Roadto 2023: 2023: Only Atiku can win APC candidate –Amb. Fidelis Tapgun, former Nigerian Ambassador

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From Gyang Bere, Jos

Former Governor of Plateau State and Ex-Nigerian Ambassador to Kenya, Fidelis Tapgun has said that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is the only candidate well positioned to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC). He noted that the PDP left the contest open to ensure the emergence of a credible and well accepted candidate across the country for the purpose of defeating the APC in 2023.

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How do you feel over the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries?

We have done it and it went on very smoothly and I am proud that I am a member of the PDP because we are showing others how to organize in other to bring Nigeria together; that is the outcome of the PDP presidential election. Before it, there was a lot of wrangling, agitations and some people think the party was going to break because of people’s idea about shifting positions from the North to the South; they call it zoning. But the party in its wisdom for the time being decided that people should go back and look at why zoning was done in 1999; that is what people don’t want to know. PDP is not in government, we are in the opposition and you know how ruthless the party in power can be and if we don’t unite and bring out the best candidate that can deal with them, I call it deal with them, because you need a strong candidate that can handle them; if not, we should just forget about it. That was why the party just decided to leave the presidential seat open for the best candidate to emerge out of all the people who contested. Everybody that wanted it came out and showed themselves. The wisdom that people displayed in making Atiku the candidate was the fact that he is strong; he has the means to tackle these people, he has been in government for a very long time and he has been in PDP from the beginning even though he left at one time or the other. Atiku has the political structures in all parts of this country; there is no where you will go in this country that you will not find the supporters of Atiku there. No where, no part and they are not just ordinary people, they are people with means.  All those who came out to contest the election are very qualified but we wanted somebody that can stand strong to handle the APC, that can face Buhari and the APC face to face in this election so that we will regain power first and allow everything to come back as we use to do. The whole thing became ridiculous about the zoning, I am sorry to say this. The Igbo will say zone it to the South and micro zone it to the South East, I don’t know where they got this idea from; we will begin to micro zone to villages, I think we should have a bigger picture of the whole thing. In the politics of Nigeria, people don’t want to look at the reality on the ground, people work on sentiments. What we wanted is that let the PDP people decide who becomes the flag bearer of the party, everybody who wanted it should come but who among them can tackle this people and that was what led to the outcome of the primaries. This is because these people are ruthless, you know what they have planted on the ground, if you don’t uproot it, I am sorry this country is finished. So, we needed somebody that can help the country out and that is how this man came about. Some of the strongest candidates also came out but you know what happened during the convention and we don’t want to talk much about that. We need to get everybody to rally round the candidate that has emerged to ensure that we win the election in 2023 then we will sit down and begin to talk about the zoning.

Why was there zoning in the PDP from the beginning?

This was conceived in 1999 because of what happened to Abiola; that was why when we came out for that convention, there were people who wanted the presidency such as Abubakar  Rimi and we said no, let it be there in the South because everything was geared at compensating the Yoruba people for what they did to Abiola and you know the military was in power and they registered PDP and they had there eyes on whoever will take over from them. That was the reason, Rimi was asked to withdraw because he contested and we said it should be in the South, that was the major reason for zoning at that time. PDP governed for 16 years and out of this, Olusegun Obasanjo was there for eight years; then he brought it to the North and Umaru Yar’Adu collected it and spent two years, unfortunately he died. His deputy from the South took it and completed the term, so out of the 16 years  PDP was in power, the South held it for 14 years, so I don’t know where this agitation is coming from. It is because it did not go to the Igbo? The Yoruba have done it, South South have done it, so the Igbo have not done it and I think that was why the agitation was for power to come to the South and when it comes, you micro zone it to the South East; it is ridiculous to me as far as I am concerned. But there is no problem about that, the Igbo has to look at the reality. If you are talking about the last presidential election, the South East had 285 delegates I think and four aspirants contested from the South East; it’s only Anyim that got 14 votes out of the 285 delegates so you see the problem; that was what we kept saying from the beginning. You must unite, if you don’t unite, then it is a big problem. I gave them example during the 2014 National Conference, the committee where we served for restructuring, we brought an argument that the six zones in the country, each has six states except the South East that has five and we said for equity, another state must be created from the South East so that they can also have six states but we could not arrive at a decision because the South East people who were there were arguing among themselves of where the state was going to come from, so we left it. We just recommended that a state should be created in the South East but sadly, they couldn’t agree among themselves where the state will come from and it is a big problem; there must be unity. If you want to fight, you must be united. The way politics is played in Nigeria, what happens underground is not what you see outside; a lot of decisions are taken underground; we just want to get somebody that can push these people; when we defeat them, then we will sit down 

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and talk about the distribution of positions. For now, this is the best strategy that we have adopted. The person that can deal with them has emerged. The APC kept postponing their convention to see who the PDP will produce; now that they have seen, they are dangling.

