Dr Bashir Kurfi, brother of Ahmadu Kurfi, former Chairman of defunct Federal Electoral Commission, FEDECO is from Katsina State. He is a self-professed revolutionary scholar who hates conflicting ideologies, himself an ideological personality. A former Director of Research and Strategy in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, a man who claims to be among five personalities in Nigeria close to President Muhammadu Buhari and a lecturer in International Finance at the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria in this interview spoke on a number of national issues, including how he acted as an agent employed by the CPC to effect the bargain that led to the formation of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Excerpts:
I want your thoughts on the crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, by first asking you if you think the party would be able to survive all these crises bedeviling it. You will recall the party celebrated its continued stay in power last year and many Nigerians expected it to have stabilized by now. But what you find is infighting within the party and the leadership in terms of streamlining their interests and that of the party in the interest of the nation as a ruling party. The crisis last year led to their loss of many states to the opposition, PDP. Now, there are crises within the NWC, Edo and Ondo states chapters of the party that has led to the defection of Governor Obaseki and his deputy and the deputy governor of Ondo State. Would APC survive these crises and take part in the 2023 election as a united party?
First of all, you have to know that I was central to the negotiation of CPC and ACN which later became APC. I was the one who led the team that went to negotiate with Bola Tinubu. In my team on the CPC side at that time was the current Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, Kabir Yusuf, publisher of Daily Trust, Wada Maida who was Chairman of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, and Sambo Dasuki. We went to negotiate with Tinubu and his team. But the issue today is that when you look at the APC as a party it is just a coalition of various interests that came together to form a political party for the purpose of occupying political power; which means to enter political offices. So, if you look deeply and analytically, you will find that actually it is not a political party because all sorts of various political interests have come in. If you look at the team I do not know where Adams Oshiomhole comes from, maybe the ACN. Now, look at Buhari from the CPC and Oyegun came in from Tinubu’s perspective and Tinubu was the leader of the ACN and also a political leader in his right from his Southwest zone. So, when at that time they decided on who will be the chairman it was Tinubu who brought Oyegun and the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo into the coalition. Then we in the CPC brought the presidential candidate with the ANPP bringing Ogbonnaya Onu, the current Minister of Science and Technology because at that time he was National Chairman of the ANPP. That was how the coalition stood. But subsequently they said those who participated in the coalition like Atiku Abubakar would be taken care of when they formed government. And when they formed government part of the coalition, Atiku Abubakar brought his boy, Garba Shehu because he had been his spokesman and Boss Mustapha. At that time Boss Mustapha was not brought on board immediately as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. It was David Babachir Lawal. Boss Mustapha was the MD and Chief Executive of Inland Waterways as part of the package of Atiku Abubakar. So, there was no ideological correlation between all these compradors in the political setting. Then subsequently APC lost their authority and integrity because it looked like there was no cohesion as a political party as it was not based on any ideological clarity, but just a mere collaboration of people. Unfortunately, the person who is supposed to be the leader of the party who is the president, Muhammadu Buhari under who the party is in power has a lackadaisical attitude in addressing political problems within his political party. If you are a correct political leader there is no way you will allow your house to be on fire. If you sit down and watch your house on fire it is basically going to consume you. Even if it doesn’t consume you as a person it will consume the package, the physical development you have as dividend of democracy from your political party. So, now in APC everybody is on his own. The governors are on their own, the ministers are on their own and even take people from other ministerial or other executive positions you find out that most of the people who are in government now in the APC, alot of them have no active activism in the CPC, which is the main party of the president and also in the ACN. Quite a number of them are also PDP people who are the ones running the country as they wish and then getting the opportunity of a president who does not seem to care, who restricts himself inside the Villa so that even if he is coming from the airport to the Villa he goes by helicopter. Therefore, he would not know if there is a pothole between the airport and the Presidential Vila. So, that presents a problem to our nation state. So, now you could see he relies on some very few individuals. These few individuals who surround him are his the so-called security apparatus and close political associates, including those who are his relations. What you can know from his actions and utterances is that he does not know what is going on in the country because he relies on this people who will tell him lies. Otherwise, how do you explain what is going on in the country? In his home state, Katsina…I am also from Katsina; on a daily basis bandits will kill not less than 50 to 100 people. The implication of this is grave.
