Whether Sheriff or Makarfi, Supreme Court won’t change anything in PDP, says Emmanuel
Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, was the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) committee that zoned its chairmanship to the Northeast geo-political zone, a decision that led to the emergence of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff in controversial circumstances. Both Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi have been locked in a protracted litigation which is now before the apex court with threats to the continued existence of the party. But Emmanuel, who justified his committee’s decision, said the final verdict would further strengthen the party. NIYI BELLO (Head, Politics Desk)
The zoning that brought Sheriff
I was the chairman of the zoning committee and I did not, personally on my own, zone it to Borno. Mind you, in the zoning committee, we were over one hundred and working under a democracy. If you look at how we arrived at that zoning formula, it was based on the strength of the party in each of the geo-political zones of Nigeria. At the time I served as the zoning committee chairman, PDP was strongest in the South-South and we were trying to avoid a situation where we will leave it open. We were so strong in the South-South that we could easily bring somebody and even cause more disruption in the party. In that, because of the membership strength, there were a lot of people in the party that could support ten candidates. We didn’t want that. So we wanted to bring back everybody and we therefore had to do a zoning that would balance the party. That was what we did.
We actually did it based on the six geo-political zones and not to a particular state. It is when it gets to your own zone, that you people will now sit down and decide which state gets what. On the zoning committee, I carried only one vote. I was just the first among equals and I didn’t lord it over everybody. I am not that kind of person. The committee was a democratic committee, so I carried only one vote.
Could the zoning decision have been a mistake?
People in PDP are mere mortals. Even William Shakespeare wrote that nobody can, by mere looking into the face, tell the construction of a heart, how much more a zoning committee of hundred people. PDP had never claimed to be above mistake and we never claimed that we could tell what a person has in mind based on outward appearance. But I don’t regret whatever decision we have made as a party on that issue. I am one person that once I take a decision, I action. I took that person at that point in time, based on what was happening at the period. So it was the best of judgment at that minute. Things and situations change but it is only God that does not change. The question now is what can we do to resolve the problem? And that is where our ingenuity in crisis management comes in. I mean the ability of our leadership to manage the party out of that situation and at the same time, obey the rule of law. The situation does not also call for castigating anybody’s character. At the point we took that decision, we stood by it. Be rest assured that we are going to resolve the matter amicably. Before Sherriff was appointed or was nominated to be the chairman, the forum talked to so many other people. There was actually an interview process and everybody at that committee accepted that it was the best decision. Can that decision change the next minute? The answer is yes. We are mere mortals, not God.
On which side of the divide do you belong?
I belong to the PDP, not any side. But at the same time, I belong to everybody. Once you are a PDP member, with all sincerity of purpose, you are my party member. After the Supreme Court judgment, name of individuals would disappear and the party will still remain. People go to the polls to vote the party and not the individual. So anywhere the judgment goes to, I remain PDP. I will not leave PDP. I believe the judgment is not going to change the colour of our party and it won’t change the umbrella. It won’t change anything about our party. The party would remain PDP and we will wax stronger.
Why do states find it difficult to conduct council poll?
Here I will only speak for myself and I wouldn’t say it is difficult. When probably people refer to the interview I gave a fortnight ago on why I didn’t do local government elections, I was quite clear. I said in the hierarchy of needs, some are fundamental and urgent and important; some are important but not so urgent and may not be so fundamental. I consider meeting other basic needs of people more fundamental and urgent. In our politics of inclusiveness, I don’t sit in my office and write names of those who are in the local government transition committees. That is what makes it different. Those I put under local government transitional committee, even if I do election, are the same people that will go 100 percent because I throw this thing back to the people to decide on how we should do it. We called stakeholders meetings to decide these things.
