Sulaiman Muhammad Argungu, was deputy governor in Kebbi State under Adamu Aliero. He explains in this interview how he fell out with his former boss and why the opposition is not thriving as it should in the current dispensation saying however that the current merger of opposition parties will revive opposition politics in Nigeria. Excerpts:
You have been slightly quite as a member of the opposition, what is the reason?
Well, the reason is that the administration of Adamu Aliero where I served a deputy governor, decided to defect with all the organs of government from the ANPP to the PDP. I saw no reason why I should defect at that particular time because there was no concrete reason that warranted me to follow the government and leave the ANPP on which platform we won elections from 1999 up to 2007.So considering what was happening at that time and considering my status as a deputy governor, I did not want to have a showdown with my governor to the extent that he may impeach me and destroy my political career. A fight I know I cannot win, so it was better I did not even start it. So, when I learnt that he left the party and we started having some little problems and misunderstanding on why I refused to defect and I learnt there was a move for him to prepare an impeachment process against me, I quickly resigned my position as a deputy governor of the state.
Where did you go from there?
I was lucky we had some national officers of the party and other prominent people of the ANPP who decided then to remain with me in the ANPP like Senator Sani Kamba, and Senator Bello Bunza, all decided to stay with me in the ANPP with some other politicians.
We, contested the election under the platform of the ANPP in 2007.We lost, we went to the court, we lost we went to the Appeal Court and we lost there too. But that notwithstanding, 2011 came, I contested for the governorship position and lost again.
What has been the rating of the opposition since then?
Since then, the opposition died because all those people that I have told you earlier have left the party for the PDP. But before the 2011 general election, there was some stiff opposition, particularly when the then governor Adamu Aliero defected again from the PDP to CPC and the recently nominated minister, Barrister Kabiru Tanimu Turaki also defected from the PDP to CPC and later to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). We all went into elections, unfortunately we all lost to the PDP. I think the CPC and the ACN went to court and the election was nullified, there was a by-election arranged by the INEC. After three months, election was arranged, unfortunately all those in the opposition, the entire system of the CPC and ACN all collapsed and defected to the PDP leaving me alone and my supporters in the ANPP. Since then there has been no opposition because you know when you are alone and when you don’t have resources, there is very little you can do in the opposition. But as God wants it, some of the people in the CPC and also in the ACN who have defected with some of these big wigs, have now seen reason why they shouldn’t remain in the PDP because they were not carried along, they are not even considered for whatever even at the local government level. So, I heard some of them are now warming up to leave the PDP to either their original parties or to their old party; the ANPP because the ACN and CPC originated from the ANPP.
What do you think is responsible for the continuous defection of politicians in the state?
The reason to my understanding is that people are no more sincere with themselves. They have no principles and do not believe that destiny will prevail. Because whatever is destined to be yours, it will certainly be yours and there is no way a democratic government will grow without the opposition. So, if you know that one day you’ll win, then I see no reason why you cannot stay in the opposition without the government by your side. Some of them move due to poverty and the little thing they can get from government. They don’t believe that one day if they grow stronger they can form a government. Big wigs that are extremely rich are afraid of their old shadows; they decided to defect from their various parties unto the PDP. The electorate, some of them because of poverty.
What is your take on the nomination of Barrister Turaki as minister?
Well, I know Barrister Turaki very well, and when he was nominated, I called him and sent him a good will message. I even enjoined him to be sincere and should try to go by the oath of office and by the tenet of his religion being a Muslim and to ensure that he serves the government and the people of the country, particularly the people of Kebbi State where he comes from.
Why did the southern senatorial zone fail to scale through?
Well, this is PDP and it is a PDP affair. I think the reason is there is no fair play and no equity as our slogan of Kebbi State implies. There is supposed to be equity because in a democratic dispensation like this , there is supposed to be give and take so that positions should be shared within the confines of the Constitution. So, if there is equity, this positions that are supposed to come from the federal government would have been fairly shared. If a governor is from a particular zone, the deputy is supposed to come from another zone, so is the minister, so is the ambassador, so are the big positions that are supposed to come from federal government. It is also fair and good if these positions will be shared according to the emirateship that are still in existence and being practiced irrespective of the senatorial zones in the state.
How would you assess the distribution of developmental projects in Kebbi?
