Former Niger Delta militant leader, Alhaji Mujadid Asari- Dokubo has tipped ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP’s best candidate to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC in the 2019 general elections.
Asari- Dokubo in this interview with FEMI FOLARANMI in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, dismissed some names being touted as the PDP likely presidential candidate and warned that if the party fails to pick a strong candidate that can rally the people for the general election, it would lose the polls.
Considering the position you took prior to the 2015 elections, objecting the candidature of President Muhammadu Buhari, has anything changed?
There is nothing that can change. This is because a few people and I knew that the packaging of Buhari to run as President was not right, but this packaging swayed many people. Look at Nigeria, look at the type of life people are living. It clearly shows and justified the position some of us held. Nigerians can no longer afford anything again, not just food. Life is extremely brutish and people kill each other at the slightest provocation. It has never been like this before. So we have been vindicated.
There are suggestions in some quarters that former President Goodluck Jonathan threw the presidency away. Two books; Against the Run of Play by Olusegun Adeniyi and On a Platter of Gold by Bolaji Abdulllahi contained facts on this line of thought. What do you think were the things or policies Jonathan did that threw away his presidency?
Jonathan as far as Ijaw people were concerned did not rule firmly. Apart from that, Goodluck Jonathan, Gowon and maybe Shagari might pass off as the best that happened to Nigeria. Theirs was a time Nigerians have justice. Nobody was afraid of the government. Goodluck Jonathan brought laws that aided democracy. There was the Freedom of Information Act, Human Rights Commission. He set up institutions and polices like the TSA, BVN, Card Reader, preparing the ground for an all inclusive democratic system. So, is this why he threw the presidency away? Bolaji that is talking and writing, look at what his principal, Saraki is being subjected to. I know Bolaji well; he was a Minister under Jonathan. He had free hand and was enjoying. Do the present Ministers have the same free hand enjoyed under Jonathan? Government officials, Ministers and Governors are openly complaining that they cannot access Mr Buhari. Goodluck Jonathan was too soft for them; if that is what they mean by saying he threw the presidency away, yes, I will agree. People take advantage of people who are not ready to shed the blood of others. That is the truth, which was why he lost. If it had been someone like me, I would never have lost, because I know how to use power to treat these irritants.
Issues like Boko Haram kidnap of Chibok girls and Jonathan’s body language on corruption were identified as the low points of the administration that caused its downfall
There was nothing like the kidnap of Chibok girls. This is even the most corrupt government. Where is the budget implementation? It is under this Buhari government we have heard of budget padding and missing budget. There are things unheard of before in Nigeria. Aso Rock clinic since 2016, we have been budgeting billions more than what is given to all the teaching and tertiary hospitals in Nigeria combined. There is no how you can tell it. It is like egg that has broken, and there is no way we can bring it back. Nigerians are witnessing the years of the locust and I wonder when we would get out of this.
There were allegations that Jonathan surrounded himself with Ijaw people which spelt doom for his government
I am simply an Ijaw man that stood behind a fellow Ijaw man and I am not even an insider in the government. So who were the Ijaw people he surrounded himself with? All the people that have been alleged to have collected money from Dasuki, have you heard of one Ijaw man’s name? All the people on trial that collected money from Dasuki and Diezani, have you heard of one single Ijaw person’s name? So, where are the Ijaw people that Jonathan surrounded himself with? They want to put us on trial and kill us. Buhari said he would give us the Boko Haram treatment. If Buhari has his ways, all Ijaw people would have been dead. This is why those Ijaw people who went and followed him to betray Jonathan have not been given anything significant in his government with all their contributions. Minister of state for Agriculture and Rural Resources is what Buhari feels we Ijaw people should have. There is no government that I remember of, from the time of Gowon that would not have four to five Ijaw ministers. But now we don’t even have a Minister. What we have is someone without portfolio and it is even Minister of state for Agriculture. If Buhari has his way he would have wiped out Ijaw people. That is why he wants to cause confusion between us and the Itsekiri and backing Bini people to seize Ijaw people so that when we stand up against oppression, he would bring his Army. But he has known us that we are not afraid of his Army. Every Nigerian knows that Ijaw people are not afraid. We are not people that Fulani would come and kill and we would be crying. If you do us, we shall do you back very well.
Part of the challenges hampering the performance of the Buhari government is the rot left by the Jonathan government. Do you agree?
Which rot? Jonathan left Nigeria as the fastest growing economy in Africa. When you campaigned to take over power, you should be prepared to govern. Was Buhari not Head of State before? When he left, was Nigeria like Sweden, Norway or UAE? These people are clowns and they think other Nigerians are idiots. They are talking because people did not want to stand up to them. Someone like Buhari should just keep quiet. He was a governor in North East made up of the States where Boko Haram is presently domiciled. These are among the most educationally backward states, Buhari was governor there. He was Minister of Petroleum and was in charge of refineries which as we are talking today are outdated. He was GOC and left an Army command structure that is a disgrace. As Head of State, there was widespread hunger, human rights abuses and draconian laws. As PTDF Chairman, he served under the most corrupt government in this country. Let them back their facts, Jonathan ruled for five years, three months, from 1956 when we had self government so it was Goodluck Jonathan that left rot in government?
What can the Buhari government do between now and 2019 presidential elections to please critics like you?
There won’t be any redeeming factor. Buhari is not capable of performing. The government cannot continue to lie and think God would approve it. Mark what I am telling you today, God has rejected this government. Everyday, the government is going from bad to worse.
