Pioneer chairman of the Kwara State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barrister Kunle Suleiman in this interview with Head Politics, Mumini Abdulkareem, spoke on the latest development in the party regarding the next year 2019 governorship election and how the reported impending coalition with some faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will affect its fortunes among other sundry issues in the polity. Excerpts:
Considering the calibre and pedigree of the structure you will contest against for the gubernatorial ticket in the state, what are your plans to ensure this is not another failed project for your party in 2019?
We have been in partisan politics since 1978 during the foundation days of the NPN. Those we worked against always had the support of the central government and we are most times left frustrated at the end of the day. When it appears we are making progress, our opponent will use their influence at the centre to undermine our struggle and progress we have made back home and disorganised everything. This time around, we have our strategy which I am not going to disclose. We know we have the support and we have many deep pockets and money bags individual, including politicians and non politicians alike who equally have the needed resources to collectively prosecute the election. Ours now is that let everybody bring its war chest to the field and let’s see how Kwarans will enjoy the scenario. With the ongoing narrative, it means the Senate President will not have support at the centre and the field will be free for all of us to test our hypothesis. For us, the local government election was a testimonial case in point. What happened then will be a tip of the iceberg, we believe we will see greater resistance in 2019 especially since it will be handled by INEC. Across the country, the votes for elections supervised by state electoral commissions hardly counts and that is why we are advocating for their cancellation to reduce the present scenario if not totally eliminate it. We know it is going to be a political classic but we are ready this time around.
There are reportedly a lot of permutation going on within your party as regards picking gubernatorial candidates and from which region, where are we on the issue?
Presently, our gubernatorial slot has been officially zoned to Kwara Central and we have about eight aspirants jostling for the post. They include AbdurRahman AbdulRasaq, the Sobi FM boss, Lukman Mustapha, former Minster of National Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulieman, former chairman of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Professor AbulRaheem Shuaib (Oba), Barrister Salman Jawondo, Al-Ilory, former ADC to ex-Senate President, Ayim Pius Ayim, Ibrahim Ajia and Ayinla Folorunsho among others. But we are not going to have a rancorous primary, that has been resolved. When we eventually move to our new party, we are going to sit down and discus and sell the idea to our new neighbours. Some of the contestants will be advised to step down and allow those who have the strength, political ability and deep pocket to come on board.
Going central for your governorship ticket, are you not looking at what might happen in the camp of the ruling party?
What we are doing will affect other political platforms especially the ruling party. They are the one waiting for us. If we pick our candidate from the Central where almost 50 per cent of the votes are coming, they can go and pick theirs elsewhere, we will still defeat them by the special grace of God, what we are doing may also force them to come and pick from Kwara Central too. We will talk and resolve among ourselves and by the time we are going for primary, the number would have been reduced to one or two and we will work together with whoever emerges, irrespective of faction and vote for him. We used the template during the last local government election where we agreed that the best candidate should emerge from every ward. Already, we are screening candidates for various positions like the House of Assembly and others and where they are many we discussed with a view to streamline.
What is your take on the impending merger of the R-APC and old PDP?
What is happening at the national level within the APC is very sad but I am happy in one sense. Those who intend to defect are no longer PDP but R-APC which fall in line with my earlier statement few weeks back calling on our national leadership to stop them from using the name nPDP because we don’t have new or old PDP. The R-APC can be referred to as new because they are new in the APC arrangement. Be that as it may, I look at what is happening as a bid to use the new arrangement as a stepping ground to their new destination which is ultimately PDP. We have been aware and privy to the various meetings held at the top on this issue. In Kwara, the Senate President is asking for the structure of the party while other leaders from other state also negotiated on different grounds. Information at my disposal is that the ultimate aim is PDP because R-APC cannot win election since they are not a registered party. But with the PDP desperation to win back power in 2019, especially at the centre, our party will readily accept many of the negotiating terms especially going by the narrative that has trailed the party since the 2015 presidential election.
How will this affect the state chapter of the PDP on the long run?
To us in Kwara, the coming of the group and the Senate President will affect the fortunes of the PDP. Those of us who are founding fathers of the PDP at both the state and national levels know prior to this time that the Saraki dynasty has been in control of politics of the state for over 45 years. Our massive supporters throughout the state, including other opposition parties and those who are not even partisan have been giving us very encouraging feedback concerning subsequent elections in the state. We are in alignment with them on that. If the Senate President and the structure move to PDP today, we will move out of the party tomorrow and we are already in contact with other political parties on this. As they are negotiating with the PDP, so we are also negotiating.
But how do you expect to carry on this merger with the factionalisation in the party?
Irrespective of the fiction, the two groups in Kwara PDP have decided to work together, our disunity is merely internal and our major focus and objective still remains the same and therefore if the Senate President comes, either of our faction will not remain and we will ensure we don’t leave any structure behind.
If the Senate President moves out of APC, will the PDP work with what is left behind in the state chapter of the ruling party?
It is true we are discussing with the Bolarinwa Basheer (BOB) group, also with Moshood Mustapha at the central level and we are in talks with other structures, including the leadership of the ruling party at the top. They are aware of our existence and as at now, noting is concluded yet, but APC is also a possibility. What matters to us now is to pick a political party and continue with our programmes whether labour or SDP or any other platforms. If it is the APC we finally resolve to settle in, there is no problem, our doors are widely open to other political parties waiting in anticipation for their impending movement.
In the event you finally concretise arrangement with the APC, what structure will you be building upon?
If we eventually decide to go to APC, we will be working on very new structures because the recognised structure today belongs to the Senate President. Those who will be left behind know that they cannot win election without us coming together to collectively and holistically appraise the situation. It is not that we will come and say we are following your structures but there will be negotiations and reorganisation and we will start everything together from the ward to the state level but with the paramount interest of the state as a binding force. So yes, we are meeting and have already opened discussion with the APC, including other political parties. But I have not said we are going with the APC yet, it depends on our final discussion but what is important to us is that we have the masses.
It seems the national leadership of the PDP is not on the same page with you on this issue?
Well, we have raised it on many occasions with our national leadership but the way they are thinking is different from our perspective on the issue at the state level. The happiest thing is that we can move out elsewhere if we feel not satisfied with the terms of arrangement because over 90 per cent of those in the party now were not there before. Many heavy weights have left the PDP but when we tell them and they refuse to listen, we move, that is politics. The national leadership is looking at the scenario that Saraki’s defection will bring in some senators and House of Reps members and he is coming in with a very deep pocket which they believe will help the party because they are no longer in power at the centre. But we are not looking at that. We believe we have the capacity to deliver Kwara without the Senate President. That is our major goal.