In this interview with SOLOMON AYADO, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State, Hon. John Ngbede speaks on the plans of the party to regain power and oust the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019.
You have just been elected new chairman of the PDP in Benue State. What plans do you have to make it a viable opposition party?
My plan for the party is to ensure that there is fairness and equity, where everybody or constituency would have its fair share of representation and where everybody that matters in the party would be carried along. We shall be making decisions as a party and we have intended to bring back our members that have gone astray and those who have left to other political parties so that we can build a strong and one united party. PDP has once said power belongs to the people and we shall use that power of the people to achieve whatever goals we have set out for ourselves. So we are going to carry everybody along and nobody would be placed above another.
You lost power in 2015 to the now governing All Progressives Congress (APC). Is there any possibility of your party retrieving power in 2019?
Yes, it is very possible and we are very sure that we shall definitely retrieve power and oust the APC from office. Of course, we all know the mistakes that led to our defeat because of some sort of insincerity among our party members. Some of our members were in PDP but working for the APC and against the interest of our party. A lot of them, seeing that the election was lost by the PDP, they quickly decide to decamp to APC and some of them did it towards the election time and even those that didn’t go, had worked against our party. This is deceit and as far as we know, that is not a good spirit of politics. But this time around, we are going to ensure that we bring everybody on board and all the issues that were at stake would be amicably resolved to ensure that we present a strong force for the next coming election. I want to assure that in 2019, definitely, PDP will still come to power.
The PDP appears not to see anything good in the strides of the present APC administration which. It is being blamed for sabotaging every development effort of the ‘change’ administration. What is your reaction?
But that is not the objective of our party and I wonder why the PDP would be embarking on such uncivilized trade. The truth is that anything we see good we voice it out and anyone that is bad, we equally voice it out as well. You will recall that recently, most of the projects that were embarked upon by the immediate past administration, both the state and federal government came up to complete such projects and that is a laudable idea. As a party, it is something that we should come out and give some kudos for it. For example, the road to my local government area in Agatu is ongoing and this is a project that was started by the immediate past administration.
You will remember that when former Governor Gabriel Suswam took over, there are projects that were started by the George Akume administration and Suswam continued with them and completed most of them. And so government is a continuity and that is one good thing I have seen in the present government. But when we see things going wrong, we voice it out to enable them sit at the right position and we are not just here to praise them and or criticize them unconstructively, but we must voice out so that they can live up to their responsibilities.
Your party is enmeshed in a leadership debacle at the national level. Don’t you think the crisis will propel a total collapse of the party?
I don’t think the party is in disarray, but you should know that the national leadership is intact despite the minor differences but they have been able to amicably resolve them and the leaders are coming back very strong. The BoT of the party is still very intact, very much directing the affairs of the party but some people are taking advantage of the crisis to decamp. Like our member representing Ukum/Katsina-Ala/Logo federal constituency, Emmanuel Udende recently defected to the APC, saying there was division in the party and we don’t know where the division came from. And so we are also using the opportunity to call him to resign his position at the National Assembly or else, we will take him to court. If anybody thinks our party is into confusion, then that is not true, the party has its own way of resolving issues. That is politics and in politics, there are bound to be crisis and there are always sure ways to resolving them without rancor. The way a party goes about resolving its differences is what makes it a good party, and the way PDP has gone to handle the little fracas that ensued has shown clearly that it is a strong and very formidable party in this country.
One year has gone down since your party lost elections and APC took over government. What would be your assessment of the present administration?
Seriously, it is journalists that can properly assess any administration but I leave that for the media houses to carry out their assessment and tell us what the APC has done. Right from the national to the state levels, you will agree with me that since the last one year, government has not commissioned projects anywhere and we cannot hold them that they have done well. But just like I said, in Benue state, the present governor Samuel Ortom has built on most of the projects that his predecessor, Suswam started including roads. And all the projects are still ongoing and until such a time when such projects are being commissioned, then, we’ll start giving him kudos that he has achieved something but since that has not happened, I will leave that judgement to you because it is obvious. As chairman of my party, I don’t think in anyway that the present Ortom administration has achieved anything to write home about. Another thing is that because of the economic down turn witnessed in the country today, most of the challenges the present administration is facing and anytime they could not perform, they will start telling the people that they have challenges of funds which was caused by the past administration. They will say they have lean resources coming from the federation account and that has made them not to execute projects and pay salaries. Yet, there are problems and even the immediate past administration had that kind of problems but it performed.
This means that the present administration has not seen the reality of life, they have not seen the reality of governance but they can now appreciate that what they have come to see are now facts which they never believed when they were desperate to climb to power. But we want to see how they would face reality and use this situation to turn around the fortunes of the people but if they don’t do that, they would be booted out the same way. And the people are going to use the same measures they used in edging out the PDP to edge out APC. Salary issues were the main issues that the APC used against the PDP in 2015 campaigns and the issues are still lingering up till now, even as they took over about a year now. But I sympathize with the governor of Benue state but since they used non-payment of salaries as major campaign message, I thought they had a magic wand that they will assume government and quickly settle the issues of salaries. Till now, they can’t pay salaries, even the disbursement of bailout funds, the present administration failed in the proper execution of it.
There is a serious allegation that the PDP in Benue is divided because of the rift between former governor Gabriel Suswam and former senate president David Mark, over a battle for supremacy. What is the true position?
That is not true; there is no division in our party and there is no rift between Governor Suswam and senate president Mark. I am very close to all of them and I know they are good friends. Suswam calls senator Mark his leader and the former senate president too gives Suswam his due respect and that is how they’ve been working together. They have been working together as brothers and there is no form of rivalry at all. I can authoritatively tell you that there is no problem and they are not fighting for anything or whatsoever. Those making the allegation are doing it at the figment of their own imaginations.
The local government election in the state is fixed for September 3, do you believe the PDP can smell victory; how prepared is your party?
As you can see, we have started activities and I have invited all our members to come around for briefing and we are preparing very well. But we want to to tell the state electoral body categorically that anything short of free and fair election, the PDP in Benue state will not accept it and they have assured us that they will conduct a credible election. And we believe that the chairman of BSIEC should hold on to what he told us in that meeting. We are going to make sure in the forthcoming election, that PDP is still viable and very strong in Benue state. And the media has a very serious role to play to report as it is because there are speculations that the electoral body would announce the election based on the dummy of the governing party but the constitution of the electoral body does not provide for that. Local government elections should be announced at the council headquarters and ward election be announced at the ward levels and anything short of these would be totally unacceptable.