Umaru Muhammad Maizabura, who is in his early 80s, was a presidential aspirant on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1993. He contested alongside the late MKO Abiola, whose election was annulled by the then Ibrahim Babangida administration. In this interview, he went memory lane on his political sojourn, including how he formed political parties and the support they gave President Muhammadu Buhari. He also spoke on why he is championing an extension of tenure for the president.
What actually happened in June, 1993
I contested for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1993 during the administration of a former military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. I paid N1,000 as nomination fee to contest against the late MKO Abiola and other presidential aspirants in the SDP during the presidential primaries.
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What would you say actually fired your passion to vie for presidency?
My aspiration was borne out of the passion to entrench justice and fairness to all, irrespective of ethnic or religious differences. This was also due to my brief and interaction with people like the late Sardauna of Sokoto and how he handled people.
The rich experiences I garnered from mingling with different people from all walks of life gave me the requisite skills to address the injustices meted on the ordinary people of the country, so I decided to join the race to become president. Luckily enough, he brought the Option A-4, which gave the ordinary people the opportunity to elect leaders of their choice and stipulated N1,000 as nomination fee.
What do you think was responsible for the annulment of the election?
One thing I continue to cherish is the quality of support I got from the South, North East and the western part of the country, especially the media without any bias. But unfortunately, some rich men among the contestants maneuvered their ways and dropped our names under the pretext of eligibility. The election was conducted and MKO Abiola supposedly won. We rushed to Babangida to protest our exclusion from the race and he listened to our plea and annulled the June 12 election because of the injustice meted on us. We are still praying for him for the decision.
To what extent have you mustered courage to actualise your political dream since then?
I established another political party, APLP, which we formed with some people from the South East, led by one Okereke. In fact, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disbursed money to political parties, but I said we did not form the party to generate money. We founded it to fight for the wellbeing of the ordinary people. But unfortunately, some executives of the party went and collected N6million. I didn’t receive even a kobo from the money. I was also a one-time national chairman of the MDJ during the General Sani Abacha regime when the late MD Yusuf became our presidential candidate. When the APLP was deregistered, we established the NDLP. Currently, we have leadership in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
What is your assessment of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and your mindset on President Muhammadu Buhari in the context of the current crisis in the party, particularly the national convention, which appears to be in limbo?
When you look at the APC you will notice that the party is on the verge of collapse; the only thing left in it is President Buhari, who respects the principles of democracy.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still in crisis despite the purported convention because they too are not united and sincere to salvage the country.
My party was among the 16 that supported Buhari in 2015 with our structures across the country and campaigned vigorously to defeat the PDP. Eventually, Buhari became president. When he became president, he only sat down with us once, then he dumped us and invited those who were castigating him during the campaigns; people who hated and insulted him now surround his government. INEC came and declared our parties as deregistered and some people are laughing at us.
But that notwithstanding, I have already concluded plans to surprise some bigwig politicians, especially within the ruling party by championing the campaign for extension of two years of the President Buhari presidency before the power mongers unite themselves.
But the constitution allows only eight years and President Buhari will conclude his tenure in 2023; why do you want an extension for him?
Should we allow our country in disaster? How can we just fold our arms and watch our country to be destroyed by some selfish politicians and their cronies? We should evolve a doctrine of necessity and use the National Assembly to extend his tenure by another two years because among all the politicians warming up for the position of the president, who is capable?
Are you in the good books of politicians? What is your relationship with them?
My life is under Allah’s control and I am contented with the little I have. I have never depended on any politician or government throughout my struggles from my teenage years till date. I am happy with my life. I don’t have grudges with anybody because whatever I do in the course of struggle for entrenching true democracy in the country, I do it wholeheartedly for the betterment of my country and not for any form of compensation.
There is hardship in the country and it is being blamed on the Buhari administration, yet you are talking of championing a campaign for an extension of his tenure? Are you not worried?
The only thing that baffles me these days is the cost of foodstuff and the rate of poverty among Nigerians across the country. I appeal to the present administration to intervene and bring down the cost of food so that ordinary people can afford to get their daily bread easily.
How did you cope when insecurity was at its peak in Borno?
The insecurity in the state and other parts of the country was created by selfish politicians to achieve their evil machinations, having stockpiled ill-gotten money. They are the brains behind the crisis, and they are within the country. The questions you need to ask yourself are: How can a youth who does not have N5,000 in his pocket get a rifle and hundreds of ammunition? Where on earth did he get access to the weapons? Are spirits giving them the weapons? From which country are the weapons coming and for what purpose?
I appeal to the president to evolve new strategies to end the insecurity. Government must also sit up and employ the services of sincere religious scholars from villages to embark on prayers for Allah’s intervention to end these evil machinations.
Are you planning to contest the 2023 presidential election?
I will not contest with the calibre of moneybag politicians that have turned the system to a more commercialised and corrupted politics. The current political realities do not recognise true democratic principles. But if sanity is restored, I will contest.
What is your rating of the country’s democracy so far, especially in the current political dispensation?
Another painful thing about democracy in Nigeria is that party structures are under governors. How can this be? A governor becomes the alpha and omega of his party and decides who gets party ticket to contest in his state? Is that democracy? The governor should be a member of the party and the party should be supreme because it was ordinary people that came together to elect him. He should concentrate on discharging his responsibilities to the people, not controlling the party. Unfortunately, a governor dictates what the party should do, and you call it democracy?
I think we have to sanitise the system and allow people to vote and be voted for, not empowering few individuals to rule us in the name of democracy. Whoever is elected president or governor should control the party if we will continue to deceive ourselves.
I will not waste my time to contest election under this undemocratic system and be rubbished by moneybag politicians.
When you look at what is happening in the ruling APC concerning its forthcoming national convention, you can see the manifestation of how state governors have turned party structures and positions to their personal properties and you still call that democracy? The current political crisis within major stakeholders, especially political parties and the security challenges, are the reasons I said that patriotic elders should come together and call for an extension of the tenure of President Buhari for another two years, whether the president likes it or not, to salvage the country from drifting into unimaginable crisis.