Professor Abubakar Olarenwaju Suleiman is a former Minister of National Planning and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with TOPE SUNDAY and KEHINDE OSASONA, he speaks about his governorship ambition in Kwara state and the PDP chances in the 2019 general elections, among other national issues.
Why seeking to be governor?
The political class in my home state, Kwara and the present occupants f the position has failed to deliver on their promises over the years. In fact, when compared to states that were created about the same time with Kwara, you would not but agree with the fact that we have wallowed in under-development for too long. Talk of stagnation, poverty, illiteracy, bankruptcy, deprivation, joblessness and what have you; the best place to go and check these out is Kwara state. The fact still remains that Kwara is still one of the most backward states in Nigeria. Resources meant for Kwarans, are not being utilised for the benefit of Kwarans. Few people that are privileged to rule the state have taken it upon themselves to misappropriate and amass our resources. Not only that, our collective wealth is being shared by few cliques, while physical and infrastructural developments have eluded us for years. So, my aspiration to govern Kwara is borne out of the state of developments and coupled with clamour by the good people of Kwara state. It is a response to the call and I deem it obligatory to respond by offering myself for service.
Reason for nation’s under-development
Leadership is the problem; leadership that is not masses-oriented; leadership that does not have the love of the people at heart. If we had gotten the right kind of leadership before now to steer the ship of the state, may be everything would have fallen in places. But as long as we continue to have these crops of people, I am afraid.
Your aspiration vs Saraki dynasty in Kwara politics
Of course, let me tell you one thing you need to know; when you look at the previous elections in our state so far, (Dr Bukola) Saraki has never won overwhelmingly. It has always been on slight margins and even with that slight margin, look at his performance even in his ward. You would discover that it was not a product of a free-fair election. That is why most of the elections ever conducted in the state ended up in litigation because the man is not on ground. The last time, he latched on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s factor to make some waves. Now, Kwarans are saying that it won’t work that way again.
At the end of the day, the Buhari factor is not even there again. We thought he was a magician, we thought he was going to address our numerous problems but he has not. During former President Goodluck Jonathan era, it was death in units, but now, it’s death in hundreds without any remorse or arrest being made. So, the factor that aided the Saraki’s leadership in Kwara is no longer there again. So, I stand a better chance. Let me also point this out that no person, leadership or dynasty in history rules till eternity. So, my hope in winning this election is on account of solid support from the electorate back home and support from party faithful across the state. What I am saying in essence is that, regardless of party affiliations, we are sure of scaling through because the people are with us.
Banking on popularity as minister
It (my popularity) is even more pronounced than before if you must know. The love my people have for me is a genuine love. It is borne out of my antecedents, my stewardship and in fact, I am more at home now than before as a way of interfacing more with our people. Even from my accent, you can deduce that I am a thorough-bred Ilorin man and I don’t hide it. Each time I go to the grassroots, you need to see the kind of reception I receive. It is even more than when I was a minister simply because they are now convinced that I have been tested and trusted in my capacity. Though I am a politician, I am also a realist who neither deceives himself or the people. If my coming out will draw Kwara backward, I will not be part of it. That is why in my series of posters and releases, I tried to indicate that. What has changed in Kwara, just tell me? We will crush them this time.
Agenda for Kwarans
Well, I rarely discuss my agenda these days because we are the level of primaries now and I would not want anyone to steal my Programme. If anyone is trying to know what I am going to do, they should check out what I have done in the past. I have told God severally, that he should grant my desire to rule Kwara as long as it is going to bring development to the Kwara people. My call to duty as University lecturer, the impact I made as Minister and the benefit that follows which our people benefitted from, I think all these matter. That I was a Minister for ten months, and I was able to bring almost eighty Kwarans to work at the federal level is a monumental achievement and I intend to do more. I challenge any past Minister from Kwara who has surpassed that. I facilitated the travelling of over eighty Kwarans to countries like Korea, India,
Chinas and Japan for one training or vocational or another. Again, about two hundreds Kwarans too, have access to National Directorate of Employment (NDE) skills acquisition at different time. So, if I become governor in my state, I would address inadequate physical infrastructure. I would have vibrant and working policy on health, not just spending billions of Naira to renovate general hospitals, not at all. The whole thing will be centralised so that an average Kwaran will be able to access good medical service. People should be able to enjoy all these. Kwara should not be for just the privileges at all.
