TWO-time governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, arguably, belongs to the echelon of vastly experienced politicians. At the dawn of the Fourth Republic, he joined the All People’s Party (APP), which later became All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and now APC. He was elected governor in 1999 and re-elected in 2003 on the banner of the APP. He ran for the presidency in 2007 on the plank of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) he helped to found. In this interview with select journalists in his Sokoto residence, shortly after being welcomed into the PDP by President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders of the party, he shares his thoughts on his mission, vision and ability to deliver in the PDP. Excerpts:
BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
What prompted your defection to the PDP?
Joining PDP was not my decision it was the decision of my people.
In joining PDP, we are looking for a change for the better. I was in the opposition to protest against injustices being done to my people and ensure that justice is done. I was not in the opposition just for the sake of being in the opposition. All I was trying to do was to make sure that things were done the right way because in the constitution of any party, there must be internal democracy.
On whether the enlarged PDP will welcome his ideas.
Yes! The PDP is a national party. In the last 16 years I have been opposing the party but when I decided with my people to join PDP, automatically, they started giving us the same treatment like those that founded the party unlike other political parties that will meet the owner and take it away and give it to a new member. So, when you sit down and compare the two, you can see that PDP is more national than any other political party in the country.
On the day I joined the PDP, I went to Abuja with my people to see the national chairman and he told us that we were all equal. And look at what has been happening since then — there have been signs of togetherness, unity and brotherliness. Look at the caliber of people that came to Sokoto to celebrate with me and my people and accept us into the party. The president, vice president, senate president, national chairman and members of the NEC, serving governors, and even former chairmen of the party were all here to welcome us into the party. So, you can see the difference within two weeks.
On whether he has regrets for not joining the ruling party earlier.
Not at all! I have no regrets because I am fighting injustice. I’m not in politics for the sake of my personal interest. I am in politics to advance the cause of my people positively.
When my people saw that there is injustice in the APC, they made up their mind that we should leave and join PDP. It was their decision and I cannot say no to their decision. That is why we found ourselves in the PDP. Therefore, I’m not regretting anything.
But now, I have joined PDP and they have seen justice done to me. That’s all I’m looking for — equal treatment. So, I don’t have anything to quarrel about, I am comfortable and I want to work for the party.
On allegations that he left the APC, which he helped to form because the leadership took the party structure from him and gave it to Governor Wamakko.
We are not quarreling with anybody in APC. All we are saying is, let us follow the rules of the game. If you are playing a game and there is no rule to guide it, then there is a problem. And as a leader, I cannot just be dragging myself when I know that I am leading millions of people. If I know that things are not being done well and I continue to be dragged into the ship and I know that the ship is going to sink on us, then there is a problem.
Therefore, my people decided that we have to change and we changed. That is what is expected of a leader and that is why we joined the PDP. I only hearkened to the wish of my people.
On what he thinks APC has lost with his departure.
I don’t think I’m the right person to comment on what they have lost or not lost with our leaving for the PDP. As far as I am concerned, if I was of any value to them, I don’t think they could have afforded to lose me. May be they did not know my value or because I’m no longer occupying the seat of governor where I can award contract or release money to do whatever I was asked to do, they felt that instead of going for me, they should go for a governor who has money to dish out.
While speaking at the podium, you said that you are not joining PDP to pursue any political position but for the interest of your people…
Of course, yes.
What if your people ask you to go and represent them in the Senate?
There is something that my people will ask me to do and I will do it. They asked me to move to PDP, I went because it is going to affect everyone of us. But if they ask me to go to the Senate and I accepted to go, then I’m selfish. I have ruled the state for eight years; the whole constituencies were my constituency.
Governor for eight years
So, if I come back again after eight years to go for Senate, I won’t be fair to myself and the young ones whom I think I should give a chance to rise. I cannot be a governor for eight years and come back to go and represent one third of my state in Abuja.
His take on the re-election ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan.
If he wants to re-contest and the PDP gives him the ticket as the presidential candidate of the party, I will definitely work for him. In fact, whoever emerges as the flag bearer of our party, I will work for the person.
His assessment of President Jonathan’s performance in the last four years.
My assessment of President Jonathan’s performance in office will be different from anybody’s assessment because I was once in office as governor. Sometimes it is not the leader that is weak but those who are giving him support. If someone had people who are not qualified to help him in the running of affairs, he will not succeed even if he has a great vision. The leadership of our great country is not a one-man show; it is a collective responsibility. So, for anybody in government to succeed, you must have people who are capable and knowledgeable to help you do the job.
So, I don’t assess Jonathan as a failure because he needs to be assisted. Nigeria’s problems are not for one person to tackle; it’s a collective responsibility. That’s why we are now in PDP.
Process of learning
If I could not see him when I was in another party, now as a member of the PDP, I have the right to advise him because his failure is my failure while his success is my success.
Jonathan is still in the process of learning; he had experience as deputy governor, governor and vice president. Being a governor of Bayelsa is different from being the president of the country. Within the last four years, he has gained a lot of experience. If he goes for a second term, I believe he will do better than he did in the last four years.
On how President Jonathan can succeed.
If Mr. President wants to aspire for a second term, I believe he has a vision. His first coming was not as president but as vice president. Therefore, the vision of his government is the vision of his boss. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, if the party leadership is doing its job as it ought to, everybody will succeed because the manifesto of any political party is the working material that is supposed guide Mr. President or the governors. And who is going to supervise them? It is the party leadership. So, if the president or any governor fails, it is not the person that has failed but the leadership of the party.
His take on the rising tension in the country ahead of the 2015 election.
I speak from my background as a Moslem because in the Quran, there is a verse which says that nobody gives power but God and He gives it to anybody he wishes and He can take it from anybody any time he wishes to take it back. So, if I say that in 2015 something is going to happen, I’m doubting that and also going contrary to my religion because no matter what, nobody gives power but God. So, all the threats about what will happen in 2015 if certain things do not happen, are just rubbish. To me, only God gives power.
Let me give examples: former President Obasanjo was in prison; he was looking for his freedom and did not expect to be president. But look at how God took him out from prison and made him the president of Nigeria for good eight years. God gave him power but it had a limit. By time he wanted to go back for a third term, he had the money, he also had the power but it didn’t work. Look at how Yar’Adua came from nowhere.
He was thinking of how to finish his second term as governor and go and take care of his health but he found himself in Aso Rock. Jonathan was not thinking of ruling this country but he is the one governing Nigeria today.
So, for us to start writing and shouting about 2015 is just a waste of time as God has already made His decision regarding 2015 and nobody can change it. So, whether you are a northerner or southerner, Christian or Moslem you cannot change it.