2023: El-Rufai can’t speak for APC on power shift – Bello

Alhaji Aliyu Bello, the Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nasarawa state gives reasons Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, is wrong about the North retaining power in 2023, among other salient issues. Patrick Andrew brings excerpts:

Recently, Alhaji Lawan Shuaibu, Deputy National President (North) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) also called for the resignation of the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. What’s your view on the development?

I’m a progressive politician, not like other politicians that were conscripted to hold political appointment or stand for election. As a democrat, a lover of the APC, I believe the deputy national chairman got it wrong. In hierarchy, he’s the second in command. Unless he is out to create division and confusion in the party, he has better avenues to address such issues rather than indulge in writing open letters. I don’t know whether he is a student of General Olusegun Obasanjo.

What he did was seriously condemnable by any right thinking member of the party. As a member of NWC, who has been attending meetings, he’s free to air his views during such meetings and if for any reason he fails to attend NWC meetings, he shouldn’t blame anybody. You don’t come and start fighting outside the ring, in the name of being a party man.

What APC needs now is a united front not divided forces. What Lawan Shuaibu has done, clearly shows there is mutual distrust in the leadership of the party. He is trying to create unnecessary crisis within the party.  The party has several organs and other national leaders that he could easily have reached out to: the president, vice president, the national leader, and notable personalities like former governors of the party. The Progressives Governors’ Forum is there, he’s supposed to table his grievances before them and not to take it to the public domain.

He’s wrong. That’s why I said a lot of politicians were brought in to occupy position and once they got that position there is problem. I’m not holding brief for the national chairman, whether we lost some states or we didn’t lose some states, it’s not the national chairman that brought internal crisis in those state.

When you have crisis in your state and the national leadership of the party tries to settle it, there is nothing wrong with that. Zamfara is the crux of the matter. He’s from Zamfara, at the time they were having the crisis, I never heard him for once say anything publicly to unite the contending parties and ensure sanity in the party and conduct of the party primaries.

It’s only when the Supreme Court made judgement they started looking for a scapegoat. Our national chairman cannot be the scapegoat. We lost the election, but we still maintain the leadership of the national assembly. We got far more than we did in the previous national assembly. If we lost some governors and we gained some senators, the national chairman has done his best.

My only advice is that other stakeholders should be involved in trying to sustain the party, major organs of the party should be engaged to hold the party together. The Board of Trustees, whether it’s not there, there is something similar to the BoT, the National Executive Council is there, the National Working Committee is there and the entire convention which involves every other persons.

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My advice is the leaderships of the party should engage stakeholders, organs of the party: BoT, NEC, NWC at all times. It’s not only during election that you begin to organise yourselves and election. No, it’s to ensure that the policies and programmes of our president or governors are being achieved.

Because of in-fighting, there are fears that the ruling party may implode, especially since President Buhari will complete his tenure in 2023?

It’s only God who knows who will be alive in 2023. It all depends on the permutation. Our opponents may bring their own permutation. When you bring Atiku Abubakar, or anybody from the North, to contest against President Buhari I knew it’s a minus for them. The early permutations are wrong because nobody is sure of being alive by that time. True, President Buhari is on his final tenure. Nigerians love him and the masses voted for him. I know Buhari in his wisdom will not allow the APC to collapse, he will show the right direction to follow in 2023.

Some political actors, particularly Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, are already speaking against power shift, insisting the North retains power in 2023. Is this realistic considering the country’s political history?

I want to believe Governor El-Rufai was quoted out of context. As a leader and founding member of the APC, Gov el- Rufai could not have made such a reckless statement. However, Governor El-Rufai is free, if he wants to, to contest. It’s even better if he comes out to tell us that after President Buhari, he would like to contest for the presidency. Nobody will stop him.

But he cannot speak for the APC. In politics, whether written or unwritten, mutual agreement and understanding must be there. Other zones voted for the North, they voted for Buhari in 2015 and 2019. For you to say we cannot relinquish power, I don’t think that’s fair. That’s not our collective views. Northern votes cannot singlehandedly produce the president. Other zones must contribute for you to meet the requirement of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. We have six geo-political zones, three each from North and South.

The South West voted massively for our party and we know those that were the engine room and fought hard to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari emerged as President. Why did the APC take its presidential primaries to Lagos in 2014? It’s because the party knew the average Yoruba person was with President Muhammadu Buhari and they knew the mind set of people like  Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Bisi Akande, Segun Osoba and the rest of them.

Without Buhari, the APC would have been dead. Had Buhari lost the primary in Lagos, we would have returned to our various states in disarray. Thank God, Buhari won. Even El-Rufai and other governors know the contributions of the South West towards the success of the primary, and the regions contributions to the APC’s eventual victories in 2015 and 2019.

