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‘New PDP should not be underestimated’

Little has been heard of you since the 2003 PDP governorship primaries in Gombe. What have you been doing?I went back to my field of…

Little has been heard of you since the 2003 PDP governorship primaries in Gombe. What have you been doing?
I went back to my field of consultancy. I am a trained quantity surveyor and property manager. I’ve gone back to the trench. I am now the in-coming president of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors. I should be inducted, God willing, by the middle of or towards the end of November as president. So, that is what has been occupying my mind and time.
What about partisan politics?
Politics is terminal. Once you join politics, you will be only lucky to get out of it; it’s incurable. So, I will not say I left politics. I’ve been hibernating and taking it easy. In my own state, my party has been in power since my attempted contest. The only thing we could do is to either strengthen it or sit down and appreciate what has been done by the government in the state.
How will you marry politics with being president of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors?
The two are different. One is a profession and has no partisan colour. I will exercise my duties as president in a manner that every professional would without any partisan colouration or consideration. It is not like a full-time job. There is a council and a secretariat. I will just superintend over it for the course of two years.
I recall that when Victor Attah became governor of Akwa Ibom State, he was the president of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, so it is not new to mix the two. They’re on different tracks.
Your party, the PDP is now split into two. How do you view the whole scenario?
It’s actually a very bad development, but it is expected. Any party that throws away the concept of internal democracy will face this. Politicians will always want to contest elections. In a situation where you deprive people opportunity, they begin to have wild thoughts.
In our politics, where the PDP has become overwhelming in the national political arena, members of the party are reluctant to leave for another party hoping that one day the PDP will get its acts right. My own take is that by now, the party should have been able to give itself proper political template on how it will develop not just democracy but itself. A party with the size of the PDP has not just the drive to win but also has responsibility to democracy itself by ensuring that the institution of democracy is sustained.
It is unfortunate that within the leadership of the PDP and the leadership of government around it, we have become so insensitive to these plights. I can tell you that is why I expected that one day that the party will have this kind of crack.
What do you think went wrong?
Take the selection of the leadership of the PDP from the beginning. Chief Solomon Lar left, from where Chief Sunday Awoniyi was practically choked out of the race, Gemade had to leave,  Audu Ogbeh was brought in and made to leave, Ahmadu Ali came in and so on. How the executives of the party were thrown up at both federal and state levels has a consequence. I had hoped to contest for the national chairmanship in the last congress. Actually I declared my intention to contest only to read between the lines that there would not be a clear-cut contest. What we expected was that government would not influence the installation of executives.
Of course, sometimes there is pretention to voting in Eagle Square and so on, but these are acts that weigh heavily on democracy. As long as there is no internal democracy in a party, you expect this kind of crisis to take place.
From Awoniyi’s time people were hopeful that things would adjust, that the party would build and mend fences and that the PDP itself would evolve into a strong democratic institution, but instead, it just became an election machine. There were people that were influencing these contractions, both those that are out of power and those that are in power and don’t want to lose ground. So, the contention within the party increased. I expected this to happen since nothing serious was done about developing it into a serious institution. These are some of the issues.
The current PDP national chairman ought not to have contested in the first place. What the PDP requires now, which is what happens all over the world, people that are knowledgeable about what is happening today not about yesteryears. I’m not saying we should throw away experience, but people like that should go to the board of trustees or to some advisory capacity and so on.
Bamanga has a son who was in the National Assembly, who is competent enough to be the national chairman of the party. What this party requires is not the likes of Bamanga, and I think if he on his own doesn’t find it sensible to resign, he should be asked to go.
He should just say ‘I am resigning,’ because with the kinds of things happening under him, if I were him, I will resign. To show the weakness in his leadership, whenever he goes round the states or zones and calls party chairmen or governors to come for some reconciliation meetings, nobody turns up.
Your demand on Bamanga is similar to what the G-7 governors are saying. Does this suggest you have sympathy for the New PDP?
Recall in one of the outings for negotiations, Chief Anenih who is the chairman of the Board of Trustees himself admitted that truly the G-7 governors have a point and that they should be listened to. I believe, and strongly too, that quite a number of their demands are legitimate. I think that they should be considered otherwise the party will get weaker.
