interviewBy Mike Ogbu
USTAZ ABUBAKAR YUNUSA is a staunch supporter of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate in 2003 and 2007, Mohammed Buhari. In this interview with Reporter, MIKE OGBU, he explains why over 80,000 members of The Buhari Organisations (TBO) in Yobe State, who were former members of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), defected in sympathy with forme Head of State, to the newly registered Congress For Progressive Change (CPC). He also speaks on the chances of the new party to win elections in 2011 among other issues.
You are one of those eyeing the governorship of Gombe State in 2011. What is your background in terms of partisan politics as a basis for your ambition?
I worked briefly with former Bauchi State; that is, Gombe Bauchi put together and I left the service to join politics in 1993. That was during the National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) era. It was the consensus of the people of Yamaltu Deba Local Government of the defunct Bauchi State, particularly all the civil servants, from commissioners, permanent secretaries, down to the last person that I should resign my appointment to contest for the local government chairmanship under the National Republican Convention (NRC) then. Our son, Alhaji Dahiru Deba (Wazirin Deba) was the incumbent Governor of Bauchi State by then and was from our local government, so it was felt that as the chief executive of the state we should have somebody back home that could help him, hence the civil servants from the area came together to agree that I should resign and contest for the post. I answered the clarion call to serve my people. As the campaign was going on in that respect, just two or three days to the primary election, which was scheduled on a Saturday, the Interim Government of Ernest Shonekan came to an abrupt end and Abacha took over and subsequently pulled down the NRC and SDP structures.
I was reinstated into the service because, after the coup, the governor before he handed over, he really pleaded with the military that took over the administration that there were some people who left for some political purposes and since it had been taken by them he pleaded that we should be reinstated. I got reinstated and then voluntarily resigned to pursue my political career; that was in November 1993. Since then I remained. The zero-party came on board but I didn't participate then because it was late. It was during the political experiment under the UNCP and DPN arrangements where about 5 political parties were registered that I came back home to my people, filed my papers, contested for the House of Assembly under Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) and graciously we won all my local government votes, all my constituency seats were delivered to DPN, courtesy of Alhaji Mohammed Dahiru Deba, the former Governor of Bauchi State, and who was also my political mentor. We were seven or eight months when Abacha died and the whole political structures too were pulled down by General Abdulsalami and then put the present arrangement of PDP, APP and others. Under the APP, we regrouped ourselves and I participated, though I headed for the National Assembly in 1999 but at the primary election I lost. I even thought that was the end of the contest and we should wait till 2003 but fate had it in 2000 when the State Assembly was just about a year the person who we elected representing my constituency resigned from the House and the member happened to be the speaker of the House and after resignation a vacuum was created, which made a bye-election inevitable so I filed all my papers.
In the election that ensued I emerged the winner. That was how I came on board and represented my constituency from 2000 till the end of 2003. At the end of 2003, I still wanted to retain my seat but I lost. In 2007, we regrouped ourselves. I went in first for House of Representatives representing Yamaltu Deba Constituency and at the primary election, there was a consensus and I emerged the consensus candidate after filing my papers but at the top in Abuja, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari felt I should be a better candidate for a Senator, hence my papers for the House of Reps were repackaged and I picked the form for Senatorial seat and I filled it. In 2007, I was the ANPP Senatorial candidate representing Gombe Central Senatorial district and we went into the election, unfortunately I came second to PDP. I lost out the election and I didn't challenge its outcome. I took fate and we are now gearing for 2011 election, when we were in ANPP I even filed my papers to contest for gubernatorial seat in Gombe State, unfortunately some couple of weeks ago some events took place, which warrant us to leave ANPP but with this re-grouping, I discussed with my political associates to see whether I can go for governorship or not.
You are a staunch member of The Buhari Organisation (TBO) Now that he has decided to leave ANPP, are you and your other members going to follow him wherever he goes?
Yes, if we saw Buhari as our mentor because we have been carried away by his discipline in his exemplary leadership. He has been tested and trusted. We have seen how he was the governor in the defunct North East, how he was Head of State, then later the assignment given to him by Petroleum Trust Fund. We saw how he performed creditably and he has no record of corruption because he has zero tolerance for corruption, he is a disciplined person. We saw it during his 20-month stay when the government of Shagari was toppled. The kind of thing he tried to do to the country. So, this really carried us away and we automatically look at him a living legend in Nigeria. And this gave birth to the (TBO) in the first place, now since the man has decided to decamp from the party, we have to go with him, so as I am saying I am no longer an ANPP member based on his withdrawal from the party and I am now telling you that I am no longer the member of the party. Even before Buhari resignation, we in Gombe, were the first people to advise him to leave the party and organise his own political party, though he didn't but we as organisation (TBO) nationwide we have transformed and then played key role with some other allies to form a party that is called Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the other task ahead of us is to convince the general public to join the party and this is what we are doing. As I am talking to you now the story of ANPP is history and we are now focusing on this new party called Congress for Progressive Change.
What is your position in CPC and what is the membership?
Well, my position in CPC for now is just like ( I won't even call it a facilitator) somebody who is a supporter helping them to do some of the brain work, helping them to see how the party can metamorphose into a very strong challenging party and let it be the party to beat come 2011 election. So, I am one of the stakeholders. My names are not in the register as those registered by INEC but they recognise me. You can see this letter (showing a letter to the reporter), is a letter of appreciation for my roles played in the CPC and that shows you that I am loyal and dedicated to the party and the leadership for uplifting the party to a greater height, and the National Chairman also wrote to me in appreciation for the effort I have been making towards the take-off of the party.
