North East Zonal Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Mustapha Salihu, in this interview with ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU, says President Muhammadu Buhari has achieved more than most developedcountries that have been fighting insurgency for years. Excerpts
Your take on the recent ward and state congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) across the country
Well, the exercise was fairly conducted; of course, there were rancour and disagreements here and there. But in all, it was a success.
The party democratically took over power in a situation where we were almost a failed State. A lot of damage had been already done to the nation. We took over when a great percentage of the North-east was under the Boko Haram Caliphate; a territory twice the size of Belgium was being held by the insurgents. My own town was also a caliphate, so there were a lot of issues when we were handed over the government.
We also took over an army with A72 armoured tanks, which are sub-standard even though produced in Ukraine, removing the mind remover and the RPG deflector from the 1972 model of armoured tanks. These were weapons that our soldiers used to fight a well organised insurgency. Armour Personnel Carriers that were supposed to be supplied to territories, on paper you will see 100 APCs, but in reality only two APCs that were not even serviceable. This was the situation the country was in, before the coming of the All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The government of the day cut down the cost of governance, the also improved on tax collection and blocked linkages. That is why we are making a lot of money from custom and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) compared to what it used to be in past, even though the fall in the prices of oil at the international market and it also reduced the purchasing power of Nigerians. That was why the President Muhammadu Buhari did all he could to block all the linkages, as a result of the blockage the GDP increased from the last quarter’srecord. Also, before we came in, the past administration hadinstitutionalised corruption, to the extent that when you go forcontract bidding nobody cared whether you had the document or not.
What people cared about was who sent you and what you could offer. But today, even if you are sent by who ever, they will ensure that you have tax clearance and the needed documents to bid for a contract. So, today, the APC-led federal government has brought sanity in the country, sanity with regards to national politics, interest, national policies and norms. This is something that is priceless, but APC has been able to do this to a great extent.
Nigerian people are happy with this government despite the fact that there are shortcomings and challenges which are inherent in every society. Though we are not there yet, we are on the right path and we are doing well. I am assuring you that in no time, we will transform all these challenges to more dividends of democracy that Nigerians are yarning for.
You hail from the North-east; do you think this government has defeated Boko Haram?
Those of us from the North-east will rate the President Muhammadu Buhari very high; in fact if there is anything like 110 per cent I will rate this government on security. Because as I said earlier, Sambisa forest alone is twice the size of Belgium; Bama local government and environs have more population than Chad and Niger put together. All these places, including Mubi and Gombi, were all Boko Haram Caliphates. But within six months, under the leadership of our party and Mr. President, we have reduced the insurgency to just attacking soft target. As expert in terrorism, if you look at most advanced countries fighting insurgency have not recorded the successes we had in the fight against insurgent. When Russia was still Soviet Union, they fought Talibans for 11 years.
NATO and U.S. today are still fighting Talbans; Talban is still holding territories in Afghanistan. All of us will remember that at a time Boko Haram was rated as one of the dreaded terrorist groups, above ISIS and Talban before 2015. But the President Buhari-led administration has reduced them to a small group that now attack soft targets. Before then, they had taken over 211 Battalion, Maguno, Baga, they took over a lot of territories. Mind you, when we came in, Boko Haram was fully equipped, because they took over five barracks. But this government, because of the sincerity of purpose, we boosted the military moral and they were able to take over back all our territories. In the North-east, we will give President Muhammadu Buhari 110 per cent if possible.
Okay, what about the economy?
On economy, we will also score President Muhammadu Buhari very highly, when we came in we were importing toothpick, tomatoes paste, rice and almost everything. Our farmers were reduced to penury, they farm but no markets for their farm produce, because we were importing almost all our daily needs. But today, I know a lot of farmers that are doing well. All those that use the social media to criticize does understand this government, the real people are happy with this government at this grassroots.
Are you saying that they are not Nigerians?
They are Nigerians, but they are not in tandem and they are not in contact with the realities in the country. This is because as job seekers, instead of them to remain in their local governments or villages and be enterprising, they decide to move to the centre and use their time in criticising the government without getting their facts right. If you must criticise governments, you should criticise them on issues and people should at least be fair to this government. You don’t expect the government of three years to right the wrongs of the past government.
