Beyond his legacies in Lagos, Tinubu’s democratic credentials stand him out for victory

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Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi

Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Baraden Borgu and Deputy Senate Chief Whip represents Niger North in the National  Assembly and National Coordinator Project 774, an organization mobilizing grassroots support for Tinubu/Shettima Presidency ahead of the February 25 presidential elections. in this interview with some select journalists in Abuja, the lawmaker speaks on the chances of the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the edge he has over other contestants. TOPE SUNDAY reports

What’s Project 774 all about?

You know in politics, there should be so many routes, all leading to the same direction, because you are dealing with people, and all political parties have support groups. Project 774 for Tinubu/Shettima is a support group and we came up with this idea because we know politics is local and when you have campaign structure, which is usually up, and attempts are made to send things down. For example, you have the Presidential Campaign Council, you have state campaign councils, you have zonal, you have local government, but by the time you start getting down, capacity at that level is a bit weak.

So the whole idea of project 774 is to have a bottom top approach. So, ours is to promote grassroots politics for development within the framework of our local government areas as our national development domain, and that is why we tagged it 774 because we have 774 local governments. By our structure, we have a national executive and state taskforce teams. But  what is important is that we have more people at the lower level, that is at  the local government and ward  level, because on the election day, you must have people who will go and get out the votes, that is our target as our own contribution to bring success to our party.

What’s the role cut out for the group in the APC Presidential Campaign Council?

Well, I am a member of the presidential campaign council in my own right, and the party has so many support groups  in thousands and we are one of such groups. But  every support group comes from a different angle to look at what  their strength is, and our group is looking at this from that perspective of the grassroots  where the votes are, the polling units, so that on the election day, we have people  who will go out, because they believe in this voluntary effort to contribute to the success of our party.

Is your presidential candidate in good stead for victory at the polls?

Well, in politics, so many things happen, but when we speak about the reality, for us we know our candidate is the frontrunner and he is the candidate to beat and as far as we are concerned, we anchor all of this on the fact that the various states in which we are in charge and even states where we are not in charge, things that are happening there are pointers that truly our party will carry the day.

And this is our inspiration to go out there, mobilize people, sell our candidate, and our own talking point is simple. Who is our candidate? What has he done before, as a pointer to what he can do again?

The question Nigerians should ask is, what is the antecedent of these candidates, what have they done before? For us, we believe very strongly that the character of our presidential and vice presidential candidates speaks volume and we give you the new ed hope, innovative and progressive things are going to happen with their presidency.

Beyond his eight years as governor of Lagos state, what other things qualify Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for the job?

Well, I will talk of two things here. Before Nigeria’s return to democracy, he was one of those who were in the forefront fighting for the restoration of democracy and even after leaving government, all attempts to emasculate the political space always provoked his interest in standing up, to say no, that democracy is about opening the space for everybody  to participate.

And I think, while AD which he used in coming into governance was brutally murdered by political gimmicks, he floated AC, which later became ACN and as a democrat he made this platform available for the people. So, that tells you he is a man who has  a sense of accommodation, he is a man who has a sense of tolerance and he is somebody who believes that democracy is what we must promote for the common good.

To my mind, beyond what he has done given the power, you need to also look at what he has done outside power to ensure the democratic space continues to be expanded and I think he has done tremendously well.

The second point I will like to make, is as a young man growing up, from 1999 when he became governor, I was extremely close to the late  Royal Father of Borgu (HRH Senator Haliru Dantoro) and I had very tremendous discussions with him.

One thing the late Royal Father told me very clearly about Tinubu when they were in the Senate ,was that he always found him very excited, because when the truth is spoken, you must find him (Tinubu) there, and he is very courageous, very bold. He knows exactly what he wants to say and he says it the way it should be said. That was how the late Royal Father attracted that closeness to Tinubu. The late Royal Father was NRC, while Tinubu was SDP, so you can see that because of the character and what he exhibited, there was a hand of fellowship and that was how the relationship built up then and Tinubu is one person who never forgets his friends.

During the four years of the struggle for Borgu throne, he was also extending his hand of fellowship to the late royal father. I remember very vividly when we got victory in 2004, he (The Royal Father) came to Abuja and called me and one of my brother and said he wanted to give a title to his friend (Tinubu) and asked me to go get a befitting title for his friend because of my knowledge of history of Borgu Kingdom.

What we first did was to ask the meaning of Asiwaju and I was told It means somebody that opens the way. And I said in our own history Borgu people have never been conquered by anybody. And I said the secret of war in Borgu  is normally given to a man called “Jagaba” that was how the title came about and like he said in his book, the Royal Father gave him that title because he trusted him and that he believes he has the courage to provide leadership.

