The National Publicity Secretary of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, has stated that the party is set to win the forth-coming elections in Nigeria owing largely to what he called the excellent performance of President Goodluck Jonathan.
In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Metuh said shifting the poll only delayed the party’s victory and there was no way it would have instigated a shift.
Mr. Metuh claimed the worst candidate of the PDP is always better than the best that the opposition APC will produce.
PT: What is the PDP doing with the period granted by the postponement of the elections?
Metuh: The truth of the matter is that we have concluded our campaigns before the extension, we were set for the elections, we were set to win the presidential election and get the majority number of seats at the National Assembly.
However, upon the postponement of the elections what we are doing is consolidating our support and putting finishing touches to the movement with our core supporters, the Nigerian people.
We are staying on the message on the fact that we are Nigeria’s prominent party and that we guarantee the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. The PDP remains the best vehicle to maintain and foster the unity of our great country. That is what we have been doing.
PT: But in specific terms, how do you think the PDP will win the election, by how many states, in fact, how will Jonathan emerge as the elected president on March 28?
Metuh: To be honest, I concede that we don’t have any problem in South East, we don’t have any problem in South-South. I know that we will have the majority in South West, and we have the majority in North Central. In the North West, we have seen a resurgence of support for the president. We have seen what is happening in Sokoto, we have noted in Kano where people of Kano are having a rethink on their initial journey and the fact that other areas of the North West are coming to terms that for the benefit and progress of the north, that it is in the best interest of the north that Jonathan is re-elected.
People of the north east and north west have noted that the Jonathan project is a northern project. It is actually in the interest of the north that he is re-elected. The north will have their own fresh candidate that will rule for 8 years.
PT: That is in terms of the presidency, what of state governors? How many state governors, do you think the PDP will win after the elections?
Metuh: There is absolutely no way we can win all the states, so we are thinking that if we are able to achieve our objectives of having 28-29 states, we have done well. Our target is to win 29 states.
PT: The president said he was not consulted by INEC when the commission decided to postpone the elections, but, you must admit that many Nigerians believe the PDP had a hand in that postponement?
Metuh: The truth is that what happened was that the NSA made a statement in London and people felt that it was the government position. However, it has since came to light that the NSA actually saved Nigerian democracy because the INEC were truly not ready for the election.
It was very clear that a number of Nigerians would have been disenfranchised if the elections held on their initial dates.
The reschedule of the election has affected the PDP in the same manner it has affected anyone else, there is no gain for the PDP as a result of the shift, an election that we were set to win.
PT: The APC is the major challenge PDP is facing since 1999, and many analysts believe your party “allowed” the APC take firm root, thinking it will implode after its primary election, yet the party emerged stronger?
Metuh: That is not true, we are facing the challenge because in every democracy, when you have been in power for a long time, some people tend to get attracted to the other side. We will not deny that the attraction has been on the minds of some people in Nigeria, the attraction to see what is on the other side.
However, when they saw what the component of the alternative is, that is the APC and their modus operandi, Nigerians were disappointed and that halted that idea of romancing with the idea of having another look at the other side.
In Nigeria today, people have seen that it is good to stay with what you have seen because the truth is that the worst of PDP, is better than the best of APC.
We have seen that people have quarrelled with certain policies and programmes of the PDP-led government. This is democracy, they have a right to, but in doing that, they have noted that the APC is actually not an option for the sustenance of democracy and for us to progress as a nation, they cannot. How will they handle the economy of Nigeria? How will they handle the unity of this country? How will they preserve our secularity? How will they handle the political class? The public service? Students? Youth and women folk? The thought of it is actually frightening to Nigerians and that is what is leading to the collapse of the initial sympathy that the APC had. The fact that they have seen through them, and they have seen their deceit.
PT: What do you mean by the “Janjaweed” ideology of the APC?
Metuh: Quiet frankly, the Janjaweed ideology had nothing to do with religion. It could be the Janjaweed, it could be the Balaka, it could be any other thing. What it represents is the attraction for anarchy, for chaos, for violence, that is the Janjaweed ideology.
We believe that with the utterances of APC, where they said they will not accept election result, that they would have alternative government, some people say they will call people to the street and riot, these are unknown to democracy. So, all their utterances and statements and when they were being formed are planned that they were set up for chaos and anarchy. We pre-empted it by insisting on this Janjaweed ideology. That has made them to kind of amend that ideology. It is still there, it is inherent in their nature, they can’t change it, but they are afraid of coming out fully with the plans that they had before.
For the PDP, we have shown that we are a peace loving party, we are a party that promotes human life, association and freedom of movement. APC have shown in the states that they have, that they curtail freedom of movement and infringe on the fundamental human rights of people.
PT: Can you give examples?
Metuh: Yes I have example; the fact that you will even build a road and start taxing people for tollgate for the road is an abomination. APC is the only party that has introduced it in Nigeria. No other party has done that in any state.
