Buruji Kashamu: PDP Needs a Credible Candidate to Defeat Buhari in 2019

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Interview

Buruji Kashamu, the senator representing Ogun East senatorial district in Ogun State, speaks with Bayo Akinloye about President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election plans, the PDP crisis, his relationship with the Fresh PDP, Fayose and the herdsmen crisis

It was reported that President Muhammadu Buhari is setting up his campaign team ahead of 2019 presidential poll. What do you think about that?

You said President Muhammadu Buhari is in the process of setting up his campaign organisation for the 2019 presidential election – that sounds like a confirmation that the President will seek a second term in office. And, if you ask me, I can tell you that President Buhari deserves a second term. It is imperative to state here that many Nigerians believe in reality while some dwell in delusion or they like to be deceived. Those who tend to delude themselves and deceive others usually do so for selfish interests, perhaps, in order to mislead others. Buhari is a good man and a good president.

Without sounding patronising, I feel that Buhari came into power at a time Nigerians needed him most. If Nigerians had chosen another person who is not thorough, decent and who is without the fear of God, only God could tell in what situation our country would have been today. What we have now, honestly speaking, isn’t a perfect situation. But, I want you to consider this: where there is no adequate security how can the economy grow? Can we have peace of mind to pursue our legitimate daily activities? The answer is no. Rather than knocks, Buhari should be given kudos for the way he handled the Boko Haram insurgency immediately he assumed power.

But not everyone feels the President has been successful in his handling of the Islamist terrorist group and the rampaging herdsmen with their latest onslaught in Benue State.

In the last two and half years of his administration, the spread of Boko Haram to Kogi, Kwara and to some South-West states have been curtailed – and other parts of Nigeria. Until he assumed power, we are all eyewitnesses of how quickly the Islamist fundamentalists were spreading their tentacles, creating a strong presence in Abuja and Kogi; having cells in Kwara and making inroads in some parts of the South-West. Unless you don’t want to admit the truth, Boko Haram used to terrorise almost every state in the North. Today, how many states in the country do you find Boko Haram unleashing terror?

Concerning the rampaging herdsmen you mentioned. Let me give you an example: (Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele) Fayose isn’t my friend –we fight every day –but see how he has contained the excesses of herdsmen in his state. He’s a strong man. If herdsmen are disturbing other states, their governors should show capability to handle this kind of crisis. It’s not rocket science. Why do they want Buhari to run their states for them? Why are they governors? Let’s be realistic about this. That is it.

Let’s be sincere. This has nothing to do with politics. Another reason I feel that President Buhari is doing a good job is in the area of preventing financial waste and brigandage, courtesy of the Single Treasury Account. If you are a businessman you’ll understand what I’m saying. The TSA has prevented to a large extent many government officials from indulging in stealing and inappropriate spending of public funds. The TSA is affecting many banks and other businesses; government’s patronage of private businesses has reduced. But the TSA serves the purpose of public good. The BVN policy is another good thing to commend him for. There are other seemingly little things he has done for the general good of Nigerians.

Do you think Nigerians should vote for Buhari and do you see him winning the 2019 presidential poll?

I am not in a position to tell Nigerians to vote for Buhari in 2019. We all have choices to make. Everyone is at liberty to vote for the candidate of his choice come 2019. But be that as it may, my thinking is that it will be difficult to defeat Buhari, if he seeks re-election next year, because he has shown his level of integrity, honesty and selflessness. If Nigerians – including opposition parties – want Buhari out in 2019, they must present another presidential candidate who is more honest, dedicated and untainted than the President. If we can find somebody that is cleaner and more transparent than Buhari then we can have a change of who holds the reins of power. But, I doubt that possibility. My take is that if there’s nobody better than him, why change him?

But it’s strange that as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party you’re saying this. Have you left PDP?

I’ve not left PDP. Please, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t told you I’m leaving PDP. I haven’t told you I’m working for APC. Listen clearly: I’m not saying Nigeria is for only one person (to rule as the president). Nigeria isn’t for one person. Everybody has the right to contest the presidency. I haven’t said the PDP, my party, can’t get somebody who can challenge Buhari in 2019. But if PDP wants to win the election – or, any other party wants to win the election – they must look for someone who is clean; not corrupt, otherwise the country has no better choice. I’m not saying my opinion is superior. I’ve never got any contract from the APC government. I don’t hobnob with them. I’ve only met President Buhari once at a meeting, briefly. But I’m one of his fans. I believe he’s not corrupt. Admittedly, there may be people under him who might be corrupt – he can’t know everything everybody does. It’s the same thing in every big system be it political, economic or academic.

