Doctor Cairo Ojugbo is the National Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, he was a member of the House of Representatives where he served as the Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources as well as Presidential Liaison Officer to the Senate. In this interview with National Trail Editor, Peter OSSAI, he spoke on the leadership crisis rocking the PDP and efforts being made to resolve the matter. Excerpts
Good afternoon sir, can we have a brief background of you? My name is Dr. Cairo Ojugbo, the National Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, I am from Delta State and has been a staunch grassroots politician since the beginning of this dispensation and I have held various official, political and party offices including having served as the past National Vice Chairman of the party, having been a Presidential Liaison Officer to the Senate, having been a member of the House of Representative and having served in so many committees and having chaired various activities in the party both at the state level and the national level. Considering these your positions, let us start with the PDP. What is the implication of the PDP leadership Crisis on the future of the party? Yes, I must give thanks to God, what is happening today in the PDP is what is going to save the PDP, if these crisis didn’t arise, the party would have been wallowing today in ignorance. The emergence of Ali Modu Sheriff is the divine act by God and God does not make mistakes, and so the position when it is arrived at will reposition the PDP and the PDP will be the party that will rule Nigeria for a very long time to come. How will this be possible when the elders of the party are yet to proffer the way forward? If you look at what is happening in the party, there is no elder in the party… the newsmen they always make the mistake to say that the Governors Forum are in support of one group, the Board of Trustees are in support of one group and members of the National Assembly are in support of one group, have you heard any member of any of these bodies speaking out to support anybody, they are waiting for Sheriff to win so that there will be jubilation in the body polity of PDP and the country, because the problem the party has have been addressed today, when Sheriff was brought on board, Sheriff was convinced that he must work with the governors and he was working with them, when Sheriff decided that look the governors alone are not the owners of the party and that true owners of the party (the people) must share in the wellbeing and in the construction and management of the party, the governors said no, that they are the sole owners. In fact, they alluded to the fact that he who plays the piper dictates the tune and we said no, you don’t own the party and you cannot be the sole financiers of the party, we disagree with them, we went to hold the Abuja convention and we refused donations from outside, we contributed money ourselves, those of us who took part in the Abuja convention and we sponsored ourselves, and we said that is how we want the party to be, that is why today you see that we are getting support from the masses of everybody, all right thinking members of the party and all of them are saying the same thing, saying, look, yes this is the time for the party to be returned to the people. And let me tell you what happened in the Abuja convention, the Abuja convention, they were not against Sheriff, as at that time, the governors were supporting Sheriff and we said no, it is impunity personified, that we cannot allow this to continue, we must ventilate our views and so we held the convention in Abuja. As soon as Sheriff saw that he has support, he now told the governors look, we cannot continue like this, that we have to carry everybody along, the governors said look Sheriff we must go on, and he said, no, we are on the side of the people and that is where we are, you can see how the coming of Sheriff will enhance the welfare of the party, it is the fertilizer for the growth of the party and that is where we are. If the Abuja convention was in support of Sheriff, was he not informed about that, I mean, why did he choose to go to Port Harcourt? Now, the Abuja convention said we are against impunity and these governors who are in Port Harcourt said they are supporting impunity, so we will not, so we told Sheriff that look, as long as you don’t revisit the ward congresses, the local government congresses and the state congresses, you will not have our support, he said look, he too is of the believe that he should revisit them so that everybody will be carried along that is the cause of problem between Sheriff and the governors. Can the party go on like this especially with series of litigations all over the place; won’t it affect the fortunes of the party especially in Edo and Ondo? No, we are already negotiating, negotiations and talks are already in top gear and we have made remarkable progress in the process of resolving the issues. The two parties are talking very seriously in various fronts, and these talks has progressed, last week, the two major contenders are to meet, but for one reason or the other, one of them travelled and the meeting was postponed but the meeting will take place as quickly as possible and I want to assure you that the end is in insight and is achievable, because everybody now understands that only the emperor of Ikwerre cannot be the owner of the party and that is what we are saying, and you see, we want to also dissociate the party from corruption, indiscipline, nepotism and injustice. EFCC came up the other day to say that a certain governor in the Niger Delta withdrew N11 billion cash from the account of the