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‘Northwest Governors Are Working For Tinubu To Win The Presidency’

Waziri Bulama, former National Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) and member, APC National Advisory Council and National Caucus, in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, dispels insinuations that some Northwest governors are working underground to betray the Tinubu/Shettima presidential ticket. Bulama, who is also National Coordinator of Friends of KSM, described as baseless rumour claims that nomination of Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate is fuelling internal sabotage.

• Shettima’s nomination got stakeholders’ consensus, says Bulama

As a former APC scribe, what do you make of the perceived silent political rivalry between the Northeast and Northwest geopolitical zones?

There is no rivalry that I know of or that exists between the Northeast and the Northwest zones of the country. The Northeast and Northwest have been one and we have lived together, shared history and experiences together and people have succeeded and progressed in life as a result of the leadership of the Northeast and the Northwest.

There has never been rivalry and there has never been tension or conflict in terms of political interest between the Northeast and Northwest, as well as even the North Central.

The present core of elite in the north, even though I don’t want to talk on regional, tribal and other issues; but just because you asked this question, I can tell you that the whole of the elite in the north were beneficiaries of the leadership and institutions that were set up by the leadership of the country in the First Republic.

The first Republic had four regions, the North, the Southwest, Midwest, as well as the Southeast. So, most of the institutions in the First Republic set up by the Sardauna of Sokoto offered people opportunity in terms of employment as well as business.

Most of our leaders that worked in the bureaucracy and federal institutions were facilitated and helped by the institutions and the leadership of the First Republic, so we have always lived and thought and transacted and carried out our affairs as one.

So there is no rivalry at all, and for instance, look at us now, most of us are products of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). For instance, in my own family, four of us out of like eight were graduates from ABU and we live in Zaria, we have more friends outside Borno State than even Borno State.

I can go on to tell you how successful we have become by our relationship, through our relationship with other Nigerians from the Northeast and Northwest, North Central, as well as the South.

At the moment you see we have even transcended this northern base in terms of our relationships. Right now we have relationships that are national. We have friends with very strong bonds and strong trust across this country, in the Southwest, South/South and in the Southeast. It is the Nigeria platform that gave us opportunity to thrive and grow.

So, within the Nigerian context, there is no Nigerian elite today who has succeeded, that has not been helped by the Nigerian condition, the Nigerian set-up and the Nigerian state.

And, as you can see, the Nigerian leadership too has taken a lot of measures to ensure fairness and justice and balance in the way power is distributed, in the way projects are distributed.

A lot of measures are taken to inculcate the culture and nationalism. Look at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and many other affirmative measures put in place to build the Nigerian consciousness in us.

So, today really, we have moved on. There is no rivalry, not just between Northeast and Northwest, but also between Southeast and Southwest or South-South and North Central. We are one and we are pursuing common interests.

That question flows from side talks that some Northwest governors who expected to be considered as running mate to Asiwaju are now gathering to see how they can sabotage the ticket… 
As we approached the transition to 2023, the measures and steps towards the emergence of party leadership as well as electing those to hold the ticket to represent our party in the next election, quite a lot of interests emerged. But, most of the interests were personal, regional or zonal.

We know many governors and ministers who wanted to be President. We also know many businessmen who wanted to be president, but these were people who presented themselves personally for leadership, because they have what it takes to lead this country and we are very proud of them.

All of them have paid their dues, both to the party as well as to this country. Most of them are outstanding people in terms of their quality, capacity and convictions. These were all party leaders and party men from Osinbajo to Bagudu, to Amaechi, to Nasir El-Rufai, to Ganduje, we have a lot of outstanding leaders. Many ministers in the North as well as in the South, actually wanted to offer themselves, but the choice of the party and the processes eventually led to where we are.

So, I have not seen, overtly or covertly, any measure to disagree with the position of the party at the moment. That, I tell you on good authority. Yes, there are some people who wanted to be President, the Governor of Jigawa State even bought the forms to run, but right now he is in the forefront of the campaign to get our party succeed, for Asiwaju to win the Presidency. So, that one is just a baseless rumour actually.

