BY PAUL ODENYI
Last week, former governor of Sokoto State and former Presidential candidate of the Democratic Peoples party (DPP), Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, resigned from the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN), a party he joined about one year ago. His movement into the ACN then surprised many who wondered why he abandoned a party he virtually founded, funded and was national leader to join another as an ordinary member. In this interview, he gives reasons why he left the ACN, and why he is returning to his older party, the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). Excerpts:
What informed your decision to resign from the ACN?
It is not a surprise that I left the ACN if you recall what happened during the national convention of the party. You also know that most of the conventions of the parties used to hold in Abuja, that is the Federal Capital, but unfortunately, when the ACN wanted to have their own agenda to push their candidate against the interest of the people, they pushed their national convention to Lagos .
And when we went to Lagos, I told them that I did not join the ACN in order to distract the party. I joined the party to help build democracy so that we can move forward. That was what made me to withdraw my intention and allow whoever emerged to be the party’s flag bearer. You recall that during that convention I promised that I will be loyal to the party so that we can be able to move democracy forward, and so that we can capture power at the centre and in the states from the PDP.
But unfortunately we lost and nobody could ask why it happened. The leadership did not tell us they had other arrangements. So I just managed with them to see how far we could go because what happened to our presidential candidate at the presidential election is still a big question that we have not gotten an answer from the leadership of that party.
Since I don’t want to start quareling with anybody and as a leader, who has followers, I had the patience to allow things to go on. But it has reached a stage where I cannot continue to ruin the future of my followers and myself. So I did not want to get to a point where we will scatter the party, so the thing I could do was to leave. They wrote me a letter that I have been absent from the meetings of the caucus and they learnt that I have been holding meetings with my partners in the party, that I should explain to them why I am doing that.
You see this is an insult. I am from the North, nothing and nobody can stop me from talking with my colleagues, followers. So because of that they wrote me a letter that I should explain and they gave me one week. Look at that, I am not an employee of ACN. These are matters of interest. And they gave me one week to reply. I have been away from the country. They wrote the letter on the 9th of November, no committee was set up to ask me questions.
They brought the letter on Sunday evening (13th November). I returned from Saudi Arabia on Sunday and they brought the letter the same day. So the only thing I could do instead of replying them I brought my resignation letter. They can go ahead and run their one man show party. I cannot just see myself being treated in the way I was treated in the ACN. That is the reason I left the party.
You said that the presidential election was arranged between the party leadership and some people and that was why the candidate did not win in some of their strongholds…
I think that those who are still in the ACN should have the interest to find out what happened. As far as I am concerned, I have left the party and I am not interested to know what happened.
But you just made the allegation, though veiled, indicating that maybe the leadership had sold out the presidential ballot to somebody. Was that not what you just said?
Those who are in the party should bother about that.
Some people are also asking why it took you so long to take this decision to leave the party?
At least, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to see whether they can change and agree to allow ACN to be a national party. I did not need to rush myself. But with these facts and reason, at least I have had my opportunity to leave.
The ACN is making inroad into the North such as Benue, Kogi and other states. Are you sure the decision you took now is best for you?
It is the best for me because I am a principled man. The bandwagon party is the PDP and since I left my first party, the ANPP I should have joined the PDP but people are watching how best any of these parties will represent the aspirations of the people. No matter how the ACN tries to move in the North, it depends on how they behave themselves. If they agree for the party to be a national party, everybody will be free to join the party. I am not quarelling with any one of them, but the way and manner they are trying to hold it as if it is a one man show is unacceptable to me.
You keep referring to one man show. Whose show is ACN: Akande, Tinubu or who?
I don’t need to mention anybody’s name. At least everybody knows when you mention ACN, you know what it means. I left DPP because I saw DPP as a Bafarawa party. I don’t want to be associated with a party that once you mention the name they will call one person. I want to be in a national party. Even though PDP is my rival party, but at least it is a national party. You cannot say that it belongs to one person. I don’t want to be in a party that is associated with one man. Otherwise I would have been in my DPP, my own party which will be called Bafarawa party.
Your former governor colleagues like Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande are also your friends who lured into that party. Did you quarrel with them. Otherwise they should have treated you much better than what you are saying now?
We are friends and continue to be friends. We can only disagree on principle and when that is over we continue with our friendship.
Did you discuss this matter with any of your former colleagues before you left?
At least I saw their letter. And it was signed on behalf of Bisi Akande. Nobody can write a letter and send it to me without the knowledge of the National Chairman.
Have you seen any of them since the letter came?
At least they are asking me to reply which I did.
The reply you gave them was to resign. Is that a reply?
Why did they not call me before sending the letter.
Your return to ANPP is also curious. The party you founded, DPP is still there for you. Why didn’t you go to it?
I said I don’t want to be associated with one man party. I just decided to return to ANPP because I am a founding member of the party. That’s number one. I contested for governorship two times and won under the umbrella of the ANPP. I was the national chairman of this party, the ANPP. I did not have any reason if not because of Obasanjo’s intrigues that time, to use the National Chairman by then, Don Etiebet to push me out of the party. Otherwise I will not leave that party. I did not leave the party because I wanted to leave the party. I was forced and pushed out of the party.
