In this interview with a team from POLITICAL TIMES, former Senate leader, Muhammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) said President Muhammadu Buhari is fixing the rot he inherited from PDP's 16-year misrule and therefore requires another term
Campaigns into all elective posts, such as presidential, governorship, senatorial and others have started, what are the prospects or chances of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in your state and Northeast geo-political beginning with yourself?
Well in my state, I don't want to blow my trumpet or be over confident, any opponent that you have is an opponent and you don't take your opponent for granted but in strict sense of the words, I can say that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not on ground in Borno state.
In a conservative appraisal, what we have is a 'statutory PDP' in Borno state. Curiously, it is a divided house, a herd without shepherd. It is a statutory body because it's just symbolic, it exists only in name, it's a ghost of itself.
Come to think of it, they are already in court, they have two gubernatorial candidates, two senatorial candidates in Borno state; while in so many states, local government councils, they did not even field candidates in the north east. Reconciliation amongst them is rather unimaginable.
I can tell you authoritatively that we don't have PDP in Borno state in the actual sense of it. And even by sheer moral obligation, we in the APC are not supposed to have any other party to contend with in Borno state; because it is the party under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari that liberated our state from erstwhile grip of the insurgents, the Boko Haram. President Buhari is the one that gave us the opportunity to be answering our names, gave us the chance to stay alive to speak to you and grant this interview. If we have remained under the government of the PDP, maybe, many other notable personalities including me would not even be alive, factoring the fact that a whole General Muhammed Shuwa died in their hands.
We sought your view on electoral prospect of the APC in 2019 election because of the crowd the PDP pulled in Sokoto and Ilorin recently, coupled with planks of their campaign, like urging the people to choose between hunger and prosperity. The impression they gave is that under the Buhari-led government Nigerians have been so impoverished and there's some kind of systemic corruption going underground and that APC government is not transparent.
But you know the statement is not true, when Atiku said that it is high time the people voted between hunger and prosperity, he is talking to the Nigerian elite or the PDP elite that are now accounting for their past deeds or are being haunted by the mismanagement of the economy for a solid 16 years. He was not talking to the real Nigerians who are still leaking the wounds inflicted by years of inexplicable mismanagement and wanton corruption on the land. In other word, PDP ought to have been banned. If it were human, it ought to be serving life jail sentence for the injuries it inflicted on our economy, collateral damages trailing its ruination called leadership.
If you listen to their campaign, the people there were hired, they went there for their pay. Number two, whenever they shouted 'Nigeria!'at that rally in Sokoto, the crowd responded "Sai Baba". That's why PDP has stopped saying Nigeria!" and they began saying "PDP, power", in their rallies.
Having said that, you press people are the ones promoting PDP more, you know the truth, you know it was the PDP that ruled Nigeria for 16 years. You know that these characters that are trying to come back are those that mismanaged Nigeria to this level. These people are the Nigerians that took over power in 1999 and moved Nigerians from bad to worse. It is on record, I don't know what PDP are trying to tell Nigerians.
The good thing about it is that it is the same people, same electorates. Of course, there are some new young ones but they too know the history of Nigerian economy. Hence, coming back to say Nigerians are poorer now than at their time is like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. Now that is not true, the elite and the corrupt people are rather the ones becoming poorer than at their time.
The three cardinal points of APC are security, infrastructural development and fight against corruption and it is robustly and systemically being carried out, and the result is there to see, feel and touch. So it is a conglomeration of corrupt people trying to come back to power. This is the same PDP that even apologised and confessed to Nigerians that they have mismanaged the economy.
It was just yesterday that I was thinking about taking the PDP and INEC to court, I want the court to convict PDP and ban them from contesting because many of their products or leaders have been convicted or have been accused of mismanaging or to some extent stealing from the Nigeria's public money.
You spoke of the chances of your party to win in Borno and Nigeria, I wonder if you take into cognisance the fact that the post-primary crisis of the party is still vivid to the extent that the governors of Zamfara, Imo, and Ogun are aggrieved. In fact, In Imo and Ogun, they have directed their members to go to another party.
Let me say it is expected that there should be crisis, just as it has happened in some of the PDP-controlled states too. That there's crisis in APC can be understood, especially as it is a winning party, anyone that wins APC ticket can take it to the bank to cash it, it is as good as becoming a winner
But my emphasis and concern is on President Buhari. He was a sole candidate, there's no dispute, conflict or controversy over his candidature, which is a fact. We have problems in some states and as you mentioned, three states particularly Zamfara, Imo and Ogun which are the most heated ones. We have 36 states so when you have crisis in three states, you don't have to say there is crisis everywhere.
The three states or let's assume its four, which is just about 10% of the total population of the states in Nigeria. So, as I said, if you are to be fair, when you conduct primaries you have 80 to 90% success, therefore with 20% problem, I think you are on the right track. That is human and normal especially as I said when people always think that once you have APC ticket, it's like you have a golden ticket, the remaining is for them to announce that you are a winner.
