Dr. Samuel Ortom, Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, in this interview, shares his views on the happenings in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He says the crisis in the PDP is not strange and that the party will come out of it stronger, adding that the newly registered parties are no threat to the ruling party.
On the crisis in the PDP
To those of us who have been in the game of politics, and very old in the PDP, what is happening is not unusual; it is a normal thing and and the party will emerge from it stronger.
Politics is a game of interest; PDP, as the ruling party and with the largest followership, must have members with diverse interests. This is not the first time we are having this kind of misunderstanding in the PDP family.
It is not out of place to have misunderstanding in the family, but it is how you resolve it that matters. It is only when you are not able to sit together to dialogue that you start having problems.
You can as well see that there are meetings, discussions and consultations going on at different levels. So, it is not anything new to me, it is not new to our party, but the truth is that once everybody is able to sheath his sword and also appreciate the fact that the party is supreme, then it will be better for us all.
We must, as a family, propel the ideas of the party and ensure that all of us rally round the objectives of the party which, of course, is to bring development and provide dividends of democracy to our people.
PDP was formed by leaders who fought with their lives by coming out to call for an end to military rule. The founders of the party meant well by coming together to fight for democracy. They were not looking for personal gains and so the consultations that are going on point to the fact that we will all come back.
The truth again is that for a big family like our party with various interests that could be personal, ethnic and sometimes selfish, there is bound to be this kind of agitation. I don’t call it crisis, I call it agitation. We will find a way around it.
Even in 1999 when the party was to nominate people, there was trouble here and there, some people were not happy. This happened again in 2003, 2007 and even in 2011. Those who left then came back. And so it is not a problem.
On the formation of APC and PDM
You can see from the time the merger was conceived to when the party was registered, there were problems. The various parties that came together had issues. If you look at the set up, it is just a marriage of convenience which is bound to fail.
If you say it is a marriage of convenience, then are you saying Nigerian political parties lack ideology?
As far as I am concerned, we have ideology in our party to protect life and property, to provide dividends of democracy, to ensure that every Nigerian is happy and to prepare development so that everybody will be proud of Nigeria.
We are not just paying lip service; we are providing services in all sectors of the economy. Mention it, from agriculture to roads, from aviation to road transportation, from industry to other sectors.
Rome was not built in a day and a journey of one thousand miles starts with a step. The truth is that we are building a solid foundation; that is why all the initiatives we have taken are based on facts and are sustainable.
You will recall that since we came in, we have held retreats on the various sectors and far reaching decisions came out from contributions from the private sector and major stakeholders. We did that in solid minerals and power and came out with far- reaching decisions that we are being applauded by the whole world.
Despite our deficiency in power, you can still see investors coming into our country, because they have faith in the reforms that we have undertaken.
We had a retreat on sports and you have seen the results. There is no outing we have had after that retreat that we have not won something.
So, this government is proactive, this government is working; this government is making things happen.
I always challenge people to take us on the mid -term report presented by the President in all sectors of the economy. I want to challenge Nigerians to go and prove us wrong if what we are saying we have done is not so.
If we talk about foreign direct investment that we led in Africa in 2011 and 2012, the results are there as presented by international bodies that came up with reports that we are doing well. I want to say that we have a program and we are committed.
But these other parties, you have seen what is going on; as this is not the first time they are ganging up against us. They did that in 2011 when they ganged up against us. Did they succeed? The same gang- up is playing out now; it is not new and it will fail.
If you say it is gang- up, do you say PDP has done well since 1999?
You are talking as if you do not appreciate where Nigeria was at the time we came in. Go back to history and evaluate where we were at the time we took over and what we have been able to do up to this time.
Mind you, this country will soon be 53 years as an independent country. Go back and check. For instance, this issue of power that we are complaining about today, what did successive governments before us do when they knew that the population was growing? Can you tell me the facilities that were provided to serve about 170million people today?
So, it is not what we have done, but what we are trying to correct. As far as I am concerned, if we have not initiated these moves, Nigeria would have been paying very dearly for it today.
We inherited the problems in power, in rail transportation. For instance, when I was growing up as a kid, I travelled from Makurdi to Port Harcourt by train, but the rail system today has collapsed, and we have invested heavily and you can see the result.
There is no way we can have successful transportation without the railway. It is impossible; this is why our roads are collapsing, because heavy equipment, machineries and goods that should be transported through railway are transported by road
So, government is committed to solving the problem.
What I am saying is that we are on course, the government is performing.
Imagine what is happening on Lagos – Sagamu Road; imagine the challenge we have had. We took action by re- awarding the project and you can see what is happening there.
When last did you travel on that road?
What I want you to appreciate is that Rome was not built in a day. It is true the President came for the flag- off of the road; that shows he has set up the machinery to start work. There is a procedure, you must mobilize to site, the equipment was not on that road, and some of the equipment that will be needed to work on that road will have to be imported.
All these things are going on. That is the first stage, the process is on and everybody knows that the contractor is a very serious one and the jobs they have executed in this country are of international standard in terms of performance and timely delivery.
If APC is not a threat, then PDP must be a threat to itself
That is what I am saying that everybody agrees there is a problem and the first step in solving a problem is when you agree there is one. So, we agreed there is a problem and we have identified it, but I want to assure you that we are going to correct it.
That is why the stakeholders are working to resolve this impasse.
On 2015, will the President be contesting?
Well, I think this is not a problem. I think the issue of whether Mr. President signed an agreement to serve one term only or not has been resolved. But if you ask about my opinion as a Nigerian, the President is a Nigerian and the Constitution allows everyone the freedom to associate, to contest election.
So, Mr. President has the right to contest in 2015 except he decides on his own not to do so. Consistently, Mr. President has appealed to Nigerians that he should not be distracted and that he should be allowed to deliver the dividends of democracy. That is what those of us working with him are doing too.
This is why I am in Lagos, trying to fulfil part of my own contract that was signed between the people and Mr. President. And so we need to educate our people that 2015 is still a long way, but what is important, let us concentrate and provide the basic needs in the areas of power, roads, agriculture, housing, health and the economy, so that Nigerians will be happy. That is the pre- occupation of Mr. President and those of us working with him.
Since 1999 when our party was formed, no section of the country has ever been denied the opportunity of contesting. It is true that zoning is part of the party’s Constitution, but it did not ban anybody from contesting.
I was not there in 1999, but, in 2003, Rimi and Gemade contested with Obasanjo and other people contested with Yar Adua in 2007. So, this should not be important, what should be important is that we are in democracy and we should allow the people to decide what is right as democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people.
So, the people will decide as the procedure is that one will be nominated by his party. The PDP will conduct primaries which will cumulate in the nomination of our candidate. We have guidelines and it will be as democratic as possible.