By Layi Olanrewaju
Former Minister of Youth and Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Kwara Central senatorial District. He hosted a select group of journalists at his GRA residence, Ilorin, where he spoke on his aspiration, state and national issues.
You just emerged Kwara- Central senatorial candidate of PDP through consensus, but to some politicians, the process that threw you up was undemocratic; what is your reaction to that?
It is democratic because the idea of democracy is about people having a say and agreeing on representation; that is the idea of democracy. When you say you give people a voice to decide, to choose, that is democracy, so when those people come together to decide that this is the person that we want and we are putting forward, so what can be more democratic than that. You get what I’m saying; the question was put openly, probably, do you all accept Bolaji Abdullahi as your candidates for the next election and everybody gave a roaring yes, so there was not a single voice of dissent. If there was a single voice of dissent, you would have been obliged to do an election, but everyone, not an exception; there was no second nomination, unanimously agreed that I would be their candidate. So, I think that is democratic enough and it is an accepted form of selection of candidates by all regulation of election.
With this your submission, why the rift at the national level among the two parties?
I cannot say I understand the full extent of the rift you’re talking about in the two parties, but what I know is that the definition of consensus, is that there is a unanimous position on an issue. Wherever there are voices of dissent no matter how minority those voices could be defined to be, they must be given the opportunity to have their say, in accordance with the regulation of the election but when there are no voices of decent, when no one is saying no, I’m not part of that, then you should not expect to have any rift as you call it. But the situation I think you are describing is when everyone is not on the same page in the mode of selection; so when everyone is not on the same page, it is difficult to talk about consensus, and the alternative to consensus is competitive primaries and we have also seen it happen in PDP. Here in our party in this state, some aspirants said no, we are not going to step down for one another; the party said go ahead and contest in the primaries; you could see what happened, competitive primaries was conducted in two House of representatives constituencies, and winners emerged. It is not as if we shut down the space for competitive selection process. I think the situation you describe happens when everyone is pulling in the same direction, and I also think in corollary to that; what we would all object to is imposition, where candidates are imposed on the party or the constituencies and the majority of the people don’t want this person, by whatever reason. If the leadership of the party now imposes a candidate against the will of the people, then that is undemocratic and those are the kind of situations that can cause a rift as you call it, but Alhamdulillah, we don’t have that kind of situation with regards to me, and our party believes that where consensus is not possible, then competitive primaries should be allowed as we demonstrated.
How difficult do you think the journey will be given the fact that your party was taken out not too long ago in Kwara here?
You said not too long ago but to us, it is like a thousand years ago; if you have been in power for 16 years, then you suddenly find yourself out of power, then you will know that one day can be a very long time.
You See what happened in 2019 was an aberration; it was not the normal flow of things, and we would be the first to tell you that we accept the responsibility for what happened in 2019. I think we got to a point we were not doing some things that we were supposed to be doing, things that have worked for us over the years; we appeared to have abandoned them and the people said no, so, we have learnt our lessons and we have come back but more importantly like someone said that in history, people have voted out a government they didn’t want and ended up with a government they didn’t need; that is the situation we have found ourselves in the last four years; we have seen things happen in the All progressives Congress which is the ruling party at the National level and at our state level, have taken this country to a level that we could not have imagined was possible some years ago; who could have thought that a time will come when I can’t get up here and say I’m going to Kaduna. You can’t get to Kaduna by Rail nor by road unless you have N25 million or so to pay to kidnappers; you can’t get there by air, so, how did we get to this point. You can look at the 16 years of PDP and say what did they do; we can say what we did over those years but what is going to give us the opportunity is that Nigerians have suffered a lot, but you know that Nigerians don’t like to suffer. What has happened in the last going to eight years is that Nigerians have suffered too much under the hands of these APC people and Nigerians are going to say enough, ‘our suffer head don do’. That is what is going to give us a chance, we have government here, we have someone who is a senator, all of you live in Kwara, you can tell us, do you think that what has happened in the last years is what you would expect as citizens in this state. I want to think the answer is no, so, what alternative do you have, someone asked a question earlier that what gives me the edge over the gentleman that is currently occupying the seat, I said look, experience is everything. I was the only one who started as a special assistant, a special Adviser, a commissioner and was a federal Minister and a National officer of a ruling party, that is a robust portfolio of experience. That can’t be matched by any of them and you say those are your experience, what did you do with them, I can tell you what I did with my experience over the years that I have occupied those positions. I believe this is what stands me in a better chance than them and that is what I believe stands our party in a better chance than them because my party is fielding a quality candidate and I am that quality candidate.
