Former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Katsina State, and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Lawal Rufa’i in this interview, reviews the APC administration in the country since 2015 among other issues.
After 16 years occupation of the Katsina Government House, why do you think the PDP lost the governorship election to the APC in 2015?
In 2007, former governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema inherited from former governor Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua, a Katsina PDP where all the elected positions were from the PDP, 100 per cent. But by 2011, we started losing some seats to various other political parties and that was a time when some people started feeling aggrieved, alleging certain forms of marginalisation in the party and they started joining other political parties. In fact, it was a herculean task for us winning the governorship election that year. But we eventually won and from there, we continued up to 2015 when we lost everything. We lost all the positions, governorship, House of Assembly, National Assembly positions, all went to the APC.
There were internal reasons peculiar to the PDP which played a major role in what we saw in 2015. Apart from that, there was also the Buhari popularity here in the North. The PDP did very well in Katsina and everybody felt that it was a party to beat then. But some members were apparently treated wrongly and some of them vowed that they would not support the PDP. They did not even join the APC. These are some of the factors and issues that played major roles which led to the defeat of the PDP. The summary of it was that the PDP members worked against the party, it was an internal issue and the APC took over.
Yes, Buhari was popular then and we also accept that he is from Katsina State. But the main thing was lack of public relations between the party structure and PDP members. Internal democracy was lacking because of the choice of who became what. The Buhari election in Katsina was different from the gubernatorial election. Almost 90 per cent of the Katsina people voted for Buhari in 2015. But during the gubernatorial election, the PDP figures appreciated so much to the extent that one thought the figures from the previous presidential election were wrong. There were top politicians from the PDP who worked against the party. Some of them felt they were not carried along and that they were cheated. Some of them had tried to secure elective positions but they were pushed aside for one reason or the other and through government influence too.
Are there measures now in place to check such tendencies from re-occurring as we approach 2023?
If the PDP desires to come back as a party to be reckoned with, then it has to put its house in order to remain relevant in 2023. But, unfortunately certain issues that played against the party when we were in power are still coming up now. Some people in the party still feel some other members are not relevant in playing certain key roles in the affairs of the party. In fact, in 2019, the PDP lost more of its members because of clear cases of dictatorship. The process of selecting various persons for elective positions were marred by so many irregularities and unnecessary manipulations and dishonesty. I think the PDP needs to sit up and look at these things because true democracy cannot work properly in a selective process and we cannot have good leaders from bad politics.
How do you compare development of Katsina State during the PDP era and that of the current APC administration?
There are fundamental differences. When you want to compare the PDP government with that of the APC, you have to take into consideration that their focuses were different. The PDP ruled Katsina when the state was still relatively new. The PDP focused so much on infrastructural development. Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Ibrahim Shehu Shema did a lot to bring Katsina to the level it is today in terms of infrastructural development and provision of certain basic social amenities. That process produced an army of politicians who felt left out and desired that there should be a different approach from that of the PDP. The APC approach came to focus on the politicians themselves. Those who were complaining about the PDP government exploited that gap. But the big difference is that the APC lost focus right from the beginning because there are certain things you must consider when you are starting a new government, for progress. The APC came with a mindset which they did everything possible to implant in everybody and that is, that the PDP was completely and absolutely bad in all ramifications. That nothing was good in the PDP and they had nothing to emulate from the PDP. But governance is different. The first thing the APC ought to have done was to identify what was good in the previous administration and continue with it. Find what is fair and fine une it, find what is bad and throw it out. This process paves way for continuity. That posture made the APC to think it was starting Katsina from day one of the creation of the state. That is why they had a problem of what to do and from where to start. That is what derailed the APC administration in Katsina State. When you do not have a good foundation, it takes you time to find your bearing. So, the act of governance was handled with a fire brigade approach. Whatever confronts us, we do it right now and tomorrow you wake up to find that it is not good enough. They had problems with planning.
Some argue that there was money when the PDP administration was in place, hence. the party got a lot of money from the Federal Government to execute some of the projects unlike now? What would you say on that?
Governance has its problems at every stage. There was money when the PDP was in power but then, there were so many things to do. Agreed the APC does not have the kind of money the PDP had but the PDP had already done a lot in the state. It would have been just a matter of building on what the PDP did if they had looked at governance from that aspect. That’s why they are always saying that there is no money to do this or that. But they have money to have continued with this or that project from the PDP administration. The issue is the approach.
So, what do you consider the chances of the PDP regaining Katsina State in 2023?
The PDP in Katsina has beautiful chances in 2023 if they sit up and manage themselves very well. But currently, there is bad leadership and bad politicking in the party. Some actions are being taken that do not go down well with many stakeholders and some other staunch party members. It is very important that they look at those issues, resolve them and ensure that the party gets well prepared before the 2023 general elections. Honestly, if you think that people still elect political parties in Katsina, you are wasting your time. People now look at the candidates that they are going to elect; they no longer look at your political party. It does not really matter whether APC or PDP, if you do not carry the people along, if it is not open with internal democracy for everybody to feel involved, they will perform below that of the 2019 election. If the PDP continues this way, it may not even win any counsellor positions in the state. You don’t decide who should be what simply because you are at the leadership position. A political party is an an avenue for everybody to come in and participate actively in the affairs of the party. They need to be open, transparent and honest and allow the people to get involved so that you carry everybody along. You cannot play politics of exclusion and expect people to support you.
Will the Buhari factor still be relevant in the APC in 2023?
The Buhari myth has already fizzled out. How many people in Nigeria today still believe what they believed about Buhari in 2015? Nigerians have now come to realise that seeing is believing. They have seen, they have heard and they have felt it. We are here, we know the kind of mindset that the people had concerning the APC and its candidates. Who are you in Katsina to have spoken against the APC in 2015? Whatever they said was considered the religious truth. But they have since woken up to the realities of governance. People now doubt the capacity of the APC to manage the affairs of this country and take them to where Nigeria ought to be. People can say anything about governance until they come in and realise that it is not the same perception from outside. Politicians give people the impression they will take them to paradise but when they get there, they reverse their promises almost 100 per cent because they did not base their promises on realities on ground. You recall all manner of promises from the APC in 2015.