Atiku and Buhari have presidential ambition and the duo are said to be aligning under a movement ahead of 2011. Don't you foresee a clash of interest in this?
Yes, it is true, they have been talking and the papers have been carrying it and that gave birth to what we call National Democratic Movement and the issue of mega party of a thing, whether we are going to form an alliance, nobody knows but the most important thing is that there are some people of timber and caliber like Tinubu, Olu Falae, Bafarawa, Atiku and General Muhammadu Buhari and others supporting them, like Daniel Saro and even Murtala Aliyu of my state. There are a lot of others in this movement and when this movement came together, they really recognised the leadership quality of General Muhammadu Buhari when they made him their leader and he has been chairing the meeting. I don't think there is going to be conflict of interest, each member of this movement knows his political antecedents and knows where he is heading and everybody has this political interest of finding a proper way to move the country forward. You need the South South, South East and South West to come together to form what is called Southern Nigeria and you need the North West, North East and North Central to form what is called Northern Nigeria. Right from day one those who contested for presidential election have agreed to bury their swords, no issue of presidential ambition first, let us build a frame work and as I am talking to you now we are trying to agree on an acceptable platform.
In the course of your discussion, you have extolled the virtues of Buhari as regards his pedigree and antecedents. In your own point of view, what do you think must have robbed him of the presidency of this country?
The answer is very clear. It was the clash of interest of the elite. The elite, because of the way they fashion the level of corruption, seeing themselves first, they are very egocentric, they don't like people like Buhari in their midst. That is just that and I think we are having a departure now because it is no more news when you are in government you do what you like and you will be celebrated back home by your people and I think this thing there is a gradual departure and the virtue now is going to be extolled . But thank God, the same man who was our leader for eight years, Gen. Obasanjo, when he put the EFCC despite how they were desperate to nail Buhari, they couldn't find anything, there were so many attempts to check his accounts abroad and thank God, the man did not even have nothing in his account abroad. Even back home, he doesn't have anything, so there is nothing to nail him as far as corruption is concerned. So, the man is unbeatable. Let me tell you, even those in glass house, they shouldn't throw stones but they threw once and Buhari was exonerated. The kind of tests, which Buhari was subjected to, if some of them are subjected to such, they would have been corrupted.
Political reform has become a matter of controversy. What is your view on it?
Well, we have already written a paper and made our stance known and we of Buhari school of thought actually submitted our position papers to the Uwais Committee. Our position is that there is nothing wrong so far with the Nigerian constitution because in all these reforms, there was no time they were allowed to take their course. We don't respect the constitution and follow it to the letter. There has been a total disregard to the electoral laws. If the laws could be allowed to take their course, there is nothing wrong. We are reforming the laws that have not been tested or respected by the people that put it in place, if you have to test it, respect it before condemning it. Though we Nigerians are very good in formulating good laws but we will not allow the law to take place and we will say it is faulty. For example there was a court ruling that all these bumps that were put in place by the FCT Minister should be removed but till today they are still there, the minister under the PDP leadership refused to follow the court order and they are claiming rule of law. So, the issue is not the electoral laws or constitution talk let alone reform, nothing is wrong with them, it is the human factor.
At the inception of Yar'Adua's administration, there was this agreement that no member of ANPP should join the call for Government of National Unity (GNU) but some of them reneged. What is your view on the joining of the GNU by the party members?
Naturally, we were against; it is one of the so many factors that made us to leave ANPP. This is a government that does not respect the rule of law. If not, the former Vice President and his master, that he took 13 times to court, and he won, tell me who has won case against PDP, we don't want to say that they bought the judiciary but you can see at any time any judgement is made, the judge is promoted, he would be given incentives so that the judiciary would be made to compromise the position.
Nigerians have lost confidence in the integrity of INEC to conduct fair and credible election in Nigeria. And with the conduct of Anambra governorship election and the defeat of PDP at the polls, what does that portend to our democracy in 2011?
We in the opposition who have been calling on PDP to observe the rule of law, we are really happy with what happened in Anambra. Before we were very skeptic about the whole scenario. Whether you like it or not. We expressed this skepticism and then we were proved right, the largest party in Africa (as it claims ) could not organise itself into internally democratic setup to conduct primary to evolve flag bearer in Anambra, it failed woefully and that shows how disorganised PDP is because all eyes were on them, they criticise even some of us who were saying that INEC was not in a position to conduct election at all, but they kept giving us assurances upon assurances that they could conduct election. So, there was so much tension on them. The opposition was on them, and then they were able to do the right thing despite the fact that majority of the voters were disenfranchised and this was how they intend to rig the election by falsifying the voter register. Even Governor Peter Obi couldn't vote because his name was not on the register and that was what happened to me during my election in 2007. The polling unit in front of my hamlet, there was no voting materials till sunset and that was what they wanted to do in Anambra but thank God the choice of the people prevailed, the choice of the masses prevailed. Even in Gombe, in 2007, the governor declared that there was not going to be election simply because it was his friend that was deployed to the area as Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state and they declared him winner, so I am telling you if we can conduct ourselves at least to the level of what Anambra did during the recent election, I am telling you we will see a different Nigeria under a different leadership and we will move forward in this country.