Iyobisa Uwugiaren was with a group of journalists in Abuja who interacted with Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, a member of the House of Representatives
Do you think defection of some members of your party, the APC, would affect its performance in the forthcoming general elections?
If the APC presents another candidate other than President Buhari, I would have been a bit jittery; but there is this consensus within the party, and we are just waiting for the timetable to do the formalities and adopt Buhari, as the candidate. With Mr. President as the candidate of the APC, we are not threatened by all the people leaving the party. For so many reasons, we are so lucky that we have Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the chairman of the party. He has been doing extremely well; he has been reaching out to everyone, holding series of meetings, and persuading people to stay. During election period, these problems are normal. It is not unique to APC. That was the case in 2011, 2007, and 2015. When there is a build-up to the general elections, you have these kind of problems. To say that the APC would disintegrate or crumble is absolutely false. As people are going, people are also coming in. It is big news that people are leaving the ruling party. A lot of other people from the opposition are coming to our party. At the moment, not less than four to five PDP governors are working in across-the-party arrangement; working to support the APC. There has been a lot of inflow from the South-east. You have people like Orji Uzo Kalu and a lot of prominent people in the South-east that are coming. They also understand that it is an opportunity for the South-east to put up a good show for the APC and stand a chance of competing for the presidency, after Buhari serves his second term.
And you are not jittery that it may bounce back- as it did to the PDP in 2015?
I am not jittering for some reasons. There are certain things that will help the APC to retain power and ensure that President Buhari wins. He has massive electoral value and his stronghold states are still there like Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Plateau, Kogi, and, of course, the South-west is a no-go area. This is because they have positioned themselves to take the presidency after 2022; so they don’t want to make any mistake about that. Do you hear any party making any noise in the South-west? Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun, and Oyo are all for Buhari. Edo is already there; in Delta, we are making a significant move, and very soon you would hear a lot of people that would decamp into the party. You know we lost Rivers state just by a whisker; we have the likes of Amaechi and Peter Dakuku and I can assure you that Rivers would also come home. The APC is standing firm and President Buhari is also standing firm. The President is naturally connected with the masses. Nothing has tampered with that. Buhari is a man of the masses, particularly in the North-central where he has a stronghold. Those who are against Buhari in this country are just a section of the elites. They don’t have any electoral value. The next election would be an election of that section of the elites versus the masses.
Many people believe President Buhari has not done well in the area of good governance. What is your take on that?
On good governance, Buhari has done tremendously well. The reality of the matter is that the capacity of Buhari setting up a team, giving power to the Central Bank, giving power to the Ministry of Finance, setting up a crack economic team to battle the economic recession that would have brought Nigeria to ground zero, is enough for Buhari to contest the next election. That was what gave Obama a second term when he came back in 2012. After the economic crisis of 2008, Obama was able to bring USA back on board. When that happened, it was all he used to get his re-election. People are suffering and it isn’t Buhari’s fault. The previous government didn’t save, and this country relies on crude, which determines the value of our currency and the foreign reserve of our country. By the time crude went down, there were no savings. When Buhari came, crude oil price went down and he went into the purse of the country and discovered that the government didn’t save. When the price of crude went down, it hit the currency hard. The foreign reserve went down and it gave rise to inflation. These things affected every aspect of the economy, commodity, infrastructure, banking, everywhere was affected. Buhari has been able to ensure that at the level of the state, where we have civil servants we would continue to give bailout to states to stabilise them. No government has ever done that; but Buhari did it because of the economic strategy to ensure that the country stands on its feet. Today, inflation has gone down. In the last one and a half years, from about 18 per cent, inflation has gone down to 12.5 per cent. What indices are people using to say that the economy is terrible? In Q1 2018, we have registered growth of about 1.95 per cent and these things would be sustained. We have reduced domestic borrowing to lose all the resources in banks for the sectors to be able to borrow. Look at the massive growth in the agricultural sector. Agricultural export has recorded about 500 per cent growth. Also, on the issue of anti-corruption, which President on an election year, seven months to the election, would sit down and not try to lobby the judiciary to ensure that it steps down on the issue of anti-corruption or the EFCC? The EFCC is still arresting prominent Nigerians everywhere. Two members of our party were jailed. People are asking if Buhari knows what he is doing; he cares about the next generation and not just the election.
