Hon. Bernard Mikko, from Ogoni Area in Rivers State started his political career as a Councillor in 1988, and rose to become acting Chairman of the local government then. That local government, Bori, has now been divided into four LGs of Kana, Gokana, Eleme and Tai local governments. In 1998, upon the death of Abacha then as a member of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, he joined forces in forming the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Where he was elected to the House of Representatives, representing the Kana and Gokana constituency. He served as Special Adviser on Monitoring to the former National Chairman of the party, Dr. Bamanga Tukur from March 2012 to 2014 when Bamanga resigned. He believes it is time to re-position the party for the grave challenges ahead. He spoke with a team of nationallTRAIL editors.
What in your views were the immediate and remote causes of the crises in the PDP? In political theory, they say, it is said power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now, the issue of opposition in Nigerian politics is not new and it didn’t start with the PDP and APC. It started in the colonial era when the nationalists fought for the nation’s independence from the British who had the policy of divide and rule as its strategic tool. They handed over to who they felt they wanted. Upon independence they handed over to the people they wanted to rule. Then upon independence, the same divide and rule tactics manifested itself in the party system and even in the entire political system, leading to the collapse of the first Republic when the military took over. Even the military as a very highly disciplined organization anywhere in the world, there were counter-coups, coup de tat and sharp divisions and that division within the system still manifest itself up till this very day. So we can see that the solution to Nigeria’s problem is neither in APC or PDP but in the polity or the system itself. Let me now give why there is an overt political turmoil in the party. Political parties are formed by like-minded people coming together. They share basic ideology but this is lacking in our system. The people that formed the APC, PDP and all these political organizations are just strange bedfellows, not sharing any basic values or ideologies but coming together to wrest power. Before independence, they came together to capture power from the British. After independence, they came together to take over power from the military. That is what has manifested itself. The President that took over in 1999, was virtually out of the political scene, he was packaged by the system just to give power so you strange bedfellows coming together without sharing any values or basic ideology. Now the party has been in power for more than 16 years. We produced three presidents in a row, back to back. With this concept of power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely, so many things were taken for granted. We have a constitution in the party and we have the rule of law that governs society. Because majority of people were in the PDP, and a few were in opposition, they felt might is right and when elected officials make mistakes nobody is bold enough to tell them in them face that sir, I don’t agree with you. You can’t see anyone having any contrary view. You can’t see a Commissioner or a minister resigning his position because of ideological differences. Now, that has led to many party chairmen elected on the platform of the PDP resigning before the end of their tenures. That is because we had a strong block that became so very powerful under the second term of Obasanjo’s administration apparently because he was looking for their support in his third term bid. So he gave them a lot of powers. When he lost the constitutional amendment that would enable him a third term run, Yar’adua that took over from him couldnt sustain the tempo because of his illness so the Governors Forum became the group that filled the gap standing between the Nigerian people and governance. They became a rallying point of authority. You would remember the budget issue. Budget has been signed, it has not been signed. Governor Bukola Saraki then was the Chairman of the Governors Forum. So he started briefing Nigerians as if he was de facto President. Then when he left, Amaechi Stepped in. He became so strong that anything they wanted they would go to the President and put pressure on the President and insist that let this National Chairman resign .The would have no choice than to ask him to resign. Now we do not have a President that they can put pressure on that would whip everybody in line. We are an opposition party. If candidates are imposed there is no federal structure within the grip of the PDP to ram the person through an election. So what you are seeing today has been existing. It is just that the choice they made now… they wanted to bring in Modu Sherriff to continue the same impunity but they met a brickwall. If you look back when we lost the general election, the presidential election, the Muazu resigned. Other members of NEC stayed on and in line with our constitution, Article 47 of our constitution, the deputy national President is from the south, is supposed to step in and act for three months. And within that period they would get a substantive Chairman from the zone where the other Chairman came from. But this fid not happen as Secondus stayed on for eight months until Barrister Ahmed Gulak went to court enforcing his fundamental human rights, saying it was unconstitutional for him to remain acting for more than three months. The court on the 16th December, 2015 gave judgemnet that Secondus continued stay was illegal and unconstitutional. That decision was appealed for a stay of execution but on the 3rd of