Billy Graham Abel Yola
Senator Abubakar Girei bares his mind on the crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the conduct of the party’s congresses nationwide, maintaining that in spite the crisis bedevilling the party, Buhari still remains the favourite to win 2019 presidential contest.
What do you make of the just concluded APC congresses?
The congress is simply unfortunate. It was completely mismanaged by the current leadership of APC. APC under the chairmanship of Odigie John Oyegun has failed the APC, has failed the nation and has failed President Muhammadu Buhari.
Their handling of the congress is far below expectation. It is clear they have allowed their personal and selfish interest to overshadow the party, nation, and President Buhari’s interest.
Is the APC likely to implode as a result of the squabbles within the party?
First of all, let me say this, the outcome of the congress in spite of the imperfections, in spite of the manner the national leadership of the party handled the congresses nationwide, APC still remains one united family because grievances and challenges like these are always expected.
If the national leadership of the party has handled these congresses in a very free, fair and equitable manner, we would not have been having this level of crisis we are witnessing today.
It is however normal for any big party like APC which controls 24 states out of the 36 states, which controls both chambers of the national assembly and controls the majority of the state assemblies to have the kind of challenges we are witnessing.
My worry with the current leadership is that they failed to put measures and strategies in place to contain this emerging fallout to the extent that 21 out of 24 states controlled by the APC today are engulfed in crisis. These are very serious challenges that can affect the electoral fortunes of the party.
But that notwithstanding, one thing is clear to me and most Nigerians and that is the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is going to sweep the election in 2019 without difficulty. One of the reasons is the fact that till this moment, unlike what we had in 2015, we do not know the person to be presented by any party to challenge the president in 2019.. By this time in 2014, it was clear General Muhammadu Buhari was going to contest the election against President Goodluck Jonathan and this happened in the very early part of 2014.
Now, we are in the middle of 2018, yet there is no challenger to Buhari. I do not see the possibility of any serious contender, or candidate that will emerge in any of the platforms that will cause any big threat to President Buhari’s candidature in 2019. PDP being the only opposition party is still in disarray up till this moment. They are still busy looking for people to come and align with them because they know they cannot make it themselves. They are also looking for marketable candidates because they do not have one for now. None of the aspirants on the platform of PDP can challenge President Buhari and make any serious impact.
Here in Adamawa State, there is no challenger to Buhari that will get up to 10perecent of the vote in Adamawa. In respect to the North-East geo-political region, I do not see any candidate in the country that can challenge Buhari and get up to 15perecent of the votes. I may not be in a position to speak for the whole country. But I can comfortably say that President Muhammadu Buhari is going to win the election in 2019.
Many will still disagree with you because Nigerians are rating President Muhammadu Buhari very low at this point in time. What do you have to say to that?
Nobody is claiming that Buhari has done excellently well. Neither has he made that claim nor are his supporters saying he has scored 100 per cent. However, what we are saying is that his score card as of today is by far higher than that of any President that has led this country since 1999 to date.
The point to note is that the president has his 3 point agenda. To tackle insecurity, address the economy and fight corruption. Today, for those of us in the North –East, security is our major yardstick in measuring whether the president has done very well or not. We know the situation in the region prior to 2011 and before the 2015 elections where people could not sleep with their two eyes closed. But today people are sleeping soundly with both eyes closed.
On the economic front and the anti-corruption campaign, the administration’s actions and policies are getting us out of the woods, there are still a few challenges no doubts about it and there will always be challenges for whoever becomes the president to fix. But some of the challenges especially in security only emerged recently; we all know where they are coming from.
We know they are coming from the opposition, those who looted and carted away our commonwealth and those who lost out in the elections of 2015 and are afraid that justice will catch up with them; they are the ones using their looted funds to plunge the country into chaos. They want to make sure that at all cost Buhari does not return in 2019, so that they don’t go to jail. It is these groups that are making allegations against the government that it has not performed.
