- Buhari’ll never get it right
- What Wamakko’s rally mean to me
- Tambuwal suffered in silence because…
A former governor of Sokoto State, Dr Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, is a presidential aspirant under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He speaks on his desire to rule the country and thoughts about President Muhammadu Buhari, what he thinks about Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s defection to the PDP and why Senator Aliyu Wamakko’s recent rally in Sokoto does not count as anything to him, among others.
You are one of the contenders for the presidential election under the Peoples Democratic Party. Do you feel comfortable with the huge number of powerful aspirants for the same ticket?
Of course, yes, I am much comfortable with the number of aspirants that will contest for the presidential election in our party. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. That is why it is democracy. It is a game. I don’t see it as a do-or-die affair. What we have to do is to see how we can develop democracy and the nation. So, I don’t see it as a problem.
Some of the fears being expressed by members of your party are that if you go into a primary election with this number you may come out as a divided party.
I don’t see that happening because in this game some of us are playing it wrongly and some rightly. The essence of playing politics is not to serve personal interest; it is to serve the nation. Where we use to go wrong is the way and manner it is played. Who are the players? That is the first question. You cannot play a football match without knowing how to play it. What I am trying to say here is that you have to be a democrat before you join politics and aspire to be the president of this country. But unfortunately, most Nigerian politicians are not democrats, they just decided to join politics for the sake of what they are going to get, either to be elected governors or president or senators. But real democrats are people like me, who have been in politics throughout my life. For almost 40 years I have been in politics, so I don’t see anything that will make me leave the party if I don’t get the ticket, and I don’t think there is anybody that will leave the party if he doesn’t get the ticket.
These people that are not democrats, are they in the race for the PDP ticket?
What I am saying is that everybody knows most of these aspirants. They are professionals in their own fields. I took politics as my profession. I started as a local government council deputy chairman in 1976, became a local government party chairman, and became the state party chairman of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in then Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi. I produced a governor under the NRC and then left after it was dissolved during the June 12 crisis. I was a founding father of the UNCP during General Sani Abacha. When that was over, we formed the now defunct All Peoples Party (APP). I took APP to Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi and I delivered them. After winning election as executive governor of Sokoto State in 2007, I formed the DPP, under which umbrella I contested as its presidential candidate. I was a founding member of the APC. The constitution of the APC was drafted in my house. I have been in politics and it has been my profession compared to some aspirants who were in different types of profession. So you can see that each one of us has his own special field.
So, nobody among the aspirants contesting for the presidency has better credentials than me. That is my own argument.
You can see the current administration where we have Mr. President, who is a former military man. He will never get it right. It is not his line. He was trained to be a military man, so you should expect him to be excellent in the military terrain. Mind you, I gave him the ticket. I was the national chairman of the then ANPP in 2003. It was I who gave him the ticket under my leadership as the acting ANPP national chairman. It was during my era that President Buhari got his first ticket to contest for the presidency. So, you see, as a retired general and former military head of state, there is no way that training will get out of his head. We the politicians should not allow those who are not professionals to come and join our game, our line and spoil it.
You mentioned that you are a professional politician, but is that enough? What makes you unique?
I was a governor for eight years and I performed wonderfully. When I was a governor I was in the opposition. The PDP was the ruling party, but former President Obasanjo visited my state 14 times, inspecting projects, and while leaving office I left almost N13billion reserved without borrowing a single kobo from the bank. Also, my projects are still what those who succeeded me are showing to others today. So, you can see that being a governor for eight years, I think I have something to take to the national level. As a businessman, I was able to manage the resources of the state very well and leave that reserve. With my experience as a businessman, politician and farmer, I think I am qualified to get the ticket to rule this country. One thing is that one man cannot rule a nation, it is teamwork. The only thing is to get a leader who has the will to do something, the rest is teamwork.
You recently visited former presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Obasanjo. How do they feel about your aspiration?
