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Why I stepped aside from PDP–Prof Alkali

RECENTLY, a former National
Publicity Secretary
of the Peoples Democratic
Party, PDP, Professor Rufai
Ahmed Alkali, moved out of
the party and joined the Social
Democratic Party, SDP. MIKE
ODIAKOSE reports that Alkali
shed more light during an
interactive session with select
journalists on the relationship
between the PDP and SDP
and why he decided to move
on. Excerpts:
What’s the relationship between
the present SDP and
that of the military era?
Well, as you rightly observed,
there was an SDP in
the 1990s which was part of
the transition that led to elections
in 1993. At that time,
it was able to make a huge
impact in getting many of
its members elected into the
National Assembly and subsequently,
its presidential
candidate, Chief M.K.O. Abiola
of blessed memory, won. I
believe after that episode, the
SDP like most other political
parties were rested. But about
four, five years ago, Chief Olu
Falae and other leaders of the
SDP felt it was time to revive
it because one, its history;
two, because of the brand;
three, because of the successes
it achieved at that very difficult
time, kind of ideological
position should not be lost to
history.
Therefore, Chief Falae, who
is the Chairman of the party,
worked very hard through
all the legal processes and
revived the party. Though it
did not have much showing
in 2015, but in a number of
states, where its candidates
stood for elections, they were
able to make some impact.
Recently, some people expressed
concern about the status
of the PDP and APC and
looking at some other political
parties already on ground
and those that were registered
recently, people are saying
that the SDP which has a long
history and made an impact
on Nigerians psychology
should be brought back. For
us, long before the Supreme
Court’s judgment, there were
many people who were thinking
that it would be very difficult
for the apex court to pass
judgment in favour of the PDP
that was chaired by Ahmed Mohammed
Makarfi and that in the
event that the verdict does not
favour the mainstream, people
must prepare a fallback position.
Some of our leaders and elders
engaged with most of the political
parties at the background,
conversing with them, discussing
with them and negotiating
with them including but not limited
to APGA, Labour Party, Accord
Party, PRP and others. So,
the feeling was that, yes, in the
event that the Supreme Court
gives judgment to the faction
that does not belong to the mainstream,
then others will move to
the SDP. But as God would have
it, its judgment became historic
and it handed the party back to
the people. So, for that reason
and at that time, there was no
need to move to another party.
But again, some of our leaders
were saying let us again see what
happens as we move to the convention,
whether we have learnt
our lessons and if those people
who stood firm and fought hard
to rescue the party, what role will
they play after the court judgement
and the convention.
But we have seen what happened
at the convention and it
has become part of Nigeria’s
history. I don’t want to belabour
the point. I believe that from
there on, we felt that we must
revisit our Plan B and really go
back to the drawing board and
see how we can move forward.
That is why our leaders and elders
reopened the conversation;
in fact, it was not closed with the
leadership of the SDP. Finally,
on March 1, a memorandum of
understanding was signed between
key leaders of our former
party and we agreed to merge
and form a formidable force. On
March 8, there was a presentation
of the interim executives of
the SDP under the leadership of
Chief Falae and other hardworking,
dedicated members for various
positions.
What informed your decision
to leave the PDP?
Let us put it this way. First and
foremost, most of us who are
professionals in our various callings
decided to join politics even
at the early stage in our careers.
We did so because of our love
for this country. We believe in
Nigeria, we believe in the unity of Nigeria, we believe in the
progress of Nigeria, we believe
in the future of Nigeria and we
believe that no matter what we
do outside, if we are not part of
the process, we will not be able
to contribute meaningfully to
the advancement of our people.
Therefore, first, our concern is
our patriotic zeal to serve this
country. And of course, we are
also concerned about the future
of our people because if you noticed,
in the 1950s, in the 1960s,
there were prominent Nigerians
who stood up to fight against
colonial masters and they did so
because they believed that there
was the need to stand up at that
time to liberate our people.
Some of us in our university
days, we used to criticize them
that they were not progressives
or radical enough. We
even sometimes claimed that
the independence given to us
was given on a platter of gold.
