Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Eye Openning Interview With Mr. Ebenezer Babatope

•Opposition parties are just paper tigers — Ebenezer Babatope By TAIWO AMODU [aniodu']
Saturday, August 29, 2009

Former Aviation Minister and PDP chieftain, Chief Ebenezer Babatope has appraised the opposition parties in Nigeria, giving a damning verdict: opposition parties in Nigeria merely exist on the pages of newspapers. Speaking with Saturday Sun in Lagos in an exclusive interview, Babatope chides the opposition parties for not doing enough to sell themselves to the electorate, only to turn around at election period to blame the F'DP and INEC for their failures at polls. Party of Nigeria was particularly abrasive of the AC which it dismissed as not being on the ground in the south west, but blames the INEC and PDP each time it loses at the polls.

The former Director of Organization of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria was particularly abrasive of the AC which he dismissed as not being on the ground in the south west, but blames the INEC and PDP each time it loses at the polls

We just had a re run senatorial election in Ekiti and PDP won AC; just like what we experienced during the gubernatorial re run, allegations are flying all over the place. What do you make of this?
Well, I wish the young men of the AC the best of luck. You see, it's clear to anybody who is objective that the AC could never have won the Ekiti North senatorial election. Never! I say this, not because I am PDP but because.. one, I was born in Ekiti, Ifako Ekiti precisely the home town of Governor Oni and I know the politics there .Ekiti North is a place where PDP is strongest in the whole of Ekiti State.
So, there is no way that the AC could have defeated the PDP. You see, I agree that the AC was a formidable party before the 2007 election, but the moment the AC shot itself on the foot by allowing almost twelve members of its party who were aspiring to be governor to leave the party and join the PDP, these men came to strengthen the hands of the PDP in Ekiti State.
One of them is Arise who in fact just won election in Ekiti North. So, when these boys came, of course they strengthened the PDP and PDP definitely was in a position to defeat the AC.
The propaganda of the AC is strong, of course I admit that, but the reality on the ground is that the PDP can never be defeated in that place. When you take the totality of Ekiti state, I quite agree that AC is very strong in Ikere Ekiti; very strong in Ado Ekiti even though we are now contending with them in Ikere Ekiti, but very strong in Ado Ekiti and then very strong in the local government of Niyi Adebayo and Ayo Fayose, but not to the point that the PDP would be disgraced in the place.
But if you talk of Ekiti North they know themselves and there is no way by which AC could have beaten the PDP in Omuo, in lkole in Ilejemeje in Oye Ekiti, in Ido Osi local government. It is very difficult! The only area of Ekiti North where the AC is very popular and strong is Kayode Fayemi's home town. But when you take it out, what's the population of the voters in Isan ? You actually found out that there's nothing left for the AC. They could make some impression I consider that Ayede Ekiti, but not to the point that they will disgrace the PDP in Ayede Ekiti.
I give you an example. There's Itapa/Osi ward, where the AC defeated the PDP by 50 votes in Itapa township, simply because the Ayo Fayose group is formidable to do that, but in Osi the PDP won hands down, but Itapa and Osi form one ward so when you put the ward together the PDP defeated the AC. So apparently the PDP won the election fair and square.
Again, if you come to Ifaki Ekiti where Adetunbi the senatorial candidate of the AC comes from and where Segun Oni also comes from, believe me, I was born there, lived there. The father of the AC candidate was my teacher at school, very nice man .but electorally Ifaki people will never vote for any party different from the party in which you have Segun Oni.
The Ekiti governor's father was a very popular person in Ifaki, just the same way as Adetunbi but Governor Oni's father was older, he was a strong man in the Methodist church and rose to he be the head of the church in the place and the traditional Ifaki politics had always hovered round Papa Awolowo and Segun Oni's father lived and died an Action Grouper.
So there was no way by which Adetunbi could have won in Ifaki. That's the truth! And there was no way Fayemi could have defeated Segun Oni and PDP in Ifaki, or Ido Osi. No way!