Many people are saying 16 years and I don’t even agree. Even before the advent of the PDP shams in the polity of this country, it is a product of damages of many years. And this is a country that is so diverse. In my state alone, we have more than 100 dialects. We also took over from a certain group of people that are desperate and they have a lot of cash to cause mayhem and make this country ungovernable.
Where is the rationale behind a statesman that has only 50 cattle, but is being accompanied by 10 AK-47? Quantify the amount of money for the cows and how it will buy 10 AK-47. Herdsmen are bandits being sponsored by unholy politicians that want to make the country ungovernable, but the lives of Nigerians will not go in vain. Definitely, by the grace of God, these things will be recovered very soon and all the masquerades behind the mayhem will be unmasked.
Considering the crisis and conflict witnessed during the APC ward and state congresses, do you think the upcoming convention will be crisis free?
This is democracy in action. I have said it before that the reason you don’t get to hear the rancor in other parties in their congresses and conventions, is because one person will sit in his room and write the list and force it on the people. The essence of us conducting this convention, despite its closeness to the general elections, is to return the party to the people and we have done that. There are pockets of violence here and there, but it’s a family issue and we are going to agree. I don’t like the term you journalists use to describe congresses as parallel because parallel means something of equal standard. There can never be parallel congress because national secretariat sends only one committee.
A situation whereby a committee conducts a congress and some members of the party are not happy, then they group themselves to say they had congresses cannot be described as such. Besides, the party has addressed all grievances because we are members of the party. There is only one congress in every state, because we have a committee at every state. We have a secretariat here, where we discuss all these things and most of the congresses are legal; the convention list has been drawn and we are going into the convention as a stronger party having allowed the party to decide who comes out at the state, local government and ward levels. By God’s grace, we will come out of the convention stronger.
You said the convention is aimed at returning the party to the people; what do you mean?
You know we have a lot of candidates that entered the party. The earlier convention was made haphazardly. A lot of people did not join the party that time and a lot of people came in. A lot of governors and senators emerged after that convention. By allowing them to take part in the convention, we are giving them the power to fulfill some of their promises. Had it been we continued, they will be wondering how the chairman emerged.
Now, the chairman will emerge with the consent of the 24 governors, senators and ministers we have and all the stakeholders you can think of. That will return the party to greatness. The situation whereby someone will sit in his house and decide what will happen in the party, as observed in the past ruling party, will not happen here. That’s why we are allowing the processes of internal democracy to take their course. And free and fairly, we are going to have leaders in the national convention and the party will stand stronger.
You’re seeking to retain your position as vice-chair, North-east; what do you plan to do differently this time?
There is nothing we are doing differently. The party is doing well and I will, first of all, applaud members of the National Working Committee as the first Working Committee that defeated a ruling party; it’s the first time in our political history. If you look at the history of Nigeria, even alliances have never worked beyond the election since 1966 when we started talking about alliances.
We formed a merger and we have maintained it for three years going to four years now. When we come back, we will standardise the membership list of the party. We will ensure doctrine of division of labour. Responsibility will be shared according to the Constitution of the party. Every officer will know clearly his duty. We will also improve the processes and efforts of dues collection so that the party can be financed by the people so that no one person will lord it over us.
We will ensure that every member pay his dues with which we will run the party. We will have a proper organisation of the executives from the National downwards, so that they will be handsomely rewarded so that they will not be carried away by the little token offered to them by outsiders. We will ensure that all party executives are above poverty level so that they will not receive petty bribes that will make them compromise the party policies.
Your final words to the youth
Nigerian youths are the catalyst in this country and I implore us to be principled. The reason they don’t take us seriously is because they think that we are for sale. It is high time for us to be highly principled in what we believe in. If we don’t do that, we won’t be ready by the time we are supposed to take over. We should create a class for itself, not class in itself. Most of us that are knowledgeable about Marxist theory understand what I mean. No need fighting within our circle and not try to pull down ourselves to take over each other’s positions and that’s the state of Nigeria today. We should see ourselves as one class and protect our interests. If don’t do that, we won’t get anywhere as youths.