Sunday Magazine

APC has done well but there’s still room for improvement –Mustapha

Saliu Mustapha is a chairmanship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming convention of the party scheduled for February. Mustapha, the Turaki of Ilorin, who has been with President Mohammadu Buhari in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) bloc that eventually coalesced with others to form the APC has been a long standing ally of the President. In an interview with GEOFFREY EKENNA in Lagos last week, Mustapha spoke on his vision for the party, the speculations surrounding endorsements of aspirants and how APC can match the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in political brinksmanship, going into the 2023 elections

 

Why do I have this feeling that you might be the anointed candidate of the presidency?

 

Is it because of the CPC connection or your long association? I think we should look at character and competence. I don’t want to look at it from the angle of CPC.

By now, if things are supposed to be put in the right perspective, we shouldn’t be talking of CPC, ACN, ANPP in a party that has merged, produced a government and we are about to finish eight years, looking forward to another tenure. It is not about the issue of CPC. It is about competence, character, and ability of a person and what the person can bring on board.

 

That should be the most important consideration which I know is what is going for me. I will not say because I am running, I will run down other aspirants. The most important thing is for us to win and be able to deliver on our goals. For any party to win an election, it is about strategies.

 

If they are placed and marketed properly, the sky is the limit for the party. For me, we should be looking at competence not because one is from CPC; that is the unfortunate thing that stagnated the growth of the country.

 

Yes…it looks strange that six years into the administration of APC, people still see APC as just a mere vehicle for winning in 2015 and not a political party. What is wrong with your party?

 

Like I said earlier, competence is what we should be looking at. There is nothing wrong with APC. It is on the right course. The truth is this government has done well.

 

The president is doing well. It is a work in progress. Human beings have the tendency of forgetting things with time. We were in very bad shape as a nation.

 

That was what brought about the defeat of PDP and we were expected to right the wrong in an hour. This country was put in a really bad shape for more than 16 years, cumulatively with the days of the military era, and it was expected for one party to fix it overnight. Of course, I am not saying we are in a perfect situation.

Things can be better but we should always give people the benefit of the doubt. The scorecards are here. We are going for another election. Nigerians will decide if APC has done well or not. I don’t like to sometimes subject this to a two-man discussion. Let us test our records and achievement at the poll. Life can be better; things can be better.

 

Nobody is perfect. We are not living in a perfect society. I agree that there is room for improvement and that why some of us are there and why I am aspiring to be the chairman of the party; so that I can also help the electorate to hold my party accountable to whatever we promised.

 

As an aspiring national chairman, what are those things you are specifically going to bring to the table?

 

First and foremost, I want to lead a team of all-inclusiveness. I want to lead a party where equity, fairness, and justice will be available at any given time. When there is fairness, equity, free and fair election, that is when a popular candidate would emerge and when popular candidate emerges, it makes it easier for the party at the poll because whoever within a small confine is able to win the House can be translated into a bigger environment.

 

When people emerge on merit, then it is sure that can also be translated to wins when a bigger role is given to them of holding trust for the electorate. If I am the leader of my party today, I will make sure we work as a team.

It is not going to be a one-man show. I want to also bring about party discipline and supremacy, so that we can hold our elected officials accountable, right  from ward level to the presidency for party promises and manifesto.

 

What is going to the difference between your party discipline and supremacy idea and the one Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was trying to implement that consumed him?

It is very simple. There is a document that has been produced. It is on the basis of this document that the party is formed and registered; a manifesto was developed for the party.

 

When people go by certain rules, things are easier. It is when one wants to bring in things that are not there or one does it in a way or manner that is not prescribed by what formed that association, that makes it difficult.

 

As I said, a political party is a convergence of ideas. It is about managing the rich resources that come together to deliver certain goals and dividends for the people.

 

If it is not managed properly and there is nobody to give people a sense of belonging, to carry them along; that is when those resources instead of being used in a positive manner will be detrimental or destructive to the whole idea.

 

You talked about room for improvement in the government  Statistics don’t support that APC has improved Nigeria as a whole since 2015. From cost of living, insecurity among other things, as an aspiring chairman of APC, what gives you the confidence that your party, judging from level Nigeria is now, will return in 2023 in a free and fair atmosphere?

