In this interview with BODE OLAGOKE, All Progressives Congress (APC) national vice chairman North-central Alhaji Ahmad Suleiman Wambai speaks on why the zone always decides of the shape of Nigerian politics of Nigeria.
How did APC manage to garner massive votes for President Muhammadu Buhari in North-central?
The North-central zone always determines who become the president of this country. The geo-graphical zone is key in the political pendulum of Nigeria. We are major and critical stakeholders in the political equation of this country. From 1999 to 2015, the zone has always determined the direction of who emerges president. PDP remained in power from that time until 2015 because the zone voted for it.
The zone equally changed the trajectory in the 2015 presidential election and that was why President Buhari emerged winner then. We did so much to support the PDP yet we had nothing to show in terms of democratic dividends, physical and stomach infrastructure.
We left the PDP because the party is conservative and perpetuated corruption. It was a government with a trademark of shambolic economy and insecurity. We joined the APC because it is a progressive party.
Politics in the North-central is complicated because of our heterogeneous nature. We are the zone with the highest number of tribes and religions. Other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria are of the same tribe.
The whole of South-east speak one Igbo language though there may be dialectical differences and have almost the same religion. It is the same thing with South-west, North-east and North-west. Their political platform is the same and their political machinery is smooth due to the affinity they have.
In Niger state alone, there are different tribes and religions. It is the same with Benue, Nasarawa, Kwara, Plateau and Kogi states. The level of education and political awareness is very high. North-central has built a reputation as the only region that has ruled the country more than any other.
We also have the highest number of ex-generals, ex-heads of state etc. Our contribution to the political development of this country can never be quantified. The mobilisation of persons to get the number of votes we delivered was not a very difficult thing to do. If the election was free and fair in Benue state, the APC would have won the election but it is not yet over because we are still in court to reclaim our mandate.
How do you reconcile the impression that the North-central is not part of the Northern oligarchy that decides who gets what in the distribution of political power in Nigeria?
I disagree with that impression because it is a statement without analytical prove. It is incontrovertible that the North-central has produced the highest number of heads of state. Retired generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalam Abubakar, were all from the North-central.
Again, from 1999 till date, the North-central has been the Senate president for 12 years. With all these, who says that the North-central does not determine and decide the pendulum of the politics in Nigeria?
Politics is consummation of mischief-makers, liars, killers, robbers, honest and dishonest persons. Politicians are like people in the market, comprising all kinds of people: the good, the bad, the ugly and the most beautiful.
How did the APC achieve success in the just concluded election despite the crisis rocking the party?
Depending on what you mean by crisis. There is no human element and organisation the world over without problems. Even those that have recorded successes, there must be the bad side of that success. America has practiced democracy for more than 100 years, but the emergence of President Donald Trump was a rigging that has never been known in human history.
The reason America kept quite was because they were ashamed to send Trump away through the court process. They kept quite because it would have sent a bad signal to the America democracy. Sometimes, a presidential candidate may emerge, but they allow the election to stay instead of upturning it through the court process. They do so for a wider and public interest.
In politics, the process alone does not determine who wins the election. There are so many other indices. The election must conform to the rules and guidelines for the conduct of the election.
There is no organisation without a problem, the APC inclusive. Sometimes, diversity of opinion, diversity of tribes, religions, norms and values, helps us appreciate and know the worth and contribution of individuals. Is the PDP not in crisis?
We won election even when we are in opposition. The PDP we defeated had lots of resources, big politicians and government officials. They had domestic and international connections. They stockpiled dollars and other hard currencies in their houses.
There were so many forces against the APC ranging from the masses that did not appreciate the change mantra, the police were against the APC, the soldiers, the media, particularly the electronic, were equally against the APC. But in spite of all those forces and their blackmail, APC still won.
There is no government since 1999 till date that has cut the hands of corruption like the APC. We may not be excellent, but we have rattled those that have cornered our common wealth as their personal estate. Despite the crisis, the party has ensured that Nigerians got the dividends of democracy.
Infrastructural development and critical sectors previously abandoned are receiving the desired attention now. There was so much insecurity in the past that the current administration is addressing now.
Yes, the situation has not totally changed, but factually, it cannot be compared to the previous conditions. Yes, the president promised to crush Boko Haram in six months, but he could not because of the reality and complex nature of the problem. As he fights Boko Haram, corruption fought back especially from those that benefitted from the Boko Haram project.
What are your fears over Atiku Abubakar challenging the victory of President Buhari in the court?
In the first place Atiku Abubakar was not qualified to contest that election. It is certain that he is not a Nigerian and has no business in the Nigeria politics let alone qualifying to contest.
We were not informed in the past but we are better informed now to know that he has no moral obligation to contest or even go to court. He was defeated comprehensively. He lost his balance and deposit in that election.
Did APC rig the 2019 election?
We did not rig and as a matter of fact, we should be the one complaining. If it were during the PDP regime, it would have been practically impossible for the APC to loss Adamawa and Bauchi states governorship elections. The language APC knows is honesty, transparency and accountability. We strongly believe that election should not only be free, fair, transparent, credible but also peaceful.
During the PDP era, the entire South-east use to write bogus election results. They don’t have the population yet they bring over one million because they did not use card reader. But now where are the figures they use to bring in the past?
What’s thinking on the agitations by the National Assembly members for North-central to produce the speaker of the 9th Assembly?
I share the assertion that things should be given to regions based on their contribution and acceptance of the change mantra. But in politics, you may not get what you sometimes think is yours because of certain peculiar reasons and expediency.
But consideration should be given based on merit. Having produced the senate president for the past 12 years, the North-central should allow other zones to produce the speaker since we are not the only zone.
Recall that in 2015, the post of speaker and senate president were zoned to South-west and North-east respectively: Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila were favoured but there was internal coup that truncated the process.
Both are committed democrats who are party loyalists and have been consistent to the values and norms of our party. The choice of Lawan and Gbajabiamila is not because of where they come from but is based on their contributions to the progress of the party.
They have received lot of intimidations, been frustrated because of fighting the present leadership of the National Assembly in favour of the APC. Why should anyone think that the party should not reward loyalty and experience? We don’t want to concentrate on the issue of religion that will not move this country anywhere. Most Nigerian politicians use religion for personal reasons.
Without sentiment, the party has anointed somebody to be the speaker of the 9th assembly. The party’s decision is not because the man from the South-west is better than others from the North-central or any other zone. The party, in anointing him, wants to appreciate loyalty.
Where do you want Buhari to improve on in his second tenure?
There is nothing wrong with his first tenure as far as I am concerned. However, my expectation is that he should consolidate on the peace recorded so far. He should improve the economic extravaganza with bonanza he has recorded.
The fight against corruption should be intensified. Ultimately, we should be able to give hope to the hopeless Nigerians by the end of the next years. The needy and the indigents should have course to proudly claim to be part of this country. There must be economic prosperity.