How do you intend to bring back the aggrieved members of your party, the PDP?
We will bring the aggrieved party members back through reconciliation, which we have started. I believe they have their reasons for leaving the party. There is always a window for reconciliation of political grievances, and it is currently going on. We will continue at various levels.
There are allegations that the convention that produced all the new executive members of the PDP was tailored through a purported Unity List. Don’t you think this issue would continue to undermine your party?
There was nothing like irregularities during the national convention. In politics, it is normal to identify who will take a certain position. The election was transparent and open. Members were there, observers were there; only those who lost the election were making utterances that there were irregularities.
After the convention, the party was once again factionalised, with the emergence of ‘Fresh PDP’, which opened an office in Abuja. Don’t you think this would affect the party’s chances at the polls in 2019?
That is normal in politics because there are people who won’t be comfortable when they lose election. No matter how much you provide the level playing ground and prove to the world that the election was conducted fairly and in a transparent manner, once they are declared as losers, they will complain. We cannot stop them from complaining, but that does not mean the end of the party. Grievances and internal crisis in politics are always normal. Nevertheless, we have the machinery to contain these internal crises.
What is your take on Reverend Father Mbaka’s endorsement of Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State as the right presidential candidate for the PDP?
The future is only known to Allah. There are people from different faiths who make predictions; sometimes it becomes real, sometimes it doesn’t. If his prediction becomes a reality, the PDP will definitely be glad to have someone like Dankwambo as the party’s flag-bearer, considering how he transformed Gombe State from what it was to its present stage. Going by his record, having excelled in his professional career to the rank of Accountant General of the Federation and later as governor of Gombe State, where he is in second term, he is the right candidate. I must confess that he has the prerequisite qualifications and curriculum to fly the ticket of our party.
Recently, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar returned to the PDP. How does that impact on your party?
Atiku Abubakar served Nigeria as vice president for two terms on the platform of the PDP, but decided to leave as a result of internal crisis in the party. Majority of Nigerians will agree with me that the APC was a group formed for a particular purpose – to get power; and they got it. However, getting the power is entirely different from managing it. After being there for about three years, Atiku did not see anything positive democratically, so he decided to come back home. His action did not come to us as a surprise because he was among the pillars of the party right from its formation stage.
How do you rate the present administration of the APC, led by President Muhammadu Buhari?
Nigerians are left in the dark in certain areas. Those in government are expected to introduce policies that would impact positively on the lives of the common man in the street. You cannot even compare life during the PDP regime and now because there is hardship; the prices of goods in the market have skyrocketed. Things have totally changed for worse. For instance, if you are an irrigation farmer, the price of the machine to water your farm was N17, 000, but now, it is N52, 000. If you run a barber’s shop, the small power generator was sold between N9000 and N11, 000 during PDP’s time, but it is now N35, 000. Also, ask a motorcyclist, a motorcycle that was sold at N80,000 during our time is now N280, 000. Muslims were paying N750, 000 to N780, 000 for pilgrimage to Makkah, but it is now N1.5 million.
But the APC has attributed the current hardship to corruption and mismanagement of the economy by the PDP.
Economic recession is not peculiar to Nigeria. And if you go through economic books, recession is something that comes once in a while, whether you apply something or not, it will go. But the key issue is: what do you apply to reduce the pains on the citizens? The application is not there.
What plans does the PDP have to tackle these problems when it comes to power?
There are ways to tackle recession and soften hardship on citizens. We know that government is not a profit-making venture but a service provider. And a serious government is always concerned about three fundamental things in the country. First, it provides security for the citizens of the country and their properties. Secondly, you develop a country by executing projects and provide infrastructure. Thirdly, you improve the economy. And how do you improve the economy? Economy is improved by engaging experts with technical know-how and giving a level playing ground for all businessmen and women. But now, if you ask traders of different commodities at the market, things are difficult for both the buyers and sellers.
In politics you don’t preempt plans before the time. However, in the PDP we have many experienced people. For instance, going by his discipline as a professional accountant, Governor Dankwambo knows how to manage finances. Apart from Dankwambo, we have many aspirants who have ideas on how to transform and move the country forward.
Don’t you think many aspirants for the presidential ticket would create a problem for the party?
The PDP of today is concerned with the lives of Nigerians and developmental projects in the country. It is our intention to provide a level playing ground for all aspirants. And a true democrat would not complain if he lost an election conducted under a level playing ground.
In what areas do you think the present administration has recorded achievements?
It will be difficult for me to tell you the areas the APC government has recorded any achievement. Honestly speaking, I am not impressed. If you look at the education sector, what are the achievements? When I was in the Senate we worked on 13 bills to establish new federal universities to reduce the number of students roaming the streets. I was a member of the Senate Committee on Education. Colleges of education were also established, and people were given opportunities to further their education outside the country, up to PhD level.
Looking at the transport sector, what are their achievements? I was a member of the Senate Committee on Transport, so I can tell you that all these rail lines were started during our time. Remodelling of airports also started during our time. The dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri road started during our time. So where are the achievements they are talking about?
The APC said they had tackled the problem of insecurity, especially the insurgency in the North-East.
Have Boko Haram attacks stopped?
The president said they were technically defeated
Has it stopped? That is the kind of question Nigerians should be asking. If Boko Haram has been defeated, there will not be news about killings and bombing anymore in the country. The fact is that there is still insecurity. You should go to Maiduguri, Yobe and Adamawa and ask the people living there. In fact, another group has emerged in the Zamfara axis and people are being killed. Almost on a daily basis, there are incidents of kidnapping between Kano and Abuja.
But the APC has alleged that Boko Haram was created by the PDP.
Are they not aware of what is happening in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen? Is it the PDP that is ruling in those countries? Recently, so many people were killed at a mosque in Egypt; was it the PDP that is ruling there? This campaign of calumny to attach Boko Haram with the PDP was done to attain power. But they cannot prove that claim. We agree that it started during our time, but there were different types of insurgencies in the past, like the Maitatsine during President Shehu Shagari’s time. They deliberately attached it to the PDP to deceive Nigerians and have their way.