At the same time in some places, the primaries went smoothly in some states. Within PDP, there are crises as well; that is normal and that does not affect the chances as I said. In APC, we have two products, PDP has no product or it has a bad product.
It is the same party that apologised, vandalised, mismanaged and that brought or promoted all these crises and it's same candidate, they are not bringing anybody new. It is the same, for example, Atiku who was a vice president for eight years and in fact I say this several times that he was one of the most popular and powerful Vice Presidents Nigeria ever produced. If you did not do something before, now that you are74/75, is it the time you would be ripe to do it? Your guess is as good as mine. These are questions Nigerians would easily ask and answer.
Let's look at this aspect where the PDP members are beginning to cry foul. They recently called for the resignation of the IGP and INEC chairman, saying that, there's a report that INEC has started beaming its searchlight on political parties to check against funding, warning that any political party that spends above 1 billion naira would be sanctioned. The PDP believes it was meant to witch hunt them, that it was introduced to gag them from engaging in a free and fair election. What do you have to say about that?
Well, both INEC and the police have the constitutional right to do what they are talking about. The Electoral Act provides what political parties can spent during election. PDP and their group come in with one objective, to buy Nigerians' votes just as they displayed in the elections of Osun and Ondo. They were virtually at neck with us (APC) because they pumped a lot of money and now INEC has realised that, and the civil society groups that observed the election said money played a role which INEC is trying to curtail.
Let me tell you one thing, as long as it is an agency of government under the APC, they would do anything, despite the fact INEC has conducted several elections and people have gone to court, none of the elections was overturned. That means the election is to some extent credible. Except for allowing PDP to conduct the election themselves, nothing is going to satisfy them.
We had an encounter with Atiku's wife recently and she said it is just a misconception that her husband is labelled as a corrupt person. Having being with him for 50 years, she is in the best position to tell the story that he is more upright than those castigating him, how would you react to that?
Is there any wife that can say her husband is corrupt? I leave you to answer that too.
To your own constituency in National Assembly, you saw what played out recently, even in the party primaries, so many senators lost out. Even the Senate President lost his presidential primary too. And when they resumed from that long recess it has not been easy because the idea of reconvening has been difficult, don't you fill vindicated?
You see, I am humbled. When you believe in God, He will be on your side and you will be vindicated. The only thing is that some of us have been tricked and we didn't know until the deed was done. Remember, I was one of those that formed the 'Like minds group' that struggled to take over leadership of the NASS, leading to the emergence of Saraki as senate president
Most of us didn't know that he has personal agenda, much hidden one which was to engage the presidency in a combat of wits; to use the senate presidency seat to sabotage, antagonise, blackmail and rubbish the government; while also making himself to appear like a new prophet or angel in the town.
I said it before they went into their party primaries that Saraki would fail woefully and would only win in Kwara, which he did in addition to some donated votes from Ondo, courtesy of Senator Olujimi. He didn't come out second, but third. You know there is only one God and that God is a Just One. Saraki would be lucky to hold on to Kwara in the next election.
The 'Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative' emerged from the bill you initiated and raised on the floor of the senate. How do you feel about it?
I feel satisfied and as I said even before that I'll feel fulfilled when am leaving the National Assembly. Alhamdullilah! I would say that I have left a legacy behind, and it would in history, and my children, constituents and the entire Borno people would be proud of it forever. Knowing the situation we find ourselves in the north east and the attention that it required and the need for an institutional framework, I feel that I have done something, courtesy of my colleagues because this is one of the fastest bill that was passed in the history of National Assembly and that wouldn't have been possible without the cooperation of my colleagues including Saraki himself.
We noticed that government after government have been coming, people after people, politicians after politicians have been coming yet our roads remain bad, and hospitals are not functioning properly. What do you suggest is the solution?
The destruction PDP has done is what we are trying to fix. You can see it coming up. PDP has done a lot of damage in this country, from 1999 PDP did not add value to Nigeria despite that it was during that period of 16 years Nigeria have been lucky comparable to the days of oil boom. That was even clearly the second oil boom but they mismanaged it. Why are you people not even saying it? Who managed our economy from 1999 to the recent time?
Now PMB has started in 3 significant areas, he didn't take bogus project. Insecurity, who introduced it, of course you can't say there was no such challenge of insecurity in 1995 but cast back your memory to 1999, were we having this level of insecurity? Who then perpetuated it or did it start in 2015 when Buhari took over. Let's go to the issue of infrastructural decay, when they took over in 1999, yes some of our national assets or patrimonies were not effective but instead of turning it around, they began to deceive Nigerians that you can only sell them or privatize them before you can turn them around. What happened, they sold all that to themselves. These are the same people now saying they want to come back to the government. They sold our common patrimonies to themselves and laid off most workers instead of turning those national properties around.
Places like Ajaokuta that they sold off to their prodigies and even vandalized it, let's cast back our minds, look at Aluminum smelting Company in Akwa Ibom, Nitel, Nigerian airways, Nigerian Shipping Lines, they laid down their workers and sold them to their friends and then those companies went into comatose again.
