Kano State governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is an ardent supporter of President Muhammad Buhari. Indeed, before the President declared his intention to run for a second term, Ganduje was in the forefront of those who were mounting pressure for the president to throw his hat again into the ring for the 2019 presidential election.
In this interview, Ganduje offerred reasons the governors are rooting for Buhari’s second coming, saying that they are already making frantic efforts to deliver millions of votes to his favour in their various states . Excerpts:
Sir, we already have an Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Studies in Kano, but today, you just set up a board for the establishment of a similar centre in honour of the late Maitama Sule. Don’t you think that this centre for the advancement of democracy would be a duplication?
Thank you very much for this very important question. The reason behind the proposed establishment of the committee, is to give us a proposal as a government for the establishment of the Centre for the Advancement of Politics and Democratic Governance in Nigeria. The objective is in order to immortalize the name of the late Yusuf Maitama Sule. Certainly, there is another centre for the late Mallam Aminu Kano. And if we look at the history of the two giants in the development of politics and pursuance of democracy in Nigeria, you will notice that they veered into politics almost at the same time. Also, they both actively participated in the demand for independence from the colonial masters. They belonged to different political parties during their struggle. To this extent, establishing another centre is not too much for a state like Kano and for Nigeria, which is in dire need of democratic ideals, if you follow what is happening at the moment. So, that is the idea behind it. Miatama Sule was a great man. He had rare opportunities, which very few of them had in this country, some of whom are no more, who were able to work with the colonial masters. Also, he worked with the first military Head of State, including all other military Heads of State. He worked, with all the democratically elected presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not necessarily working as a public servant, but at the same time through free accessibility he was able to dialogue, and even advised almost all of them, who benefited from his pieces of advice, including the colonial masters, as well as the current administration. So, you can see that he was a rare individual, who reigned for a pretty long time, while a lot of people benefited from his experiences in politics and governance, benefitted from his experiences in ethical issues, his experiences in public relations and his transparent honesty. So, we should not allow all his outstanding qualities to wither away. We believe that we should as a matter of priority document his ideals, foresight, vision and what he stood for to enable current and future generations to benefit from his fountain of knowledge by establishing the centre. Apart from immortalizing his name, the centre would be useful for politicians and those involved in governance. That is why it is desirable to establish the centre.
Already, there is this fear that the 2019 elections would be violent due mainly to public outcry on poverty, starvation, dwindling economic fortunes and poor leadership. What role do you think the proposed centre would play to calm down frayed nerves?
Well, I do not believe that the forthcoming 2019 general elections would hit the rocks because we are learning and whatever mistakes that are being made are corrected along the line. However, the proposed centre would encourage our politicians to play to the ethics of politics. You should also note that the system is being refined from time to time and we believe that having this type of centre, a lot more politicians would learn from past experiences and that is what we are envisaging at the moment.
In the public domain, it is widely believed that some governors influenced the re-election declaration by President Buhari and you are known to be in this vanguard. Why did you push him to seek re-election?
Certainly, some of us for a pretty long time acted positively in order to persuade President Buhari to seek a second mandate because we believe that the president is a very honest leader. Mr President believes in the constitution of Nigeria. Mr President believes in political parties, as an institution and Mr President made it abundantly clear during his electioneering campaign that he would wage war against corruption despite making it clear that corruption would also fight back. He made it clear that he would improve security in the country, check insurgency, as well as improve the economy of the country. These three cardinal issues are very important. However, let me take you quickly on each of the issues. First of all, at the hey days of Boko Haram, during the previous administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, probably you might not have felt safe, even to attend a gathering held at Government House because you would be afraid of bomb blast here and there. You would recall that in one day, over 250 people were massacred here in Kano, eight police stations were bombed, many policemen were killed, many innocent people were killed, bomb blast in the mosque, church and motor parks, bomb blast in the market, bomb blast wherever people were gathered. I am sure in those days, if I request you to go to Maiduguri, no matter how much I will pay, you would not want to go! Is it the same story today? It is not the same story. Even though we have challenges of kidnapping, armed robbery, farmers clashes. Of course, even in advanced countries, insurgency is very difficult to combat, but Mr President has reduced it to more than 80 per cent. There was a time, the majority of the local government areas in Borno State were in the hands of insurgency. Today, no single local government area is controlled by insurgents in Borno, Yobe and in Adamawa states. So, you can notice that he has defeated insurgency. And from what is happening now, we believe that it would be stamped out because the first thing he did was to re-organize the military. The second thing he did was to provide them with standard equipment. Also, he undertook a tour of the neighboring countries to seek their cooperation. He was in Cameroun, Chad Republic, Niger Republic to solicit their cooperation, so that their territories would not be used for insurgency. Also, a conference was held in Paris to get international communities to intervene. So, we can say without fear of contradiction that what became impossible during Jonathan’s administration was made possible by Buhari. The Chibok girls that were abducted during Jonathan’s administration have regained freedom as quick reaction is synonymous