The developmental projects are not distributed equitably because there are some road projects that are unfortunately being concentrated in a particular area which is not supposed to be so. Despite that, I learnt that there are some contracts given out for the upgrading of the Kebbi State Air strip to a bigger Airport. This is not the need of the electorates of Kebbi State. When you go to our health sector, particularly in Argungu where I know, we have an old general hospital that only the Sir Yahaya Medical Center in Birnin Kebbi is bigger than it and is one of the oldest hospital that we have since when Argungu and Birnin Kebbi was part of the North Western state. Unfortunately, if you go to the hospital now, you will feel sorry for the common man who does not have the money to go to a private hospital.
But the roads in the southern senatorial...(cuts in)
Yes, I am coming to that. There are contracts awarded of road construction, but the majority of these projects are concentrated in a particular area.
In Argungu emirate alone, these roads that were awarded and started are now called political road projects. We look at it in the sense that contract will be given in particular road , they will come and start the job and stop and will not continue until there is going to be an election then the contractor will now resume and then he will be given fund to mobilize back to site and stop again after election.
In the educational sector, you will just feel sorry for our schools. Most of the institutions I know like the Kanta Unity College in Argungu where students from virtually everywhere in the 19 northern states attend; if you go there you will find out that the class rooms apart from being congested with more than 50 students in a class room, there are no enough chairs and table in the classrooms. In some classrooms, the floor is just a mere sand dune. When you go to Nagari College, a very prominent and old secondary school since the era of northern region and being in the state capital, you will find exactly the same problem in Kanta Unity College talkless of other schools in the villages where nobody cares about them. When you talk of agriculture, 95 per cent of the people of Kebbi State who are farmers are in a sorry state of poor yield. We have a very fertile land, we have even been selected by the federal government as one of the 10 states that are considered for rice production scheme. Unfortunately, if you go to the Fadama area, you will see so many farmers during the rice season farming unfortunately, they do not get any assistance from the government. No fertilizer, no improved seed, no insecticide and pesticides, nothing as such given to those peasant farmers. With the current rate which a liter of petrol is sold at N130 in some places, one has to buy it to fuel his pumping machine and to go out in an open market at the rate of N5,500 per bag. So with these, the government is not encouraging peasant farmers to go into dry season farming. Therefore, if I am to assess the government of Usman Dakingari, I will rate it below average. We are in a democratic setting a government of the people for the people but this government is not so because all these sectors I mentioned are not improved such that that dividend of democracy which the ordinary Nigerian can get from the government is not there. Children who are supposed to be in school are seen in streets hawking water, pushing wheel barrows with jerry cans in streets. This shows that there is no potable water to the electorate. Like I said earlier, I will rate him below average.
It is said that the governor’s frequent trips have grounded machinery of governance in the state, what is your take on that?
Yes, absolutely because most people know that the governor has travelled and when he is back of course people will know that the governor is back. This is correct that the governor is always on the road and that has drawn the development of the state backward because there are issues that even the deputy governor cannot handle, no matter how urgent they come especially if it involves money. The civil servants are crying, the politicians whom we are in their midst are also crying over his frequent travels. These trips are being financed by the resources of the people of Kebbi. It is the money that is supposed to be provided for our children’s education, our health sector, the agricultural sector, rural development and other infrastructures that are not provided because he has not shown much concern for the common man that is why he is always on the road to Abuja, Kaduna and most of the time out of the country.
The State must have gained something from the governor’s trips, don’t you agree?
Absolutely not because there is no company or investment brought to the state as a result of that.
Do you think the merger of opposition parties will have any impact on the PDP?
In my own opinion, the merger is going to make a very great impact especially now that there are no elections around the time of the process. So we have very well and enough time to discuss everything to become one formidable opposition party in Nigeria. The ANPP in particular is very determined. Our team leader, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and all the members of the team are willing to see that ANPP and all other political party become one. The 2011 merger plan could not materialize because it was close to election period at that time. So, I am optimistic that this will be a reality.
Who will be the flag bearer or is going to be the leader of the party does not arise at this material time because all we want is for the major three political parties to agree and become one. So, we will surrender everything that belongs to each of the political party and harmonize our constitution, our flag, our data, everything and every party will have a fair share of the deal. It is then that we will form a political party and we’ll all surrender and collect new forms.
Do you also agree that the President should come from the north in 2015?
Yes, I support that and I subscribe to it very well that to be fair to the north, the President should come from this side of the country. I fully support that and I believe by the time we become one it is not going to be a big deal because all members of the party will agree that the president has to come from the north.