- How APC Will Stop PDP Rigging In 2015
Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari was the Speaker of the House of Representatives from Katsina state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Now, the interim National Vice Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Masari in this exclusive interview, harps on APC’s plans for 2015, it’s antidote for election rigging and the state of the North and more. His spoke with Hameed Bello, Patrick Andrew and Abubakar Ibrahim…. Excerpts
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and interim national Vice Chairman of the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari has accused governors of northern states of insensitivity to the growing decay in the region. Masari who spoke in an exclusive interview with Peoples Daily Weekend said while the North and its people are wallowing in abject poverty, dearth of infrastructure, decay of the education and health sectors, the governors have failed to apply allocated funds for meaningful development of the region. He also revealed that with the emergence of APC, it will be a herculean task for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to use its machinery of coercion to rig elections in 2015.
According to APC chieftain, who was a PDP member, the ruling party had been losing elections for quite some time but were using instruments of coercion like the security agencies as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to manipulate the system in their favour.
“But this time around with the merging of political parties as a formidable alternative vehicle, certainly that is not going to be allowed and it is going to be impossible for the PDP to think that they will use the system to rig elections again.”, he said.
Masari labeled some northern governors as the worst in the country, accusing them of being responsible for leaving the region in the worst state of poverty and illiteracy.
He said, the northern governors are only interested in seeing who wears the best designer wrist watches, possesses the choicest cars or has the longest convoy, as well as whose public ceremony are well attended with high profile personalities than the other, thereby neglecting real governance.
According to the former Speaker; “the governors are not willing to do what they are expected to do because they are not accountable to the system; because they believe that come next round of elections, it will be done the same way that brought them into the office in the first place”.
He said “Judging by the responses we are getting from people, the caliber of people we have in APC and yearning of people, that this government has not delivered on its promises. APC is offering an alternative vehicle with visionary leadership based on issues.
“What PDP has is that they are in government; they control machineries of coercion; that’s all. But we believe with the human resources that are in APC, obviously APC is the party of choice come 2015;because when you allow people to freely choose, which is what we must make sure we do, to allow people to freely choose, and to make sure that what the people have chosen is what is given to them.
On the method the APC would adopt to dislodge the coercive structure often accused of working for the ruling PDP, he disclosed that APC will mobilise people heavily to defend and protect their votes and election results.
“With the APC governors in the whole of the South West region with the exception of Ondo state, the people and the resources are available for doing so; I don’t think that the PDP is going to have an easy ride in 2015.”
Also asked why most Nigerian politicians do not play politics based on ideology; he said the APC would not play the politics of personality but on issues, because it is an issue-based political party that stems from principles and issues.
On the possible difficulty in selecting the party’s leaders and flag-bearers, he said that there were mechanisms laid down in its constitution to guide the process.
“The constitution is clear as to the procedures and methods that will be used in identifying our candidates. I want to assure Nigerians that there will be internal democracy in APC”, he said.
Sir, the APC which you are one of the leaders, has just been registered by INEC and the election year is drawing nearer. What are Nigerians to expect from your party?
Even though APC is new, it is not new in the political arena. The parties that are merging have been in existence for quite some time, some since the beginning of this experiment in 1999 clearly working along with each other. So really, politicians in these parties are experienced politicians. So, the issue of 2015 is not an issue about time as far as the party is concerned. We have a pool of leaders in all the merging parties, which has become one party now. So, really in terms of choosing leaders, I think it won’t be very difficult for APC to come up with those that will represent them at various elections in 2015.So, there isn’t a problem in terms of leaders that would come out of the APC camp in 2015. And I can certainly say that APC is ready for 2015.
With the caliber of leaders that you have in now, many believe that in itself is a problem, because it’s like you have leaders that are surplus to requirement and people think that it will be very difficult for you to select your leaders out of the many credible leaders that you have.
