we have the mechanism to be able to say no to such a person through the ballot box.  

The convention having being aborted, the party leadership or party NEC decided to extend the tenure of the current caretaker committee by one year. Do you have the assurance that within this period, the entire problem of the PDP would have been resolved and the emergence of a new leadership guaranteed?

Again, I want to let you know that the PDP has no problem.  I think what you should be able to say is that would the judicial process down to the Apex Court or the Supreme Court where it is being expected that at least a clear direction based on constitutional provisions, both the constitution of the Peoples democratic Party and the constitution of the federal republic. When the apex court will now have given judgement as to whether the one single man who says I must continue to be leader of your party or the person through all acceptable means that are within our constitution had been followed and a team had been put to preside over us, of these two which one is your true leader. And once that clearly comes out, let me not preempt judicial pronouncement and judgement, it is as clean and obvious as anything. That confirmation will come very soon. As we move higher the ladder of the Nigerian judiciary, one thing has clearly stood out that the judiciary at the levels of the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court have done Nigeria great in terms retention of the independence of the Nigerian judiciary; in terms of absolute and total refusal to be hoodwinked into giving judgements that will destroy democracy in this country. We have seen it in the past. They have shown that when you reach these two topmost levels of the judiciary, it is comparable to the independence that the judiciary has anywhere in the world. They’ve demonstrated that and we have absolute confidence that based on facts that are available to that level, they refused any form of intimidation by any government that has passed through governance in the country in the last 16 years and they are still upholding that same universal qualities that distinguish judicial judgements and pronouncements. That is the point at which we are now going. The point at which unfortunately judiciary may be speaking from two sides the mouth, we are crossing that stage to the stage at which we know that the justices that are elected into this very high and honourable court have uphold their firm independence and made pronouncements that stand the test of time.

Knowing fully well that you can’t predict how long judicial cases would take, don’t you think at this point the most appropriate thing to do is to resort to genuine reconciliation where the warring factions would have to come together on a round table and resolve the issue once and for all?

In the last three months moving from May, the aborted convention in May where convention said look, in keeping with our resolve to continue to respect the law and judgements of court; the judgement that we have against this convention is not that we should not hold convention, but that certain positions should not be contested. And we said ok, don’t even contest into any position at all since you will not have the full complement of an NWC (National Working Committee). Let there now be a caretaker because we have the authority at the level of that convention to that. In the same vein, the constitution of the party gives convention the power to dissolve the whole exco or isolate and remove only one person and say you are no longer a holder of this office. You understand. And that we did. The truth is even if you are only 20 days in office and there is a convention after that twenty days and the convention says you are gone, you are gone! Even if the convention is just one year after that; even if the convention was not supposed to be an elective convention, as long as the convention is officially constituted and it singled you out or the entire exco, the convention as the highest organ of the party has the power to so do. And so, once all holders of offices by that convention were dissolved, as far as I am concerned that executive had gone, whether they had any one day left or not. And not to say that if they had days left why would I, Dr. Agbo be moving motion in NEC for three months extension. Somebody who thinks that he still has days left in office, you are claiming that your office is supposed to terminate in 2017 and you are in 2016 at the expiration of the tenure, you brought an executive motion for extension of time. I don’t know. Can you reconcile this? You sit in office at the expiration of your time, you accepted that that time is expired. You convocated NEC that pending convention, they should give you extension – an executive motion. And I, taking this interview with you here, Dr. Agbo Emmanuel, moved that motion in NEC for the extension.

For the extension to when?

To May for us to be able to do the convention because the tenure as far as we are concerned, around February or March it would have ended.  I had to clear this up so that the issue of somebody standing up today, tomorrow and say my tenure is in 2017. You don’t give yourself tenure. Tenures for organisations, particularly, political party are drawn from the constitution of the party. As one who has been part of this process while I served as State Chairman and Chairman of the Conference of State Chairmen and with the role God used some of us to have played in the stabilization process within that period, I find it very funny when people now stand up to say there is a tenure that is elapsing some times in 2017. Is it in the moon or in the sky? So, for me, I just need to use this platform to get that absolutely clear and now when you come to the question of reconciliation, notwithstanding that albinitio there should have been no basis for us to be talking about reconciliation at all because this thing is clear. You are supposed to be presiding over people, having exhausted your tenure, and you came into a convention, a convention that you accepted, a convention that he presented himself to the screening committee a day before. When it became obvious that if elections are done the following day you may not win, what you now say is let the convention not hold. I don’t want us to go into all of that. But let us pick from that May till now. You may remember that while the (May 21) convention was going on in Port Harcourt, we have a group of party elders too who organized their own parallel convention in Abuja. What the (Ahmed Makarfi) caretaker committee did was to extend hands to the two groups – those that held convention in Abuja (Prof. Jerry Gana group) and those who left Port Harcourt and say let there should be no convention in Portharcourt (Ali Modu Sheriff group). You remember that they (Sheriff faction) were in Port Harcourt. The very first press conference they gave was in Port Harcourt, purportedly suspending the convention. Where in the constitution of the PDP does the national chairman draws the power to singlehandedly say the convention should no longer hold. Now in the convention of August, every person that was in the Abuja convention was in Port Harcourt. How did it come? In fact, they were in all the committees. Not only were they in all the committees, they ran for nearly all the positions which were thrown open to everybody and they were willing and prepared that whatever the result of that convention they were ready to accept it. They were still part of the decision-making for the extension of the convention. The question I want to ask you, if genuine reconciliatory efforts were not made, will these people come? The same way that overtures were made to those that had convention in Abuja in May, so was it also made to those that left Port Harcourt.  So, the question to ask is, if somebody was willing and prepared to allow for a middle point arrival, in terms of a point of consensus, a point of agreement from where the party will take off, that three months was much more than enough, if it was enough for this other group to wholly without any exception accept in the overall interest of the party to find themselves playing the role that all of did play in the last convention why singled yourself out to say it shall never be, if truly you are acting unprompted. Those who out of principles felt that some certain things were wrong that nobody instigated their actions it was easy for us to come to the same terms with them and all of them were in the convention with us. So, when you say that let us not wait for judiciary, it is not us because you can clearly see now that 99.99% of the totality of leadership and membership of the entire Peoples Democratic Party are on one side. All members of the national assembly, Senators, House of Reps, all the 13 governors of the party, all state chairmen and their executive councils and committees, all local government excos down to the wards in the 36 states of the federation including Abuja are all on one side.