The President, Arewa Youth Forum (AYF), Gambo Ibrahim Gunjungu has said that the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is anti-North and indeed working against the interest of the region for his 2023 presidential ambition. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on various issues and asserted that the APC will cease to exist after Buhari’s tenure.
After the tumultuous 2019 general elections, if you look back and reflect, how do you feel? Do you feel happy or angry?
It is just like we have gone back 30 years ago. Instead of improving from the experience of the 2015 general elections, we have gone backwards. We all agreed that the 2015 election was fair because even the former president, Goodluck Jonathan congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari before the announcement of the final results. From that point, there were high hopes in Nigeria because even Buhari promised and vowed that he would make sure he corrects the nation’s electoral process. He said he would do the best he could so that Nigeria would begin to have very free, fair and credible elections but surprisingly, the 2019 general elections have turned out to be the worst exercise we have had in this country since 1999 when democracy was reintroduced in the country. That is the summary of the 2019 elections.
Can you explain in specific terms, how the 2019 elections could be termed the worst since 1999?
Like in the Northern part of the country where I am, and presiding over the youth groups, we had a lot of information going on in various parts of the states. There were cases of ballot box snatching, using the security agencies. There were so many cases of rigging. If you remember, there was even an arrest of those carrying ballot papers, I was there in person even though they opened one of the ballot papers and said they were just specimen. So, we witnessed a lot of things in the form of rigging in the North West. The governors used their powers, security officials and thugs to rig the elections. It was even very open. The recent one is the issue of inconclusive elections by the APC government. Before the elections, people were already speculating that the government did not want the exercise to be held the same day so that it could afford them the opportunity to rig the isolated elections using the security officials and federal might. A typical example was the governorship election in Kano State. It was open and everybody saw it. Journalists were there and harassed while carrying out their duties. It was very embarrassing that the Commissioner of Police in Kano was supposed to be in charge of security in the state but you saw what happened; a DIG of Police was drafted to that place and the Commissioner was sent to another local government to supervise the election there. The Kano election was so embarrassing. The international community is watching Nigeria with regards to what happened in Kano and a lot of places.
You recently raised issues over the role of the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in trying to influence the leadership of the incoming National Assembly. Do you think that his role is not for the overall interest of the party?
The whole thing is very shameful. Though Tinubu made a statement yesterday (Sunday) countering my position in Premium Times that he is supporting Ahmad Lawan for Senate President and Gbajabiamila for Speaker just to support President Buhari’s choice but we are not foolish. We are now digital in our thinking. The point is that Lawan is his boy. We are all aware that Tinubu is working toward 2023. We believe that the North has not benefited from the Buhari government in the last four years. Even in the remaining four years, we are not yet sure whether we will benefit. We only have Buhari as the president but the South West people are those enjoying the government. Look at Babatunde Fashola and the ministries he is controlling; if they are going to control such places, we would say that for eight years, we were not benefitting anything. As for Tinubu, we understand his game; he is working toward 2023. Though he made a statement yesterday (Sunday) through his person in Premium Times that he is not doing it for 2023 but we understand the game. Let him leave the National Assembly to select their own leadership. It is their constitutional right to choose their leaders. The person agitating to be the Speaker is from Lagos; the vice president is from Lagos; the man in charge of FIRS is from Tinubu. What about North Central? The whole economy of the country is in Tinubu’s hands as his person is in charge of the Federal Inland Revenue Service. We do not have any problem with that but let him understand that we have come of age and we understand his plans. He wants to control the government.
But you went to the extreme by saying that the former Lagos governor is anti-North; how can you say that when without him, President Buhari could not have been president in 2015? Do you think you are fair to him?
The year 2015 is in the past. What about 2019 general elections? What votes did he bring to Buhari?
Are you saying that he did not support Buhari in 2019?
He supported Buhari financially, or in which aspect are you talking about?
Tinubu still influenced a lot of votes for Buhari
I hope you have the statistics of the votes, which Buhari got. Would you say that what Buhari got is what he expected from Lagos? Tinubu’s influence is going down. Let him understand that and that he should not try to be in control of the National Assembly. It is ok that he helped in the merger that birthed the APC but let him not take charge of the National Assembly. We are not looking at Buhari as only a Northerner; our position is that they should allow the National Assembly to elect their leaders. If Tinubu continues with this Ahmad Lawan agitation, we will declare him as anti-North and we will wait for him in 2023 if only he is planning to contest. It is very simple. 2023 is around the corner and we know all his consultations. We will wait for him.
One of the conspiracy theories before the 2019 elections was that of an understanding between Buhari and Tinubu; that he (Asiwaju) will take over from the President in 2023
That understanding and agreement would not work. When you look at the statements from the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, what is happening in the North and the country in terms of insecurity, Buhari cannot say his agreement with somebody or group will be binding on the North. This is not 2015. We are talking about 2023. I do not think Buhari will have that power. By 2023, the APC would have gone because APC is Buhari and when he leaves, the party is gone. If Buhari has an agreement with Tinubu, do you think that Tinubu will come and campaign in the North in 2023? I can assure you that in 2023, the APC will be gone. It will go with Buhari when he leaves. Yes, Tinubu can enter into any agreement or understanding with anybody but this is not a military regime; it is a democracy.