Do you think there’s somebody in PDP who can wrest power from Buhari in 2019?

First of all, if the PDP wants to win the 2019 presidential election, we must put our house in order which we haven’t done. With a new sheriff in town, in the person of Uche Secondus, with his experience maybe we’ll be able to achieve that. I’m determined to work for the success of the party. I believe in the current leadership of PDP. I find it difficult to see anybody in the party clean enough to contend with Buhari.

What about the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar?

Atiku was formerly an APC member. Atiku is a respectable person. I don’t know whether Atiku wants to contest the presidency or not. He hasn’t made his position known. To get somebody who can contest against Buhari in 2019 PDP must follow justice and transparency in screening its presidential aspirants, including conducting exhaustive background checks. We must present the right candidate at the right time.

As a member of the major opposition party in Nigeria, many would expect that you should be antagonising the President especially in areas people feel he hasn’t done well. Don’t you agree?

As Nigerians, we must change our view of bringing down a government at all cost. If a government rises or falls, it will impact on all of us. We must eschew ethnicity, religion and any other affiliations when it comes to ensuring that the government of the day succeeds. Yes, we can offer constructive criticisms to make Nigeria better and greater. I won’t criticise any government unnecessarily for selfish reasons.

What’s your relationship with the Fresh PDP?

If I’m in a position to do so, I’ll make that group (Fresh PDP) disappear in one second. I’m a principled man; I don’t believe in illegality. What the group did is totally wrong. It’s unconstitutional. If the group has a genuine cause to fight the party let them do so amicably. The new PDP leadership should act decisively against them. I’m not a member of the Fresh PDP. I have no link with them. They just want to cause more problems for PDP. These are people who don’t want PDP to succeed.
Members of this government, including the current president, were accused of antagonising the Goodluck Jonathan government to the point of bringing it down.

Come on! We can’t live in the past. What I’m saying has nothing to do with APC. It is about our orientation as a people; we must not allow politicians to use at the detriment of moving Nigeria forward. Do you understand? Any attempt to draw the government backward is an effort to prevent a better life for ourselves, our children and children’s children. That’s the way I see things. You don’t have to agree with me.

In the light of the current realities in the PDP, where do you stand?

I’m a PDP man; I love PDP to the core. I’m a staunch loyalist of PDP. I stand for the truth at all times; granted not everyone may like my style of politics. I’m in PDP and will continue to be in PDP. It, however, doesn’t mean that I’m a blind loyalist.

You’ve been on a one-month suspension for allegedly working against the party. How does that make you feel?

Nobody has suspended me from the party. The decision of the NWC to suspend me is illegal. They don’t have the power to suspend me. There’s no provision for a caretaker committee in the PDP’s constitution. So, that decision is null and void. I remain a bona fide member of the party. My body and spirit is in the PDP and my people are there. The so-called suspension announced by Ahmed Makarfi was just a charade. Makarfi understood that I had an ideology that’s different from his. I’ve been fighting against illegality, manipulation and oppression within the party which didn’t sit down well with Makarfi – he found it difficult to change the way things were going on in the party.

People like (Rivers State Governor, Nyesom) Wike knew what Makarfi was up to prior to the national convention. They had to join hands together to rescue the party. I can tell you that Makarfi is worse than (Ali Modu) Sheriff. Makarfi betrayed the northerners. He betrayed all the leaders in the North. He had a hand in the disaffection (among PDP members) in the South-West. The PDP national chairmanship slot was zoned to the South-West but that didn’t stop anybody from contesting. People were free to support anybody to become the national chairman but that should be done discreetly so that nobody would accuse the leadership of the party of favouring one candidate or the other.

Well, we have a new person in charge of the party now. Look at the way the new national chairman, Secondus, the National Working Committee and (Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake) Dickson, has been going around trying to reconcile all the factions in the party. They’re more interested in having everybody remain together peacefully and moving the party forward. Secondus is an intelligent person, who has the experience to move the party forward. But there are people who don’t want him to succeed.

