Mallam Shittu Mohammed Kabiru is the National Chairman of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance. In this interview with Stanley Nkwazema, he gave an insight into the state of the party and the projection ahead of 2019. Excerpts:
APDA was supposed to be PDP’s fallback option and now that the PDP is sorted, what is the next move for your party?
For us in APDA, we never had such notion that says we are a fallback option to the PDP. APDA is an ideological political party; it cannot be a fallback. It is when you don’t have an ideology; you don’t know where you are going that you can only be a fallback. When you don’t know what you want for the country and you don’t have vision and mission that you can be tagged as such. What do you even mean as a fallback in the formation of a political party, if I may ask?
No one party will ever agree that they are fallback and for us in APDA, we can never be one. As an ideological political party, we have our mission and we have our vision. We believe in the indivisibility of Nigeria. We believe that it is time we stop calling ourselves a nascent democracy. We have to now build a political party that will help take Nigeria to the comity of developed nations. That is our mission. We know that the serious-minded ones have stayed and have been offering us the best of party politics, we had people who were not serious and they have been shoved aside. Party politics is all about loyalty
APDA is a relatively new party and has also had its share of leadership crisis, what really is the problem?
For us, APDA has no problem. We are in a country when an ideological party is emerging, changing from what we understand before now to be the normal way of politicking to an ideological political party, you must be able to experience people with various ideas. Those who believe the status quo must remain will definitely want APDA to be the same. But we are saying no, that it cannot be. We have come to a point whereby we must reform the way politics is played in this part of the world.
We have put up a new ideology, mission and vision, so it is not easy for the main to be in the same boat. They found it difficult, but some of us who share same ideology and mission must steer the ship to sail smoothly. It’s all politics. The focused, resolute will always carry the day and that is what is happening here. They had to give way hence the cracks that were experienced some time ago. So, we are moving forward.
Now, let me make it clear, that while they believed that APDA should be a fallback, we made them understand that we can never be a fallback party rather an ideological party that has come to reform the way politics is played in this part of the world and has come to stay. The party will surely give a new life to Nigerians. The crises made us stronger and brought us together. There is no group that can survive without one crisis or the other. It has made us look back and reflect on what is best for us when we talk about modern politics
What are the options before APDA as the nation journeys to 2019?
Honestly, we believe that it is time we do away with money politics. We are putting up a bill, where it will be prohibited that parties or candidates distribute materials during electoral campaign. If you ban distribution of food items or other materials during campaign or the heat of elections, then we are heading towards a new era. Then people will start thinking about this party and what they have come to offer. Then it will be ideological, what you believe that is good about the country.
What the country wants is not for me to give you some thousands of naira and tomorrow I am in power, then you shouldn’t expect anything from me, because I paid you to get me in. That shouldn’t be the way. I want Nigerians to join a party, because of what it has got to offer and the calibre of men behind it – their programmes and deliverables. It is time we start promising what we can do and not what we cannot do or promise the electorate so many things but when we get into positions of authority, we forget all what we had earlier promised and derail.
The promise but fail kind of way of life shouldn’t form our political lifestyle at this age and time. We have to grow and care to construct a good road for you or to put up an infrastructure that will stand the test of time and really help you. APDA has come with an ideology of nationalism; social welfare, where we look at Nigeria first and the total elimination of the indegenship issue in whatever we are doing in this country. What we need to have in Nigeria is citizenship and not indigeneship or what we call state of origin.
With this, people must have confidence to invest their earnings or attract investors to wherever they feel will be the best and yield the desired economic results. Communities strive and flourish when we have this kind of approach to issues. But when you are talking about indigeneship, there is this palpable fear that when you invest in those communities or areas, they have no right over their investments or what happens.
Let’s make Nigeria an investment hub for other African countries, where they feel safe and move freely. In the past, Nigeria used to be the brother’s keeper, the safe haven for other African countries. I am sure that we still have the men and, materials to make it happen. It will really attract investment and boost our economy.
Isn’t it a waste of time pushing APDA when those who formed it are back in the PDP and in fact wanting to contest elections?
Who are the people that formed APDA? Let me make it clear that nobody can say he formed APDA. The party evolved over time. It as an ideological party that nobody can lay claims to say he is the owner or laid, or did all the ground work for the emergence of APDA. Even me as the National Chairman, we are all joining hands to build an egalitarian society where our ideology will stand the test of time and become a way of life. The truth is that we don’t believe in quota system, regionalism but merit in all that we are doing and it is the bane of APDA.
It may take time, the journey and task maybe arduous but we are starting something that will stand the test of time. Politics is all about interest. May be some people joined us, because they were thinking that they won’t stay long or will command the affairs without having the leadership qualities. But we are saying if you want to leave, the door is open but if you have something to offer Nigerians in terms of quality leadership and exemplary way of life, then you are welcome. But if you leave and think you can come back and direct us on how we can go about our business, it may be impossible because we are like-minds ready to sacrifice and move the country forward.
