Professor Tunde Adeniran is an aspirant for the chairmanship position of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the National Convention holding on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. Adeniran, a former Minister of Education and one-time Nigerian Ambassador is set to slug it out with other competitors for the number-one seat of the PDP, having obtained his form for the contest.
The Ekiti State-born educationalist-cum-politician is a Political Scientist and a product of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and Columbia University, in the United States of America, USA.
A receiver of several honours and winner of many distinctions, Adeniran, in this interview, expressed confidence that he would emerge triumphant in the contest, while maintaining that he has garnered enough experience in education, politics and governmental affair to qualify him for the highly exalted seat of his party.
Why do you want to contest for the chairmanship position of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
For those of us who are founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party, these are unusual times, very challenging times. And a time like this requires the services of those who were present at the creation; people who knew the vision and mission of the party. The party has gone through all kinds of stages, crises, triumphs and upsets. Now at this point people are wondering what would happen to the party simply because the APC is not performing well. And people expect that at this point there should be need to have an alternative, so that people will know that this is a party that can really deliver where the others cannot, where they have failed. And the Peoples Democratic Party is a party that by conception and of course by orientation and focus should be able to deliver the people of this country from the bondage of underdevelopment and so on. And of course, there are certain things apart from mobilizing the people to ensure that progress is made, parties are also supposed to serve the people in some other capacities, such as enlightening the people, encouraging them, inspiring them to do for themselves, to do for the nation what will make an ideal country. We’ve been lacking because parties have been turned to mere electoral vehicles which people just used to get into positions and once they get there, that is it. But we believe that a time like this is really the time that people who understand the internal workings of democratic processes and party formation, party organization, party operations should really come and salvage a party that has so much potentials, but unfortunately has not been properly focused.
What are your clear-cut plans for the PDP if peradventure you emerged the national chairman of the party?
Well, it is not a question of if peradventure, I believe that this is a God’s own project and God is calling upon me to wake up and really assist my party, join hands with others to liberate the party and move this party forward. The plans that I have for the party; first of all, there will be serious reorganization in such a way that we will have the ideal structure. Power has to go back to the people. We want to take power back to the people because that is the motto of the party. We want a situation in which all these haphazard ways of doing things, we will restructure the party properly. People have been seeing it that the problem of this country is structural and structurally when you talk about the country itself; when you talk about the system we are running and of course the party organization. We have been having this structural deformity that will have to be rectified. Then, I intend by the grace of God to run an all-inclusive political party administration in such a way that people will be involved down to the grassroots. They know what is happening within their party and they would be making contributions in terms of inputs, ideas, generating ideas that will help run the party properly. In the past we had this problem of people not even knowing what is going on. So, we have to let the people know what is happening in the party.
We would ensure that officers of the party do what they are elected to do. In other words, we would no longer have the usual form of imposition –group determining for others what need to be done, who are not structurally placed in situation in which people can really identify. These are the people really determining things. We do not want faceless dictators any more. We want the people who are in charge to be in charge and be accountable to the people. Then, one other thing we also intend to do – instill discipline, instill commitment, loyalty so that people will feel that they have a stake, because their rights are protected, their privileges are protected, their interests are protected and the vision, the hope they have are all guaranteed because of the way the party will be run. The party will be run in the interest of the people. It is the party for the people and will be run by the people in the interest of the people. Finally, we intend to run the party in such a well effective way that it will encourage people to come in. Those who left before we want to bring them back. And we want to also ensure that when they come in all of them they work for the interest of the people. Self-serving leaders are not going to have their way the way things used to happen in the past. People will work collectively for the collective good of the party. And we will do the type of reorganization, rebranding, refocusing, repositioning that will make the party the party of first choice for Nigerians that are eligible to be party members and to vote. And this will have the spillover effect of bringing power back to the party; of making sure that the party wins in the coming elections. It will be based on popularity. It will be based on issues because we are going to focus on issues, not what used to be in the past whereby people just focus on trivialities, on personalities. That will not be the focus of the emerging PDP.
Do you think you have the capacity to lead a party as big as the Peoples Democratic Party?
Of course, I do by the grace of God. There is nothing that is required to run such a party that I do not have. Through the grace of God, I think I have solid background both in education and political experience. I have been involved in this game for decades, starting from my days as a student. I have been party to the formation of at least three major political parties in this country in different republics. And I have occupied certain positions of great responsibility. What is also important is that I understand thoroughly the internal workings of the system – governmental system and party system. And I have demonstrated it in the capacity that I have occupied working for the party or working for the government and the people. The capacity is there; the commitment is there and of course the factors that would make for success are within me with the grace of God.
