Nigeria Cannot Achieve Progress Without Restructuring – Babatope – thewillnigeria
November 21, (THEWILL) – A former Minister of Transport and member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, speaks on issues affecting the PDP and Nigeria, in this interview with AYO ESAN. Excerpts:
The PDP recently held its national convention where new members of the National Working Committee were elected. How was the convention?
It was a good convention that we had. In spite of the division in the party, everything went well. We thank God for that.
What is your charge to the newly elected NWC members?
My charge to them is that we are having a presidential election in two years time and we believe we are going to win the election. They must do everything within their powers to ensure that comes to fruition.
The party has made up its mind that it is going to set up some committees that will work for peace and harmony within the party. I support this and I want them to also support reconciliation and peace moves. I know that the new Chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, will do very well to ensure that that comes to fruition. Then we can work together to win the forthcoming election.
Why are you so optimistic that the PDP will win the 2023 presidential election?
I am optimistic. That is why all of us are striving hard to achieve unity and harmony within the party. We are very determined to win the election because we know that for some years now, Nigerians have been suffering. They have suffered enough and we want to put an end to their suffering. We want to move the people forward.
The PDP chairmanship was zoned to the North and southerners believe the presidency should be zoned to the South. What is your take on this?
As far as I am concerned, political parties are meant to do the best for the people. And we should all put our hearts together and speak with one voice. I believe the PDP is going to win. I believe in the people and I believe they deserve to be governed by fair-minded leaders.
There will be governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States in 2022. What are the chances of the PDP in those elections?
In Osun State, we are very ready. If you have been following events through the newspapers, you will know that we have put our house in order. A former chairman of the state chapter of the PDP, Soji Adagunodo, was recently elected as the new National Vice-Chairman of the party in the South-West. So we are determined to end the election successfully.
How would you assess President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in the last six years?
As far as I am concerned, we are opposed to the All Progressives Congress and Buhari. We don’t want them to win any election. I can’t give Buhari a pass mark because his government is a failure. We are determined to push the party out of Aso Rock in 2023.
What is your reaction to the ongoing insecurity across the country?
The situation is quite appalling. It is pathetic that Nigeria has gradually become a country where human lives and properties are no longer secure. It was not like this before. Every patriotic citizen is worried, especially the elderly. The nation is seriously bleeding. I hope that President Muhammmadu Buhari will rise to the occasion because the buck stop at his table. There is insecurity everywhere and this is very sad.
The situation has never been this bad. Nigerians can no longer move about freely due to the activities of bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements, who seem have taken over the space and are now making life very uncomfortable and harsh for law abiding citizens. Nobody is safe. Today travelling across the country today has become a nightmare and very dangerous.
Before we got to this terrible state, we started by rigging elections. Later insurgency, banditry and kidnapping followed. Here we are today with the situation getting worse by the day. Nigeria needs divine intervention urgently. This is not the Nigeria envisioned by her founding fathers. With what is happening in the country, ordinary Nigerians are getting really scared. Nobody is even sure of what will happen in 2023 or before we get there. The situation is very frightening and this is why we need divine intervention. The situation was not as bad as this when the PDP was in power. I am very sure that, come 2023, if the presidential election is free and fair, the PDP will bounce back because Nigerians now have an opportunity to make a comparison between the PDP and APC. They now know the difference. On our part, we in the PDP have learnt our lessons.
What is your advice to the Federal Government on the prevailing insecurity?
The government must commit itself to free and fair elections. Once we have that, everything will go well for the country. The problem we have in this country is the absence of an electoral umpire that will ensure that elections are free and fair. Let us have that and we will know where we are going.
Some people believe that the creation of state police is one of the best ways to tackle Nigeria’s security challenges. Do you agree with them?
The state police will help. I don’t see anything wrong in having state police, if that will be a democratic solution to our security problems. If it will help us to achieve peace and also help us to toe the path of true federalism, let’s go ahead with it. But I think what is important is for all of us to know that we are all Nigerians and we should ensure, as much as possible, that we have a safe country for all of us to live in.
How do you assess the Federal Government’s current efforts to restore sanity in the country?
The insecurity is a terrible and frightening situation. The Federal Government should increase what it is doing and ensure there is peace in the country so that we will have a country we can call our own. Frankly speaking, I am more than 70 years-old and I do not want to be a citizen of another country. Having said this, Nigeria must remain one indivisible and united country. The Federal Government should intensify its efforts to restore peace in the country.
Some Nigerians have said that the 2023 general election may not hold, if the government fails to find a lasting solution to insecurity. What is your take on this?
I won’t pray for that. I will pray for the continuity of the country in a manner that it will make the people to have rights to participate in elections and elect those who will govern them. Also I pray for a situation that will make them to be happy to do so.
The National Assembly recently adopted direct primary as the means of choosing candidates for elections. What is your position on this?
The development is not a bad one. But what I know is that whether you adopt direct or indirect primary, the important thing is the total commitment of the people in government toward ensuring there is free and fair election. Nigerians want free and fair elections. If future elections are not free and fair election, whatever way we conduct primaries will be useless.
What is your advice to the electorate as we moved towards 2023?
They should be careful. They should be committed to the workings of democracy.
What about the Independent National Electoral Commission?
I hope the INEC will give us free and fair elections. I hope they will do that in 2023.
Do you think Afenifere is right to insist on restructuring before the 2023 general elections?
The position of Afenifere is very good. We must redefine the federal nature of our country. We must examine our commitment to the Federal system of government. We need to restructure the country. If we don’t do this, we cannot make progress. So Afenifere is saying the right thing and I support them wholeheartedly.
Nigeria recently celebrated 61 years of independence. How do we move forward as a nation?
All of us should be committed to having one Nigeria. God will help us in that process.
The Southern Governors Forum have insisted that the next President must come from the South. Northern governors and political leaders are also saying that the position must go to the North. How do you see these contradicting demands?
As far as I am concerned, the PDP, by the Grace of God, will solve the problem. It’s a question of what to do with our federalism. That is why Afenifere is saying we need to restructure. When you restructure, other things will be added. What I meant by restructuring is the redefining of our federal system. It is very important.
Chief Bode George recently said it will be difficult for anybody above 70 years to perform well as Nigerian President. Do you agree with him?
I have not seen Bode in recent time to know his comments. But George is a politician that has committed his total life to the survival of democracy in Nigeria. I know that people above 70 are also Nigerians and they have the right to aspire to become president.