But we also know that many
people made huge sacrifices
during that period of transition
to independence. Long after independence,
it is just like if you
go to school and get an education,
what is the purpose of that
education? Of course, education
can be an end in itself, but it can
be a means to further ends. So if
you sit down and interpret the
world, of course, that is good enough. But if you don’t make
a contribution to change it, then
you lose the moral right to challenge
certain things that happen
in the future. So, we felt that we
don’t know everything. What
we know is just modest. But
from our modest knowledge,
we should also contribute to the
evolution of a modern Nigeria.
Everybody is complaining
that politics is dirty. Of course, if
people who feel politics is dirty
and you don’t join politics…you
come and do the work for the
people. So, that was why some
of us felt that we should be part
of it while we are well and alive.
Now, I don’t want to go back
to what happened before the
(PDP) elective convention. For
me, I had already made a promise
and I have fulfilled it. I said
am not going to run away, but
will walk away. I will not run
away because I know that when
a ship hits an iceberg, that is the
most convenient time for many
people to just run away. But do I
know how the water works? Do
I know what is inside that water?
Do I know how far that ship
is to the harbour? What is the
guarantee that I can get any life
saver? So, I thought that it was
better to either sink with the
ship or wait until we are able to
re-float it and then, move on. So,
you know, staying with a sinking sinking
ship is always a dangerous
thing. I preferred it that
way and I thought that we if
were able to pull out the ship,
we will be able to find our
place. Having looked at all the
trajectories, all the issues, after
wide consultations, I think
the advice of all the people
who have followed me, who
have supported me at every
level, I think the time is up in
the PDP. I should move on.
Fortunately, the slogan of the
SDP is “Progress.” Therefore,
I think I am moving forward.
It seems you no longer have
a healthy relationship with
the governor of your state,
Ibrahim Dankwambo, ever
since you indicated interest in
the governorship. What role
did it have in your exit from
the PDP?
Well, let me tell you this.
The reality is that I am a man
of the system and if I am part
of the system, I operate as a
member. I respect authority
and of course, if you noticed
for some time, you hardly
find me engaging in unnecessary
controversy. Not because
I cannot make noise, but I
found out that making noise
does not serve any purpose.
So, I can tell you with all sense
of responsibility that nobody
will ever tell you that I personally
have any problem
with my governor. The only
way you can know if somebody
has a problem with his
governor is one, have I ever
been engaged in unnecessary
criticism or condemnation in
the media? Or have I engaged
in organizing groups and associations
or have I allowed
people around me to use any
opportunity under my purview
to say things that are
bad against the government
or the governor? Or have I
been given any responsibility
that I refused to perform
or do any time? Even now
as a member of the SDP if he
calls me as my governor I can
go because he is my governor
until he hands over in 2019.
I have no problem with him,
but that does not mean people
will not create problems between
others. But that is not
my own. So, I have no personal
problems with him. Indeed, I have shown evidence that I
can work under any circumstances
to support you.
My own concern is the
progress of our state. As a
young student, I had the rare
privilege of participating in
the creation of Gombe State.
As a young student, we were
the people who launched the
Kano chapter of the Movement
for Gombe State. We
even wrote long essays which
were published in the newspapers
fighting for the state.
When we got the state, I also
had the privilege of serving
as a pioneer commissioner.
Subsequently, after the 2003
election, again, I went back.
So, I have been very consistent
that I have no problem
working with the governor.
The decision to leave the PDP
is personal. I believe I have
done my own part, I have
contributed to the progress of
the party. I think at this stage I
need to also step forward.
Despite Bode George’s
anger and disappointment
over the outcome of the PDP
national convention, he remained
in the party. Is that too
much of a sacrifice for you to
have made too?
May be if you know what
I have gone through, what
I have seen or what I have
heard over the last few years,
we have never ever shied
away from sacrificing for our
country, sacrificing for our
party and for our people. Like
I said, after what happened
over the last two or three
years, after consulting widely,
I took my time to consult
those close to me, those not
close to me, some of my leaders,
elders, friends, associates
and I think we have come to a
conclusion that we have made
our own contributions to the
PDP and like I told you, it is
time to move forward. Gombe
is a young state, it is strategically
located in the North-East
and we have every reason to
thank the people because at
every stage in my life when
something comes up that affects
me, you see a lot of support,
solidarity and affection.