It is not all that the seven governors are asking for that I am supporting. For instance, asking the president to declare that he will not contest is unfair. The issue shouldn’t be on the table now, the time will come when you can make it a point to either ask the president to contest or not to based on certain things.
We have an opposition that is coming together, we can’t dismiss it because if you recall during the post-convention dinner, they said 16 governors showed up, and the PDP was sounding triumphant. Sixteen out of 23; that should be worrying. It’s actually not 16 out of 23 but 16 out of 36. If you look at quite a number of people there, they did not truly represent the sentiment of the public. If I am on the side of the mainstream PDP, I should be worried.
Some say the G-7 governors went too far by forming a faction, do you share that opinion?
In politics, there is nothing like somebody being extreme in a case. I think it is about interest. I would see it from the perspective of the case. These guys were sufficiently frightened by the way the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election was handled. I don’t see why the President should have any business in a club of governors. That was a window that the president left off which really ignited this kind of anxiety, and they’re on the defensive.
We shouldn’t look at it from one side, whether it is the fault of the president or the governors; we should look at it both ways. There is a saying in Hausa that if you follow the footsteps of the thief, you should also follow the footsteps of the owner.
The truth is that there has been some high-handedness, there has been some impunity from the presidency that is frightening opponents. That is one of the things I expect the President to address before the issue of declaration. Some people made statements sounding like they’re talking for the president, and there’s nobody calling them to order.
So what is the way out?
Everything is negotiable. I think the issue is not about whether the matter can be resolved today or not. There should be will from both sides of the divide to resolve the matter. It is to no one’s advantage if the matter is not resolved.
The people leaving the PDP may join other parties either as individuals or as groups. Whatever will remain of the PDP will not be able to deliver much. As it is now, if you scan through the North, PDP has 15 states; I don’t think they can boast of five in the next elections, if readings are right.
The South-West is almost certainly gone for now. I don’t see much challenge to the new party in the South-West. So, I am scared for the PDP. It’s either it puts its house together or they should prepare to face a huge challenge in 2015. It is in the interest of both sides to resolve. There’s no way out other than this.
The PDP as a party needs to really re-engineer. Even without this break-up, it needs some re-engineering. With this, there’s a big problem that’s the truth. The earlier people realise that the better. It shouldn’t be taken as just a simple disagreement within the PDP. Out of 23 states, you’re talking about 16. In these states, the high population states are not there. Kano is not with the mainstream, Lagos is not there, Oyo is not there, Jigawa is not there and same thing with Rivers. I am just giving you an example of the kind of crises that are there.
If you have Bayelsa State with less than half a million voters, that’s just a little over Jos North local government. These are the issues that people on both sides should sit down and think. I really see the implications if there will be a proper election but the consequence of not having a proper election is left to be imagined.
There is this agitation by northern political leaders for power to return to the zone in 2015. As one of the leaders from the zone, do you share this view?
To be honest with you, I am not particular about where a leader comes from. I think what we require in Nigeria today is a competent leader, a person who has the nation as a whole at heart, not somebody within a corner.
The country should go beyond where the leader comes from. That is why I am one of the advocates of strong political institutions where developmental programmes have political or partisan ownership; where parties develop certain development frameworks and sell to the public. It doesn’t matter who runs or contests it.
But where we have the strong man instead of strong seat, that’s where you have problem. In partisan politics where people really believe in the programmes of their party, it doesn’t matter where you come from. In fact, somebody will come from elsewhere and help you to fight your brother who is in different camp. The scare about the present situation is the way the institution is being handled now.
Our generation has gone out of certain templates. I went to a Federal Government college in Ogun State. I went to ABU. In my staff, I have Northerners, Southerners, I have Muslims and Christians, and I don’t promote them based on where they come from. I promote them based on their competence and input.
I don’t see any weakness or any peculiar strength in where you come from. It is actually who you are. This is what we should look at in this country now. We should begin to look at competent people.
Let’s go back to 2003 when you left the cabinet as a minister to contest for the governorship of your state, Gombe. With the benefit of hindsight do you think it was the best decision at that time?
In life, you learn lessons. When I went out, I was convinced beyond doubts that I had something to offer, and what I didn’t understand then was that it is not a regular field.