Looking back at the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential nomination process, which threw up Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it is speculated that the crisis, which cropped up after Tinubu nominated Kashim Shettima was because certain people who were pencilled as running mate were disappointed. How do you get into that? 
My own reaction to this is that there is no crisis at all in the APC over the emergence of our presidential candidate nor the vice presidential candidate.

The weeks and days preceding our convention that produced the presidential candidate, witnessed a lot of engagements, consultations by both President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the governors and all the stakeholders to ensure that we conduct a convention that is unifying, that would bring up a consensus candidate.

And then, a consensus that will follow due process that would throw up a candidate that is acceptable to all. 23 candidates presented themselves openly before our party delegates and eventually there was voting and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was overwhelmingly elected.

Now, after his emergence, the next thing was the choice of his running mate. Many capable and competent Nigerians or party men from across the states were presented to the party as well as to Asiwaju to nominate. The prerogative to choose, the final choice was with him. But, his choice also must be informed by so many factors, so that whoever is chosen, will be acceptable to all the stakeholders in the party and must also be seen to complement the ticket.

So, eventually, after extensive consultation and consideration of many factors Asiwaju nominated Senator Kashim Shettima to run with him in the elections.

The reason why I say there is no crisis is because there is no open dissent, especially over the emergence of Senator Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. There is no case in court, except for one or two. But, largely his election as a presidential candidate was fully accepted by stakeholders and by party men across the board, in the whole country.

The nomination of Kashim Shettima was also accepted by all party men across the country. There is no court case, no argument or dissent or discontent or expression of any objection to his nomination by any party leader except the case of (Yakubu) Dogara and Babachir D. Lawal. And, these two guys could not manage themselves, their feelings and views, and eventually they also left the party. So, except for these two.

But, all the party leaders and stakeholders, the entire party structure in the country, the NWC, the NEC of the party, the stakeholders in the Senate, the governors, all accepted the two candidates- the presidential, as well as the vice presidential candidate.

There is no crisis at all, and we are focused on winning the election and we are focused on presenting to Nigerians our manifesto and our programmes, our records and what we can do, undertakings to build on what has been done by the party in the last eight years or so.

Were you not worried that that little storm in a teacup distracted Nigerians from really looking at the qualities that informed Kashim Shettima’s choice as presidential running mate? 
Well, obviously, some people were concerned that someone like B.D Lawal, who was very close to President Muhammadu Buhari, and someone who had occupied the post of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) or like Dogara, who had been Speaker of the House of Representatives of the country within the APC government, could express opinions that differ from the majority of the entire stakeholders in the country.

But, some of us knew that those opinions were extreme minority within the party. Ours is a national party, broad based; APC is a party that is in control of 22 states, which also won the last election in 2019 by having the required 25 per cent of votes cast in 35 states of Nigeria. The party has representation of Nigerians of all faith and ethnicities.

So, so long as there is a consensus in the party in support of the candidature of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the nomination of Kashim Shettima, we never felt that there was neither a crisis nor a threat to our ticket.

In any case, I just want to emphasise this point, a political party is made up of Nigerians reflecting our diversity. Now if the political party is united around any ticket, once the political party is united and the stakeholders are united around any ticket; the ticket would be marketed and it will succeed. Whether that ticket is North-South or North-North or South-South or Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim. So long as all the stakeholders of the party agree that those are the two best people they are presenting. There is no harm and there is no threat at all to either the country or its citizens or the interest of these diverse people that make up the country, because a political party is supposed to be non religious, non ethnic and non regional.

Indeed, in our own case, the APC was founded in 2013, largely to correct the democratic deficit that we saw under the PDP. They include issues of impunity, self-help, political assassination, electoral theft and fraud and rigging. We came to address those issues.

Secondly, by coming together, we tried to bury identity based politics, because of the parties that came together to form the APC, including CPC, ACN ANPP and part of PDP and part of APGA. Our aim is to completely abandon identity based politics, politics of religion and ethnicity to create a neutral national, broad base platform on the basis of which our national growth can be pursued.

