Dr. Umar Ardo is a gubernatorial aspirant in the 2011 PDP Primaries in Adamawa State and also a major contender to Governor Murtala Nyako. In this interview, the master strategist and politician spoke about the recent contentious local government election in the state, he also spoke about the alleged culpability of the PDP National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola in the state PDP crisis and other sundry issues in the state PDP.
What are the fundamental issues in the Adamawa PDP crisis?
To me, the issues are purely on acts of impunities and lawlessness in the operation of party affairs by mainly the leadership of the party; although members too have their blames. These include breaching Article 14.5 of the PDP Constitution in the formation of the dissolved EXCOs in the state way back in 2006 as the foundational base of the problem; then the obdurate refusal to conduct congresses in 2008 in accordance with the party constitution; then the ignoring of INEC’s Letters on the conduct of the congresses and repeating same in 2012; there is also the contemptuous disregard of 4 major Stakeholders resolutions for the conduct of these congresses; then lately the ignoring of the directives of the NWC against the conduct of the last LGC’s Primaries. These are on the party side. On the government side, there is the ignoring of Court Orders and Injunctions on the conduct of the LGC’s elections by the Adamawa State Independent Electoral Commission. While a Court Injunction restraining the Commission from holding the Local Government elections was in force, the Commission went ahead to draw up elections’ timetables, made press statements,, screened candidates, recruited Ad hoc staff, continued to make public announcements that the date of the election still stands and declaring Friday 23th November as a Public Holiday for workers to go back home to vote the next day. The only public office that worked on that Friday throughout the state was the very court whose order was disobeyed. It sat to remove its order after being criminally violated by the executive branch; and ignoring the letter of a duly constituted Caretaker Committee of the PDP withdrawing the list of PDP Nominees from the Commission for the Local Government election. Another aspect which though not directed connected but of serious significance to the issues at hand is the absolute silence of INEC on the status of its letters to the PDP. INEC cannot send letters that are central to the crisis that is threatening to tear the very foundation of the party and the commission to keep complete silence on the matter as if it did not write these letters. INEC owes the country a responsibility to state its position on its letters to the party. Its current silence is hypocritical, unhelpful and unacceptable.
To me these are the fundamentals of the crisis, though I know others input underneath power tussles among some key power blocks in the state. Yes, the tussles may be there, but I can assure you that in the context of today’s politics in Adamawa these tussles are only incidentals and not the fundamentals.
A few weeks ago, things seemed to be going well for the opposition and against the Governor in the party at the state, but all of a sudden the governor bounced back and seems to be getting his way all through. What happened?
Well I do not know whether he is getting his way all through. The only thing he seemed to have gotten his way is the admission of his doctored list by the state INEC as PDP Nominees in the LGACs election. Nothing else, but even this can be easily upturned if very concrete court action is taken by an interested party.
But how did this admission come about when you said the Caretaker formally wrote to the Electoral Commission withdrawing the list earlier submitted by the defunct EXCO?
It is my belief that the admission came by as a result of two incidents; whether they are correlated or independent of each other, I cannot say. The first was a meeting of the Caretaker Committee along with two PDP Stakeholders from Adamawa State, former Sanator Zwingina and one Walin Ganye, summoned, we were told, by Mr. President’s Chief of Staff along with Mallam Abba Dabo, the Political Adviser of the Vice President at the Legacy House, the official PDP Presidential Campaign Office. In the meeting the Caretaker Committee was told in no uncertain terms that the PDP must participate in the LGC’s elections at the date already fixed by the state Electoral Commission. This basically means admitting the doctored list of Governor Nyako. Since that meeting, things started to take different and in fact strange turns. On the day after the Legacy House meeting, Thursday 22nd November, a letter addressed to the Chairman Adamawa State Independent Electoral Commission forwarding names of PDP Nominees for the LGC’s election, ostensibly signed by the National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola surreptitiously came into circulation throughout the state. The letter first came to light when the Governor displayed it to his supporters at the Yola Airport on his return from Abuja that day. Thereafter, it was photocopied in thousands and distributed to virtually every Unit center in the state as proof of authority for the PDP to participate in the Local Govt elections. But there are many serious and reasonable questions to doubt the validity of this letter.
What are these serious questions?