So, I believe that in my own
lifetime, I must make my own
contribution and pay back the
goodwill in whatever way I
can. And I believe for now, the
route is SDP. Some of these
things are very difficult decisions
but I have told those
people whom I consulted that if I move, we should not look
back. What we have seen, what
we have heard or what they have
gone through should be our lesson.
We should use this experience
to build on the future.
Nationwide, there is the problem
of youth, women and despondency
creeping into the system.
If somebody cannot liberate
himself, how can he liberate others?
Somebody who cannot protect
himself, how can he protect
others? I think the SDP is providing
an opportunity for us to also
see what we can do. Fortunately,
if you look at the manifesto of
the party, not many people know
that it is truly a Social Democratic
Party because what it offers
Nigerians is something that if
it comes to pass, it will be very
good for us. So, I believe that in
our own rural setting where we
are trying to empower our people,
where we want to change
the narrative, where the despondency
syndrome is creeping in,
we have to look for options. I
believe we are working hard at
rebuilding the party.
Will the SDP be willing to work
with a coalition against PDP and
APC?
During the inauguration of the
interim executive of the SDP, our
Chairman, Olu Falae, did state
that the party is in consultation
with various groups and other
political parties to extend its
base. But of course, you know
these are tactical issues and not
subjects that can just be discussed
and elaborated on anyhow.
What’s important is that
no political party is static. Even
if you are big you want to become
bigger. Certainly, if you
think you are small, if you know
what you are doing, you are organized,
you cannot call yourself
small. What’s important
is the goodwill of our people,
that matters most because it is
the people that make the party.
It’s not the party that makes
the people. Therefore, with this
process of consolidating the
SDP I am surprised by the kind
of goodwill, the kind of people
that have been coming forward,
people who are calling me and
saying, ‘Alkali, if you are there,
I am there.’ So, it encourages
me because I was thinking that
when I move I am going to
move alone. But when I moved,
people said let’s do it together.
For the future of our state, you
have to work hard to bring its
glory back.
So, in simple terms, at the
national level, it is expanding
and at our level too, we are also
moving. I believe that in the
near future the true picture will
come out. I know that the SDP
is not the only political party
apart from the ruling or the
main opposition. There are others
but their approach, method
and style are completely different.
This is a serious business
and I believe that we have to
do something for our country
because we must go beyond
sitting down and lamenting.
Lamentation is not a solution to
any problem. Sitting now and
making criticism, condemnation
will not serve any purpose.
What you are hearing now,
people big and small abandoning
reason and talking anyhow.
You must look for solutions to
problems.
Even though the SDP is an
old name, there’s the belief that
it may not be able to achieve
enough mileage by 2019.
What’s the objective of the party
for 2019?
I don’t know why you say the
time is short. It is not short. Why
I say the time is not short is that
it is the spirit, it is in the mind,
the commitment and dedication
that you want to make a difference.
If you want to make a difference
and you do it systematically,
the approach is that it
is going to be an open platform,
it is going to be where everybody
has a say. It’s an opportunity
to follow due process. It is
an opportunity where nobody
imposes his views on others. A
situation where everybody is
important, the big, small, young
and old. One of the things that
breed anger and frustration
is alienation. No matter how
much you are committed to a
project, idea or a cause, if you
notice some alienation, you
will begin to find out that you
have no value in that project.
So, that’s why by opening
this democratic space, people
are coming and it’s not a question
of counting our fingers,
how many people have come,
how many have not come.
No, that’s not our concern.
It’s going to be systematic. By
the time it comes out, you will
see the impact. So, the tempo
is going to rise very high.
We are going to move very
fast and we should be able
to make a difference in own
style, in our own way, in our
means of doing things. I don’t
think it is worthwhile making
noise and shouting all over
the place. The most important
thing is that Nigerians
are looking for something like
this and we should encourage
it. There are so many political
parties but some of them
have been on ground for
many years. You hardly hear
about them. We are making a
big push in a short period of
time and it will surprise you.
It is the commitment of our
people and determination
that will make the difference.
“No matter how much you
are committed to a project,
idea or a cause, if you notice
some alienation, you will begin
to find out that you have

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