One of the top contenders for the office of National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Saliu Mustapha, tells Nseobong Okon-Ekong that he has the refreshing qualities that the party needs to regenerate itself for the task ahead
Some people don’t think that your party, the APC will hold its convention in the advertised month of February because right now there is nothing to show that there is preparation in the National secretariat
I have a contrary view to your concern. February is still weeks away even in the month of February you have four weeks. There may be affirmation in form of concensus. There is room for all these things to still happen. The important thing is getting it right and in getting it right, you must exhaust all possible options. I am a party man. I have been in party administration, at one time or the other. I know there is always anxiety over party convention. I remember the PDP convention before it held, I saw the headlines- this will make or mar PDP; will it happen? Will it not happen? The APC convention will come and go in a very peaceful way. The most important thing is that those at the helm of affairs now understand too well what the stakes are. They will do their best which I always encourage them. We should give them the benefit the doubt to come up with the best possible option for us. Nobody will want to have a cup of milk in his hand and deliberately throw it away, when you know that there are people who are struggling to have it. I want us to give them the benefit of the doubt. I am very sure the convention will come and go. There is a specific date now. I am sure the APC governors and the Presodent will come up with a zoning formula before we go to the convention. I am sure such a meeting will address the questions and anxieties over the convention.
One thing I must point out is that my aspiration is not about coming to own a title. I want to serve. I am not in this contest for the title. I am in it because I want to add value. That is why my campaign has taken a life of its own. I am enjoying enormous goodwill from people who see that quality in me. In most cases, the burden of me spending anything has been taken by many of these people who believe we have some kind of ideological pathway together. I am enjoying something others are not. I have prepared myself for February. I am hopeful that the secretariat will come up with an acceptable zoning formula that will give us victory at the general election.
How big is your support base across the country to give you the confidence to aspire?
Definitely, my support base is good. I am enjoying the support of average Nigerians, average members of the party who want that change, who want to see someone that will do things differently. I might not have the kind of money some of them have to mount billboards. A billboard will cost me about N5milluon, if I print posters with that, it will produce a good number of posters and it will go round the country. It is about your style and approach. That brings me to kind of leadership I want to run. My style of leadership is different . I want to carry people along. I want to be a team player. I am not coming in as an individual or as a one-man squad. It is about how you send your message, the targeted audience. Recently, I was privileged to host former federal and state legislators who are statutory delegates. They have their association. They see in me someone they believe they can work with. They were here to pledge solidarity to me. They see in me somebody they can relate with who can give them a listening ear. They see in me a bridge builder. There is a global trend where the younger generation are asking that they should be involved, they want to be carried along. I am saying I am here. I want to participate and be given the opportunity to serve. It is not a contest of titles or billboards. It is a contest of convincing the people. Do they see in you, what they believe in? Do they see in you the true leader; a team player? Politics is all about giving people a sense of belonging and carrying them along. Giving people a free and fair atmosphere, so that internal democracy and popular candidates can emerge. That is what most of them see in me. There are a lot of promises that my aspiration brings to the table that will further solidify the party and give us general victory. The victory APC needs is not to win the primary within the house and you are not able to transfer it to the general election where you can appeal to the larger society. We have a country of about 200 million people. By the time you go for general election, it is not the APC members that will vote you in. It is the public; and what do they want to see? They want to see how they can buy into that vision, dream or manifesto you are selling to them. In Nigeria, the younger people who are clamouring for participation have between 75 and 80 million votes to support any party or candidate to win an election and many of the younger generation see me as that bridge builder; as that semblance of what they stand for. The APC stands to benefit these number of votes.
As bad as the PDP is, the party was able to vote a 25 year old man as its National Youth Leader. Today, all you see them do is brandish that National Yourh Leader to attract the younger generation. APC can do better, not be bringing a 20 year old man, but by bringing somebody who the younger generation can see as their own. Somebody who reflects or represents their ideal; who can be a bridge builder between them and the older generation. I believe that I stand a better chance than anybody
Even those those that I am contesting against, I have not not limited my consultation. I am also meeting and trying to convince them that it shouldn’t be a contest. I am looking for how they can endorse me so that I can help to make this journey easier for us all.
Why do you think we no longer have political parties with clear-cut ideologies?
The legacy parties that came together to form the APC where able to bring up a manifesto. I always tell people it is work in progress. The present administration has done very well, it is now for us if given the opportunity to continue from where the President will stop. One of the things I want to promote is adhering to our party manifesto . If we are able to do that then people will see us as a platform that came and marketed something and stood by it. That is when you can see the dividends more. That is what will translate to the kind of ideological party they believe in. Given the opportunity I want to lead a team that will fulfil electoral promises, not a party where the person in State A is doing one thing and another person on the same platform in State B is doing a totally different thing. I want to help bring about that ideology by making sure people are held accountable to our electoral promises.
Would you say the APC has an ideology?
Yes. It is embedded in our manifesto. It is a progressive party. We are more of a social democratic party
The overwhelming perception is that the APC has not delivered on its promises since 2015, won’t that make your job difficult if you become the national chairman of the party?
I disagree with you. Nigerians are living better than when we took over. It idepends on the perspective from which you judge us. People tend to forget what Nigeria was going through in the last days of former President Goodluck Jonathan. We were going into a serious recession that Venezuela would have been better than us. We were going to hopelessness, but this government reversed that. People tend to forget that the damage of nearly 20 years cannot be repaired overnight.. But it is easy to destroy. It is easy for them to condemn us, but they fail to see what we have been able to achieve in the face of global challenges. There is terrorism. It is not just the case of Nigeria, it is a global issue. There is the pandemic. There is global hunger all over. People should not judge today with the way yesterday was. Of course, there is room for improvement and we hope to do better. It is work in progress. This government is doing its best and will continue until it is given the opportunity again that APC is allowed to produce the next government so that we can consolidate on some of the achievements and build on some of the foundations the Buhari government is laying already.
Do you think the APC will survive after President Buhari?
It is true that his person and character is one things we have used as a marketing tool-his anti-corruption stance. APC wants to rid the country of corruption. He is famous for saying, if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us. That is why you see the APC is focused on helping the downtrodden-how to create more jobs, how to empower the downtrodden that is why you see we have policy where we are assisting people through the TraderMoni, school feeding programme, these are masses oriented policies that will always help the downtrodden to give them a little bit of push from the abject poverty they find themselves. APC will stand as a united family even after President has finished his tenure so that we can sustain his legacy. It is when APC has been able to have another administrative circle, that is when people will start seeing a lot of good things and foundation that the previous government has put in place.
Why do you think the APC has refused to constitute its Board of Trustees, is this something you will consider if you become chairman of the party?
I know that before now there was consultation on how to generate the names that will constitute the BoT which the party constitution states the procedure and those who are qualified. Unfortunately, the Adams Oshiomhole tenure was cut short abruptly. I am sure if we have a substantive NEC all those are part of the things that will be on the table for urgent consideration. I will support a party that has all its organs well instituted so that it will further reduce the burden of work and give other people a sense of belonging because politics is about giving people a sense of belonging, carrying them along and making it a participatory process for everybody. I will support the BoT.
The victory APC needs is not to win the primary within the house and you are not able to transfer it to the general election where you can appeal to the larger society. We have a country of about 200 million people. By the time you go for general election, it is not the APC members that will vote you in. It is the public; and what do they want to see? They want to see how they can buy into that vision, dream or manifesto you are selling to them. In Nigeria, the younger people who are clamouring for participation have between 75 and 80 million votes to support any party or candidate to win an election and many of the younger generation see me as that bridge builder; as that semblance of what they stand for