By Bilesanmi Olalekan
Former Governor Dalhatu Bafarawa is among those who ensured that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains in power in Sokoto State, at least for the next four years. Ahead of the general elections, Bafarawa was on the road, campaigning for the PDP and Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s re-election. Bafarawa says, in this interview, that but for the intervention of the Federal Government in the electoral process, the PDP would have defeated the All Progressives Congress (APC) with a wide margin in the Sokoto governorship election. The PDP won the election with just 345 votes.
Congratulations on your hard-earned victory. The APC really gave your party a run for your money.
It is you outsiders that think that what happened during the election was magic. It was not magic. There is no magic in politics. We actually wanted the presidential and National Assembly elections to be held differently, not at the same time or date. The National Assembly elections were successful for the APC because it took advantage of the presidential election; specifically, it rode on the back of President Muhammadu Buhari. I say this because here in the North, there is nothing you can use to convince the people against the Buhari candidature. People are thinking APC is on ground in Sokoto, it is not true. APC has just about 25% followership in Sokoto. I don’t want to generalize. I prefer to limit my view to my state, Sokoto.
The Buhari bandwagon really helped APC. If the elections had been held separately, there is no way they would have won a seat in the general elections. The bandwagon effect of the Buhari victory really gave them the impression that they would win subsequent elections, particularly the governorship. In Sokoto State, there are two political parties. It is not PDP or APC as you may have assumed. The main parties in Sokoto are Bafarawa party and Wamako party. When Governor Aminu Tambuwal left Wamako camp and joined me, the implication of that action is that you may begin to compare the Bafarawa eight years in office with his successor’s eight years in office.
And that is one of the reasons I decided to devote all my energy to support the governor to bring about all the good things I started to fruition, but which my successor destroyed. You can see what we did in our time in terms of road construction, the improved standard of education, construction of new blocks of classrooms, the infrastructure we brought to the health sector, the new Government House we built, etc. People obviously didn’t forget all that. I spent almost four months with the governor, and assured our supporters that the governor was mine and their candidate and that giving us their support, the governor, just as I did then, will also do and more.
That was the first time in my political life that I will be going out to campaign. While I was in government, I never campaigned. I told the people to “let my achievements campaign for me”. That was it. That assurance motivated the people that with me, the governor will be re-elected. So, there is nothing so special about the victory. See what Bafarawa did for eight years and also see what Wamako did for the same number of years and let there be comparison. The records are there for anybody to see. Unfortunately, most of the achievements were rubbished by my successor. They wanted to make sure Tambuwal did not return so that the good work we started then would not return; fortunately, the electorate, the people knew what we did then and so they wanted continuity; now, they have got it.
In the first election before it was suspended, the PDP was ahead with over 25,000 votes but because of the intrigues, they were committed to delivering Sokoto to APC, they started cancellation of votes so that, at the end of the day, they ended up cancelling votes in about 136,000 polling units. They did the cancellation from 25,000 votes until we ended up having 3,000. Even at that, we won. But still, they didn’t give up. When it was obvious that things were not going their way and as they planned, they suspended the election. They rigged the election, no doubt about that. However, because of the large support base of the PDP, the damage was not consequential. If you have a large support base like the PDP has in Sokoto, you won’t be rigged out ultimately. If not for the people, we would have been rigged out completely. Because the party was on ground, coupled with the support base of the people, we were able to stand our ground.
How true is the claim that there were moles in the Tambuwal government and that they were discovered towards the election which led to the sack of some commissioners?
Yes, there were moles. You know because they won the Senate and largely the House of Representatives elections, they felt there was no point wasting their time with the government of the day, and since they have the Federal Government power of coercion on their side, they felt their victory was a foregone conclusion. That is why some of them worked against us. Indeed, with the amount of pressure mounted on Sokoto by the Federal Government during that election, there was no other way than to conclude that they had won even before the election was contested. The PDP had no senator, just two out of eleven House of Representatives members; they have the majority in the House of Assembly; so they concluded immediately that they would win the election. But as I said, the power of the people is greater than the gun. And we give God all the glory.
You said the APC, despite the Federal Government’s support, still lost to the PDP. Can you substantiate this ‘federal might’ you are referring to?
