From Desmond Mgbo, Kano
Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo is a leading contender for the post of the National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). Well loved and backed by stakeholders in the zone- such as Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the former Governor Sule Lamido, Gwarzo was on the verge of emerging as the National Vice Chairman (North West) at the party’s congress in Kaduna, when thugs purportedly linked to the Kwankwassiyya Movement struck and disrupted the exercise.
While lamenting the disruption in this interview, Gwarzo ventured a guess as to why Kwankwaso and his movement are opposed to him. He also spoke about the poverty and raging insecurity in the region and put the blame on the poor leadership of President Buhari’s administration.
At what point in your career did you meet Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and what was the relationship?
When Abacha created the five political parties, I belonged to the DPN. And in the DPN, I was an aspirant for the position of the governor of Kano State. It was at that time that I met Kwankwaso. He, like me, was aspiring for the governorship of the state. So, as we were both on the track, we tried as much as possible to put our heads together, doing this in the hope to have a new approach to the system. But at this time, one day, the former Head of State, Abacha, died. When General Abdulsalam came to power and had a nine- month transition period, I joined the G34, which metamorphosed into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Interestingly, Kwankwaso was a late comer to our party. He was a member of the Peoples Congress(PC) under Late Shinkafi. At that time, he had tried to influence me to come to Peoples Congress and I tried to influence him to come and join the G34. I remember telling him then that G34 cannot be defeated, particularly in Kano, not with the quality of politicians that were in the party- with such fine gentlemen like the Late Abubakar Rimi, Ambassador Aminu Wali, Alhaji Musa Gwadebe and Mallam Musa Dangalan, all around the same political structure. That was PRP and NPN coming together. I told him that I don’t think any other political structure can defeat this combination. It was very clear to any politician then that Kano would go the way of the new political structure. So it was on the D- day, when we were launching the party, when we were trying to set up the leadership structure of the party that Kwankwaso appeared. It was at Aminu Wali’s house. That was his first day of attending the meeting and that was how we came together again. It was apparent then that with the caliber of politicians like Rimi and Aminu Wali and the rest, he cannot scale through with his ambition. But I kept encouraging him that all things come from God and if God intends to favour you with something, nobody can stop Him. So, that was how he contested for governorship. Let me say that at some point, I was persuaded to step down for him. There was in fact a meeting where I was persuaded to step down for him. Abba Dabo is alive today and he can testify to this because he was part of that meeting. And many others like Malam Musa Gwadabe and Late Hamizu Musa. They were all at the meeting, where I was prevailed upon to step down for Kwankwaso. When I stepped down, I was now offered the post of his running mate. We went for the primary elections. I delivered my senatorial constituency: that is Kano North where Governor Ganduje comes from. We delivered it to the camp. I was Kwankwaso’s running mate, up to the time when we finished the primary elections and we were compiling the documents to go for screening.That was when Rimi’s camp within the PDP objected to the outcome of the primary elections, saying they would not support something that had nothing for them. That became a big challenge, looking at the Rimi factor in Kano politics. The Rimi’s camp had support for Ganduje and they lost out and I observed that we would certainly not go far as a party if we had proceeded to that election with a divided house. At this point, I had to make another sacrifice for the party. I stepped down as the running mate of Kwankwaso, paving way for Ganduje to move up to that position. I announced this decision before the elders committee. The late Audu Dawakin Tofa, the former governor of Kano State chaired that meeting and he faced me, looked at me intently and said Bello, you have behaved like an elderly person. I was planning to contest for the senatorial position, but if you are willing to contest the position, I will step down for you. The same thing happened with Wada Waziri. He stepped down for me too. And so many others. That was how I became a senatorial candidate. So you can see that I have been a good friend to Kwankwaso, playing key roles in his political career.
You are contesting for the National Vice Chairman of the PDP. If not for the chaotic disruption of the exercise, you probably would have emerged by now. The question many are asking is why do you want to serve your party in that capacity?
I am a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and I know what PDP was in the past and what it is today. I know what PDP was when we had PDP from 1999 up to 2007. I know very much of what PDP was in the North West zone of this country. You will agree with me that the party has lost its past glory in the zone and that is very painful to me and to many true lovers of our dear party. The past leadership has failed to lift the party and the members of the party are waiting for a better leadership. So, in politics, the emphasis should not be in terms of going to office. It should also be on how to build the party. That is where the heart of the victory of the party lies. If there is no party, you cannot come to these executive positions. In the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no room for an independent candidate, in which case you would say that you are going to go it alone. You have to belong to a political party. And the party, PDP, was simply the party to beat then. It was a very successful party in those days. Today, out of the seven states in the North West, we can only boast of two states in government in the zone. That is not good enough. So we have no option but to revive our party. That is why we are stepping in. We are not looking for power or for money. I am not looking for anything. I am not looking to be rich. In whatever you think about the party, I believe I have come to that stage at some point. I have been member of the national caucus even when PDP was in power. I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the party and I am a member of the National Executive Committee. So what do I need if not that I want to serve; I want to help revive the party in the zone and ensure that it returns to victories and winning ways. Besides, in my capacity as a member of the North West caucus of the party, I know the complaints we are receiving and I have figured out the solution. It is on the basis of this that I decided that I should have a role to play if I am given the opportunity. I am coming in to salvage the situation and address the decay that is holding the party back in the zone. That is why I intend to come in- nothing more than that.