Can you sustain the party the way you are going about your own politics?
We believe that we can sustain it. Nigerians are tired; they have been taking peanuts, which have led them nowhere. They want to move to the party that offers them fresh hope and better ideas on the way forward. If you look at the way things have turned out in this country, you will now agree with me that we can’t go forward if the greed, money politics and all the shenanigans have dogged us over the years. Money politics is not allowing us to breathe and produce the best of brains and ideas that we really need. Can you imagine that the third republic evolved since 1999 and yet we are still not getting it right? When will we do the right thing and conduct elections that we can thumb our chest and say yes, we got it right by up to 70 per cent?
If APDA gets it right just like we have assembled the best brains now, then I think we are on the part of progress. This is the right time for us to come out, this is the time for the best minds to do the best for the country and I think that APDA is the right party. We believe that you can come from anywhere, we don’t believe in North South or West or East.
So, we are not going to zone positions or offices for people to contest for elective positions. We believe in what you can offer Nigerians, what do you have that you can use to better the lot of Nigerians and make it a better society. Where investment, economic development, education will strive.
Even in the event of a working relationship with any other political association, what has APDA got to negotiate with?
We have assembled the best of brains that believe in the development and indivisibility of Nigeria. We equally have one of the best economic blueprints we are going to offer Nigerians and we believe that Nigerians will buy it. I am a total believer in our party’s ideology and we have some of the best brains that can move beyond a peripheral level. Our National Secretary is a Professor from the Macebuh family. We brought him from the United States of America to come down and help us develop some of the ideas and turn them around so that all sections of the society will accept it.
We have a wide spread. We are in every state of this country. Our party is not sectional – youths, adults and the aged are all with us. In Zamfara, we have them; Sokoto, we have a crown Prince and then the man, who gave us the blueprint on railways, so also in Ondo, Imo, Abia and Anambra States, where we have serving Senators as our members holding forth. You see we have spoken so much about the blueprint and let me just give you an insight. I need to do that, because we want the buy-in of Nigerians; we want them to know what we are offering them.
First, in the area of agriculture, we believe that as an agrarian society, we have no reason to import any food item into this country. Rather, we should increase our export. We believe in the distribution of crops whereby each state can take comparative advantage, develop and export it to earn foreign currency to sustain the state. Let’s go to Borno State, when you are talking about gum Arabic, it is what the entire world of pharmaceutical sector depends on. Nigeria’s gum Arabic is the best quality you can get anywhere in the World. It expands to Niger and the Sudan belt. Are you talking of cocoa, which we have in abundance in Ondo and Cross River States?
What we are now saying is that you don’t just export it raw, rather we should start talking of how we can process it or companies interested in buying those crops should come to Nigeria and set up processing plants so that the values could appreciate more and the problem of wastages before getting to the final point could be minimised. That will be one of our conditions. And if I can tell you, there are several companies ready to do just that.
In essence, I am talking about agricultural value chain. Just look at the shear butter we have in Niger and Kwara States. If you put up processing plants there, plenty jobs would be created for our teeming youths. Do you know that the Bayelsa and Delta States axis can feed the entire Africa when it comes to rice production? There is a report we have that explains that 75 per cent of these two states are on a terrain that best suits the crop. But unfortunately they are not thinking beyond oil.
All the people need is the trust of the leadership so that they can understand what we are talking about. How long can we sustain handouts to the leaders and youths of the areas? You can also talk about aqua resources. We have the best species of prawns, Cray fish and rare variety of fishes that abound in the Niger Delta. Have they thought of buying trawlers or getting into agreements with foreign vessel owners to engage the youths in those areas? But with proper incentives and tax holidays, they can deliver in those areas because of the topography which suits the production of such crops.
Our population is growing faster than you may think. It is estimated that by 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the World after China and India. About 25 per cent of our population is under 25 and another 70 per cent represent our population of less than 35 years. If we don’t create jobs for them or empower them not necessarily in the Civil service, then there is problem.
We may not contain them in the nearest future. The truth is that the restiveness we have in different parts of the country now is as a result of youth unemployment. There is no hope for them if we continue with the present way we run government, we have to offer investors the best of incentives so that they can come here and set up while we don’t sit back and wait for government jobs to fall on our hands.
What are your reflections on the 2019 Elections?
We are keeping that close to our chest for now. We are not zoning our Presidency to anywhere. We believe that the best brain that can prove himself can come out and take our blueprint to walk the walk and not walk the talk, so that after four years Nigerians will be yearning for us. Nigerians should be very watchful now. They know what has failed them. One politics has failed Nigerians.
If you take money today, will you wait for another four years for them to come back and give you another money and the cycle continues till when the bubble will burst and we suffer for another twenty years. It is time for them to look at an ideological political party and APDA offers them the best opportunity for the shift.