When APC was about to be registered; when the negotiations and the discussions were going on, for the merger, so many people said it will never happen but it has come to pass, and it has happened. So, when it comes to choosing our flag bearers, it is not going to be as difficult as other people think. We know that PDP will use its own means to try to infiltrate and destabilise APC. This is part of the game and we are also ready for them. There is a mechanism in place to select our candidates, and they work according to our constitution. And the constitution is clear as to the procedures and methods that will be used in identifying our candidates. I want to assure Nigerians that there will be internal democracy in APC.
There is tendency for the ruling party to infiltrate the APC camp with people who will pretend to be hardcore or mainstream members of the APC, but in the long run, they may turn out to be betrayer; considering that it’s the greatest threat to the ruling party. So, how are we sure that we will not have a repeat of what happened in 2011?
We all know ourselves. Right from 1999 we knew ourselves, and all the people that are aspiring for leadership especially at a higher level, we know each other; and we know the role played by everyone. Also, some of us, whatever role we might have played, may be some may have a change of mind or based on the reality on ground. When I found out that may be you are not what you said you are; and you are not doing what you said you will, obviously I may have a change of heart and join those who really wish the country well. We have a situation here where the country needs salvation. So, in the process of that, certainly all shades of opinion of people will be accommodated.
And in the end, obviously even those who made mistake yesterday or who are willing to repent of their mistakes, are welcome. It’s like that in politics, sometimes interest may change and certainly in pursuing your interest, you have to take certain decisions and positions. So, I’m sure that I understand the situation. We are all in Nigeria from 1999 to date, and we know what had happened; not only in 2011, but in 2007 and 2003. So, we always believe that we have taken steps to make sure that the same mistake is not repeated.
You recently went to Minna to visit the former military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and there were criticisms about the visit, for the fact that IBB is a PDP man. Why the visit?
Whatever you may call IBB, the fact is that he was a former president of this country and he ruled this country for eight years. So, whichever card he is carrying doesn’t disqualify anybody from visiting him on national issues. And people like him are people that one cannot do without; they are people that you must deal with. So, as regards criticism by some people, we are in a democracy and they are entitled to their opinions. And whatever we do, once the majority is on our side, I think we are home and dry.
Some Nigerians believe that there is really no difference between the APC and PDP, given the fact that a good number of ex-PDP men are in the APC. What is the major distinction between the APC and PDP and what hope does the APC represent for Nigeria?
Anybody who is saying that there is no difference between the two parties doesn’t know the difference between black and white. Even those who are in PDP that have found themselves now in the APC, are doing so or have done so on principle. You find out that it’s no doubt they left the party because they are not even appointed this or given that. When we all came and joined the PDP, the founding fathers today who are still in PDP, you can count them on your finger tips. Why did so many people leave? It is because the party has derailed from the vision and mission of the founding fathers. Some of us have fought the party at various levels, but in the end because of the powers they command, we had to leave, as we were squeezed out because really there was no place for ideas. I was thinking that at a point, and I believe even up till now that ability is disability in PDP. So, really the fact that some people were in PDP before and now they are in APC, doesn’t mean that there is no difference between APC and PDP. And by the time the manifesto of the APC comes out, we will see that the difference is very clear.
It is said that most Nigerian politicians do not play politics based on ideology. Is the APC or the leadership of the APC different from this notion?
Soon you will find out that APC will be well grounded on issues of ideology. Like I said, by the time we put our manifesto on the table, every Nigerian will know that there is a difference. The APC is not going to be about politics of personality of individual but on issues. It’s going to be an issue-based political party that stems from certain principles and issues; no more lawlessness. We are not going to behave like the PDP changing the goal post, that every time you find that the goal post has changed.
What is the level of confidence that your party has in taking over power in 2015?
Judging by the responses we get from people, and judging by the caliber of people we have in APC as well as the yearning of people that this government has not delivered on its promises, people are looking for an alternative vehicle; and APC is offering that alternative vehicle with visionary leadership based on issues. So, we believe that if you look at the human resources that are in APC, obviously APC is the party of choice come 2015. What PDP has is that they are in government; they control machineries of coercion. That’s all. But when you allow people to freely choose; which is what we must make sure we do; to allow people to freely choose, and to make sure that what the people have chosen is the one that is given to them. This is the fundamental issue. PDP has been losing elections for quite some time but they were using instruments of coercion like the security agencies and INEC, to manipulate the system. But this time around with the merging of political parties, with a very strong opposition, certainly that is not going to be allowed and it is going to be impossible for the PDP to think that they will use the system to rig elections again.
