BY TAYE OBATERU
Alhaji Tanko Almakura the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) governorship candidate in Nasarawa State is perhaps the strongest contender for the seat currently occupied by Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma in the forthcoming governorship contest. He spoke on his chances and why he thinks the people should prefer him to the incumbent. Excerpts:
You are running against an incumbent governor and many feel it is not easy to defeat an incumbent. What do you think are your chances?
Ordinarily, the power of incumbency is supposed to make any outsider coming into the arena a bit jittery but that is not necessarily the case. The power of incumbency can only come to bear when the incumbent has performed and has done things that the people are benefitting from. Not in a situation where people are yearning for change. Everybody can see clearly here that the machinery of government in the state is getting close to a failed one. I am really confident and focused and I am quite optimistic that the forthcoming governorship election in Nasarawa State will favour me by God’s grace.
Your campaign does not seem to have fully taken off. Is this a strategy?
All along, the campaign train has been on and running. It’s already moving. It has started moving since January. We are now going to be fully involved with our campaign uninhibited.
A lot of prominent personalities in the state were seen at the inauguration of your campaign organization. Is this a pointer to the level of support you enjoy?
When we started early in January, people responded to our campaign with some amount of skepticism. Skepticism, because their minds were biased by a psychological warfare launched by the powers that be when we started the campaign.
The psychological warfare is to the effect that there was no vacancy in Government House. So almost everybody who saw us campaigning was a bit idifferent because some of the people making this psychological threat were people you could call stakeholders.
Stakeholders in the sense that they are prominent people in the society and for one reason or the other, they decided to arrogate to themselves the power of the electorate by proclaiming that the stool of the governorship in Nasarawa State is not vacant. So a lot of people saw that as a serious threat to whosoever is coming to disturb the status quo. When I realized this I became resolute to pursue my ambition and we decided to embark on the campaign.
That amount of confidence in ourselves, that amount of hope and the feasibility and activity we have engaged in since then and the level of seriousness with which we carried on with our campaign, gave virtually everyone, even the most doubting Thomases the impression that Tanko Almakura and his people are for real. So from that time, we have been getting people to come and embrace the campaign, up till this point in time when the mother of it all happened. When virtually most of the major stakeholders, the most serious politicians and the down- to- earth politicians who have held very important offices in this state, realized and accepted the sincerity of our purpose, the seriousness of our project, hence they have all come on board.
Your ability to win people like the former deputy governor of old Plateau State and one of the founders of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman to your side is seen by many as no mean feat. How did you wangle that?
No, we did not just win him. All along we have been talking with his Excellency, Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman, who is now the Patron of my campaign.
Like you know Halilu Bala Usman can rightly be described as the father of Nasarawa politics, for the simple fact that apart from few persons I know, he is at the moment the most senior highest public officer from the state, who is not on the throne. If I may paraphrase it, he is about one of the oldest and most senior ex this, ex that and with the kind of politics he played during the SDP when he became deputy governor, you realize he is not a push over.
He was a very critical stakeholder, he was a flag bearer and he was also a mentor to a lot of political enthusiasts. So his coming now is not a new thing because all along, from when we started the campaign, he has been monitoring and assessing our performance and he has been giving us good and fatherly advice.
Even when I went round on local government tour when I met traditional rulers and leaders of thought in the state, he was there in the meeting and contributed immensely. To crown it all, during my coming home after my surgery, he was the chief host that received me at the boundary between Nasarawa and FCT in Keffi.
How true is the speculation that you recently met with Governor Doma secretly and may finally succumb to pressure to renounce your bid?
I call these political speculations or political stigmatization or what I may further call cheap political gimmick. As far as I am concerned, I have no problem with Aliyu Doma. I respect him, I acknowledge the fact he is the governor by God’s grace.
However, my respect and association starts and stops at that. When it comes to issues of performance, when it comes to issues of delivering, when it comes to issues of giving my people the dividends of democracy, I will not compromise. And from what I have been able to see, these expectations were not forthcoming from the administration and they are still not forthcoming.
I met him in the past when I used to give him certain advice, certain counseling, making certain position papers that will aid and assist how he governs the state. But when I found out that my advice, position papers and propositions were falling on deaf ears, I decided to work underground. Underground in the sense that we tried to find out where the problem is and try to find the ways and means to change or solve these problems. And we came to the conclusion that the problem that is bedeviling the state now cannot be solved with the administration we have in place. The only solution to that problem is change.
If eventually you become the governor of Nasarawa State, what difference will you bring into governance?
You see the methodology or modus operandi used in running this state is archaic, it is outdated. In fact, the change we want is multi-dimensional. Unless there is a generational change or there is a paradigm shift in this state, we shall continue to live with the kind of slow, sluggish and lethargic mode of administration. That is what we are lacking in the present administration and that is what we aspire to attain when we come on board.
It has been alleged in certain quarters that you are in the race solely to get at Governor Aliyu Doma for refusing to fulfill an alleged land deal or even pay certain money to you?
No, no, that is a very laughable insinuation. As far as I am concerned, there was no transaction that has ever taken place between me and the present governor. For the avoidance of doubt, I have never ever had any contract since the state was created and if any governor has given me any contract, since this state was created in 1996, I challenge that governor to produce the document. I have never been given any political appointment. I am not one of the loved ones by the powers that be. What I have attained, what I was able to achieve is by the special grace of Almighty Allah.
It is my own effort and God’s grace. There are some people who feel I am being unnecessarily adamant about my ambition and have decided to cast certain aspersions but there is nothing like that. In fact, there is nothing material, there is nothing monetary, there is nothing advantageous materially that I have ever asked or that was given by his administration or any other administration for that matter. Like you know, I am not a contractor; I am a realtor, doing real estate business, where I have my business in Abuja, Lagos and even the in United States. So I don’t have any axe to grind with regard to chasing contracts, asking for payment or anything of that sort.
Nasarawa State is a religious sensitive state because of the sizeable population of Muslims and Christians. How do you hope to maintain religious harmony if you become governor?
My campaign disposition has no coloration with regards to any particular religion. It is true yes, I am a Muslim, but I am going to govern a state where a substantial number of people are of other persuasion and if you truly want to be a sincere and honest governor, you should be able to carry everybody along with you. I have started doing that already.
Although I am a Muslim, you find out that the technocrats, the chief executives of my campaign organization comprises more of Christians than even Muslims. Take for instance the directorate where I have one Director General and about five DDG’s, two are Muslims and three are Christians. This is a trend we hope to sustain even in government. We would give everybody a sense of belonging and sense of love. It is a state that is populated by both Christians and Muslims, so this must reflect in every of our actions, appointments and in every dividend we are going to give. We will make sure Christians and Muslims work together and understand that this is our state, we are each other’s keepers that there is no way we can do without one another.