There are people who say you are not really a popular aspirant prior to the All Progressives Congress’ primary election in your state. What kind of background do you have that gave you the confidence that you could govern Adamawa State
I was born in 1973. I obtained my first degree in Business Administration from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State. For my service (National Youth Service Corps programme), I worked at the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund. Immediately after, I went back to the same ABU and obtained a master’s degree in Business Administration. I joined partisan politics in 2002. I joined the All Peoples Party that transformed into the All Nigeria Peoples Party. In 2007, I contested for a seat in the House of Representatives to represent Yola North, Yola South and Gire and lost to the Peoples Democratic Party. After the election, I went back to ABU and obtained another master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy. I participated in the formation of the Congress for Progressive Change. I participated in a lot of committees that worked towards the formation of the All Progressives Congress. I served in about four or five committees. I also participated in the presidential elections of 2003, 2011 and 2015. In 2015, I served in the field operation committee which had to do with the training of agents across the country. Since I contested in an election in 2007, I have been participating fully in politics in my state and at the national level.
So what informed your decision to contest the governorship of your state?
I decided to contest the governorship of my state at this time because of the poor state of Adamawa State. There is serious maladministration in the state. If such situation is allowed to continue, the state may collapse by 2023. This is dangerous. Unfortunately, many of our political elite have turned to praise singers. They don’t bother how their state is being run. I was disappointed in what I saw in the state and I almost lost hope. Illiterates are running the affairs of the state and the elite are keeping quiet. The state’s debt profile has risen without anything to show for it. Both health and education sectors are neglected completely. It is dangerous to allow a leader who does not have an idea to continue to lead the people.
Some people believe that you wanted to contest the governorship to exploit the relationship to President Muhammadu Buhari as his brother-in-law. How would you react to that?
If I wanted to exploit that relationship, I would have adopted the method adopted by other aspirants to get the governorship ticket.
What was the method adopted by others?
The party we built with credibility and respect suddenly turned to an arena for highest bidders. Once you come and pay them, they will give the ticket to you. There was a case I saw that shocked me. You planned to give automatic tickets to some legislators and yet, you sold forms to aspirants. You did not inform prospective contestants that you were not going to conduct primaries in those constituencies. After selling forms, you also set up a committee to screen the contestants. Then you turned around to give automatic tickets to incumbents. You did not apologise to those who bought forms and you did not make any plan to reimburse them. Were you sent to destroy the party or were you preparing to win election?
So your plan was not to exploit your relationship with the President?
If I was to exploit my relationship with the President, they would not have done what they did to me. I went into the contest as an ordinary citizen that is desirous of rescuing my people. I went through the processes. I did not exploit any of the privileges I had at my disposal. I have good personal relationship with the party’s national chairman but I have not gone to his office since I purchased the form, so that he wouldn’t favour me. Look at my credentials and compare them with the credentials of the governor. Let me know if there is a basis of comparison between the two of us.
What exactly is your grouse against the primary election conducted by your party?
They did not conduct any primary election in my state. That was why I approached the appeal panel. For the first time, I drew the attention of the party chairman to the composition of the panel. I asked him if the panel was meant to attack me directly because at least three out of the six members of the committee are partisan. He told me that the committee was meant for the whole country. Have you ever seen where six people will be given the responsibility of looking at the appeals arising from this kind of mess for the whole country within three days and submit their report?
What then is your next line of action?
I have exploited all the internal mechanisms of the party for conflict resolution and I did not see any sign that any organ of the party or its leadership at the topmost level had any plan of giving justice to people like us. So I have gone to court. As we speak now, we are in court trying to get redress. We took the path of honour. We have enough number of supporters to create confusion in the state but we appealed to our supporters (to stay calm). We refused to cause confusion. The major objective of contesting in the primary is to serve the state.
Naturally, many people believe that your relationship with the President should have helped you secure the party ticket. Is it that the President did not support you?