I recall the late royal father always believed that he saw Nigeria sliding much earlier and had always told us that he believed in the presidency of President Muhammadu Buhari and that was why he stood by him, people may not know this. As  at 2003 when General Muhammadu Buhari came out, we were still in court with the Niger state government but  he  (royal father) refused to stay with the party in power, stuck his neck  and said he was for Muhammadu Buhari.

Let me say this, ours is a support group, and all our members across all the states are doing their bits  to get people to understand  what our candidate is all about, and what we said clearly here is, very simple, that this man has done it yesterday, he has shown capacity, that capacity is in two folds. After his own performance, where he set the foundation, he did not walk away from it, he is playing active role in ensuring that the right person comes on board to build upon that vision.

And so, for us, we believe that should be our selling point, that unique selling point about the candidate is what we are looking at. And if you look at the vice presidential candidate, it will be as if he also looked at the model and having served creditably well, for his state, he did not walk away, he  played a role and ensured  that a  successor in the person of  Professor Babagana Zulum came on board, and today everybody is hailing and saying that the governor is doing what needs to be done for his people.

So I think the point to be made here is that leadership is not all about yourself and I think all of them have shown that  their own understanding of leadership is not all about themselves, but about the service to be rendered to the people and how that service is going to be sustained is also key.

On his capacity, agility and health challenge

As far as I am concerned, if you look at the reality  on ground today , we have gone more than 30 days of campaigning  actively and if you check the APC campaign calendar, this man has been following this rigorous campaign schedules, now I ask, somebody who, in quote, “is unhealthy?” can  he cope with the stress and strain of this  rigorous campaign? If you are to use what people do as a yardstick, I think this man is healthy.

Let us ask ourselves, is there any human being, who is sitting down after certain age that does not have  one or two health challenges, and have that health challenges stop him being who he is and from performing his duty?

One thing that we must acknowledge to Jagaban Borgu is that he has a special gift for identifying talent and deploying them to achieve a purpose for people.

He demonstrated this during the time he was Governor, and that explains why he has different  people from different states, two  people from Ekiti, some from Ogun state, some from Kwara, Oyo Osun, some Anambra, Kogi.

The point we make here is simple, at this level government is about delegated powers and the act of delegation is the key to success. If you are able to identify the right person to do the job for you at all times, then your performance will all ways be in top gear and this man has demonstrated that creditably well.

What we have always  had in Nigeria as people will say, is not the lack of policy, laws or ideas, but it is about getting the right people who deliver  and do the right thing. If  he had not done that in Lagos, the success in Lagos would not be the talk in the country, I believe he has done it creditably well.

So for me, it is out of mischief for people to say he is not agile. Is he on wheel chair? No, he has been moving with his legs from one place to another and has been speaking for himself, and when you listen to him, you know he is articulate, he is able to assess, process and separate issues and able to form opinion.

PDP, Labour Party as threat or challenge?  

Yes, they are giving a good show, but it is only for us to bring out the best in us. It is only a good show and not challenge, I don’t like saying bad things about people,  Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is from Adamawa State, I served in Adamawa State, I got the Yola Local Government Best Corper, Adamawa State best Corper, and National honour award winner by the then Head of State, it means I must have done something good to win those awards and so I know Adamawa  State very well, I have related with people in Adamawa very well.

I know his home town where the  mother lived, in Kojoli. For the eight years he was vice president all the roads were  as terrible  as they had always been, no single road was rehabilitated for the people of Adamawa State. Charity begins from home, if you are not charitable to your home, then what should be my hope in expecting you  to be charitable to me?  Hon Razaq Namdas was the one who fought to bring that road to be constructed. So  the facts are clear

Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Villa elements

 By his position, he knows more than I do. If he has the facts that made him make those statement, they are his facts. I can’t say what he said is wrong, neither will I say it’s right.  But  one thing I know for sure  is that in politics it is not impossible for some people to be unhappy that you want to do one or two things and I know if I go back to my local environment based on what happened, I know there are some people who are still  unhappy. They might have a different opinion or idea on what should be within the context of the local politics.

It is not impossible for some people to be angry but one thing I will say is that I  will depend on what is on the surface. Some people might be unhappy, it is not out of place.

But what is important is that this is  our ship, we built it and it will be a disservice if we destroy it. It will be also in our collective interest to  consolidate on what we have achieved in the last eight years.

