From Gyang Bere, Jos
The immediate past Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Nuhu Ayuba Abok has expressed optimism that Nigeria will be greater under Atiku/Okowa as President in 2023. He noted that anyone who loves Plateau will reject APC and vote for Caleb Mutfwang, the 2023 governorship candidate of the PDP in the state.
As member of the Presidential Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), what do you think is the prospect of your party ahead of the 2023 elections?
Well, I will say that people trusted APC in 2015 because they wanted to have a new change with a new political party in power but sadly, APC ended up with the disappointment of the people of Nigeria; nothing tangible has been added on what the PDP government did, rather people are wallowing in pain, hardship and they have resolved to go back to the PDP, a political party that has been trusted. Therefore, by the grace of God, with the permission and support of the people of Nigeria, PDP is going to return to power in 2023 elections at all levels.
Do you think Atiku Abubakar, being the Presidential candidate of the party has the political clout to galvanize support across the six geo-political zones to win the next election?
Atiku is a political household name to people in Nigeria, he is not a stranger both in politics and in business in the country. Atiku has done well when it comes to issue of development and adding value to the business class and attracting positive and desired attention to issues that have engendered development to the benefits of average Nigerians. He has done well and we believe that this time around, and looking at his manifesto in the book he brought, “My covenant with Nigeria” if you read that book, you will know where Atiku Abubakar will drive Nigeria to in terms of economic, social and security development and I believe that Nigerians will trust him with their mandate to lead the country in 2023 by the grace of God.
He prides himself as a unifier, do you really see him as a unifier coupled with the unresolved issues in your party?
Of course, he is a unifier by what he has done in the past; Atiku is the only political player that has strong support base across the six political zones of this country; he has built bridges of love and friendship across all states. Atiku has a wife from the South East, he has one from South West and he has a wife from the North and he is also a Northerner and he has been very friendly with the people of North Central which you know that even in Plateau, he has a complete street to his name which is the most popular street in Rayfield, Jos. He is someone that loves relationship; he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the issue of religion and ethnicity. What he did when he was Vice President is still there for Nigerians to see; he brought the current Mobile Telecommunications, the GSM which all Nigerians are using today. He was the one who worked to bring on board people like El-Rufai, Okonjo Iweala; the economic team during the Obasanjo administration relied on his advice and that was why we had great achievements during that period. He has the heart of developing Nigeria and I believe that Nigerians won’t regret giving him their mandate. He believes in the unity of Nigeria and he wants Nigeria to remained as one indivisible nation.
Are you saying that the country will have credible and competent individuals who will work with Atiku if elected president?
Yes, we are full of potentials and we have hundreds of people who are ready to work to develop this country, for Atiku to continue to contest and re-contest the presidential seat; you should know that he has the country at heart, he is ready to move the country forward. If anyone comes to tell you that if he is given the leadership, he will turn things around immediately, he is telling lies but I know that Atiku Abubakar will start from somewhere. His manifesto shows that he is ready to provide credible leadership and I am glad that Nigerians are ready to try him in 2023.
Do you think the choice of Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate was a popular choice?
For me, it was an excellent decision that Atiku Abubakar made; Okowa is a silent achiever, I have gone to Delta and I can testify what he has done. He has generated 8 Megawatt of electricity in his state and Delta people are only using 6 Megawatt while 2 megawatt was given to Power Holding Company; he has turned Asaba into a safe haven, the city has been remodeled like Abuja, yet he is not making noise about it. He built three universities within eight years and none of it has ever been on strike because he has provided all that is required for effective learning. His philosophy is that Nigeria is our home, it is the best country we have and we must do everything possible to secure the country for our people. You need to see the road network he has done in Delta State, if you go to Warri that used to be a zone of terrorists, it has been harnessed and rehabilitated into a haven. He replicated the Federal Secretariat Abuja in Delta and in doing all these, he has never come out to tell Nigerians this is what I have done, rather he is thanking the people for giving him an opportunity to serve as governor and that it is his responsibility to represent the people very well to his satisfaction. Besides that, Okowa is a God fearing person, he is an embodiment of humility and I believe he will help Atiku to develop Nigeria.
Do you think Okowa will add value to the PDP Presidential ticket in 2023?
Okowa has electoral value and he will contribute immensely to the success of the ticket. There are some Christians who wanted to protest the transition from Muslim government to Muslim government but because of the person of Okowa, they have embraced the ticket; they know that the Christians stand to benefit more under Atiku/Okowa presidency. We had an inter-faith programme recently and he attended himself; he values mutual relationship, he values seeing people working together in the interest of Nigeria’s unity; he will help Atiku to succeed.
Are you sure he can convince the Christians to vote for PDP in the next election in view of the support for PDP?
He has been interfacing with Christians across the country to explain why they should vote for Atiku. To be very sincere to you, Atiku is the choice, he loves peace, he is not a religious bigot. In 1999, he was picked as Vice Presidential candidate when he had already won his election but he insisted that his Deputy Governor, Boni Haruna would succeed him as the governor. Some people wanted him to re-conduct primaries so that a Muslim will emerge as the governorship candidate but he declined; he said it was not all about religion or ethnicity but about productivity and so many Christians believe in this ticket. I am a Christian and I believe in the ticket and most Christians have taken a decision to support Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa ticket in 2023. Christian youths in Northern Nigeria came up with a communique that they are going to support Atiku, therefore, I know that Christians have bought in the Atiku ticket; it is not an issue of religion or ethnicity but what we want to but how we can move out from the present mess that the APC has brought us in.
