MOHAMMED JABI, Labour Party (LP) Chairman in Niger State, like many Nigerians, believes that the problems of the country lie in the failure of those in leadership positions to tell the truth as it matters. In this interview with Correspondent, CHINWENDU NNADOZIE, he opines that apart from encouraging private candidacy in the 2011 general election, Nigerians should vote for new-breed politicians instead of old folks and their cronies, who he says have held the country hostage since independence. Excerpts:
Labour Party in Niger State seems to have melted into other bigger political parties. As the chairman of the party, can you tell us the situation of things now. Has LP gone into extinction in the state?
The problems of the LP is not just from Niger State but from the national level. This led to the dissolution of the state executive under Comrade A.A. Salau, and Dan Nwanyanwu resolved to sit tight in office. He is not acceptable to members of the party, particularly the government. So far so good, the purported NEC held by Nwanyanwu is not recognised by INEC. Secondly, the Ayo Fayose of the then Ekiti State came into the party and we were told that a good sum of money exchanged hands, he has been given the party platform preparing to launch his campaign for 2011. To me, this is a threat to the existence of our party and most members are not happy about this development.
As a stakeholder, what have you done to check perceived anomalies among the party's rank and file?
We put up surprises by putting up a convention to make sure we reposition the party for competitiveness. The era of reserving a platform for people who have no integrity only to come and enjoy where they did not sow is not a good omen for the party and that is what we are addressing now. Part of our resolutions is that, if you are not a member of the party for a period of one year as stipulated by the new Constitution, you cannot use the platform for electoral contest, particularly people who do not have the electoral credentials and the labour activism in them.
What is the party's stake in what is happening in the country today where the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be the only one dictating whatever is happening now?
It is unfortunate that we allowed ourselves to be boxed to a corner by disgruntled elements, the so-called largest political party in Africa and that to me is; Peoples Destruction Party because they have destroyed our political structures taking advantage of the ill-health of the President to heat-up body polity and this has thrown up a lot of challenges because as it is, there is no clear-cut captain of the ship and so Nigeria is floating.
But we have an Acting President, piloting the affairs of the country
Yes! That is after much pressure from well-meaning Nigerians. While we commend the efforts of the National Assembly members for their strict resolution to empower the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to assume the status of the Acting President, some cabals in the PDP, particularly of interest, the arrowhead for this destruction of our democracy is the erstwhile Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Andoakaa, and the first step taken by the Acting President justifies he knows his onions and is ready to take the country to the next level. So, as it were, what I have read in the papers it is unfortunate that Mr. President has been knocked down by ill-health and to that extent, it is just morally right like the ex-President, Olusegun Obasanjo said that, Yar'Adua took the path of honour to hand over the affairs of the state to the Acting President to resume effective administration of the state.
There is this conflicting report of President Yar'Adua being in the country or not and the feelings by some tax-paying Nigerians that having two Presidents in one country does not spell well for its image. Does the LP feel the same as these Nigerians?
Well! From what we hear from medical experts, the nature of Yar'Adua's ill-health is such that is terminal. It is clear that the President is incapacitated; there is no doubt about that and if that is the position, the Constitution has a position on that; section 145 of the Constitution says the President must transmit in writing about his vacation to any part of the world to the National Assembly in order for it to empower the Vice President to Act but as it is today, we are at the period of disgrace because we refused to do the right thing as corporate Nigerians and that is why we are being insulted by comity of nations
Is it proper for a single individual to keep a country of over 150 million people at a standstill when there are thousands of other able-bodied Nigerians, well-educated, very vast in various areas of endeavours, who can take the place of Yar'Adua from the onset? Why did the opposition party not stop the anointing of somebody who is physically unfit to rule a large country like Nigeria?
It is really very unfortunate, and that is part of the shame we are talking about that the Peoples Destruction Party has put the country into. It is so disheartening that the health of Yar'Adua degenerated to the level, particularly to the point that his aides could not manage the affairs very well. I am highly disappointed
Many Nigerians still believe that Yar'Adua is not in the country and the issue has got to the point that it has become a debatable one among diverse opinion. Is the LP having a contrary opinion?
