PDP chieftain, Dr. Umar Ardo, filed an application to join an appeal stopping President Goodluck Jonathan from contesting the 2015 elections, but lost the bid when the application was thrown out. He has served notice of going to the Supreme Court over the matter and explains why he is hell-bent on stopping Jonathan.
You have served notice that you will be appealing the ruling, which threw out your application to join the case challenging President Jonathan’s eligibility to contest the 2015 elections. Why?
I have already filed the appeal and my motions will be moved hopefully within the week in the Supreme Court. In this matter, time is of essence. The matter must have to be determined before the closure of submission of candidates by political parties to INEC on 18 December if the judiciary is to save the country from a political and societal conflagration. That is why I was quick to appeal.
I have basically two issues with the Court of Appeal ruling. First, in any civilised democratic system the courts’ doors are wide open for citizens to come and seek justice, especially on the interpretation of constitutional issues that have the potential of meting out injustices to members of the public. As I said then, liberal access to the courts is a hallmark of civilised society. It is a barometer distinguishing between a good democratic society and a bad one. In this day and time the issue of locus standi on constitutional interpretation is been widened and not narrowed. This Court of Appeal ruling has not only narrowed it but virtually closed the courts’ doors on citizens. It is wrong. Yes, courts have their rules, but these rules are to facilitate and not inhibit the administration of justice.
Second, the composition of the panel, especially the appointment of the presiding judge is to me not meant to serve justice ab initio. How can the Court of Appeal appoint a judicial panel on a matter to determine the eligibility or otherwise of President Jonathan headed by a judge who is not only from Bayelsa State, and from Ogbia Local Government Area, the President’s LGA, but also from the President’s own sister community. It is also generally known that he, along with the president, belongs to the Ogbia Brotherhood, a socio-cultural organisation established to advance the cause of Ogbia people worldwide. Doesn’t the Court of Appeal know this background before appointing him to preside on this case? This is virtually being a judge in one’s own case. Under such circumstances can I ever get fair hearing? Obviously not! That is why when the judge was lambasting me during the ruling as an interloper and busybody I knew where he was coming from. These are the two reasons why I appealed the ruling.
But even if you succeed in stopping Jonathan, it does not look as if the party would allow you to become its presidential flag bearer. This happened in Adamawa where you worked to remove Nyako only for the powers that be to support another for the position. Are you not tired of working for others?
In my politics I have never considered personal gain as motive for my actions. My actions have always been for the attainment of public good. From day one, courtesy of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, I have been a foundational intellectual contributor in not only the formation of the PDP but also in the shaping of the transitional programmes from military to civil rule. I can tell you that I have drafted memos that were central in this regard. I never asked for nor was I given anything. The highest office I was given was a Special Assistant to the Vice President.
While in that office, I did many things including putting my very life on the line to foil an attempt within the military to overthrow the democratic regime. It was later christened as ‘security breach’. For five days I was running round in circle trying to save the regime and the nation. Thank God I succeeded. After the whole thing, the then Chief of Staff to President Obasanjo, Gen. Abdullahi Mohammad, thanked me profusely and promised me a national honour for my gallantry. He made a remark I won’t forget. He said, ‘Dr. you know this (security) is my life; but I can tell you even the best of professionals would not have handled this episode better than the way you did’. But till the regime left office the national honour did not come my way. Nevertheless if the same situation repeats itself I will still act the same way. Also, when Atiku left PDP to join Tinubu to form AC in 2006, I remained in the PDP. We all know Atiku was the engine of the PDP, and his decamping to another party was meant to create such a huge political vacuum enough to destabilise the PDP at the national level and make it lose the presidential election in 2007. But it did not. The reason is simple – Dr. Peter Odili’s joining the presidential race effectively filled the vacuum Atiku’s exit would have created for the PDP and thus stabilised the national politics. I was central to this move as I drafted the blueprint of that presidential race. Many in the party and the polity have acknowledged this contribution, but did the PDP or its government give me anything? Was I appointed even a member of a board of a ‘grade D’ parastatal?
Furthermore, when the Obasanjo’s 3rd term agenda became a huge problem to our ever first civilian-to-civilian transition, and I was approached by key members of the party for help, didn’t I help out with an anti-tenure elongation television documentary? We can all recall that AIT transmitted this documentary on Friday, repeated it on Saturday and while repeating it for the 3rd time on Sunday, security men were drafted to seal the station and confiscate the tapes. On Monday all national dailies reported the episode and on Tuesday the Senate sat and threw out the bill. Atiku said it publicly that that documentary was the last stroke that broke the back of the 3rd term attempt. What did PDP give me in appreciation? Again, when PDP’s government in my state, Adamawa, was dissolved by the Court of Appeal and the party was under imminent threat of losing that state, didn’t they run to me to come and help the party regain the state? I went and played a role that everybody in that state acknowledged as superlative. What did the party give me? Did it even appoint me as a member of even a screening committee? And when Governor Nyako’s regime became a pain in the neck of the state, the party and the nation, didn’t they again look for me to help out? I rose to the occasion to defend the rights of our people and thus protect the fortune of the party in the state. If after all these PDP still has not appreciated my worth then whatever that is wrong is not with me but with the party. I have seen those who contributed almost nothing but today are everything.
But to answer your question appropriately, my aim is neither to stop President Jonathan nor get the presidential nomination of the party – my aim is to forestall constitutional crisis in our party and our country. President Jonathan and I may well gain or lose in the process, but the polity will be the ultimate beneficiary. That is my objective.
Surprisingly even with your numerous court actions against the PDP you still remain a member. If you disagree with the party’s mode of doing things, is it not better you defect to another party?
With the inputs I have made, leaving the party is not an option because I put in more than I can abandon. The solution is simply to remain in the party and fight within. After all, who said things are done better in other parties when they themselves are populated with decampees from the PDP?
You were one of those that signed an agreement in Adamawa PDP to zone the party’s ticket to the Central zone of the state. This has become a fresh issue since the sack of Fintiri. Where do you stand in the matter?
I stand by the agreement; being from the Southern Senatorial District, that is why I didn’t buy the gubernatorial nomination forms. Even though it was an unfair deal against me in the sense that the party put the turn of my zone to open contest for all and closed 2015 to the Central zone, I still stand by it because I signed the agreement.
So do you support the sack of the Adamawa exco by the national body of the party?
As it is now, only the state chairman and secretary have been suspended. I have no problem with that because both of them have held their positions over and above the constitutionally prescribed period. The PDP constitution stipulates that an EXCO member can hold his office for a period of four years and another four years and no more. Both the suspended chairman and the secretary have held their respective offices for a period of over 10 years. I think they should give room to others as well.
You have not bought forms for either the presidential or gubernatorial elections this time around, are you gradually quitting politics?
I think I have indirectly answered this question earlier. I am not quitting politics. If I am able to stop the president from contesting through my court action, then I will buy the presidential nomination forms. Whether or not I am nominated it really does not matter; what matters is I will play a central role in the country’s politics.
What is your opinion on the request for the extension of state of emergency in the three northeastern states?
I don’t support it; I have never supported it. I believe it is a poor policy choice. As I said when the state of emergency was first imposed in May last year, that if the option fails then we will move from the state of emergency to a state of quagmire. That is exactly where we are today in my state. There is a complete societal collapse and communal upheavals.
With what is happening now, do you regret removing Nyako?
No, I don’t. I believe it would have been worse with him around.