Mohammed Audu: Bello Can’t Win in a Free, Fair Primary Election

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Mohammed Audu

Ahead of the August 29, 2019 primary election of the All Progressives Congress, Mohammed Audu, a gubernatorial candidate of the party in Kogi State and son of a former governor of the state, Abubakar Audu, in this interview bears his mind on the forthcoming primary election in the state and the need to present a people’s candidate in order to avoid defeat in the main election. Adedayo Akinwale presents the excerpts:

How has the campaign been especially, when the talk is about the security situation in the state?

The campaigns have been very interesting. I have been witnessing campaigns in Kogi State since 1998 and I have been around during all those campaigns. The atmosphere has not been as depressing as it is now, because Kogites have been left in a very hopeless state. Their economy is in shambles and they have no money to sustain themselves. So, they are not even energetic. The only source of energy is when we appear for campaigns and they get some kind of relief.

What they keep telling us is, please take us out of this situation. The campaigns have been very interesting, because at the point of campaigns, we are very sure of victory. They already knew who they don’t want and who they want and the reasons are very obvious.

I don’t know if anybody anywhere can manipulate any election and thinks he is going to go away with it in Kogi. If you manipulate Kogi election, you will have blood on your hands, because of the people, who have died of untold hardship.

Are you referring to manipulation at the primary level or the main election and what will be the factors that will determine the outcome of the main election?

When I talk about manipulation, I am sure that you know that everything Governor Bello does, he manipulates. He would want to manipulate the primary election, he would want to manipulate the general election and he would want to manipulate the budget of the state. Everything he does, he manipulates.

That is what I mean and no one will be able to get away with manipulating this process. However, I am happy that the party is giving considerations to the various modes of primaries. We know that once the party fulfills its promise to carry out a transparent, free and fair process of selecting a candidate for the party, I can assure you that the outcome of the November election will be very swift and very decisive.

The PDP know that they don’t stand a chance and I can promise you that by 12 mid-day on election day, the PDP would have already known their fate and APC would also have known their fate. Anything to the contrary will be a dream.

If the people were not happy with the process, we would have given the opposition the advantage. That is all they are praying for, to use APC against APC, because that is the only way they stand a chance at victory. Otherwise, if the APC is together and one house and emerges successful from this process, they will be unbeatable.

So, if Yahaya Bello wins the primary, will you consider defecting to another party?

I don’t understand what you mean. What I have told you is that if you allowed a people-oriented process, all of us will support that process without questions. But what we know and we are telling you from Kogi State is that a people-oriented process, a free and fair process will definitely not be producing Yahaya Bello. These are no rumours.

Go to every local government area in the state and ask their opinion. If you think that Yahaya Bello stands a chance, go to Kogi and ask the people what they want. It is not about paid job of appearing on television and saying different kind of things. Ask the civil servants, ask the pensioners, ask the family men, ask the children in school whether any system is working in Kogi State.

If we have another four years of this, there will be no state because everybody would have died of conditions that are very bad because they are suffering. I can assure you that no right thinking Kogi man wishes, in his wildest dream to have Bello return as governor, no matter the circumstance. If you see Bello come back, he would have forced himself on the people.

In your family, there are more than one person running for the governorship on the APC ticket. Is that not a sign of division right from your home?

I don’t agree with you. When you go into a family and everybody is a lawyer, why don’t you say it is a sign of division? I can tell you something. We all have our different ways of going about our aspirations. My brother is a younger person, who feels that he could use the energy of a young man to orchestrate a mass movement and ensure that Bello is removed.

I have my own experience and I want to ensure that Bello is removed. There is another one of us, who wants to ensure that Bello is removed. The uniting factor here is that we all want to remove Bello. I don’t think you should look at it as disunity. We are not fighting or quarrelling, but agreed on one thing, which is that Bello must go.

You spoke about a transparent process of primary and the party has opted for the indirect mode. Do you think that the process will be transparent?

First, I must tell you that I am a loyal party man and whatever my party adopts I will support them. Now, in this particular instance, not only do I support my party, I am indifferent with any process that you bring – whether direct or indirect. The bottom line is that the sentiments I have expressed, tell you that head, we win; tail, they lose. Whichever way you turn the coin, we win.

But there is a snag and I have said this over and over again. My heart is with our party men in Zamfara. After having sleepless nights campaigning, spending a lot of resources, doing so much for the victory of the party, one party will be locking around the corner waiting for you to make mistake and capitalise on it and at the end of the day, you lose everything that you have worked for.

