“Only God can stop Buhari from winning the 2019 presidential election. You will remember this day… only God will stop Buhari and not Atiku Abubakar.”
Gyang Bere, Jos
Rufus Bature, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and candidate for Plateau North Senatorial District, believes that only God can stop President Muhammadu Buhari from winning his election and not PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. He said it is a taboo for his people in Northern Plateau to be refugees and enslaved in their own land.
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What are your fears about President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid?
Honestly, I do not have any fear. Only God can stop Buhari from winning the 2019 presidential election. You will remember this day that I said only God will stop Buhari and not Atiku Abubakar. Buhari will win his election without any obstruction. I am not a Prophet but from what I see, and what I hear, Buhari will win the election. I have the confidence that Buhari will get more votes in Plateau and in all parts of the country than he got in 2015, because different groups are mobilising for massive votes for him and the APC in 2019. I have not seen anybody that will thwart his re-election, not even Atiku Abubakar.
APC is swimming in trouble waters following the outcome of its party primaries where some governors have insisted that the national chairman must resign, don’t you think that it is a sign of defeat for the party ahead of the 2019 general elections?
You should expect that everybody will want to belong to a house that is very busy and if that is so, you will expect these intrigues, squabbles and blabbing in the APC. But at the end of the day, I am assuring you that APC will come out stronger and victorious in 2019.
With this crisis, don’t you think your National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole should resign?
Why should he resign? Unless they have found him wanting with clear cases of mismanagement, clear cases of corruption or cases of ineptitude. If he is not found wanting in any of these why should he resign? One thing with him is that as a Labour man, he has been so combative to an extent that people are not comfortable with him but I believe that he should give a little ear to whoever has a complaint. Like the president said, he should not bar people from going to court, if you genuinely feel that you are aggrieved, you can seek for redress in the court of law because that is what our constitution says. The Constitution of APC cannot be above the Constitution of Nigeria; therefore, I agree with Mr. President that whoever feels aggrieved should seek redress in any court of law.
Lalong came into power in 2015 on the basis of protest votes, do you still believe that he will win in 2019?
I am very optimistic that APC will form the government in Plateau State, it will form the government at the national level and I am optimistic that I will be part of the government that will be formed at the national level. We are all human beings, nobody is 100 percent right, we have our weaknesses; we are looking at these weaknesses and trying to make amend. But I believe rational thinking people and people who are objective on the Plateau, considering the circumstances that we met when we came on board and looking at what this government has done, will treat us fairly, we need to be looked at from our performance and not from any sentimental issue or bias point of view.
Most Plateau people and the Beroms who are the majority in the Northern zone are affected by killer herdsmen attacks and they appear not too comfortable with the APC government, how will your party win election when the people appear angry with APC?
We started APC on the Plateau together with the current governor, I know how many people voted APC from my own constituency, despite that and to be magnanimous in victory, Governor Lalong appointed me as Secretary to the Government, if it was just because of the vote that my people gave, I wouldn’t have been the Secretary to the Government. One of the first thing we did together was to look at this issue of crisis, and the first person that the governor consulted was the Gbong Gwom Jos. The second Group of people was the Fulani, we started a meeting, which culminated into a committee that was set up; it sat for months and brought up a very germane recommendations and the government started implementing some of the recommendations, which brought peace until the recent carnage.
What happened in the state is like a baby that is sucking breast and all of a sudden he was pull off the breast, you will certainly hear a striking cry, that is what happened. My other folks who were predominantly in PDP never believed that any government can emerge outside PDP, they were not ready for anything call hand-over, they were not ready to believe that it was not a PDP person that was going to emerge, therefore whatever that this government is doing that is good, they have never seen the good in it. If the government that I served were not magnanimous in victory, we would not have the appointment that we have. I have the record because I was the Secretary to the Government, all the political appointments that were made; even though they might not be quality but quantity wise, no single tribe on the Plateau has up to half of the appointments that the Berom people have, I stand to be corrected.
