2019: We settled for Buhari in nation’s interest – Shittu




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Alhaji Mohammed Kabir Shittu is the national chairman of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) and was also the party’s presidential candidate in this year’s general elections. He is also the chairman of the Forum of Presidential Candidates. In this interview with select journalists, he speaks on why the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, should withdraw his case at the tribunal, among other issues. TOPE SUNDAY was there.

The forum of presidential candidates came to limelight during the 2019 general elections. What is the reason behind its establishment?

We have to put up the forum for the presidential candidates because of the way our politics was going. There is the need for us to believe in our county, believe in ourselves, and also believe that we can also put our political and economy development and marry it with our own cultures and beliefs. Therefore, there was the need at that time to let the world know that we are one, but we are only contesting and one of us must win. The Forum helped in dousing the tension that was rising and we looked among ourselves who is better for us, who will take this county out of poverty? We said now is not the time to criticise issues of national matters; but rather, we should focus on how to build our county.

But the two major contenders in this year’s presidential election are from the north. Why did the Forum settle for President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC instead of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP?

We looked at where to be balanced and we looked at it that this man (Buhari) had started a programme and because of our nature, if you bring a new person those programmes will be off the stage. So, why not continue with his programmes rather than bringing another person? That’s what China did. A leader in China will not come and say because you have started a 20-year programme and I am coming to start a new programme. Continuity builds a nation. Nations are not built by one person. Nations are built collectively with quality results that are of the national interest, which are greater than personal interest and that was what made us to settle for Buhari.

You were among the people that persuaded Atiku not to go to court and now that he is in court, would still stick to your word?

What we did was in line with the national interest. For me, he has the right and the constitution gives him the right to go to court. But moral justification tells him to allow continuity. If you love your nation, if you believe in your nation and if the interest of the nation is above your personal interest, moral justification should be allowed to dictate what you should do. Constitution gives him the right to approach the court and nobody can hold him but moral justification should be allowed to guide him.

Are you saying he should withdraw his case?

As members of the forum, we believe that going to court will not solve our problem. Sitting together is very key. Do you know after war, we must come back to the table? Are we happy with the way Nigeria is today? Just 20 years after the war in Rwanda, the country is now the leading economy in Africa, and is that not a slap on Nigeria? So, why are we going to be wasting our time in court? Why can’t we use time and resources move our country forward?

Nobody will develop our economy for us. Nobody in the world will come and improve your own economy, because it is a competitive world. Will the Chinese come and develop your country for you? What I am saying is that we are still not getting it right. National interest must be above anything we do. So, everything we are telling Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is about national interest.

There is this allegation that you are holding forth for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). What is your reaction to this?

Anybody that has gone through my record will know that everything me about me is about the interest of the nation. I don’t have the interest of anybody at heart; national interest is what drives me. I have seen counties that have grown and I know that until we put national interest above our personal interest, we will get nowhere as a county.

Therefore, it is time we will look at our county and solve some of the problems we have. We have over 80 million unemployment people out of 190 million population and these 80 million are youth who are supposed to be ones that are feeding the old ones. That is why we have corruption in our system. The 80 million unemployed people should be our concern. How do we create employment for these people? How do we create market for our own economy? How do we bring the world to Nigeria? This is what is paramount to me not criticising Nigeria as a country.

Politics is gone. Let’s wait for another four years and look at what will benefit our country. This is what drives me in whatever I am doing. I am not doing it for my personal interest or for anybody.

As one of the candidates in this year’s presidential election, will you say that the election was rigged to favour President Buhari?

If you look at the pattern of the 2015 elections and the 2019, you will see that they are the same.  So, who rigged who? The same area that even when you are sleeping and they wake you, you will say Buhuri will win. I mean states like Kastina, Borno states and he won in all those places because they have natural love for him. You know Buhari will win in Sokoto ,you know Buhari will win in Kaduna because that is even his own base, in those areas that Buhari won are natural areas that even you give them a trillion naira, you can’t win their hearts .You can see the same strength in Kano and when the governor of the state took it for granted after Buhari’s election that he was going to win, he almost lost that election. This was so because people only voted for Buhari and let’s come back to what happened in Sokoto and in other states nationwide. So, where is the rigging? People have now known that they can vote this person in the governorship election, vote for another person in the presidential election and vote for another person from another party in the National Assembly election.  And with all these, people are still talking about rigging in Nigeria…haba!

I think is high time that we came to know and face the reality in this county and let the national interest be above our own personal interest.

Do you see Atiku winning is tribunal case?

How?  I just analysed to you natural states where Buhuri won or you want to tell me he can’t win in Kwara. Are you saying he can’t win in Kano? Are you saying he can’t win in Borno or you are saying he can’t win in Katsina? Tell me if Buhari could lose in the FCT where he sits as the president and you are saying there is rigging? FCT is the place where he could rig if had wanted to because that’s where he has the seat of power. PDP did not allow Abuja to go out of its hands when it was in power. But he (Buhari) lost in Abuja and you are still talking of rigging. I think we should face the reality and I don’t see where tribunal will say that he (Atiku) won.

Having participated in the presidential election, what are your recommendations to INEC on the way forward?

During my campaign tour, I said it to Nigerians that there must be two things that must be fast done now. One, you must unbundle INEC and put up an electoral offence commission. Two, there must be a bill of proper representation that will reduce desperation in our political system. I recommended these two bills when I was chairman of inter-party advisory council in 2012. The INEC should be left with planning of elections and not facing litigations. We should have an empire that will only think of elections and would not bother itself with litigations. As at today, we have about 6, 000 litigations on the table of INEC. Elections are now coming up in Kogi and Bayelsa states and INEC is busy preparing for them, and busy about litigations. That is why I said INEC should be unbundled and electoral offence commission should be set up.

Buhari will soon be sworn in for second term; what is your message for him?

My message for him is that he should close Nigeria economically. We should go to the world trade organisation and renegotiate our agreement and close all our borders. Whatever that can be found in Nigeria, whatever that can be manufactured in Nigeria, whatever that can be cultivated Nigeria, we must ban it. We must go to the world and tell the world that there are two choices that they have. Do they want mass migration of the young ones to the Western world or they want us to retain our young ones and provide employment opportunities for them? I know they will never want the 80 million exporting themselves into Europe.

Therefore, we want to negotiate with the world trade organisation that we want to close our county for the next four years. If we will go hungry over one year until all those things are being germinated, we must close this country. That is my advice to Mr President. He has nobody to ask for votes any longer; it is time to take the decision of taking Nigeria out of the hole.

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