Yekini Jimoh was in the team of journalists in Lokoja who interviewed the former acting governor of Kogi State, Chief Clarence Olafemi, on the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party. Olafemi is one of the leading political gladiators in Kogi
As an insider in Abubakar’s project, how did he win the PDP presidential primary?
It was not his first time. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has contested the president position; not once, not twice and he had already understudied the reasons of his inability to succeed in previous attempts. He understood why he lost in 2014. Those of us who worked closely with him saw it all. I was the Kogi State Campaign Coordinator for Atiku Abubakar.
I am in the inner caucus of the Atiku project. I was a Minority Leader in Kogi State House of Assembly between 2003 and 2007. I was a Speaker of the same house between 2007 and 2011. I have been a member of All Progressives Congress (APC) Board of Trustees and member of the presidential campaign organisation that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2015.
Abubakar knows the importance of a presidential campaign organisation and he will not just pick people who have nothing to offer as far as the project is concerned. I am sure that people will be picked according to their track record, not by big names or sentiment.
This is what I intend to recommend to the Atiku campaign organization because the formation of the organization should be within the PDP circle. The networking should be maintained instead of restricting the project to the campaign organisation alone and it should be expanded to accommodate those who have the interest of the party at heart and all other aspirants should be carried along in the Atiku project.
This is basic so that we can have an all-encompassing campaign organisation involving people who have the commitment of the party and believe in the person of Abubakar and can blend them. It is crucial to the next stage we are going into any moment from now.
Already many politicians have established that President Buhari must be changed. An average Nigerian knows that. When we went for the primary election in Lagos 2014/2015 that brought President Buhari, everybody knew that one Dollar was less than N250 but today one Dollar is over N350 and people are not unaware that Dollar has a significant role to play in the international market.
America and China are comfortable today as a result of their robust economic base. If Nigeria must be returnrf back to economic growth, we must bring into power people who are committed to the nation. The person must be someone who has an idea of what to do with the economy and must have succeeded in his business.
Even today government cannot completely defeat Boko Haram because the economy of the country is in shambles. In the recent past, Nigeria helped to liberate Sierra Leone, Liberia and Rwanda because at that time the economic base of our nation was buoyant. It is disheartening that the federal government cannot defeat Boko Haram that has only occupied a segment of the country.
To move forward, there is the need to change this present government that lacks the idea of how to improve the economy. Therefore, people should not wait until they are told to change the leadership of the country.
Some of us fought tooth and nail in 2015 to change the government in power. We thought that we could get a better manager, but the reverse is the case. We brought a government that is doing worse than the former government.
We are back in the trenches again to bring another government that will improve the economy of the country because so many things have become worse. Even the PDP that ruled for 16 years did not push the country to this precarious situation where a bag of rice is more than N20,000, where many families can no longer feed, many states can no longer pay salaries, as at when due and people are gradually dying on daily basis because they can no longer withstand the poor economy.
Within three years President Buhari’s administration, insecurity in the country is rising every day, killings has become a daily affair, roads have become a death trap and yet we have a government in place. In the last one year, the Lokoja -Okene Road that connects the North, West, East and Southern parts of the country and the Aba –Port Harcourt Road have been begging for rehabilitation, but the federal government pretended as if nothing is happening. If you go to the East, West and even some parts of the North, there are no roads. This ineptitude in governance is not what the people bargained for in 2015 when they opted for a change of government.
We really need to change Buhari’s government and it is this desire for a change that made Abubakar win the PDP presidential primary. All the aspirants in the election were qualified to govern this nation, but none of them equals Abubakar in terms of prerequisite. Those of us who are closer to Abubakar have seen in him a sort of ingenuity that can change the country for the better.
Atiku is not struggling to become the President of the country because he needs money. He wants to be president because he believes that he has the experience, the capability and the good knowledge of the nation’s economy which he can apply to move the country from its present woeful state.