Now look at the issue of corruption, when we took over in 1999, corruption was not at this level, to the extent that at one point a whole PDP leadership on the National TV publicly declared, "stealing is not corruption".
Look at it, they were stealing everywhere and even stealing money that was to be used to fight insurgents. That's why I said, in our place in Borno state and even in the entire north east, when we see PDP, we run to the other side because they are like the father or uncle of Boko Haram. Remember, the NSA at their time said the PDP is Boko Haram.
I am confident, though we may even lose some states, there's no doubt about it because when you talk about PMB, National Assembly, state governments and state house of assembly, are all different phenomenon . For the president of Nigeria, APC is confident that this president would win election at no cost. But we are quite aware that the PDP members are now bringing their money and even amassing dollars to buy Nigerians votes. We would invoke relevant laws to combat that, Nigeria is not for sale anymore, they have auctioned everybody and now want to auction Nigeria, that won't happen.
Atiku said being a business man with vast experience in different business, such as in education, farming, construction places in good stead, saying he would apply such experience to turn gloomy economy around and into prosperity. Do you share his view?
May I ask whether it is PDP trying to take over government or it is Atiku trying to take over Nigeria? It's PDP we are talking about, not Atiku. I don't want to be individualistic in this conversation. To start with, Atiku is from my north east region, he is my elder brother, I have respect for him and he has the right to say what he wants to say. But you know, there's this Hausa saying, that if the person talking is a fool, the person listening might not be a fool.
How do you feel about the handling of APC post-election crisis, are you comfortable with the way Oshomhole is handling it, how else do you think the problem can be resolved?
No, I am not on the same page with the way Oshiomhole is going about it. Well, six different committees have been set up, comprising one per geo-political region. They are working and I don't want to preempt what they are doing. But we were with a father of the party who was very gentle, elderly and smooth, with streak of victories, which is the previous chairman, then you come with a very harsh father, you can't say he is not your father even though he is harsh in style, he is the father of our party regardless. But I think some of the stance that he takes is too hard and I think that contributed to our problem, then some of his actions also contributed to the success because definitely a house without discipline is not a house in order. But also a house that is too stringent is also not a house of comfort. I think he is learning the rope and coupled with the fact that this is a "labour man" coming to manage a party. At the beginning, it would certainly be humpy bumpy and I think it would be OK.
From an observation, in this 8th senate, of all, including those who came in 2015 singing Buhari's praises but all of a sudden as the tenure progress, some of them changed and showed their true colours. You tend to be one lawmaker that has remained steady fast and passionate about Buhari, even during one crisis or the other and while serving suspension punishment, you never wavered, what is the underlying factor?
Let me tell you, my passion for PMB is not personal, it is because I am a son of a poor man, and my father did not go to school and was a subsistent farmer. However, I was lucky that when I was in the secondary school in 1976, Buhari was posted to my state as governor of the north eastern state. I took note of his nature of person and leadership style then and that endeared me to him, he is a mentor to me. That is one.
I am convinced all this while that this man has no personal interest but the interest of a common man and I am a son of a common man, just because I am lucky to escape poverty circle by whisker as a result of mismanagement of Nigeria by some few individuals. So, when I have the opportunity even if it means standing alone, I would stand for the poor man of Nigeria and that is what Buhari stands for.
Nobody would accuse Buhari of anything for his personal interest rather than Nigeria. Nigerian is lucky to have such a leader, therefore we don't need to take chances and stand to watch them smuggling one of them even through the back door. These people have no conscience.
Under the PDP government, can you imagine that somebody stole so much to the extent that he has nowhere to keep the money except in the septic or soak away pit? Do you ever think Nigeria would steal 500 million pounds to him/herself? So I feel very bad when I see people with plastic plates begging for food and arms, of course I could as well have been one of them if I were born during PDP regime.
That is why I am passionate about him, I believe that God almighty which is a just God is with Buhari.
All this people that are trying to take Nigeria back are merciless, hoping they would buy and confuse Nigeria, claiming he is Jibril from Sudan and he doesn't have certificate and all this evil thought. If you look back at these people, it's hard to imagine they are the same people staging a comeback to the government, despite the horror of their antecedents.
Two third of people that attended their rallies, went because of the money they are dishing out, if they make a mistake to say come to our rally without paying a dime, nobody would attend even if they provide transport. Let them try that and tell us if Buhari has ever paid for the rally he conducted. When he was in Maidugiri the last time, at the airport, he asked me where did you get all these people and I replied this is even without notice and he asked "how are we going to manage this youth".
Go and check last year's Hajj commission record, when we went for hajj, 80% that attended from Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoro, some part of Borno and Adamawa are farmers, how did they get the money, because these government helped them with anchor borrowers, they were able to go back to their farm and today you say people are suffering. Go back and see, we are not importing rice again but producing locally, go and see your state and see what farmers are doing, all they know is Buhari because he identifies with them.