Former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Vincent Ogbulafor speaks on a wide range of national issues. He spoke with CELESTINE OKAFOR.
Two years has gone down since the APC government took over power from your party the PDP. Would you say that the APC has handled the affairs of the country better than your party did?
Well, l won’t really say that the APC has done a fantastic job within the period under review. Under the APC government today, there appears to be hunger in the land, whereas under the PDP regime, people were a bit comfortable. Things moved better under PDP. There was smooth sail of businesses. Investors were coming and going even though you would say that corruption was deep rooted in PDP government due to weak leadership of the Presidency. But in APC, people had very high hopes of redemption from the situation but that hope was dashed in the past two years. President Muhammadu Buhari and his party APC started well. People had high hopes in APC because the PDP was going down and Nigerians felt that APC will give them succor with their change mantra. But unfortunately, they (APC) couldn’t live up to that popular expectation. APC came and started fighting corruption very successfully. The money they realized from the corrupt people they arrested ought to have been used to reconstruct and rehabilitate our dilapidated infrastructure like roads because that is the only thing a Nigerian would use to assess how well a government is working.
In what specific areas would you say the APC government has done well?
The APC regime under President Buhari has done very well in the area of anti-corruption. It has fought it very vigorously and everybody, at least, is afraid now to loot public funds or even engage in corrupt practices for fear of being exposed, arrested, detained and dispossessed of the proceeds of corruption unlike before. People are afraid to move huge chunk of money in the bank for fear of being asked questions or being arrested. And the DSS, the EFCC and other relevant security agencies are monitoring the movement of money in the banks. So the APC government has done well in that regard. But apart from the lopsided corruption war, this government has made it difficult for investors to come into the country and invest in other to create jobs and help revitalize this economy. People are afraid of doing business now because of being held for corruption. Even those that are being accused of corruption, what are you doing with them? We have so many inconclusive cases of corruption in courts. Nobody has been convicted and jailed.
You aware that most of the dilapidated roads are receiving attention?
In the South East zone where l come from, the roads are still in bad shape. The Onitsha 2nd Niger Bridge is there and nothing has been done on it. The Umahia-Enugu-Port Harcourt Road is still the same way the PDP government left it. The Enugu-Onitsha Highway is not yet repaired. Contractors are there wasting time. They’ve been there for two years doing nothing. That stretch of Enugu-Umuahia-Port Harcourt Road is still a death trap. Aliko Dangote’s trailers fall on that road every day and they lose a lot of money to bad roads. Tankers trucks also keep failing on that road all the time. On my way from Umuahia to Abuja a couple of days ago, l was trapped on that road for over two hours for the Road Safety officials to clear the road so that we could pass and continue our journey. This has been going on for two years and the APC government can’t finish it. I would advise that sometimes the President should not visit states on official tours traveling by air. I don’t see why a president cannot go by road from Abuja to Kogi State so that he would have the opportunity of assessing the state of the roads by himself. When the president gets to Kogi, the governor of Kogi can host him for one night and the next day, he continues by road to Enugu and then to Umuahia and to Port Harcourt. When the president travels by air, he wouldn’t know what is happening on those roads. The president should not be relying on his ministers because they tell lies a lot. I was a minister myself in the PDP government so l know what l am talking about. The ministers are fond of preparing very false reports and present to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings. And when the money is approved for them they go and squander it. But when the president sees these things, the ugly state of those roads for himself, he will then know how to tackle the minister of works when he tries to deceive him at the council meeting.
The APC government of President Buhari seems to have fulfilled its promise of fighting insurgency in the land as well as bringing back the Chibok girls. Do you have objections to that achievement?
The APC government, in all fairness to it, has actually done well in the area of bringing back the Chibok girls. Even though not all of them have been recovered, but a good number of them have been brought back to their families. That is quite commendable as far as l am concerned. The president, on assumption of office in 2015, moved the headquarters of the operation war against insurgency to the theater of action in the
North East so that the job can be done better. The efforts and ability the Nigerian Army shown in that operation so far is heart-warming. So the release of the Chibok girls is appreciated but government should intensify efforts in getting the remaining girls released. l commend the government for fighting the insurgents to a standstill. At least, that has reduced drastically the menace of Boko Haram in this country.
As a citizen of this country, what are your expectations from this government in the next two years of its current tenure?
I want the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari to concentrate on agriculture and food production in the next two years. I would also say that they should concentrate on giving an impressive condition to real investors. They should ensure that the foreign exchange rate is brought down to a level that is acceptable to investors and to all Nigerians. The exchange rate is currently very high. It is far higher now than what it was when they took over from the PDP. I want to emphasize that this government should really open up for the investors so that we can have more industries in the country in other to provide more employment and stimulate the economy. This is key. Investors cannot come when the foreign exchange is very high. They should also concentrate on road and bridge construction and rehabilitation across the country. That will give the APC government a good score mark in the remaining two years, otherwise Nigerians will feel that they have done nothing.
Are you still in PDP or have you joined APC, because there was a time it was rumoured that you have joined APC?
PDP is a party I love so much because l invested my energy and strength in helping to build it when I was National Chairman. Then I controlled 28 states where we have governors. That was why I said the PDP will rule for 60 years. For somebody who is controlling 28 states as national chairman of the then ruling PDP, why can’t I rule for 60 years? But the former President, Goodluck Jonathan came and scattered it.
How did former President Jonathan scatter things?
