By Dirisu Yakubu
Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, is the immediate past Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs is one of the declared aspirants seeking the presidential ticket of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Taminu played a key role in the survival of the PDP in its turbulent days, particularly during the 13-month long leadership tussle that threatened the very existence of the party.
In this interview with Vanguard, Taminu speaks on a wide range of issues including unity in the party, his reason for joining the presidential race, speculations on move to have the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal return to the party, amongst others. It is Vanguard exclusive. Excerpts!
Little is heard these days of the Forum of Former PDP Ministers unlike in the past few months. As the chairman of the Forum, what is going on?
If you notice since the return to democracy on the 29th of May, 1999, PDP had always been in government until 2015. And because the party had always been in government, it did not envisage a situation where we were going to have a forum of former ministers but as a result of the prevailing realities in 2015 arising from our loss of election, we foresaw a situation where the All Progressives Congress, APC-led Federal Government will try to rubbish and destroy all the legacies of the PDP for the 16 years that we were in government.
So we felt that the best persons that could defend those legacies were those people who participated in the implementation of those programmes and projects that were translated into legacies for the PDP.
So, we formed the PDP Former Ministers Forum and I believe that Nigerians will agree with me that the colossal benefits of the establishment of that body have been noticed by all and sundry.
When you look at the established organs of the PDP as a political party, you will see the Board of Trustees, BoT, National Executive Committee, NEC, and others but you won’t see the Forum of former PDP Ministers. When we came in, not only were we faced with challenges coming from the government and party that succeeded us, there was an attempt to rubbish our achievements while in government. There were some enemies of progress that were planted in our party to destabilise the party from within. So, the forum saw the opportunity to stand up not only to save our legacy as it were, but to also save the party.
That was why we fought tooth and nail to ensure sanity prevailed in the way the affairs of the party were being managed. Now that peace has been restored in the party, certainly, it is only natural for us to go back and play the role for which the forum came into existence in the first place, which is ensuring that Nigerians remember with nostalgia the good moments and good days, achievements and good works that PDP was able to record.
So that once again, the party will be able to take the reins of government of this country and bring back the good old days.
What informed your decision to seek the presidential ticket of your party?
There have been a lot of calls upon me by leaders, friends, associates and concerned members of the public about the situation that we have gotten ourselves into as a result of the inept, corrupt and clueless government of the APC. People believe that Nigerians had been wittingly or unwittingly hoodwinked into entering a one-chance vehicle. And it is important that for us to determine where we are going, we must critically look at where we are and where we are coming from.
And in doing these things, it cannot be taken away from anybody’s thought that things have changed in Nigeria. Today, it is not about political parties, it is about individuals, personalities, character, credibility and integrity of the individuals. This is what Nigerians would look at in deciding to vote or not to vote any politician at whatever level for that matter.
A lot of people therefore felt that moving forward, an individual who stands in the position I stand, who has the kind of pedigree that I have, who has the kind of integrity and credibility that I have, and who would be able to add a lot of mileage, who will be able to build bridges across the various divides, and who will once again unite us and take us to the position where we used to be, working, and living together as members of the same community, started talking me into it that it is important that I begin to think about seeking the mandate of my party to contest the 2019 Presidential election.
I said I will neither accept nor immediately reject the entreaties, but that I would have to consult wisely with different segments of the society and feel their pulse and see whether it would be worth my while to get into the contest. And I can assure you that I have made over 75 per cent consultation with the critical stakeholders that I needed to consult and I feel strongly that the call on me is not misplaced. I have seen that there are a lot of reasons to really accept the call on me to seek the mandate of my party to contest the election.
You will be up against former governors, a serving governor and a one-time Vice President of the country for the sole Presidential ticket. How bright are your chances?
Well, it is not for me to say how bright my chances are and it is not about me. It is about any of the aspirants seeking to get the ticket of the PDP. It is about all of us. I can say without mincing words that all of us are working on the same page. I can say that all of us are eminently qualified to govern this country because we are going to draw inspiration from the PDP manifesto, the programmes that the party had implemented over the years.
We have agreed to work together in the overall interest of our party and in the overall interest of this country. We are in touch with one another and we have resolved that whosoever gets the ticket among us; the others will rally round that person and support him and the party to effect a change of this inept and clueless government of the APC.