What are your chances in this contest? Do you have significant support from the key members of your party?
I have support across the board. Of course, I am a team player, wherever I work, I work with others. Whether you talk about at the local government level, I have been part of it. I am a grassroots person. And of course, at the state and national level, I interact as much as possible. So, I have no doubt that those with whom I have interacted; those with whom I have been working in the interest of the party will continue to give me their support. I am enjoying their support.
Mind you this election is one that is going to be determined by delegates from the 774 local government areas in the 36 states of the federation including Abuja. To what extent have you reached out to the grassroots in term of gathering support from the grassroots which is very key in this contest?
I have been in the field since the whistle was blown which goes to show that I appreciate the fact that it is a delegate election. It is not a general election, so that the audience is clear and you have to target it. You have to be strategic in terms of the approach that you are employing. It is enough to make noise. What is important is the effectiveness – the target audience, the real people that have to be cultivated; that have to be encouraged; that have to be mobilized for support. And I have been doing this across the length and breadth of this country. I am appreciative of the fact that this election will involve people across country.
And what has been their response so far?
Very positive. Because they know that this is the type of person they need to reposition the party and to attract more people into the party; someone who will not compromise on principle; someone who is not going to live each day for himself and will be adopting the same old strategy that brought us into this mess; someone who believes in the type of transformation of the party that will place the party in good stead to win the support of the people, to win the administration of the people and to be used as effective vehicle for the transformation of the society itself through electoral victory.
Are you truly confident that you can make any meaningful headway in the contest considering the caliber of the candidates you are going to be slugging it out with for this exalted seat in your party, particularly from the Southwest where the southern PDP caucus micro-zoned the position to after the zoning committee gave the slot to the southern wing of the country?
I am not moved by the fact that we have other competitors. What is important is this, three basic things. In this venture, do you have the backing of God almighty our Creator and the one who can make it to happen, who determines what happen to the individual? Yes, I believe so. Secondly, do you have the backing of the people, those who will make it happen? Do they believe in you? The answer is yes. And thirdly, are you going to ensure that all the necessary networking that need to be done will be done in such a way that not only are you going to have victory but have comfortable victory? The answer is yes. So, all things by the grace of God are working well for me. That is why I am not moved, I am not shaken. And I will leave no stone unturned until the very end of the race because I believe that it is not over until it is over. So, I will keep working every day.
What do you think were the factors responsible for the failure of the PDP in the 2015 general elections and what measures would you put in place to ensure the possibility of the party bouncing back in 2019 if you become the national chairman?
The PDP failed in the past because there were certain acts of omission and commission; certain things we ought to have done that we did not do; certain things that we did wrongly. I did say that earlier that the problem of imposition, impunity, not following due process. We were guilty of this as a party. And some of us made as much noise as possible about it. But it seems that some people who were placed in charge of the party did not response positively. Things went wrong when they ought not to because we raised alarm and we drew attention to all these shortcomings and the violation of the spirit of the constitution of the party. And of course, the undue compromises and so that took place. Again, some other things that also ought to have been done were not done. I will just give you examples. One, people were not sufficiently mobilized positively in other to be able to work for and defend the party loyally with great commitment, with the level of commitment that was required to sustain governance or support for the party. And the second is that because of the nature, the structural nature of the party at that time and the fact that it was the era of anything goes, so much was done to sabotage the party. And the party was handicapped and could not survive the recklessness of some of the people who mismanage the affairs of the party. But thank God we are learning from those past mistakes and we do not want them to repeat themselves. We are going to reconcile people. We are going to ensure that people get the right message that indeed when you are in a position, you are in a position through the grace of God and that position is supposed to be used for the benefit of humanity and in this case, the party people, people you are supposed to serve. Of course, there is also the issue of reorganization. We will reorganize the party for effectiveness. And we will encourage the youths, professionals to be part of the driving forces within the party. We also believe that when you are doing this you get people committed to the goals of the party. Let them own the party. Let them know that this party belongs to them. And once they know this they will be ready to defend the party at any level to any extent. These are the issues that will be borne in mind as we take over the party apparatus. Finally, we will ensure that our people are properly trained and reoriented in terms of party management, in terms of mobilizing the people and the functions that parties are supposed to perform. These have been lacking in the past. And the officials there who work in the party secretariat will also be encouraged. They will be motivated to put in their very best into the affairs of the party.
Beside these factors you have highlighted as being responsible for the PDP’s downfall in the 2015 presidential election, don’t you think that those, who in their views, asserted that the major cause of PDP’s failure in 2015 was non-performance and its inability to meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians in the 16 years it held sway at the centre are right?