government with the CBN and further N1.4billion cash was also withdrawn from the account of that government in Zenith Bank. As a party, we want to dissociate ourselves completely from those issues; we don’t want to get involved at all, because we don’t encourage corruption. The party is so positioned and is so large that the party can finance itself; party dues from more than seven million party members in Nigeria today will run the party effectively and efficiently. We must cut wastages, we must cut off corruption. In the process of conducting congresses and primaries, the party will no longer take money from individuals to give them ticket, once we are able to address that, the party will be free, because the issue of paying money for party ticket has been a major problem in the PDP and Sheriff is ready to stop that. The new party that will emerge, the super PDP is going to be a super party, a party that does not belong to one man, the party where the chairman of the party will be responsible and responsive in the means and aspirations of the people and the party that Nigerians will love to maintain and appreciate. You didn’t really answer the question of Edo and Ondo, do you think the crisis will be resolved before the elections? I told you that the solution is already in sight, people are already meeting and suggestions are being fronted there are individuals that the party feels that they should excuse themselves from the politics of Edo State for the part they have played in the past and these things are being worked out and as quickly as possible. As it is now who is the authentic National Chairman of PDP? There is no doubt about that, it is Ali Modu Sheriff. But there is a court ruling…
That court ruling is an Ikwerre court judgment, that is the emperor of Ikwerre and the judgement is not significant, I can tell you that the judgment cannot see the light of the day, just forget it. The judgement is an abuse of court process, according to Ibos it is an ‘uchicha’ judgement, you know uchicha, uchicha is cockroach (laughter). What is your take on the allegations that Sheriff came to destabilize PDP, that he is working for APC and that he is a sponsor of Boko Haram? Some few days ago in the national newspaper, one of these national dailies, there was this photograph of Sheriff, Buhari, Tinubu and Akande, inside Sheriff’s office where they were forming the APC as at that time, when Sheriff was forming the APC, there was no member, it was Sheriff, Tinubu and Buhari that were the first members of APC, when Sheriff was forming it, nobody remembered that Sheriff was a member of Boko
Haram. Sheriff left APC on basis of principles; the PDP gave Sheriff its senatorial ticket, the PDP gave Sheriff Waivers to contest under PDP, Sheriff was sitting in his house, laying down when five governors went to meet him to say you are the correct person to lead the party. Nobody remembered that Sheriff was APC and has come to destabilize the party, man who is insisting that only governors cannot have a say in their states and in other places that power should be returned to the people, that is the man who wants to destabilize the party, so because Sheriff will not bow to the whims and caprices of the Ikwerre empire, he now wants to destroy PDP, it is a lie and we will not allow it. Let me tell you, some of us don’t believe in money politics, I don’t take money to do anything, I have never taken bribe and I keep saying it, I am never corrupt, I stand against corruption, when I was fighting the centenary city, people thought I don’t know
what I was doing, I stood by it, all the battles I have fought in my life, it is not because of my personal challenges, I hate oppression, you cannot blackmail Sheriff because he will not do what you want him to do, he has now turned to a destroyer of the party, it is not true and you will see how it will get there. Let me tell you, nothing short of recognizing Sheriff as the national chairman of the party, we will call a NEC meeting very soon and Sheriff will sit at the NEC as chairman and we will put up a new committee to first of all review the state, local government and ward congresses after that we will now do a proper national convention where Sheriff will be the chairman, the new party leaders will emerge where Sheriff will hand over, Sheriff is not interested in staying in power, no, he is only interested in handing over to a popularly elected chairman of the party not nominated by one person. That is what Sheriff stands for
and in that, I stand by him. Makarfi was recently quoted as saying that Sheriff should be arrested because they are holding an authentic court order? I addressed this a few days ago in a press interview, and I made it very clear that if anybody should be arrested it is Adeyeye who is making such unsportsmanlike comment and in fact we will hold them to contempt. If anybody should be arrested is that Adeyeye and I also want to excuse Makarfi, I have been speaking with Makarfi on this issue and senior citizens they have been intervening and Makarfi is not given to lose talks and Makarfi will never make such a statement, Makarfi is desirous of moving the party forward, the people who make such comments are people who want to kill the party, you can imagine a man who was a minister, today he has not job, when he went to Port Harcourt, at the Port Harcourt convention, he was wearing an old tattered short sleeve shirts, the slippers he was wearing in Port Harcourt has eaten alignment completely, I am sorry if I sound immodest, but today he is wearing agbada and wearing suits and he now has a cap looking like Awolowo, his telephone handset, he was tying it with rubber band, his glasses, he use rubber band to keep