Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Frontline candidate for the vacant All Progressives Congress (APC), National Secretary position, Waziri Bulama, began his political career when in 2011 he contested Borno state governorship election.
Speaking to Sunday Sun in an exclusive interview in Abuja, he argued that since the ruling party constitution is silent on zoning, the party will not consider ethnicity in picking the candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
The Deputy Director-General, Buhari Presidential Campaign Council equally spoke on the ravaging effects of insurgency in his state, his mission and vision as the chief scribe of the ruling party and why he did not lobby for ministerial appointment. Excerpts:
Will it be right to say that leaving your profession, Architecture, to join politics is a confirmation that politics is more lucrative?
Well, my journey into politics was largely driven by fate. In our family, all of us are professionals comprising engineers, accountants, architects, banker, we also have a practicing estate valuers, and others. We deliberately planned it because we want to be self-reliant. I have a brother who was president of Engineers and later COREN. I have also been chairman of Architects and I even left the civil service as a director. We actually did not plan to be in politics, but to survive on our own. However, while we offer our services to our communities free of charge by designing schools and homes, people who appreciated us urged us to represent them in one capacity or the other. They engaged me in serious discussions, urging me to stand for elective positions. I saw it as a wider platform to serve the community. They saw my joining politics as opportunity to influence decision to serve the people better using my own skill and personal resources. For me, taking up elective office will not add any value to me in terms of enhancing my status. What public office will do for me is the opportunity, capacity and platform to serve society.
Was your commitment to deliver President Buhari responsible for not contesting any position in 2019?
The particular niche I was operating from within the political sphere for the APC project was basically strategic. I ran for governorship of my state, Borno in 2011, but President Buhari and leadership of the defunct CPC, prevailed on me to step down for Soweri, the current Minister of State for Agriculture.
The party had then invited me to Abuja to take control of the directorate of strategy of Buhari Presidential Campaign in 2011. We reviewed the formation of CPC, the campaign strategy and kept feeding the campaign as it progressed. I even set up situation room to monitor the presidential election and gathered data that we presented in the court during the litigation, which lasted for nine months. After the litigation, the party engaged me alongside some professionals, technocrats and scholars to write the way forward for the CPC. We authored the blueprint for the CPC to engage other progressive parties in the country to form a broad-based progressive platform that gave birth to APC to challenge the status quo in 2015. We participated in the strategy committee of the APC along with Kayode Fayemi, among others. We were like policy support group, which managed the 2015 presidential election to successful level. After the election in 2015, I was not considered for any position, but I was part of many backroom strategy group, advising the government. We created a feedback corridor, advising our party and government to manage both up to 2018, when my colleagues advised me to contest for the position of National Secretary of the APC. I was again prevailed upon by the then Borno and Yobe governors to step down for the now governor of Yobe State. Party leaders like President Buhari and Bola Ahmed Tinubu also prevailed on me to step down. Not long after, the president appointed me into the National Campaign Council as the Deputy Director General in charge of coordination. We crafted the Next Level strategy and ran an issue-based campaign. We mobilized and sensitized Nigerians to understand that our commitment is towards ensuring one man, one vote. Buhari’s mission is to deepen democracy and stabilise Nigeria politically. So, to answer your question, I was more interested in pursuing the party’s success and Buhari’s re-election that I never had time to personally contest for any elective position.
It is like you are more interested in the position of the APC National Secretary than ministerial post?
Most of the people that held senior management appointments in the presidential campaign from director general to deputy director general to the directors of the campaigns wanted cabinet appointments or heads of MDGs, but I never wanted any ministerial position and I never canvased for any through anybody, including the president and even the DG of the campaigns council. I only renewed my interest in the position of the National Secretary of the APC, which I stepped down on account of the National Secretary moving to Yobe as governor. I think that I am more qualified than any other person and I have much more sufficient insider information about the formation of the APC, what we can do to strengthen and consolidate the party. I know what it takes to ensure that the party becomes more united. I know how to make the party a platform to bring more unity and development to the country. I know the party’s constitution and manifesto because I am very much more deeply involved in helping our leaders to carry this party to a point that we redeem the promises we gave to Nigerians. I did not ask for ministerial or any agency appointment. And if given the choice, I would rather go for the position of the National Secretary of the APC.