The opportunity the government has to assure Nigerians that it meant well with electoral reform is slipping out of its hands; I am talking about the Uwais report and Yar'Adua has been accused of playing game with it...
You see, don't let us be too much in a hurry. I agree with everybody saying that we must have electoral reform, I have always preached that. When we went to the constitutional conference in 2005, it was the decision of that conference that we should have electoral reform and of course, president Yar'Adua has said it very clearly that he's for electoral reform and the rule of law. I agree, but you see we still have two years to election in 2011 and I know and I am convinced that the Uwais report, given the areas the government has announced that they have agreed with will be implemented. It's for the National assembly and I want to appeal to the National Assembly, they must not toy with the destiny of this country by in fact not passing into law all these reforms. They must, they should close their eyes, sacrifice their time and ensure that Nigerians have this electoral reforms.
But my fear and I hope that the opposition parties in Nigeria will not just be mere paper tigers. You see, when these reforms are passed, then you discover that they are just mere paper tigers and then they will not be able to do anything, after the reforms might have come into play. So we beg them, we appeal to them to do their job well and open their eyes and they must also stop political frivolities. They just must admit where they know that they are not strong as I just told you about Ekiti North; it's not possible for the AC to beat PDP in Ekiti North. All the violence they are talking about isn't something which in fact is common in all parts of the world, even in America, even in Britain, we have it! But the question is, we must talk in terms of relativity of parties in terms of popularity in areas of Nigeria.
So, I 'm for electoral reforms, I agree with you that we must have electoral reforms, the National Assembly must give Nigerians electoral reforms. If they fail to do so, Nigerians must hold the national assembly responsible and they must now seize the hours and ensure that we have electoral reforms so that 2011 election will be adjudge by Nigerians and those outside as being free and fair.

But people see the delay trailing the constitutional amendment as a PDP game?
I want to assure you and I want to assure Nigerians that there's no PDP game anywhere. These are matters of common sense. It's true that PDP members are in the majority in the National Assembly that is the more reason why those chaps who are there-and I appeal to them to ensure that they pass the electoral law. I want to appeal to them, because at the end of the day Nigerians will be looking at them and will be holding them responsible for whatever happens - not the party.
So, they must close their eyes for some weeks and finish up with electoral laws, pass it so that Nigerians can have electoral laws for 2011 elections. If they don't do it, they would have failed the nation and that would be very catastrophic indeed.
I'm for it and the Federal Government has announced, clearly and without mincing words that it's committed to electoral reforms. In fact, all the bills for electoral reforms have been submitted to the National Assembly and we are all waiting. The Attorney General of the Federation has gone to the national assembly to talk to them, let the national assembly members do what should be done and there should be no prevarications, no pretence. Do what should be done and save Nigerians from the chaos of electoral malpractices.
You just dismiss the opposition parties as paper tigers; but they also accuse PDP of arm twisting. Take the case of defecting governors… [cuts in] you see, when you talk about defecting governors.
What does PDP want? A one party state?
No, we can't be a one party state in this country and again, I'm making an appeal to the opposition party. But those who have defected, if you go into deep analyses of those who have defected who are governors, you find that many of them were former members of PDP. Ohakim of Imo State was a member of PDP pre -2007 election. When the PDP didn't nominate him to contest the gubernatorial election in the state, he looked for a platform and got one under the PPA. But if we even take it, Orji Kalu was PDP governor. Everybody in Abia state PPA government today was a member of the PDP. Don't rule out the possibility of Orji Uzor Kalu and the PPA in Abia coming back to the PDP.
Then, if you talk about Yuguda, he wasn't only in the PDP, he was a minister under Obasanjo. If the man now says, 'I want to go back to my party,' you can't stop him from doing so.
Those you have mentioned - what if those parties had not made their platforms available to them to contest? Do you think their action is morally defensible'?
You are talking about morals? Well, it's quite unfortunate that in politics, all over the world this moral you are talking about aren't there. Even in America till tomorrow, Democrats are crossing over to Republicans and vice versa. The only thing you can talk about UNA place is they have the means of reaching the people and the level of communication is quite easier then.
So, it's happening everywhere. Imagine now in Britain some members of the Labour Party are saying, 'we won't vote for our party in the next election.' What do you say about that ? So, I don't see anything wrong and if you are talking about morality, then you better keep your morality outside politics, because political parties are about intrigues, all over the world.
So, the case of Ohakim and Yuguda, they were former members of the PDP who had now thought it reasonable to return to their party. Look, let me tell you between now and 2007 you will be surprised that Orji Uzor Kalu and the PPA will come hack to the PDP, because that's the platform they once held. But I am one with you that we must never have a one party state and we can't have a one party state. Let the opposition parties gather their acts together. For example, in the last 2007 elections the PDP had been on the field more than two months before the opposition parties now came out to say that they were campaigning for elections.
Number two: look at what is happening now .They are talking of mega party. If they can form it, good for our democracy. But at the end of the day, you will find out that there's nothing called mega party. Already the AC has said it has nothing to do with mega party. Even if AC has announced that it's going to work with them in mega party before 2011, it will be to their tents oh Israel. That's all. They aren't serious and they must for goodness sake. Who told you that there can't be implosion in PDP? There can be implosion in PDP. If they work very well and very hard, they could benefit if that implosion occurs in PDP.
This is the game of politics. In the second republic, we were forced into opposition, the UPN by what happened in 1979, but we didn't stop there. For example, we were able to get the National Party of Nigeria Speaker of the Sokoto Assembly and about 13 members of the assembly who were NPN to join the UPN in Sokoto. In Cross River State, we got many members of the NPN; they followed the late Governor Isong to join the UPN. So, apparently the opposition parties must work very hard and if they work very hard and they are able to convince Nigerians, of course why not?
But what is happening now is that they are doing very well on the pages of newspapers. I must commend them because honestly, I'm a fan and fanatic of Lai Mohammed; he's doing what should be done. Politic al parties isn't about making of embroidery, or you rubbing my back and me rubbing yours. It's about propaganda, agitation and whatever and they are doing it well. But let them carry such agitation and propaganda to the level of political organization that will give them votes. That they aren't doing.
You have talked about likely implosion in PDP; the trouble shooting mission in south west hasn't generated the desired result and there's the growing fear that you might lose the zone to opposition?
The PDP will win south west, simply because we realized that there were problems and we have moved to solve these problems. You are talking about the efforts of Shuaib Oyedokun and Tajudeen Oladipo. The PDP national isn't resting on its oars. You have the committee of elders which is led by General Ike Nwachukwu and the task of the committee of elders is to ensure peace in all the branches of the party in the country and that's why the elders committee is meeting in some states: Oyo, Ogun and some other states. But you see, within the next two years when the PDP now aggregate all these moves we would have reconciled all our members to face the elections.

