He inherited a political party that was faced with both internal and external crises. In a self appraisal after weathering the storm in his first year in office, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur in an interview with some journalists in Abuja bears his mind on the journey so far. chuks Ohuegbe was there.
There have been media reports of alleged plans to remove you from office by forces within the PDP, most especially the governors.? Sir, how would you react to that?
You just said media reports. That is the point. You know that as democracy deepens in Nigeria, so will people begin to understand that sensationalism is not an act of journalism, but an act of marketing. We all know that once the media touches a story, the facts are almost always turned upside down. That is why sustained sensationalism is not helping our young democracy to grow. That is why I believe that we should all be against gossip journalism, for it stands on the way of strengthening democratic institutions in Nigeria.
I believe that rather than destroy our young democracy, the media has the duty to help nurture it. We shall all agree that this democratic journey cannot happen without a critical media, but criticism should, first and foremost, be based on pursuit of the truth so that citizens should be fed with the facts and truths to enable them make the right judgments and hold their leaders rightly responsible. But gossip journalism, journalism devoid of facts, is journalism that tends to set us backwards rather than move us forward.???????
This is why I have been appealing to the media for a deeper understanding of democracy and how it is better run. This is why I am of the view that if democracy must work in Nigeria, as effectively and efficiently as we desire it, then the media too must be transformed into a partner in progress. As a partner in progress, I think that our media should know that democracy is run by consensus, not by the authority of one person, otherwise it is no longer democracy but dictatorship.
The beauty of democracy is this very fact that different shades of opinion have to compete for attention so that at the end of the day, an aggregate opinion is considered for a well-informed decision to be made. Our media should as a matter of urgency understand that when party members disagree, it does not mean that the party is about disintegrating or is on fire.
In the PDP, we have been disagreeing to agree; and that is the very beauty of democracy. But this is not unique to the PDP alone, it is a universal reality. Political parties all over the world are constantly disagreeing to agree because everybody is allowed to air their views. That is why the PDP has the NWC, the NEC and the Board of Trustees as instruments of airing views and resolving problems and building consensus.
How can I bring internal democracy into our party if that is not done democratically? I know that change is difficult to come by, but I also know that the only lasting change is the change arrived at by consensus. The party runs more effectively because we all put heads together to make decisions. That was what happened when I got elected as the chairman. That was what happened when we resolved to address the problem that causes breakdown of confidence among our members across the states.
It was the same process that guided us when we concluded that the agenda of reconciliation based on Triple R (Reconciliation, Reformation and Rebuilding), should be our main driver in reinventing the PDP. That is why I have come to the PDP to fight and bring back justice, equity and progress.
So, are you aware of any plan to remove you as the chairman of PDP?
I read about the plot to remove me when I was in London and now that I am back, the party is passing a vote of confidence on me. You can now see the dimension of events. The PDP for me, is a family and it would continue to be so as long as I remain the chairman. I will do so taking responsibility for every action the party has taken, most especially on how to return the confidence of members. I will do so without succumbing to distractions and blackmail.
I appeal to the media to help us build that great party that will build that great nation and great economy we all aspire to. The media must come to assist us in keeping the PDP that great party, a success story the nation must always be proud of, because it is in our collective benefit that the ruling party is a beacon of internal democracy, where all members enjoy that undiluted privileges that come as co-owners of the PDP.
We should all work hard to build that strong and lasting party, or else, it won’t rule the nation well and for long. It’s our collective responsibility, and also our patriotic and civic duty to work together to make the PDP stronger to make the nation great.?
Are you in essence saying that you are in good accord with all the governors whom many believe are nursing grudges against your leadership?
Look, the governors are the main pillars of the party and no one should wish that away. That is why we work to relate well with them. The chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Chibuike Amaechi and I talk always on the phone and exchange visits. Amaechi is a gentleman whom I know has the party at heart. He is a leader I enjoy relating with. The same is true with the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, GodswillAkpabio, who has insatiable love for the party. The ongoing sensational reports about my relationship with the governors is unfortunate because it is the creation of the media.
Akpabio and Amaechi, as party leaders like big brothers in a family, are priceless to the party, especially as good sources of inspiration. And what makes us good leaders is not our ability to avoid problems, since problems must always come, but our ability to face problems squarely and patiently as well as creatively whenever they come so that at the end of the day, we resolve them and learn from them. That is what the PDP is good at. We always focus on what sets our party stronger and put us ahead of the opposition groups.
Are you saying all is well in the PDP for now?
While I won’t paint a rosy picture of the situations of things in the PDP, surely I will paint a picture of a party that knows how to manage its internal conflicts and problems. As a big family, we are bound to encounter problems from time to time. As I said earlier, as a big family, we believe in sitting down to rub minds and see how best to take the party to a greater height. This we must do now that we have a war of survival to fight as 2015 gets nearer.
It is understandable why the opposition groups are doing everything to pull us down rather than focus on building themselves into great parties like ours. But, they know they will never succeed in doing this because at the end of the day, we always come out stronger and more tactful than before.
