In this interview, special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, explains why he believes that the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF) has turned to a trade union.
You were recently quoted as describing the Nigerian Governors' Forum as a trade union, what informed this description?
What informed that expression was the fact that the leadership of the Nigerian Governors' Forum has taken it upon itself to always resort and threaten to go to court on issues, without recourse to a roundtable resolution of such issues. Governors as individuals have the right to go to court but not under the auspices of the NGF that is not a constitutional organ. The forum is not recognised by the nation's constitution.
I feel it is sad that you should use an organ that is not recognised by the constitution to threaten organs that are recognised by the constitution. I feel the leadership has not done well in that regard and I believe it is because of lack of political maturity and lack of discipline within the party that are causing all these problems.
Individuals, whether a governor, or the President or a senator and the rest, who are sponsored by the party, must be abiding with the procedures, rules and regulations as set out by their political party and in this particular instance, the Peoples Democratic Party that sponsored all the governors, all the senators to their positions now. This also goes to the ministers, if the PDP did not win the federal election, maybe the ministers that are serving would not have been in government.
So, all members of this political party must subject themselves to the rules and regulations of the party, they must be disciplined and must exhibit such behaviour within the party. That is why I sincerely believe that the leadership of the NGF ought to have known that the party is supreme and towers above individuals and individuals that are members of this party should propagate and execute its programmes and manifesto. Finally, I believe that the party has put its feet down to say that all its members must subject themselves to the party’s rules and regulations.
Was the establishment of the PDP Governors' Forum part of the ways the party wants to put its feet down on this matter?
I cannot say categorically but I believe it is a step forward, it is a step to really organise our party, to really organise our members whether you are a governor, senator or minister to say that this is our party, whatever forum or association you want to form, let us have our own in-house association to really address issues affecting our party, to really address our programmes and manifesto and to really re-energise our members to come out as a political party. The party must unite firmly to confront whatever opposition is being formed.
Is there any fear within the party and the Presidency that the behaviour of the leadership of the governors' forum you complained about have to do with the politics of 2015?
It may not be far-fetched because inasmuch as the President and the PDP have tried to refrain themselves from the politics of 2015, the opposition parties have consistently pulled and dragged us into the arena of the politics of 2015. We have, as a party, refrained ourselves and refused to join the fray but time has come that we cannot sit back and see things done wrongly. The political party must be up and doing, we cannot just sit down and watch opposition coming together, using some forums and associations to discredit our party. We will not accept that. You are either in the party or you are out.
What is your position on the impression that the President is seeing the leadership of the governors' forum or some of the governors as threats to his political ambition?
One thing some Nigerians do not understand is that the President is a democrat and that the President does not feel threatened by any person or a group of people. The President knows his constitutional powers, the fact that he does not use up to 40 per cent of his constitutional powers does not mean weakness. He is just a democrat, he wants to consult and have a robust consultation. This is the President that has enormous powers under the constitution, nobody should feel he is feeling threatened. Nobody can threaten him. If it is about the politics of 2015, a court last week said he is free to contest for second term if he so chooses and no group of persons or individuals can intimidate him out of contest, I have always maintained that.
If the President decides not to run, it will be on his own volition and not because some people are threatening hell. This country belongs to all of us irrespective of where you come from, what language you speak or the religion you practice. Nigeria is for all Nigerians and nobody can abridge another person’s constitutional rights. If you have aspirations, nobody can prevent you because anybody can aspire to the highest position in the land and it is your constitutional right if you choose to do so. What we detest is for people to concoct stories that are not true. The PDP works on rules, regulations and facts, not speculations.
Talking of concocting stories, does this issue of alleged one-term pact between the President and northern governors fall under this category?
I have said that before and I am saying it again, the alleged pact never existed, it only exists in somebody's imagination maybe to buttress his aspiration to be the President. But this agreement is not there. No agreement was signed, no pact was entered into either with the Board of Trustees members, the governors of the PDP, National Working Committee or the National Executive Council of the party because these are the organs of the party that will make rules and regulations concerning who emerges as their candidate.
If you say there was an agreement for him to run for one term, then there should not have been any contest in the primary election. The votes are there state by state, 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, the results are there state by state. The scores of the three aspirants were clear and it so happened that time that Goodluck Jonathan won the primary election, that was why he was the candidate of the PDP. He contested the general election alongside other presidential candidates. The result of that general election is there for everybody to see.
How will you react to the reports that some aggrieved PDP governors are planning to dump the party for opposition parties?
I don't think there are aggrieved governors. The fact that some governors are aspiring to be president or senators does not mean that they are aggrieved. The party’s rules are there, nobody is preventing them from realising their aspirations through the extant laws. The party constitution is there, Nigeria’s constitution is there, nobody should be aggrieved. The PDP is the only party that is open to every person who is aspiring. The doors are not shut on anybody. If you are interested, you subject yourself to the party, you test your popularity with your party members who will decide whether or not they will elect you as a candidate, either as presidential candidate or Senate or House of Representatives. We are saying that feeling threatened does not arise. It is only in the PDP that you are allowed to exercise your right to vote and be voted for.