By Chukwudi Nweje
Dr Adetokunbo Pearse is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Presidential Campaign Council, and Lagos State Coordinator, Support Groups Atiku / Okowa Presidential Campaign. In this interview, he speaks on the 2023 general election.
The presidential election begins in a few weeks’ time, what is your assessment of the collection of PVCs so far; are you satisfied with what you see?
INEC announced in December 2022, less than 60 days to the 2023 Elections, that it still has thousands of uncollected Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) belonging to Lagos State voters in its custody. Unfortunately, instead of asking people to collect their Cards at the polling unit where they vote; a location with which they are more familiar, INEC still uses its small and cramped offices as collection points. Most of the time people are not sure of the right office to go to in search of their PVC. Also, you still hear of cases of people with non- Yoruba names being given the run around when they attempt to collect their PVC. To say the least, INEC’s performance of service delivery is unimpressive.
The PDP has raised allegations of the APC trying to manipulate voters by demanding their PVC as prerequisite for work and trade permits, what is the true position?
It is common knowledge that APC, the ruling party in Lagos insists that to get a government job, or to secure a Trade Permit, you must not only show your PVC, but you must give APC operatives your PVC number.
The only political party that is allowed to put up a poster or logo in public space in Lagos State is APC. If you are caught showing PDP or Labour Party colours, you will experience intimidation, and maybe physical attack.
Whenever APC has a rally, they close the markets and every trader is compelled to attend the rally. Those who refuse to go to the rally are forced to pay a stiff fine, and may even have their shop closed permanently.
Lagosians are under siege from an APC administration, desperate to win in 2023 by any means necessary.
How do you think the unresolved fracture in the PDP over the issue of the G5 governors will impact the February 28 poll?
The rebellion of the G5 governors will have very little impact on the result of the 2023 Elections. Notice the enthusiastic support and the massive turn out at all PDP rallies. PDP members are sophisticated and independent minded enough to identify with their party, not any individual leader.
By now, everyone can see the contradiction between the rhetoric and the action of the G5 governors.
They hold press conferences denouncing Atiku Abubakar, the National Head of PDP Campaign Team, and Iyiorcha Ayu, the National Leader of PDP administrative structure, and then they go out in the field campaigning for PDP candidates.
Keep in mind that three of the G5 governors; Okezie Ikpeazu, Samuel Ortom and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi are themselves running for Senate under the umbrella of PDP; a fourth one, Seyi Makinde is running for second term as governor also under PDP. The fifth Governor, Nyesom Wike is term limited, he doesn’t seem to care how his vociferous utterances will affect the other four, but it appears the people of River State can see he is a lame duck, on his way out, and are not willing to sink with him.
Nigerians all over as well as those who reside within the states in which the G5 govern understand that the emergence of Atiku as President in 2023 represents liberation from eight years of pain and agony brought about by misrule of the APC administration. The average Nigerian cannot afford to be distracted by squabble and infighting among a few leaders who have lived very comfortable lives throughout these difficult years.
What is your take on the allegations of corruption raised by a former aide of your principal, Atiku Abubakar that he fleeced the country by using Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) between 1999 and 2007?
The allegation by one Mike Achimugu, a disgruntled former aide of Atiku is baseless. If you study the Achimugu video as I have done, you will find that nothing in the presentation implicates Atiku in any wrong doing. Here are my findings: firstly, Atiku merely recommended the formation of the Special Purpose Vehicles. The approval for its formation came from President Olusegun Obasanjo. This means that the SPV was a government instrument, not personal. Secondly, the Directors of the SPV’s were not chosen by Atiku, they were handpicked by President Obasanjo himself. Thirdly, the SPVs were set up to avoid conflict of interest by the Obasanjo government. They were Consulting Companies that would act as buffer between government and those seeking favours from government.
For example, when Gov Joshua Dariye of Plateau State wanted to make a donation to the PDP, he could not do so directly but had to make it to an SPV which would evaluate the legitimacy of the donation. It was because the SPV could not authenticate the legitimacy of the governor’s gift that the governor was found guilty of fraud. Imagine if that donor was able to access the party directly. Without the SPV, the PDP as a party and the Obasanjo government would have been culpable. Fourth, Atiku was not the owner of the SPV’S. In fact, his name was never in the Articles of Association of any of them. Fifth, this particular case has been thoroughly investigated by the EFCC, and Atiku has been exonerated.
So why has it suddenly come up again?