Let’s talk about issues of insecurity in the country. Are you not concerned?
On insecurity, today, everybody looks happy and bright because there is security. In Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, and other places, several bombs have exploded. Buhari came, motivated the army, invested heavily in equipment and expertise, and we were able to dissipate Boko Haram. On the issue of killings, everybody is angry including myself; I would disagree where people are laying blame on Buhari. Buhari is reasonable. When there is crisis, he is deploying the army, the DSS, the police and the rest. But the responsibility of preventing all of that lies in the hands of politicians. It is high time we tell ourselves the truth. I don’t agree with trying to make the President take the fault. When you come to the preventive level of that crisis, it is the fault of politicians. They are the ones instigating these crises. What are we telling ourselves in mosques and churches? It is high time we tell ourselves the truth. These are the things that incite people and create the crisis that we see. Who has more army, DSS or police than the politician? There is the preventive stage and there is the reactionary stage; the most important stage is the preventive stage and the responsibility of preventing it is not the DSS, police or the army but we the people being led by politicians, community leaders, youth leaders, women leaders, we are the ones instigating these crises. When such happens, it is what the politicians want and they take it to the press and rub it on the President’s face because some incompetent people do not want him to win the next election. I can tell you that President Buhari would win the 2019 elections; I do not have any doubt.
Considering the calibre of people leaving the APC for PDP, do you still believe that the people leaving wouldn’t make any difference?
In politics, everybody has value and Oshiomhole has never said that they don’t have value. Buhari has never said that they do not have value. In politics, you have electoral value and political value. Electoral value is when you have the votes and political value is someone who has access to the media, one who can network with the people, who mobilises resources. So, everybody has his value. You cannot compare the electoral value of Atiku and Buhari, but Atiku has political value. We have not seen the kind of defection by all the prominent people that are leaving the party that can affect the fortune of APC or that of Buhari, because the strategies that we have to make up for whoever we lose or whatever we lose is far more effective. When you talk of electoral value, there is nobody that has the electoral value of Buhari. Tell me one person that can match the electoral value of Buhari among all the people aspiring to the office of the president? When it comes to the little things they can have in terms of political value, the party has its own way. In Kano, we are going to give not less than two million votes to Buhari. Assuming Saraki would go with his 300,000 votes in Kwara, which is practically impossible, we have the extra two million votes in Kano. Our strategy in APC now is to work extra hard to ensure that more of our supporters come out to vote.
Supposing Buhari decides not to contest, would the story be the same?
Buhari has said that he would contest and we have adopted him. By the grace of God, Buhari will rule this country until 2022 and he would leave a good legacy. There is an aspect that people tend to forget. When we take the aspect of governance out, politically there is the issue of zoning and that of generational shift that would work naturally for Buhari. The issue of zoning is not a joke. If anybody, other than Buhari, is elected from the north as President, they are going to do another eight years. The South-easterners have woken up and it is time for them to have the presidency. This country must be one. They have realised that the fastest way they can get that is through a Buhari second term. They would support Buhari and the APC to be able to compete for power. The South-west believes that naturally, it is going to be their turn. For now, they are ahead in the race. By the time you give Buhari a second term, power leaves to the southern part of the country; it spends eight years in the south and by the time it comes back to the north, the whole generation of leaders have retired. That is why you see the whole tension going on now. Even after eight or 12 years when power comes back to the north, some of them may be in their 60s. Those who are 25 or 30 today would be the ones in the House of Reps, Senate and Governors. They have more chance to take a shot at the Presidency. The issue of Buhari’s second term has a monumental implication on the issue of generational shift.