Dr Umar Ardo is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former governorship aspirant in Adamawa State. He was a former special assistant to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, he speaks about the speculated return of Atiku to PDP and the implication for the party ahead of 2019.
You filed a petition to the PDP over the way and manner the recent Adamawa State congress was done in the state. You specifically claimed it was skewed to favour former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Has your petition being addressed? If so are you comfortable with the response you got?
Yes, the entire process was skewed to favour the former Vice President. He nominated the State Caretaker Committee Chairman and some members, accommodated them, gave them transportation and funding and directed their affairs. Of course he did all these with the tacit cooperation of the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee (CTC). Even at that our group didn’t have much problem during the congresses as we won most of the wards and LGAs in the state. Problems started when we came to hold the state congress. Realizing that in a free and fair contest we’ll defeat them flat, they then resorted to acts of illegality to enable them take over the state EXCO.
In connivance with Atiku and few disgruntled and highly unpopular so-called stakeholders who dire not even go to their local communities, members of the state caretaker committee sat down and allocated the state’s executive offices to themselves without resigning their positions against the party guidelines as explicitly stated by the National Chairman Sen. Ahmad Makarfi at their inauguration. Consequently, eleven of them transmuted into so-called elected state executive committee members including the so-called state Chairman, Secretary, Woman Leader, Treasurer, Auditor, etc. while seven became National Delegates; thereby denying genuine party members of contesting. Because I paid in about N9,999,000 for all the nomination forms for our group, I petitioned this injustice to the State Congress Appeal Panel and the panel, after reviewing the facts of the matter, recommended to the national CTC for the cancellation of the charade and the conduct of fresh congress in the state. But till date, under the influence of Atiku, the Makarfi-led CTC is sitting on this report, refusing to act on it.
Thus the Makarfi-led CTC has no respect for its own very words, for the process it instituted, turning the PDP into a hotchpotch organization without rules and regulations and without adherence to its constitution. Yet, Adeyeye is accusing others of sabotaging the party? If there’re any saboteurs in the party it is the CTC members who have no regards for the party’s guidelines and constitutional provisions. They’ve no moral right to say the things there’re saying.
Atiku has finally left the APC and is on his way to join the PDP. What does his return portend for PDP in Adamawa and nation-wide?
It portends conflict and crises, because Atiku is not coming in to build the party; he is coming to further his own ambition, and that will be the source of the conflict. Already, the conflict has been sown in Adamawa state because we won’t accept the illegality he just created in the state, and it will blossom to the national level. In order to achieve his avid ambition he will still create more illegalities at the national level. For example, being PDP former Vice President he will insist on attending the December 9 National Convention as a statutory delegate. But he is lawfully ineligible, because by virtue of section 8(18) of the PDP constitution, any person who earlier left the party and later returns shall lose the seniority and privileges conferred on him by his previous status.
That means he has simply lost thatprivilege of a statutory delegate conferred on him as former Vice President. But knowing his political psychology, he won’t take that, and if the Makarfi-led CTC bulges to his pressure and allows him attend the convention as a statutory delegate, then that would set in another era of impunity that would ultimately lead to the final destruction of the party. If they want him so much then they can allow him in as an observer, which I’ll have no problem with.
Besides, there’re other members who have been faithful and loyal to the party and also have presidential ambition, but bore with equanimity all the shortcomings of the party and refused to decamp. Will it be fair to such party members to be displaced by one who had not been loyal to the party and who the party gave everything? Wouldn’t that also be an act of injustice and thus create another basis for conflict? While we want everybody in the party, I however believe the party will be better off with few faithful and committed members than a having a large conglomeration of all sorts of characters.
We must learn to reward faithful and committed members. To this end, I call on the party to maintain the current waiver period against returnees. As a National Delegate, I will vote NAY against the waiver amendment at the convention.
Do you agree with those who believe the current party leadership is working to give Atiku the PDP presidential ticket?
With my experience in what happened in Adamawa state, from the dissolution of the AbduRahman Bobboi-led executive committee to the recent so-called congresses, I will put nothing beyond the Makarfi-led CTC. I believe it can be easily compromised.