The third thing to understand is, any leader elected as president or governor, is not only bound to implement the party’s programmes, but above all, he swears to an oath of office and allegiance to uphold the Constitution of Nigeria that opposes discrimination of any type.

So, when a Muslim becomes the president, he will never discriminate against any tribe. If an atheist, who has no religion, becomes president, he is bound to implement the constitution to ensure that everybody is given pride of place and everybody is served well in the country.

I have no fear whatsoever, I know that in future we can come to a point whereby the members of the party can decide to even bring two Southerners, the president a southerner, the vice president, a southerner or the president Northerner, the vice president Northerner.

People can even bring up a Yoruba vice president and an Igbo president or a Hausa president and a Fulani vice president or anyone from these fine minorities in this country. Thousands of us who have competence and patriotism and capacity and conviction to take this country to another level, minorities, who are neither Hausa nor Fulani nor Yoruba can come up as president and vice president and they will be guided by the Constitution of the party and the Constitution of the country.

Is it correct to say that your group- Friends of KSM- came together to address the little missing link in his nomination?
No, the idea that brought about this Friends of Kashim is that many of the members have been with him in school, in the neighbourhood, in the banking sector, or the corporate environment. People who have been with, who have ran Ministries of Local Government or Ministries of Finance across the country in the forum of chairmen and forum of commissioners of Finance and so on, as well as his friends in the Senate, governors or people that made him, or worked with him in Northern Governors Forum and all these.

These people just have a passionate support for Shettima and they’ve been talking to themselves. So, for us who have been in politics, we actually advised them to organise, show themselves and encourage others. Also, to show that he has friends all over the country, who are passionate and who have given their hearts to support the Tinubu-Shettima ticket to broaden the support base. They would therefore carry the campaign at their basic levels, wherever they live, whether it’s in the village or in the urban centre, whether it’s in the office or in their homes, just to encourage other Nigerians and pursue other Nigerians to vote for this vibrant team of two professionals, Asiwaju and Shettima.

So, basically, it is just an emotional effort and we will try to encourage these people to guide their thoughts and their support towards something productive.

But, we have no doubt about the fact that both Asiwaju and Shettima are outstanding leaders in our own party, who have served, held public office as governors and as senators, and both of them have done very well.

They have no issues with anybody or any part of the law and they are the best our party is presenting. So, we know that they are well-received by our party throughout the country and we are campaigning vigorously for the party as well as their candidature. So there is no shortcoming or defect in the ticket whatsoever. This Friends of KSM just emerged to also complement and give their heart out to take the party and the ticket to success.

Being an insider, how do you react to insinuations that Shettima overwhelmed his successor, Umara Zulum, not to accept to be Tinubu’s runningmate?
The relationship between Shettima and Zulum is that of mutual trust and mutual respect. The decision as to who should be vice presidential candidate is neither with Kashim Shettima nor with Zulum.

So, the idea that Shettima browbeat Zulum to back out is actually not true. That is mere street talk by people who don’t know the system and the process that led to the emergence or the decision to choose the vice presidential candidate.

There was no open contest for office of vice president in the first instance. They didn’t pitch anywhere and like you know, those people who ran for the presidential ticket came to the Eagle Square with their agenda and promises, mounted the rostrum and addressed our delegates. That wasn’t so in the case of the vice presidential candidate.

So, there was no open contest, there was no open agitation of any sort, and both Shettima and Zulum as well as many others that I know, numbering 15, 20, some whose names have not even come to the open, are all capable, exceptionally good people and leaders who could complement the ticket of Asiwaju.

The consultation was done privately all over among our party leaders and stakeholders and eventually, after extensive consultations, Asiwaju arrived at Shettima; it was not contested and it was not disputed by Zulum or any of the other leaders.

The only leaders that actually showed their anger were Dogara and B.D Lawal, for reasons best known to them. Now, actually their fight has taken them overboard to even leave a party that had been so good to them and a party that they have contributed so much to its building.

But, the point is that there is no controversy really, and there is no dispute or crisis in Borno State between Shettima and Zulum.

COTTON SUITES

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