Are you linking the general insecurity in the country with that of those opposing the government of President Buhari?
Yes, these killings are 100 percent politically motivated, politically sponsored and politically instigated by the looters and by those who lost power in 2015 and by those who are aspiring to come on board. These are the three categories of people that are planning, strategising and bringing about all these things. This country was not just born yesterday, we have co-existed for a very long time, the Fulani herders and farmers clashes you know is not a new thing, they would come from the North-East and move to the South and then move back again. This seasonal migration has been on since time immemorial and of course, there are always challenges, each time they move to and fro but it has never been like this. We have never known that Fulani herdsmen carry AK 47; we have never seen this before.
As a Fulani man, I know that these cattle rearers do not have the means to acquire AK 47, so, someone must have been acquiring the AK 47 and sponsoring them while also sponsoring others who are non-Fulani to have it in order to brew crisis in the country. A case in point is what we saw in Benue, those who have so far been caught.
Is this not déjà vu, because it was similar circumstances that played out leading to Jonathan losing the 2015 election because he was helpless in tackling the security challenge at the time, just as Buhari is struggling now?
I do not have comments on this because the president has his spokesmen who can speak on the matter. But what I can tell you is that it is almost similar situation. Even the Boko-Haram was sponsored. Why has the government failed to identify those behind Boko-Haram till date? And why is it difficult now to find sponsors of the herdsmen, the cattle-rustlers, the kidnappers? All these show the failure of government, both past and present.
There is no doubt, these are challenges, but that does not mean Buhari has not taken measures to contain Boko-Haram insurgency. He has almost wiped out Boko Haram; he must be given credit for that. There are new challenges and they are also sponsored by his political opponents, one can even say political enemies. These people want to safeguard their loot and that will never happen as long as President Buhari or any other Nigerian who is as credible as Buhari or who is serious about fighting corruption runs the affairs of this country, Buhari will get to them and seize their stolen assets and then make them face justice.
As the country matches towards 2019, there is a growing outcry within the APC by those who feel disappointed with the conduct of the ward congresses and the handling of the outcome of the congresses that justice has not been done to them and may be contemplating leaving the party, where does that leave your party?
I feel very bad about this. There are those of us within the party who are working to forestall any member leaving the party. We will continue to work towards not allowing that to happen. We are working round the clock to make sure members of the new PDP, who were part of the alliance that formed the APC, who actually contributed immensely to the success of the APC do not leave. I am a proud member of the new PDP group.
But I can tell you, I am not contemplating leaving the APC for any other party because of these challenges. And I don’t think there is any one either the Senate President or Yakubu Dogara or any governor or any member of the National Assembly, who will leave the party or wants to leave the APC for another party. The chances that they are going to go is slim because they have expressed their grievances, these grievances are being addressed by the vice-president. They have met with the leadership of the party and soon after meeting with the vice president, a committee was set up to tackle the issue.
But there was a scheduled meeting with the vice president which was called off?
No, no, no, there was an initial meeting with the vice president, after which a committee was set-up. It was at the second round they pulled out for some other different reasons. I can assure you this is all politics. These are major political players, stakeholders in the politics. Their interest can best be protected within the APC, they know it. Sadly, at the end of the day part of the problem within the APC is the result of poor leadership we have in the party.
But as soon as Oshiomhole comes in, I can assure you all these issues are going to be dealt with because it is purely party affair. People are expecting President Buhari to do everything for them. You have a quarrel with your wife; you will say President Muhammadu Buhari has not solved it. The president has his own responsibility and the party also has its own responsibility. We are even lucky to have a mature President who does not meddle in party affairs. Someone who just minds his own business, he does not want to interfere with any arm of government.
What is supposed to be the function of the party, if you expect the president to just go in and interfere with the activities of the party? I am confident that immediately after the convention, as soon as we have a credible leadership in our national secretariat; these matters are going to be sorted out. They are political issues and they are going to be handled politically.
Still on the congresses, you have openly rejected the congresses conducted for the state here, what next?