to recovery of the girls. It took a long time, without any action and initially, the previous administration did not even believe that the girls were kidnapped. They were insinuating that it was the handwork of the opposition. Subsequently, they realized that the girls were kidnapped and up till they left office, no single girl was recovered. But with the coming of Buhari, many of them have been recovered. Look at the Dachi girls and because of his swift action and commitment, he recovered almost 99 per cent of the girls. So, can you compare the previous administration and the current in terms of fighting insurgency? No way. Now, let us take the issue of corruption, which is difficult to fight because we have the judiciary, legislature and the executive. In these three different arms of government, you need the cooperation of all of them. So you should understand the magnitude of the fight. If only corruption is limited to the executive, the legislature and judiciary are free from corruption, then you know that the journey is easy. So, that is the vicious circle. But equally the same, what is important is the will and commitment as well as pursuing it and the establishment of court for corruption is already in the pipeline. And many people have been apprehended, irrespective of their political affiliation. Already, there are some members of the APC, who have been unmasked as being corrupt and the government is investigating. And it is the same, with other political parties. However, the most important thing is reforming the system, building institutions, with consciousness of anti-corruption, that in itself is sanitizing the system and I beliee Mr President is on the right path. Now, coming to the economy, when the president came on board, he told us that unfortunately for the country, the oil money was on the downward trend in terms of the price of oil and the quantity that was produced. To this end, he drummed it into our ears that we have to go back to agriculture. He identified the problems of agriculture, ranging from corruption on the purchase and distribution of fertilizers, as the farmers were not getting the fertilizer, while a lot of subsidy was being spent, but currently the government does not spend a single kobo on subsidy on fertilizer, as it has created an economic environment, where fertilizer blending plant, with the cooperation of Morocco, as we are currently getting inputs from that country and fertilizer blending plants are producing, with the prices fixed. Like here in Kano, there is no problem of purchasing fertilizer, as we don’t pay a single kobo on subsidy and fertilizer is available and if you are searching trucks tonight, you can get it here in Kano. The government is encouraging the farmers, who are being provided with improved seeds and inputs to improve agriculture. Fiscal policy was adopted by stopping the importation of food items, like rice and wheat, as a way of encouraging farmers, even though the price of rice has gone a little higher, which is understandable. However, gradually when the competition increases, the prices would nosedive. So, you ask the farmers whether Buhari has some something or not.
Some elders, like former Heads of State, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida had asked Buhari not to re-contest. And T.Y. Danjuma reacted on the security situation in his area, indicting the military. Also, are you not disturbed that Buhari’s chances in 2019 may be slimmer than it was in 2015?
It would be bigger, his votes would be bigger. I assure you. But let me go back to the comments of two formers Heads of State and another elder statesman. They are very important personalities and highly respected in Nigeria. I will, therefore, not like to take them head-on. However, if you look at the antecedents of the two Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida ruled this country for nine years and at the end of it, he said he did not want to go. An election was conducted… a democratic president was elected and the election was cancelled. Has Muhammadu Buhari committed any political crime similar to that? Now, he wanted to continue, but he could not. And he had to introduce an Interim Government. And even his Interim Government was with a clause, which would make the military to come back again. That is in the event of any problem with the government, the most senior minister should take over – that was Abacha! Does Buhari have such undemocratic antecedent? He doesn’t. Now, somebody who ruled for nine years and wanted to continue to rule does he have any justification to stop somebody who has ruled for four years and the constitution of Nigeria has given him the chance to rule for another four years? Is there any justification? There is no justification. Now, on Obasanjo. Do you know how much we spent on third term before it was killed? Billions of naira was spent before it was killed? Do you think Buhari would agree for public fund to be expended because of him to proceed in an illegal term? Do you think he would concede for the constitution to be reviewed because of him, is he the type of character that can do that? In short, these people are not even qualified to talk that way and Nigerians are wise and they are getting wiser. So, nobody can rely on the sentiments of those saying that…. And for Danjuma, his comment was on security. And the military is investigating what he said. what he said could be true and what he said could be false. Whatever it is, that was his perception. So, that is why I am telling you that Buhari would get much higher votes in the next election by God’s grace because we are waxing stronger and stronger… elements that are fighting him , we know why they are fighting him. They are fighting him because they know that he is fighting corruption. And the ordinary man is appreciating Buhari. That is why we requested him to re-contest. We believe that that will give us continuity. Sadly, the three major issues he promised, we know that four years is too small. He needs to lay a foundation. He needs to build up and in the next four years, he would consolidate to the level that it would be difficult for another person to come and destroy it. Once, we imbibe the ethics of democracy, the canon of democracy, it becomes very difficult it. Once the economy, we are no more relying on oil, the agriculture to the extent that we export, our foreign exchange is improved, it would be difficult for the farmers to relax and become contractors again. So, that is why we want him to contest again. And have you seen an alternative to him (Buhari) now? Even among the aspirants, anyone you take you find elements of corruption. Buhari is the only one that you can say he is zero corruption. Zero from the way he talks, from the way he walks, from what he eats and what he even wears, Buhari is zero corruption and you can say so to anybody.
