‘I have never liked funfare kind of life’
By Bilesanmi Olalekan
Katsina State governor elect, Honorable Aminu MaSari, was the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Lack of internal democracy, he says, pushed him out of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to join Congress of Progressives Change, CPC, founded by the now president-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, but which later merged with two other parties to form All Progressives Change, APC. In this interview, he says the opposition, since 2003, had always won Katsina’s governorship election but always rigged out even as he says his administration will walk its talk.
Did you envisage, with the power of incumbency both at the state and the federal level, that you, in particular, could win when you won your party’s primary?
There was never any doubt in my mind. From 2003, it has been the opposition that has been winning the governorship election in terms of real votes. We all knew what the PDP was doing, after all, we were once members of the party. Since the entrance of General Muhammadu Buhari into politics, in Katsina, it has always been the opposition winning. We knew it and we knew what was done to scuttle the victory. Not that people did not vote. They voted for the opposition. In 2003, 2007, 2011, the people themselves knew that if there was free and fair election, their votes would give victory to the opposition. In 2011, if you remember, the party had the three Senate seats and had twelve in the House of Representatives. We lost the governorship and that was because people did not vote for CPC then, because some people in the CPC betrayed the party. We are lucky this time around that the party is united, and went into the election a united party. So, there were not too many problems in terms of rancour and disaffection . We were sure we would win. Ask the security agencies, they would tell you that the APC was set win.
What did you do wrongly in 2011 that you lost and you did rightly to get to the Government House in 2015?
There was nothing done wrongly then and there was nothing done right that was not done before. Simply put, INEC and the security agencies, at least in our state, decided they would serve the Nigerian people positively. I think that was the difference. It is not as if we did something different. Yes, we campaigned vigorously, as we did in 2007 and 2011. But the atmosphere of the campaign this time around was conducive. There was no litigation holding the party down, so the party was able to move as one body and, fortunately for us, PDP didn’t do primaries in accordance with the rules of the party; so, there was serious opposition after the governor anointed his candidate. Most of the leaders of the party left, some openly joined us, some secretly joined us.
What were the challenges you met on the way before winning the election. The president-elect was faced with litigations and hate speeches?
We faced the government with all the accusations. I think in terms of campaign, this was the most bitter since 1999. This time, the campaign was a personal one. It was no longer an issue-based campaign. But we tried to engage an issue-based campaign. We did not join PDP in terms of personal attacks, mudslinging, but we remained focused on issues. For example, we raised the issue of education, because the state of education in the state now, compared to what it used to be, is really bad. We raised the issue of local government system and agriculture, which is supposed to be the main stay of the economy in the state. These were some of the issues we raised and campaigned upon and we refused to be distracted from issue-based politics. The PDP really had no issue to campaign with, that is why it was easy to go about abusing us using foul languages here and there. But, luckily, the party did not face any litigation before and after the primaries. We did not have the kind of challenge the general faced at the national level. But from the national to state levels, one could say this campaign was the dirtiest, and that was because the PDP refused to make it an issue-based campaign, but character assassination and mudslinging.
You were formally of the PDP; due to lack of internal democracy, you left. How are you ensuring that what pushed you out of the PDP is not a way of life in the APC?
I think our starting point would be the local government elections.
The PDP government just conducted one last year?
Yes, I know. At least in the life of this administration, we are going to conduct local government elections too. That would be the first test in terms of whether we are truly democrats or not. We are sure the people know we are going to be just and fair in who leads them. We are looking for a situation where we walk our talk. Whatever we say now will show in the local government elections if we are democratic or not. That is going to be our first test and we are praying to God that the elections would be just and fair.
What are those areas that your administration wants to focus upon and which you campaigned upon?
Going by the manifesto of our party, human resources development is a key area we are going to focus upon but, again, how do you arrive at human resources development without education? . Our priority is on education. The state of education in Katsina is so bad. And it can make one cry.