Are you happy with the current state of the APC considering the crisis rocking the party?
Sincerely speaking, the APC experienced and still experiencing bad press nationwide. It is true that there have been attacks on the party from within and outside, but looking at things strategically, I am very happy with the achievements and attainment of the party, especially this year. What the APC is today in terms of size, spread, purpose, substance and meaning; no party has been able to achieve that in the history of Nigeria since independence. The APC is today a party that has transformed from regional party to a national party. We won the presidential election with an unprecedented number of votes. Our victory in 2019 is bigger and sweeter that what it was in the 2015 general elections especially when you take into consideration the spread. What it means is that the party has conquered the fault lines like religion, zonal and ethnic. Don’t also forget that APC won the majority in the National Assembly with also total control of the leadership of both chambers unlike what happened in 2015. All the politicians of significance in every state in the country is now with the APC. The party is comfortably in control of 19 states currently with an additional one by February next year to make it 20. No party has ever achieved this spread and size in the history of Nigeria. I am very happy with the situation of the APC in terms of spread, acceptability and mileage. Even the states where there were strong divisions among stakeholders, the gladiators are still strong members of this party. The party is united around the leadership of President Buhari and I am also happy that the factions in most states are reconciling and becoming one united party members. I have no fear whatsoever about the integrity as a party.
What is your take on the APC governors and other stakeholders persistent call on Oshiomhole to resign?
I am not happy with what is happening, but I strongly believe that it was happening because of communication gap. I know that by the time we bridge the communication gap, when we look at the big picture, I am sure that our leaders will understand that we will work for the greater unity of the party rather than calling for the head of the national chairman. I can boldly say that there is no existential threat to the party.
As a founding member of the APC, is there anything like zoning in the APC?
There is no part of APC constitution that mentioned zoning in terms of sharing elective offices. The four documents regulating the actions of the party like the Nigeria and party constitution, Electoral Act and manifestos, are also silent on zoning elective offices. However, there are provisions in all of them that reflect our diversities as a country in terms of appointments.
Does it matter to you which zone produces the president in 2023 under the APC platform?
Well, the first thing I want to say is that the issue of which zone produces the next president in 2023 is immature; however, what is very clear is that Mr President has answered those that have mischievously started the campaign for third term. Our focus in the party at the moment is how to speed up the momentum of governance and how we can secure lives, make our roads safer, provide infrastructure to the people. However, we strongly believe that when the time comes to decide who we will present as presidential candidate in 2023, our party members will go for a candidate that will unite the party, promote the ideals, accountability and transparency in governance. APC will go for an acceptable presidential candidate, but we are going to look beyond ethnicity in picking our candidate for the 2023 presidential election, APC has buried ethnicity with the merging of the regional parties. We also adopted an ideologically progressive politics. It does not matter to me where the candidate comes from.
Do you see the APC retailing power beyond 2023 considering the volume of crisis rocking the party?
We should be looking at retaining power beyond 2023 and many years to come. I strongly believe that the gains recorded by the party should be enough to assist in APC retaining power for many years to come. We have done much for this country and have sacrificed religious, ethnic and regional divides to move the country forward. There is no reason to return to those religious and ethnic fault lines in choosing our presidential candidate in 2023? The party is committed to certain ideals not personality. We will be concerned about someone with integrity and commitment to transparency and accountability like President Buhari.
What words of advice will you give to Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki?
I think that there is clearly lack of understanding between them. Both should understand that nobody has the singular power to crown a governor, senator, Reps member because the APC has buried godfatherism. I want to appeal to our Edo brothers, particularly Governor Obaseki who I have never met to pipe down, unify all the party members. This tension is needless because Oshiomhole can never remove him because he has to follow due process, which is a very right route to follow.
Are you satisfied with the war against insurgency in your state Borno?
I am extremely happy with the fight against insurgency in my state. I commend both the government and security agencies for their sacrifices in trying to bring back normal life in Borno State. The state has a very vast land, measuring up 60,000 square kilometres. The largest in the country and even bigger than the entire Southeast. What is fuelling insecurity is under policing and non-presence of government. From the recent security summit, Boko Haram activity is now concentrated in only three areas in Borno State. What I want to see at the moment is the strategy for closure and a firm programme for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced communities. We also know that it is not over yet, but we want a strategy to end the activities of insurgency in the state.