Atiku is obviously aiming for the presidential ticket. Do you think he can get it? Does he have the capacity to defeat President Buhari, if he eventually seeks reelection, first in the North and then nationally?
In the first place, it is highly unlikely for Atiku to get the ticket of the party. If the party decides to adopt the famous Option A4 nomination process, I can guarantee you Atiku will not scale through his ward, and if he manages to do so, he will be dead on arrival at the Local Government level. Don’t forget we’re from the same LGA and I have always defeated them in that LGA, from the days of Odili’s contest till date. And I assure you the situation will remain like that for a very long time to come. As of defeating Buhari in the North, in the unlikely event that he is filled in by the PDP, I’ll say the possibilities do not exist. The Northern Caliphate establishment had never supported him even though he took their titles and married their daughter.
Also, majority of Northern Christians/minorities are unlikely to vote him because he incurred their wrath since the days of SDPwhen, firstly, he unfairly got the Adamawa State governorship nomination announced in Lagos in his favour and against his main opponent, Dr. Bala Takaya, who was generally favoured by the Christians/minority ethnic groups; and secondly, when he was openly seen to have committed serious anti-party against the SDP after he was disqualified from the contest and the party filled in Barr. Boss Mustafa, the present SGF, as it governorship candidate. He then supported and funded the NRC candidate, Alhaji Sale Michika.
This was generally interpreted as an anti-Christian/minority act. These two episodes went viral among Christian/minority communities across Northern Nigeria. They created serious distrust and aversion for him amongst them that still define their voting pattern towards him. I don’t see this changing in 2019.
At the national scene, let’s assume the most opposing two zones to Buhari, the Southsouth and the Southeast, would vote Atiku as PDP candidate. These two zones are numbers 5&6 in the country’s voting strength based on the 2014 registered voters. While Northwest, Southwest and Northeast, Buhari’s major support bases, are numbers 1,2&4 respectively. Statistically, the combined voting strength of the SS and SE is in the region of 22.8%, less than NW alone with 24.6%.
Don’t forget, in the North central, Buhari had always won Niger, Nassarawa and lately Kogi. So I cannot see how Atiku’s hold on the two southern zones will substantially affect Buhari. Given this scenario, heads Buhari wins, and tales Atiku loses. However, Buhari can still be removed in 2019; but to do so PDP needs to employ sophisticated strategies and certainly will have to look far beyond Atiku.
You were a very close aide of the former Vice President but today you are one of his critics. At what point did your relationship with him go sour?
At the point when he became impervious to reason and decided to challenge the president in the run up to the 2003 presidential election. I vehemently opposed that move, knowing full well that it was against his interest. And when my fears came to pass, the relationship spoilt so I resigned my appointment on 23rdNovember, 2004. Although he later rejected the resignation, but things had fallen apart and the center could no longer hold.
As one who worked closely with him, can you give us a hint as to what drives his ambition to be president?
To define it in one word, I’ll say ego. Let’s talk about the forthcoming convention. There have been so much accusations and counter accusations against the party leadership.
Do you nurse any fears that the party can get this convention right? If no, why?
Personally I don’t subscribe to the idea of micro-zoning as being canvassed by the Southwest. I therefore support the position taken by the CTC. If the leadership can only adhere to the guidelines and constitutional provisions to resolve the genuine irregularities raised in the states, then I believe the convention will be a success.
What do you make of plots to hold parallel convention in protest against allegations of lopsidedness towards an aspirant? Do you support such moves?
It won’t work. Those who held the parallel Abuja convention against the 21st May, 2016 Port Harcourt convention have they succeeded? Is it not the Port Harcourt convention that prevailed? They won’t succeed this time too if they do. Besides, there is no such aspirant. If majority of stakeholders support an aspirant it means he is popular; that doesn’t mean he is favoured by the party leadership.
Do you think the party has learnt any lessons after the 14 month crisis as it prepares for the 2019 general election?
To some extent, yes; although there’re still a lot of lessons needing tutorials like the injustices and unconstitutionalities committed in the Adamawa congresses.