These are leaders in their own rights, more especially former President Obasanjo who was in the military and at the same time a democrat and whom I worked with for eight years. I think it doesn’t make sense for me to go and start aspiring for the presidency without going to meet and look for three things – his prayers, support and blessing, which I think he has done for me. As my former president and political mentor, the advice he gave me was what made me to succeed during my tenure as governor. Having said so, he is a member of the PDP and I was then a member of the then opposition APP, but at the same time, he was advising me thus: “Governor take care of education, the children need education. I will give you all the support to make sure your state is out of educational backwardness.” To prove his words, his first outing was to flag-off the national campaign for UBE in my state. I was the first governor who invited Obasanjo within my 100 days in office to commission a project.
I have been very close to Babangida, therefore, there is no way I can start aspiring without seeking his advice. If the PDP asks its presidential aspirants to drop their bids and rally round a consensus candidate, would that be acceptable to you?
You see, this is not how to play the game. When you are in the field you choose your first 11. I told you this is a game. It is not something that is a do-or-die affair to all of us. None of them is going for the same position, and you cannot pull them out and say, ‘You people should leave the field for somebody’ because it is a game. The best thing to do is to allow the players play their game; there is no rancour. You people are just watching the football, allow the players to play their game. Don’t be in a hurry. You just watch and see how it will end.
Your state governor recently moved to the PDP and is also interested in the party’s presidential ticket. How is the state chapter of the PDP managing your aspiration and that of Governor Tambuwal?
This is not going to be a problem. The governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, was my student. It was during my time that I brought him to the House of Representatives in 2003. So, we respect each other; and maybe that is what even made him to come back to the PDP to join his former leader. I think it is very encouraging that my student is competing with his teacher, which is very good.
It is said that there are grumblings by governorship aspirants of the party in the state over the possibility of Tambuwal getting the ticket should he fail to secure that of the presidency.
I am not among the grumblers. Whatever grouse anybody has, he should wait and see the party’s decision. Now, nobody is stopping another from buying the forms, so what is the grumbling about? Nobody has the right to grumble for whatever reason because none of the aspirants has been denied the forms.
The thousands of people who attended a rally by former Governor Aliyu Wamakko led people to conclude that the APC is still the strongest party in the state and that is rattling you. What do you say to that?
When you see crowd on television you ask yourself: ‘Are these people all from Sokoto State?’ You have neighbouring states controlled by the APC and he wanted to tarnish the image of the governor who just defected to the PDP. One thing is that for somebody to claim that he is popular after governing the state for eight years, he has to come and show what he has done that made him popular. I left the office 11 years ago and there is nothing the senator can say he has done that beats my achievements because there is no local government in Sokoto State where our impact was not felt when I was in office. So, if I am not claiming to be popular, I don’t think there is any politician who can come and say he is popular because as at now, there is no local government that I enter and thousands of people would not come and see me. When I came to power I met a backlog of almost five years of pension and non-payment of leave grants, which I cleared. These are the type of things that are making me happy.
Will the real test of your popularity and that of Wamakko be in 2019?
I can’t compare my popularity with that of Wamakko. Mind you, he was my student. I brought him into politics as my deputy governor. He was a civil servant. You can’t compare him with me. I don’t even want it to come from my mouth. The reality is there. You can only become popular by your achievements.
You recently advised delegates against selling their votes. How do you think that can work in the PDP?
It is not the PDP that will be advised, it is the aspirants and the delegates. The party is just an umpire. An aspirant will say he is going to buy a delegate, and if the delegate accepts to be bought, he becomes a slave. That is the reason why when we are talking of corruption, it starts from the beginning, not in the office. When you bribe a delegate and he votes for you, he has sold his integrity. If you are sure of yourself and delegates know who you are, you don’t need to buy them as they will vote with their conscience. Generally, this situation is important because it touches on corruption. It is not just about the EFCC or ICPC to stop corruption. If we want to kill corruption, we must come to the agreement that this kind of arrangement where aspirants buy delegates and delegates decide to sell themselves is the beginning of the crisis.