My primaries

At a point, every politician who  goes  for  a contest and loses is aggrieved but I don’t think  losing a contest should make you aggrieved  to the extent that you  want to destroy the same  party that you had been a beneficiary of.

That explained when I lost my primaries in a bad circumstances because there was no primary as far as I am concerned, it was just show of force, even though I petitioned the party, my petition was  to put the record straight as to what transpired and not to use it as a basis to go to court and I never went to court and I am not leaving the party.

By my own tradition and upbringing if I stick to something, I stick to it in good and in bad time. So, I am not leaving APC, I have always been  a progressive all my life, I believe in my party, I am a progressive in heart and in doing .I want to advise all APC members to keep faith  with the progressive  fold and let’s continue to do progressive things  for our country and come 2023, we are hopeful that we will get the mandate and when  we get it, more progressive things will come to Nigeria.

Barely  20 days to the election, how much ground can you cover  for your party?

Politics is local. I just came back from Borgu where I went to canvass support at my own  senatorial district, and it was a huge success, and I want to assure you that Niger North is for Jagaban  Borgu / Kashim Shettima  and they are going to win that senatorial district  just like many other parts of this country.

And we are campaigning in  all the 36 States of the country including FCT just as many other support groups  out there in the field going to mobilize voters. And many Nigerians know the truth about the success of Jagaban in Lagos.

Is it true you did not obtain permission for your rally in Borgu?

I will  not want a  situation where I  come out  and cast aspersion  on the character of people. I don’t need to bring anyone’s reputation down for my reputation to be seen, it is uncharitable  for anyone who knows me to accept that I will do anything outside the norms. I have contested twice, I have done campaign, and this period has been declared by law (Electoral Act 2022) as campaign period and no political party needs  any permission from anybody  to go on campaign, even the IG of Police said  so. All  you  need is to write the Police to come and protect lives and properties.

And I will tell you I am a man who believe in process and procedures because that  give  credibility  and certainty to what one is doing,  I have written to all the people we were supposed to write to intimate them on the date of the programme, the venue, which is the  New Busssia Township Stadium that I renovated, I got permission from the local government to renovated it before starting the project of renovation.

We have written to the Police Area Command, I wrote the state party chairman, and I wrote the eight local government APC chairmen,

Based on the feedback from party executives, my followers, that people are still aggrieved from the outcome of to the primary election  and that I should come and pacify them so that we don’t have problems, and I finally decided to do the programme on 31st and we mobilized people to come and we were told we cannot  hold the programme.

They blocked the stadium, and we decided to use my father’s neighborhood which has been rehabilitated by me and all the people came in front of our house and on the basis of that. the entire place was filled with people.

And we went on  a roadshow and 80 per cent of the road we used was constructed by my humble self  and you saw the mammoth crowd that were in attendance.

Are you safe? Is there a threat to your life?

For me, as far as I am concerned, from the way they are behaving, I am yet to declare that but I think I am just waiting for the next action because truly what has happened is enough for me to say there is a threat to my life, because I don’t know why? What  is the offence here as a party man? I am not on the ballot, I  am just campaigning for my party.  

Did you inform the governor?

It  is not my duty to inform the governor, and as far as I am concerned I have done what I should do within the contest of the law by  informing the  state party chairman.

The governor got the ticket of Niger North senatorial district and how he got it is entirely different, I will not say he snatched it, and as far as am concerned, I am not desperate as there are different ways  you can  be of a  service to the people. My  Life is all about service.

Since that primary ended happened no body from the government or even party has approached me to say come let’s sit down, what has happened has happened, let’s forge a common front.

The rally we had was for our party and I charged all our supporters to vote all our party all through, if you look at the video you will hear me calling all the offices from the Presidential Candidates, Gubernatorial, Senatorial, House of Representatives and the states constituency.

Altercation between PDP and APC could create an advantage for Labour Party?

I don’t think so because politics is not magic, politics is reality, the reality on ground today  is that only APC and PDP has compliment of candidates across board, when you are a candidate, you have a vested interest within the domain of your constituency and you go out  within that contest to campaign vigorously, because if you are campaigning for presidency,  the best you can do is what you see the political parties do , you go to the state and everybody is assembled and you take the message down .

Now in taking the message down,  the senatorial candidate will focus on his senatorial district, the House and senatorial candidates will focus on their constituency from the same party and the Governor will also do his own at the local government levels and other strategic  towns., These are all the engine room of every electioneering in every political party. And APC has credible candidates all across, so I believe that places us at much more advantage position than anybody, irrespective of whatever crisis that  may arise artificiall


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