Senator Abdullahi Adamu is the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives (APC). The two-term former governor of Nasarawa State and immediate past senator who represented Nasarawa West took the mantle of the party’s leadership from Governor Mai Mala Buni in March 2022 amidst turbulence in the party. In this exclusive interview, Adamu expressed optimism that the crisis rocking the party in some states would be resolved before the 2023 general elections. He also spoke on his assessment of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, why he supported Senate President Ahmad Lawan during the presidential primary election of his party and why he is confident of winning, among other issues.
You are the national chairman of the ruling party, but your candidate did not emerge victorious during your national convention. What is your interpretation of what happened?
I am not quite sure of what you mean by my candidate.
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You were said to have hinted National Assembly members that Senate President Ahmad Lawan was the chosen one, but it appeared you were disowned, how do you feel?
You shouldn’t see it that way. It is true that after consultations at the appropriate and different levels of the party, we had reasons to believe that he was the best at the time. And that was motivated partially by the decision of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to field former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. And they have been upbeat that the position of the president must go to the South. We also know, as a matter of fact, that the PDP is predominantly entrenched in the South East, and to some extent, South-South.
You indeed used to be a member of the PDP and governor.
I was not just a member; I was a former governor under the party. I was also the secretary to the Board of Trustees. Anyway, that aside, when they (PDP) had their convention, to everybody’s surprise, they chose to have a northerner and that person is Atiku Abubakar. That sent some shock waves. These guys that had been upbeat with the issue of having the president go to the South did a different thing, so what do we tell our voters?
But your voters are not just in the North, they are also in the South, don’t you think so?
Yes, but the preponderance of the votes is there. So, we had to have a rethink immediately and after due consultations. We thought that was the best way to go. And it is the place of the party, not any other person. So, it was for me to make that public and I did.
I didn’t talk to the National Assembly; I talked to members of my National Working Committee. They are my first list. I consulted with them, and the same day, I consulted some governors, who said they wanted it to go to the South. I knew that if everyone of us wanted to stand on his or her ground we would have catastrophe and cataclysm within the party and that could end up plunging us into crisis and I didn’t want that to happen. So we went straight through the convention. They wanted me to withdraw my statement but I said no.
When the president said that whoever wanted to contest should do so, and that he did not have anybody, we went into the convention; and it is now history. Our candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu won in a clean primary election. Immediately he became successful, I and the president handed him over the flag of the party as our candidate. The following morning, I went to his house with all the members of my committee to pledge our support and assured him that the party had spoken. That has been our position since then. And we will continue to do that until the election. By the grace of God we will win.
Are you saying that your initial position on the primary didn’t affect your relationship with the presidential candidate?
Not at all; I can speak only for myself. I led the delegation with all the members of the National Working Committee to his residence here in Abuja and we pledged our support absolutely. It is our party and it is our desire to win; and we cannot win with a divided house.
Did you feel betrayed?
At this level we don’t talk of betrayal. This is the highest level – the hierarchy of the party – so we have to bring a level of maturity we have for providing leadership. And if it meant swallowing my words, there is nothing wrong with it. But I know it wasn’t my personal decision. We did it after due consultations. But the position of the governors probably came and affected the position I had been involved in, but that is part of history.
Do you think the governors’ position was because of their own interest?
I was brought up to bury the hatchet as much as I can. I don’t like opening old wounds. Whoever did whatever within his conscience knows what he has done. I have done my best as the chairman of the party, but in the end, the party decided. I pledge my support and allegiance. Whoever did whatever is history, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to go beating about the bush on the issue. Bola Tinubu is our presidential candidate and he has named his running mate. We are all supporting what he has done.
Before you became the national chairman of the party you were in charge of efforts to reconcile aggrieved members. I believe there is the need for more reconciliation efforts now, after the primaries, what are you doing about that?
I agree with you on that. Reconciliation is always a work in progress. When you are dealing with human beings there are inbuilt misunderstandings, some of them driven by ego, no more no less. Some of them are also driven by the fact that maybe somebody feels he has not been given fair hearing or deal, or our kind of politics: Muslim-Christian, ethnicity and region, that kind of stuff. These issues have their own problems.
Are you doing more reconciliations?
Like I said, it is work in progress. That means we are working at it. We are doing the best we can.