So you think APC will implode before the election?
APC is not clean and what they are plotting is to rig the elections. Goodluck Jonathan allowed them to rig elections in 2015 and unfortunately the PDP is not ready for a fight.
PDP is putting its acts together to confront the APC and you are saying they are not ready for a fight
Yes, the PDP is not ready for a fight. If the PDP is ready for a fight, there won’t be talks of Tambuwal candidature, someone who is a governor in APC. He destroyed PDP and ran to APC. They are talking of Tambuwal, who knows him in Bayelsa? PDP governors are lobbying a character like that to join the PDP and contest for the presidential ticket. They are talking of Makarfi, a man who could not win Senate election; a man who during the 2015 presidential election allegedly voted for Buhari and showed his ballot paper to the people before putting it in the box. Such a man is the one some PDP people are lobbying to get on the presidential ticket.
But there is Sule Lamido who has already written to PDP members on his presidential intention
Sule Lamido is not different from Buhari. He is one of these arrogant Fulani people who feel they own this country and the rest of us are just like appendages.
You have not mentioned Atiku Abubakar
Yes, I was in the SDP with Atiku Abubakar. He is the most liberal of all the people coming from the North. He has his own baggage. Let us look at other people. What are people like David Mark doing that they can’t contest? Is it that they are not courageous enough to come and fight? So everybody in the North would abdicate to the Fulani. Other Northerners are even afraid to take their liberty even when we have told them that we have taken our liberty and they should take theirs.
But Governor Ayodele Fayose has signified his intention to contest
Yes, he has signified his intention but it is not going to fly. Who is going to run Fayose’s election for him? Whose money is going to be used? The South West does not vote heavily. The percentage of voters is low. Ekiti state where Fayose is governor has one of the lowest voting population. The other voters in South West are in the hands of the APC. For me, David Mark would have been the very best for PDP to galvanise the swing nationalities; those people outside Hausa, Fulani and Yoruba and bring them together to join with the Igbo and some other liberal Yoruba people. But if David Mark is not there, among the Fulani if the PDP insists on having a Fulani to become its presidential candidate, Atiku is their best bet. We also have Ibrahim Shekarau, a very honest and cerebral man. But does he have resources because election demands resources. At the end of the day, a lot of people do not know Shekarau in the South. Atiku already has platforms across Nigeria and whatever it is he can fight more. Aside that, he has also talked about restructuring and as an Ijaw man, we want to engage him, what he means by restructuring. If PDP is looking for somebody with a war chest to fight and that would attract a lot of people from the APC, it is Atiku.
Judging by the last PDP national convention, it appears the PDP governors are firmly in control of the party, so are you advising them to pick Atiku?
All the PDP governors would lose if they don’t chose a candidate that can fight. I think some PDP governors want to go behind and get some secret arrangement with Buhari and his cabal. They would all lose. If they do such things, they would fail. PDP should stand alone and fight. God has made it easier for them with the poor performance of Buhari. Nobody would vote for Buhari even in the North. If PDP does not have a strong candidate that can galvanise support across and resist the rigging of APC because it is not going to be like under Goodluck Jonathan where everything was free and fair. PDP must have someone that should be able to carry the sympathy of the South- South, South- East, get people in the South- West, Middle Belt and make inroads into the Fulani North.
Almost all outspoken supporters of former President Goodluck Jonathan are in one trouble or the other with EFCC but your name is not mentioned anywhere and you are not on the run. What is the secret?
You see when you have a name and when you believe you talk boldly because you know who you are. When you don’t take what does not belong to you, you won’t have problems. I don’t desire much and I don’t take what does not belong to me. I don’t envy people. Let me tell you a story; when I was growing up, after the civil war, they said people were turning into goat, chicken, dogs on the road etc, we never saw one but we heard. And then my grandmother said if you don’t pick what does not belong to you, you won’t turn to an animal. From that day till now, I don’t take what does not belong to me. And my grandmother told me again to always look at those below me and give thanks to God. It is only God and you who know how you got to where you are. So these two things my grandmother said to me has guided me. I don’t desire anything, which at that material time I don’t have the capacity to afford. I don’t get involved in anything that would spoil my name. This is why my name cannot be mentioned in connection with illegal bunkering and militancy. I am an open book you can read. This is why I am not on the run under a government that is vicious.
Have you met former President Goodluck Jonathan since he left office?
I have only seen former President Jonathan twice since he left office. And I have not had the opportunity to discuss with him. On the two occasions I met him, it was at public functions, one during the re-election campaign of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson and the other during a courtesy call on him by some leaders of thought. My support for Goodluck was not based on his personality but what he represented. He is an Ijaw man. And the motto of Ijaw people is ‘one for all, all for one.’ So, that is why we stood by him. He is older than me with a few years, what he would do if he wants me is to invite me and he has not invited me.
What is your impression about the performance of the governor of Bayelsa state?
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson is my brother and friend. People would say maybe I’m enjoying from the governor of Bayelsa state but our people say, the roof covers and protects a lot of things. I have travelled in Bayelsa, if you take away Seriake Dickson projects even in Yenagoa, the state capital would be empty. Today people drive to Alebiri, the Airport project is coming up. These projects were near impossibilities when other governors were there. Our people are used to collecting free money, and as far as I am concerned Seriake Dickson has performed more than any other governor. You can’t compare him with any past governor in the state. People might call me names but I am telling you the truth, he is performing.