Many people are of the opinion that your senatorial District this time has suffered a lack-lustre representation; if given a chance, what are you going to do to correct these years?
I will do what I’ve always done, which is to work harder than expected; if you were in this state when I was their special adviser, you would know how I work. I worked with many of you in those years, when I was the commissioner for education, how hard I worked in this state; when I was a federal minister for Youth development, you knew how hard I worked. So, I will simply do what I always do, I will work hard and take my job very seriously. There are two levels for a senator and a member of the House of Representatives. One level is the business of legislation and oversight, the second is the Business of community development; so you cannot do one and leave the other, you have to do both. If you like, you can do a thousand legislations in Abuja, if you don’t help your own people, it is like you have not done anything, and if you help your own people and all you do is to help them, and you are not giving quality representation at the national level, your people will still suffer all the same. So, you have to be able to balance the two and I think this is what my experience has prepared me for, the ability to do that.
There have been cross-carpeting between the two major parties and others, what makes PDP better than APC? Secondly, you are not going to work in isolation, you are going to be subjected to the powers that be in your party; how are you going to weather the storm?
I will like to condemn the National assembly; when you are looking for politicians to blame, you blame the national assembly; they represent the people, they are the meaning of democracy. I’m not saying they have done everything they should have done over the years but what I am saying is that we have in the national assembly people who are passionate about this country, who believe the national assembly can be used to develop this country called Federal Republic of Nigeria. My hope is that I will be able to join them and other people too will join so that we will be able to form a critical mass. If out of 109 senators we have only 40 pulling in the same direction with progressive ideas, I believe the situation and the kind of image of national assembly will change.
Now to your question about what is the difference between the PDP and APC, I will tell you the difference. PDP is a party designed to be in power and to provide leadership while APC is a party designed to be in the opposition; PDP is not designed to be an opposition party, you can see how badly we performed as an opposition party. We are designed to be the ruling party. APC is designed to be an opposition party, you can see how badly they have performed as the ruling-party, so that is the difference.
As a former minister, what do you proffer as a solution to the insecurity situation in the country?
Well, I don’t think it is about political will, and I don’t have any evidence to say that there are moles within the security circle, because silence is interpreted to mean consent, I don’t have any evidence but what I know is that, it is a very complex situation. What I know is that if you look beyond your campaign on three things, if you vote for us, we will improve the economy, we will fight corruption, we will fight the problem of insecurity. As complicated as the situation of insecurity is, we know where we were in 2015; we know where we are now. Yoruba will say, ‘Orisa b’ole gbemi fimile b’ose bami’; these people have not only failed to solve the security problem as they met it, it is infinitely more complicated now than the time they were taking over. Ask me what are we going to do, I listen to people in the security circle, and they talk about the situation under which they operate, and the policing model which we have used in this country when we have a population of about 50-60 million people. It can’t work for a country with a population of about 250 million people, so, the policy template will have to change, and that is why I am fully in support of community policing. I’m in support of state police, some people believe that when there is state police, the governors will use them to oppress their opponents. We can make laws not for today but forever, and if we have fears that the governors will use them, we can build in the legislation that forms certain safeguards that ensure that state governors are not able to abuse it. But we cannot have the police system that will cover the entire country, and the gentleman sitting in Abuja as the inspector General of police, no matter how brilliant and committed he is, cannot be the only one that decides what happened in Nigerian policing. I believe the structure, security architecture, needs to be overhauled completely.
The issue of political power is another thing; one of the reasons we talk about that the government hasn’t done this is because they lack the political power. No, some of these things are not actually political power, it is just crass incompetence and I’m not saying that I have all the answers, or we can solve these things overnight; it is very complex, I’ll give you an example, how can someone say he has sent an AIG to a state where there is security problem but wasn’t sure if the AIG is in the state or not. I mean how do you explain that, what I’m saying is that some of these things could have been avoided. You heard the minister of transportation sometimes ago lamenting when the train was hijacked; he was saying that there was something he was asked to procure and that if he had procured them, maybe the incident wouldn’t have happened. We know it is a classic act of buck passing, but that gives you an insight into what is going on in that place.