Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh, one of the founders of the newly registered All Progressive Congress (APC) in an exclusive interview with a national newspaper revealed that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which he once chaired is a party of killers amongst other things.
Nigeria will be 100 years by January 2014 having been amalgamated in 1914. And it’s been 53 years of the country’s post-independence existence. How has the country fared?
We started off well. It was a land of hope, a land of opportunity, a land of sunlight and faith, land of very proud people. Nigerians are hardworking and very committed. And it went on. It had its own challenges until the unfortunate tragedy of 1966. And then all that hope; true federalism which we had then, all that regional competition for excellence simply came to a halt under the unitary system of government which the military brought along. And then the culture of violence came into this country.
Are you saying that 15 years down the line, democracy hasn’t set the pace to correct the anomalies apparently perpetrated by the military?
A strong and violent culture does not dissipate very quickly. It gets engrained in the blood system of people. The choice of candidatures by the opposition is always predetermined by strong men and individuals who believe that they own the estate. If you argue with them, you pay very severely. And the most difficult person to set free is a happy slave. So, most Nigerians would rather not risk challenging arrogant authority.
But talking about the military, many Nigerians will be quick to point out the legacies of the military than the civilian rule, why is it so?
In terms of infrastructure, roads and bridges, yes, they built a lot; I mean Gowon did a whole lot. Obasanjo, Murtala did quite a bit but you realized that the destruction of Civil Service, unfortunately happened under the Murtala regime; those arbitrary retirements. Politicians are called corrupt. Check the Civil Service. Only God knows what goes on there. So, in terms of physical achievements, yes. Democracies are not particularly famous for physical infrastructures.
If you reason this way, one gets the impression that when Olusegun Obasanjo, a full blooded soldier came as civilian president, you would have rejected being the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
In 1999, I was a campaign Director for Dr. Alex Ekwueme. I fell victim to an assassination attempt in Benue, December 7, 1998 when a former military man sent a gang of nine to have me murdered in my house. There was no investigation till tomorrow. It was not an issue. So, today, later then, of course, I became Chairman, and I said, fine, this is the choice that Nigeria had made, then let’s make it work. But the hood does not make the monk.
On why he left the the People’s Democratic Party?
Yes, I was the National Chairman. Why did I go? We were among the founders of this party and our dream was to build a party that will really lead Nigeria forward. That was our dream from all over the country. I don’t know I would be the Chairman. But then I was attacked, so on and so forth. I escaped three assassination attempts. From this house where you are, I was nearly kidnapped on August 11, 2005 by five men, three in police uniform, two in plain clothes in two unmarked cars. I later found they were sent by a certain leader of the party. I was to be picked, shot and dumped in the bush because some of the policemen confirmed it to a friend of mine. Would you remain in the party like that? Earlier, armed men had pursued me to my house in Markudi, February 2005; I had just left the party. You know, people ask me this question. So, why do I have to stay in the party where death is the only instrument of resolution of disputes or disagreement? I don’t have to be in politics. I got in earlier.
I played my part, apologized to those who are not happy with me; thanked those who are happy. But I don’t have to be in it. I have a few things I do to feed myself. If this is the place, then I quit.