What is happening as regards to President Yar'Adua, his arrival and state of confinement without anybody except the wife, Turai, the only one that has the knowledge about the health status of the President of the most populous black nation is really a mystery. Even the way he was said to have been smuggled into the country at night and his whereabouts today, nobody knows except the wife and few of the presidential personal aides. It is unbecoming of them and so we are not really sure of what is happening.
Do you not think it is high time for the President to address Nigerians to put an end to all these fuss about his ill health?
It is in my candid opinion that Yar'Adua should speak up, let him address Nigerians because we deserve to be briefed about the health status of our President. He is supposed to have addressed the nation, at least to prove doubting Thomases wrong and tension doused in the body polity and then he continues to carry on his mandates as the captain of the ship of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Besides, it is part of the PDP politics.
Count down to 2011, what does the happenings in the country portend. Are we expecting surprises from the LP as well?
What is happening now if we could not manage it well, we will be in for trouble. However, it is amazing that those who are expected to speak out, especially from the North are keeping quiet. And yet, when the former Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunnyili, opened up by being factual and blunt on the health of the President, many of them wanted her head cut off for speaking out about what is smearing the image of the country. Thank God, the National Assembly acted well
The National Assembly recently passed a resolution for a private candidacy in the next general election. What is Labour Party's take on it?
It is a very good development because it is going to add value to our democracy especially with what is happening whereby members of most of the political parties do not obey their constitutional provision during elections. Private candidate contesting the 2011 election is a good omen because it is going to be simple. If he wins the support of Nigerians he can carry on and not the kind of political prostitution going on among all the political parties. It is good for our internal democracy. We know what it cost us to get democracy and we don't want to toy with it. Nobody should be allowed to rock the boat, not even the health of an individual, so the National Assembly should do what is right because if we allow the ship to sink, we will pay dearly for it
While some power blocs in the North are more disposed to the rotational arrangemen, the Emir of Gwandu, who is also the former ADC to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Mustapha Jokolo, is suggesting that power should shift to the South because of the number of Presidents from the Northern extraction that have ruled Nigeria in its 50 years of existence. Does the LP support this arrangement?
I do share partly the idea of Mustapha Jokolo in having equal number of years at the Presidency between North and South, but it has to be after 2011, not now. He is entitled to his opinion as a Nigerian but because of political exigencies of what is happening today, it may not be practicable. Allowing a Southern President without the North completing second term; to complete eight years that Yar'Adua could not complete would further heighten the tensed security situation in the country. This is not the right time for that.
With what is happening among the so-called mega party, do you see opposition party as capable of wresting power from the PDP during the 2011 election?
The ruling party is just using gimmicks to deceive majority of Nigerians. It is clear now as we are going that the PDP may not be able to produce up to two governors in 2011. The danger signs are there and that is why they are getting treacherous. The concept of using North versus Jonathan or South does not arise because the rules are there and nobody can subvert the rules. As far as we are concerned, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reigns supreme and above party Constitution. As far as nature is concerned, today destiny has bestowed on Jonathan the substantive President of this country. But for the coming election, because of the level of rigging and monumental fraud in the electoral process and the agitations by Nigerians that, members of the executive arm of government should adopt the recommendations of thef Justice Mohammed Uwais Committee.
By your own assessment of the present democratic dispensation, are you comfortable with the performances of governors in states controlled by the PDP governors?
Unfortunately, I have not seen any of the PDP governors performing in the 14 states they purportedly claimed to have won. I only know of two governors who peraventure are not flag-bearers of the PDP and that is; Adams Oshomhole of Edo on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) and Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State under AC as well, Governor Peter Obi who was re-elected for a second term in Anambra State on the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and to a large extent, I can say I have pass mark for Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State; maybe, he is the only PDP governor that is making a little difference.