I am happy I experienced it then. The story hasn’t changed much, but it is just that the problems have increased. There is a bigger need now for accessible leadership at all levels, especially at states levels. If the states are functioning well, very few will bother about the centre, because it is the states that have citizens, the centre only has officials. It is the aggregate of states that gives the nation its citizens.
Where you deal with the people problems is actually at the state levels. That is why they need responsible leadership. I still think that my take at that time was sensible, fine, no regrets. What I can say today is that I have learnt lessons.
If I have where to do anything, I will do it a bit differently because of the environment. I was a bit academic, hoping that if you add two and two, that will be four. I realised that in politics, you can actually get 80 by adding two and two, depending on what you have. You’ve seen in the case of the governors’ forum and so on. These are things that happen in politics.
Two persons who stopped your aspiration at that time were the winner of the primaries, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, and his political godfather at the time, then-Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Do you have any grudge against them for standing between you and the governorship seat?
I don’t hold any grudge against them. Without being fatalistic, I will say that everything has its own time. If God destines that you’ll be somewhere or be something, you will be. If it is not time, you will be on the journey but will not get there. Because politics is evolutionary, like the common parlance which says there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics, you find that things are so dynamic that the same people who teamed up to act in a certain way, in another instance will do otherwise.
I have no grudge against Atiku Abubakar nor do I have anything against Danjuma Goje. I recall that before long after Goje became governor, they parted ways. There was a time Atiku wanted to go to Gombe but he was denied access. That is politics. Today, Danjuma Goje and I sit on the same table to eat and recall what had happened before and laugh over it. The only unfortunate aspect of it is that some people would have lost their lives or property in the course of the contest.
If the intention in politics is service, not just to go there and benefit, then it shouldn’t be a matter of life and death. It should be that you’re in politics to offer something. I sit down with both of them at different instances.
Do you have the ambition of becoming governor in 2015?
The concept is becoming less and less attractive, because the whole political structure needs to be re-engineered. In a situation where you go and operate with big institutions on the ground, it becomes very stressful to achieve what you can ordinarily achieve in a regular environment.
I still believe that I will have something to offer. I still think that I am interested. I still think that given the scenario, I may try again in 2015.
What is your assessment of the performance of the current governor in Gombe State?
In fairness to him, infrastructure-wise he is doing well. He has been there only two years and I think he has done well.
For now, the security situation is not bad, but once in a while, it lapses into some problems here and there. If he has any problem at all, it is the inability to take political advantage of whatever he is doing. I can tell you that he hardly reaches out to people or politicians.
A governor who comes after Goje will find it difficult to manage an environment that is not politically active. Goje was very political and partisan, so he raised  the political stakes. Any governor who comes after him and just behaves like an administrator will find it difficult to manage the political environment.
If between now and the elections time he hasn’t improved on his political scales, I foresee problem for him, and people like us will go and take the advantage of that.
The problem in the power sector has persisted even after many ministers have come and gone. What would you say is the problem with the sector and how do you think it can be improved?
I remember when I was in the cabinet, I used to make it very clear that the problem with power is not about target. I recall Obasanjo would always say we would achieve 4,000 megawatts.
At that time, the government was hoping to achieve 4,000 megawatts. There was a time all the generation capacities were set in motion and 4,000 megawatts was achieved. But that was a fluke. Twelve years after, we’re still hoping to generate 4,000 megawatts with huge investments.
There are certain things that must be taken into consideration, and as long as they’re not in focus, we cannot have power instantly. One is taking away our minds from procurement and issues of contract award, which is the main thing. People think that when contracts are awarded, then there will be power.
There is need for huge investments in the power sector. Whether it is going to come from the public funds or the private money will be determined by the way we set the environment.
Number two is that we must also regulate utility providers and planning authority. This is something that people don’t take cognisance of. Like in Abuja now, if you look at some areas, the initial plan was to have single habitat but now you have block of flats. The original supply of transformers was for these single habitats. But if you have block of flats, it will put pressure on the utility.
That is why you have poor supply. So the planning authority and the utility company must be talking to ensure that when there is an expansion in habitation, there is an expansion in infrastructure to provide those services.

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