Former Niger State governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu is a member of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT). At the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, he moved for a vote of confidence on the party’s national leadership in the midst of a crisis dogging the PDP. In this interview with select journalists in Abuja, Babangida Aliyu gives reasons for his action, and advocates party supremacy to ensure that PDP remains strong. ONYEKACHI EZE reports
At the last PDP NEC meeting, you moved a motion for a vote of confidence on the NWC. What made you to come up with that idea?
(It did that) because there are processes. If you want somebody to leave a position, there are ways to do it. You don’t go to market places, calling somebody bad names just because you want him to leave.
We have a way that we make people resign, we have a way that we query people if they have done wrong and we are elders enough that if things are that bad, we will find a way to advice people on what to do. But when you know that the people who are, maybe planning to say the NWC should go, what is their objective? What is their aim?
In the process of thinking you are correcting something, sometimes you destabilise it and after all our convention comes up in December, how many months to come? So what would you want to do now that you cannot do in December if you feel that bad?
And like I said, there are processes; you don’t go about abusing the whole party like as they say, throwing the baby with the bath water, because by the time you are thinking you are only dealing with the NWC, you are actually dealing with PDP as a party.
Getting rid of them or getting rid of anybody in NWC now is creating the lack of confidence in the minds of the people. If people cannot even organise themselves as a party, how do you now entrust them with the governance of the country? A party that had been able to stay for 16 years and in that period whether you like it or not, from Olusegun Obasanjo to Goodluck Jonathan, they stabilised the economy of the country; we became richer and then the unity of the country was never questioned; there was no agitation for secession and all these noise now that are coming up; can you believe that a mature Nigerian asking for military intervention?
That is not right. Democracy no matter how bad it is, it is still better than military rule, no matter how people perceive it. And democracy like any other organ develops as a result of mistakes that you correct as you go along.
So if we have a temporary problem, for me what is happening now, they are all temporary, in fact the moment the 2023 election comes and goes, you will find out that half of the problems even by the election itself would have gone.
So that is my stand and I am happy that the whole NEC members unanimously agreed with me. We need stability now, we need unity now, we need cooperation now, that is exactly what we should be looking for now. Today, we have 14 states, if you could remember there was a time we had 26, 26 states.
So I think each one of us should look back and say where we go wrong and start correcting, but not to come and say you want to get rid of them. Getting rid of people is not the solution but looking objectively at what needs to be corrected.
Do you think that that motion has restored peace to PDP?
The whole idea was now, those who are agitated, those who think; those who believe that there was a problem now will know that there is a better way to handle whatever problem that is in the PDP. The question of peace, if you remember, a party that does not have a government, why do you see peace in a party that have government, if there is anything like that now, peace in a party that have a government is because of the control of the institutions of the state and with the President in place.
No matter how he looks like or what he looks like, he will still be the President of the country and at the same time the leader of the party. But now that we don’t have one, I think most of the problems we are having is for the supremacy of those members of the party who think they deserve to be there.
So this motion of confidence, what it has done is to let people know even if you have to remove people, you cannot remove them with the way you are going. And for peace, the party had established a committee headed by the former Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki.
He has gone round and he is going round to resolve many of these problems. For example there is this intractable problem in Yobe, now we have peace in Yobe.
The Supreme Court judgment in Borno, the committee ensured the implementation of that judgment. And then you come to Kaduna, they are still there but we have seemingly a peaceful resolution that is coming up.
Kano, they are already in that one but the Kano is more of the zonal convention, it is just not the issue of peace. So for me, a motion cannot just create peace but a motion provides the position.
On the one hand, the NWC now will sit down and say, why confidence, why do we have to have a motion of confidence to support us?
And the general people will say yes, we need this and we should all go back to villages and our own states to do similar things; if it is something that you can correct quickly, correct it; if it is something that you cannot correct, try to manage it. So that is the purpose of that.
If you were to advise the National Chairman and his NWC on the way to peace, particularly in this type of crisis where most of the people who earlier supported you but have not turned traducers, if you are to advise him, what would you tell him?
Let’s separate one thing from the other. You said former supporters now turn to traducers, I think we must look at the politics of the matter. Where is the problem coming from?
The problems are not coming from other regions, they are coming from his home state, why because somebody wants to be a godfather, a dictator, I don’t think he wants to be president or vice president, I don’t think Nigerians will accept such a thing. But probably he wants to be a godfather to dictate who becomes what. And always look back in history
from 1999 to date, many governors think that by producing a successor that they will go at the background to steer the ship of the state. Believe me, with my little experience of eight years and with my observation, even if you give your son, if we are to turn it into a monarchy, you may still run into a problem.
If your son respects you, you are not sure of the way the mother feels; the mother might call her son and say look, don’t do like you father did, this and that are his mistakes, stop listening to him.
I think governors, particularly those who are now in their second term, should understand this. In fact it will be better for you to allow the generality of your members to decide who takes over from you. But then why are we afraid, why are we so concerned as to for us to install who succeeds us?