What exactly transpired in Kaduna, at the PDP congress? You were right there and you saw it all happen.
Honestly, I had expected something like that to happen…… I don’t know the type of politics these people want to play? Politics cannot be played with chaos and confusion. Politics cannot be played with arrogance and it cannot be played with area boys. That is what they failed to understand. Politics belongs to the people. I said that I had sensed trouble earlier; why did I say so? The very first day when I came for my screening, I was attacked by these hoodlums. I was in the state secretariat of the PDP in Kaduna State, where the screening exercise was billed to hold. I came earlier than the members of the panel and I was sitting inside my car. So, when the panel came in, they met me. And therefore, the panel started with me. I was screened. I was giving a form to fill. But while I was doing that, they attacked me. As I was sitting, filling the form, with my credentials there, and with the photocopies of the forms that I had submitted, they attacked me. Their intention was to confiscate my form so that if I don’t have form, then I cannot contest the election. But what they failed to know was that it was a duplicate copy. And most unfortunately for them, I had already been screened and the originals of my form had been presented to the party headquarters in Abuja. If I had wanted to write a petition against Kwankwaso’s camp and candidate, I would have done that because they did not submit their forms until the day of the screening which as you know, it is a breach of the timeline and against the guidelines of the PDP. They are supposed to submit their form at least a week before the screening, but they failed to do so. But I allowed them. But you should ask me why I allowed them. I allowed them because I know that they are not going to win against me any day. Honestly, I just feel that we should allow the game to be played democratically and allow the choice of the members of the party to produce the winner of the contest. So, as I was saying, his boys were thinking that I had the forms on me, that they should move in and destroy my form. Unfortunately for them, they did not know that what ever form I had in Kaduna was just a duplicate of the original form that I had submitted at the national headquarters.
Why do you think Rabiu Musa Kwakwaso is after you? Why do you think that he is against your aspiration to become the National Deputy Chairman of your party?
He said it in public. It is already in the public domain. He spoke about it on the media. It is no longer a secret subject in the state or in the region. He said that he cannot accept me as the National Vice Chairman of the PDP. But who is he? I am looking up to Allah for this position and not to any other person or any man. If Kwankwaso is thinking that he is the one to give me that position, let him know that he is a joker! Why because, if he is the one to give me the position, then I don’t want the position. Honestly, I don’t want it. I would rather have nothing than to take anything from Kwankwaso.
Out in the public domain, I have heard the argument that Kwankwaso’s loyalists are more in number than the followers of Bello Hayiatu Gwarzo and they are likely to have more people to vote for them?
What does that mean in politics? How do you determine that they have more people than us when they are not ready for an open and transparent election. I don’t believe in that. Let them (Kwankwaso’s group) come and organize a proper congress in Kano State and let us see how it would be, how the outcome would be. Why didn’t he conduct a congress? Why did he run to his house to write names of local government executives and members of the state executive? Let him come out and play real politics and let us test who is more popular in Kano State. Like you know very well, Kwankwaso does not like elections. What he likes is just to be fixing people. He likes fixing people to positions. We suffered that in the general elections in 2019. We had 67 positions to contest and he took all and pocketed them to himself. How do you play politics like this?
But is there no way the stakeholders of the party in the Northwest region could be brought to the same table for a solution?
The provision of the PDP and that of the guideline is simple: Where there is a consensus, let us have consensus. Where there is reconciliation, the party loves reconciliation so much. But where there is no agreement, the solution is to go to polls. So, I am ready to go to polls. I am not stepping down. I am ready for the elections for the position of the National Vice Chairman of the party in the North West. So lets go to the polls. I wish to also say that I will accept the outcome of the elections. I will accept the decision of the party members.
You people are the one we see, but the real truth is that the characters positioning themselves for 2023 presidential elections are the ones at war in the North-West region
Again, this I cannot say. But in every system like this, there is agreement and disagreement and the solution to disagreement is voting- the peoples decision, supporters decision, delegates decision expressed in a peaceful manner through the ballot box. Because when you are talking that we are at loggerhead, maybe the truth is that one person, one troublesome person is at loggerhead with everybody in the party.
Beyond Kwankwaso and contest for the North West National Vice Chairmanship post as a major national leader of the party, how do you see the level of insecurity and high level of poverty in Northern Nigeria?
This is a very important question and it needs a lot of time to properly address them. You will need to touch on so many issues. But in brief, I think that all these challenges are as a result of the failure of the APC led Federal Government. The Federal Government has been unable to address the situation. I remember that promises were made left , right and center. There were promises that when Buhari wins the election, the security situation in the country would improve and the people believed them, thinking erroneously that as a retired soldier, he had every experience and all that it takes to finish the security situation in the country and unfortunately we are in the sixth year of his administration, the situation has rather become worse. Nothing tangible has come up ever since then. We are rather going backward, every day it is this and that. You see the approach is even wrong.
Do you think PDP is the answer in 2023 ?
I have been saying this, times without number that PDP is a party to beat. And it has been a party to beat all these period up to today because if you look at the ruling APC, you would agree with me that they were in government by chance and fortunately for the PDP, they made a bad use of the chance that they got. Had it been that they made a good use of the chance they got, maybe they would have finished with the PDP. We could have been running by now. In fact, let me tell you that many people in the APC today are nursing the ambition to come and join the PDP.