Hon Segun Dokun Odebumi is the only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker from Oyo state, representing Ogo Oluwa Surulere Federal constituency and also chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on information and National Orientiation, Ethics and Value. In this interview with REMI OLADOYE, he speaks on reasons why a Northerner should be next PDP chairman and why the party needs an arrangement that will enhance a level playing ground. Excerpts:
There was a meeting recently in Ibadan where it was agreed by some PDP leaders in the South West that a Northern candidate should be supported and few days later some leaders too came out with a proposition that the chairman of the party must come from the southwest, can you tell us what is really happening as a stakeholder in the party from Southwest?
The meeting you are talking about I was aware, I was at the meeting, and there was a pre meeting before that one, where we met the acting national chairman. I was with the leaders of our party and I asked why the decision to back Northern candidate as party chairman. Before I declare support or engage in anything, I always want to know why and from the analyses, I was convinced enough to support the chairmanship of the party coming from the Northern part of the country. We all belief that PDP is a national party and with the present situation in the country, if we go by the outcome of the last election you will realize that the PDP won election in a particular zone of the country and another zone demonstrated their anger with the party with their votes. And for us to bring back those who are angry, there is need for us to carry them along in the move to unite the party and let them see the need for us to come together as a party so that we can bounce back as early as possible by 2019. Presently majority of the governors the party produce are from the southern part of the country and if we have the chairman of the party from that part, definitely the party is going to become a zonal party. And in order to avoid this, we have to blend everything together so that we will have a national outlook. Even if it’s a temporary arrangement, pending the time the presidential candidate of the party will emerge. Why not settle for the chairman of the party coming from the north so that the National Chairman can serve as the breach between the members in the southern and northern region and the governors in the southern part of the region and this will make us function as a national party and we will now work together but after the presidential candidate emerges from the same north, there will be a new arrangement for anybody that comes on board to step down so that we can have a presidential candidate from the north and national chairman from another zone.
But do you think that calculation will work?
Why not, we are talking about a party that is no more in government, a party that is looking for way to get back to that office with all possible means to return to government democratically. So whatever, give and take, so we can agree with each other to make sure we achieve our goal.
The immediate past president of the country Goodluck Jonathan has refused to comment on the issue, don’t you thing he is having some misgivings?
I disagree with the view that he may be having some misgivings about party issue. Presently, whoever is in the shoe of the former president will definitely go silent for now. He may be talking by proxy, he would have a way of getting back to the party, he would have a way of communicating with the public on issues without making noise in the media. He is the leader of the party and I am very sure he will be happy to see his party reclaiming the government seat.
Recently it is being rumored that the acting chairman of the party Sen Ali Modu Sheriff whose tenure will expire in May is also interested in becoming the authentic chairman of the party, do you think he has what it takes to lead the party to achieve results?
There is a story behind what led us to where we are today and as realists, we are the problems of ourselves in PDP. The emergence of Sheriff wasn’t the problem behind the crisis in the party. It was designed and originated by some people, those who designed the crisis never knew that it would be something that will favour Sheriff. And now Sheriff is on board, some are saying he must just spend three months and leave. We are all human beings, when he came on board, some people noticed his charisma, the way he has been moving, especially carrying along the northerners and we concluded the man, if given the opportunity will be able to do exactly what we need to get to win the northern people back to the party. We want somebody that have the charisma, somebody that can be a rallying point, somebody who can call upon some leaders including the former and the present governors, even accessible to the masses. I think Sheriff has that kind of charisma, he is a leader you can call at any time and he would pick your phone without even knowing you before.
Are you in support of Sheriff Now?
I won’t deceive you I am in support of Sheriff , but pending the time that we would have a presidential candidate from the northern part of the country and I want to tell you that even at the NEC of the PDP, we ‘ve all agreed that presidential candidate should come from the Northern part of the country in 2019.
But with the current situation especially with the level of corruption leveled against key members of the party which they described as political persecution, do you think PDP can come back to government in Nigeria even with Sheriff as the chairman.
The issue of coming back to government is not by human power or our making but we will do everything humanly possible and we will leave everything for God to crown our efforts. We need a kind of leadership that will be so difficult for somebody with any material things just like we’ve had in the past. I belief if we try Sheriff, it may be difficult to influence Sheriff with material things. PDP needs somebody who will be firm in taking decision, somebody who will involve others in taking decisions on party matters, and when such is done, he will hold on to it and not compromise. We need a leader that will call a spade a spade and I believe through the little interaction with him, he is the type we need to lead the party.
