Desmond Mgbo, Kano
Dr Rabiu Suleiman Bichi was the Secretary to the Kano State Government during the administration of Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Immediately before the 2015 general elections, he emerged as the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Kano, leading the party to the historical governorship contest in which they were clearly ahead, until the re-run polls that upturned their lead. He believes that their mandate was stolen in broad daylight and gives reasons why they are unsatisfied with the verdicts of both the tribunal and recently, the appeal court. He opens up on a lot of issues in this interview.
The Appeal Court sitting in Kaduna has confirmed the judgement of the tribunal on the election of Dr. Abdulahi Umar Ganduje as the governor of the state. What is your reaction to the re-validation?
If we talk of it as re-validation, it means that we have already agreed on what had been done….it is just that they have affirmed what was on their minds. Anybody who had witnessed what happened at the tribunal and also at the general elections knows that there was no governorship election in Kano State. Apart from that, I remember that you the pressmen, were the first causalities. Those in the media, they were attacked and their equipment were destroyed. So, there was no election. Yet, the tribunal decided to look the other way. I repeat that there was no election in Gama Ward.
Also, this 268 or is it 288 polling units that were cancelled were cancelled at the state collation centers and the law says that you can only cancel elections at the polling units, not at any other place. But they looked the other way. We took it up with the Appeal court to see reasons and then interpret the law as it has been provided. But still, they looked the other way and decided to back up what the tribunal did. So, I cannot call what has happened a re-validation. I can only say that they have set a precedent……… If you could recall, even the international observers adjudged Kano’s elections as the worst. They cited so many reasons to back up their position. In fact, they have over 27 pages in which they showed so many irregularities which would have led to the cancellation of that election. Yet, the tribunal did that. I watched what happened during the proceedings; I was there physically and normally, they quote a case similar of what happened elsewhere in the course of the proceedings. Now, this has become a precedent- somebody would now go and quote Abba versus Ganduje.That is my greatest concern about this judgement, both at the tribunal and also at the Appeal court. I hope that when we get to Supreme Court, since these things have been done the wrong way, they would look critically at it and come up with a sound judgement.
Are we already at the Supreme Court in this case or we are on our way?
There is a time frame which you have to file your case. We have already given a notice of appeal that we are going to the Supreme Court and so we have to prepare our case before we get there.
You are confident things might happen in your favour at the Supreme court?
Obviously, we are confident. Not only us. I tell you that everybody who is looking for the truth will be confident that these things would be turned around. As I told you, it is for prosperity. Now, when somebody started quoting, “Abba versus Ganduje” as his case of reference, then there is a problem in this country when it comes to elections. If I know that I am losing election, I will just go and cause mayhem, beat up everybody, take away the election materials, destroy them and be declared the winner. If the people have to go this way, then there is no need for election in this country.
Looking beyond Kano, how would you assess some of the recent elections- Bayelsa, Kogi – that have taken place across the country?
Like every other person, I will say that democracy is under trial in Nigeria today. This APC’s government is not ready to entrench proper democracy. You will recall that during the PDP administration of President Yar Adua, he conceded…… he knew that there were so many things that were wrong with the electoral process and he set up a Committee under a Supreme court judge, Justice Uwais; they came up with profound reforms which everybody accepted that these reforms would lead to the emergence of a fair and credible election. And it happened. A sitting president complied with all the requirements of the electoral law to ensure that there was a proper election, which was free and fair for everybody to see. He lost the election and he admitted that he lost that election. But look at it now…. the National Assembly had proposed about 8 or 16 electoral reform bills and took them to Mr President for his assent.The moment he, the President, refused to give assent, I knew that APC was up to something. These are practical cases for improving our electoral process- to make it free, fair, open, transparent and everything. Because those reforms that were proposed by the National Assembly would make our election easier to conduct such that even at your home, one can cast his votes and you can see the results yourself. There would be no room for irregularities, but the president refused to assent to those reforms and there was no cogent reason for his refusal. I knew. Since then, I knew. I knew that APC was up to something, that they were going to rig the elections and they did. So, now we don’t have democracy. However, I hope that one day, some people would be so courageous enough to stand by the truth, to make sure that the right thing must be done. That time, we would agree that we would now have a free and fair elections which everybody would be happy about the outcome. But now, we are not happy with the election outcomes.
