Dr. Katch Ononuju is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this exclusive interview with MYKE UZENDU, he reveals factors that will determine the party’s presidential flag bearer, the consequences of not restructuring, forces opposed to restructuring and how PDP will handle returning and new members.
What will the PDP be looking out for in their choice of next Presidential candidate for 2019
We are looking for somebody who understands the issues, who will also be acceptable to the generality of Nigerians in regards to expectations.
You know there is the talk about restructuring, the issue of restructuring is central. We believe that the demand has gone on to include political restructuring of Nigeria. We expect a candidate who understands that because that is inevitable and it is very primary in what we are doing.
That’s why you see the initial enthusiasm by some people, among candidates who have expressed enthusiasm to run under the flag of the PDP.
One challenge is that while some aspirants from the North might buy this restructuring clamour, the Talakawas from the North don’t want to hear that word.
It is not true. The Talakawas in the North are mostly the Hausas, they don’t have a political position. The problem on that issue has been among the Fulanis.
The Fulani elites most times are forced by circumstances beyond their control to accede to general demand by critical stakeholders.
If you look at the history of demands in Nigeria, when our father’s came together to demand for independence, it was the Fulanis, not the North that said no.
When it became inevitable, of course they agreed, in 1957 the South was independent, in 1959 the North was independent and in 1960, it was generally agreed.
Then problem occurred when we sought a transition to democracy, it was the Fulani who also resisted, but much later they came on.
When we also sought to democratise the economy through privatisation, they also said no. So in all these issues, they will always resist.
Of course we know why, historically it is the same because they are the only group in the country who still remain what you may call colonial masters over the Hausa people.
In the North, we have the most heterogeneous part of Nigeria, you have the Hausa, who are still not free, you have the Jukun, you have the Fulani, you have Kanuri, you have Nupe, you have Tiv, you have Ebira, you have Birom, you have several different groups in the North.
And none of them says no to this demand for restructuring. It is only the Fulani who says no and they say so because it is their way to post issues.
Now that we have built acceptable consensus in the South with regard to the issue of restructuring, you can see the crises in the Middle Belt, it is now forcing some of their leaders to agree to restructuring.
So our only hold back as you can see is the Fulani, not the Hausa who you refer to as the Talakawa, not the Jukun, not the Kangale, not the Ebira, not the Birom, not the Tiv, not the Kanuri. So we understand this issue.
There is no central northern position on this game, we can get those who are afraid to understand that those changes are also in their own favour.
If they do not restructure, they could lose the North to the Igbo because within a democracy which is the market system struggled across merit lines, you can see today that the Igbos represent a single but economically successful group of Nigerians in the North.
And we believe, our preachment of restructuring simply means a change of the political superstructure in such a way as to allow people to meet the preaching’s by the Sardauna of northenisation, the North for the North, the East for the East, the South for the South, the Southwest for the Southwest so that there will be competition among the geopolitical zones. And when there are competitions, we just see the best.
We are not saying that there should be any change, no. Let us also have political competition based on merit, the way we have economic competition based on merit since after the privatisation of enterprises previously owned by the government.
We do not think that it is a difficult thing for us to sell, no. We know the system, we know the history and we believe that it is inevitable, it is there.
You saw the El’Rufai ways, he and Buhari said no but when they were told that this is inevitable for thing to move, they started making some comments which people said might just be geared towards elections.
You also saw the issue of herdsmen, at the beginning, most of them said no, but now they seems to be agreeing that inevitably, ranching is the way to go. Nothing lasts forever.
We believe that a political structure designed under a unitary military system in the days of dictatorship cannot serve a diverse rural society in a democracy. You have to design new protocol for this period. What worked under the unitary military system cannot be said to also apply and work under a democratic rural system. That’s where we are going to.
PDP is hoping to harvest and welcome old and retuning members. Is it going to be that if they come back, all their sins will be automatically washed away?
It is not an issue for us. There was an attempt to form an alternative political party, the APC. Buhari’s employment of nepotism did not allow that to materialise.
We understand that those who left us to go and form an alternative political platform were not successful. We know that the APC coalition won election, but they were not allowed to form a government, thus their quest to return to us.
We don’t see anything difficult in accepting them, reintegrating them and moving forward. The issue of National progress and development, we understand it.
We are not going to be looking at anything very hard, nothing will be cast in stone, it will be flexible and that’s why you are already hearing that we are ready to accept people.
We have accepted former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, what makes you think that we cannot accept other people. If we have done that in accepting Atiku Abubakar, there is nothing difficult in accepting others who travelled with them.
We shall not be too rigid in forgiving people as they return to our fold. We shall not place different standards for different people.
Do you have any preferred candidate that you feel has all it takes to win the election among those that have shown interest?
No, you know in Nigeria, it is not who shows interest that is primarily chosen, it is who the stakeholders take, that we take and sell. It is normally the stakeholders who sell whoever is agreed upon.
That is why we are saying let us first build the platform before we start talking about who the candidate will be. Now that Buhari’s failure and ineptitude has also started to boost our ranks.
In the North, we have the most heterogeneous part of Nigeria, you have the Hausa, who are still not free, you have the Jukun, you have the Fulani, you have Kanuri, you have Nupe, you have Tiv, you have Ebira, you have Birom, you have several different groups in the North. And none of them says no to this demand for restructuring. It is only the Fulani who says no and they say so because it is their way to post issues.