He refused to take advice from his national chairman then which was me. I was advising Jonathan not to contest for presidency after he had completed his ticket with former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua because there was an existing agreement with top hierarchy of the national caucus of the PDP that zoning must be observed and strictly respected. We had agreed that the presidency of this country must be on the basis of eight years of two tenure to the South and eight years of two tenure for the North. We in the south, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, completed our own eight years while the North was yet to complete its own eight years. I told him (Jonathan) please sir don’t contest because if you do, there will be no peace and unity in this country. So I advised against his ambition and he forced me to resign my position as PDP national chairman. Chief Edwin Clark was behind him then, urging him to remove Vincent Ogbulafor as PDP chairman so that he can freely contest for the presidency. Chief E.K Clark told him that if you allow Ogbulafor to remain there as PDP chairman, you won’t be able to achieve your plans. So Jonathan found every reason to push me away. And in one year, Jonathan had five national chairmen of PDP. That was when the party became sick. The same Jonathan crumbled the PDP only for him to come back now to claim that he wants to rebuild and unite the party. Is it not a foolish act? You know, there was a time some members of the party came together to claim that they were forming a PDP reform forum.
Are you talking about the intra-party group in the PDP formed by the former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and some others?
Exactly! There was a time Jonathan was about to travel to the United States of America on official visit. I went to him and said to him Mr President, l have a problem and he asked me what the problem was. I told him that some party members were forming a group which they called a PDP Reform Forum. I told him also that these people had printed envelopes and letter heads and that as the national chairman, I cannot allow this reneged group to continue to do what they are doing, engaging in subversive anti-party activities which was against the constitution of the PDP. I made Jonathan to understand that the group had ulterior motive. He said I should wait until he comes back from the US. I wanted to get his permission and suspend them when the president travelled. But General Aliyu Gusau, the then National Security Adviser (NSA) came to my office at the party headquarters and said chairman I understand you want to suspend some party members, I said yes. And he pleaded with me not to suspend Ken Nnamani and co yet until the president comes back from his American trip. I obeyed. But the president came back and still didn’t do anything. So l went ahead to suspend them because the party constitution was very clear on such things. If you want certain reforms to be carried out in the party, you bring your list of whatever you want reformed in the party to the National Working Committee (NWC) of that party and they will compile whatever you have brought and forward to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. And the person (the reformist) will also be present at the NEC meeting to witness whether the NEC will accept his proposal or not. But you cannot go and form a group within the party simply because you people are well-placed people in the party. That amounts to dividing the party. Even then, my advice to the president about the activities of those people eventually came to pass. The same people later abandoned Jonathan and the party and went to join former military president, General lbrahim Babangida when he wanted to contest for the presidency against Jonathan in 2011 elections. What I am telling you is the whole truth. Ken Nnamani and all those people left Jonathan for IBB. And today, where is that PDP? Jonathan handed the PDP to people that do not have character as national chairman and they ruined the party. You have to have a strength of character to be the chairman of the then ruling party like PDP. Before I became the chairman of PDP, I passed through the party as national secretary. I was elected not appointed as national chairman of PDP. And to be elected as national chairman and accepted by all the 21 governors of PDP controlled states, you must have worked with them peacefully in the past.
What is your own impression of former President Jonathan?
To me, Goodluck Jonathan was not matured for president. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo even said it. The man was not ripe for the office he held. If you give him a good advice, the moment you step out and somebody else comes in to speak to him, he will change and do a different thing entirely. He (Jonathan) is not a steady character. His type of character is not suitable for an important and serious job of a president of a country. I have worked with late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and former President Olusegun Obasanjo and these are men that when they speak, you count on their words.
What are your other observations about Jonathan that helped to work against the political fortunes of the PDP in the 2015 general elections?
You see, Jonathan could not work with me because l am principled. I’ve told you already that l had advised him not to contest for the presidency in 2011. I said in the public glare then that power is still in the north based on the mutual existing zoning agreement. That statement got Jonathan very angry with me. You know, there are so many things about what transpired in PDP in which l don’t want to mention now until after 10 years.
Why a whole 10 years wait?
There are a whole lot of revelations to make that will shock so many people. But as a former national chairman of the PDP then, l can tell you confidently that Jonathan killed PDP. He crumbled the party. I won’t say more than that for now.
When will you join APC as earlier rumored?
I can’t join APC now until I see what happens to PDP’s case currently in court. I am very hopeful that the case will go in our favour. And if the Makarfi-led group of the PDP which is where I belong eventually wins the case in Supreme Court, I can now know the next step to take. You know I am a life member of the PDP board of trustees (BoT). It’s not going to be easy for me to dumb PDP as a BoT member and as a former national chairman, former national secretary and former minister in PDP. I won’t leave PDP and go. I have a conscience. I will try to revive PDP and it is easy to revive that party. It is only PDP that has a solid structure down the line. What it requires is to rekindle the party and it is very easy to rekindle. That’s all we need to do and we will bounce back.
But it is surprising that people who are so passionate like you about PDP have not openly intervened in the crisis rocking the party?
You see, why people like me didn’t want to meddle or force ourselves on people, it is because of neglect. In all the on-going peace meetings, we were never invited. I was particularly never invited. Somebody like Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo who also was a national chairman and former national secretary of the PDP like me was also not invited to those meetings. We were ignored. So how can we force ourselves? What we did was to stay back and watch them. Perhaps, there will be a time they will need us. They don’t invite us to their meetings. The deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, doesn’t remember to invite us for the PDP peace meetings. That was why we decided to stay back and watch them. But sincerely, I cannot leave PDP until we finally lose the case in court because I cannot work with Ali Modu Sheriff.