Concerning the crisis that engulfed the party, you were accused of playing a central role.

That’s not true. Let people say whatever they want to say. The people who caused the problem from the beginning are the ones now complaining, claiming to be saints. I wasn’t there when they brought in Sheriff. I wasn’t there when they discussed with Sheriff. They made Sheriff to be the leader of the party and urged all of us to follow him. And me, when I believe in something or somebody, I’m straightforward in expressing loyalty towards that thing or person. I’m not hypocritical and I don’t stab people in the back. I just told you in unmistakable terms that Buhari is a respectable person even though he’s not a PDP member. But I believe in him. Anything that can derail his good plans for Nigeria, I’m ready to fight against it because I believe in his sincere desire to make Nigeria great. It is true people are complaining of lack stomach infrastructure (poverty); that will come later. Right now, we should focus on the other infrastructures President Buhari is building to keep the country afloat.

Back to the issue of Sheriff, nobody came back to tell me not to follow him again as our leader. Don’t forget that there are various groups in the party pledging allegiance to Wike, Fayose, Kashamu, etc. It just happened I fell in the group of Sheriff. Fayose and I fell into different groups and that’s why we have issues. Soon, I believe, this entire crisis will be over and all of us will work together. They brought in Sheriff and kicked him out when he wasn’t acting the way they wanted him to act. Similarly, I discovered later that Sheriff isn’t someone I could work with. It’s happening in Ogun State now; it doesn’t matter which camp we belong to as long we all remain in and work for the party. That’s what counts to me.

Has the new leadership of PDP reached out to you?
What is more important to me is the fact that I love PDP; I’m a core loyalist of the party. I’m not in the PDP to make money neither have I made money from being a member of the party. I’m for the development of my country and success of PDP. I know members of the new leadership and I’ve been communicating with some of them.

You have a running battle with a former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, which some people have linked to your possible interest in being the governor of Ogun. Isn’t that correct?
I don’t have any problem with Gbenga Daniel. I’ve extended the hand of fellowship to Daniel several times. My philosophy in life is to assist others. I derive joy in helping others to achieve success in their various endeavours. I’m a free man who can work with anybody with a genuine purpose. So, Daniel has always been a leader; but he has some traits that might not suit my way of doing things. Though in politics, one has to know how to manage people. If you see me fight any cause it must be against injustice and dishonesty. About having an ambition to be Ogun State’s governor, I’ve told you earlier that anybody can aspire to any political office in the country. I’m not telling you that I want to contest the state’s governorship election. But I do know that if I decide to contest the good people of Ogun State will follow me. They’ll vote for me knowing that I have the capacity to move our state to a greater height. But I haven’t told you I have a plan to be the governor of Ogun State.

Is there any chance of PDP winning the state’s governorship poll in 2019?
If we can put our house in order before the election, we do have a chance to win. But let me add that Governor (Ibikunle) Amosun has done very well to move the state forward. People may not be happy with him because he hasn’t focused on stomach infrastructure. He’s done well though. PDP must present somebody who will build on what Amosun has done and outperform him. There shouldn’t be any acrimony about that.

Your critics have also alleged that you have a hold on the judiciary; that you can get any kind of injunction or judgment that favours you. Is it true?
It’s a blatant blackmail. Let me tell you, if they say you have money, you go and kill somebody since you have all the judges in your pocket. Those making such an allegation don’t know what they’re talking about. The truth is that I’ve lost as many lawsuits that I’ve won. If I don’t feel that I have a strong case I don’t go to court. Why do I need to grease the palm of a judge to rule on a good case that I have? I’ve never done that before and I’ll never do that. But you know some politicians are very good at blackmailing people. I don’t condone corruption. I’ve had the cause to sack my SLA for illegally enriching himself in the course of carrying out constituency projects on my behalf. I petitioned the ICPC to look into the matter. I detest injustice and corruption. I don’t want my name to be rubbished. That accusation is a game of politics.

As a senator representing Ogun East senatorial district, what have you done for your constituency?
I’m not the type that blows his trumpet. The truth, however, is that I give my all to my constituents making sure they get all they deserve. On a personal level, I continue to assist people to realise their full potential. Achievements don’t lie; go to my constituency and see what I’ve been able to achieve on behalf of my people.