By Emmanuel Aziken
Tijjani Musa Tumsah was the pioneer National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview, he speaks on the evolving political issues in the party ahead of the 2023 presidential election and why he thinks the party can retain power.
You were the pioneer National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress. How would you like to describe your experience?
It was a very wonderful experience being part of a historic merger, the first of its kind, not only in Nigeria but in Africa, where parties willingly came together to pursue a common vision in advancing the course of the progresses in Nigeria.
It involved a lot of skills in terms of accommodating all the parties involved in the merger and the leadership provided by the leaders of the party such as Chief Bisi Akande, Ogbonnaya Onu, President Muhammadu Buhari, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the likes of them were fundamentally important.
So also were the roles played by administrative components of the parties like the other party secretaries such as Senator Lawali Shuaibu and Alhaji Buba Galadima to the merger.
It was a tireless exercise where the hours involved to make the conclusive arrangement were very long and tasking. I am glad that I was able to be the first interim National Secretary of the party and it all came about from the sacrifices of a lot of others in making the merger work and the party vibrant enough to win an election within the period of 2 years from its inception.
Of utmost importance is the fact that the effort did not go in vain and the party was able to occupy the leadership of the country. All in all I would say it was a very pleasurable and fulfilling experience.
There has been a serious clamour for power shift to the South, what is your view about this?
Within the APC, while there wasn’t any agreement of a power shift, it is only appropriate that it should be done. There should be a sense of inclusion from all parts of the nation. I think it is only right that power should shift to the South because of the antecedents of the political culture since 1999.
Power should be rotational amongst all the regions of the country even though it does not guarantee development but that is the political path we have chosen, as a country, to follow.
Did you ever imagine there will be such a crowded field of presidential aspirants across the two mainstream political parties?
Whether I imagined it or not is not the issue. The question is that they are there right now and they have all expressed their intent backed by a lot of money. I am referring to off course the cost of forms for the contest. The vibrancy in the political space is high and it needs also to focus specifically to issues that are relevant to the current situation and a future for Nigeria.
Going into 2023, how would you describe the chances of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the presidential contest against other parties?
The APC as a ruling party has as at present, the most number of aspirants for the office of the presidency. That indicates a lot of things which includes the vibrancy of the party to win the election.
Secondly, the nature of different interest groups and thirdly, that it is a very precarious situation should this diversity not be managed well during and after the selection processes. Once that is done, the APC has a very good chance of winning the presidency and other seats across the nation. The challenge now is to be able to manage these processes very well and so far, the APC has done creditably well in doing that.
Who, in your consideration, would you describe as the presidential front runners in the APC?
Obviously, Bola Ahmed Tinubu would be considered a tremendous front runner given the historical connection with the evolution of the APC from inception. Other front runners in this party to my mind will be Kayode Fayemi, Rotimi Amaechi and the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo. These will be considered front runners for a variety of reasons. They appear to be the only candidates going around the country to engage delegates at their places of residence and listen first hand, to their problems.
A lot of candidates who have acquired the forms have not been able to move out to even a third of the states they are required to solicit votes from. In my opinion, that is why I would say these 4 are the front runners, in addition to their antecedents.
Can you share with us what you think would constitute the general appeal of Dr Kayode Fayemi to your Party delegates at your Party’s National Presidential Convention?
First I think his experiences as a governor, minister and political party activist would place him on an equal basis with a lot of other front runner candidates in the party. An edge for Dr. Fayemi is the fact that he is a Security expert, he has a PhD in security studies and security happens to be one of the major concerns of the Nigerian electorate today.
Secondly his reach across the divides of the nation, south east, south west, north east, north west and so on, that also gives him an edge. The other edge of course is that he has been the Chairman of Nigerian Governor’s forum which has put him in contact with the immediate needs of every APC governed state across the nation. He has been able to creditably chair and steer the affairs of the forum without any major controversy for the past 3 years.
He has also been able to steer the affairs of Ekiti state creditably well and also has a vision of a secured Nigeria where the lives and properties of the citizens will be protected.
Over the years, you will note that he was defeated in an election after his first term, and without any rancor, waited and did his time to present himself again for re-election. Now that indicates that he gave the electorate a chance to try other people in that office and obviously, they found him to be a better candidate for the state than his predecessor or who they thought was better for them.
In terms of party experience, Fayemi has had a lot of experience in participating in party activities, particularly in the ACN and also of course, building up to the merger. He was one of the spearheads of governance and party faithfuls that came together to think up this idea of a merger to unseat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He played a very active role in the first convention. He was the chairman of the committee that produced Mr. President as APC Presidential candidate. It was the first rancor-free and transparent election that has happened with any political party in Nigeria. Therefore, his competence will come to the fore to the delegates on election day.
But his aspiration is said to be a peripheral ambition in some quarters?
Well, amongst the entire candidacy of the APC right now, not a single one of them has “grassroot support”. The appeal that Kayode will have is his countenance towards problem solving and leadership.
In Nigeria today, the President, President Muhammadu Buhari has been the only politician in the past several years to have had this tremendous grassroot support. No other politician has similar credentials.