Professor Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education, contested for the national chairmanship seat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDD) during its last national convention. However, he and some other top members, including a former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, recently dumped the party for the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Professor Adeniran spoke on his defection and other sundry issues after the inaugural meeting of SDP at Orin-Ekiti in Ido/Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State recently. SAM NWAOKO reports:
The movement of people like you, Professor Jerry Gana and others out of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has caused a kind of frenzy in the Nigerian polity. What led to the movement and what is the new vision?
The new vision is to give effect to what we believe in. We believe in a sanitised political system where the rule of law prevails; where there is due regard for justice, equity and fairness in the political process. And we also believe that it is long overdue for this country to have genuine democracy. Genuine democracy can only be premised on what we regard as internal party democracy. We believe that unless and until you have that, we are going nowhere and things will just be getting worse. So, there is a clear vision of dedication to certain core values that we believe we need to actualise through the appropriate framework. That was what led to the choice of SDP. Of course, if this was not lacking where we are coming from, there wouldn’t have been any need to leave, because when certain things are happening and you have done your best to try to correct them or try to effect a change, but that is impossible. So, some of us just don’t believe in doing politics just for the fun of it. We believe in changing lives; in making sure that we transform the system and get a situation whereby the human dignity and human integrity and all that is edifying are promoted. I also believe that for those of us who believe in certain principles that we cannot compromise, that there is just no choice than to move on.
In many political circles, the talk is of a “third force”. Can we say that we now have the third force, viz-a-viz the strength of the two main political parties in the country, PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
Of course, it is evolving. You can call SDP the third force of the coalition of progressives and all that. Whatever name you call it, it has become a force to be reckoned with and it will soon become the force to beat. I think, in due course, it would become the first force actually because people are yearning for change. People believe that SDP is a viable platform to really get to the Promised Land for Nigeria. There is so much that has gone wrong in the past. People that are coming together, particularly, young people, the youth, believe that this is the appropriate vehicle for them. We also believe that by the time some of the various groups that are anxious to be part of this evolving coalition now come in, it would be a very formidable force. That is why we believe that, indeed, SDP is the force that everybody is waiting for and has been talking about.
What are the areas of priority where you think Nigeria needs to effect change?
First of all, when you have a party process that has internal party democracy, we will work to ensure that, indeed, this is not tampered with. That is the irreducible minimum because you cannot put something on nothing. If the party system is not what it should be there is no way such a party can produce a good government. And good governance is one of the goals we intend to achieve. We believe that the party which has endorsed quite a number of things to pursue will be able to deliver for Nigerians what they have been yearning for; like the progressive programmes and agenda that are people-oriented. This means an agenda that will be able to transform and change some of the prevailing negativities in our society. There are certain programmes that are already having strength being canvassed for the people. And we will be promising what we can deliver.
For instance, when you talk about education, when you talk about restructuring and when you talk about health, you also must talk about agriculture so that we don’t have a hungry people anymore, where people are suffering in the midst of plenty. These also include the area of education. It is just not enough to have it as part of the objective principles of state policy, but we have to make it actionable. We have to make it compulsory for people to have access to education, to make it free and compulsory, at least, up to the secondary school level. Healthcare delivery is another area and so on. We also believe that the existing structure is so defective that it really cannot lead to the actualiasation of the potentials that are in Nigerians. Unless and, of course, until we change that to make people want to live in harmony, peace and unity, we will still be having some problems.
When you restructure, you restructure to encourage people to compete among themselves, to be the best of whatever they could be within a united Nigeria. That was what used to be; there was competition among the regions; there was competition among some states in the past. But right now, everybody is in the straight-jacket thing. That is why we have strikes upon strikes everyday because of the unified system that we are operating. Whereas, if you have a federal system that was truly restructured, what happens for instance in State A will not be happening in State B. The two states will be having different programmes and policies and the unionised system of government that we now have will not be so.
Now that SDP has been brought to Ekiti and the party has taken off, are we expecting the party to use the state as its launch pad as a governorship election takes place there soon?
Yes, certainly. It is the litmus test and we hope, by the grace of God, that we will use it effectively as a launching pad. By the grace of God, when we win in Ekiti, we will go ahead and win in Osun State and finally at the national level.
What are those things in place to help SDP to achieve these objectives as the party isn’t coming as early as some people might have wanted?
Yes. But it takes time for people of diverse backgrounds to really come together. But when they are united by a common purpose, a common goal to promote progressivism, to make life easier for people and to promote an ideology that will be people-oriented, then that has solved almost half of the problem. This is because when there is unity of purpose and you have on ground human resources-people who would make it happen-and among them, there is a clear idea, there is no confusion at all as to where they want to go, what they want to do and how they want to achieve it. All that you now require is effective networking to ensure that, at the end of the day, we direct our energies in one particular direction.
How much of that networking has been done now?
A lot has been done. What you see today is a concrete reality of some of the networking that had been done. We want to build on it so that we carry it to the local government and the ward levels.
In a layman’s language, should we expect some of the governorship aspirants in Ekiti to join SDP?
We expect that because everybody now knows that this is the party to beat; that this is where progress would be made for them and this is where justice will prevail. They know this is where a level-playing ground will be provided for everybody so that, at the end of the day, whoever wins will know that they have been fairly treated; that there has been fairness, there has been justice, equity and, of course, that it is a system that throws up the very best.
You said you are a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Are we expecting more people from the coalition to join you in SDP, especially Nigerians like His Chief Obasanjo?
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is a statesman. He is an elder statesman. We do not expect him to be involved in partisan politics. But we expect him to continue to be interested in salvaging the country. And in that regards, it is expected that the effort of those who are committed to rescue the country would be reinforced by his moral weight. He is the father of all, but then those who believe in his philosophy of rescuing the nation, of ensuring that things are done in a better way, that there is justice, that there is progress and that there is peace would certainly have his moral backing. But we shouldn’t expect him to be partisan in his approach.