January it was quashed and thrown out paving a way for Gulak to declare himself Chairman of the party after invading the party secretariat. At that point it was now obvious that Secondus can no longer hold to the position of either acting National Chairman or in any capacity. It was at that point they called in Sherriff. From what we understand he was considered about the only person who has the courage and capacity to hold all persons together and do the needful to see the party through transformation and reformation and reposition the party for victory. If you look at the judgment certificate that gave Gulak the judgement, it said that “ Barrister Ahmed Gulak or any other person could take over the position of the Chairman.” But why some people in the party opposed the idea of Gulak was perhaps the need to get a more acceptable personality and some of us conselled that there was no need for him to be selfish by insisting on taking over the party. That is how Sheriff came in. We had our reservations about Sheriff emerging Chairman of the party but
they were smart enough to immediately call the NEC ana formalized his emergence. They conducted election on behalf of the National Convention. At that point, all of us that were in the same camp with Gulak felt since these things have been formalized, and we had the arguments to and forth we have no choice than to tow the party line. They now scheduled a convention to fill in other party positions. From what we understand two days before the Convention in Port Harcourt after they notified the INEC, a court order came from a Lagos High Court saying that the Office of the National Chairman, National Secreatry ang Auditor, would not be monitored by INEC, that was on a Friday. Then on Tuesday, eve of the election, another court order came apparently from Abuja saying that 17 other positions that make up NEC should also not be contested. Sheriff as a law abiding Chairman put off the convention. After putting off the convention, everybody would have been quiet and gone home but what we saw is now the problem of the party. It suggests there selfish interests in this whole drama running through your party ? Obviously, there is so much impunity. Impunity could arise from selfish interests of some undertakers trying to own the party. That is indeed the condition in the party today and most of our stakeholder, most Nigerians don’t seem to understand that for the fact that most of them are Governors doesn’t makeit right. People shouldn’t at Sheriff or the Governors but what the law says. Does the law allow for a caretaker administration or an interim contraption? Those that are pro-Sheriff are saying follow the law. We are not saying that w are supporting Sheriff because it is Sheriff but because we have looked at the law and he merits. We have also looked at the contraption called caretaker committee, we can not also find that one in our constitution. Even in the Military era, the Babangida administration also tried such a contraption by setting up the interim government. He was challenged and Justice Bassey Ikpeme then ruled against, thus ending the illegal reign then. The judgement led to the collapse of the Shonekan administration, paving way for the then government by late General Sani Abacha to start. This exactly what we are seeing in PDP today. It is just that people are not vocal . We have a society that hopes on what they can get from the leadership. The unemployment rate is high. They can’t speak the truth before these elected officials. Initially, it appeared the governors stood behind Sheriff, soon they backed out. Why do you think they moved against him? Like I told you the arguement thet put forward was very suspicious and I was very circumspect until they formalized.At that point I was not looking at who was bringing him but the due process. After NWC adopted him, presented him to nEC, they did an election. If it was merely to complete the tenure of Muazu, then it was not necessary because his tenure ended 26th of March. Then there wouldn’t have been need for a NEC meeting just for him to stay just two, three weeks. When they formalized his stay, at least we agreed but I think there some other forces behind the scene which we have not seen. I have listened to arguments by two of the Governors saying or that the made a mistake by bringing Sheriff. I think they should be punished by this mistake. Nigerians and party supporters should punish them. I have alos listened to the caretaker Chairman who said that the APC is sponsoring Sheriff to cause disaffection through the ranks of the party. It is common sense. If you are loking for APC agents in PDP, you should go and look at those who marketed Sheriff. When he was in his house and they had to convince him for two days, they they may just be the real APC agents, since he did not on his own foist himself on the party without their prodding and support. They showed to NWC, from there to NEC and today they are labeling him an APC agent? They are the real APC agents. I have never heard anywhere that APC agents carried Sheriff from his house and forced on the party either in either in Wadata House or anywhere. Do you think Sheriff deserves an apology for this seeming embarrassment he has been put through? Honestly, they should apologise to him. Because the reasons they are given appear superstitious. It is not based on facts. When you argue on religious matters, you argue based on superstition. These issues they are playing up cant be substantiated. Sheriff has gone to court and is parading the papers supporting all these. So what is there problem? I think if they want this party to move forward they should rally round Sheriff. There two options. Get along with him or persuade him to resign. Who holds the ace as it is now? Sheriff holds the ace.