As the new administration assumed office at the weekend, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Olisa Metuh in this interview with our correspondent Patrick Osadebamwen said the party has made some strides that must be improved upon by the new government.
Could you summarize the impact of the PDP in the last 16 years of its administration on the Nigerian State?
In the last 16 years we have witnessed a lot of developments. We have witnessed a lot of improvement in infrastructure in the country.
The PDP has revolutionised the communication system in the country. Our GSM services are one of the best in the world. If you look at areas of road constructions, we have done massive works in the road network. Nigerians now see road as a basic necessity that every government should do. On the issue of health and education, economy and so on but the greatest achievement of PDP is not necessarily infrastructure development, even a military dictatorship can offer infrastructure development.
The greatest legacy of the PDP is one, the sustenance of democracy; two, stability in the body polity and most importantly, the respect for democratic principles and the practice of democracy. We have seen the development of other electoral systems and the development of the application of democracy, we have now introduced free fair and credible elections which is the hallmark of every democracy, the right of the citizenry to vote and be voted for; the fact that the votes counts, we had free fair and credible elections. Most importantly, we have left a legacy of the freedom of information; the respect for fundamental human rights; the application of rule of law. These are things that only PDP has offered in the history of our nation and these are what we are leaving behind for the people.
Security is still a problem in the country but with the benefit of hindsight, now that your party has handed over power to the APC how do you think the incoming government could improve on what PDP has done with respect to security?
I do not think it is correct to say that security is a big problem in this country. You will agree with me that armed robbery has come down from what it was pre-1999. Yes, we have seen incidence of insurgency and kidnapping within this period but at the same time our party has been able to tone it down. Insurgency has been battled down head on by the PDP and we have curtailed the scourge, and the kidnapping has been greatly reduced.
By and large people travel even at night more than they were doing in pre-1999. The question of armed robbers on the road or coming to your house is not as common as it was in the past. It is no long prevalent. We will give that to some of the innovations that we have done in the banking sector, the fact that there is less cash transactions. This has brought down the issue of armed robbery, that is an achievement.
How will you describe the economic achievement of the party since 1999 viz-a-viz the empowerment of the people?
I will not start mouthing the normal talk of the biggest economy in Africa. But what I can tell you is that, it is unarguable that the purchasing power of the ordinary Nigerian has improved under the PDP. People have taken it for granted the fact that there is access to cash, in the next few years the difference will be clear. Some of our policies have greatly increased private enterprise, those at the private sector are smiling, the fact that we have companies doing better now, have given rise to access to fund by the ordinary citizens. These are being taken for granted but in the next one or two years Nigerians will remember how private economy had been under PDP.
What programmes initiated by the GEJ Administration would you as a citizen demand the incoming government improve upon?
Well, government is a continuum; it is something that Nigerians expect that the good programme that we started, this government will continue with it. But most importantly, as ordinary Nigerian, I expect the benefit from the APC government, their manifesto, their programmes, the promises they made to Nigerians during the electioneering campaign. I expect that the N5,000 will be paid to 25 million unemployed Nigerians; I expect that they will give us 24 hours power supply; I expect that they will end insurgency in two months. All these things that they promised us, as ordinary Nigerian I expect that they will do them because once they do that the benefit will not go to APC it goes to Nigeria as a nation. Those are wonderful policies.
In specific term, how would y o u want the new APC government improve on the electoral process?
By guaranteeing free, fair and credible elections, by not going back to the way APC conduct local government elections in states under their control, in the way they try to control everything. We expect that the reform started by President Jonathan will be sustained by the APC. We will want a situation where the votes will count in every aspect.
Another area that we think that APC will look at is the question of underage voting. We want this government to work on that so that our electoral laws will be obeyed and respected.
The National Conference report has already sent to the National Assembly, do you think the civil society organisations have role to play in making the ne administration follow up on it?
I think it is entirely up to members of newly elected members of the National Assembly. There is an erroneous impression by the people when it comes to this sort of thing. It is left for the National Assembly. Yes, it is an executive bill, the National Assembly will work on it. This is a presidential system, that’s how it works. The executive will look at it, if it is in line with their own programme they will present it to the National Assembly but the success of it still depends on the National Assembly. The most important thing is that Nigerians will not have a programme for the incoming administration. I believe that they are ready for governance. I want to believe that. I want to believe that they have a programme so that whether they succeed or not is entirely their own making.
What advice will you give to PDP governors in terms of offering good governance to the people and as a way of providing virile opposition to the new government?
We’ve directed our governors- elect to curb on the excesses of governance, they will be prepared to make sacrifices for the benefit of the people and for the growth and development in their various states. We believe that the presidential system is very expensive, we believe that governance, presently is very expensive but only the executives at various levels can make sacrifices for the cost of governance to come down. We want an era of low profile in terms of reducing public expenses. Then we want them to concentrate on the issue of development so that we can be reconnected with the people, let the Nigerian people see that we are working with t h e m a n d we are serving t h e m . If not it will be difficult for us as a party. M o s t importantly, we believe that this government that is coming in is not really ready for governance. We believe that they were primed for opposition, they did not know that they will win the election. It will take them about 18 months before they will settle down for governance from the way they were trying to renege on some of the promises they made, flip-flopping, somersaulting on some of the promises they made during the campaign. We believe that it will be difficult for them to make impact in the next four year. And that will result actually in people yearning for PDP government again.
Now the achievement of our governors, the way that they tackle development will decide whether people will yearn more for the PDP or whether they will want APC to continue. But by and large, what is important is the progress of Nigeria as a nation. The party that is in office should be able to offer Nigerians basic democratic dividends and basic infrastructure development and improved standard of living.
Nigerians presently are experiencing acute fuel scarcity, the refineries are not working. Any counsel to the incoming administration to quell this knotty issue?
The fuel shortage is a temporary one and is being handled. On the issue of what the government should do, we are in opposition. We will wait for this government to start their programme then we will offer our suggestions.
I must state here that the PDP has been greatly injured by getting power within one year of its formation. That resulted in a lot of loosely run system. We did not have party supremacy; we did not have party discipline, the kind of discipline that was needed and it resulted in mistakes being made at various levels. This is the time we can re work our party and re-engineer a process that at various levels for the PDP manifesto to be implemented by our people across the federation.