There are fears that the PDP presidential primaries might be hijacked by moneybags, given the fact that the party’s fee for presidential form at N12million is too high and some aspirants might be left out. What is your take on that?
Nobody can take money out of the matter. With such a fee, it shows that the party is still very popular. The fee adds value to the positions. In fact, it is even cheap. If the party leaves the fee cheap everybody will go and pick the forms. Good things don’t come cheap.
You said Buhari was not a democrat and can never get it right because of his military training. But here you are going to Obasanjo and Babangida, retired generals like Buhari, to seek their support, blessings and encouragement for a democratic exercise.
I have my reasons for that. If I didn’t work with them, I won’t go to them. Obasanjo was head of state like Buhari. When he came he had two-thirds of members of the National Assembly, he had more governors, but at the formation of his government, he didn’t dare to say that he was going to appoint his ministers only from the PDP. He chose ministers from the APP and AD and formed a unity government despite his party’s control of the National Assembly. He really didn’t need to seek support of any political party to get his bill passed or ministers approved. He had the majority in government but he still went ahead and formed a unity government. So, you can see the wisdom he took to bring everybody together. And on boards, he appointed members from many political parties. So, this is a typical achievement for him to show that he is a leader and wanted unity for the country. Mind you, Nigeria is still a delicate country when it comes to religion, ethnicity and tribe. Up till now, we are in a transition stage of democracy, so we have to bring everybody into the circle of government so that we would be able to keep the country united. With this wisdom alone, we can say that Obasanjo is a democrat. I was not a member of his party. When my colleagues were complaining about federation allocation, I felt that we were getting enough (in Sokoto). I went and met the then Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Iweala, and told her to inform the president for us to publish allocations in the national papers from the local to federal governments so that people would see how much each level of government was getting so that they would judge instead of accusing the Federal Government. She said I could see the president and tell him, and I agreed. I advised the president on that and he accepted.
I can give several cases in which I advised Obasanjo and he heeded and implemented despite the fact that I was in the opposition. Any hour you called Obasanjo and he was not available and came back and saw your missed call, no matter how late, he would call back. At least, he was at alert. You can see that he was different from the current president. When he took over leadership, I was happy even though I was not a member of his party, but at least I know him as a person and as a contributor to his political career. I thought he would appreciate people like us, so I expected him to listen to me, at least to advise him and contribute my own quota because I knew he could not do it alone. I wrote him about two or three letters on some advice but I don’t know whether it reached him. One Garba Shehu was replying me that there were a lot of papers, a lot of boxes for the president, so he did not know if my letters got to him. I booked to see him, no way, so how can he be a democrat? There is no enmity; it is just our interests and ideologies.
If you look at the Sokoto you ruled for eight years and left 11 years ago, what is your assessment of your successors?
Honestly, I am not happy, going by the financial position I left the state and looking at the amount received by my first successor, yet he didn’t have anything to show. You need to see the few billions I received and how I turned Sokoto State around and left money behind, which was enough for him to continue from where I stopped. I had some ongoing projects, but to my surprise, almost all the works were stopped. It is very sad. I built a very competitive school which was commissioned by the Chief Imam of Mecca. I made the school independent and saved money and left N500million for the school, but when I left, the incoming administration spent the money recklessly. It is very sad. And the person who took over from him, because of the amount indebted to the state and because of his loyalty to him, refused to disclose the debt he met until now. The poor guy is suffering silently, paying the debts. He met money, I left money, but he left the state with heavy debt. Because Governor Tambuwal was loyal to him, he did not disclose that, and that’s what made him to leave him. Now, it is three years and he has been paying debts; hence he has not done anything to show as a governor who has come to bring change. That is why the governor is being abused. It is very sad. Hopefully, now that Tambuwal has joined us, with our collective efforts we can control the damage caused by his predecessor.