Coming back to our own issue here in Adamawa State, the congresses were never held. The reason the congresses never held is because the governor from day one had promised party officials that each one of them will retain their positions.
When we heard it in the news, we thought he was joking. We investigated and found out that he said it and this is undemocratic and unacceptable in APC and we would not allow that and the only reason he did that is because he has lost the people’s support from the grassroots.
He knows if elections takes place, he’s going to lose completely that is why he is trying to avoid election. Any politician you see trying to avoid election, he is not a good politician. Because he knows he has lost the people, that is why he is trying to avoid elections, because democracy is all about election.
Of course, prior to the congresses we reported him to the national secretariat of the party. The party issued a statement calling Senator Bindow Jibrilla by name and told him that what he said was his opinion and not the party’s position on the conduct of Congresses.
As I said earlier, when he went to the congress venues he saw the number of people on our side, because we were ready for the congresses. The governor and his cohorts vanished from the venue and came back to write what they wrote and gave it to the electoral panel. This is why I am very unhappy with the current leadership of Oyegun. The people sent to conduct the congresses were procured by the governor, he paid for them. He paid for them and they brought them here, which was why when we went to submit our complaint and petition to the committee they just rejected it.
But when a new leadership emerge, a new leadership that is credible under the chairmanship of Oshiomhole, all these issues will be resolved.
What do you foresee happening if the grievances by the majority of your party members arising from the outcome of the congresses are not resolved?
I can assure you there is no way the status-quo can be maintained because there is a clear difference between day and night. The APC wants to succeed; the party wants to win elections not just the presidential election but all elections, governorship, state House of Assembly among other elections.
If we really want to win elections, the matter must be re-visited and has to be re-visited by a credible leadership of Oshiomhole.
There is a threat by new-PDP to leave the APC and here in Adamawa State Sen. Abdulaziz Nyako is threatening to leave the party with the new-PDP structure, are you not worried?
Those that have been aggrieved and are threatening to go out, we have been talking to them, we have been appealing to them and telling them it is not the best way to handle this issue. We would not allow them to leave because even if they leave, they will be worse off. Where will they go, PDP, another new party or third force?
Third force which is the creation of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo… and you know who President Obasanjo is, he is the biggest threat to Nigerian democracy. As far back as 2001, when I was in the senate, I was quoted before and I will say it again, President Obasanjo is the greatest threat to our democracy and our nationhood.
And I have been vindicated, severally by his actions. All that he does are for his personal and selfish interest. He is one person that unless his personal ego, interest and greed are satisfied, he would never see anything good in anything. Unfortunately, for such a person who has been one of the luckiest individuals in this country, at his age to continue doing the kind of things he does shows that he is a very ungrateful person, very ungrateful to his creator, very ungrateful to the Nigerian people, very ungrateful especially to the PDP, the party which gave him the opportunity to be President of this country for eight years.But I will advise Senator Nyako not to leave the party because the incoming leadership of the party will resolve all the issues.
As a stakeholder who wants the APC to continue as the ruling party, what is the best way out of this crisis?
The best way out, if not the only way, is for APC to be lucky to have very credible people as members of the National Working Committee in the forth-coming convention, holding in Abuja that for me is the only way out.
Unless we have people who are credible, who are men of honour and integrity like Oshiomhole, coming on board as national chairman, national secretary, deputy national chairman among other offices in the party, we may never make headway. The National Working Committee (NWC) is the brain-box of the party. If we continue to have the kinds of character we have there as party leaders, we will continue to have problems and our democracy will continue to wobble.
But if we are sincere to ourselves to work hard in producing the leadership of the party including the president, senate president, the speaker working together to ensure a credible personality come on board to form the new National Working Committee, then the new body would be able to handle all these challenges without personal and selfish interest. I say so because it is personal and selfish interest and greed of individuals that have caused all the problems we have in APC. If we are able to have credible personalities at the secretariat, I am sure all these problems would be addressed.