The president’s nephew, who is representing his constituency in the House of Representatives resigned from the party recently. This is the latest of so many resignations from the APC by people who probably felt disgruntled because of the primaries, what is your take on this?
Everything has time, including the time to come to the world and the time to leave and go to the unknown. In the same way, there is a season for what we are seeing. Once there is a primary, some people are bound to feel offended, maybe because they didn’t get what they wanted. That is natural. That is one of the reasons the issue of reconciliation is a continuous process. Sometimes we talk of God and believe in him as Muslims or Christians, but sometimes, in the end, we don’t accept what he has done, unfortunately. It behooves on the leadership to continue not to be tired of making efforts to reconcile those who may have been offended. But like I said, we can only reconcile the reconcilable.
With the president’s nephew leaving the ruling party, don’t you think there is a big political capital you are handing over to the opposition?
Sometimes you people in the media give these things a kind of credence they don’t deserve. Before becoming the chairman of the party I had seen a lot in my career as a politician in this country. I have seen two brothers of same father and mother going into two parties. It is nothing new. If this guy felt the best for him if he didn’t get his own way is to rebel and go some other way, good luck to him. You can’t force him.
What about other big guns like members of the National Assembly – your former colleagues in the Senate who are feeling rejected?
You would recall that after the primaries there was a lot of noise about people leaving the party. I took it upon myself to get to the National Assembly to talk to the caucus of the party there. And because I am the national chairman of the party, I took it upon myself to take the blame and apologised to them. This is human endeavour. I am not perfect, and none of you is. We have to have some level of tolerance among ourselves. Some of the issues that arose, as a result of which some lost election, were not my making. But as a leader I took the responsibility. So the reconciliation continues.
Those who are patient to wait can have something; they can’t be total losers in this. We are in government, so there are opportunities that can come one’s way. But I believe very strongly that they rather tread on the side of caution and be patient instead of going this way. For me, it is nothing new.
Do you think the worst is over as far as the primaries are concerned?
Like I said, we are in the season. Up till now, there are opportunities. Some candidates are withdrawing due to the reconciliation going on, both at the national and state levels.
Who is currently the candidate in Yobe, where the Senate president wanted to contest?
The matter is in court, so I don’t want to comment on it. As far as we are concerned, we have the name of Senate President Ahmad Lawan. But since the matter is in court, I won’t be involved in it.
Some people believe that with the entrance of the Labour Party, led by Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), led by Rabiu Kwankwaso, neither the APC nor the main opposition party, the PDP would win the presidential election at the first ballot. Is that your thinking?
Clearly, that is not my thinking. The APC is working to win the 2023 elections, and by the grace of God, we will win. But if it has been ordained by the Almighty God that there will be a runoff, we would take it. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the authority on this. They have the electoral guidelines and laws enacted by the National Assembly. Whatever happens, we will just take a look at what the provisions of the law are and go by them. But if that is the fortune of the country in 2023, so be it.
Is it not in your calculation at all at the moment?
Absolutely. We are working to win.
Are not sounding too confident?
I know we are working for victory and God is going to give us that victory. We only need to have the right attitude. We listen to this kind of comment because we are in a democracy, so there is freedom or whatever we call it. We concede to the rights of people to hold their views and express them the best way they can. And we respect the views once they are expressed through the ballot. But I call some of these noises democratic sounds; and you people (media) are best at it. You know you have a way of building a huge edifice out of a mole hill.
I accept the fact that the NNPP is registered and fully recognised. Whether I like it or not, they are there to exist and they will contest elections. Yes, they will take some votes off us, as a matter of fact because some of these guys used to be in old camps. And because of the conflicts we had in Kano, we expect that there would be ripples, some repercussions. I will be foolish not to think there will be.
In the same token, the Labour Party will take votes off the PDP. The candidate of the party lost out in the PDP and decided to take the ticket of another party and give them some lifeline, if you permit me to use that language. Labor Party is performing around the South East and may be South South. You can’t deny that as a reality in politics. And you can’t take that all in the season. But I don’t believe that would be substantially enough to rob our party so much. The APC has a membership of 42million Nigerians registered. And it is not all the party members that have registered. However, if I say we do not have problems, I will be deceiving myself.
