Prof. Tunde Adeniran is a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT), a former Minister of Education, former Nigerian Ambassador to Germany and a contender for the PDP’s chairmanship position. In this exclusive interview with the Daily Trust on Saturday, he speaks on the crisis within the party and the APC-led government. Excerpts:

You aspired to be the PDP chairman last year and the Governor Seriake Dickson Reconciliation Committee has suggested June 30, 2017 for a new convention. Is the dream still alive? 

Prof. Tunde Adeniran: Yes, the dream is an aspiration that is on the front burner. It is very much alive. I am still aspiring and by the grace of God, I believe that I will get there. What prompted me to show interest at that time was that I have been involved in the affairs of the PDP since its formation.

 In fact, in the Nigerian usual parlance, I am one of its founding fathers. The dream we had at that time, I think something went wrong. The type of the mobilisational skills that led to the formation of the party dwindled and people got discouraged along the line because they had no regard for democratic culture and values which prompted the formation of the party. They crashed their ways into positions of prominence within the party and the party had to go through a period of garrisoned politics when garrison commanders took over.  Of course, we won’t blame anybody at this point but these things happened with our eyes wide open but people did not object to things that were happening at that time. A few of us protested quite alright, but that was not strong enough to change the tide. Because the situation continued and the culture of impunity took over, there was imposition all over the place. Internal democracy was jettisoned and of course, the constitution of the party was grossly abused. The consequence, of course, is what we could feel in the past few years.  I thought I would not aspire to party positions but when I realised that it would be better not to have been involved than to have been involved and leave the party in a situation where people would be asking, ‘Where were you when all these abnormal developments were taking place?’ So as a duty to my God Almighty, my nation, my party and my conscience, I felt there is need for me to join hands with men and women of like-minds and build the party. 

How do you feel about the re-opening of the national secretariat by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff?   

Prof. Adeniran: I think that is because of the internal disagreement that we are making efforts to sort out. Now, all the leaders of the party whichever side of the divide they fall, have realized that we missed wonderful opportunities in the past and have allowed our emotions and personal prejudices and interests to intrude and determine the way we perceive some of the developments. As a result of this, people are now determined to put all these personal issues behind and come together so that the blame game is over.  We are not going to blame anybody but our lack of commitment to the vision and mission of the party.

Party leaders have decided to seek a political solution to the crisis in party after a prolonged legal battle over the party’s chairmanship. How far has the stakeholders gone with the peace talks?   

Prof. Adeniran: Well, it is in progress, the political solution is in progress and we are making every effort because it is not a one-way thing. All the stakeholders are involved in it and the involvement is such that at the end of it, nobody will feel left out. The governors are playing their roles, the National Assembly caucus is playing its role, the state chapters are playing their roles and you also see various interests including former the ministers’ forum, youth forum, women and many other groups, they are all playing their roles. To cap it all, the BOT and the founding fathers are involved. Their concern is that the baby they have must not die, must survive and indeed become strong, agile and also give birth to good policies, programmes and serve this country well. 

Do you foresee a situation where both Sheriff and Makarfi are asked to step aside? 

Prof. Adeniran: We have turned a new leaf. If we want to broaden the base of political participation, we cannot be subscribing to imposition. So what will happen in terms of the convention that will come will be a collective decision of the various organs of the party. And the various organs of the party have a way of integrating, mobilizing the views they thought and collating them from the people down to the grassroots. In other words, the form and pattern it will take will not be a question of someone standing somewhere or some groups being somewhere and imposing things. There will be wide consultations and the consultations are already going on down to the grassroots.

Some say the PDP will not survive because of the general belief that Sheriff is acting the script of the APC, are you afraid? 

Prof. Adeniran: No, I am not afraid at all. I have no doubt that the PDP will take over power from the APC.  Whatever games anybody may be playing, whatever scheme, whatever agenda, we are going to consolidate. By the time we unite, whoever wants to use anybody will know that it is not possible. The leaders of the PDP have grassroots support so they don’t have to be afraid of anybody. I believe that with mutual understanding, nobody’s interest will be jeopardized. The collective interest of members, the party, the nation and democracy will be protected and based on that everybody will work together. So we are not afraid of anybody. Our concern is that the APC should not damage the system too much before we take over from them. Our concern is that they don’t over polarise the Nigerian people before we take over, our concern is that they don’t destabilise the system beyond repair before we take over, our concern is that they will operate with the fear of God, our concern is that they should realise that this country is bigger than anybody and they should not do anything to desecrate  the institutions of this nation and of course, our concern is that they should learn to play the game by the rules and put away politics of desperation and bitterness.  I believe that at the end, by the grace of God, the way we will all come together as a party and the way we will re-lunch ourselves into the political orbit, Nigerians will know that this is the vehicle to liberate them from hunger. 

Are you not worried that there is mass defection of PDP chieftains to the APC?

Prof. Adeniran: There is nothing like exodus.  There are some individuals based on personal political calculations who feel they need to move to another party. Some people have moved out of the PDP and some people have come into the PDP. So, it is both ways. Don’t also underrate the power of smaller parties. They are working closely with the PDP.  So we are not bothered.    

Is the proposed Advanced PDP the outcome of interactions within the party?   

Prof. Adeniran: I was a member of that committee but I am not aware of anything called the APDP. All I know is that I read about it in the papers but I think we members of the PDP, our concern is to reposition our party to give it energy, make it vibrant again, make it people-oriented and promote the ideals of party democracy. 

What is the plan ‘B’ for the Makarfi group if the Supreme Court delivers judgment in favour of Sheriff? 

Prof. Adeniran: God is involved in the PDP’s repositioning and when God is involved in something, it does not fail. Senator Makarfi has been working hard to ensure that we have a solution to this because it is a burden on him. You also see Senator Ali Modu Sheriff saying that he is ready for reconciliation and peace. When you have them all working it means that they are working in the same direction. So it is God’s doing.

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