This is what I am particularly worried about. We might go through the indirect primary, defeat Bello, but the case between the two executives may be such that if it favours one, it might nullify everything that we have done. The fact is that we are not willing to take the risk of finding out who is right and who is wrong. This is the issue we have with using a particular set of exco to conduct the primary.

The thing to do to deepen internal democracy in Nigeria is to follow what President Muhammadu Buhari has done. He said that in other to avoid any controversy of his nomination, allow a direct primary process, where every card-carrying member of the party will come forward to decide, who their candidate should be. It went without rancour and sentiments and he emerged. Kogi is a state with different tribes, different religious callings and different beliefs. But all of them are united in one course and that is the course for good governance.

They are happy to be given an opportunity. It will be an internal party referendum, which means that if you carry out that process successfully, whoever wins is as good as winning the general election, because the followership of the APC far outweighs the followership of other parties put together. So, it will be an election before an election and I think it is a fantastic opportunity for the ruling party to show its strength.

Are you confident that the leadership of the party at the national level will be able to conduct a primary that will be acceptable to all the aspirants?

I do believe so, because there is no election process that goes without rancour. A general election in 36 states has just taken place and it is only in a few places that you have complaints of manipulations. I believe that the leadership of our party will be able to do a good job and conduct a free and fair primary.

There is this complaint that delegates for the primary are being intimidated, arrested and kidnapped. Have you had any complaints from your supporters?

I will simply tell you something. I told you earlier that if Bello returns, he would have forced himself on the people and those are the traits.

There are rumours that the sitting governor is raising a private army. Have you heard about that?

I have heard that, but for me, it is not a war because I have been involved in this process before. This is not the first time I am hearing this. In any case, the Kogi people have realised something. If you fear, you die. If you make the mistake of saying that you are afraid of the men in uniform that are fake, you will still die, because in the last four years, a lot of people have died.

They will rather die exercising their franchise than to wait for another four years and suffer before they die. So, I don’t think anybody in any uniform will be able to scare anybody. I can tell you that our supporters are resolute. We will not allow any puppet master or puppet to come and scare people with dane and toy guns.

As far as democracy is concerned, the power of the thumb is stronger and bigger than even the power of a fighter jet and this is what we are going to exhibit on the 29th of August.

Politics is a game of number and Kogi East, where you come from has the number to swing any vote. Assuming the ticket goes to Bello, are we likely going to see the 1992 scenario that brought your late father to power?

You are talking of the scenario between my father and Architect Olorunfemi. While you think it was tribal sentiments, it was not, but party and manifesto. Our people at that time in the opposing party which was the SDP felt that the process of selecting their candidate was faulty and that their internal democracy model was bad and that led to a revolt.

My father did not benefit from any kind of tribal patronage. The same scenario is about to play itself. It is not tribal, but saying that if you do not have a proper selection process, the people tend to revolt. That is all that is at stake notwithstanding the tribe.

I can tell you that if Yahaya Bello had done very well as governor of Kogi State, APC would not have had two aspirants, because it would be unnecessary. Nobody changes a winning team. In this case, he has performed very poorly.

We heard that money is already exchanging hands to seek favour. But are you also aware that some aspirants are allegedly sponsoring others for better chances?

I just picked my form on Thursday last week and so, I could not have sponsored somebody, who will pick his form before me. So, I don’t know about sponsorship of anybody and second, I think the NWC is populated by men of integrity, and I have not heard about money exchanging hands. What people are saying about their dissatisfaction with the mode of primary is not the fault of the NWC.

It is the NEC of the party, which consists of the governors and everybody else that asked states to adopt mode of primaries that their stakeholders adopt and this is what most of the states have done.

But in the case of Kogi State, it is factionalised and that is our own argument. So, I don’t think this has to do with money exchanging hands or not. It was something that some people felt was done in error and I believe they are trying to correct it now.

Outside Governor Bello, what are your chances against other aspirants especially, people like Admiral Jibrin?

I think he just joined politics three months ago and he is learning on the job. But as far as I am concerned, I wouldn’t go that far to worry about Usman Jibrin, when there is a governor with state resources at his disposal. Usman Jibrin showed himself maybe in preparation for 2023.

I have a great deal of respect for all the aspirants, but for this time, it is a game of popularity and structures. In the whole state, I am the only one with a grassroots movement. I am the only one with a full party structure that has been sidelined. I am the only one with a political structure called the Audu political family. If you know any person that has a political structure like that, please indicate.

And you still think the Audu Family is united?

Have you heard that they are supporting anybody? Have they made any statement? But later, they will be making a statement.