But then, again the system remains; the security agencies and INEC. What method would the APC adopt to dislodge these elements that have often been considered to be working for the PDP?
What is really required is what we are going to do; mobilise people heavily. Yes, we will mobilise people heavily to defend and protect their votes and election results, which is doable. In some parts of the country at a particular time, it was there. There was a time it was done in Bauchi, there was a time it was done in Kano and the whole APC governors in the south west did it, by claiming their mandates from PDP in 2007. That’s why we have now the APC governors in the whole of the south west region with the exception of Ondo state. So, since it was done somewhere, it’s doable; it can be done; and the people and the resources are available for doing so. Therefore, I don’t think that the PDP is going to have a free and easy ride in 2015.
From your experience and the moves the party has been making, are there hopes that some of the PDP governors will join your party?
I think I’m not in a position to comment on that now.
You talked about some of the northern governors being perhaps the worst in Nigeria and these persons would still be part of your process for change. Do they really represent the change if they join you?
I don’t even know which governors you’re talking about, but actually the performance of governors matter. This is because the states are where the people are. And if we take the performance in terms of governance by governors in Nigeria, they are still the least, because they have been responsible for the worst situation we have;the level of poverty and illiteracy and the North is the worst. I think we have the worst governors compared to other regions of the country. Because what the northern governors are interested is to see who wears the best designer wrist watch or cars or who has the longest convoy; and whose public ceremony are well attended with high profile personalities than the other. So, really if you look at the all the 36 states of the federation in terms of education, we are the most backward. It is not that it’s not doable; it is actually doable to a willing mind. And they are not willing to do what they are expected to do because they are not accountable to the system. The people really didn’t put them there; it was the security agencies and INEC that put them there. And they also believe that come next round of elections, it will be done the same way that brought them into the office in the first place. But certainly we must commend the government of Kano, who unfortunately is PDP, even though his own brand of PDP is Kwankwasiyya. Within the last two years in office, he has sent hundreds of Kano indigenes all over the world to study; and he has comprehensively attacked the issue of primary education. This is what we want the northern governors to do; give people education and allow them, they willfind their levels in life.
When compared to Kano state would you say Katsina has achieved in this respect?
Talking about governance in Kastina state, even going by the Federal government statistics, Katsina is the last. So, what are we talking about?
You wanted to be governor of Kastina state before 2011 or there about. Are you willing to go back and give it a shot again?
I’m not an ambitious politician. But I think, occupying political office is not my priority now. My priority is to first of all to put APC on a sound footing in the country, then what comes after will be determined by the dynamics of the politics itself.
As it stands now, the PDP and APC seems to be the giants in the politics arena. Are you a supporter of two-party system or a multi-party system?
Actually, I think the issue of multi-party system is constitutional, and I will continue to support multi-party system, believing that out of it, strong political parties that could emerge like what we have today. It is a process that started in 1999, now it has cumulated into two big political parties; not that certainly we will not allow smaller parties to function. Even in the most advanced countries, there are smaller parties, only that because they are small, that’s why they are concerned about local or some state elections. We don’t get to hear about them. Fundamentally now, we need very strong two parties, so that if one is in power there is one in opposition, strong enough to provide alternative to the one in office. And the way the Nigeria opposition parties were going before, they were so weak to confront the federal might that a given time they had control of over 27 states, they could always manipulate, but now with the another vehicle strong enough as PDP, obviously we can see the calculation on the electoral fortune will definitely change.
Personally as a politician, what is your take on the debate on local government autonomy?
