Former Zamfara state governor Senator Ahmed Yerima, in this interview with journalists, speaks on zoning formulas ahead of the 2023 presidential election as well as recent political happenings in his state. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU was there.
What is your take on the recent defection of Gov Bello Matawalle from the PDP to the APC?
It is a good development for us and he is coming back home. He was in the All Peoples Party (APP), he was a founding member of the APP; he was also with us in the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP). It was only when my deputy who succeeded me left the party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that he went along with him and contested for the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP and won the election. So, for me and for him, it is a home-coming for him.
There is an issue of leadership in the state; what is your position on that?
The constitution of APC is very clear; everything under democracy is governed and guided by the constitution of either the party or the country or the Electoral Act. The constitution of the APC has stipulated that the President and Commander-in-Chief is the leader of the party at the national level and at the state level, all the governors are leaders of their parties at that level.
There is an insinuation that those who he met upon his joining the APC are not comfortable with the proclamation that he automatically becomes the leader of the party in the state. What’s your view on that?
Can they change the constitution by their actions or can they just follow the rules and regulations of politicking. It is the constitution of the APC that stipulated that the governors are leaders of the parties in the states. I was the founding member of APP; I became the first governor in Zamfara state when my deputy succeeded me, I left the position for him. You cannot do your time and do another person’s time. So, I’m sure that every member of the party now knows, as declared by the national chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the APC, that he is the leader of the party in the state and the state executive has been dissolved.
As 2023 beckons, what are the chances of the party in the state?
Zamfara is an APC state. From the APP we have never lost an election, not one time. When I won election in 1999, I won again in 2003, and then my deputy won as governor in 2007. He defected to the PDP and we recovered our seat by Abdulaziz Yari becoming governor in 2011 and 2015 Yari also won election as the governor and in 2019, the party also won. But because of the crisis, the Supreme Court gave it back to the PDP. So, PDP tested power in Zamfara through the defection and through the Supreme Court action.
What is the update on your presidential aspiration?
I’m in the race; I have already declared my intention and I am mobilising and by the grace of God I am trying to mobilise at least 15 million. Mr. President won the election with a little above 15 million and I assure you that before I even declared officially I would have had 20 million supporters.
But the president is from the North-west where you hail from…?
Cuts in; you see, Nigerians should know that democracy is democracy. We are not the ones that brought democracy; there is nothing in our constitution that talks about moving power from one place to another. Every Nigerian, according to the Nigerian Constitution, unless it is amended, has the right to aspire to any political office once he is qualified. So, it is not wrong for anybody to say he is contesting the election, even from Daura. Any person from Daura local government where Mr. President hails from can aspire to be president, governor or anything in Nigeria. You see, some people are political illiterates or maybe mischief makers. You cannot say this is my turn because it is about the election. You, all of us are going to go for the election to elect the person that we think should be president. Our problem in Nigeria is that this issue of citizenship has not been accepted fully in Nigeria.
We still have tribal, ethnic and religious differences which are wrong. And until such a time we believe that we are Nigerians, then the issue of Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, people will continue to talk. But this is not a good talk because they know… even today let’s say the APC says we have zoned this Presidency to Rivers state, will you force people in Lagos or people in Sokoto to go and vote for the person in Rivers state, no! You can’t. It is not something you are allocating, if it is an allocation, you can say I have allocated this position to so and so people; so only those people will aspire to be in that position.
The issue of insecurity is a major problem in the country and Zamfara is one of the states that are the most ravaged; what do you think is the way out?
Challenges are bound to happen over time in all countries. Every time you have this challenge or another challenge, but the ability of leaders to face these challenges and resolve them makes them true leaders. I believe that the current government is up and doing. There has just been a change of baton in the military and I have just also heard that there have been movement officers, General Officer Commanding (GOCs) and so on. I’m sure with the re-jigging of the military force something will happen. I’m sure now with the coming of the governor to the APC, all of us will put hands on deck to ensure that we go to the president and seek his support and also offer our advice. Before now, as a member of an opposition party in my state, as an APC member and the government was in PDP, it was very difficult for me to come and tell the governor you must do this. He will think that we are not even in the same party, but now he knows that I am a stakeholder, I’m looking for his success, for the success of our party nationally and I am also looking at our people. We now have common interests because we have common positions as members of the APC.