Don’t you think the APC will bring their candidate from the South?

Well, they have been deceiving people that they are going to give it to the South… deceiving people and using their intelligence; now we don’t know where the preferred candidate is going to come from but they are thinking of the North.

Will you panic if APC produces its candidate from the South?

I pray that they zone it to the South. As I am now, I am praying that they should zone it to the South and let see who will win. It will be an easy walk for PDP.

How do you mean?

I am not going to tell you my views about it but it is going to be an easy walk for PDP at the general election.

The rotation of presidency is the yearning of Nigerians and not PDP, that was what gave birth to Buhari in 2015, don’t you think APC will carry the day if they zone to the South in line with the aspirations of Nigerians?

Are the Governors from the South prepared for a Southern presidency, you hear what Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike was saying. Before the PDP primaries, how many governors from the South were in agreement for the South to produce the next president; they only make a public statement and that is what Wike is angry with. The governors agree but when the time came, everybody went his way. You should know that politics is about interest, it is not a do-or-die matter. The Southern Governors took a decision in Asaba to support Southern Presidency but how many of them in the PDP kept to that decision and you can hear Wike complaining.

Are you not worried that after 8 years of presidency in the North, another Northerner is coming to spend another eight years?

Why should I be worried, worried about what. This is democracy, allow this thing to flow. That was why PDP said anybody from any part of the country can come out to contest because of the time we are in. I am just pleading with all our people that this decision that has been taken should be followed through unless we want to continue the way we are and if we want to continue; fine.

Let’s talk about the insecurity in the country…..?

Atiku’s emergence is part of it. We are saying PDP should grab the power first and you will see changes. Atiku’s emergence is about everything that has gone wrong in this country for about eight years since this man came to power. Go back and find out how PDP handed over power to this people, just look at how Nigeria was when Goodluck handed over power and compare to what is happening today. It is about all the troubles we are in that we say grab the power first, let everybody be patient for us to grab the power first. To grab it, you need to get somebody that can face it squarely and whatever means they have, he also has. At a point I was even saying this man will not hand over like Jonathan did.

If you are saying that Atiku is the only candidate to face the APC, he was the flag bearer in 2019 and he was defeated, what makes you think that he will win in 2023?

No, no I don’t want to believe what you are saying, he won the 2019 election clean.

Why was he not sworn-in?

That is the point I am making. If we are not serious, Buhari will not hand over. You Journalists know that Atiku won that election, the figures were all over the place but he refused because they said they have only done four years and they can’t go out.

Is the PDP likely going to return to zoning if Atiku win the election?

That is what I am saying. When we grab the power, we will sit down and decide what should be done. There is no way any part of this country can be neglected but the time where we are now in opposition, we must look at the pattern of voting in the country. If you look at the APC, 14 aspirants have come out from the South for the presidency and the total number of delegates they have is about 1,025; in that case, even if you leave them, how can the Southern man win the primaries. I want us to be realistic about this and take away sentiment. Atiku is the only person that can win this election as far as I am concerned; he is the only person that can win this election for the PDP and we are lucky that we have gotten him there.

With the agitation across the country, how will you advise him to address this pressure?

We will marshall everybody, especially to the PDP aspirants that contested with him; he has gone round to see all of them and I know the strongest of all of them is the governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike and he swore from the beginning that he will support whoever wins the election.

Do you expect Wike to support Atiku with all the injustice meted to him?

Which injustice, I don’t like hearing this. Although, I have heard him say that but he was complaining about his colleagues from the South. If the PDP does not win the election, all his fight against the APC will amount to nothing, that s why he said it even at the convention ground that he will support whoever wins the primary election.

Will you advise Atiku to consider Wike for Vice President?

There are many of them who are qualified to be Vice President, so any one they pick I will be okay. More so, it is a party matter, it is the decision  the party and not the candidate.

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