Saraki is not the issue in Kwara — Belgore

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 Dele Belgore

Dele Belgore

MR Mohammed Dele Belgore, SAN, contested the Kwara State governorship election on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the 2011 general elections. In this interview, Belgore explains why he left the All Progressives Congress, APC for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Excerpts:

BY DAPO AKINREFON

What informed your decision to leave APC for PDP?
Well, we have said it repeatedly that APC failed to meet the aspirations we had. And when I say ‘we’, I mean our supporters for democracy. APC decided that we would need to follow certain people for reasons best known to them, which we felt has to be vested with control of the affairs of the party.

Ordinarily, we would have not had any problem with that if it were to be just for transitional arrangement. But in a situation where they were undemocratically given the control of the affairs of the party and that control is maintained at all events, was contrary to the expectations that we had.

And in the circumstance, having tried and tried hard to fight it within, without success, we were not left with a choice but just to leave.

Was it true that you ran away from the APC because of Dr. Bukola Saraki?
No. That is clearly not true. I have said it repeatedly that it is not an issue of Belgore against Saraki. I have nothing against Senator Saraki personally. So, there is no reason why I should leave APC because of Senator Saraki. I left APC for the reason that I have just given you.

Was there any gubernatorial negotiation before moving into the PDP?
Well, that is also not true. I don’t know where that information came from.

Then, what is now the attraction that has just lured you into the party?
Well, PDP at the initial stage, we had a cause for change. And the change, of course, is the change in the way the affairs of Kwara State would be run. And we felt that ACN at that time shared our aspirations. And that was why we chose ACN. It was a change from the ways things were being run. And that change had to come externally outside the PDP. That is why we were in the ACN.

And now that the APC cannot meet our aspiration as it happened that the forces against our aspirations are now, essentially on the other side, that was why we took our decision. It is not because of anything personal, but it is because of the ways things were being conducted.

What are we expecting from you in 2015?
It is too early to say. If God spares our lives, things would be revealed in the folders of time. Our priority, my priority and those of my supporters, is to build a strong platform under the PDP with which we will be in a position to try to effect a change in the affairs of the state at all levels. So, the role that I play, the role that anybody plays in that time would be determined in the fullest of time.

With Senator Saraki , the acclaimed strong man of Kwara politics now in APC, do you think that the PDP can turn the table against him electorally in 2015?
I would rather not engage in personalities. What I believe is that, a strong PDP in Kwara backed by the people, with the commitment together to change the guard of government would succeed in that objective regardless of who may be in the other side.

What is your take on the National Conference?
Well, for me, there are two aspects for it. One is the Conference and the second is the outcome of the Conference itself. The outcome of the National Conference, I cannot predict and nobody can really predict it. So don’t let us second-guess the outcome. But the mere fact that we are coming to talk, must be a positive step.

It can never be anything wrong with people of a different ethnic groups, different religions, different cultures, different ages, different professions, different vocations in life with different perspective in this common entity we call Nigeria, coming together under one umbrella to talk, I mean, that is a good thing. And it is commendable. And I think the President has been praised for that good and commendable step. So, let us talk. We can then deal with the outcome later.

Do you buy the idea of subjecting the outcome of the conference to a referendum or to be referred to the National Assembly, bearing in mind that there is no referendum in our constitution?
A constitution is the wish of the people. It is a piece of paper. The people own the constitution, the constitution doesn’t own the people.

Serving interest of the people
So, it then emerges that a broad consensus is that, maybe we should go by a referendum, yes by all means, we change our constitution to accommodate it. But the constitution should not be an impediment towards making progress.

The document was prepared by the people, I mean, was prepared for the people rather to serve the interest of the people. So, I don’t think there is any argument as to constitutionality or stop the exercise. Let us get it done and then bring the constitution around it.

What then is your take on the so called ‘no-go-areas’?
Every government, somebody elected, in my opinion, should have some no-go-areas, because there certain issues you cannot subject to public debate.

Such as…?
Such as certain matters of security. For instance, certain matters that may affect the corporate entity of the country. Its unity as a whole. Open discussion on them may actually cause more harm than good. It does not mean that we have a perfect arrangement. And it does not mean that that arrangement cannot be changed. It only means that a forum of a National Conference might not be the best to articulate such an issue.

Does that mean that a National Conference should not lead to disintegration of the country?
It should not. Now, put yourself in the position of the President of this country. Would you like to preside over the disintegration of your country? Would you set about a process that would lead to the disintegration of the country? I don’t think any responsible leader would want that.

How can we deal with the issue of Boko Haram?
Well, it would appear to be an intractable problem. And it is sad for what we see in the daily loss of lives. It is sad and regrettable, that perhaps these losses were avoidable. But, when you get to a situation such as this, you put the security of the nation, the security of the people and the security of the innocent lives at the top of your priority.

Minimising casualties
And every means open to you, both force-reasonable force, minimizing casualties, dialogue, diplomacy, all of the mixed bag, then become viable options to use. While nobody is happy with the situation and nobody wants it for it to go any day longer, I believe that it is not an intractable problem. And in due course, hopefully soon, the issue will be dealt with.

What are the challenges your pedigree as a Belgore put on you as a burden?
Well, to me, what my pedigree means is that I did not create that name. The good name I enjoy was not created by me. And therefore, I should, in all that I do, if I cannot, at the very least, improve it. I should not do anything that can tarnish it in any way. I must try to improve it. But if I cannot improve it, I must not tarnish it. And that has been the guiding principle in all of the things that I do.

 

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