The multiple taxation that goes on in Lagos is another form of infringement on the independence and capitalist nature of Nigeria. It is a different form of capitalism where only one man controls it, like a fiefdom, where their lord and their lion control all the income and only leaves about 20 per cent for the people. That is exactly what it means.
PT: You mentioned the threat to form parallel government, I was planning to take you on that; the APC has made its position known …
Metuh: But having talked about the issue of what they represent and how they have been handling the economy in the states that they control; I must alert Nigerians on the danger of making reckless promises to the people. The APC have been engaged in making very reckless campaign promises. It is another height of deceit, in fact it is a crime against democracy for you to be making promises that you know you can never ever sustain.
APC has stated that they will be paying N5, 000 to unemployed people until they get jobs. If you check the number of unemployed Nigerians, you will need over N2.5 trillion per month to be doing that; it is unsustainable. (Fact Check: This computation is incorrect. Spending N2.5 trillion at N5, 000 per head, would mean there are 500 million unemployed Nigerians, a figure beyond Nigeria’s total population. Assuming there are 50 million unemployed Nigerians, the correct figure would be N250 billion.)
APC claims that they will offer free medical care, free education, they will provide free feeding in schools and free uniforms; in a situation where we have financial downturn globally; where the price of fuel continues to fall; where will you get the resources to do that? You don’t deceive people who are not informed. We believe that when they talk about change, they actually mean deceit.
PT: Still on the issue of forming a parallel government, the APC has stated its position, what would be the position of the PDP if the APC loses and forms a parallel government?
Metuh: It can never happen; they don’t have the capacity. We will not allow it to happen; if they lose the election, they lose the election; the government has a responsibility to maintain law and order and ensure peace in this country, and they will leave up to that responsibility. Nigerians will decide the election. We believe that we will win the election and we hope that when the election comes and goes, and the will of Nigerians has been announced, every responsible Nigerian will abide by the decision of INEC.
PT: So if the PDP loses, will it accept the outcome of the election?
Metuh: We don’t contemplate losing. We do not think we will lose the election, we have worked hard and our candidate has performed and we are working on the solid base of our support within the country; we don’t think we would lose the election.
PT: Chief Edwin Clark has stated recently that some PDP leaders are not really working for the victory of President Jonathan. Do you think he was right?
Metuh: It’s a personal statement by him; he should be able to explain it; I am not in a position to discuss that…
PT: But do you belief all PDP leaders are working 100% for the president?
Metuh: Completely! Our party leaders have shown it and supporters everywhere we have gone for campaign, people came out on their own to support the president
PT: Chairman of the PDP, Adamu Muazu, has also said injustice in the past is partly responsible for the present challenges for your party. So, what is the party doing now to ensure that people don’t feel disgruntled enough to leave the party?
Metuh: I take it that the chairman was speaking of the future, not in the past. I was there. The chairman was just giving a guarantee to our supporters that he will not allow injustice to be done to them, and that he believes that as long as they work hard the party decision will always be favourable to them. He was simply telling those that lost elections that the party will not abandon them, that they will be rewarded accordingly, and those supporting the party, their support will not be in vain. It is his own way of motivating members nationwide.
PT: Ahead of the election, before it was shifted, there was a non-violence pact signed by your candidate, President Jonathan and the candidate of the APC, General Buhari; do you think it is working? If it is not, why do you think it is not working?
Metuh: Our party believes that because we have kept the peace and there has been relative peace, I admit there have been problems here and there. Nigerians thought that the campaigns will be very violent, and the process will end up in turmoil, but there was nothing like that. There were a few cases where for instance the APC were engaged in stoning our candidate thinking that they want to embarrass him, they were just playing true to their Janjaweed ideology.
The pact however helped in promoting peace, at least in the minds of all concerned. Everybody felt the need for peace. The peace pact really brought down the tension.
Nigerians saw the picture of the President hugging General Buhari; if the two major candidates were hugging each other; why would their supporters engage in unnecessary violence? That was a big lesson that they passed on to their supporters.
PT: But violent tendencies are not restricted to the other parties alone, for instance, in Rivers, the APC appeared to be the victim?
Metuh: Is it not curious that in the whole of Rivers state, it is only in the Local Government of our beloved first lady, the mother of the nation that they decided to create this idea of unrest. Our position is that it was orchestrated by the APC themselves just to embarrass the first lady.
PDP people will not engage in any way on something that is capable of embarrassing the first lady, especially when it comes to her home local government.
PT: Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently supervised the tearing of his PDP membership card in public; but the party expressed some kind of reservation over the matter. Presumably, a room for reconciliation is still open. Has there been any moves since then to woo him back?
Metuh: It is a subjective thing for a former president to have gone ahead to tear our party card in public and the way the party reacted to the incident, expressing sadness to the fact that he is leaving is a lesson and is creating a moral burden on him to search his actions and mind.