But Governor Shema at different fora said there has been unprecedented investment in education in the state which was why the enrollment shot up to millions of pupils in public schools
Let me give the statistics of passes and failures from the records of the state Ministry of Education, and then, you can make up your mind if what you are saying now tallies with mine. From 1999 to 2013, 250,000 students were presented for SSCE. Only 28,000 passed with credit in English and maths which represents about 12%. In 2014, only 45,800 students sat for the same SSCE, only 4,800 made it which represents about 10%. When you go to public schools which presented 17,000 for the same SSCE, only 3570 passed, that is about 2%. So, it is now left to you to believe what he said and whether we are making progress or not. This is the state that has the first major school in the whole northern Nigeria. We produced the early leaders for the entire country. For any body to say we are making progress in education, my question to such people is, does the so-called progress tally with the figures released?
Before getting to office, office politicians say a lot of things in terms of what they want to do but, shortly after, they act like the previous government. What is the guarantee that you will not act same way?
I think people will continue to criticise. But, let us wait and see how APC is going to handle this state and country. I am sure it is going to be totally different from the way PDP ran the country. Even our president-elect said the APC is not going to be ruling party but a governing party. What that means to me is that the party is going to provide leadership, not rulership. In Katsina, we definitely believe there will be change. What we are saying concerning change, it is not about face or name, we are talking about changing our attitude. It is about change of how we run government, business. Whoever says there won’t be major difference in the way government is run, I will say the person should wait and see what APC is coming to the table with, you will see that there will be a huge departure from the way things are done. It is not going to be business as usual, not this time.
Any transition committee in place now?
Yes, we have formed a transition committee and the present government through the Office of the Secretary to the State Government is liaising with the committee.
What is your take on the sack of the former Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba?
For whatever reason, I don’t think the president should remove the head of a security outfit few days to handing over except the person has reached his terminal date in office. If he is appointed for a certain period of time, and it has reached that time, of course, I believe he has to go. But, if not, I don’t think it is right and a proper sack and the attempt to appoint, because these are the people the incoming president will work with. He might have succeeded in the removal of the I.G, certainly, I know he cannot succeed in ultimately deciding who becomes the new I.G.. I don’t know the offence he may committed. I am here in Katsina. I am not aware of any report nor have I read anything regarding that, but ultimately, Jonathan is in charge.
He has the right to hire and fire until May 29. There is really nothing one can do. However, if you look at the issue from the political and oral point of view, if I were him, I would not have done it. I would have allowed the incoming president to do that. If there is any serious offence committed, I will only brief the incoming president, ‘ this man, this is what he has done, this is his case, but because we are leaving, we are leaving it for you to deal with, we thought we should let you know the person you are inheriting as your I.G’.
Did you, together with others who formed the APC, envisage it would have this kind of goodwill that would generate as many as 21 states including the centre?
General Muhammadu Buhari, in 2011, despite the computer manipulation and the antics of the PDP, was able to garner as much as 12million votes. If you take those 12 million votes, put together with what he won in ACN South- West, you will know that he was going to win. Obviously, when the merger was consummated, anybody who made it his business to see the politics, voting pattern and the balance of power in the country, would know that so long as APC continued like that, it was a matter of time before they took over the reigns of power. So, you take the votes of Buhari, add it to that of the ACN in South- West, all put together to make APC, the new party, you will know that PDP was gone. The entire North voted for him. Even in the governorship, it was only in Gombe that we lost, otherwise, it would have been a clean sweep of the North for the APC. The reality is that whoever cares to know would know that the days of PDP were over.
You once said you didn’t know you would go this far in your political life when you became Speaker at the centre. Now you are governor, what difference does this have on you?
In terms of political hierarchy, protocol wise, when you are Speaker, you automatically becomes the number four in the country.
The position I am now is not a position bigger than where I was. However, it is more significant in terms of what you can do to benefit your people. I believe I am a very simple person and I like to live simple, do everything simple, and, certainly, we are going to govern simple. There is nothing like being pompous or having that paraphernalia of office that shields you from the people. I want to do my things, as I have always done, simple and modest. I have never liked fun fare kind of life.