I would prefer local governments to be autonomous, because people live in local governments. Now if funds meant for local governments are going directly to them, and elections at the level is free and fair, the local government system will work. Part of the problem people are worried about is; people are saying that they don’t have either qualified or experienced persons at that level. No, it’s gradually that you will find competent people going for local government elections. But so long as you are undermining the financial and political independence of the local government, no responsible person would go there. The issue is, allow the system to work, and over time, the system will produce good people. But the governors have pocketed the local governments and the funds meant for them. So, first, local government elections have become a fight even where they say they are having it. In some states like my own state, you don’t talk about local government election, it’s not even on the calendar, it’s not even on the agenda of the government; whereas the constitution talks of democratically-elected local government councils. And even on this, people of so many states can take their governors to court. Let the Supreme Court interprete the meaning of that, and you will see all of them are flouting the law, because they have made their states Houses of Assembly not even up to a rubber stamp. Because when you rubber-stamp something, it means with or without their authority, the governor can do what they like. And member (of the State Assembly) who dared to ask for implementation and gave statistics of implementation of the budget, was suspended. He is suspended from the House, simply because he has asked the right question. That in all the budgetary allocation, especially in the area of education, none was implemented up to 30 percent. So, the reality is that the local government should be autonomous, because we must move towards diversification.What is killing us is unification. I do believe that everybody should cut his cloth according to his or her size. You cannot expect my local government chairman to be earning the same thing with his counterpart in Port Harcourt or Ikeja who is earning even more than a state government. People hope that remuneration is authority, no. Authority is totally different. I can earn ten kobo; you can earn 100 kobo, we have the same authority as chairmen of local governments. As a governor, you can earn N20 million; I can earn N2 million, it does not diminish my authority as a governor of my state. But you are doing this because your state has the resources to do that. If my state doesn’t have the resources to do same, then I should as a responsible leader be able to reflect on the finances of the state, and cut my salary; my everything. It’s only in Nigeria that if you have a state, where from the governor up to the councilor, take their children, their families to private hospitals and schools. If you are an education secretary of a local government, it’s the chairman of that local government who is directly responsible for primary education who will take their children to private schools; what are they telling you? Especially here in the north where the public education has collapsed, the public healthcare has collapsed. The issue with the local government is that nothing tangible is done there because the entire system is corrupt.
Who made it corrupt? Why shouldn’t it be corrupt when the local government is allocated N20 million or 80 million monthly and instead of giving them the total amount, the governor as ks the chairman ‘you, how much is your salary? This is your salary, and use one million for overhead’. The next time you say you want all the whole local government to buy all frames of pictures for ten million each, ‘bring your money; you take frames’, whether you like frames or you don’t…a governor, collecting money meant for local governments administration and spending like money from his own pocket, like it’s his father’s money. With this, you are encouraging corruption. if the governor is not corrupt, he can take care of the local government chairman. If I’m a governor, how can local government chairman because of wedding in my house or certain ceremony in my house will bring something; I should be the one to give him, not him giving to me. So, the reality is that you are telling people to go steal and bring to me.
Experience has shown that most of these governors especially from the North after looting the treasury and recklessly mismanaging public funds get away with it. What structure is your party going to put in place to ensure that governors who misuse public funds are brought to book event after leaving office?
We will allow the law to take its full course. Nigeria is not short of laws in that area. It just because the laws are being applied selectively and in some cases completely put aside. From 2003 to about 2007, in particular, how many governors are in court? And nobody is talking about it. Today in Nigeria, in fact we are even in a situation that it has become very difficult to even differentiate the bad and the ugly. People have been tried in courts, and nothing happened; people have stolen in the name of power nothing happened; people have stolen in the name of subsidy, nothing happened; people who have stolen in the name of pension; people who have stolen from NNPC, nothing happened and nothing is happening. And even those few cases of prosecutions that were done by the last regime are being pardoned. So, really, it’s a herculean task before APC but when the party comes to power, the rule of law will really take its course.
In the PDP there has been agitation for power shift to the north, is your party going to pursue rotational presidency?
First of all, there is nothing rotational. There is a constitution of the party, and in it, it has been stated clearly how leadership will emerge; and we will go according to the provisions of the constitution of the party.