Let me answer your question by listing my thoughts in the following manner. If the letter was not written, back dated, signed and issued, why was the NWC silent on it for over a month, from 12th October to 22nd November while serious controversy on the issue raged?; The letter contradicts the statements of the National Publicity Secretary (NPS) of the party of the 17th October, 5 days after it was allegedly written. Both before and after the so-called primaries, the NWC, through the NPS rejected the entire exercise and warned the defunct state EXCO not to proceed with the exercise; Oyinlola’s October 12th letter was dated Friday 12th October and officially received by the State Independent Commission on Saturday, 13th October 2012. But curiously, while the Councilors’ primaries for two Senatorial Districts officially ‘took place’ on Wednesday 3rd October, that of the Council Chairmen officially ‘took place’ on Sunday, 14th October. How could a letter of 12th October contain list of nominees whose election officially ‘took place’ on 14th October, 2 days after it was purportedly written?; The letter also conflicts with the announcement of the defunct State EXCO which stated that primaries would take place only in the Southern and Central Senatorial Districts and not in the North because of the security situation there. Oyinlola’s 12th October letter contains nominees for all the 226 Wards and 21 LGAs of the state. How could the letter forward names of Councilors’ Nominees whose election was officially not conducted?; If the 12th October letter was indeed genuine, why should the NWC thereafter accuse the state EXCO on 17th October of disregarding its directives on the conduct of the Local Government Primaries, castigate the EXCO on same and dissolve it in consequence? Clearly, the contents and purpose of the 12th October letter and the text of the resolution of the NWC on the dissolution of the Kugama-led State EXCO are mutually contradictory. The letter was purportedly written before the dissolution, but oddly enough it was never brought to the notice of the State Caretaker Committee duly constituted by the NWC; the letter came to light after the withdrawal of PDP Nominees from the State INEC by the Caretaker Committee on 13th November on two grounds; first, that the primaries were not authorized by the NWC which constitutionally reserves that power, and secondly the Nominees were themselves not elected through a democratic process. If the Oyinlola letter was there since 12th October, how could the Caretaker Committee then write the State INEC and withdraw the list forwarded by the National Secretary of the party on behalf of the NWC? My believe of the truth is that the letter was written, backdated and submitted to the State INEC in a way and manner that cannot but be ill-intended. All these would seem to boil down to one thing: – the letter is factually false and its purpose mutually contradictory to earlier and later positions of the NWC. Clearly, the perpetrators of this act are unmindful of the dear ‘need to raise this country to the highest level of moral dignity’ in the conduct of public affairs as enshrined in the Preamble of the PDP Constitution. The cumulative results of such misdemeanors constitute the greatest threat to our country. Let us remember that what is morally wrong cannot be politically right. What we in Adamawa want cleared is the truth of the 12th October letter. Was the letter genuine or forged? If it was genuine, was the letter written and backdated by National Secretary or was it written and signed on October 12th? If it was not genuine, then let the National Secretary come out and deny his involvement, in which case the NWC should institute, a committee to investigate and bring to book those behind the ugly incident. And if the National Secretary actually wrote and signed the letter, then let him come forward and defend it against all the manifest incongruities. If he cannot, then he should resign his office as the National Secretary of the party. If he refuses, then the NWC should come out and disassociate itself from the October 12th letter and convene a meeting of the NEC of the party to consider the issue and take appropriate action against all involved in the scam. For exactly that is what it should be seen to be – a BIG SCAM. Such a serious issue is a grave threat to our democracy and to the general well being of our country and should not be swept under the carpet.
What do you do with the ‘elected’ Council Chairmen and Councilors already in place?
As I said earlier, this can only be dealt with by the courts if those with locus standi on the matter decide to approach the courts or tribunal. Let me tell the world that other than the impunities committed by the state government and the disregard of court orders, the Governor Sworn-in the ‘elected’ Local Government Chairmen around 7:30am on Monday 26th November without waiting for a formal declaration of results, pronouncement of winners and issuing of certificates by the Electoral Commission. It is only 5 days later those results for Councilors were formally announced. It certainly sounds unbelievable, but you better believe it – it is what happened in Governor Nyako’s Adamawa.
What do you expect of the Caretaker Committee of the party in the state?
We expect the committees at all levels to be open, sincere and transparent. By the party constitution, the caretakers have a maximum term of 3 months. This means that minus the 21 days of court injunction, its term will end on 6th February. So they have very little time left to attain their mission, central of which is the conduct of free, fair, transparent and credible congresses for the election of the party EXCO at the ward, LGA and state levels. This is the only thing that can resolve the crisis in the state. They must not only make a clear departure from the impunities and dishonesty of the dissolved EXCO but must be clearly seen to have done so. To this end, Adamawa people need to see their programmes in very specific terms … like timetables and timelines for membership registration, standardization of registers, conduct of congresses at the ward, local govt and state organs. We need to see such details as number of registers and membership cards obtained from the National Secretariat, their mode and manner of distribution; dates, time and venues of registration. We also expect to get details of time, ways, manner, mode and places of obtaining forms, including fees and modes of payment, for various party offices for interested aspirants into party EXCO. These entire plus a whole lot more are being expected by the Adamawa people from the Caretaker Committees at all levels.
I know you have a court case against the nomination of Governor Nyako as the PDP’s Gubernatorial Flagbearer. What is the state of the case?
The case is for judgment at the Court of Appeal, Yola. No matter whose side the judgment went, the matter will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. That I know for sure. The lesson the nation should draw from the case no matter how it ends is that Pre-election (Party Nomination) cases are as important as the post-election cases. But while the Electoral Act gives due importance to post-election cases by stipulating for Election Tribunals with specific timeframe to conclude litigations, it regrettably glossed over pre-election or party nomination litigations. The best the law provides is ‘admonishing’ the courts to give ‘accelerated hearing’ to pre-election cases. But from my experience going to courts on pre-election matters, this clause is hardly given effect by the courts. I therefore would need to suggest for the amendment of the Electoral Act to give specific timeframe within which courts should conclude pre-election cases. To this end, I will suggest that the Act should stipulate that party primaries should be concluded and nominees submitted to INEC at least 6 months before general elections. Also, courts should be given 90 days within which to conclude all litigations on pre-election cases. That way the law would be forcing internal democracy within the parties, at least at the nomination process.