A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Basheer Garba Umar has said if democracy remains a game of numbers, the north will always determine who becomes Nigeria’s president in any election. He alleged that scam has crept into the handling of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, and suggested that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on coronavirus be probed. According to him, “When we said power can be retained in the north forever, we are referring to numbers. If democracy is a game of numbers the north can continually find its way to retain the Presidency.”
Umar was the National Coordinator, Buhari Mass Movement (BMM), a non-governmental organization that campaigned for President Muhammadu Buhari’s elections in 2015 election and 2019. In this interview with NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna, the APC chieftain also spoke on other national issues.
Edo state governorship election is around the corner. As a chieftain of APC, do you think the party will win the election, considering intra party crisis between the sitting governor, Godwin Obaseki and the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole?
I can assure you that chances of APC will not be dimmed by the intra party crisis, moreover, things may well settle down before the election. Gov Obaseki bit the finger that fed him. He cannot present himself for election, only the party can do that. He deliberately refused to swear in 14 members of the State Assembly, duly elected members. That is more than half of the members of the Assembly. They all have their own people and will all surely work against the incumbent governor especially that the party has decided to conduct direct primaries. Popular candidate will emerge and I am sure Edo people will elect the popular candidate in the November 2020 election. However, it is a cheering news that the recent appointment of the National Secretary of the APC has now made the party bubbling once again. The National Secretary in person of Arc Waziri Bulama is a man of the people who just have the party at heart. I assure you, he (Bulama) along with other National Executives of the party will surely deliver us in 2023. You will see that all the intra party crisis will be a thing of the past as Arc Waziri Bulama is a good crisis manager who always stand for fairness and justice and whatever that will move our great party forward.
What is your assessment of the handling of COVID-19 by both the Federal and State Governments because many people believe that government officials and other agencies are making money out of it at the detriment of the health of the citizenry?
I believe the Presidential Task Force, PTF and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are not handling the issue of COVID-19 with sincerity. There is no transparency in all they do. They just succeeded in scaring people about coronavirus. You can see that so many people are fed up with the lockdown, we no longer follow the NCDC/PTF daily statistics because most of us now believe it’s a scam added to the coronavirus. We believe there is coronavirus, but somewhere along the line, something got wrong and we no longer trust the NCDC/PTF. In fact, I wish to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe all spending by NCDC/PTF, including the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs palliative. The truth is that, unfortunately, these agencies have lost credibility with the populace now and it is simply due to lack of transparency in the handling of the whole issues.
Do you see political power leaving the north in 2023, considering the fact that some key leaders are drumming support for a northern candidate whom they believe may do better than President Buhari?
You raised two issues here; power remaining in the north and a candidate that may do better than President Muhammadu Buhari. I think political calculation that is going on now may fairly allow for power shift to the South, where in the South may be the area of contention. However, it is more favourable to the South West in the APC, other issues may arise, but when we get to the bridge we shall know how to cross it. It will only be gentlemanly to allow the power shift, given the kind of support they (south west) gave the APC in both 2015 and 2019 elections.
The key leaders from the north that you are referring to in your question, I am not sure if they have electoral value. Certainly, we are expecting the next President to do better than President Buhari in the sense that he will build on what the PMB regime achieved and move Nigeria to the upper level. Another President surpassing the achievement of PMB is the desire of every Nigerian, he should build on what has been achieved on the economy, security, agriculture and many other areas, and taking us to the upper level.
President Buhari has spent five years in office, and some Nigerians have described the time as wasted years, full of hardship and insecurity. What is your reaction?
Well, I don’t consider the five years of this regime as wasted years. I am a Nigerian. So many other Nigerians share my view as well. There may be hardship and insecurity in some areas but that is not enough to simply say the five years are wasted years. There are achievements in many areas such as agriculture, education, health and development of infrastructures all over the country. Look at development of the railways, see road constructions in many parts of the country. If the past administration before this government, judiciously used our resources in the development of our infrastructures etc, this administration would have only added on that but everything was squandered. I assure you before the end of this second tenure so many Nigerians will see the goodies of good governance. In terms of security, the north east is now relatively calm. The military is up and doing in tackling the problems in Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara and Niger states. It will be a thing of the past, God willing.
The leader of Fulani socio-cultural group, Miyetti Allah, Abdullahi Bodejo, has proposed 100,000 vigilantes of Fulani extraction across the country. What do you say about that?
I believe security is the business and duty of government. I am not in support of any security outfit outside that of the state. My organization, Buhari Mass Movement, had several years ago written to Mr. President on the need to create Community Police nationwide. Although we have seen government intention in that direction, we sincerely call again for the establishment of Community Police. This will go a long way in providing security and end agitation for all these vigilante groups. I wish to further call on the government to massively recruit more men into the Nigeria Army, Navy, Air force, Police and Civil Defence. The present numbers are grossly inadequate. If this is done, it will also reduce youth unemployment. However, I want to add here that the entire statement credited to Miyetti Allah leader is his personal opinion. I remember when former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was in power, someone from South south and another from South East said power will never be back to the north. That was wishful thinking.
When we said power can be retained in the north forever, we are referring to numbers. If democracy is a game of numbers the north can continually find its way to retain the Presidency.
Many Nigerians are worried that several projects, especially roads construction and rehabilitation, embarked upon by this regime are going at a very slow pace. What is your advice to the authorities concerned?
I wish to call on President Buhari to as a matter of urgency direct our anti- corruption agencies to probe what is happening to the construction of Abuja- Kano road and many other road projects. The Lagos- Ibadan railway, Lagos-Kano railway, Port Harcourt- Maiduguri railway should be hastened as this will further ginger the economy.
The various social intervention programmes of the government should be strengthened and widened to reach all parts of the country. The Baro Port is another disturbing issue. The President was deceived into commissioning a project that was not near completion. All infrastructures there are not fixed. I urge the President to carefully follow development of Baro Port construction and probe all anomalies. Somebody somewhere is deceiving us on Baro Port just as we were deceived on the Mambila Hydro power project. I wish to commend the Minister of Power for the completion of Kashambila power project and the Kudenda power project in Kaduna. I equally call on him to put more efforts on the Mambila Hydro power project.
Kaduna PDP is in crisis, following the suspension of its key members over alleged anti-party activities. Don’t you think it is an advantage for APC having a weak major opposition party ahead of 2023 general elections?
I can tell you without mincing words that PDP has since been buried in Kaduna state. Their crisis is only adding sand on the grave. Kaduna is an APC state, and we have no doubt on winning elections. The opposition is not only weak but almost non-existent. Added to that, the APC government is performing in delivering the dividends of democracy in revamping the education sector infrastructure, roads, health facilities etc.