From your own critical and objective analysis what are the problems of PDP?
When we lost the election we needed to examine and reexamine the cause of our loss. And I wont deceive you, the reasons is simple, we failed to allow the voice of the people be heard on party issues. The only solution is to allow the masses in the party to determine the candidates. I am very optimistic that if the party can come up with a robust policy and a clear democratic arrangement that will enhance a level playing ground for potential candidates, it will go a long way in energizing the party and bring a lot of people on board. This will raise the hope and trust of people in the party and create a situation where you don’t need to lobby or know anybody before you can aspire or become a candidate of the party once you are qualified.
What about the problem of indiscipline?
Indiscipline is a man-made problem and it can be curbed by the kind of leadership. By the time we have a genuine and responsible leader at the helms of affairs, indiscipline will stop because a responsible leader won’t take bribe or encourage corruption.
Will it be apt to say that PDP has a future if all those you mentioned are in place?
With what is going on now and if you analyze what is going on in the country under the present administration, it is obvious that if PDP can get his house in order, we are taking over the government back from APC. I thought it is something that will be long but from the look of things and the situation in the country, come 2019, PDP will take over the government, it is very sure we are going to take over.
Judging the present administration based on the present situation may not be correct because it is too early, Nigerians gave them the mandate of four years and they are yet to spend a year?
The foundation is the most important thing: if you cannot get the foundation right what are you going to build on. The foundation is incorrect so what are you going to build on it that will give hope to Nigerians about the kind of change we are expecting? This is a kind of government where the future is not guaranteed, everybody is working on its own, no coordination, no coherence, we are battling with payments of salaries instead of us to be battling with the developmental projects. Naturally, things are not moving, go and see activities at local governments which is the closest government to the masses, it is dead.
But the APC alleged PDP of creating the problems for them?
Yes, I agree that they accuse the PDP and that was why people voted for them to make things happen in a better way, to bring the kind of change they preached in their campaigns. So, why cant they start the foundation of that change? We are not saying that by now things must have changed totally, but we want to see a kind of foundation that will bring hope. It is not the imprisonment of everybody that will bring hope, even he found everybody to be corrupt, there are ways of doing things that will raise the consciousness of the people on the need to stop corruption and give a time frame for those that took government fund or money illegally to return them within certain period and failure to do so will attract prosecution and punishment, just like an amnesty program. The development will make everybody to adjust. Then you will now focus on building foundation. If you take two years to try the people you found guilty of corruption it will take another four years to lay the foundation of the idea and plans you have to develop the nation. I see Buhari as a new man who is thinking of new way but there should be a way in which he can introduce his new way of life to people. Among the people in the government claiming to be fighting corruption in Nigeria today, there is no saint except Buhari that has some level of integrity.
It is being rumored that Sen Ladoja is being contacted with the intention of returning him to PDP, as a stakeholder can you tell us what is happening in that regard?
It is our duty to contact whoever we feels is important and useful for us in the party, because we want to have a party that is acceptable to all and sundry. Mind you, it can be our wish but we cannot force anybody. Sen. Ladoja, the former governor of Oyo State in his own opinion may have examined and re examined something that will favour him in the future. If he comes to the PDP and if his chances are clear then he will be ready to rejoin the party but if he believes that coming to PDP may not favour him, he may decide not to come to the PDP, but as a party man we want him on board. Senator Ladoja that I know, if he sees a sustainable policies of transparent policy and a structured democratic arrangement in the party he will come, but if it’s a sordid arrangement where those in control of party structures take all and people coming have nothing to benefit, do you think he would want to come?
Assuming the policies which enhance a level playing ground was initiated and he and his followers returned to the party, do you think his coming make the party win elections in the state again’
Why not? The kind of strength of Accord Party combined with that of PDP will give us victory in elections. If the Accord, Labour Party, SDP and PDP are together, do you think APC can defeat PDP in elections?
Away from politics the Minster of State for Petroleum Ibe Kachickwu assured Nigerians that fuel scarcity will be over by May 7, what is your take?
I quite agree with him, the failure of the system caused this problem. Failure in the sense that Nigeria is not refining any product, we were importing fuel for our domestic use. Any moment there is a break in the circuit, it would take us a long period before we cover up. For a government controlled price product, no matter how the constitution, or monitoring or task force you put in place, you cannot cover all part of this nation at a goal but if the product is available, you don’t need to force anybody, those selling black market will disappear because of the availability of the product at the filling.
Do you subscribe to the issue of having private refineries in Nigeria?
Why not, having private refineries will even ease the tension and make the product available for exportation and domestic use.