Don’t you think the South West would feel betrayed by the North if they do not support a Yoruba candidate considering that the zone (South West) supported a candidate of Northern extraction against Jonathan, a Southerner in 2015?
That is the gentleman’s thinking. In 2015, yes we agree that the South West merged with the North but our argument is only one my brother. In the North, we know that politically, South West is our friend but our only argument is that they have already taken the Lion share of the national cake. Look at Fashola. Look at the vice president. Look at Fowler. Look at all the juicy appointments that the South West has. They have taken them all. Economically, the South West is richer than all the other regions. That is the reality. But look at us in the North now, our economy is down; there is insecurity; you cannot drive from Kaduna to Abuja, from Kaduna to Kano and anywhere. There is hunger everywhere in the North and that is our main argument. If Buhari will now concentrate and boost the economy of the North, maybe, the North will support any agreement the President reached with anybody or group but if he fails to do that, I am very sorry that the North will not honour any agreement.
The counter-argument here would now be that if Buhari fails to deliver democracy dividends to the North, the South should not be blamed for that; the thinking is that the North has taken its turn and should allow power move to the South. Is it not a fair rationalization of the situation?
That is the argument of the APC and I have told you that the APC is not going to be a political party after 2023. There are a lot of political parties. We have the PDP and other political parties. We will rally round other political parties. The APC will not be there for life.
Many believe that being very politically sophisticated, the North is already planning to dump the APC in 2023 to achieve a selfish agenda, hence, prominent Northerners are already flying the kite that power will remain in the North. Do you agree?
For now, it is too early to answer that question on the political calculation but I know that if Buhari plays his cards very well and improves our economy, revatilise our industries, improve our infrastructure and so on, APC may go beyond 2023. But like I have said, Buhari is APC and APC is Buhari. So, my analysis is that if Buhari goes in 2023, he will go with the soul of the APC. Maybe, it is something that God has ordained; it is not the calculation of the Northerners. You and I know that by 2023, the PDP will be stronger and if the PDP fields a Northerner, they will support him because this is democracy.
The killings in the North are getting out of hands. From your vantage position, is there any end in sight? What is actually the root cause of all of these?
I think it is bad governance that is the problem. One has to hold the president responsible because I remember before the 2015 general elections, Buhari asked what is Boko Haram, what are the bandits and that in a few months, he would end the scourge. I believe in what late Gen Abacha said that if this kind of banditry continues for 24 hours, there is the hand of the government in it. So, it is bad governance. People are hungry. Like in the Northern part of the country, I remember vividly that in 2010 during late Umaru Yar’Adua’s government, I organized a public lecture about kidnapping; it was on how to sensitise people from primary, secondary schools to tertiary institutions. I was looking at it then that kidnapping was taking place in other places in the country and that if that vice started in the North, it was going to be worse because we do not have the oil and other resources. I remember that the governors were there. I predicted it and this is exactly what is happening in the North. So, the first issue is bad governance and secondly, it is political also. There is an element of politics in the killings. The issue of international dimension to the killings, of course, we are thinking of that. It is just like the Inspector General of police asking the miners to leave Zamfara State. That is a very good strategy because scientifically, you know what is happening. If there is wealth in a place, people could generate crisis there so that the attention of people will not go there. The problem is that the Federal Government is weak. Take for example in Zamfara; when the state governor said he was no more in control of the security of the state, why not declare a state of emergency there? That would show seriousness. Drop all your Service Chiefs because they have failed to deliver. That again is a show of weakness on the part of government. That is what we are expecting that the government would do; take a proactive action but he did not do it. That is why we are blaming the Federal Government. If a kidnapper will kidnap somebody and engage in a telephone conversation for ransom, why can’t we track such a person? Why don’t we have the technology to track the culprits? So, we are sitting on a time bomb in the country. As I am talking to you now, I am on my way to Kano and I do not know what may happen in one or two kilometers ahead of me.
On the incoming National Assembly leadership, is your organization supporting anybody. Many would think that somebody or group is sponsoring you to criticise Tinubu and those supporting Lawan and Gbajabiamila. Is the position of your group just for the public good?
If I have somebody in mind, I would mention the name of the person but we are talking about what affects us in the North. Let Tinubu not interfere with the affairs of the National Assembly. If the Senate leadership is zoned to the North East, then he should allow the North East governors and caucus to decide who is going to represent them. Everybody knows the relationship between Lawan and Tinubu. Everybody knows Tinubu; he wants to hijack the 9th National Assembly. The information we are having truly is that when he gets the Senate President through Lawan, the wife would now become the Deputy Senate President. We do not have problems with Tinubu but let him allow people of the North East to pick the person that would be the next Senate President. Let him allow the constitution with regards to the election of the leadership of the National Assembly to work. Don’t forget that since all these have been happening, the National Assembly members-elect of the PDP have been silent and the APC cannot get the president without the support of the PDP. What we are doing is constructive criticism so that the government would do the right thing. For instance, everybody knows that the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is Tinubu’s boy. Our own concern is that Tinubu should remove his hands from the issue of the leadership of the National Assembly. We do not have anybody in mind but we want the right thing to be done.