You are the convener of interfaith programme across the 19 Northern states; how successful was that programme?
We have achieved a lot, we have had series of meeting with the Youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria; we have had also a lot of meetings in the Northern parts of the country with youths, and the last meeting we had included our Muslim brothers and the communique is not different from our previous meetings where it was resolved to support the candidature of Atiku/Okowa in 2023. Christian youths have agreed, Muslims youths have also agreed to work for Atiku Abubakar. The youth said enough is enough, we want to live together in one Nigeria; the issues of religion and ethnicity should be put aside to forge ahead with one indivisible Nigeria. So, the interface is yielding so much result. We have interfaced also with the Church elders and told them why we are going to support the ticket of Atiku/Okowa presidential bid in 2023 and they reason with us because we believe in someone that will unify the country.
You have Caleb Mutfwang as the PDP governorship candidate, do you believe he can wrestle power in the state in 2023?
I am convinced that leadership is given by God but I am telling you that the choice of Caleb Mutfwang is the best thing that has happened to Plateau State, he possesses the leadership quality that Plateau needs at the moment. When you sit down with him, you will understand the pain Plateau State is going through and how he intends to drive the state out of the current economic hardship, poverty and the state of insecurity. Anybody who loves Plateau State will hate the present administration because it has not added value to the state in anyway, rather it has drawn back the state. The administration of Governor Jonah David Jang did very well, you can see, touch and feel the developmental strides of his administration. We are witnesses to infrastructural development, human capital development and anything that has moved Plateau State forward but instead of the Lalong’s administration to build on this development, it has brought us backward without any single development. This is a state President Muhammadu Buhari will end his eight years in office without coming to cut a tape in commissioning a single project to his credit. During the era of Jonah Jang, I remember President Goodluck Jonathan came to Plateau five to six times to commission projects but the present government has no single project that Buhari will come and commission, but they have increased the debt profile of the state, this is shameful. I believe that Mutfwang will be the next governor of Plateau State by the grace of God and he will defend and work in the interest of the citizens. I don’t know where APC will get their votes in Plateau; people are disenchanted with their deceit and inept leadership; Plateau people will not make the mistake of bringing back APC again, it is a political party that nobody should be thinking of it as we move ahead of the 2023 election. Look at the bad nature of our roads, if you are coming from Abuja to Jos, you will hate APC government because they have not done anything. Can you imagine the level of kidnapping that is going on in our state; members of the House of Assembly have been fighting when it comes to the issue of insecurity that the governor must do something; there was killing in Bokkos and the governor is not even around; he is not bothered about what is happening in Bokkos, to him those people are not important. So how do you think we should bring back the government of APC into power, we will never repeat that mistake again, we are returning to where we came from and that is the PDP; by the grace of God, Caleb Mutfwang is going to be our next governor.
Do you think Caleb Mutfwang has the political courage and will to correct the mistakes of the APC government?
Of course, he posses the leadership qualities, he has been tested and trusted as local government chairman. Recently, he had a meeting with former governors and critical stakeholders of the party in Plateau and the endorsement is overwhelming. Although nobody knows it all but Mutfwang has a listening ear, he listens to advice and put it into use. Mutfwang will raise the bar of leadership and governance in Plateau. At that stakeholders meeting, Governor Okowa was present and for him to have initiated that meeting, it shows that Plateau will have it very good because everybody will be on board. He will win and succeed in developing this state; he will change the fortunes of this state, I assure you of that.
You were Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly under APC, what made you return to the PDP?
Sincerely speaking, I was in PDP in 2015, I was the coordinator of the then PDP Governorship candidate, late GNS Pwajok and I never regretted supporting him. He was a governor that never was and Plateau will continue to miss his person. In 2017, my local government in Jos East was in APC and my people felt I should come to APC and contest House of Assembly because then and not now, my people were favourably in APC thinking we will join the government and add our value in solving the needs of the people at various rural communities but when we got in, we were disappointed because the governor does not have a listening ear. He wasn’t willing to associate with members of the House of Assembly and that is why the crisis that erupted in the legislative and the executive arms lasted long. He wasn’t willing to listen to members of the House who are saddled with the responsibility of making laws for the state, particularly on issues of insecurity. When we advised him, he will not listen and it got to a point that the killings in the state were alarming. You would pass laws but the governor is not even in the state to give assent to those laws; therefore, I got disappointed with the party and I left to PDP because it disappointed the people of Plateau State.
It was rumoured that you left the APC because of the killings that were going on in the state, how true is that?
Yes, I have said a lot on this. There have been killings throughout this week in Bokkos and some parts of Barkin-Ladi but the governor has not gone to see the people. The governor doesn’t care about the souls that are being killed on daily basis in the state and that is how the APC operates; they don’t care about what is affecting the people. Let me tell you, he will never go to visit Bokkos people concerning the last killings and that is what brought the fight between me and him. It started with the killings in Bassa and the one in Yalwa Zangam and the passersby in Gada biu. We wanted him to be mature in handling the situation but he refused but when I ordered Plateau people to defend themselves and that became a problem between me and him, he said he will remove me as Speaker even with two people and he has done his worse. I am glad that I did what is expected of a Plateau person and I will continue to stand by Plateau citizens anywhere I find myself.