By Iruke Chioma
Dr. Iyorchia Ayu was President of the Nigerian Senate in the Third Republic. Appointed Minister of Internal Affairs in 2003, Ayu played a prominent role in the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo following the return to democratic governance in 1999. A fortnight ago, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Alumnus emerged the National Chairman-elect of Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In this interview with a select team of journalists in his Abuja residence, Ayu speaks on sources of finance for the party, his plans ahead of the 2023 general election, and the challenge of unity in the party.
Zoning is entrenched in your party constitution. Will the PDP stick with this formula particularly as it concerns the Presidential candidate in 2023?
We are a very democratic party. We don’t have problems in resolving our problems within the party. Everybody thought the zoning of party offices will destroy the party. I think Nigerians were pleasantly surprised that we resolved it without any controversy whatsoever. So those who are visiting controversies on the party are not getting it right. I believe that when the time comes, we would resolve it. We have separated the zoning of party offices and zoning of executive and legislative offices and it’s very tactical. When the time comes, we will subject ourselves to another democratic exercise and we will come out with a winning candidate. I believe Nigerians will be very happy with what we will offer them in the next couple of months.
Do you think the ruling party will allow electronic transmission of results to happen in 2023?
Nigerians will be ready to defend their votes in all ways possible. It is clear that PDP won the 2019 presidential election, but we had difficulties with the ruling government because they don’t believe in democracy. They are always manipulating things. We’ve learnt our lessons. We will take necessary measures to ensure that does not repeat itself. There are many other things they did that were undemocratic which Nigerians didn’t know which we are aware of and which we have taken necessary measures correct. If that doesn’t happen, then, it means we are not running a democracy.
The PDP has pockets of crises across the states. How do you hope to address the issue of intra-party agitations?
Nigeria is a very diverse country but there’s unity in our diversity. Every organization will have some conflicts here and there but we are not a divided people as I will always say. Nigerians are a united people. What they need is good leadership, justice, fairness. Once you have that in any organization, I think Nigerians will rally round and move forward.
In our party, the previous administration had started the processes of reconciling the differences among members. There was a committee set up headed by Senator Bukola Saraki to investigate what the problems were and to reconcile the party. That process is on. I intend to build on that when they submit their report when I resume. Necessary reconciliatory processes will be undertaken to reconcile party members and to resolve issues in chapters in various states. We have already started that by talking to people. I am happy to inform you so many people have already indicated interest to return to the party, those who are aggrieved and left the party.
If you recall, a few days ago, former Governor of Ondo state, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, returned to the party. My colleague, Senator Rashidi Ladoja also returned. There are some people who are trooping back. A few months ago, the traffic was one-way; we lost about three governors to the APC. But I believe before the end of the year, you will hear so many people coming back to the PDP because they now have confidence that the PDP is getting it right. We will build on that and work very hard to make sure that the PDP is a unified force to fight the next election.
Are Governors the main financiers of your party? African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa for instance, has pockets of businesses that help to finance the party. Do you have any strategy to ensure financial independence for the PDP?
When we formed the PDP, there were no governors. In 1998, there were no governors. There were so many financiers of the party. The people who formed the party contributed to stabilize it. We didn’t have governors then. The governors came after the party was formed. And many of the people who became governors had no money to run the party. Contributions were made. Even the N1 million form that they had to buy in 1999, people contributed and paid for them. What has happened over the years is that we now had Governors, Presidents and we were in charge of the federal government. The Governors, Presidents made contributions to the party. But other people were still contributing to the party.
Comparing us with the ANC is a bit unfair because ANC is over a hundred years old. The party has evolved and they evolved in struggle. ANC is a party that evolved fighting apartheid in South Africa but didn’t depend alone on just those businesses you referred to. They had massive contributions from outside. Even the Nigerian government gave a lot of money to the ANC and many other people who supported anti-apartheid struggle. Even I as a student in the 70s participated in anti-apartheid. We raised and donated money to ANC.
But going forward, the PDP will try to look into other sources of funding instead of depending on just a few financiers. We have contributions from other supporters of the party which normally people don’t know. There is this misconception that only the governors are funding the party. We have only 13 governors. They cannot possibly fund the party in 36 states of the federation including Abuja.
So, we will diversify our funding anyway. It is something we are going to discuss as a party. We will look into it and hopefully, we will come out with ways of strengthening the funding of our own activities. So, rest assure that the PDP will not only be democratic in its politics but it will also be democratic in its funding processes What are you plans for the PDP, particularly with 2023 in the horizon?
My priority is for the party to take power. Political parties’ priorities are always to win. Therefore, I have reviewed the reasons we lost power in 2015 and I’m going to work to unite the party, to sharpen the programmes of the party, market the party to the Nigerian electorate in a way that they will be prepared to vote for us. In a democracy, it is normal for a political party to lose power. If we didn’t lose power, maybe, we would have become a dictatorship or complacent. There must have been something we were doing wrong or must have done wrong that made the Nigerian electorate to shift away from us. But today, if we didn’t lose power, they won’t experience the policies and programmes of the other party. They would think there is something better than us. Thank God we lost power. Today, the Nigerian people know better.
And I believe we will re-energize the party and take over power again, not only at the centre, but across many states. There was a time PDP controlled about 20 states. That has been reduced to 13. We hope and pray and we will work very hard to increase that number from 13 to control over 20 states and possibly, we will win the federal government. So, that is really my vision for this party. We will unite the party as I have said and I believe that very soon, we will have a very united, focused political party.