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Despite the stupendous amount of resources the PDP committed to South-west, the region like capable defenders in football defended the interests of the APC. Had the region been aloof, the PDP would have won there by whatever means. Mind you, the gap between President Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari was two million votes. The PDP could have secured two million votes within Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and the rest. But the South-west defended very well.

Even in 2019 the region gave its votes and also defended it. If I stood for election in my house and I got ten votes and in somebody’s house I got one vote, I have to respect him because that vote made my tally to be eleven. The votes the Northern part gave President Buhari complemented the votes from the South West, North Central, North East and that was what gave him the victory.

It’s not time for our leaders to start permutations for 2023. They should allow the president to do the work he has been elected to do. Look at the National Assembly, things are going in our favour. How many days did it take to clear our ministers? The president’s appointees were cleared in accelerated manner. We shouldn’t continue to play internal politics just because of our selfish interest. The APC cannot in any way or form, think it wants to retain power in the North.

There are suggestions that El-Rufai may have the claims just to frustrate the perceived ambitions of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu come 2023?

I can’t say for sure. But in politics, everybody has his own reasons. I assure you that El-Rufai and Tinubu are parallels; politically they are not on the same level. That’s the truth. We call the Asiwaju the national leader of the party, we’re at the lower cadre, we didn’t give him that name. Even the president himself calls him the leader of the APC. Uptil now Tinubu has not said he is contesting.

As a politician, I speak the truth in the interest of my party. I believe in APC, in President Buhari. We’re ready to follow the direction of the president and our political leader, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura come 2023.  Some are saying the APC will no longer be there after Buhari, where will they go? Where will El-Rufai go, is he going back to the PDP or even Tinubu?  Unless if they are going to form another political party. If they form another party, how are they going to retain power in the North? Whether we like it or not, as northerners, we have got a fair share of positions.

If there is going to be a crisis, it’s even us in the North Central that are supposed to show our grievances. Assuming that the South-west don’t want to produce the next president, the North-central should because the zone is now the bridge, the melting point and shock absorber of Nigerian politics. And what has the zone got? The highest political office from the zone is the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Yet we’re complaining!

But if you look at the two remaining political zones, all the positions from the North were shared amongst them and we are still loyal to the party and Mr President. All the appointments they got in Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi are in our palms but we don’t begrudge the president. He did it on merit and we believe in that. We have also competent and qualified people in the North-central. We didn’t get the SGF and we didn’t complain. Look at the ministers we got, still we are loyal to Mr President.

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Certainly, if the North-central were selfish, not progressive, we would insist on being there. But we will certainly go with the South and particularly South-west. The political calculation is that even if you a prophet is given the APC ticket in the South-east, the region will not vote for him simply because the people there have taken the PDP as their religion.

Why should you carry somebody who didn’t even vote their own simply because of party differences? Late Ikemba Emeka Odumegu Ojukwu contested for the presidency but lost in the South-east, late Chuba Okadigbo was the running mate of President Buhari but they lost in the South-east. That’s why the calculation of the APC must not even go to the South-east because no matter what, even El-Rufai said it, why did he choose a Muslim-Muslim ticket? Let quote him, he said ‘even if he gives that position to a Pope from Southern Kaduna, they will not vote for him’. That was why he used that formula and he was successful. I always like his courage, his dexterity.  But in this issue of 2023, let’s see how it goes.

Lastly, the APC and President Buhari came into power promising to tackle the issue of insecurity. Despite prevailing over Boko Haram, there is, however, the rise in other crimes like kidnapping… 

Let me put the issue of security this way. I want to commend Mr President because he has achieved a lot. The era of planting bombs is over. Let me tell you, even in the matter of kidnapping, they are already curtailing it. May in a highway kidnapping menace, between 10-15 persons, but in a situation where you plant bomb in church killing hundreds of worshippers or you plant a bomb in a mosque, that’s no longer there.

People now attend mosques in Maiduguri, Jumaat prayers in Kano, and in all the North-east states. Even in the artificial insecurity, there are lots of questions that must be asked. Let me take you to Zamfara state, how come the moment the PDP was declared winner, the bandits now went back to other neigbouring states? The moment the PDP was declared, they are now in Katsina and Kebbi states and some parts of Sokoto. Even the amnesty and dialogue the other governor tried it but the bandits refused. But now you can see the governor dancing with most of the bandits.

Most of these issues of insecurity are artificial. My view is that the security agencies must look inward. I have to be frank on this. The case of Zamfara state is a pointer.  And we are happy, the people of Zamfara state are getting respite because we have a new government, we have a new party.

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