A senator in the 8th National Assembly and spokesperson for the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, Dino Melaye, shares his thoughts with FRIDAY OLOKOR on the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party and other issues
It appears that the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party has been allowed to linger for too long. What are your fears for the PDP ahead of the 2023 general elections?
I want to start by correcting the misconception that you and many others have that there is a crisis in the PDP. I want to say without fear that there is no crisis anywhere. What we have is disagreement, and disagreement is allowed in politics. Like I said on Channels Television, democracy is noisy and it is normal for noise to be made, but the truth of the matter is that the PDP is one strong, reliable and indivisible political party. Disagreements are normal; after every primary election, it is expected that there will be disagreement and what is happening is normal. But if you are specifically talking about Governor Wike, I want to assure you that we are on top of the situation and reconciliation is ongoing. We’ve gone extremely far on it. We have made tremendous progress. Wike actually is a distinguished member of our party. He is a strong pillar of our party and I can assure you that he will work and support the candidature of Atiku Abubakar and the PDP.
But a lot of people feel that his recent romance with other political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress, has constituted a nightmare to the PDP. What is your take on this?
Why are you not thinking of it this way that Wike is on a democratic evangelism and he is even trying to woo those people to the advantage of the PDP? Why are you not looking at it from that perspective?
But the political romance and pilgrimages appear not timely against the background of what is really happening after the PDP presidential primary. What is your comment on this?
I will rather say that it is timely because he needs them to support the PDP to win the election and this is the time to do it and you are not privy to the discussions that Wike had with the APC members he is inviting. I still insist that Wike is working for the PDP and inviting those people to Rivers State is also part of his efforts to win more souls for the PDP, because Wike did not go to Lagos State, Lagos State governor came to Wike, and I think you should begin to look at the issue from that angle.
Let’s go back to the primary elections; vote-buying, not only in the PDP, even in other political parties, is a serious issue. Don’t you think using money during primary elections may lead to electing the wrong persons?
To start with, I want to say that it is very wrong to monetise our political process, either at the primary election or general election level. But I want to tell you that at the end of the day, money did not achieve anything, because those who spent more didn’t even make it. That is to tell you that Nigerians are now politically conscious. Nigerians know exactly what is good for them; they collected money from many people and didn’t work for those people. So, money did not dictate the final result of the presidential primary election of the PDP. I don’t know about the APC, but for the PDP, money was not a determining factor, because those who spent outrageously did not win at the end of the day. So, you cannot say money influenced the final result of the PDP presidential primary election, because people were resolute and determined to vote who they wanted to vote for.
During the primary, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State stepped down for Atiku Abubakar, a development that made many to describe him as a traitor to his friend, Wike. What is your view on this?
To start with, I don’t think Tambuwal is an employee of Governor Wike. They are friends. So, the issue of traitor or no traitor doesn’t arise. I don’t think there was an agreement between them. If there was any agreement, they would not be running for the same position. I also think what Tambuwal did was to take national interest above personal interest. It was his personal interest to become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the instrumentality of the PDP. But he saw somebody, who he felt has more experience, more capacity and will give Nigerians more dividends of democracy than himself and he chose to align himself with national interest and dropped personal interest.
Why did he not go for his friend instead of going for his brother?
That is not correct. If you know Tambuwal, you will know that he is not tribalistic because even when he was the Speaker (of the House of Representatives), he had a closer relationship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu than the people from the North. So, he just went for somebody he felt would give Nigeria the needed democratic desires.
Elections are coming in 2023, what are your fears?
I have no fears about the elections, because we have done the numbers and we know Nigerians are extremely tired of the APC. We know that nobody wants the continuation of kidnapping; nobody is interested in the continuous nose-diving of the value of the naira. Nobody is interested in the killings. You cannot even travel to your home town again. Nobody is interested in the fear of even sleeping and not waking up. No Nigerian is happy with the level of unemployment in this country; nobody is happy with the level of poverty, hunger and starvation in this country. In fact, there is no hope. If there is hope, you will say maybe things will get better, but things have got worse.
Today, our GDP has gone down, the standard of living is completely down. Seven million people have been added to the number of people living below the poverty line in the country. For the first time, we now have over 90 million Nigerians living below the poverty line. This is outrageously calamitous. So, no Nigerian in his right senses will begin to talk of voting for the APC. For us, the APC has done the campaign for the PDP because no Nigerian who was flying economy from Lagos to Abuja for N18,000 five years ago and now needs to pay N100,000 to fly to Lagos by the economy class will vote for the APC again. For us, there is nothing to fear; we are rather happy.
After the PDP presidential primary, has Atiku made any attempt to reach out to Wike?
I want to tell you that after the presidential primary election, Atiku met Wike twice.
What was the outcome of the meeting?
It was cordial.
Cordial, even with what Wike is saying?
It was very cordial.
Wike’s loyalists have alleged ‘northernisation’ of the PDP. Atiku is said to be a democrat and it is assumed that if he cannot settle the crisis in the PDP, he will not be able to settle the crisis in Nigeria. What is your take on this?
