Billy Graham Abel, Yola
Pioneer North East vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Umar Duhu has said that the Federal Government should increase the purchasing powers of Nigerians. He spoke on various issues in this interview.
What is your assessment of the PDP Government that took over from your party?
Well, we presumed that with all the rhetorics, the pre-election big talks, the PDP government would hit the ground running but nothing has been done yet. This government is a total failure and it is a shame and Adamawa people are disappointed.
The previous government of APC had launched several projects including several road projects within its first 100 days in office but this one is yet to take-off.
As it is today, there is nothing to show; the measurement could be 99 percent for APC and one percent for PDP.
Your response could be presumed that it was because you lost power to PDP, kindly refresh our memory, what happened that APC lost power in Adamawa State?
Some people say a house divided against itself cannot stand. Towards the twilight of the 2019 general elections, our house was divided because some members felt dissatisfied with the process, others felt they had been eliminated from the activities of the party, among other reasons put forward by members.
Though it was a unity election as we all voted for President Muhammadu Buhari but in gubernatorial elections, it was a total division because there was pronouncement from the first family saying people should go out and vote their conscience not necessarily the party.
That to me was a serious anti-party activity that put forward the notion that you don’t have to vote the party in power. So, our people were so polarised heading into the elections and that led to us finding ourselves where we are. But that being said, our party did far too well compared to this one that has no idea or has not yet taken off.
I am aware that there is a convention by your party for reconciliation, heading into local government elections, how is that going?
I have always maintained that everyone that believes in APC must have the party at heart, because it is the party that united us irrespective of our various interests.
So, concerned party members met in order to address what led to our loss at the polls with a view to moving the party forward. Some of our leaders met in a small forum and came to an agreement that everyone who is a member of the APC must be brought to the reconciliation table and all grievances reconciled.
In line with that, we have set up several committees and principally, the Secretary to the Government is leading that reconciliation committee, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, who are all indigenes of Adamawa State, including all the leaders who are the founding members of the party; Markus Gundiri, Nuhu Ribadu, Halilu Modi, former governor, Muhammad Umaru Jibrilla, all came together and agreed to bury their differences and put aside any premordial interest, put the party foremost and move the party forward to its winning ways.
The team then agreed to come down to all the supporters in the state to make members aware that the tripod from where they stood before with all the differences have now been collapsed and that it would be APC all through.
You, Bappa Waziri, among other interests, who were the foundation members of APC but were completely ignored and sidelined when victory finally came for the party in the state, is there any move to reconcile these interests in the party?
I am someone who believes that power comes from God, so I have never been bitter about not being appointed into office; of course, as humans, we react sometimes largely to make ourselves feel better but I believe that when God wants you to, you will get what you deserve. So, I have always been a strong believer in the APC system and I am committed to working and ensuring that this party succeeds. People like Bappa Waziri, was at the meeting too, which shows as usual, he is committed to the progress of the party.
I am just disappointed in some of our party stalwats like Babachir David Lawal, who after meeting with some top members of the party and agreeing to move the party forward, would go behind to make derogative comments about the party.
He is at the top echelon of the party; he should be spearheading the move but to come out and say, he did not sanction the committee, that their work is illegal is unnecessary and uncalled for.
In the constitution of APC, there are caucuses which make important inputs that give directions to the party and because the nomenclature was changed to steering committee, does not render them useless. Whether it is referred to as elders forum, leaders of the party, financials, these are all semantics.
So, as far as I am concerned, these elders of the party are the ones we hold premium. They should lead and others follow; we have the federal and we should not have lost the state but for the internal wrangling.
But now we have to move forward and ensure that this party is re-strengthened; those aggrieved are pacified, those offended are compensated if that is required, so that we can go back to our winning ways starting from this local government elections and to any other elections.
With the local government elections at hand, how prepared is the APC?
The APC is ready and prepared to win the coming local government elections in Adamawa State in all the 21 local governments. Anyone who is schooled in politics knows that parties always have areas of strengths and weaknesses and we have about 11 local governments we consider our areas of strength and we have also perfected strategies to capture the other local governments too. We want this party to stay in power beyond the imagination of our opposition. We are standing with foot on the ground to make sure elections in the state are conducted according to the dictates of the law.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is predicated on the rule of law and he has ensured that all local governments in the country receive their allocation from the first line charge; it is no longer coming through the state government and being hijacked by the Joint Account Allocations Committee (JAAC), which has been a bad practice in almost all the states in the country. This is one among several outstanding moves that the people of Nigeria should appreciate president Muhammadu Buhari for.
Most of our local communities are now back to life, because people do not have to move to city centers to pursue stipends. So, we are participating fully in the local government elections; we are ready to take to task and prosecute anyone that attempts to subvert elections here in Adamawa State. The rule says elections are declared at the levels at which they were conducted. Local government elections must be declared at the local government, and ward elections at ward levels. We will insist that these laws are followed to the letter.
As a foundational member of APC, what gains would you say, Nigeria has made with APC and Buhari in Power?
Before the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, the international community has written Nigeria off as a country where you cannot comfortably do business; that is no longer the case. Again, in 2014 and 2015, Boko Haram captured some parts of Nigeria and occupied it by force but this is no longer true of course, but for some bushes and and villages..
But Nigerians have continued to argue that herdsmen attacks, bandits, etc in most parts of the country have replaced the Boko Haram insurgency.
It is not true, let me be frank with you, if you look at the activities of these herdsmen, bandits, and what have you, you will realise that as a result of the constant bombardment and dismantling of the insurgents, they could no longer launch a coordinated attack.
They are the ones that are disguised as these killers. This government is committed to dealing with these issues and in my opinion, the panacea to these problems is to allocate more resources to the third tier of government so that funds can get to the man at the grassroots.
Just like Tradi Moni, money need to get to the grassroots and give the people the power to help themselves because people that could not get five thousand naira could get ten thousand and even have access to a million naira at zero interest rate.
What do you make of this intent to increase VAT from 5% to 7.2% by the Buhari-led government?
There is a law in place, and the VAT still remains five percent, but the responsibility now lies with the National assembly to ensure that unnecessary burden is not transferred on the Nigerian people.
The proposed increase should be weighed against the purchasing power of most Nigerians; the Federal Government should be more focused on improving the purchasing power of most Nigerians before any VAT would be imposed.