The National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Alhaji Shehu Gabam, speaks on the leadership crisis in the party and the purported alliance with the Labour Party in this interview with EL-AMEEN IBRAHIM in Abuja
What is your reaction to claims by Chief Olu Falae that the SDP has no legitimate chairman or executive committee?
I have video evidence that there was a convention. Falae attended that convention and even confessed that it was the best convention ever. He was very emotional when he saw the kind of crowd in the history of the SDP outside (late Moshood) Abiola’s own. We did it live at Eagle Square. It was covered live by television stations. The spokesman for INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), Festus Okoye, was the one who led the INEC delegation of six officials. I was the National Secretary, so I know what transpired.
The party has progressed beyond all of this; after all, Falae has stepped down from politics entirely. He is resting at home, so there is no justification for him to be meddling in party affairs. If he has any issue with the party, he knows the officials of the party, but dropping statements in the public domain is not helpful to the party and the legacy he is building.
Have we conducted another convention for him to say there was never a convention at the International Conference Centre? It was acknowledged to be the best by INEC and was free of rancour. All the officials of the party were elected freely at that convention before the primary processes started.
In any case, go over all of the parties’ court records; the SDP has the fewest. Other parties have 10, 15, or 20 court cases. We have only one court case in the SDP. So how could somebody who has experience of the success of the party make a statement like that?
What about the factional chairman?
That is the problem with you journalists; when somebody declares himself (as a chairman), you will just back him up without following the procedures. You know, the arbiter of political parties is INEC.
INEC is the only institution that can recognise whether there is a faction or not. INEC is the only institution authorised by law to deal with political parties, and INEC has said clearly that it will not deal with any party it (INEC) did not cover its convention. INEC has never covered any activities of (Supo) Shonibare that I know of. I was always there at every meeting between INEC and political parties. I know those who go there and I know who they invite.
INEC doesn’t extend invitations to factional leaders; they deal with statutory signatories who they acknowledge as leaders of the party. I’ve been in the SDP for years; I’m the party’s longest-serving secretary, the party’s custodian, and I know everything there is to know about the party. Shonibare was the South-West chairman of the party.
Is the PDP striking up an alliance with the Labour Party in Benue state?
It is good that you have asked; there was no alliance. It is fake news.
Simply because a nonentity on the street decides to say we are now in an alliance with the Labour Party, you assume he has a role in the party. He has been expelled from the party because of his rascality.
And now I am seeing some papers saying there is an alliance. I am the one to tell you if there is an alliance. I am the national chairman recognised by law. I am the only one who has the authority to tell you if there is any discussion or alliance.
So far, it is zero per cent. We are not in any alliance with anybody. It is too early to do that; we cannot be boxed into a corner by sentiment and emotion, ethnic or religious bigotry. We are far beyond that. We are experienced people and part of those who formed the People’s Democratic Party.
What are the chances of the SDP presidential candidate, Adewole Adebayo?
I’ll tell you why he is viable. By his age, he can run the government 24 hours a day. He’s not suffering from any medical issues; he’s not suffering from fatigue or a shortage of ideas. He has a grasp of current issues and national dimensions. He understands what it takes to be on the world stage. He has a grasp of international community demands or responsibilities. That’s number one.
The second reason is that he is someone you can easily put through the processes because becoming a party candidate at the age of 50 and three months is a real honour for a young man. And if he decides to abuse this privilege, I don’t think he’ll be able to get that privilege again. Opportunity usually comes once.
Third, every presidential candidate has sufficient campaign materials generated by this government. So, you don’t need a researcher to tell you that there’s insecurity in the country. You don’t need any researcher to tell you there’s unemployment or that the educational sector is dead. You don’t need any researcher to tell you that the President flies outside the country for medical attention. These are materials that have been generated by the same government. Do you need a researcher to tell you that every day we are producing widows and orphans? Do you need a researcher to tell you that drugs are destroying the future generations every day? The budget will be appropriated by the National Assembly for the procurement of software and hardware. The funds will be diverted. Nobody’s doing anything about it. The good thing is that it’s catching up with everybody. The President’s convoy was attacked. The parliamentarians are victims of kidnapping, killing or maiming; the ministers are also victims. Everybody could be a victim, but this is an opportunity for us to fix the country.
How do you see the same faith in the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress?
First, I’m not taking issue with the APC; I am not an APC person, but I find it disturbing when you look at the statistics politically. Does (APC presidential candidate) Bola Tinubu really have an option?
Now, if you have a presidential candidate from the North, for instance, and he picks a Muslim from the South, is he likely to win the election? The answer is likely to be no, because they choose not to be civilised. We refuse to differentiate between politics, religion, and ethnicity. What is really hitting this country is insecurity, so what does it really mean? Is the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), not a Muslim? Is he not a northerner?
This insecurity is worsening under his regime; never before in Nigerian history have we experienced such insecurity. Is it not Muslims that are being killed in the North-West? Is it not other non-Muslims that are being killed in the South and other parts of the country? Why are we talking out of our heads? What this country needs is leadership. Wherever this leadership can come from, irrespective of tribe or religion, that’s what Nigerians should focus on. I am a Fulani man, and it is not only Fulani that made me who I am today; it is a combination of other Nigerians. It will be a tragedy and disloyalty to this country to take sides with my tribe or religion. So, we must think fast about how we can save this country from the shackles.
Why do you think the situation’s security has degenerated?
People are buying arms; communities are being wiped out; foodstuffs are being destroyed; people are jobless; and we are graduating hundreds of students quarterly.
The tragedy you are having with the young Fulani that have ravaged the country today is simply because their cattle—their source of livelihood—have been taken away. It is just like shutting the shop of an Igbo man; that is his source of livelihood.
When you have these Fulanis that have not asked the government for roads or water for their community and whenever they sell their cows, the Federal Government takes tax from them, they are vulnerable. These are people that have traversed this country by foot. They are brave by nature, and you introduced them to drugs, you gave them guns; how will you have peace? There is no policy of rehabilitation from the government. The government ought to have taken care of the situation right when it started in Plateau state because that was the time the Fulani started buying arms to protect their assets.