The PDP in Kano had suffered a number of defections prior to the general election because of grievances among members of the party. How far have you gone in the process of rebuilding your brand?
Let me be honest with you. Our focus is to concentrate and reclaim our mandate from the present occupant of the seat. That is all. We recognize that we had some internal problems within us. And in any case, each party has their own problems; even the APC has their own problems. Every day, mechanism is put in place to bring the members together to work as a family, as one unit. I remember that last two weeks, the National Chairman of the APC was suspended from his party. It is a continuous process. Here too, it is a continuous process. We are doing a lot to discuss with the aggrieved persons to see reason to stay on. But this kind of thing takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience and understanding. But for now, honestly, our attention and energy are solidly targeted towards reclaiming our stolen mandate. That one is something that would come maybe immediately after this.
Assuming- and this is just for the asking sake- assuming the Supreme Court would say today, let us have a fresh election in Kano State, how prepared are you when quite a number of your members are still not with you?
I am happy you asked this question. You have been in Kano for a very long time. You know the politics of Kano. We are ever ready in Kano as PDP, especially as PDP Kwankwassiyya. We won our elections and any day you put out the polling boots and a polling box, we would win our elections…unless, if you also decide to destroy the boxes, take away the ballot papers and write your own figures. But if you announce an election date and you come up with polling boxes, we are sure to win our elections in Kano. We are ever ready and I hope that even if the Supreme court is not going to declare us winners, they should say go back and contest another elections. We are ready.
But you can see that so far all fresh elections conducted in this era went to the APC. Are you still sure and optimistic you will like fresh elections?
We would try our best to make sure we win by hook, not by the crooked means. We would win by the provisions of the law.
One of the trending news in Kano State today is the annulment of the four additional emirate councils in the state. What do you make of the judgement?
The court has declared that the process that led to the creation of the emirates was wrong, so they based judgement on that and declared the emirates null and void. I stand by them.
No, they have initiated a fresh bill to the House which has taken care of the initial area of error.
You are even outdated. The House has already passed the bill. It is a done deal. They only work towards the answer. There is no question. They would take the bill and confirm what they had already done. I am also surprised that the government would honour the court judgement that favoured them like the tribunal judgement but they said that they would not honour this judgement. If they are true, since they have accepted the tribunal decision that favoured them, they should also accept this court decision that did not favour them.
Some students were recently sent abroad by the leadership of Kwankwasiyya. What is your vision in doing this?
Initially, when we came into government in 2011, we realized that we have issue of capacity. Our young men, some of them, they don’t have capacity to understand life – how it should be. They were not exposed. And secondly, there were many of them that were very intelligent but they didn’t have the opportunity like the sons of the elites and the well to do. Once you give them the opportunity, they would excel. Also, there were so many professions where we lacked the manpower in those areas. So, we addressed our capacity, and even their confidence. Our young men,they don’t have the confidence. They are always within a particular society and they believe that the world begins and ends where they are. We wanted them to go out and intermingle with the world. Let them see how things are done, they can have that confidence, they can communicate and they see the best practices elsewhere and bring it back home. And this is briefly the foundation why we introduced this programme and I am happy to say that we have achieved at least 90 percent of that objective by the time we left government. Look at it this way, by the time we left government, there were over 300 medical doctors, 100 pharmacists and almost 1400 masters degree graduates. These masters degree programme, the purpose was to provide enough manpower for our tertiary institutions and I am happy to tell you that when you go to Dutse(Federal University), all the lecturers, almost 80 percent was a product of this programme. Go to North West University, go to Katsina, infact go to ABU, Zaria. We have done to Nigeria, what no other government had done.
After you left government, you are still sending students abroad, what’s the motivation?
We have seen that it is a very good initiative, a very good programme. And since the government in the state does want this thing to continue, we don’t want this thing to die. In other climes, in other states in Nigeria, there are well spirited individuals that sponsor students for masters programme. And we feel as a Movement , we should not allow this beautiful programme to die.