Venatius Ikem is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Cross River State. He recently granted www.calitown.com a short interview. Excerpts!
Congratulations for successfully emerging as state chairman of the PDP are in place sir. Now, you head a party that has never been an opposition party in CRS until now. How then do you intend to position your party as we approach 2023, the election year?
Thank you Mr. Iwara. Perspective matters; PDP is not in opposition in CRS today because we lost election. We are in opposition because one man, wants to play God in our politics and when we tried to teach him democracy he decided to throw tantrums and take the ignoble path of political self destruction.
PDP had been in power for 16 years prior to his emergence and through that period succeeded in embedding her politics with the wishes and aspirations of the people of CRS. It will take more than one individual, no matter how high his office is, to alter that reality overnight.
All we need to do is to reawaken those policies that endeared the party to the people, revamp her grassroots appeal and most of all become more consultative or if you like more democratic, moving forward.
Recently the PDP filed a suit seeking to remove the CRS governor and his deputy? What are the issues?
The issue is just one to the best of my knowledge: is it constitutional for an elected official, who contests and wins election on a political party platform to abandon the party, to which he was a mere agent, and retain his elected office?
There are several cases where the courts have decided that a candidate is merely an agent of a political party and that it is the party that contests election, not the candidate because as the Nigerian Law stands today, no one can contest election unless he is sponsored by a political party.
Our position is that it is not. Some people have argued that people have been decamping without vacating the offices to which they were elected. Our response is that that is because no one has thought it wise to challenge the issue in a competent Court of Law and does not make it right. We in PDP Cross River State, having done a thorough legal research on the issue in the past five months have decided to explore Nigerian jurisprudence in this area with a view to throwing more light on the topic as well as reclaim our mandate as a political Party. That’s the Crux of the matter.
Your party has been referred to as a party of jokers and jesters by the CRS governor’s spokesperson, how do you react to this?
With all due respect to Mr. Christian Ita, he is a journalist and not a lawyer. I understand he has been offered admission to read Law in the Nigerian Law School, and I wish him a successful study at it. Until he successfully completes his studies, I will advise him to limit his opinion to journalism. The issue here is too serious for knee jerk journalistic jibes that he has become used to under Ayade. These jibes often times are designed or fabricated to obfuscate the issues and throw shades at critics and not respond to the issues. We want to use this case to advance democracy and the boundaries of our jurisprudence.
Shortly after the state governor defected to the APC, he took over the PDP secretariat in CRS. Has this matter been sorted out?
Not yet, but it will soon be. In our last meeting we enjoined the Legal Adviser to as a matter of urgency, follow up both the civil and criminal aspects of the case with a view to finding a solution. If the authorities are unwilling to prosecute offenders, we have mandated him to immediately set in motion a process for private prosecution of the case against the former state chairman of the party, Ntufam Inok Edim who is alleged to have criminally converted our party property to his personal property. People in Ayade’s government need to learn that actions have consequences because working with the governor doesn’t grant everyone immunity. Under my watch I will ensure that whatever belongs to PDP is recovered as soon as possible through legitimate means because we are still a society that is run by Law and order.
You left the PDP to the APC and then came back and helped ‘push’ the state governor out of the PDP. What were the points of disagreement?
I was disaffected very early in the life of this administration. Our people have a saying that you know a bride who will bear children from a look at her breasts. It didn’t take me more than a month of Gov. Ayade’s initial putative steps in his initial appointments and pronouncements, including his infamous Signature Projects at his inauguration to admit that my worst fears had been activated. It was full of empty talk and baldderdash without any bearing on the Cross River State reality. We know the size of our budget and what is achievable. We understand policy pronouncements that are made from reality and not fantasy. It was all there in the first one month and I felt disgusted then as I still feel today and the rest of the state is coming to a conclusion which I reached within a month!
Now why did I come back to work for his second term? It is complex for many people to understand, but it was clear in my head that our people were not prepared for the kind of revolutionary approach to politics that some of us were advocating and you need more tact in advancing that course. I realized that I needed to be in PDP to be able to effect some changes that have become imperative in our society today because our people are PDP through and through.
As I was coming back I set my eyes clearly on becoming the State Party Chairman. Some of my close friends at the time would tell you that when Ayade won his second term election and there was talk about me taking appointment as Commissioner, I told them clearly that the only position I would take is State Party Chairman because that is the only position from which I think I can make meaningful contributions to change. That day is here and they still marvel at my foresight. I hope to make it worthwhile.
You said in your victory speech that you were going to begin to live your age in your dealings with people. Can you walk us through that statement?
We are in it. I don’t have anything to say. I’m walking my talk. Just watch me.
Are you at any point soon, willing to engage the state governor, offering him formidable governance options as State Chairman of the PDP, in the interest of the state?
No. Absolutely, no. The reason is that you can’t argue with a deaf man. Gov. Ayade is presently being propelled by forces beyond him. Our people have a proverb that says a dog that is doomed cannot hear or understand it’s master’s whistle.
My focus is clear: to set the right democratic tone for the PDP and indeed Cross River State people to accept that I mean business with my reform agenda and they will regain confidence in the Party. Winning election thereafter will become the people’s thing, not mine.
Who/what are those forces that you insist are propelling the governor?
They are apparently forces beyond our realm I believe. I would rather not dwell too much on that. Suffice it to say, he needs spiritual help.
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