Is it because we have done so bad or is it because we have messed up the economy of the state? Many governors or many people or many leaders think that public money is their own money. In the olden days, from the government of independence up to the (Yakubu) Gowon’s period, no expenditure was made without budgeting for it. If a biro is not provided for in the budget to buy, you cannot buy it.
And in the budget there is also room for virement. You have some funds somewhere, for some reasons that fund may not be used but you have to formalise even that fund. At the state level you have to go to the state assembly, at the national level you have to go to the National Assembly.
But what has happened through the time is that today, the budget is just being done for the formality sake; probably for the past 20 years or 30 years, we have never implemented the budget up to 50 to 60 per cent and if you cannot implement a plan, then it means you should review the next year.
And I have not heard where the budget has been made, whether it is in expectation of the total figure, that we are carrying over this amount of money to the next budget.
So we go back to the issue, why will the major supporter of my Chairman now become his own major opponent? You go back to the politics of Rivers, one in terms of successor, second in terms of the ambushing of a person who accidentally becomes rich or who leads a rich state.
If you are the one who supports a person, who went round to ensure the election of this person even when something has gone wrong, you are from the same state, find a way to resolve it at home, not to make it public. All his statements, he is not making Prince Uche Secondus look bad, he is making himself look bad and making Rivers State look bad.
So I would advise him (Secondus) and I will say, keep doing what you are doing. Yes, you were supported to be elected, you have been elected and you have four-year tenure, make sure you complete your four-year tenure.
You have a room and a right to contest for the next four years, that decision is yours but you have more supporters now than you did before the other election.
You talked about party supremacy. Where is party supremacy in all these? A situation where the party could not discipline a member who described the party leadership as tax collector or petitioned an anticorruption agency against the party leadership and the party takes no step to discipline such people, what went wrong?
For that one, for that member, he is not our member; he is not a registered member of PDP even when he claimed that membership. But don’t forget he was suspended, he was never recalled and he never registered back.
One of the two things must happen if you are suspended; once the time expires obviously you will be readmitted. I am not sure that has happened. And for any member by the way, even if nobody talked, for any member to say I am in PDP but I am going to work for the rival party, you don’t have to dismiss that person, he has already dismissed himself.
And when you have people whose survival is on such things, you don’t want to waste your time on the issue. On the other person who called them task collectors, I was surprised too because I was concerned that something must happen and I remember many of us in BoT (Board of Trustee) raised the issue. I also remember that one or two of us raised the issue in NEC.
But again the supremacy of the party that you are looking for is not actually there in our arrangement now. In the constitution as you see but usually the party chairman and the executive are supposed to represent that supremacy.
But again, when you are dispensing decisions or actions it must be seen to be fair and equitable, maybe that is why we lost it.
But how do you reconcile party supremacy with funding? The party is being funded by certain group of people and that means that whatever those people say becomes law and nobody can discipline them…
As far as I am concerned, I am aware that even when we were all governors, I am aware that time to time we may find a way to contribute money.
Sometimes we may call some of these people to say the party has mandated me to do something, please help us raise the fund to go and do it.
Like you said, yes, over time, we have spoilt that supremacy, because if you go to some places you will discover that even membership card is paid for by somebody who may be interested in running for election, or somebody who is just a major stakeholder in the community; he may pay for many people.
So there is this commitment that this party is our own and that is where again, like I said we are gradually losing the supremacy of the party.
You don’t need up to a million people to be your members; as a party you don’t need that number, you need a dedicated number that will sell the ideas of the party and the manifesto of the party. So yes, you are right
in a way that unless we bring back that kind of commitment where no matter what you bring, when somebody very rich thought he will defy the political party leadership, in the then NPN (National Party of Nigeria), the Chairman of the party then said to him, you cannot do that because NPN is not up for sale.
And believe me I still say that, the PDP is not for sale, so no matter how rich you are, you cannot buy it because we are talking of human beings; many of who have honour to protect.
So yes, like they said in English, those who pay the piper dictate the tune! The governors can sit and agree that ‘we need to contribute N2 million each.’
If out of your own discretion as a governor you bring N10 million, are we going to say that because we decided N2 million that you should not bring extra?
You brought extra but we are telling you that whatever extra you pay, now is not the time for you to dictate to us on what to do. So supremacy, yes, we need to revive that, we need to go back to the people.
In fact that is why a committee was set up to now register people online and I am sure the committee very soon will let us know how to go about it, and that will make it easier to even identify people.
You don’t need to be carrying a card around because the moment you are registered online, anybody can look to see who is where and where you are registered.
The 2023 elections will come in the next two years and the PDP has repeatedly said it wants to regain power. How prepared is the party for 2023 vis-à-vis these pockets of distractions here and there?
Will you believe that the distractions are the ones that will help us organise ourselves properly. I just said that it is a mistake when you say you must have this number of party members, what you need is this number of dedicated party members.
I recall reading somewhere, in the election in the UK, that if a member is campaigning for an assembly seat, let’s say he comes to this side and I said to him, ‘come and take tea please, come and eat this and come and eat that.’