1 want to assure you that the south west, we appreciate what is going on. Look at Ondo State for example where we have lost to Mimmiko, there would be no election in 2011there; we shall be talking about 2013 but our party members in Ondo State are organizing massively now and when we now face Iroko in 2013, they will be facing a team that has made up its mind to win elections .We are trying to resolve all internal crises and that's what's happening in all south west.
In Osun we are focused and we have started the silent campaign for 2011; in Oyo, I may tell you that Bayo Akala is a political bulldozer - he understands politics very well. But you must give credit to Ladoja; they did everything that would make him get annoyed but he has refused to leave PDP. His group is very active in PDP and by the grace of God we are going to reap peace in Oyo so that it will be a solid PDP state.
In Ogun, I can assure you that PDP will be one. I can assure that nothing in this world will make my friend, Alhaji Jubril Martins Kuye to leave the PDP and join any other party. The same you can say about Alhaji Sule Olabiyi, Doyin Okupe — all of them who are in the other group now but we are going to bring them together and they can never leave PDP. At the end of the day, we shall have peace in the place. I can assure you that PDP will never lose the south west states. The AC can make all the noise it can make; I must confess they have powerful men who make the noise for them, but they won't beat the PDP .
The cause of the war of attrition in the PDP is the appropriation of party secretariat by incumbent governors. Don't you agree that it won't amount to playing the ostrich, if that is not addressed?
Let's leave all those things aside; they may be there, there may be apprehension, there may be problems here and there. Let's leave all those things aside. But I'm telling you, the PDP is already trying to solve these problems.
We now have committees all over the place meeting and everybody is conscious of the fact that we just must retain the pact that God has given to us. Then the PDP is aware that you can't toy with the election the PDP is set and I want to assure you all the peace of the south west and that is why two years now to election, committees that the PDP has established will arrive at solutions that will give PDP advantage which they have now over the AC .Whatever problems PDP has, AC has more than triple.
The PDP is aware that it has organizational problem and that's why it has established committees to ensure that these organizational problems are resolved in a way that come, 2011 we are one for the election and we will win the election.
2011 in Osun: Is it the turn of Ijesa?
Well, you see I can tell you this: I am an Ijesa man and Papa Awolowo says before you can be a good Nigerian citizen, you must first of all be a good person from your area. So, I'm a good ljesa man. If the PDP in Osun gives the ticket to ljesa, we will be very happy. But I want to assure you that if the PDP in Osun decides in a free, fair and decent election, a candidate that is different from ljesa, our people in PDP will definitely go out and vote for their party. That, I can assure you. So, it's not a do or die affair. But as you said, we in Ife/ljesa, particularly in Ijesa land, we are praying that whoever that will be selected comes from Ijesaland. But whatever happens, the PDP in Ijesa land will never betray the confidence and trust of the entire PDP in Osun state.
Your voice carries weight in Osun PDP; are you making a case for your people - ljesa? That's an internal PDP affair; I won't come out and be talking to you our strategy in the paper. It's an internal PDP affair; leave us, we know how to solve our problems. Take this from me:in our quest to pick a candidate for 2011, the PDP will not disintegrate to retain the state that God has given to us.

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