Chief Okey Muo-Aroh, an Abuja-based legal practitioner could better be described as a political gadfly, a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who aspired and won a landslide victory to the chair of Idemili North Council in 1998-2003. He admits he knows the political terrain of Nigerian very well, as well as that of the PDP and what is required to repackage and reposition the party at a time like this.
He spoke to CHUKS COLLINS in Awka, on why he wants to lead the Publicity machinery of the party now. Excerpts:
Can you say that the management of the Boko Haram issue under the PDP watch has been so far so good?
Yes, things in that wise have not been as everyone would have wished. However, its’ not out of weakness, except that the challenge has been unusual and unexpected. The perpetrators have agenda other than political. Because a close study of the Boko Haram scourge which says its anti western education and modernity has not proved what they used to pretend to profess. They had never attacked any school. Their targets had been individuals, poor men and women who assemble under their various places of worship; which leaves them very vulnerable. A suicide bomber is a very difficult customer to deal with. But from every indication the way out is to massively infiltrate their ranks through high level intelligence network to upstage them and their plans. You can see that some top officials are involved. The Federal Gov’t is already doing that as could be seen from the permutations of the 2012 budget-proposals. Though from my personal perspective something is still missing – there is certain degree of tentativeness on the part of the governments, the opposition and the entire nation who see it from the actual viewpoint. Some see as very serious, while some don’t. But the real solution would emerge once everyone starts seeing it that everyone is a target; hence need to take the battle to the doorsteps of the perpetrators. If we continue to see as attacks on churches/churchgoers, or policemen, then the palpable fear and the mounting deaths would continue. And I am very afraid that soon there would be reprisals and copy-cats, especially when people see themselves as unfairly targeted and perhaps seemingly unprotected. The Boko Haram come from somewhere, funded and maintained by some persons who gain and benefit from their acts. Let’s dig into the very existence of these links and network.
Various reforms under the PDP:
It’s unfair to blame the PDP for not tackling Health, Roads, Electricity, Agriculture, and so on, effectively so far. We all saw the level of decay of these sectors as inherited by the PDP administration from the military. The party came in basically to fight the known evil of instability. When we founded PDP in 1998 our basic aim was to set up a mass movement that would extricate Nigeria from the stranglehold of the military and their errand boys. You realize it was not with a strict ideology, but rather an eccentric coalition of diverse interest groups, individuals and bodies whose so interest was to capture power. And when the power came in 1998, the gov’t was led by a retired army General. His administration almost went against the grain of the original concept of PDP. One cannot ignore the military background and tendencies of our former president who in his honest but sometimes mistaken zeal compromise certain democratic standards. So in effect, the society, PDP inherited was one that needed a one-on-one solution of its problems In the face of scarce resources. You will agree with me that the issue of Telecommunication is no longer a topic in this country. It was successfully tackled under the PDP watch. I believe the present arrangement in Power sector reforms will definitely transform that sector and give Nigerians steady electricity. You will realize the situation in Power and Telecommunications sectors are not the same. There is the cartel that forms the core staff of the Power Holding Company distribution of generators, whose resistance to change in the sector is now becoming legendary. Ti is clear the billion dollar generating sets import business would be dislodged if the reforms in the sector become effective. For example where I live in Abuja, I have no generating set because we have 18hours steady power. I believe with the FG reform agenda firmly taking foothold in air transport (aviation), education, agriculture, road construction and so on, good things will go round. The FG has to a large extent provided the regulatory framework for the success of the private sector and would in tandem with the prevailing global phenomenon limit itself to a manageable level and private sector, encouraged to participate very actively. It’s the private sector that drives the employment boom; then the FG being father Xmas to all will be gone. That is why till date the FG remains the largest employer of labour in Nigeria instead of the other way round.
PDP and the opposition; so far so good?
PDP as a party has done very well, because considering the share number of electoral success – from councilors to council chairman, to state/National assemblies, governors and the presidency. It has sustained the winning streak since 1998 till date and it will continue. For example, see in the last governorship election in Kogi, for want of better things to say one of the parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) told Nigerians on a national television that PDP has abandoned the use of Political thugs, use of Police and army to effect rigging and has gone into scientific rigging. Despite an overwhelming propaganda by the numerous opposition parties, the PDP trounced them round and square. Politics is not rocket science, and any one who knows Kogi state well in the last couple of years will attest that it came out well under PDP in the provision of infrastructures No one would open the pages of any newspaper without the Progressive exploits of Governor Godswill Akpabio, Sullivan Chime, Murtala Nyako or Patric Yakowa and so on. The snag is that the party’s central publicity machinery apparently unwittingly yielded so much space to the opposition which then made it look like the party at various levels and state are not effective or active. That is the area we want to address when we have the opportunity of the publicity position of the party’s mandate.
Crisis within the party
I don’t exactly know what you mean by crisis in PDP. Politics is a contact game and by the nature interests, opinions and ideas clash. So it is naturally laden with disagreements and controversies. But what is important is to what degree were the crisis managed and controlled. It’s only a party of PDP statute that could manage well the tense controversy surrounding its last presidential nomination. Any other party would have gone under in the process. PDP managed it well and came out stronger and saw the incumbent getting the greatest electoral margin of votes ever in this country. There are crises in some local branches of the party. Such is expected especially where every one believes that the access to the machinery of party would give him unhinged access to power. So in Anambra, Ogun and Bayelsa you can situate the disagreement on the political interest in the diverse interests in those areas/states.
Way out of the crisis?
Let’s hold on to constitutional democracy, avoiding impunity and ensuring it adheres to its own laid-down policies in doing its business. The greatest gift PDP would give to Nigerians is to ensure that politics is open to its widest limit through entrenchment of equity and justice among members. There should also be a level of consistency in the application of laid down agreement which may not necessarily be written but generally accepted to be the norm in the conduct of political business.
The issue of zoning and rotation of offices must be clearly spelt out, and modalities of its application specifically defined. This is to avoid the unnecessary speculations and innuendos that attended its application in recent past. Things must be clearly spelt out to avoid any form of ambiguity.
Hopes for 2012:
We have big prospects, because having read through the FG and States budget proposals for the year one would decipher they are committed to touching lives of citizens better this year through better security, safer business environment, more economic progress and abundant life etc.