it, today he has sharpened up, his level has improved his personal economy has improved, so why won’t he talk carelessly, why won’t he talk in such a way to kill the party, myself as the deputy national chairman of the party, I have said it all that no one man can take over the party and all of us must come together as a family to resolve this issue. I would implore Makarfi to call Adeyeye to order to stop making careless and useless statements that will deepen the crisis in the party, while we are toiling day and night in resolving the crisis, he is there talking on television as if he does not know what party democracy is, if he is in Sheriff position, will he accept the treatment meted out to Sheriff, the answer is no, he will not accept and he will fight even dirty, but Sheriff is not fighting dirty. Have you seen Sheriff address the press and talk unsportsmanlike, no, all of us we’re not talking that way, we are only looking for solution and if you ask me we put forward what we feel is the solution to the problem: recognize Sheriff as the national chairman of the party, call NEC meeting where all us will sit down and discuss, set up congress committee go and look at the congresses and then review the petitions from local governments, states and wards that we have already received and make pronouncements on these and then call them, conduct national convention and the party is back on stream as simple as ABC. Anybody who is saying that no, no, Sheriff is out; the person is wasting his time. Sheriff is not out, Sheriff is in. Initially, most people see it as if the governors want to hijack
the PDP, but now they seems to be silent on the issue, what do you see, are they just sitting on the fence waiting for the crisis to be resolved or they have realized that they cannot hijack the party? No, the Ikwerre emperor promised them that he is in charge, so he went about his normal way to adulterate the judicial system, he thought he will win, but things doesn’t happen that way, he cannot win, one day the people of his state will ask him to account for the finances of that state, then he will not find it easy, and I call on him to retrace his step to stop using state finances into unsportsmanly and corrupt usage, he should address the mountain of problems in his state; the issue of cultism, the issue of militancy and he should mind governance and leave the party which is supreme for the party to run, let me tell you, no one man after this Sheriff issue can hold the party to ransom anymore. God brought Sheriff to cure PDP and no one man, no governor can come today and say he is in charge of the party in his state, no, it cannot happen anymore, we are going to return the party to the people. What you saying in essence is that they have realize… They have realized their mistake, yes. And they have also known that God brought Sheriff to checkmate them, they will … Sheriff was sleeping when they went to beg him, they thought Sheriff was one of those chairmen they can gang up and say oh, we don’t want you again, resign, we will give you soft landing, if anybody would be given soft landing it is them the governors that will be given soft landing not Sheriff, Sheriff will give them soft landing. Is it that they are scared to talk about PDP and its crisis? Of course, people have now known what they have done to the party, they are the once who brought up the organs and let me tell you, I personally the day we went to NEC to vote, I voted against Sheriff, we had a candidate, one of our national vice chairman, Sen Girgi and all of us has agreed to support him, but the governors said they know it all, that they are going to bring Sheriff, I said no, that bringing Sheriff is impunity, I voted against Sheriff, all of us, the national vice chairmen, we voted against Sheriff, but today, we have realized that the choice of Sheriff is an act of God and it is only Sheriff that can cure the ills of this party. Even my colleague, Senator Girgi that all of us are supporting, he call on us and said, look, what Sheriff is doing, he couldn’t have done it that we should support Sheriff and that is our position as the national vice chairmen of the party. At what point did you realize that Sheriff is the messiah? When Sheriff stepped into office, the first meeting I had with Sheriff in the NWC, I was a member of the NWC, at that meeting, we were discussing the way forward in Edo State and I
gave them a road map of what needed to be done in Edo State, all the 12 members of the NWC they voted against me, Sheriff told them that what Dr. Cairo is telling them is correct, they were shocked, I took another look at Sheriff, I said this man is a man that we need to work with. So I went to Sheriff and I said Sheriff, I like your judgement today, I like the way you are going to handle this matter, but beware of the emperor of Ikwerre, they will mislead you and lo and behold, this same man, after pressure and everything, he started dancing to their tune, I said ok, if you are going to dance to their tune, we are leaving you, so we went back to join the Abuja Concerned PDP Stakeholders Forum, it is the Concerned Forum who nominated me when Uche Secondus resigned, they held a meeting and nominated me and then the leaders of the South South that I speak the minds of the people of the grassroots of the Peoples Democratic Party, and because of that, that they will support me for any position in the PDP and ask me to go and replace Uche Secondus , in fact they quoted from the Bible, when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ like Uche Secondus has done, the disciples they sat down and cast lots and said his office let another take and that office today is occupied Dr. Cairo Ojugbo.