The fact that Keyamo, APC spokesperson is bringing this old issue up few weeks before the 2023 General Elections should be of no surprise to anyone. APC is alarmed that as election day draws nearer, Atiku’s campaign is getting stronger while questions about the physical and mental fitness of Bola Tinubu, the APC Presidential Candidate, is topic of discussion everywhere. These outlandish allegations of financial impropriety against Atiku are acts of desperation.
The APC is afraid. They suspect that the only way Tinubu can defeat Atiku in the 2023 Presidential race is if Atiku is not on the ballot.
Why should Nigerians vote for Atiku, a northern Fulani after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari, another northern Fulani, what happened to the principle of fair play and rotation on which the fourth Republic was birthed in 1999?
There was no such agreement as Rotational Presidency in the 4th Republic.
MKO Abiola ran for President on the Ticket of Social Democratic Party against Bashir Uthman Tofa of the NRC. It was because Abiola was believed to have won the race that the Military government scheduled a re -run after his death exclusively within his geopolitical zone. The re- run which featured Obasanjo of the PDP and Chief Olu Falae of the AD/APP alliance was not a realization that it was the turn of the South West; it was an effort to return Abiola’s victory to its rightful zone. Notice that there was no discussion about the Presidency being rotated to another zone after the 1999 – 2003 term of Obasanjo.
The fact of the matter is that the practice of zoning the Presidency does not exist in the 1999 Constitution. It is an idea which the PDP has embraced within its international structure. Rotational Presidency is one of the major recommendations of the 2014 Constitutional Conference. Anybody who emerges as the Presidential Candidate of a political party, through a democratic primary election is qualified to be voted for, it does not matter what tribe the candidate hails from.
Why has Atiku Abubakar not honoured the invitation of Chatham House to discuss his plans for Nigeria, what is he afraid of?
I suspect that Atiku’s heavy rally schedule is why he has not gone to Chatham House. He is virtually in one state every other day. But in my opinion, Chatham House can wait; Atiku has got his priorities right. The first responsibility at this campaign period is to engage Nigerians in Nigeria, through rallies, Town Hall meetings, and the local media; all of which Atiku is actively doing. The international community is quite familiar with Atiku Abubakar as an international business man, and a statesman.
I’m sure that when he does go to Chatham, he will make us proud. He will be as always; dignified, and Nigerians at home and abroad will hail him as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
What is your expectation at the presidential election, why do you think Nigerians should vote Atiku and not Obi or Tinubu?
My expectation is that Atiku Abubakar will secure a landslide victory. Atiku is the only Presidential Candidate in this 2023 race with a solid base; the north. Peter Obi and Bola Ahmed Tinubu have split the South between them. Atiku is the only candidate who can win a few states in all six Geopolitical zones, and is likely to garner a minimum of 25 per cent in virtually every state. Atiku is the best qualified, the most experienced. His 5-point plan is Nigeria’s best hope for a reinvigorated economy, a safer country come 2023. It is in the best interest of Nigerians to vote for Atiku and not Tinubu or Obi for a number of reasons: Atiku is a former Vice President and has operational experience at both national and international level. Tinubu and Obi were governors of one state, so their experience cannot be compared to that of Atiku. In contrast, Obi, by his own admission is a small-time business man; totally dependent on importation. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is even less qualified than Obi. Tinubu has never run any business; big or small.
Atiku’s 5-point Agenda will help to rebuild Nigeria. His proposal is stronger and more impressive than that of Obi and Tinubu.
Atiku’s 5-point agenda include unity that would ensure unity through fairness; respect for federal character in appointments, actualisation of female and youth quota in appointments. Atiku has opted to run a unity government, consisting of appointees from other political parties. The focus on Education is an antidote to poverty, and youth capacity building as foundation for societal survival into the future.
Through Security, Atiku will prioritise the safety of the citizens and alleviate the conflict between headers and farmers through renewed investment in mechanized farming, and cattle ranching. There will be State Police for Community Security, and enforcement of State laws.
The economy will be boosted through promotion of a private sector driven economy. The economy will be diversified and the states will be empowered to explore, develop and market the mineral resources within their domain. This will reduce dependency on crude oil and promote multiple sources of revenue from gold bauxite, Bitumen, phosphate, uranium, and lithium.
Restructuring is the linchpin to the 5-point agenda. The decentralization of government offices to states will increase access to Federal Government business. No longer will every federal business be transacted only in Abuja. Devolution of powers to the federating units will enable states to determine their own priorities in Education, Health, and Security. The diversification of the economy will reduce dependency on monthly subvention from the Federal Government.