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PDM out to stop president Jonathan's ambition in 2015 - Kwande

Published by Tribune on Wed, 26 Sep 2012

Former Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland in the Second Republic, founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and political associate of the late General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, speaks with Isaac shobayo on the moves to resuscitate the political pressure group, Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and why power must return to the North in 2015. Excerpts:What informed the recent re-grouping of members of Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM)Our intention in re-grouping is not to form a political party, as is being speculated in some quarters. But if you say we are re-grouping for 2015, there might be some element of truth in it. We are not just from one political party; we call ourselves Yar'Adua family in the PDM. The composition of the PDM was from the Peoples Front (PF) and it is also from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) itself because PDP had its source and strength from the group. PDM was a very strong pressure group, not a political party. There was a time we were dictating the pace of things in this country and in the PDP; we almost had the majority of cabinet members during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Unfortunately, Obasanjo tried to disband us and he almost succeeded. He pulled some of our members to form his inner cabinet and because of this, we were all away from one other. Our leader who took over from Yar'Adua was Atiku Abubakar and he was in government then. He was the focus of every member of the PDM but he found himself in a dilemma in the sense that he was with Obasanjo who did not want PDM and we were looking towards him to hold the PDM together.As a result of this dilemma, PDM went down. Now, we have seen the result of our not being together and that is why we are re-grouping. If you see the attendance of our recent meeting in Abuja, you will be surprised; mere invitation simply brought us together. Every members knows the myth and power of being together in the PDM. Some of our members now are being humiliated; those interested in political activities are not finding something to do and that is why a few people decided to bring back the PDM.You said PDM members were humiliated, who humiliated them and in what sense'The government of the day, the PDP government, because we were no longer an active pressure group within the PDP as it used to be and that is why they wanted to disgrace our leader, Atiku, during the 2011 presidential primary. So, we now discovered that we needed to come together if we are to participate in the development of this country.We were more visible during the tenure of Obasanjo; we invited him, he came on our ticket as PDM to defeat his opponent in the primary and we supported him to win the election proper. People should not forget that it was as a result of our support that people like Yomi Edu and Dapo Sarumi and others came into his cabinet. Along the line, some people misled him, saying that Atiku was being given too much power as a result of his popularity during the first tenure. Unfortunately, we have some people among us that betrayed us.They attended our meetings, only to inform Obasanjo what we were doing and then Obasanjo did not see us as people helping him to stabilise the government. He turned us into enemies and started fighting everybody. That was why he removed everybody while reshuffling his cabinet, especially people like Titi Ajanaku, Ango Abdulahi, Sarumi, Edu and others. That was the beginning of wanting to destroy the influence of the PDP in the politics of Nigeria.There is the insinuation that there are former members of the PDP who do not believe that the ideal of the movement is still relevant and hence stayed away from your recent meeting in Abuja.Those who thought about bringing us together were not very important or famous PDM leaders. Atiku was aware, I wouldn't say to you that he founded it, but he was aware of the meeting. Tony Anienh was aware. Many important PDM members were not brought in because we didn't want those having misunderstanding against one another during the first term of Obasanjo to quarrel there. So, we went down a bit by inviting sober members of our association to begin with. But the objective was to project ordinary people who were anxious to have the PDM back and they came.Is it true that there are members of the PDP who do not support the leadership of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as leader of the movement'Where is Yar'Adua' He is dead; he was an individual but a very strong character and held us very tight. But why should everybody agree to the leadership of Atiku because they also want to be the leader' You can only have one leader, but it wasn't during the time of Shehu Yaradua that we won election for Obasanjo; it was under Atiku. So there is no basis for comparison.We did not have assistant leader to Shehu Yardua; his taking over was just natural in the sense that there must be somebody to hold us together and he happened to fit into the arrangement. It was during Obsanjo's tenure that Professor Abdulahi was appointed Special Adviser on Food Security but when he saw the way Obasanjo was going, he was not happy and had to quit.The present membership of the PDP looks like a conglomeration of old politicians, where is the position of young ones in this arrangement'You need consistency. During our last meeting, the young ones were there. We brought in people like Ghali Na'aba; we brought in Rabiu Kwankwanso and quite a lot of young people were there. We have many young men with us.Though 2015 is still far away, Nigerians have started talking about who takes over from President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 and politicians in the North are saying power must return to the North. In this in line with PDM's arrangement'You have come down to the reason why the PDM is coming back; it is one of our agenda to pursue the agreement of power coming back to the North in 2015. Most of us are still in the PDP; our leader, Atiku, is still in the PDP. The idea is to have a pressure group, not to form a political party. There are people who believe in the activities and sincerity of the PDP in wanting to bridge the gap between South and the North and between the Muslims and Christians that support PDM. We are liberal politicians and we want justice. This composition of PDM is across the country; it is not a political pressure group from the North and the late Shehu Yar'Adua formed it because he wanted to bridge the gap between the North and the South.When former President Ibrahim Babangida formed two political parties, we advised that we should go to the National Republican Convention (NRC) but the late Yar'Adua said no because members of the NRC were predominantly northerners, saying that would not bridge the gap. That was why we embraced the Social Democratic Party (SDP) where there were people like Jim Nwobodo, Lateef Jakande and the rest of the people in the southern part of the country. He wanted to solidify the corporate existent of Nigeria; that is why we are trying to bring back such a concept. If you see us fighting for the presidency to come back to the North, it is because we think it is just.What is the basis for wanting power return to the North'The basis is that President Goodluck Jonathan has reneged from the agreement that he signed. He can contest if he leaves the PDP because our agreement is not between the North and South only; our agreement also includes the PDP. The concept was that we should rotate our candidates within the PDP and he signed that document. But he reneged and contested despite that agreement and for him to repeat it again would be looking down on northerners.But both the constitution of Nigeria and that of the PDP allow for second term and he is just on his first term'The fact is that Jonathan was invited on the goodwill of northerners to be the vice president. If a northerner is president, a southerner must be a vice president. He was not the strongest and Bayelsa was not the most populous state in Nigeria. The North picked him to be vice president and he later became the president and got elected also.Is your argument based on morality or constitution'It is a question of agreement; agreement is morality. If you sit down with somebody and agree on something, it becomes moral. It was morally wrong for him to have prevented the North from contesting election within the PDP. If he wanted to contest because he was popular, he should have moved out of the PDP and nobody would have stopped him.
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