Eddy Olafeso is a former National Vice Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (South West). In this interview, Olafeso, a member of the PDP National Executive Committee, bares his mind on the state of the nation, the presidential election tribunal and other burning national issues. Excerpts:
How would you describe the state of the nation?
It is the APC government of eight years and two months. Despite the change of baton, we have not seen clearly any form of policy change that can bring about a better tomorrow for Nigeria.
While people are deeply worried, if we don’t begin to scream at them, we are going to be led to the cul-de-sac that Buhari led us for the last eight years. And nothing would happen.
Let me give you an example. Number one, we are worried and aghast about the quantum of national resources spent on Trader Money. We would have thought that for somebody who has been in quest for leadership in the last 20 years, Tinubu should have been able to do his homework and present to Nigerians, a more scientific approach to building a better economy and a better Nigeria.
The last two months have been a very trying time for Nigeria. The exact way it was when Buhari took over in 2015, the naira was below N200. Two months later, it was N450 to the dollar. And along came Tinubu. The Naira was N400 and something, when they came and suddenly, it jumped to N850 – N900 to a Dollar.
We are on the same trajectory to a very disillusioned end. That is the reason many of us are particularly worried about where we are going with these people. And then to add salt to injury, we have seen the list of ministers; it is the same group of people that ran their states aground, except for some few fresh individuals on the list.
And we begin to wonder what we will face under this lacklustre government. They lack energy. There is no connectivity with the people and their new administration. That is the reason we feel that these few months have actually shown us that it may be a very big winter for Nigeria under the Tinubu administration.
President Bola Tinubu in his inaugural speech announced the end of the fuel subsidy regime. How would you assess the aftermath of the management of the fuel subsidy removal?
It is the absence of management that has thrown Nigeria into chaos. I live in Ondo State. The level of poverty has never been witnessed like this. You put the cart before the horse. You wiped out subsidies from the people and for the last 60 something days, you impoverished them.
You imposed taxes on them, left, right and centre. You said you are closing the multi-window foreign exchange. And suddenly you see the death of the Naira and how it has impacted on our people. We are deeply concerned that this may not have a happy ending. And we were of the opinion that before a president will open his mouth and come up with a policy, there must be ways through which we can mitigate the effects of the policy on the people. Our people are left on a slide to oblivion.
The middle class is wiped out. And there is nothing to look on to. Very soon, children will be dropping out of school. In the end, it is the same promises, promises that were made in the last eight years that will be the lot of the Nigerian people. We are very, very deeply worried.
So, he put the cart before the horse. He never made any arrangement, at least in terms of supporting the people to overcome the very drastic and unplanned removal of fuel subsidies. Go round the country, there are tales of woes. People trekking to work. People cannot buy food in the market. Families are going to bed without food. And yet we have a new government.
And with the (President Tinubu’s) broadcast, there is the same rambling that we witnessed in the last eight years. Before any of the policies enumerated (in the broadcast) came to fruition, they are also telling you until March 2024 or beyond.
So, how do people survive this very moment? It is so sad they never thought about this before they removed the subsidy. It is like Nigerians have been left on their own.
Government can no longer secure them or provide them the enabling environment, where individuals can be all that they want to be. The APC government has never changed at all.
“We have left the judiciary on trial with the Nigerian people. Time will tell. Our lawyers have done a good job of defending our position. There is nothing we can do at this moment than to wait and see what the judiciary will do to revamp Nigeria; to make or mar the country; to do the right thing to protect the constitution of the Federal Republic. So, we are very hopeful”
The presidential candidate of your party, Atiku Abubakar is challenging the outcome of the last presidential election and the tribunal is expected to give judgment soon. What is your expectation as a leader of the PDP?
We have left the judiciary on trial with the Nigerian people. Time will tell. Our lawyers have done a good job of defending our position. There is nothing we can do at this moment than to wait and see what the judiciary will do to revamp Nigeria; to make or mar the country; to do the right thing to protect the constitution of the Federal Republic. So, we are very hopeful.
In the aftermath of the election, there has been a lull in activities in the party. What does the future hold for the PDP?
Our future is bright. It is the people’s party. No matter the immediate challenges and concerns, we will rise above it. Let me tell you, we cannot do two things at the same time. What is critical and important now is prosecuting the perceived and the obvious INEC dereliction during the election and correcting whatever damage they might have done to the process. And after the court, our party will sit down and begin to evaluate itself. There are many challenges facing us. But this party will always overcome.
There are fears that many of your party members may dump the party for the APC. Do you entertain that fear too?
Yeah, people will be moving back and forth. But the majority of the people would like to vote for a party that promises what Atiku Abubakar promises to Nigerians; a new beginning of harnessing our resources to build a better and prosperous nation.
Many of us believe in his (Atiku’s) leadership. And I know a lot that may want to prevaricate at this time. They should recognize that they are chasing shadows. PDP is built to last. And let me tell you that nothing will ever kill us.
As bad as things are, you know the number of governors we have today and the number of governors that may still be included in the ones we have right now. I am very optimistic about the future of our party. As long as Waziri Atiku Abubakar is our leader; as long as we continue to do the right thing in the interest of the Nigerian people, spending sleepless nights looking at how best we can do things better, in this unfortunate eight years and two months of the APC.
The wounds from the last PDP national convention are still festering. You are a member of NEC, for over nine months there has not been a NEC meeting. Is that in the interest of the party?
It is because of where we found ourselves during the election. It will take a while to heal. But like I told you, first thing first. Let us recover our stolen mandate from the court. Then we will begin to rebuild our party for the future. A lot of things went wrong and we must correct those things in the future, so that it will never happen again. That is the truth.
Can you be more specific?
Specifically, in this matter, it is to ensure that we stick to the dictates of our constitution. That we elect quality leadership to lead; that we adhere to the principles of our constitution. That we leave behind us, and never repeat so many mistakes that we made during the election. That is what I can tell you for now.
The G-5 which had issues with the PDP prior to the last general election has continued to hobnob with the APC-led Federal Government. A few days ago, former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike was screened to serve as a minister in an APC-led government, even when your party is challenging the election results. How would you react to that?
Let me tell you, our party is not about an individual. Nobody would want to dwell in the past for too long. Our party – the People’s Democratic Party – is bigger than an individual. When we get to the bridge we shall cross it. Decisions made today might be wrong tomorrow. Let’s wait and see what happens.
Do you think the 10th National Assembly can do things differently and better?
They must take their job seriously. We expect better from them in the screening (of ministerial nominees), on behalf of the Nigerian people. That idea of taking a bow and walking away, we don’t want people to walk away from accounting for the past and the roles they have played in under-developing Nigeria. I know that gradually and on a regular basis, we will continue to task them to be up and doing.