To start with, there is nothing like ‘northernisation’ of the political party. That is fallacious and it is ridiculous; it is malicious and it is unfounded. What do you mean by ‘northernisation’ of the PDP? How? Atiku is not yet President-elect not to speak of being sworn in. You cannot begin to live in the future by already seeing Atiku as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, there is nothing like ‘northernisation’ of the political party. When (Olusegun) Obasanjo was the President in this country and the national chairman of our party was (Okwesilieze) Nwodo, did we say that it was ‘southernisation’ of the political party? When Nwodo was the national chairman of the PDP and Obasanjo was President, did anybody say it was ‘southernisation’ of the political party? No!
People should not divide us when there is no need for it. All these things are just beer parlour discussions that should not be taken seriously. It is just primordial sentiment to drive home a selfish interest. The PDP is one indivisible political party. If Atiku becomes President, it is very natural that the national chairman will voluntarily leave the seat, but it is not when Atiku is not yet the President. It is just like in 2019, you will say that because he is the presidential candidate, Secondus should leave. At the end of the day, we didn’t get the presidency. Do you put the cart before the horse or the horse before the cart? We should not take mediocre people with defeatist tendencies seriously.
Who are these people?
You just told me that some people said. So, the same people who said it are those I am referring to.
The PDP has insisted on the restructuring of the country once it wins the presidential election and gets inaugurated. But there are fears, especially from the northern part of the country that restructuring may mean a different thing by splitting the country. Can you douse such fears?
The party is committed to restructuring; the candidate of the party spoke about restructuring when it was hard for any northerner to even talk about it. He (Atiku) even went ahead to write a book on restructuring. So, there is no fear of restructuring anywhere. I told you that Atiku is a symbol of unity and Nigeria will not get divided under his leadership, it will rather get unified and that is why we address him as a unifier.
Nigerians thought when Atiku chose Okowa as his running mate, he would make a U-turn and pick Wike because the PDP would be affected if the Rivers governor quits. Yet, Atiku stuck to his guns. Why is it so?
One, there is no need for a change. Two, the issue of vice-presidency and deputy governorship is the prerogative of the candidate in consultation with the party. Atiku decided to choose who he wants to pick as his vice-president and he has made that decision and that decision stands.
The police recently raised the alarm over violence, especially as campaigns are about taking off. What do you think about this?
Everyone knows that Atiku is a man of peace; everyone knows that the PDP is a party of peace; everyone knows that we are not a violent party; you know those who introduced violence into the political atmosphere of this country. You know those who are still insisting on violence. So, for us, I mean we have maintained peace; we will continue to maintain peace and Atiku, as a man of honour and peace, will continue to toe that line. The question of whether there should be peace and request for peace should be channelled to those who are violent and not the PDP.
Recently, you made a statement that it would be difficult to promote the presidential candidate of the APC without looking stupid. Some people see it as an unguarded statement. Do you have any regrets making such a statement?
The truth of the matter is that I repeat again, it will be very difficult to market, promote or campaign for the APC and the candidate, Tinubu, without looking stupid. How do you defend the massive and colossal killings that are going on? How do you defend the fact that the naira today is fluctuating between 680 and 700 to the dollar? How do you defend a situation where a loaf of bread that was N120 is now sold for N800? How do you defend the fact that diesel, which I was buying at N180 per litre, is today sold for N840 per litre? How do you defend that? How do you defend even the prices of goods and commodities across the country? How do you defend the fact that the country is unsafe? No part of this country is safe today, how do you defend that?
How do you defend the fact that Goodluck Jonathan budgeted N66bn for the whole security architecture of this country in 2014 and Buhari budgeted N240bn for the same security architecture of this country and there is no improvement? The killings have increased, kidnappings have increased. Every day, no element of our social fabric is on the increase but decline. The economy is declining, infrastructure declining, job creation and employment declining, insecurity pervasive. So, how will you defend that without looking stupid? You must definitely look stupid.
Wike has denied being behind the suit against the PDP, Atiku and Tambuwal. He also said Atiku’s men were behind the recent court case. What do you think about it?
The truth of the matter is that Atiku’s men are not behind that case. Of what advantage will that be to us when we are interested in the peace and development of the party? Atiku’s men are not behind that case and Wike is not behind it either. Wike is not somebody that hides behind a finger. If he is behind it, he will come out and tell you that he is behind it. So, since he has said he is not behind it, it means he is not behind it and it must be a creation of the APC.
Why do you engage in singing to mock perceived political enemies?
It is because singing is a spiritual weapon and I use it a lot.
How does Atiku intend to win the election in the South-West where Tinubu holds sway?
My answer to that is that the PDP just won an election in the ancestral home of Tinubu, Osun State.
You have been critical of the Buhari regime and you don’t see anything good about him. Why is it so?
I do not have a personal beef against Buhari and I cannot have a personal beef against Buhari, but I am not happy that Buhari scammed Nigerians.