You just mentioned a name, Sambo Dasuki as a member of the CPC team that you led to negotiate with the Tinubu team. If Sambo worked so hard for Buhari to achieve his ambition of being president people would wonder why lock him up for such length of time immediately you won the election?
I really do not know, but maybe it has to do with their military matter. But the fact of the matter is that Sambo Dasuki was the one who even introduced us to Tinubu because they were in exile together when Abacha was after them. You know Abacha planned to deal with Sambo; so they were in exile together. Also Sambo helped Tinubu’s mother when he was Military Assistant to Babangida. And you know Sambo is a very brilliant person. Sambo is one man who doesn’t keep contacts of names and numbers in his phone. He does them off hand. What he does is to just pick his phone and dial your number off hand. He doesn’t save numbers on his phone. And Sambo is such a complete gentleman.
If the problem between him and President Buhari is a military one, the campaigns to be president by Buhari in CPC and APC with the negotiation which you just talked about came after their military life?
And you know the whole campaign we did for Buhari in ANPP, it was with Sambo. It was Sambo who initiated this meeting. Initially we were meeting in Lagos House in Asokoro. It was Sambo who was in between. He was the one who made the arrangements and when we fly to Lagos it was Sambo who will make the necessary arrangements. But you know the military; it’s just like what Adamu Ciroma said in one of his many interviews. He said they say Buhari is unforgiving and said why should he not forgive? He overthrew a democratically elected government and put Shagari in detention; so if you are removed by the same people you used to overthrow Shagari why should you complain? I can tell you that Sambo is the one who went between Buhari and Babangida because Babangida also assisted Buhari with money for his elections. It was through Sambo that Babangida assisted Buhari. Sambo’s father, Dasuki was the Chairman of the Nigerian Marketing Board and it was the funds from the Nigerian Marketing Board that was used to stabilize the Nigerian economy during the Sardauna regime. And the sad thing was that Sambo’s father wanted to see his son, Sambo, but couldn’t till he died. Sambo’s father, former Sultan of Sokoto died when Sambo, his son was still in detention. The interesting thing is that Mamman Daura is marrying Sambo’s sister. They are the same father and the same mother. No one could save Sambo even when six courts gave him bail. I can tell you that all the campaigns we did around the country Sambo was with us. And you know Sambo has a lot of networks. If you want a detribalized Nigerian that is Sambo. You will see him so comfortable with every Nigerian regardless of your tribe, religion or whatever. He is also well known and one special attribute of Sambo is that he is very generous. That was why they couldn’t find anything in his account when they investigated him. This is because if Sambo has N100 million here as we are sitting before Sambo gets up he would have finished distributing it before leaving.
Before this issue of Sambo you gave me a summary of what I might say is the state of affairs in the polity as far as you know. But let me take you back to the APC crises. It would appear as if the problem of the APC is that of the leaders not wanting to work as a party, but as a coalition of different interest groups just like you alluded to. But let me pose the question. Now that APC is going the way of the PDP. What do you see is the future of the APC?
APC has no political future. APC has collapsed as a political party. In fact, there is no way APC can win anywhere in normal electoral setting and in a free and fair election because they have no leadership. The leadership of the president at the national level is nothing to talk about and the leaders of the party are on their own based on their personal interests. Then if you take Adams Oshiomhole, he doesn’t respect anybody and how do you have a political party, for goodness sake, that says that you disqualified a governor because his papers are not proper and the same party appointed that same guy who left for four years? And if there is something like this if they are serious in the party they would call the concerned governor, informally, not even at committee level and say look there is this problem can you clear the air so that we don’t have to embarrass ourselves. If there is still a problem then they should tell him to nominate another person to take the slot. This is where political strategy comes in. But you just announced it as if he is a commoner in the party. And now the issue is that nobody knows the Chairman of the party. As it is somebody may run to court and say the procedure leading to the primary was wrong and so they will end up like Zamfara State and also like Katsina.