In the area of education, I would be looking at creating a situation where we will have our best indigent students competing favourably amongst their peers in the country. We would also tap their talents in the education sector. I will reform the agrarian policy of the present administration which ordinarily should be people’s project but has been turned to personal property. Look at Kwara North, nobody has deemed it fit to address their plights especially their backwardness. I am ready to fix all these problems. Under my watch as governor, developmental issues would be addressed. Today, we have multitudes of Kwaran youths that are jobless; we are going to create employment for them so that the Niger-Delta scenario would not be repeated in our state. Those characters believe things should just continue like that thinking no one could challenge them. Instead of venturing into needless projects and misplaced priority like the Aviation College, I would rather channel our resources to other helpful and impactful sectors.
What are your chances
You see, in our party today, we are trying as much possible to avoid what happened in the past. Even though everyone is allowed to aspire, we will not play into the hands of the opposition party this time. Never again! I can tell you that as at last week, the contest is between Kwara North and Central. Kwara South is completely out of it. Our experience in 2015 thought us some lessons and this time we have decided to zero it to the two senatorial districts. I do not have the mandate to tell you which senatorial district would clinch it at the end of the day. But I can tell you that Kwara South is out of it. I want to believe that in the next one week, the zoning aspect would be taken care of by our party.
Don’t also forget that era is gone in our party when an interloper or usurper who thinks that they have money will just come and take over the party. We won’t tolerate that again. Any one that is not part of the struggle and is never part of us will not be given our ticket. In fact, we know the serious ones who have capacity and we know the jokers.
Modalities to checkmate moles in PDP
Our major solace and drive are the fact that a lot of our people have learnt from their past mistakes and are ready to correct it. Self-centeredness is a thing of the past and we are poised to change the occupant of Kwara government house. Issue of planting moles would e dealt with and we are all vigilant now more than ever before. Look at the last local government election in the state, despite their usual trick, we can boast of four councilors. It is a milestone in the history of the state.
Your trial by EFCC
My trial is all about politics and as I speak, I don’t lose sleep over it. Except the judiciary wants to commit suicide, I can’t be convicted of any crime. For the past one and half year that I have been docked, nothing incriminating has been brought against me. Nobody has said that I collected any amount from him and I am still saying it loud and clear and I am not disturbed at all. As far as I am concerned, my trial is the Buhari’s way of venting his anger on perceived opposition in the country. It is wrong to perceive everyone as a thief simply because we do not belong to the same school of thought. For instance, instead of using the EFCC to malign political parties, I think INEC should have been used instead to do its job. So, for me, I will continue to pursue my aspiration in the interest of the Kwaran people and my party.
But the federal government just spoke about monitoring political parties funding ahead of the 2019 general elections. What is your take?
The problem is not about monitoring for sake, they should monitor their party funding and spending too. Instead of now witch-hunting PDP and other parties, they should also probe their party men and monitor their spending too.
Buhari’s administration in three and half years
For a party that came on the mantra of anti-corruption, job creation, security of lives and property and all those promises, here we are. As I speak with you, there is no light, herdsmen killing people here and there, now we have kidnapping cases, there is killing in Plateau, Taraba and Benue including Zamfara state. Tell me, what have they done? Under PDP, the major challenge we had was the issue of security which we managed very well and terrorists have been decimated and restricted to the precipice, but what do we have today? Under Buhari’s watch, the Dapchi girls were kidnapped, Benue killing took place incessantly and almost everywhere now, there is a report of maiming and killings in our country. Now tell me, do you think any reasonable Nigerian will vote for a failed government? I do not think so at all. Has corruption reduced in Nigeria? Nigeria just ranked first in poverty under this government. Where is the job they promised? What about power they promised Nigerians? We have not even talked about restructuring which people are seriously craving for.
When kidnapping was rampant in Niger Delta, there were outcry, but today why is Buhari government not addressing killings in Nigeria. I want to tell you this, 2019 will be the deciding factor for this government and there will be no time for rigging.