Mr. President is a neutral person. You can see this in the way he leads the country. He treats all parts of the country equally. My case is not different. He is a very fair person. He is a neutral person, somebody that will never take sides.
The President’s wife who is your sister openly criticised the way the party chairman handled some of the primary elections. The belief is that she spoke that way because you were involved and she spoke your mind.
Not at all! My sister was trying to protect the majority of the party members who aspire to contest for offices; those who bought forms but were denied participation in primaries. Her comment had absolutely nothing to do with the contest I was involved in.
But do you agree with her position that the party chairman was not fair in the way the primaries were conducted?
Absolutely! To also be fair to the national chairman, he probably thought that the way a chairman would run the Nigerian Labour Congress or the way a governor would run his state is the same way to run a party. There are people who feel that a time like this is a time to make money from desperate politicians who are interested in offices. It is unfortunate that most of the things that were supposed to be handled democratically were autocratically handled. If something urgent is not done, it will cost the ruling party a lot.
What is that ‘something’ urgent you will suggest should be done to save the party? And since you also agree that the chairman was not fair in handling the primaries, do you support those calling for his removal?
I don’t think there is the need for the chairman’s removal but a lot of redress can be done. The National Executive Committee of the party should summon an emergency meeting. Let them assess the entire process and look at the challenges they have at hand and consider solutions. This is the major issue and it is not about removing the chairman or tampering with the composition of the current executives. We have to be careful at this point about how to manage the situation. It is normal at this time for people to be defecting to the ruling party to contest elections. Some of them have huge resources at their disposal to pave the way for them. Desperate politicians can do anything to get tickets.
Some party members who are aggrieved members of the party, including state governors have been meeting with the President to make their grievances known. Given that you have unfettered access to the President, have you met and discussed your issue with him?
No, I have not spoken to him on my issue. I feel that he should be neutral.
But did you speak with your sister about the issue?
Of course, I spoke with her.
What was her advice to you?
It is not about advice. It is about exploring the system and seeing what God will do. I did not consult her before going into it. I have my political structure on the ground and I decided to contest when they (the President and his wife) were outside the country; they were in China. I did not contact them on the telephone, I did not consult them, I just went to buy my form. I started campaigning for the primary election thereafter.
As it is now, will you support the governor in the next election?
I will support the party.
Was it fair for you to be vying to prevent the sitting governor, Muhammadu Bindow, from having a second term, especially being in the same party?
Why did the constitution say we should be organising elections every four years? Why is it that taxpayers’ money is used to conduct the elections? It is for the system to give opportunity to remove failures. It is an avenue to remove governors who are embarrassments to their states. The situation in my state, as we speak, is pathetic. Salaries are not being paid, traders don’t enjoy good sales. Some local government offices have been deserted. Since the inception of this administration, the Adamawa State Government has not paid the Universal Basic Education Commission counterpart fund. Our money is there in the Central Bank of Nigeria. We have the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (Boss Mustapha), the President’s wife (Aisha Buhari), Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (Alhaji Musa Bello), and a lot of heads of agencies and parastatals from the state, yet the governor has not done well. I want the governor out. I don’t have any personal problem with him but I have issues with the way he runs the affairs of the state.
Do you plan to leave the party if you don’t get justice?
I am not going to leave the party. If I do not get justice, it will be on record that when somebody occupied the seat of governor and was bastardising the seat and was causing division among the people, I fought and I tried to bring a change. If this trend is not changed, Adamawa will be the worst state in the country by 2023. I have nothing to lose because I challenged it by putting my resources and life on the line.
Looking at grievances that surrounded the party’s primary in many states across the country, do you think the party would win in 2019?
It is a normal occurrence in political parties. Internal wrangling is normal. All these issues will be resolved and the party will have a good outing in 2019. The party will still win the Presidency and will retain governorship of some states. We may lose some of the states and we will win more states too.