By Abdallah el-Kurebe

Yusuf Suleiman last week disengaged from the Federal Executive Council following stints as Minister of Transport and subsequently, Minister of Sports to enable him mount his gubernatorial aspiration in his native Sokoto State. In an interaction with newsmen in Sokoto following his declaration, he gave his blueprint and responded to some issues including assertions that he is a candidate of the presidency. Excerpt:

You have just expressed your intention to contest for the governorship of Sokoto state under the PDP. What prompted you to suddenly go into the race?

Yes, definitely you would not have heard of it before now even though it is something we have been preparing and praying, for sometimes now. It is the decision of the people of my state because they have seen the crisis going on within the party in the state which has turned into a warfare and they feel it is time for us to come out and stop it before it make serious damages on the state and the people.

They picked me as someone that can unite the party and move the state forward because I do not have any dent or enemy in the state. They feel I am the kind of person that can bring the PDP family in the state together and also move Sokoto state to greater heights.

It is a last minute decision that we took with the elders of the party that I should come and lead them to link Sokoto state with the leadership of the federation on a more friendly note and also to move the state forward.

What is wrong with the leadership of Sokoto state that you would want to correct? In specific terms, why must you contest against Wamakko?

Yusuf Suleiman

In the act of governance, there is always a shortfall. People like me are forward looking. I speak in terms of what I know I can do and not what someone has failed to do. I know I have the capacity and competence to design, develop and implement an effective development strategy for Sokoto state.

I believe I have all that it takes to garner round and bring our people together and create a kind of cohesiveness that can work. I have always said that no matter how fantastic development plans you have, the first thing you have to do is to get the people back to work.

The people are working in the field every day adding value, creating wealth and supporting the economy to grow. No amount of investment or expenditure can build an economy where everybody is idle. And that is unfortunately what we find in our state today. Almost everybody is idle. So, I want to bring back the culture of work. Everybody will go back to work and we will together re-engineer the economy of our state and develop a sustainable economy that can be beneficial to all of us.

Some people see you as a candidate of the Presidency, the PDP National Secretariat and Abuja based Sokoto politicians and that you are better known in Abuja than in Sokoto. What is your reaction on this?

The first thing I will tell you is go back to Sokoto and ask who Yusuf Suleiman is. If I am an Abuja politician they will tell you. If I am a grassroots politician, they will tell you. Every time I go to Sokoto and I visit my village in Isa local government, you come around and see what happens. If I am an Abuja politician they know. I don’t think is fair for Mr. President to be dragged every now and then into local issues and local politics at the slightest opportunity.

When people see a problem that want to consume them, they always like to look for a bigger picture and blame it on that person because it is absolutely easy and convenient to do so. As I told you, I am a product of the elders and leaders of our party who believe that there is so much discontent, there is so much disaffection and crisis of confidence in the party and they believe it is time for us to come together and unite the people in order for us to move the state forward.

There is the theory of the old and the new PDP in Sokoto state where those of you that were in the PDP before the 2007 election when Governor Wamakko decamped to the PDP still see him and other decamped members as aliens in the party. Has that any influence on you as a member of the old PDP?

My support and followership cut across these two factions you mentioned and even beyond. I must tell you that virtually everybody in the old PDP is here with me today. Majority of those that came from the ANPP with Wamakko are also here with me. And when you were coming in here today, the person you met me talking with is the current governorship candidate of ACN in the state.

He told me that if I declare which I have already done by completing and returning the form, he is prepared to drop his nomination for me. Many of the gubernatorial candidates from other parties in the state have called me and said the same because they are not comfortable with what is going on in the state. They assured me that they will leave their parties and drop their ambitions and join me to move the state forward.

That is exactly what I want. I will unite the people of Sokoto state and move the state forward. Historically, Sokoto has never divided itself on politics. We sit together, we have a common future, destiny and we have a common interest and that is to develop our state and make it a model in this country. It is not about the old PDP or the old ANPP. It is about Sokoto state and the people of the state. I am offering myself to lead, harmonize, reconcile and heal the people.

Did you, either directly or indirectly inform Wamakko of your intention to contest against him and what was his reaction?

I have not discussed anything with him either about his interest or my interest. As an independent party member, he has the right as a sitting governor to aspire for a second term. As a member of the PDP, I also have the right to aspire to succeed him. Everything depends on the will of Allah (SWA).

Sokoto like most states of the federation, has problems of underdevelopment, especially in the areas of education, industries and so on. What practical measures do you intend to take in addressing the backwardness of the state?

I intend to float a master plan that will address all these things as I earlier said. I always recall a former British Prime Minister when he was asked what will be his priority. He said education, education, education! And I repeat, if I am asked as you said, I will say education will be my number one priority, my number two priority and my number three priority. It will also be up to my number one hundredth priority.

Un-educated and un-enlightened illiterate population is a sitting time bomb. You can only manipulate a people into doing something negative if they are not educated.  And the only way you can genuinely mobilize people for development is through education and enlightenment. That is a major priority to me.

There are allegations of financial impropriety against Wamakko and his administration now making the rounds in the state. If you succeed in becoming the governor of the state would you probe his administration?

My sole purpose of coming into this race is to unite the people of Sokoto state. Not just to unite them as a people but for development, growth and for economic emancipation. I will not bother myself probing anybody because that is not what government is all about. Wherever I find myself, I don’t portray myself as a crisis manager. I always want to do my best and move forward. I don’t have to look back at anybody. I don’t have that time.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.