Let’s talk about the indifference of Buhari to the problems in his party. Some people will say it is possible that such aloofness may be due to his current knowledge of the nature of the problems associated with Nigeria’s politics and has decided to tread softly. However, we have seen how the crises affected the party in some states in the 2019 election. Yet others are accusing him of selfishness and that it is perhaps because he doesn’t need the party again having been given a second term by Nigerians. What do you think?
You know Kenny, you cannot be the political leader of any group and having put you in office, you ignore the platform on which back you rode to power. So, how come you now have every problem not being settled democratically, but by court? How do you allow a judge who has no knowledge of politics to settle your problem for you and you have a leader who is supposed to manage your crisis. So, if you have a president who cannot manage a macro problem at the level of his party what it means is that he doesn’t need the party any longer and doesn’t need Nigerians because he has won his election, he would finish his term and go wherever he wants to go and then it is your business what happens next. Buhari has no structure as a person. He cannot influence the election of anybody from the platform of the Buhari Organisation. Before you know nobody will be in the APC because mark you even in this negotiation of Obaseki, Tambuwal was involved. So, in conclusion APC is no more a political party and I don’t see it the way people are saying it would crash. It has already crashed and, therefore, they have no basis to manage anybody.
You helped negotiate the merger between ACN and CPC, which resulted in the formation of the APC, but you speak as though you are no longer in the APC?
No. You see, I am an ideological person. I am a revolutionary scholar. We entered the Buhari Movement because we wanted to change the order of the Nigerian state. We wanted to make it a mass movement, but now when we see this rubbish going on how do you think I will be part of this? I have been teaching in the university. I have been a lecturer in International Finance for the past 32 years at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I was taught Finance in New York. If you want to take five people who are close to Buhari in this country I am one of them. I was also the Director of Research and Strategy for the CPC and wherever he travelled to then we were always together. We still have mutual respect and whenever I want to see him I can see him. Even when they formed the government I was not interested in any office.
If you are asked what you think is wrong with the Buhari government because as close as you claim to be with Buhari you have not painted a rosy picture of the government. What is the problem?
In management there is what we call concept of management and what is very important for you to see in any business or political activity, it’s what we call functions of management when you must have plan. You plan, you coordinate and plan who will be here and there and who will be the best to serve where and then you coordinate to ensure that all the activities are going towards an organizational goal. But what we are having in this regime, Kenny, be sincere to yourself, just look at all the Ministers that we have how many of them do you think at a private level you will have the confidence to give the Managing Director of FAAN? So, if you can’t give him Managing Director of FAAN why would you give him Managing Director of Aviation or Minister of Aviation, for example? So, you see there are no quality people in the current government. There is no coordination even in the National Assembly because also they came in various pragmatic forces because they are there if you are from APC you negotiate with the government and they put you somewhere either by hook or crook. Have you ever seen in the history of Nigeria whether during the military or civilian administration where a Minister cannot walk up to see the president and Commander-in-Chief? It is only in this time.
Insecurity is now a major challenge whether in the North or South so much so that as the North is crying of insurgency, banditry and kidnapping, southerners are shouting of being under siege by herdsmen. What are your thoughts about the efforts of the government to address them because only recently a youth coalition protested in Katsina and two Sundays ago the Northern Elders Forum addressed a press conference where they asked the Federal Government to do something. Now, with the president reading the riot act and the Senate President asking the service chiefs to brace up or shape out, what do you think? And can the military alone deliver us from this insecurity in the country?
They will not deliver anything because the same political talks have been going on in the past five years. So, I do not expect anything. As I am talking to you I got a phone call about five hours ago because I keep tab of those who are killed around northern state. In my state, Katsina, they killed about eight people today. They know these people have no education, no roads, no work in the North so they try to sectionalise it and make religious manipulations out of it, but we know too well that if you are a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa driver you are in the same class; your children don’t go to school or if you are an Igbo, Yoruba, Itsekiri or Hausa Minister you still live in the highbrow area of Abuja. Their children go to the best schools. I have just arrived from Kaduna to this place, Zaria this night. Tell me if any crazy man can leave Port Harcourt for Aba at this time. And then before you sectionalise something look at the service chiefs and other security leaders from SSS to NIA to the Inspector General of Police, are they not from the North? So, why are they killing your people and you are there?