interviewBy Chuks Okocha
He is the enfant Olisa Metuh, National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party speaks to CHUKS OKOCHA on the myriad of problems facing the party and the challenges of the recent merger of four opposition parties to tackle the PDP at the 2015 polls
How do you feel about the formation of the All Progressives Alliance by the opposition parties preparatory to the 2015 election?
We are happy with the plans of the opposition parties to merge; we welcome it; we think it is a good development. In a democracy, it would lead to an opportunity for Nigerians to witness a vibrant opposition if they will come together without problems. We wish them the best of luck but we want them to focus solely on issues; not propaganda or campaign of deceit.
No insults and no misinformation to the public. As long as they play it according to the rules of the game, Nigerians will be better off for it. The idea of democracy is that there should be a party in power; there should be an opposition that should be vibrant and tackle the party in power only on issues, policy and programmes. As long as they bring up policies and programmes for us to debate, we would very much take them. But a word of caution, in the attempt to be big, they would now understand what it means to run a big party.
We would witness their conventions, we would witness their congresses; we would witness their primaries and they would understand that it is not easy to handle a big party the way PDP is doing. They would have their teething problems. We wish them well. We already know that there are inherent problems, we wish them well. We are not dwelling on it. As a decent party, we do not want to dwell on it; we do not want to make noise about their own problems. We hope they get it right in the interest of our democracy.
The national chairman of your party recently said the merger inspires your party. In which area will it actually inspire the PDP?
Our national chairman did not say that the merger would inspire the party to get it right. He said it would inspire us to keep doing it well and getting better. We already have it right and the chairman is correct and the promises of the party upon the conclusion of the merger would enable PDP elected and appointed officials to continue to work harder for the interest of Nigerians. Because it means that we are going to be challenged on our programmes, our policies, our achievements and that the people in the office would have to be accountable fully to Nigerians.
Can we now say that all is now well now with the PDP? There are insinuations that the NWC is afraid to call the NEC meeting because members could turn the table against the NWC?
On the issue of NEC of the party, we have a few challenges; it happens in every company; every association, every political party, even in families. This party is one; we are totally committed to the ideals and programmes of the party under the able leadership of the National Chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur. We are working committee members, the governors do not have any problem with the party as Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Chairman Governor's Forum, said and showed in his reception of the national chairman recently.
We would like the public not to focus on our challenges which we have gotten over; but to focus rather on the programmes and policies of the national chairman. We have seen how vibrant the party has become; we have seen that the National Chairman is saying that the party must get involved in governance. We have seen the national chairman stepping up discipline; we have seen his programmes of three Rs.
The National Assembly has passed the 2013 budget but president is yet to sign it. We have it on good authority that PDP's NWC would be meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the budget. How true is this?
Well, it is not true that the NWC is going to meet with the leadership of the National Assembly on the issue of the budget. It is true that there is a meeting in line with the quarterly meeting that we usually have with the leadership of the National Assembly and the executive to discuss matters affecting the well-being of the country. But we are not meeting on the basis of the budget. We believe as a party, that the National Assembly has the right to pass budget and participate on the issue of bringing the budget about.
We believe that having been elected to do this duty, they have taken time and it took them many months to do this programme and that they have come out with a very good budget. But the President has a mandate given to him by the entire country to ensure that whatever budget that comes on board would satisfy the yearnings of the people. He must take time to look at this budget. If there are grey areas, we must allow all bodies - the executive and the legislature - opportunities to iron it out without creating tension. The PDP believes strongly that the president and the National Assembly are completely performing their duties in the ways they have been handling the budget and we hope that within the shortest time the budget would have been signed for complete implementation.
You said you're not meeting with National Assembly leadership on the budget. What if the issue of the budget comes up in the course of your interaction?
Like I said earlier, let me stress that we are not meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the budget. It is not part of our meeting. If in the course of our meeting the matter comes up, we will address it but that is not the purpose of the meeting. The PDP has complete confidence in the president as the leader of the party that if there are grey areas he would be able to resolve it with the National Assembly in the shortest possible time. If the party's attention is needed, if we have been alerted that there is problem, then the party would get involved. For now I want you to know on good authority that neither the legislature nor the executive had alerted the party's leadership that they are having problems on the issue of the budget. We are completely unaware of such.
On the issue of the National Executive Committee, I concede that the constitution stated that we should be meeting four times in a year. We are supposed to hold this meeting late last year but couldn't hold on the account of the vacancy in the Board of Trustees Chairmanship. The Board of Trustees has since constituted a committee to handle it and we hope that in the next two to three weeks we would have a new BoT chairman. Upon the election of the BoT chairman, the party will proceed to have a national caucus and then the NEC meeting. We would have our NEC meeting peacefully and there would not be any problem in the party. The PDP is bigger than any issue and our challenges are behind us. The president got involved in ensuring that there is complete peace amongst the ranks of the party.
What constitutional roles does the Chairman of BoT have to play in convening the NEC?
With our constitution and convention, before we have the NEC meeting, we usually have a BoT meeting and then the national caucus meeting. In the last NEC meeting, we did not have any vacancy in the BoT chairmanship. The NEC meeting was to receive the resignation of the former BoT Chairman and we have never had any NEC meeting since then.
When the 10 members of the NWC decided to rescind its decision on Adamawa Exco crisis, your national chairman said he felt betrayed. Did you betray the Chairman? Is Orji Uzor Kalu a member of the PDP?
It is basically improper for me to start mentioning something that happened in the past and something that the party has resolved. But I must state here publicly that as a member of an elected NWC, I am completely loyal to the constitution of the PDP to which I swore at the convention. We are completely loyal to the constitution of the party; that is the first obligation that we have. If a matter had been resolved at the highest level of the party, it would be improper for any individual at this time that there is peace to mention or try to bring it up. That matter is gone and I will not wish to comment on it.
I think the issue of Kalu is for the local government and the state to handle and the zone before it comes to the national level. As at today, Monday 11 February, we've not had any official communication from any organ of the party on this issue. I'm aware that the entire Abia State Exco paid a courtesy call on the national chairman and the working committee and stated that they were not ready to receive the former governor back into the party. However, Nigerians are aware that there has been a controversy for about one month on whether he indeed he has re-entered the party or not. I read in the papers; I would not reach a decision on what I read in the papers and I don't think the party is being run by what we read in the papers.
If President Jonathan decides to run in 2015, will the party consider giving him an automatic ticket?
The best thing to say would have been no comment but in our practice of transparency, I can tell you that under the constitution of this party and the way we run our programmes, we are going to have primaries in 2015. We are completely unaware of any move to change the constitution of the party. The constitution that we have that was passed at the last National Convention provides that we must have state and national convention.
Do you consider the amendment of PDP constitution before 2015 necessary?
A constitution can be amended at any time if the members decide to do so or when the situation arises. I'm just telling you what the law is as at now. Even the constitution of the country is being amended; the constitution of the party can be amended if we decide to do it.