For example, the Commissioner of Police was transferred from the state, two days to the election. The Director of DSS in the state was transferred. The Brigade Commander (of the Nigerian Army) was transferred. Then they brought ten units of mobile police because of this election scheduled to hold in only 136 polling units. An Assistant Inspector General of Police and three Police Commissioners were also deployed. There are criminals everywhere, our people are being slaughtered every now and then, they didn’t deploy the men to the scenes of crime, but they could bring out everything in their arsenal because of election in 136 polling units.
You were one of the people, in the past, supporting and propagating everything Buhari stands for when you were the Acting Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. Now, the two of you are in different parties. Why do you think the electorate voted for Buhari en masse?
When you said the APC was voted for en masse, I will not want to talk much on that because it will be subjudice since the case is presently in court. However, I can tell you that I was one of the people that launched General Buhari into politics when he first contested the presidential election under the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. I was the Acting Chairman of the party. I didn’t regret the role I played in Buhari emerging as the ANPP presidential flag bearer because I believed in him then, I still believe him now and I think the man can do better than he is presently doing. But, unfortunately, he can’t do more than what is presently being done because of the people he surrounds himself with.
When General Obasanjo, former president, joined politics, he knew he could not do it alone, he went to bring people that could help him achieve his goals and he succeeded. For Buhari, there are people like us, who are close to him and who will tell him the truth, whether he likes to hear it or not, but there are people around him who are scared and who know that if we are around him, it will affect them negatively as they will no longer play the role they are playing. I was not just a former member of APC; I was also one of the founding fathers. The Constitution of APC was drafted here in my house. They know that if I remain in APC, I will definitely assist Buhari and block them from doing what they are presently doing.
So, some of us are committed to seeing Buhari’s success as ours and his failure as ours. We were the pioneers of his political career. And we must make sure we protect his interest, our interest and the interest of the nation. But, unfortunately, those behind him are not helping him. If you have the right people with you, you can go to bed, but if you have the wrong ones around you, then, you are in trouble. That is exactly what is happening. He has been covered up such that he cannot see those things and he will never see them because the people who are benefitting will ensure that he does not see any other person but them. I don’t have ill feelings towards him. I want him to succeed and I pray he succeeds.
But talking about General Muhammadu Buhari, he has not changed. He is still the same person. There is no perfection though. Nobody is perfect. I guessed that is why General Obasanjo came out to talk because he was the one that brought Nigeria out of the (foreign) debt we owed then. But you can see that we are back to that stage again.
So were you surprised that Obasanjo came out to talk against the government to say he was not supporting Buhari?
Obasanjo is not supporting anybody. Obasanjo is only supporting Nigeria. Many people don’t really understand who Obasanjo is. The man is not quarrelling with anybody; he can only quarrel with anybody he perceives may want to bring this country down. The Obasanjo that I know, that I worked with, I know how committed he is to Nigeria and anything the country stands for. So, it is not a question about whether he likes someone or not. As far as I am concerned, Obasanjo is still the best leader this country has ever produced. I worked with him as a state governor, he is one of the best leaders that ever came out of this country. The way he treated me as an opposition governor between 1999 and 2003, there was nothing Obasanjo didn’t do for me then to ensure I deliver all my promises to the people of Sokoto. He performed as President. He wants every other person to perform like himself. Unless you work with somebody, you really cannot say particularly who the person is. The only people Obasanjo can quarrel with are the enemies of the country and he will never spare anybody when it comes to issues about Nigeria. As long as he is alive and he sees something not going well in the country, Obasanjo will never keep quiet.
Insurgency in the North-East is still active. Crimes are on the increase and everywhere. There have been several complaints against the Service Chiefs and the need to change them in order to have a new approach to solving crime.
(Cuts in). I don’t have anything to say about that because I am not working with the President. I don’t know what he knows which may be the reason he still keeps them. If I am part of the government now, I am close to him, I may know his reason.
How true is the thinking that Bafarawa is gradually becoming a god-father of Sokoto politics?
Is it the first time Bafarawa is helping people or bringing people into Sokoto politics? Who brought even Wamako into politics? I am the father of all. I brought Wamako to be my deputy. Until then, he never contested any election. I brought him into politics. He was a civil servant. I groomed him to be a politician. Tambuwal was in the House of Representatives. I brought him in 2006. This is not the first time I am supporting someone in Sokoto politics. It is the same house; just that the house has now split but there is nothing new that Bafarawa is a godfather in Sokoto politics. It is no news.