In this interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, a former Governor of Kano State and a presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, speaks about some of the party’s plans, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Read the excerpt from the interview below;
It’s less than six months to the elections and your party doesn’t have a presidential candidate yet. How can people take your party seriously?
PDP as it stands today as far as the presidential election is concerned, is the only democratic party, especially when you look at it from the angle of presidential aspirants that we have today. And on the other hand, we have APC who from the look of things have got only one aspirant who is the candidate and is also the President. That is not good for democracy and that is not also good for themselves in terms of any general election.
Are you speaking for the APC?
Yes, I am speaking for the PDP. I am analysing the situation as it is today. We have seen it in the past. In 2015, PDP had only one candidate and it lost the election. If you look at it statistically, from 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011, PDP had very competitive (aspirants) at primary elections and winning the general elections in those election years. But in 2015, it decided to print only one form for one person and it lost the election.
And if you look at President Muhammadu Buhari himself, in 2003, 2007, 2011, he was only given a ticket without any primary election and he was losing. But he won the election when he had a very good primary election here in Lagos in 2015. So if you look at it statistically, there is a correlation between a good primary election and winning the general election. That is why I can tell you from my experience, and you can see it over the years from 1999 to date. All the major parties, if they go for primaries, they win the election. If they print one form for one person, they lose the election.
But you cannot use that to judge completely because we will have to go through the primaries and if the President is still running under his party, the APC, that doesn’t translate to him running as the sole candidate will lose.
Exactly, that is what I was saying. If you look at it from the statistical point of view, that is exactly what is likely going to happen in 2019. If you also look at it from the number of presidential aspirants, you can conclude that every strong party like PDP is likely going to have as many aspirants as possible. In any case today, we have over 90 parties in this country and many of those parties are not even known by you or me and of course other Nigerians. They will find it even difficult for one person to say he or she is contesting under the party.
And therefore, the more the aspirants as far as we are concerned, it shows the strength of the party because if people are not sure of winning an election or they don’t have much confidence, nobody will be in a hurry to join that party as presidential aspirants or candidate. So to me, it’s a source of strength. Of course, people may argue that the party leadership and the aspirants should come together and see if some can merge, some can agree to work together in the party during the primaries. And of course, if that is not possible, the most sensible thing to do is to go and have free, fair and credible election which everybody will see and be satisfied that there is fairness, justice and equity and at the end of the day, whoever wins, others will come and join him to campaign to make sure that APC is defeated in 2019.
To make this a little easier, why is it that the PDP has got over a dozen candidates, but we don’t find candidates stepping down for themselves to make it easier for the party to manage, which we have seen happen previously in the north?
You see, normally it doesn’t work out that way. Everything has time. Of course, people are free to go come up as aspirants, people are free to go and buy forms which is good for the party and of course raise some funds for the activities of the party which can be funded from that resources. But as time goes on, I very much suspect and pray that many of us can come together which is still healthy for democracy. But also from my own experience, if you have only two aspirants contesting among themselves, it’s even more difficult to agree because the implication is that those who are friendly to A will be with him and those who very agree with or against B will also join A and vice versa. And you find out that at the end of the day, whoever wins the enemies of A or B and vice versa. You find out that whoever wins, the enemies that are leaving A or B will go out there and make sure that trouble is created unnecessarily maybe because of enmity. Yes, the 12 can be reduced but if you go to 2, it becomes difficult because bitterness, anger comes in.
Do you believe that all the presidential candidates in your party are working in the interest of the PDP because some quarters have come out to say that some of you are moles in the party?
In politics, people will have a different opinion based on their own information, background and understanding of things. It is possible, but I don’t know them. It is possible because we are in the opposition. Government is there to plant anything against the opposition. I will not be surprised if they are amongst us and I hope there is none because I have not heard or seen anyone. I believe that at the end of the day, whether government like it or not, the situation as it is at the ground, delegates will go the venue of our primary election and choose the best. Of course, the best is somebody who is likely going to challenge the incumbent, defeat him and have a government of PDP in this country in 2019.
Is it true that there is this disquiet about where the party’s convention will hold either Port Harcourt or Abuja?
Many people have their own version of the argument. I met some people who said ‘look, in Abuja, we have all the facilities.’ Many of us, the delegates, aspirants live in Abuja and in terms of convenience, Abuja is the best. But on the other hand, we are living in a government that doesn’t understand how to put it mildly. I am sure you remember that recently I wanted to declare, and I followed all the due process. I paid all the fees, I wrote all the papers. Just hours to the declaration, we got an information from the police and from other security agencies that look we have an order from above that the place is not good. Even before we applied, we are aware that many events took place in that particular place. I think our leaders in the party thought and believe that with the level of impunity that we see in government at that level, it will be a wasted effort to even ask them to give us Eagles Square or any other place in Abuja. Therefore, the leadership decided to look round to see the best place. And they thought Port Harcourt is the best in terms of the stadium or the facilities and of course including the hotels and so on and so forth.
Many of us are fine with it because of what we have seen from the government. But if you are talking of convenience, Abuja would have been the best and certainly, that is why the ruling party wants to do their own in Abuja.
There is this school of thought that it may not be necessarily fair that people who have left the party and are coming back such as yourself and some others that left the APC and are coming back to contest and if they get the ticket, some feel that will not be fair because if you don’t stick with the party in 2015, why should you deserve the presidential ticket now?
Every day we are learning. PDP, in my opinion, learnt its lesson. In 2015, PDP was very arrogant. It believed that whatever happens, they would win the elections. They never thought an incumbent government could lose an election. They had at that time, some level of impunity that many of us felt that was not the best way to handle the government, the party and of course the country. That was why we decided to defect to the APC to form the party, to work for the part across the country, mobilise the people and at the end of the day, we won the election.
And of course, PDP learnt its lessons and unfortunately, the hard way. And they started thinking positively. Now as far as I am concerned, PDP now is a better party than it was in 2015.
Unfortunately, APC refused to learn anything. They didn’t understand, and they don’t want to understand to the extent that APC today is the PDP of 2015. And the PDP of today is the APC of 2015.
In fact, there was a swap between the two parties to the extent that in 2015, the entire leadership of those that we call the legacy party, they had to go around the entire part of this country, to meet and plead with us to come and join their party. And under that circumstance, we gave them the benefit of doubt believing that this is a new arrangement, a new party with people of good character and integrity.