By Dimaku Kennedy, Abuja:
National PDP Professionals and Business Group (NNNBG) is a gathering of professional men and women, who pick interest on how the country is governed to enable them, bring their professionalism to salvage the high level of unemployment plaguing the country. In this interview with the Secretary General, Frederick Apeji, he says the association by its programme would collaborate with the government to bring the needed reform in the country. Excerpt:
Why the emergence of this group?
What has informed us forming this group, PDP Professionals is that we realized that majority of Nigerian professionals, business owners, accomplished men and women from different tribes, and religion across all the 36 states of the federation, are not showing interest in politics. They are not showing interest in how Nigeria is being governed, they are not showing interest on how changes will be made on the political front but they are preoccupied, complaining about how corrupt the system is, about how there is no infrastructure, about how there is poor leadership, where as it is they who are the leadership. It is they, who have the talent s, the qualification to bring about changes, reform that would put infrastructure in place. They have watched the situation over the years, and it becomes germane at this time by calling professional together to move away from the trenches and come into the area of activities. It can be in elective positions; you can make yourself available for appointive position at the federal, state or local government level. You can even make yourself available for party administration. Who are the people that run the political parties in Nigeria today, the most important set of such people are those that run the party at the grassroots; the ward levels. These are the people that run the party nationwide. It is not just for Dr Adamu Mu’azu, for instance, as PDP National Chairman, or Chief John Oyegun as All Progressive Congress, as APC National Chairman. They are not the only persons that run these two parties respectively. It involves the officials of those parties at the local, the state and the federal levels. And we are talking about thousands of people that are professionals at these levels that even if you are not speaking to your governor, your senator, or you are not interested in appointive positions because you have enough jobs, you have a business that occupies you, cannot you be interested on how Nigerian is being governed. That is what brought about this association. We have approached the party and the party has given its full legal backing and it has been fully accredited.
Professionals suddenly abandon their integrity when they get into politics. What is your take on this?
I quite agree with you. And I also want to state that it is not an excuse for many more professionals not to come on board. What we are talking about is a critical mass of technocrats coming on board, be interested in how Nigerian is being governed. There are too many talents outside the political circle than there is inside. The PDP professionals as a movement want to help change the trend. We want to have critical mass of professionals in Nigerian politics. When I said politics I mean the grassroot that members keep multiplying.
Does it mean that those people that are already there are not professionals that led to the forming of the association?
No, there are so many professionals already in the entire political system but I am talking specifically about PDP now. We need many more, it can never be enough. We need a lot more. Look at the portfolio of the ministers we have today. Many of them are technocrats. Even some of them that rose to become ministers or party chairmen in their locality, many of them are professionals. We are saying many more should come on board.
Why did you not choose a neutral name for the association since you have good intention, don’t you think that the name PDP might scare some professionals from coming on board considering the fact that it will be viewed as party affairs?
Nigerian political system today has collapsed into two: PDP on one side and APC on the other side. Off course there are other small parties but I assure you that in the years ahead, they are going to shrink into insignificance. Nigeria, since the regime of IBB has been clamoring for a two party system.
The political class has achieved this for us. Now APC can as well come up with their own group. That would bring a pool of more professional in politics generally. I have said that earlier on. So, it is not by mistake that we have choosing PDP Professional and Business Group as our name. We are confident that it is our party and we are the professional wing of the party. It does not stop the other parties to have their own professional wing. In fact, it is better if they have.
Which set of professional are your members?
When people talk of professionals, the first thing that comes to their mind is, lawyers, doctors, engineers etc. but they do not think that the man that repairs fridge is a professional. The vulcanizer is a professional. For instance in Germany, the artisans, craftsmen and women are all professionals. It is not until when you earn Ph.D in a particular discipline that you are a professional. Off course they are professional at that high level but there are also professionals at artisan level.
What do you intend to achieve by pulling these set of people together and what does it potent to Nigeria?
Two things: the first is that we are recruiting people who will become PDP members as well. This is a clear cut. We are first of all the professional wing of the party. We want to help strengthen the party.
Secondly, if you have a pool of professionals, they close ranks with the government and party leaders. Government recycle politician because those that should have occupied the positions are going aloof. We are saying professionals should close ranks with both political and party leaders for the betterment of the country. It makes everything very healthy. They see the people that can make things work and empower them.
Do you not think that this is smokescreen in disguise?
This is the professional arm of PDP. This is an arm of PDP so that question does not arise.
Is there room for somebody to belong to the professional body and remains in another party?
That is also good. That is why I mention APC a couple of times not because I am a member but even if another party replicates this, it is better.
What programme do you have to salvaging the unemployment that is ravaging the nation?
Our chairman on entrepreneurship and job creation made a presentation that dwell on job creation by planning to reach out to FCT government and we have started to make move.
Look you can empower the people on the street via agriculture, via IT, via construction; these are the broad item that we have planned to do.
We want to do it in a way that civil servants are not capable of, those politicians and political leader are not able to. As professionals, for instance the architects amongst us want to design affordable houses for the low income. they want to design a prototype housing of 2.5 million which is affordable to FCT residents. All that is required is to work hand in hand with government. The more you pool critical mass of professional together, the more you discover incredible things and open yourself to a pool of talents that you ordinary would not have had if you are just dealing with ordinary people alone.
How would you convince Nigerians that the project is not for personal gratification and the group could bolt out if you get what you want?
The inauguration we did would have been in a closed door but we open it up as a way to sensitize the people. The event on its own will help to disabuse the mind of people. The association is not money sharing one, but we are calling people to come and farm. We the leaders are also sweating it out because we do not want to leave our country alone.
We are young association that has taken off successfully, state by state, and chapter by chapter and we started. We are going to keep moving, I want Nigerians to be confident in Nigeria.
Is this movement not a ploy to enable President Jonathan to actualize 2015 ambition?
It is a lie. Our mandate is beyond 2015. In any case, we are an association that will outlive Jonathan. He has less than one year to finish his first tenure. If he wins in 2015, he basically has four years to spend. Our association will be here when our children are grown up. So, it is not set up to promote Jonathan’s agenda.