‘I am making progress with Buhari and Tinubu’
He is a man who has regularly presented himself as a democrat.His love for the democratic process may be as a result of his long years of sowing the seed of bridge-building. He is, therefore, may be expecting to reap from where he has sown. That should not be anyone’s problem. However, Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and nemesis of Olusegun Obasanjo,
BY JIDE AJANI
Which party? Well, let me tell you a story. Immediately after our nomination after the Jos convention of our party, I arranged a meeting between the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, governors-elect and Olusegun Obasanjo where we solicited their support. The then governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, spoke on behalf of the ANPP governors and he said they would support him because I was involved and that they had had dealings with me in the past.
Then we arranged another meeting with the Alliance for Democracy, AD, governors’elect and after the meeting they said they would support him because of me. After the two meetings, he called me aside and asked, Mr. Vice President, which party do you really belong to? We met ANPP governors they said you are with them; we met AD governors they said you are with them; so which party do you belong to? I hope that answers your question.
But seriously speaking, Nigerians would want to know where you stand now?
My brother, it is not just about political party now. It is about saving the situation that Nigeria has found herself. It is not about elections or offices to be occupied. It is about the political parties obeying the Constitution of Nigeria and also obeying their own constitution that there must be elections and nothing else.
I went to court to challenge Obasanjo when he said we could do it by consensus or by affirmation. A Federal High Court pronounced that there must be voting by casting of ballot and not just affirmation. And I told him that everyone he wanted elected, I had gotten the person elected so why was he afraid of an election. He said he agreed but consensus was another way of doing it. We got one person each from the zones to support the case but he knew that once we got that judgment, it would mean that all his actions of that executive would be null and void … (he makes a gesticulatory posture of being elbowed out of contention). (Laughter followed)
It is about the parties being guided by their own constitution and not until you can produce the right leadership that would allow that, we would continue from one crisis to another.
How do you see Mu’azu succeeding as PDP chairman?
Before Mu’azu was made chairman, he came to me and we spoke. But I told him that much as he is passionate, he may not be able to do the job he has been given. Almost all the founding fathers of the party have left.
As for Mu’azu, I reminded him that I brought him into the party and I funded his governborship election in 1999 and I do not know what he would come and preach to me about the party. And our brother Bamangar Tukur, I once asked him on the eve of our convention if he was in charge of the party. I asked why the convention planning committee and the sub-committees were prepared for him from the Villa? In our own time, the party handled all that and it was robust.
We could agree that the PDP may not be healthy but the APC itself is having problems. Look at Shekarau running up and down. Now he is in PDP. Even you, you were in AC, mind you?
APC is a completely new experiment. I say this because in 2009, I initiated the formation of another strong party like the PDP, even while still there. I visited General Buhari, I spoke to my brother here, Asiwaju; I spoke to Bafarawa on the other side, and we came together and set up a committee and we almost came to an agreement.
The day we were to sign was when Buhari produced the registration certificate of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. (laughter). The whole thing collapsed. Then in 2011, even within PDP, I said there was a need for a strong opposition so I initiated an alliance between CPC and ACN. We came to almost signing an agreement – IBB, Adamu Ciroma, Aliyu Gusau, we were the brokers – to exchange letters, Buhari withdrew; that one collapsed.
Believe me if there was that electoral alliance, there would be no PDP today forming government because Buhari would have brought the votes from the North West to add to the votes from the South West.
So, when I visited Buhari last week, I went through all these with him and I asked him if he agreed with me that we would all lose if he didn’t and he said ‘yes, now I agree.’ I said you did it in 2007, you failed; in 2011, you did it again you failed, I failed, everybody failed.
I asked if he agreed that if we all come together it would be better he said he agreed. So, APC is a completely new experiment, just like when PDP was formed, it was thought to be unthinkable because we came from the SDP and some from the NRC – right of left and left of right.
APC has the chance of succeeding if well managed and I concede to you that really, politicians have lost a lot of credibility in the last year or two.
So, really, there is need for politicians to re-invent themselves so that the credibility they have lost, can be regained. Last night I told Asiwaju and we agreed that General Buhari is now becoming a politician unlike before. Now, Asiwaju said he is more democratized and now, you can sit down and he is not rigid like before. There is hope for this country.
Obviously you are interested in the presidency?
Let’s not talk about the presidency. Let us talk about Nigeria and Nigerians. Believe me it is not an issue of presidency. I don’t have to be president to serve the people. If you are passionate about your country you cannot but feel concerned about what is going on and you want to be part of the process.
Okay let me assume that you want to be president?
No. Assume that I don’t want to be president. (laughter) Because this is the starting ground; and both General Buhari and I have said we should forget the presidency.
I say so because of the crisis that may come up during the contest for the ticket
I don’t see that happening because we have all agreed that it would be a fair contest.
Having said all these, what is the way forward?
The best way forward is to give Nigerians the ability to change from one party to the other so that they can compare one party to the other. Our case is not like that of Ghana where they can compare the then ruling party to the opposition that took over. My fear about one strong big ruling party is that we would be moving moré and more towards a dictatorship if we allow that to continue. I don’t want to see in my life a dictator.
INEC time table, how should it have been structured.
We have always said that one-day election is better and at a point in time INEC agreed but I don’t know why INEC back tracked.
The crises in Rivers, the presidency and the President say they are not involved?
I don’t believe the President and the presidency. Obviously they have a hand in it. How do you explain a situation when a police commissioner is being transferred from one state to Rivers and on his way to his new destination he is called back. Who does that except the Presidency and the President is involved.
But the IG is in charge?
The IG? That is my problem with a situation where the security agencies are being used by a party in power or a government. That is not how it should be.
Your associates are threatening to abandon you if you don’t abandon the PDP and they cite many reasons including non-invitation to some bodies of the party that you are statutorily supposed to be part of?
They are right because in the past four years nobody has been communicating with me. And for a political animal like me, that is not right. I have not been attending all the meetings I am supposed to be attending – NEC, caucus, BoT. It is true what they’ve said and I am still there. That is why I am going round and consulting with the people who have been with me in the last two decades and they have been consistent. It is a difficult situation.
You talked about Mu’azu and his incapacitation to do the needful in terms of bringing the PDP back on track. What if the President calls you to say we want to turn a new leaf?
The issue is not about the President running or not running. I have been talking about the internal contradictions within the PDP. It is not about the President at all. There are inherent contradictions within the party. If the younger generation presents a candidate and that candidate wins, what is the big deal
What we are saying is that there should be a democratic process instead of running round to short-circuit the process. In Benin, yesterday, somebody asked why I want to leave; and he gave the instance of Mugabe and he said, “why do you want to leave the PDP; at least you are still young and Mugabe is still in Zimbabwe ruling so don’t go anywhere; after Jonathan you can become President and I said it is not about presidency but about the common people in the country.