From there he will know that I am not supporting him because all that I am doing is to delay him from going to the next door. And you know they have reached a stage even if they are going to give a bribe it will not be like giving him rice, giving him salt, give him this! We are still at that level.
We are now beginning to see that these distractions now are becoming what will open our eyes to say we need to do this and do that to be able to get somewhere. I am happy you asked this question because I have always said to people, ‘don’t look at the problem that are there on the ground and think that people will just wake up and vote for you.
You have to define these problems properly, to let it sink in them and you have to tell them that you have solution to these problems.’
Don’t think because of insecurity, poverty and lack of this and lack of that, that people will just wake up and say oh, we are voting this. If the other party is able to articulate issues properly and you are just hoping or sitting down thinking.
No, no, you need to define it in your own terms, in your own manifesto and in the people that you will be selling the party so that people can appreciate it and come along with you, otherwise they will just lump you together.
Look at the level of perception now; Ebony left PDP, now Cross River, in terms of perception particularly to the common people they may begin to think that all the people from PDP are running to that party, maybe we better stay where we are or we better vote the way we voted.
But if you articulated and say, some people may leave a party because of their own personal problems. But they cannot say the personal problem, they will say official issues to cover their personal problems.
But I am happy that even those joining the APC for fear of EFCC are beginning to see that that is not the issue. So if you leave PDP and join APC because of fear of what you have done that you will escape, you may not escape it.
The law of the land, the limit does not say because you have stayed so many years, therefore the issue will not be brought against you.
So yes, we have problems but these are the problems that will define us as we go along to ensure that we correct them. We have the largest number of former governors, the largest number of former National Assembly members.
If all the former governors are to wake up and come up properly, many of them are the ones controlling their states and if you have done very well in your state, people are not that forgetful, they say public memory is short, people are not forgetful.
And this is what I tell some of my colleagues that sometimes it is not the skyscrapers or the constructions that you do that people will remember you; they will remember you more for how they felt when you were there. Have you respected them?
Have you done good to them? Have you done this and that?
Talking about defections, you have lost two governors to APC; how do you think PDP can recover those states in the next election?
If I remember the state that we lost; if I remember the way and manner the governors that defected came, I will still say, we will regain them very nicely. I recall that in Ebonyi State, the former governor, Dr. Sam Egwu, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.
I recall because I followed vividly how a deputy governor was being frustrated; how he ended up being our gubernatorial candidate and how he won that election. And Ebonyi State is one of those states that will always hold stability strongly and I believe these people and their supporters, friends and colleagues will do so much for us.
Cross River State is a PDP state. We may lose some but we are going to win that state back. I will love in the future to see either a constitutional provision or in our electoral law to say if a party elects you to a particular office, given you a mandate, President, governor, national and state assembly, councilor, chairman of a local government, that if for any reason you don’t want to go with that party then you should resign but not to defect with the mandate.
For example, these ones that you are referring to, they have defected with the mandate of PDP to APC. That is morally wrong and politically incorrect because the political culture that we are building we are already putting the holes of political correction in them. So a law must be enacted.
You are elected on the platform of PDP for this period of time but for some reasons, I find I cannot go with that party, resign your job and wait till the tenure ends for you to get elected on the platform of another party. Look, corruption is not just about stealing money.
I remember (former President Goodluck) Jonathan said so and people misunderstood him at that time about corruption. Corruption is not about stealing money but corruption is even in the behaviour that you display in the presence of your subordinate.
Anything that will spoil the procedure and the process of doing things is a corruption.
So on political corruption, you cannot be talking of our politicians are not good then when you have already created rooms for the politicians not to do good; so we need a law in place.
If you don’t want to be in politics, nobody is saying you should be. When I was drafted, I had an option as a Permanent Secretary at that time, I had an option to say ‘please allow me to continue with my civil service.’ But I chose to go. So whatever came with it I must bear it.
Aren’t you worried with the spate of attacks on INEC offices nationwide?
I am very much concerned. I thought the insecurity will stop at the banditry and the Boko Haram thing but with what is happening in the South, it is no more a Fulani thing.
My concern is what has INEC office done that you will go and burn it, what will you achieve? We have a lot of treason in this country but I think the people who are burning INEC offices and police stations are people who are trying to provoke the state,
I mean the country; by provoking the country they want an action that will be taken that they will not justify all their actions.
Maybe it may be too much to ask because it is part of the fundamental human rights of people; this dual citizenship thing, I think we must look at it and review it properly. Are you a Nigeria or not a Nigeria?
In your state, Niger, there have been agitations here and there. What is the state of the party now?
At the moment, the state of the party is intact. The zonal executive is overseeing the party’s issue.
We would have resolved it in a way but when this committee came in, we had to defer to the committee and the committee has sat; there are two groups supporting different chairmanship candidates.
One group we call them Engr. Mukhtar group. The committee met with 25 members of each group and later on sat them together, 50 of them and tried to resolve it.
And those of us as individuals have been doing our best.
In fact I am expecting some delegates, or some elders on how we can resolve the matter. Don’t forget Niger State is a PDP state, no matter what happened this time around we will make it.