The governor was magnanimous enough in the Northern zone to allow me to nominate people into positions of Special Adviser, Senior Special Assistants, Board members, commissioners and so on. Infact, in Berom land, 95 percent of the appointees were nominated by me. We have built roads that are spread all over the local government areas that did not even vote for him. The governor said we are all Plateau people and therefore, they should benefit. Sometimes I feel so sad when people say this government has not done anything for Berom people, it is very glaring that this government is an all inclusive one. Lalong’s government is not anti-Berom.
At what point will you say this issue of land grabbing started in your home, Barkin-Ladi?
It has been there since 2001, there are many communities that were sacked and the people never went back to their land. So it is not today, it did not start under this government; if you go to Riyom Local Government area, you will see the same thing. This thing started right from the onset and because it was not nip in the bud, it continued unabated. When you go to Gashish you will see what I am talking about, I wept the day I went there. It was not in 2015 that this land grabbing started, it has been there for a very long time.
But do you believe that the Military are colluding with the Fulani herdsmen to attack your people just like Gen. TY Danjuma (Rtd) alleged in Taraba?
I have heard people saying that but I don’t have any incontrovertible evidence to prove that the Military is colluding, I don’t have any evidence. People might have their own evidence but I as a person don’t have any evidence.
What do you suggest the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari should do to the people of the area before 2019?
I appeal to him to do what he has said through the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo when he came to sympathise with the victims of the crisis and the president repeated it when he came to Jos recently. He said nobody who has been chased out of his community that will not go back unless he does not want; he is making every effort to make sure that people go back to their communities. One thing I want to emphasise, is that we must learn to respect, tolerate and understand one another, it is very important. When the lands were grabbed the other time, nobody made any effort to reclaim and take the people back to their communities.
You mean the PDP government did not make effort to take displaced persons back to their homes in the state?
Yes, of course. Nobody made any effort; today President Buhari is trying to take these people back to their communities even those who left since 2001 but some people are being very critical about it. It is unfortunate that some are saying is it only now that the government is concerned about the people; we are aware that things have happened, what did the leaders do during that time that the people were first displaced? I don’t want to start making comparison, all I want is that the people should be treated fairly, we should do justice, whether there was justice or no justice, we will be accountable for our own period. Whatever happened during the PDP period, is for them and will be judge by what they did, but as far as we are concern, we are doing what we believe is right, we are doing what we believe is just.
Plateau North Senatorial Zone is predominantly PDP, how do you intend to emerge APC Senator from the zone?
I want to contest that presumption that the Northern zone is predominantly PDP. If you look at the combination of members of the House of Assembly, about four of them are APC and four of them are PDP; for House of Representatives, out of the three of them, two are APC, while the senator is PDP and the governor is APC. APC is the home of Plateau North as far as I know. PDP was the government in power during the 2015 elections and the governor was from the Northern zone that was why some people thought that PDP was strong in the zone. But with what is on ground now, APC is in total control of the zone and the 2019 election result will show clearly that Northern zone is predominantly APC.
You resigned your position as Secretary to Government of Plateau State, to run for the senate. What is the motivation?
As a human being, everybody should have an ambition; I have had the opportunity of serving Plateau State in the House of Assembly for eight year, representing my constituency, Barkin-Ladi. My performances at the House of Assembly then are there for people to talk about; and having served in that capacity and not just a member of the House but as a leader of the minority in the House, I did my utmost best. We were the Guinea pigs that came in, in 1999 after a lonely political arena in Nigeria; with robust workshops and seminars held within and outside Nigeria, to give us a good start. I feel that the knowledge I acquired then while in the House is still with me and therefore I feel I should deploy the knowledge at a higher level. The experience which I had while in the House of Assembly for eight years and having been out of government for another eight years and returning to serve as Secretary of Government now in a ruling government; were the things that propelled me to seek for the position of Senator to represent Northern Zone of Plateau State.