Some members of the party say you made a slip on the issue of Adamawa PDP which EXCO, the National Working Committee of the party sacked. Could that be true?
The truth is that Bamanga Tukur was never and is never the creator of the crisis in Adamawa PDP. The problem had been there before I came in as party chairman. Party members in Adamawa had complained so bitterly that they wanted an election to replace the old EXCO which had finished its tenure. They wrote several petitions to the national secretariat, to INEC and to the presidency. INEC intervened. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua also intervened when he directed that fresh elections be conducted.
INEC did the same and the records are there. The PDP under the leadership of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, set up committees, which met with stakeholders in Adamawa and they made recommendations. That was what we met on the ground when we came in. In fact, we continued to receive delegations upon delegations from Adamawa, urging us to democratise the leadership process in the state. The NWC met and took a decision which we felt was in line with democratic pursuits in the party.
We agreed that since we are in a democracy and not in a dictatorship, we should conduct our affairs also democratically. In doing that, we did not target any individual or group when we asked the PDP in Adamawa to conduct its affairs democratically. I want to make it clear here that Bamanga Tukur has no ulterior agenda in Adamawa PDP. That the fact that it happened under my chairmanship shouldn’t make me the creator of the long standing problem when all we did as the NWC was to bring democracy.
In fact, if there is anything, the main agenda is to see more members embrace the party as their own by creating a level playing field for everyone to operate in. That it is being opposed by those who don’t want democracy should not force us to succumb to their wishes. We will continue to do what it takes to ensure that we promote and protect party democracy in the PDP.?
The good news is that we are now in the process of reconciling all aggrieved members in the state and other states of the federation as democracy demands. It is our responsibility to do that without succumbing to intimidation and blackmail. We should do so if we want our party to return to the ideals of its Founding Fathers. That is why I crave for the continued support and understanding of our party members so that we fast-track our journey to party greatness, rather than allow ourselves to be tied down by issues we should have resolved with the snap of fingers.
So what are you going to do now to pull all the aggrieved members together to get the party going?
We have been talking to each other at different levels. If you have been observant, you would have been noticing some changes. I have been saying times without number that my insistence on democracy is in the long best interest of the party. And that is what I have been pursuing since I became chairman. I have since then been pursuing an agenda of Reconciliation, Reformation and Rebuilding of the party at all levels in Nigeria. I knew it was not going to be an easy task, but no doubt, I am optimistic we should get there.
If you are bringing about reforms, reforms may not be totally accepted by all because it would affect some entrenched interests in a way. Some may like it because they could see that such reforms would promote and protect the popular cause. This is to say that it is not all PDP members who would like the idea of openness and transparency in the manner we conduct our affairs. But the truth remains that openness and transparency are the best tools for guaranteeing the PDP progress. In any case, I am resolute, more than ever before, to ensure that all members of our party get carried along in all its programs and policies.
If I am serving the PDP at my age, the reason is not because I want anything as gains; the reason is that serving the ruling party amounts to serving my nation. As the chairman, I have taken decisions which have been driving the ongoing reconciliation among members. I took time off to tour all the geo-political zones of the federation to see things for myself. We did this because we wanted every member to see the party as their own party that brings pride to every member.
One year in office, what would you say the PDP has been able to achieve?
We have achieved a lot. We started by appealing to aggrieved members to bury the hatchet and return as active party members. And so far, we have had so many members taking advantage of our welcoming hands to return to the party. We did that with the full belief that the PDP umbrella is big enough for the party to take care of all its members. So, responses to our call have been truly very remarkable.
From there, we started building consensus. We launched the 12-point Agenda with the endorsement of the National Executive Committee (NEC). And have during the 12 months in office, sold the agenda to party members at all levels. I had personally travelled to South-Africa to establish a bi-lateral relationship with the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in the country. And since then, PDP and ANC have put in place a Peer Review Mechanism, which makes it easier for us to share experiences particularly in ways to nurture and promote good political values.
During the 12 months, we successfully embarked on tours of the geo-political zones, where we interacted with members of our party at the grassroots. Also, our recent reconciliation tour was successful to the extent that for the first time, we made members open up in a manner that they had never done before.
We took notes that the major problem of our party over the years, stemmed from lack of transparency and internal democracy. The widespread candidate imposition which was responsible for many members decamping to other parties has been addressed during our one year in office. That we carefully did to make internal party court litigations things of the past.
You know that one of the challenges facing the party is finance and without a strong financial base and independence, most of our big dreams for the party will never materialise. For that reason, we are working hard to finally come up with some credible revenue streams to fund the party without recourse to government, which breeds corruption.
That is the only way the party can bring in the best and the brightest minds to help us at the national headquarters run the affairs of the party.? Realizing this agenda is important because without it, we cannot join hands with the president to realise Transformation Agenda.
We should all agree that our only problem now is security. But you can appreciate that President Jonathan has been up and doing with effective approach to contain the problem. We will do everything humanly possible to arrest the security challenges. And the amnesty carrot is one of the ways to achieve it.