But you are not solving some of the big problems; for example, in Kano, there are two different claimants of the governorship ticket?
Now, what is happening in Kano is not unique, it is happening in other states.
It is like a replay of almost what happened under the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), President Buhari’s party when there was no clear decision on the candidate, and the party lost the election.
Take it from me, that by the grace of God who made it possible for us to lead the party today, the problems will be solved before the elections come. We have six months from today till February. By the grace of God we will have one candidate. And we will win, by the grace of God.
But some people will say that going by the way you are talking, you appear to be out of touch with the way Nigerians are feeling. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the way things going in the country, especially in the areas of insecurity, lack of economic opportunities and high cost of living. Don’t you think these are enough reasons for people to rebel against the ruling party?
I wish I could give you a toga of the PDP, Labour Party or the NNPP. To be honest with you, there is no doubt that there is discontent, but it is driven by the kind of comments you have just brought forth. There is no party or government known to me that does not have problems. The government is always on the receiving end of public opinions. There are some moments the opposition is the underdog and the party in government is disadvantaged. So we have problems like any government.
Nigerians say they have never had it so badly like this time, what is your take?
The fact is that you people in the media, with due respect, would rather see negativity where there are positive things the government has achieved. There is an inherent problem in your practice not to recognise that, let alone propagate it. For instance, the PDP was in government for 16 years and school children were having the problem of feeding. But this government introduced the school feeding programme, which has been going on for many years. How many school children are getting fed now? But that is not issue with you.
What about parents who cannot eat because of poverty?
Hold it. The infrastructural development taking place in this country has not taken place over the last 20 years until Buhari came. Look at the number of roads, including highways, in this country that have been either rebuilt or rehabilitated. What about the Nigerian railway, which was more than dead. People that came up after you in secondary schools will not know what railway is except maybe they saw it in textbooks. Railways are again back on track in this country.
Why don’t you always see the positive side of government? You only see the areas to hit and help the opposition in their campaigns.
We have seen announcements that the railways have been shut down because of insecurity. Also, on school feeding, some children are getting fed but some parents and the generality of Nigerians are having difficulty eating because of the situation in the country, is that not a misplacement of priority?
What do you make of the Social Intervention Programme that this government has brought?
It is probably a great programme, but then, it is limited because it is only a small number of the affected people that it profits, is that not true?
You can only achieve things to the level your circumstances permit you. Here you are talking about what government has done or has not done, but you have not taken a look at government’s source to be able to implement some of the things you are talking about. Nobody is talking about that.
There is a huge debt over Nigeria. We have a situation where the finance minister came out to say that when you put all our revenues together you have to borrow some more money to service debt. So these are the things, I didn’t preempt them. What do you think?
I remember very well that in a programme I had with you here, I told you that I had no quarrel with the issue made about the government borrowing. The government can borrow from here to eternity. Other countries borrow from the World Bank and such other institutions, so Nigeria is no exception. What I quarrel about is if the money is not used for its purpose. The infrastructure we develop across the country is from these sources. You also have to appreciate the level of revenue accruing to the government. Oil is the main thing and we want to see some of the ways we can diversify. Some of these issues affecting the revenue in accruing to the government are not our making; no matter how good we are, they happen. When the so-called developed countries sneeze, we catch cold. You know that and I know. The Ukrainian crisis with Russia is having its impact on our economy and even bigger economics than our own. So, why do we limit ourselves with our thinking, in terms of has to be done.
Your former colleagues in the National Assembly are threatening to impeach President Buhari if within a certain time he doesn’t do something new in terms of security. Does that worry you or you think it is just like a big joke?
Hearing it should normally worry me as the national chairman of my party, but it is one thing to say something and quite another to do it. I know it is part of the hit for those who did not get what they wanted. They now capitalise on the pressure from the opposition to the extent that some of them even went along to be heard; and we heard them. These are members who lost re-election in the primaries?
I don’t want to call names here, but they were in the forefront. They supported the opposition. They put the blame on the party and the government.
Will you take peculiar measures against them?
No, not necessarily. We take every issue on its merit. I am even more offended by what some ministers do than members of the National Assembly. They are elected and they have mandates, which I respect. I was with them, so I know the situations. I respect their views, but I know it will come to pass, by the grace of God.
By Mannir Dan-Ali