For the first time, Nigerians would be surprised at the way and manner that the now reinvigorated, re-energized and reformed PDP would select a presidential candidate. Make no doubt about it, the acrimony now being witnessed in some political parties like the APC, would not be noticed in the way we are going to select our candidates. Our party is going to give equal opportunities to all the aspirants and I am convinced also that no impunity would play any role in the emergence of our flag bearer.
Since we have gotten the assurance of the party that there would be a level-playing ground for all, you will head to the contest believing that you will either get it or someone better than you will get it. So, whatever happens, it is going to be a win-win situation for all of us. But the most important thing which is gratifying to know is that none of us is desperate about clinching the ticket of the party. None of us is trying to undermine the other or trying to look down on the other.
We are not only qualified but have the necessary experience and the strength of character to ensure that we bring back the good old days, the good old days that PDP provided in this country which have been destroyed by the clueless APC government. So, it is not about me or the others but it is about PDP and about growing democracy and ensuring that Nigeria is saved from immediate collapse that this government is trying to throw us into.
There are plans to lure Governor Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State back into the party with the intent to have him contest the Office of the President on the platform of the PDP. What would this portend for loyal party members like you who stood with the party in its turbulent days?
The Executive Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is a friend and indeed, a younger brother of mine for whom I have a lot of respect. I am a member of the BoT of the PDP and therefore, I sit in all critical meetings of the party.
I am not aware of any time the PDP as a party took the decision to try to lure Tambuwal or any other person to the party with an offer of the presidential or governorship, National Assembly or any other ticket for that matter. What we need to understand is that PDP has resolved to say we have all learnt our mistakes and we are now richer for it.
Now, we are willing to open our doors and allow not only former members of the party that had one reason or the other as a justified cause to leave the party to come back, but even new members to come in because PDP has the largest and widest platform you can ever find in Nigeria’s political landscape. The party can afford to bring in everybody to come in today and begin to aspire to any ticket to run for any office.
This is why we are so different from any political party in this country. Anybody is free to come in regardless of how long he or she had left us. Like I said before, the PDP will come up with the best and the selection process would be seamless and rancour-free.
The most important thing would be that the selection process is free, fair, just and transparent. When you look around, PDP is the only party that is owned by the Nigerian people. Take any other political party in Nigeria and count three, four or five people; you will know that they are the ones that own that party. Apart from the PDP, I will tell you the names of five people who in the event of leaving, that party will collapse and that includes the APC. Our doors are open and we welcome every Nigerian that wants to work for Nigerians within the parameters of the aims and objectives, programmes and modules of the PDP to come on board.
How will you rate President Buhari in his handling of the economy, corruption and fight against insurgency in the past three years?
With due respect to the person of Mr. President, the government of Buhari has failed woefully. If you want to examine the government objectively, you will say it has done far below average. In the management of the economy, it has scored zero, it is also zero in the fight against corruption. In battling criminality and insurgency, it has scored minus zero. And these are the three planks the party in power campaigned and got elected into office. When they came in, only three states in the North-East were facing the insurgency of Boko Haram.
All that was expected in fighting the war was by engaging the terrorists and dialoguing with the repentant sect members; a cardinal aspect of the fight against insurgency that has been abandoned by this government. This government has compounded the security situation in Nigeria that nobody is safe anywhere. Is it the fear of the crisis between herdsmen and farmers, armed robbery, kidnapping or the restiveness in the South-South and South-East parts of the country as a result of the cluelessness of the President Buhari administration?
We handed over an economy to the APC that was number one in Africa, which was also the fastest growing in the continent. We handed over an economy that was the third most investor- friendly coming only behind China and Qatar. But what is happening today? The few firms that had invested in Nigeria are winding down their investments and leaving. Look at the way small and medium scale businesses have been wiped out. Look at the way everybody has been thrown into abject poverty.
Those in paid employment are losing their jobs. Since they came into office, more than eight million people have lost their jobs and they have not been able to create jobs and the so-called N-Power scheme has turned out a fraud. Nigerian economy has never done this badly like it is doing today.
The fight against corruption is laughable but I believe Nigerians can now compare between the APC and the PDP. I am confident that by the time we go to the polls by February next year, PDP will come back to power because Nigerians have known those to trust.
I want to call on Nigerians to remain determined and to be hopeful that a bright sunny day is not far away. I want to assure Nigerians that indeed, the predicament the APC has foisted on us is something that is not permanent. It is not going to be permanent as long as we are operating a democracy. It is not going to be permanent as long as Nigerians have and are going to use their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs in the forthcoming elections.