A former commissioner in Anambra State, Dr Ifedi Okwenna is currently the Director General of African Institute for Leadership Training and Development as well as Save Democracy Group (SDG). In this brief interview with our Correspondent Paschal Emeka in Abuja, he says the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will give the All Progressives Congress (APC) the required opposition which will make democracy vibrant and meaningful. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari?
I see him as a good and ambitious man who might lead the country properly when given all the necessary support needed from his cabinet to enable him succeed in providing this country with the most desirous democratic and infrastructural development.
Let us say that Nigerians are watching to see how democratic dividends he promised Nigerians would be implemented and delivered because that is what the average Nigerian wants. General Buhari should make sure that his promises during the electioneering campaign to the people are kept and we on our own shall see how his government would implement and fulfill those promises.
During the campaign APC promised to provide Nigerians with welfare packages, they promised to provide employment to the teaming Nigerians graduates, they also promised to stabilize international oil prize as well as address insecurity in the country.
You play a double role heading two organizations, how do you cope in managing yourself and activities of the two organizations in a hectic society like ours?
Managing organization is not actually easy but as an intellectual I see it as part of me because it is my first constituency. I do tell people that I am a professional in politics not a professional politician. It is clear that that most times we hardly sleep in the night, we walk around the clock to see that things are not just done but they are done they way it should be done, professionally. Again, in our institute we do more research, training and documentation as well as analysis. In Save Democracy Group,we have been trying to propagate the principles of internal democracy and sustainable democratic development. Even prior to the 2015 elections, we started shouting against imposition of candidates, we also warned against such undemocratic tendencies warning political leaders that it boom around but none was able to listen to us. We saw it coming but we did not know that it will come sooner that expected. Yes, it is not easy to be a workaholic or to walk day in day out. In the intellectual world, we find that because it si not as lucrative as other aspect of business, so if you burn a mid-night candle you will get enough to buy another candles. Some people could sit quietly some where and might wake up in the morning to have turns of Dollars. You in little but get much.
As a professional in politics, some of us might have expected you to offer yourself willingly in terms of advice to the national leadership of your party (PDP) to avoid the defeat they suffered in 2015 general elections?
Yes I did that and they refused to listen. We were defeated, we collapsed because our leaders failed us. Leaders must accept the blame, share the success and must equally accept defeat. Just as president Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat, they must equally accept their defeat. In PDP we have cliques and once you don’t belong to the cliques it means you are not an insider, you are an outsider. In PDP our leaders were just after their belies, what they can take, that is all, nobody thought about how to do the proper thing for the party to move forward.
Big parties don’t fall the way we did, what happen to big parties is that they gradually lost people’s attention and acceptance, then they collapse but that was not the case in our party, though we saw it coming, we wake up one morning to see that a once big political party was no more, it has collapsed. We foresee it coming but we did not know the time it will happen and our party leaders are responsible for that.
There are several reasons why the party collapsed, they include imposition of candidates on the people, reckless attitude of national leaders as well as other accumulations factors.
Soon after the collapse of your one time leading political party in the country, there have been accusations and counter accusations from some of your leaders, do you think this is timely, when the country is at the threshold of one transition to another democratically elected government?
Just as you have pointed out, many of our leaders are now trading blame on each other but I can tell you that such issues are irrelevant now, they are unnecessary distraction. PDP has failed us because our national leaders have failed to deliver the party. A leader supposed to take responsibility for failure or success of the system he or she is running and if there are successes, he or she must equally share the success with others. When you failed accept it and carry on in life.
Do you really think PDP would give that stiff opposition to the ruling party when most of its founding members are now in APC?
I don’t think there is massive exodus of people from PDP to APC, some people might have gone there to look for shelter but I tell you they would not find it and that is why I keep telling people that the umbrella is still big enough to accommodate people irrespective of tribe, color, religion and affiliation.
The broom, I tell you would not be able to provide that shelter which most people who have gone there are looking for. Let me tell you that the only way the PDP would not be able to provide that stiff opposition is when we fail to change national leaders in our party. When there is a change in leadership, then certain things in the party must begin to take its shape. I expect our party national chairman, Adamu Muazu and other national officers to tender an unreserved apology to the party and thereafter resign because they have failed to deliver the party which they were in control. But I tell you some of us are still there to give that needed opposition to the APC because that is how we shall put them on check else they may loose control and misbehave.
Without vibrant opposition the government in power might not be able to deliver on their campaign promises to the people and we want to put them regularly on checks.