Atiku, Wike feud: No individual greater than party –Senator Essien, PDP BOT member


Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party’s  Board of Trustees (BOT), has said the misunderstanding between the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike will soon be over 

In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the president of Pan Niger Delta Forum, noted that an individual could not be greater than his party, no matter how powerful he claims to be.

Less than a month to the flag-off of the presidential campaigns, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still unsettled as its candidate, Atiku Abubakarand Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike have yet to find a common ground over disagreements arising from the party’s primary election. Don’t you think this may rob the party of victory?

It will not. It is usual for a party to have little misunderstandings, which at the end of the day leads to greater understanding. The rough edges are being smoothened. What some may consider a crisis is not really a crisis, it is just about people who wanted to be accommodated in the party; and everybody is important in the party and we have to listen to everybody and reconcile aggrieved members and that is what we are doing right now.

You said it is just a little misunderstanding, but we see it going out of proportion as you have the issue of the removal of the national chairman of the party and other agreements yet to be conceded. Don’t you think when this is done; it will polarise the party the more?

Politics is about talking; the party is talking, we are not keeping quiet. The relevant organs of the party are discussing about the issue and very soon, we’ll come out with a position. Politics is about the majority, and once the majority agrees on a certain direction, that is the way it goes. So, I don’t see it as a big problem; we are on it and we are going to get the answers very soon, which will be satisfactory to majority of the people. You cannot satisfy everybody, but once you are able to satisfy the majority of the people, you are a bit safe.

But when it involves critical stakeholders, strong politicians like governors, do you stil call it a small misunderstanding?

When you say strong politicians, then somebody is overrating himself or underrating people. Everybody has capacity; capacity is not specifically assigned to one person. Somebody may think that he is so powerful and at the end, he realises that he is powerless.

So, I don’t subscribe to what you call strong politicians; everybody is strong in politics, so you should not ignore anybody and nobody should think that he is more powerful than the other as far as politics is concerned. This is something I have done for more than 40 years, so I know what I’m saying. Those you underrate and think that they are weak become stronger and those you think are strong become weaker. I don’t want to give examples in my senatorial district, but the last election showed that people you thought were very strong could not win election there.

Talking about the Atiku, Wike feud, analysts posited that the defection of Ibrahim Shekarau in Kano within the week may embolden the PDP presidential candidate team to call the bluff of the Rivers governor. What do you say to this?

I’m not talking of Wike or anybody. Wike, just like every other person has the right to seek relevance. There is nothing new in Shekarau defecting to PDP; he was there before and his coming back is not a new thing. People should consider the party first and not their personal interests because once you are looking for your personal interests; you lose the ingredients which the party wants to provide for the development of Nigeria and Nigerians.  That is what they should look at. I don’t want to bring in names whether it is Wike or Atiku. Atiku has been nominated the presidential candidate, and anybody who loves the party and wants the party to win should key in at this point in the time to see that the party wins the election.

So, if you are seeking relevance only to yourself it doesn’t work that way. Everybody is important as far as this business is concerned because at the end of the day, politics is local. When you say that governors are very powerful, yes, they are powerful to the extent that they are able to control organs in their states, but in some states you find out that if the governors are overbearing, the people take back the power. That is why I said everybody is important. As far as politics is concerned, it is local because when the chips are down, you are restricted to your unit. No matter how strong you are, the highest is your ward.

Many argue that Atiku is being haunted by not respecting the constitution of the party, as well as the principles of the founding fathers. Do you share in that sentiment?

At the beginning, the party decided to jettison zoning. It set up a committee to look at zoning, and at the end of the day, the committee made a recommendation that anybody from any zone can vie for the post and National Executive Council adopted that report, which means it was the decision of the majority and therefore, as an individual you cannot stand to really challenge it, and that is what democracy is all about. If you so feel that you have the right, you can go to court and get the decision of the court whether what was done by NEC was in order or not.

READ ALSO: PDP, APC crises shift to NEC

On the issue of the party’s constitution, which prescribes rotation between North and South in order to ensure equity and justice, some of the PDP stalwarts had argued that what was important was winning the election. Between winning an election and national interest or cohesion, which should come first?

As far as the PDP or parties are concerned, nominations have ended and the parties are going for elections; we have gone pass that stage. When you are talking of national interest, how do you know who has the best of national interests? Until someone gets to power. that is when you will know what he can do. In 2014/ 2015, the story was that President Muhammadu Buhari was the man coming to correct Nigeria, but today, can we say the same thing that was said then about his coming? Has he come to correct the ill or Nigeria has gone into a deeper mess or using the words UK prime minister, are not now fantastically corrupt than we were? We were saying that Mr. Integrity was coming to correct everything wrong about Nigeria, has he done that? Instead he is leaving the country worse that he met it. Until somebody gets there, you don’t know his credibility and capacity towards enshrining national interest or national cohesion. The parties have done their primaries and chosen their candidates. You can decide to vote for whomever that you like at the end of the day. Even if you are in party A, you can decide to vote for a candidate in party B.

We have some PDP governors, Wike; Ikpeazu, Abia, Ortom, Benue and Makinde, all hobnobbing with Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi and also APC candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Doesn’t that amount to anti-party activities and couldn’t they be sanctioned?

Just like you have ordinary prostitutes, you also have political prostitutes because if you have the interest of your party at heart, you will not be going prostituting with candidates of other parties. Nobody is stronger than a group; an individual cannot be stronger than a party, no matter how strong you think you are. When it gets to a point and if it becomes necessary, people who do anti party would definitely be sanctioned.

Before you know it, your ward may remove you for anti party activities. You remember what happened to Adams Oshiohmole? It was his ward that removed him and the Supreme Court upheld it. That is what I have been saying that no individual is stronger than a party as far as party politics is concerned. For 40 years, I have been in this business and I know what happens at the end of the day.

Are you not concerned over the rising profile of Peter Obi of Labour Party and Tinubu of APC?

That will be determined at the poll. Sometimes, you see a crowd and when you go down; you find out that most of them don’t have voter cards. All that would be determined at the ballot. Politics is not a beauty contest; it is not a fanfare. You can do all the fanfares of this world, but when the chips are down, you realise that most of the people who were dancing don’t have voter cards, and some that have cards don’t even go out to vote; they may be playing football on the day of the election or they may be sitting somewhere drinking without going to vote. Those who go to vote determine who wins the election. I’m not always interested in fanfare or crowd as far as elections are concerned.

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