But the same Buhari is being accused of lopsidedness in his fight against corruption? What is your view?
No, no, it is not true! He is focusing on all…even last week; I saw it that he would try the former Governor of Kano State (Kwankwaso) for embezzling local government funds for election. Also (he would try) Wammakko, the president of the senate…. Find out from the legislators, how many senators are under probe? How many legislators are under probe? And analyze their political parties and then you come back and ask me. So, it is not true that he is targeting a particular political party. Anybody could be tried. The only thing is that the process could be slow because the judiciary is not used to dispensing things in haste like that.
Still on corruption, some of your officers have fallen as a result of the allegations of corruption. We remember the like of your former Accountant General and your former Commissioner for Land. What happened?
Thank you very much. You should go and ask the executive chairman of the Kano State Anti-Corruption and Public Complain Commission, our junior Magu. The former Accountant General took some money without permission and deposited it in a micro finance bank…. N100 million with no records. When she learnt that she would be hooked by the Anti-Corruption Commission, she quickly resigned and left office. In fact, up till now, I have not even approved her resignation. She didn’t leave a single page of hand over note. Do you believe an Accountant General can just go away like that with no single page of hand over about the status of the account? And it was when she left that we discovered that she took some money. And there are many other allegations, but I am telling the one that is conspicuous now. She put it into the micro finance and when the anti-corruption body investigated the micro finance bank, they found that it has less than N1 million while a N100 million was deposited. And the micro finance said that they were given that money for investment. Which kind of investment? Can an Accountant General take public fund and put it for an investment without the approval of the governor or the legislature or the executive council? There are so many things like that. Take the issue of the Commissioner of Lands selling people’s plots and these people took him to court. That is how we came in. These things were happening in the previous administration. The only difference is that we are bent on stamping out corruption. That is why business is not as usual. Even some permanent secretaries had to go, some directors left. Our anti-corruption commission is free from government influence, we have taken 50 of their officers for training with EFCC, some to ICPC. We are building an anti-corruption office in each of the 44 local government areas, some are under construction…people can easily go to their offices in their local government and you just go and investigate. So, that is how we want to refine the system gradually. So, we are emulating Muhammadu Buhari in his anti-corruption crusade because it has to succeed and in order to succeed, it has to be practiced by all tiers of government.
Over to your party’ national convention, we know that you are pro-Tinubu and probably pro-Adams Oshiomhole. Why did you choose to reverse to a new national party chairman?
Who told you that I have picked a candidate?
Sir, it is speculation?
It is good you said that it is speculation. We are behind democracy. What I can make clear to you is that I am anti-elongation because elongation is against our party’s constitution. It is against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Our constitution prescribes that we should be able to change our leadership every four years to give the people a chance to elect their leaders. Even those who are in the current position are free to contest if they so like. So we are waiting for those who are interested to come out for the election and then we assess them and then we take side.
But you were there when the party settled for elongation. Why didn’t you oppose it then only for you to later reverse yourself?
Yes, we opposed initially, a decision was taken in a hurry. Later on we saw the implication and even Mr President himself – I could recall our legal adviser gave an interpretation that there was nothing wrong in elongation and even the Governor of Ondo State, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria also said that there was nothing wrong in elongation. But when Mr President contacted some legal minds they told him that it was terribly wrong and that it was risky. The Vice President, who was also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria also told him that it was risky, that it was wrong. Since we got an additional information, an additional fact then we have to change the game and that is why we believe that we have to defeat elongation, which we have successfully defeated.