 

I don’t agree with you. Statistics do not say APC has not improved the lots of people. Statistics are not based on the cost of inflation alone.

 

It is not just the cost of inflation. Before 2015, as a political reporter, I used travel from Abuja (in the heat of Boko Haram insurgency) to Dutse. There was a day I arrived Dutse at midnight but now, I don’t think I can try that again…

 

Let me quickly correct this impression. The cost of inflation doesn’t entirely give the true statistics of the growth or performance.

 

There is inflation all over the world. It is a global trend. That is one. Insecurity is also being experienced all over the world. It is not peculiar to Nigeria alone or with this government.

 

As I said, there is room for improvement. It is all about human character. We, as Nigerians, if we must see and appreciate what we have and what this government has done, the first thing we must do as Nigerians and as living beings is a change of attitude.

 

By the time there is an attitudinal change towards life, that is the first thing that is needed to be achieved as a nation and that is how we can have a different attitude towards government, wastages, embezzlement, taking up a patriotic approach.

 

Concerning insecurity, I tell people sometimes about this whole idea about things was better years ago, we were not the same person years ago. By nature, insecurity issue is everybody’s concern.

We should not politicize it. We should not give it ethnic or religious coloration. It is because we look at it as if it is APC government, that is why we are where we are today.

By the time we make it our problem, then we will not shift the blame or encourage some of this violence. Sometimes, when we fold our arms and do a blame game, then we are compounding the problem. I know we can do better.

There is room for improvement but we must all accept that it affects all of us. It is not a party’s problem. It is all our problem. We must remove politics out of it and give a nationalistic approach to it.

That way, we can reduce or solve the issue. In advanced countries, there are insecurity problems too. Nobody is calling it Republicans’ or Democrats’ problem.

 

They look at it as Americans and solve it. I will advise that we should stop politicizing some of these issues and we should have a nationalistic approach. That is when we can see ourselves going out of this cost of inflation, insecurity, and other vices.

 

That is the only way this country can move forward. By the time we are able to achieve this as our first parameter, we can now have a proper way of assessing one another’s performance.

 

I wonder how you intend to achieve this ambition considering the fact that we have heard that the Tinubu bloc has endorsed Tanko-Almakura. There are also others like that in the same race with you…

 

 

That is not obvious in politics. Everybody will use whatever he or she has to market himself or herself. In the same way, some people have given us impressions that Bola Tinubu has endorsed them, I also have a very strong conviction that he is with me…

The then PDP chairman, late Senator Mahmood Waziri, told me that he was not mindful of his own kind of style, that any man that budgets in politics might not win what he wants; that he would budget N20million deliberately but at the eleventh hour, something might come up that another N2million would be needed. He would just go into the house and give them.

That another person that didn’t spend N20million but came up with that N2million would win the day. So, the discussion is ongoing for this race for the national chairmanship. I will not fold my hands. I will try and bring out my politics, what I see will change the dynamics of that day.

Presently, any party that wants to win the general election with what has happened in the country in the past one and half years must first and foremost factor in the younger generation. PDP has done something smart. For the first time, they have given a 25-year-old man, a youth leader and they are using him to canvass.

The young man is telling his generation that this is where they belong. APC can do better, matching PDP’s 25-yearold is nothing. The best APC can do is by giving a younger man, national chairman, and says he is now in charge. I meet people on a daily basis, and they are encouraging me not to step down; that though they want to force me to step down, that they are with me.

They want somebody that can bring that change for us. 75 to 80 per cent of the total votes count belongs to the younger generation and that was one positive thing the ENDSARS protest was trying to bring but unfortunately, it was criminalized and that ended that struggle.

The younger ones also know that they have a say now. I have endorsement from virtually everybody that matters in the party and it is not because I am from the CPC. I am not even using that as my campaign strategy  I want to be a chairman for all. For us to succeed, all hands must be on deck. My prayer is for us to get this done and quickly for reconciliation.

I can’t succeed alone. It has to be teamwork. Even some of those I am contesting with now are the people I will look forward to, to buy into my agenda for the party, if God makes me the chairman.