He needs to check and see whether the manner he has adopted is the best? A party that offered him the platform to rule this country for eight years; a party that he chaired its board of trustees.
The former president came from prison to rule this country; it is only the PDP that could have given him that opportunity and guarantee of winning the election because of our support base.
We have done a lot for President Obasanjo, but we are mindful of the fact that he did a lot for Nigeria. He did well as a president and we remain proud of his achievements, because they are the achievements of the PDP as well. He did well for the economy; he helped stabilize Nigeria’s democracy.
We, however, think that since that relationship has been mutually beneficial; if there are some challenges or disagreements, it could be better handled other than the way he handled it, but like I said, that is his moral burden. It is for him to search his soul and know the best way to go about it.
PT: But the party has not initiated any reconciliatory move?
Metuh: As a party we have a campaign at hand and we are engaged in promoting our candidates nationwide, and we still believe that the former president will still get involved in supporting our presidential candidate before the election.
PT: Both the president and your party are being accused of keeping quiet when persons who support the PDP seem to make comments or suggestions inimical to national interest. For instance, the ex-militants recently threatened war if Jonathan loses the election and no condemnation from both the PDP and Jonathan?
Metuh: It’s not true, the party condemned it; the party condemned and cautioned them; I issued a statement saying that in a democracy. You don’t speak like that.
The core support of the president winning the election is not from the South-South, the north will give us more votes than the Niger Delta; so, it should not be personalized to a region; I remember telling them that the president is not president of Niger Delta, or Ijaw or Bayelsa, but the whole of Nigeria.
PT: Closely related to that is the incident of the Ekiti rigging tape; I am also not aware that the PDP as a party has come out to state its position regarding the controversy in spite of the serious allegations against it?
Metuh: I have not even listened to that tape, but then, in this era of campaign, where you have a lot of propaganda, anybody with any concrete evidence can go to either the law enforcement agencies or the law courts to seek redress. For us, we are more involved in the campaign than propaganda; our first thought actually is that it is simply just propaganda, it is only the court that can decide if on the matter of Ekiti election, just like the tribunal and court of appeal have decided. If they think there is fresh evidence, they can go to court.
Any tape whether real or imaginary can be concocted in this digital world; we don’t know what is real and what is not; I also believe that the actors in their personal capacity will be able to talk about what really happened. As a political party, we have never engaged in planning or getting involved in any conspiracy to rig elections or alter the will of the people. We have shown that in the past two years, we had elections in five states, PDP won in only one state; how come it is just that one that we won that a tape is suddenly surfacing to say we planned rigging.
Why did we not plan rigging in Edo, Ondo, Anambra and Osun? How come the only one that we won is the one they want to tarnish? It is a calculated attempt to sway the minds of Nigerians that the PDP is not capable of winning in a free and fair election; our people are even raising the fact that we were rigged out in Osun; but we are not engaged in propaganda, we are not engaged in manufacturing tapes. We won election in Ekiti state because of the love of our party, and the massive support that our gubernatorial candidate, Ayo Fayose enjoys in the entire state.
PT: Do you think General Buhari has a WASC certificate?
Metuh: The party has never spoken about it, we are running against Buhari based on the track record of the achievements of our candidate and the content of his character; what he represents; his visions and programmes for this country; we will not be distracted by issues beyond our control.
The issue of whether Buhari has a certificate or not is left for INEC and other agencies to decide. PDP as a party has never made any comment on it.
Let me emphasize that this is a party that is built on the track record, history and vision of the founding fathers and with respect for the dignity of Nigerians especially our statesmen and former leaders.
We have always shown respect and dignity to all our former leaders across the board. The way we responded to President Obasanjo is the way we have been responding to General Buhari on issues. We have never been engaged in insulting some of the governors that left us for other parties, we have never insulted them personally. We disagree with them on the way they have left our party and the fact that they are hobnobbing with strange bed fellows, and the fact that we have given them an opportunity of being elected and they have moved to another party; but we have never engaged in denigrating their person or office.
Nigerians should applaud the fact that the PDP has been very civil and decent.
PT: What is the view of the PDP regarding the deployment of military for election?
Metuh: This is an issue that has to do with the government and law enforcement agencies. As a party, we belief that the military has no role in the conduct of elections; but we know that the military has a big role in providing security for the processes in ensuring the smooth conduct of that election.
Their involvement is limited to security. What happens, if people with Janjaweed ideology decide to unleash terror and violence on the people?
Are they really quarrelling with the issue of the military so that they will have an easy path to bring on their Janjaweed ideology? They should explain whether they want chaos and anarchy in the electoral system. For us the military is needed to safeguard our democracy, not be involved in it; they have never really played any role.
I take you back to the statement of one of the prominent APC leaders, governor of Edo state, who personally congratulated the president for allowing the military to come and safeguard the election in his state. He said without the military, there would have been a breakdown of law and order in Edo state. He also noted that the military never got involved in tampering with the process of the election.