So it is now time to return to the party where I belong. This is the party that raised me to the rank of governor for eight years and they trusted me and gave me the leadership of the party. It was under my leadership that I brought General Buhari in 2003. So this is the party that I believe I need to go back to and see that we build it again. I want it to be bigger than what it was before.
Have you written to the ANPP to say you have come back? Are they planning a reception for you?
I am sure that they will not hesitate to receive me anytime I go to the place. I am a member. Even when I left them I was still a partner in progress with them. I don’t think there is any problem and remember it is my fundamental human right to join any group that I like.
The ANPP has lost strength since those days when it had nine governors and was the official opposition party. Today, it has only three governors and that should not have attracted somebody like you.
That is why I said that we want to rebuild the party. I know the situation you are saying but we don’t want to look at it like that. It has potentials. Nigerian politicians want to have it the easy way. I want to work and get my crown so that it will be valuable to me. The reason why democracy is now decreasing in Nigeria is because people don’t value what is called democracy.
People are joining politics in Nigeria because they want to be governor or senator or member of the House of Representatives. After they are through with their professional job, the last thing they want to do is to join politics. That is the most unfortunate part of politics in Nigeria. We do not listen to professional politicians that is the reason we have problems.
If we had left politics in the hands of professionals, it will not be as bad as it is today. In Nigeria anybody who wants money is a politician. It is different from being a professional politician.
Recently, the President met with members of the National Assembly on the subsidy issue at the villa, seeking their support on the matter. What is your take on that?
I am glad that Mr. President contacted the National Assembly on the issue of fuel subsidy. He knows he cannot do it alone without the consent of the National Assembly. And the National Assembly will not do it alone. They will have to go to the people who sent them there to know if they would want the fuel subsidy to continue or not. At least Mr. President has done his job by asking the National Assembly members to give him approval to remove the subsidy. The National Assembly cannot sit down in their offices and approve it without going to the electorate who elected them. Let us not rush. They have set the ball rolling.
What do you think is the solution of insecurity in the land?
I am glad that the National Assembly members took up that matter with the President. I think also that it was good that they gave him that respect to go to his office. Otherwise, they are supposed to summon him to come personally to explain so that every Nigerian will see that the National Assembly is doing its job. But I salute them for the courage to go and meet him and ask him that question.
But these things will not solve the problem of insecurity in Nigeria. If there is no justice, nothing will bring peace in this country. If there is no justice there is going to be Boko Haram, political haram, government haram, if care is not taken. The only thing I am appealing to leaders on the stage now is to apply justice in whatever they do.
What kind of challenge does CPC pose to the ANPP in the North. Why did you not join your friend, Buhari in his party?
I think that this is the task ahead of us. That is to appeal to General Buhari to come back home to ANPP where he was groomed as a Nigerian politician. Let him come back with his CPC as I have done the sacrifice of moving back with my former DPP and associates to return to ANPP. If you look at Buhari, look at me, we are all members of one party, that is ANPP. Let’s try and take care of our mother. Because for two of us, ANPP is our mother. The mother is sick, so let’s take her to the best hospital for treatment. Let us try to compensate for what the ANPP has done for us.
But you still left some of your associates in DPP. People like General Useni, Great Ogboru, Gbenga Olawepo etc. Why are they not following you to ANPP?
You know that in politics, you can ask your children to follow you, some will come and some will not. So it is a question of ideology. Let me not comment on those who decided to stay in DPP. I am sure now that some of them are regretting why they did move at the time we moved. I am not blaming them because I have found myself making a new turn again. So I am not blaming anybody. Great Ogboru will not leave his case and join another party. He is still pursuing his case in court.
Let’s return to the story of the Mega Party because I am sure that your decision to join the ACN in the first place followed that route. Why did it not succeed?
The Mega Party issue is just unfortunate. Like I said earlier, professional politicians and office politicians are different. We the professional politicians are in the minority in this country. Office seeker politicians are greater in number. When we sat down, myself, Buhari, Atiku and the rest of us, many of them are not politicians. Buhari is a general, Atiku is a customs officer. Unfortunately it is only Bafarawa and Asiwaju that are politicians. Along the line, the whole meeting of the Mega Party was held here in my house. Virtually, all the 21 meetings that were held in Abuja happened here. It was because of that meeting that put me in trouble, the government and EFCC.
It was during this our meeting that I was arrested by EFCC , they kept me for one week. Even the people who arrested me said, ‘Oga, we don’t have anything against you but this is political something so you have to wait until we get directive. They kept me for one week. Nobody asked me to write one sentence in EFCC up till today. After one week, they dragged me to Sokoto and it was in that court that I was given my charges and from there around 8 pm in the night, I was taken to prison.
It was in the presence of Atiku and Buhari that I was arrested and none of them was concerned to find out what was happening to me. I was a victim and Atiku went and joined PDP and Buhari went and formed CPC. I was left alone. The only thing I had to do was to join this Asiwaju group. So that was how I found myself in a fix.