Opposition seems to be in disarray going by what we read in newspapers today. Most recently is the tussle among the bigwigs in the just mega party CPC. Is there any hope for opposition challenging the PDP in 2011?
I can assure you there is hope for the common Nigerians in 2011 because PDP will go into oblivion and Nigerians will have a party they can call their own. We are coming out with a very strong formation to project one candidate with a very big mandate of all political parties and mount campaign from house to house because by what is happening today, it is clear that people are already disenfranchised with the mismanagement of the PDP, it is easier for opposition to take over power as it is. I can assure you that lot of consultations are on going, I can tell you in the second quarter of 2010 there will be a lot of political parties merging in this country because Gods' hand is at work. The PDP has outlived its usefulness as far as politics and governance is concerned in this country.
There are these pressure groups from the North believed to be fronting for people like the former EFCC czar, Nuhu Ribadu or the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, el-Rufai to replace Yar'Adua in 2011 Presidency, hinged on their supposed outstanding performances in the immediate past administration. Is the LP in support of this?
I share that thought with the Northern Coalition Organisation which is being headed by Comrade Umar Farouq from Kaduna. The Campaign for Democracy is also looking at that option. But without prejudice to the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan in the scheme of things now it is very good omen because those are the emerging leaders of the Northern extractions and they have been tested in their little ways and they have been able to prove to Nigerians that if given the necessary support and we are ready to change our attitude and obey the rules as it were in our Constitution, they will be able to change our fortunes. So, I quite agree that their candidature is a very good one but not to contest under the platform of the PDP if they want to be successful. They can come from the North and contest under the opposition party where they can have larger acceptance devoid of ethnicity, devoid of religious and again devoid of dominance by Northern political leaders who are part of the problems we have in the country today.
What is your assessment of the three years administration of Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu in Niger State?
He is not an exception in the earlier analysis I gave of all the PDP governors in the country, but to some extent, the administration's policy implementations staggers and most of the areas with much shortcomings are very environmental unfriendly and some of them are rather deceitful. For instance, it is only in Niger State that we don't have taxis from a particular destination to another and will not take you to a bus stop in most urban cities and that is why the commercial motorcycle operators are taking advantage to exploit people and perpetrate some forms of criminalities and causing lots of accidents as we have a particular ward where victims of okada accidents with broken legs, arms and heads are languishing
Is that enough to write off the government even when most people see him as a Messiah that has been able to toe where other leaders of the state in the past dreaded?
No! There are many other instances; I want to see a policy transformation in the transport sector that will make the life more comfortable to the inhabitants of Niger Sate; that will by extension reduce the level of rural-urban drift because it is very critical now. Can you show me a single project that has been completed from foundation level by this present government in Niger State. What we have today across the states are; projects that were either inherited and completed or a projects that were started and yet to be completed. For instance, the Minna-city road network; just look at even the road construction around that Government House area and the western by-pass. Even before it is completed and commissioned, the road has been subjected to repairs twice. I mean that is too much of intrigues in all the projects. Secondly, the issue of water supply especially within Minna capital city, it is only in this regime that water supply is generally epileptic. I want to see the Commissioner for Water Resources being proactive in getting water supply restored in most homes. Water scarcity is getting worse by the day. A situation whereby you buy a jerry-can of water of 20 litres for N50 and above is unacceptable and it s not good for the image of the government.
You once complained about poor healthcare delivery system but Niger State is said to be among the best in the health sector because of the recruitment of the best hands in relevant segments?
We only read that on Newspapers and hear on NTA news and of course the state owned radio and TV. It is rather unfortunate that Niger State by now has no teaching hospital. This has been on the drawing board over the years but unfortunately this has not seen the light of the day even when we have a competent person like Babangida Aliyu, well-travelled, well-read and very articulate and yet he has not been able to translate this competency in the rural sector particularly on the need for us to have a teaching hospital and compete with other states of the federation.