It baffled me when some few people say Abubakar is corrupt, yet no corruption charges have not been brought against him since he left office as the Vice President of the country more than 11 years ago. It is unfortunate that in this country we cannot really differentiate between what we want and our needs. That has been our major predicament since Nigeria became independent. This has been drawing us back as a nation despite the abundant God-given ingredients for development.
This country cannot grow if a leader is operating in an economy that is not growing the work force .The rate of unemployment is too high and it is worrisome and we must create a Nigeria where, irrespective of your religion and tribe, you can work and live in any part of the country to contribute to the development of the place.
In the early 1970s down to 80s that was the kind of country we had. Suddenly things changed. Abubakar is the man who can restore that lost glory to the people because he is married to women from the West, the East and the North without discriminating on the basis of ethnic group. Atiku is a Fulani man but he does not put his cows over and above human lives. That is the kind of a man we need as president.
Atiku has all his children in Nigeria even when he has the financial capacity to take them to foreign countries. He kept them in Nigeria so that they can contribute their quota to the development of this country. That is the patriotism we need in this land, but many of our leaders are not patriotic that was why they don’t care where Nigeria is drifting to.
The APC National Chairman who said they will discuss based on issues should come out and tell Nigerians how and why one Dollar to Naira rose to over 350 Naira when President Buhari inherited it below 250 Naira per Dollar. The APC government is confused. It lacks ideas on how to improve the country’s economy.
We want instant development, but not under the moribund government of APC. We built and funded the party and we know why we left it. After the victory of the party at the poll, an unknown cabal hijacked the government. In the case of Abubakar, he is totally independent, no cabal can hijack him because those of us who have committed our time, our resources and remain with him in the sun and under the rain will not allow any cabal to hijack him, if by God’s grace he becomes the president.
We must have the country of our dream. The founding fathers of this nation never dreamt of this kind of problems that has bedeviled the country. Imagine Nigerians buying one litre of petrol at 145 Naira and yet we have refineries. The situation in Ajaokuta Steel Company is sad. We need a successful business man who can turn around the fortunes of this country, just the way the American President is doing right now.
Abubakar has created jobs more than any other presidential aspirant either in the PDP, APC and other political parties in this country through his chains of businesses. I have interacted with him and I am optimistic that he knows what to do if given the mandate to serve as Nigeria’s president. That was why we joined forces to ensure that he emerged as the standard bearer of the PDP.
In Atiku’s acceptance speech he paid a tribute to the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, did Atiku enjoy any support from him?
In politics, there is no permanent friend or enemy, what matters most is the interest. It is a clear fact that the fear of Chief Obasanjo is the beginning of success in Nigeria’s political clime; weather you like it or not. Privately, we have used our connection to get the man to see where Nigerians are going and what they want.
Obasanjo cannot live as an island. He has his colleagues who are former generals, former heads of state and still has the international connections. If Nigerians say this is where they want to go, he will join in the struggle since the forces he used and has been using are the people. That is why Baba is with us in this project.
By virtue of what happened at the presidential primaries of the PDP if there was a conspiracy, Abubakar would not have emerged, but the delegates were desirous of changing the change for a better tomorrow where the economy of the country will once again bounce back.
What of the roles played by the former president Goodluck Jonathan?
There were a lot of activities behind the scene when we were at the Port Harcourt; meeting upon meetings went on at the venue of the primary and if the spirit with which Abubakar pursued this election can be applied in his government, Nigeria will be a better place for all. There was no delegate he did not talk to individually before the election.
In Kogi State alone he has over 280 support groups that were funded by individuals who believed that President Buhari does not have the capacity to carry Nigeria to the next level of development. We know what Nigerians are facing these days.
It is obvious now that the contest is between Buhari and Abubakar. The PDP presidential primary was very transparent to the admiration of all the contestants. You can see that those that lost in the contest are very willing to support the winner to triumph in the general election.