Again, we didn’t have money to do it and no matter how you do the exercise, you must run the election in almost 3000 units. Look at the personnel I will employ alone to cut across that. Look at the material I would need and here, when you are doing anything, you are bringing your own infrastructure. Look at the power I need to provide for it to run. Look at the security Look at resources, mobility and vehicles because they must convey materials. When you put these things together, you wonder, what am I set to achieve? What is the purpose because you see, at times, we don’t bother to ask ourselves, what am I set out to achieve? Just for me to have someone to govern a local government? When in the same way too I can assemble stakeholders to get the posts filled and then use that money to pay the local government employees who have not been paid for sometimes and pay the pensioners who could die while standing to vote in that election. Who would go to vote if everybody is hungry? Some of these things are not cast in stones. You can actually look at what the law allows you to do and do that in the context of available resources and what you want to achieve for your people. I think my people are very happy. If you hear anybody going to court, know that it is an exception. In every situation, there are people who act as disruptors. The question is, are we going to do local government election? The answer is yes. I am meeting with the State Independent Electoral Commissioner so that we chart how we are going to run the election. We are certainly going to do it.
Experience in the last two years as Akwa Ibom governor
There are two types of politicians, professionals in politics and professional politicians. That we are professionals in politics means that we have been prepared for leadership over time. You know your vision is limited by your exposure. I believe my experience so far, with the exposure we had over time, our training both in and out of classroom, our hands-on experience, our interaction with the outside world, across the globe and even among the masses at the grassroots, by the time you combine all of them together, they contribute to different areas. Take for example the heart you have towards a common man, what can trigger that off is actually your experience relating to that common man. For instance, despite huge investments in education at all levels, you still see hundreds of children on the streets at school hours. And even if you say lets go and arrest the parent for not sending them to school, a child walks up to you and you ask, ‘why didn’t you go to school?’ And he replies, ‘sorry sir, I couldn’t go because I didn’t eat.’ At that point in time, goose pimples will be all over you. How can you spend so much providing free and compulsory education and even when the child goes to school he cannot still do well because basic things have not been tackled? It is all these things put together that actually makes you prepared for the job. You are going to make sacrifices, you are willing to push, in fact, you are afraid to celebrate, you can’t even celebrate what you do because you believe you have a lot of miles to cover because of what you see. You turn around in terms of medical services and you see somebody who has a disease that can easily be treated but because the person would need to travel miles in order to get either secondary healthcare or tertiary healthcare, and in the course of doing that, the situation gets terribly worse. So you can’t rest, you can’t celebrate anything until you make sure you have actually allow people to have access to these and also an affordable terms. So I think those are the things that prepared people like me for this job.
Are you fulfilled yet about plans for the state?
I just gave you an example of what will make me not to be fulfilled. That is why I said a job well done, means much more job to be done. I can only be fulfilled, any day I look and see that our per-capital income is comparable to what others are able to achieve outside this country. Nobody has a monopoly of God. Those whose per capital are in tens and hundreds of thousands of US dollars don’t have the monopoly of God. Those who have some of these things in excess and who have totally overcome the problems against living good life don’t have monopoly of God. I can only be fulfilled when I see Nigerians at that level. I can never feel fulfilled no matter what I do from both inside and outside. I can only be fulfilled if I provide free and compulsory education and every time, in the morning, a child is jumping to go to school because he must have had a balanced diet, must have eaten well, must have had enough protein that can actually enable that child to develop, so that when the child is in the class and the child is being taught, he would be able to assimilate, will be able to feel happy going to school, not when a child is afraid that as I am coming back from school, won’t they even first send me to farm before I even come back to have my lunch? Even when we are moving towards providing school feeding system, it is still not enough.
When the school is not in session, won’t the child still eat, when they are on long vacation, what happened? What happened at weekends when the child does not go to school? So it is a whole lot to be done. It’s too early to start drumming up and say whether one is fulfilled. And that fulfillment would not be limited to the state that you come from but cut across the whole country. It wouldn’t just be enough for us to overcome it in my own state without the neighbouring states. It is simple. If you train your state indigenes and you don’t train your neighbours, know that even your children too wouldn’t be at peace. It must cut across. Don’t just train your child and leave your neighbours child and think your child would be at peace. It doesn’t still work that way.