Senator Mohammed Bello of the Peoples Democratic Party contends that the best way to kick the All Progressives Congress out of office is for Nigerians to support his party. He spoke with Ibrahim Shuaibu who presents the excerpts:
What is your reaction to the calls by former President Obasanjo and Babangida on Buhari not to seek another term?
My answer to that is when you talk about political parties, you are not talking about coalition, third force and so on. What the people coming up with the idea of a third force mean is that they are trying to bring something that is completely new, they are trying to bring in something that is fresh which is very difficult in this part of the world because there has always been players who had remained on the scene for a very long time. What you should do is to work with them and take over from them. How can you come and say you are going to create a new political party or get into another new political party and then come and take over power from people who have retained power probably for 16 years and then the new entrants who have retained power for 3 years? If you create a new political party, it will take time for the political party to be on ground. You need to have the politicians that would be able to work with the political party. In everything you are going to do, like if you are going to build a house you need architect, and quantity surveyors. There is no way you just jump into politics, bring in new people. How are they going to weather the storm? How are they going to know where they are going to put their pillars and to make their building very strong? You have to work exactly with those who know what politics is all about. So basically even the leader of the third force or the leader of the coalition the former president Obasanjo has said that the moment it becomes a political party he is going to withdraw. What I think he has in mind is probably a pressure group which is not a political party, it is more of a group that monitors and pile pressure on government to fulfil its campaign promises.
On whether the personalities in the third force are new or same old brigades?
When they said there was an alignment and that some parties have come together the ACN, CPC, and the ANPP to form what we call the APC, 40 percent of the people that went into the APC came from the PDP. Most of them today are governors. So basically it is almost the same thing we are having. When somebody loses his primary from a particular party, he moves to another one to get his ticket. Take the case of Benue state, the Governor Samuel Ortom came from the PDP, Nasir El-Rufai came from the PDP, virtually most of them. Ganduje from Kano is from the PDP, same applies to the case of Kwara. So it is not that easy for you to come and say with a new movement you are going to change things. Who are those that want to change the change? You have people like Donald Duke, Oyinlola, these people have been governors before. What did they do before that they would use to change things today. What I have noticed in Nigeria is that people want all the time to remain relevant, they want to remain in control, and they want to be the ones controlling the entire country which cannot be possible because that is why you have two major political parties. Just like we have in America, the Democrats and Republicans, it depends on which party is in power and what they were able to deliver to the people. Here in Nigeria, Abubakar Rimi tried it, he was very popular, he joined the NPP at the time but he still lost the election to Sabo Bakin Zuwo. So it is not that easy for you to say you are going to bring in a new political party and also say you are going to bring in a third force with the same kind of people who are familiar to Nigerians.
On performance of President Muhammadu Buhari led administration?
I have seen some changes. Even though some of the promises they have made they have not been able to keep. But this is governance. Everybody has got his own style. For example you can’t take it away from the APC that they have been able to decimate the Boko Haram insurgents. This concerns me because it came from Borno state which is where I acquired my university education. So whatever affects Maiduguri affects me. This problem also affected us in Kano, it got to a point we couldn’t even go to the mosque. Everybody was afraid, subsequently the problem got to us in Abuja. So this problem was growing out of proportion so much so that even the Governor of Borno state could not move freely not to talk about the common people. So whoever came to rescue us from this problem deserves to be commended. The only problem I have observed today is that hunger has taken over and the reason is due to the policies in place. The policy of the dollar how did it become like that suddenly the exchange rate has moved from N160 to about N320. What really happened, how did we found ourselves in this mess? This was the government that promised us an exchange rate of N40 to dollar. And then is the issue of petrol. They said we were going to buy petrol at N40 per literary then today we are buying petrol at N145 per liter. They also promised us that we would buy a bag of 50 Kg rice at N5, 000 and we would stop the importation of rice. I agree we are almost at the point of stopping the importation of rice but there is still a problem. The price of the local rice is almost the same thing as the price of the imported rice. Even the president mentioned this in his last visit to Kano in spite the incentives given to farmers. So there is a need for the government to make life easier for Nigerians. The government cannot take an easy way out, it has to be responsible to the people. The downtrodden people are in real trouble today.
Additionally the president needs to be more sensitive to issues in the country because he is now in charge, he is the commander in chief. So he needs to know exactly what is happening in every nook and cranny of the country. Even if it is a single soul that dies, he needs to act almost immediately for us to understand that yes he is concerned about us, yes he cares because he is a caring person, he is a sensitive person but something is going wrong somewhere and it is unfortunate that people now have a completely different impression of who he is.
On the call on President Buhari not to contest in 2019?
There is nowhere in the constitution that says Buhari cannot contest in an election due to non-performance or due to age or for any other reasons. It is his right to say he is going to contest or not going to contest. All he needs to do is to put everything on a scale and see where he has gone right and wrong and take into his consideration his own wellbeing. Will it be okay for him to continue to carry the problem of 180 million Nigerians on his head? Or is he going to gravitate into a very serious problem when he faces more challenges because I am sure the challenges he faced in this first four years had taken a toll on him already. That question is better answered by the principal actor himself.
If I were in his shoes, I would not continue in office because he needs to take his health into consideration. If I were him, I would begin as quickly as possible to nurture people that would be able to take over from me. They must be people with credibility, integrity, capacity and ability to be able to continue from where I have stopped.
On whether the PDP is capable of wrestling power from the APC?
The PDP is not trying to improve on what the president has done. The PDP has its own idea, manifesto. The PDP is coming in to make sure that where these problems have been created they deal with them. For example the PDP would have to look at the crash of the dollar, and the fuel crises. These are some of the things we need to look at to make life easier for Nigerians.
On whether the PDP is capable of capturing power in the 2019 poll?
The party can take control, not only back home in Kano, but even at the national level. But it depends on the candidate they present during the election. If they have a high profile and exposed candidate, somebody that everybody knows that can address the problems of Nigeria, believe you me people would give him the chance. If they do exactly what they like, they bring anybody they feel they like that he is the right choice for us, then there is going to be a problem. They should let the people decide exactly what they want. They should allow people who are popular, people who can deliver the goods to pick the tickets at the primaries. In most cases you found out that politicians always like to manipulate, redirect, be in charge, and produce their own people, somebody they can be able to control to pick the ticket and this has not been able to solve our problems. This is the reason why we are where we are today. In Kano right now we have serious problems. Kano people are today disenchanted because they believed that they have been over taxed. And they don’t understand what the idea of taxation means because they believe that since money comes from the federal government, they deserve good roads, hospitals and other basic amenities. But if you want to tax people, you must explain to them why you are taxing them and whatever taxes you have collected, you need to show them exactly what you have done with their taxes. You must let them know which road or any of the social amenities put in place was done with monies collected as taxes. This is the idea of transparency. I also feel it is difficult to tax a cart pusher, the water vendor, akara sellers. I feel it is a bit too much to go to that level. We can tax them in the future but not right now. When you provide free education for them, free health care services, then you can ask them to pay taxes. The poor in the society need to be catered for. We can only do this when we bring those who have the ability to govern. I believe the PDP can easily win election if it brings somebody that is better than the person that is there.
The president needs to be more sensitive to issues in the country because he is now in charge, he is the commander in chief.