 

The most important thing every party suffers is not giving people the opportunity to have a free and fair election. When somebody is imposed on the party members, when the election comes, it becomes difficult for the person to win. Then rigging starts! If we can encourage free and fair contests, our democracy will go a long way.

 

But there is a division in your party in Kwara State. The Governor is at war with Lai Mohammed. There are two camps there…

 

I was one of those who suffered from both sides. They put heads together then to disqualify me but today, in my nature, I have forgiven and let go and that is why both groups are embracing me. I just did my Turbaning, the governor and some of the people were there.

 

They even placed adverts in national dailies. If I am not seen as a mutual or stabilizing factor, I wouldn’t be enjoying these patronages. Prof. Attahiru Jega made a statement recently, and my response was he would have carried more weight if he had implemented it when he was INEC chairman but he is now promoting PRP. Let him come and test the water and let us see how he will perform.

 

What can you bring to the platform since you have been associated with so many people since 1999

 

What I will bring differently is some of the experience I have gathered and also looking at the future, trying to relate with what is obtainable today.

As I said, with my experience, one of our major impediments is the issue of godfatherism; not giving the people opportunity to choose their leaders.

The end goal of every political party is the end result, which is how elections will be won and if the unpopular candidate is imposed, one is bound to suffer anti-party crisis first before facing the outside forces of election.

If I can bring leadership that will first guarantee equity, justice and fairness, also, to be able to uphold our party manifesto because that is what we sell to the electorate. When people that get you in the office were abandoned, in the same party, one will find governors going different ways. It shouldn’t be so.

There should be some uniformities. If we are able to have that, the party will be able to record better success stories. More importantly, I will like to instill party supremacy and discipline. That is how the elected members can be held accountable to party manifesto and their promises to the electorate. I have enough…not capitalizing on the youthfulness, strength, and agility in proactiveness.

 

I pray with your partnership this can be achieved and I am also bringing on board relationship with the media, which was not taken seriously in the past.

 

That whatever we want, will be enforced. I take this partnership and friendship we are building to be very important  because it will also go a long way to advancing, shaping and guiding me in some of the decisions I am going to take or suggestions that I will give to my party.

 

You are busy preparing for a convention, whose date has not been fixed apart from being in February…

 

The summary of what you are saying is what is the uncertainty of APC today? For me, it is not a blame game. It is about bringing solution. It is because there was a problem; that is why we found ourselves in this extraordinary caretaker committee. It is not just a caretaker committee.

 

From day one, it is supposed to be Convention Committee.

 

A lot of people just forgot about the convention, saying it is caretaker. It is not! Their work is to stabilize and deliver us a national convention. So, they are on course as far as I am concerned.

 

The most important thing now is solution and let us get there so that we can be victorious in 2023.

The uncertainties are coming to an end, a month has been picked. I said it from day one that the convention will be done in February but people have been calling me to ask me if I share special understanding with the committee. First of all, a minimum of three weeks is needed by law to notify INEC. Our state congresses have just ended.

 

The adhoc committee are just bringing in their report. We will finish cross checking those reports. Then, it will be submitted to the NEC. Let’s say we will be submitting this week; giving INEC notice of three weeks, we will be falling into the week of Christmas.

We must be sensitive to our brothers who are celebrating Christmas and immediately after the New Year, almost everyone that would have travelled, will be settling down in the second week of January, and we take three weeks from the second week of January, it falls into February.

 

So, we are the right course. We know what we are doing. My prayer is that we should come out more united and focused APC so that we can give you a beautiful democracy.

 

We also understand that some governors want one of their own to emerge…

 

In politics, everybody wants his/ her interest. For the fact that some of them are governors today, they will definitely want someone that is their own but as I said, the trend is changing. People are yearning for somebody who is fresher; they want a new face of governance idea.

 

For the mere fact that when you get to some places and you are introducing yourself as an ex-governor, etc pisses people off nowadays. As I said, some of these things will be our own internal strategy of winning the election.

If APC does its calculation properly, and sees that for us to win the general election, we need a female chairman, so be it. The most important thing is about how many goals are achieved.

That is when we can account for our promises. Governors, senators and stakeholders want their own person to be there. See what is happening everywhere about the present governor is fighting the former governor. There was nothing like that in the past.

 

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