Hon. Baba Shehu Agaie, the Deputy Leader of the 4th, 5th and 6th House of Representatives, is from Niger State. In an exclusive interview with MIKE ODIAKOSE, he gave an insight into the crisis rocking the Niger state chapter of the PDP and how the party can come out of the logjam.
On Sunday the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party squashed the purported suspension of former governors Babangida Aliyu of Niger state and Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano state. As a major stakeholder in Niger PDP, what is your take on this development?
Thank you very much. I commend your efforts in reaching out to me and this is an opportunity for me to tell you how the thing went. That suspension, from the word go, was wrong. Why? One, constitutionally, by the constitution of the party you cannot suspend or dismiss any member of the National Executive Committee, NEC unless by NEC itself. Number two, the so-called group who said Babangida Aliyu was suspended; if you are to suspend any PDP officer, any elected officer of the PDP it has to be from the Ward that he came out of. The initial suspension was not from Babangida Aliyu’s Ward, it was from the local government. That is a breach of the PDP constitution which must be considered as null and void. Be that as it may, the major problem we have in PDP today, globally, is the problem of indiscipline. PDP as a party for the past five, six years was never encouraged to discipline any of its members whether right or wrong. In as much as a full stop is not put to this through the party, it will continue. After the suspension of the Chief Servant, Mai Basira’s own came in and then Kwankwaso’s own came it. Even at the state level, many have been suspended like that simply because somebody went wrong and was not disciplined; somebody went wrong and was not cautioned. So, our party has the problem of indiscipline and that is why everywhere is singing suspension, suspension, suspension, whether legally or illegally.
Is the NWC that squashed the suspension of Babangida Aliyu and Musa Kwankwaso not supposed to go a step further by sanctioning the people that issued the suspension orders illegally to serve as a deterrent to others?
That is what I am telling you that the NWC is not ready to punish anybody and that is what is making the situation worse. I was almost lynched at our botched state congress in Niger state, we wrote a petition, we complained physically. We are still on the issues and nothing happened up till today; they are not ready to punish anybody. Then what are we up to? And we have that clause in the constitution that stipulates discipline. Sections 58 and 59 talks about discipline in the party but these guys are not ready to go into the provisions of the constitution that stipulates that if you do this you will be punished, if you do that you will be punished. That section has been redundant.
Does it mean the leadership of the NWC is weak or what for its inability to sanction erring members that brazenly breach the constitution?
Maybe they are afraid that if they discipline somebody something will happen. Maybe.
As one of the leaders of the PDP in Niger State can you give us an insight into the genesis of the crisis in the state chapter?
The genesis is that the party out-gone party chairman wants to continue in office. If I must update you, this guy started in PDP as one of the leaders in our state secretariat. He was a Legal Adviser, he was a one-time Acting National Youth Leader, he was one time Secretary of the party, he was a one-time Vice-chairman of the party, and he was one-time chairman of the party. All these within 21 years and despite that the guy does not want to go. It didn’t stop there. During the 2019 elections I signed out money for the elections in Niger but the monies were not managed effectively and that was why we lost Niger state. Initially we met and said everybody should continue but we said ‘no’, this person this person the level he is now if he is given another opportunity again he is going to mortgage our party out in the state and as such he has to be changed. And as you know he has his own followership that he shared the money; they ganged up and said no. Up to tomorrow that is part of the problem in Niger state. Yes, those who managed the looted money they stood firm with him and didn’t want him to go but we said he has to go.
We understand that after the 2019 election a committee was set up to assess the performance of the party in the state. Is that also part of the reasons for the crisis?
It is because he himself constituted that committee, they submitted their report and after the submission the report indicted him as an individual. Because of that indictment he sat on the report and that is part of our problem now because he was indicted and if the report is to be considered he has to leave. So he sat on it and we said no. That report must be brought forward and considered so that he can give way to a better person who will make PDP succeed in Niger state.
The Saraki’s committee on Reconciliation and Strategy was reported to have recommended that because of the crisis the two aspirants for Niger state chairmanship should step aside and neutral persons should step in to contest. What is your take on this?
Actually, like I told you, there was a gang-up of looters whose thinking is that if Beji should go they will lose out. So the reconciliation committee recommended that the two contestants should step aside and bring forth one person each from the two sides so that we can go into congress. They said ‘no, if not Beji nobody else.’ That is the level we are now. We are just waiting for the reconciliation committee how they are going to resolve that difference now.
In view of the time factor, what is the committee doing about that now?
That one I don’t know because I am not part of them. We are just waiting for their final resolution.
Do you think the stepping aside of the two chairmanship contestants will solve the problem?
Well, partially. All of us we want peace and if you want peace you have to sacrifice. After that resolution was pronounced to all of us we were in that meeting their leader, Senator Zainab Kure, said those behind that they were waiting for them to hear the news and what are they going to tell them. Saraki said that go and tell them that none of them is guilty of any offense; it is a sacrifice for PDP. Despite that these guys said ‘no, if not Beji nobody else’.
As a leader and elder in the party with vast experience what do you think is the way forward?
You see the issue was too far breached, otherwise when one of the contestants agreed that he was going to step down I see no reason why the other one should not step down so that they bring new people and we go into elections. We are not afraid of elections; it is part of the political process, you can’t do without it. But like I put it to you, the PDP of today is afraid of disciplinary actions against any of their members. If they want to find a way out in this issue all those that were found wanting must be punished according to the constitution of the party because nobody, none of us is well and above the party constitution. We are upholders of the constitution and we have to live by it and if it goes that way I think there will be peace because you can’t challenge the constitution of the party. It is supreme over all our affairs and activities.
Maybe the NWC is nursing fears that if they sanction members there might be mass defection to other political parties that may affect the fortunes of the PDP in 2023, especially in Niger State.
In Niger state sir you know what the empty vessels do? They make the loudest noise. And all the Beji group, none of them, none of them and I say it again, none of them can deliver their polling units. So, if we are forced to go into disciplinary action whatever Niger state will lose nothing. I am telling you that Niger state will lose nothing as far as election is concerned.
What is your last word to the party and NWC on the way forward?
Like I put to you it is not all that far-fetched. It is more than one year now this Niger state issue has been on the pages of newspapers and other social media. If we want to have headway peacefully and amicably, those that went wrong, those that were the initiators of this confusion must be punished. If you are punished by the law or the constitution you don’t have any alternative. If you want to go, then go. People are coming up; PDP of today is springing out. Haba, we can never lack.
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