I know do not agree. I know that there are some areas that if you talk about non-performance of the party you will look back and you will see the grounds that have been covered in different areas. Look at the various sectors and look at where we were at that time and where we are now. It is true that we could have achieved more. But that is not to say that the party did not achieve anything. People have been citing different examples and so on. Take the education sector, there have been challenges and so on, but the party was able to do some repositioning of the education sector. Although, I could see some reverses now going on and I hope that that will not affect the future of this country. Take the communication sector, this not where we are in 1998. From 1999 till now you could see what has happened there, the type of revolution that has taken place in that sector. Then, you look at the health sector and some other areas. We still have a long way to go to make sure we cover as much grounds as positive. But indeed some progress was made. We did not achieve as much as we had expected or we had planned to achieve due to a number of factors. Some people will call it the Nigerian factor. But then that is it. We could have achieved much more. But that is not to say that we did not achieve a lot. We achieve a lot. We need to analyse the various sectors one after the other. Agriculture for example, so you look at what was happening when we took over and what happened within that period.
How would you assess the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of APC almost fifteen months it came on board?
Well, as a Nigerian I have been observing what has been going on and I haven’t been impressed at all. I expected that the opportunity the party (APC) had would have been utilize to move the country forward a little bit. But it is painful. What is particularly painful about it is that they are creating more problems that our party would have to take up and solve when we take over. We really haven’t seen them achieving much. So, it means that we have a lot of work ahead of us to do. They may have some good intentions, one could see from some of the pronouncements they are making. But the words need to be backed with action. We do not see much of the actions and what we see on the ground seems to be creating more problems, particularly divisive measures, divisive policies. We believe in unity and we believe in treating Nigerians equally.
Do you not agree with those that believe that President Buhari has done very well in the area of fight against corruption since he assumed office?
Corruption has to be fought holistically. When you are selective, it worries me what goals you are hoping to achieve. Corruption is something that is very pervasive, there is political corruption, there is economic corruption and other forms of corruption. When you are fighting corruption you do it holistically. I believe that by identifying that as a national problem is a good start. But when you now want to implement, when you now want to act, you do it in such a way that you are not selective. You do not have targets; you address it holistically – take the political angle, the economic areas and so on, in government, out of government and so on. I wouldn’t say that he doesn’t have good intentions. But what I am saying that that has to manifest in an unbiased, in a holistic way that cover across party lines and of course across all sectors of the society. That is just the challenge in that area.
What advice would you give the government at this point in as a key member of the opposition party?
Well, I believe the situation we are in now, we are in a recession. It is good that government has thought it fit to bring in some people, some solid economists who know what this country is suffering from. In the past, I think government was allergic to using some of those resources that Nigeria has. You do not act in a partisan way when it comes to that. There are some people out there. We are not saying you should use the PDP. We will use our own men and some others when we get there. But by getting out of his own enclave and trying to utilize the services of some people is a welcome idea. I have always said it, that this country when the economic situation in this type of shape, we need people like Pat Utomi, people like Ademola Oyejide, people like Bismark Rewane, Ayo Teriba, Shamsudeen Usman and so on and so forth. Nigeria is blessed. These are people that I thought would have been used to look into the economic situation. But that is as far as that can go talking as a Nigerian, but not necessarily as a PDP person. But as a person I am worried that we are sinking into a terrible recession which is not good for this country. Our people are suffering. The people are hungry and the facilities are deteriorating. Things should be done much better.
Finally, what would be your medssage for the delegates in the forthcoming national convention where you seek to become the PDP national chairman and for Nigerians a whole?
My message to Nigerian generally is to keep hope alive, to have faith in the future of this country and to continue to live together as brothers and sisters in spite of whatever divisive measures are being put in place now. They should be united they should have a common faith in God and believe that tomorrow will certainly be better. And as for the delegates, this a unique opportunity, a very unique chance to elect their leaders those who will serve them in the next few years; who will reposition the party; who will take away the burden of autocracy, of lack of internal party democracy. This is the time to get people who have compassion for the masses; who have commitment and loyalty to the party and who believe in the rule of law; who believe in due process; who believe that indeed this is a party that is great; this is a party that will achieve for Nigerians particularly, the coming generations, the type of legacy that will be self-sustaining and that will consolidate democracy within the party and consolidate democracy generally within the nation. It is an opportunity that they must not lose, because it means a lot. Every day counts. Time is against us for the transformation of our party and for meaningful democracy to take place, to characterize our party and to characterize the nation generally.