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I Will Ensure Free, Fair And Transparent Elections – Mustapha Speaks On APC Chairmanship

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Saliu Mustapha
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I Will Ensure Free, Fair And Transparent Elections – Mustapha Speaks On APC Chairmanship

 Mallam Saliu Mustapha, a former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), is a frontline contender for the national chairmanship position of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he speaks on why other aspirants should back him as the consensus candidate ahead of the national convention. He also revealed his plans for the party if elected as the national chairman. Excerpts: 

Saliu Mustapha

There are reports that the APC leadership wants the next national chairman to emerge by consensus. As one of the leading aspirants, are you in support of that? 

I will be in support of anything that propels me to be the national chairman of our great party, APC. Politics is all about interests and it is also about strategy of what you think can give victory to your party. My number one reason for saying this is because APC needs a remodeling which can only come when you listen to the clamour of the younger generation by having a younger person to come and pilot the affairs of the party. On my part, I have had a rich experience in party administration. I was a deputy National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the legacy parties that merged to form the APC. When you are in a time like this when the younger generation are now a deciding factor in political matters, you must listen to their yearnings because any party that must win the next general election must consider the 80 million votes the youths are bringing to the table. if you risk not carrying them along , not giving them a sense of belonging or not making them feel part and parcel of the APC, then we are going to suffer a major backlash.

Why do you say that? 

Already, our number one joker in the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari who has always had a bank vote of over 12 million votes will be an outgoing president. To compensate for that, we must bring something else that can help the party in the next general election. That is why some of us who have worked dearly for this project believe in my aspiration. They know that I will be a bridge builder and I will be able to connect between the young and the old. When the youths see me there, they will know they have a stake in that party. Lastly, I am somebody who has a listening ear. So, having someone like me there will also give aggrieved members a sense of belonging. These members believe that it is time we have a change of direction from having former governors, senators or ministers as national chairman. I believe politics is about giving people a sense of belonging and making them feel like a part of the big family. It is also about consultation and carrying people along. These are some of the things I want to achieve if I am elected as the next national chairman.

You’ve never held any executive position before. Don’t you see this as a weak point compared to some former governors who are also in the race? 

What people don’t understand is that party administration is different from executive administration. In party administration, you must give people a sense of belonging and carry them along in decision making. In executive administration, people come into office with an executive toga. They dictate to everybody and issues directives without carrying anyone along.

We cannot forget the impact of the EndSARS protest on the nation now. The EndSARS has further deepened the interest of the younger generation. They now the potentials and the powers they have. As bad as PDP is, they brought in a 25-year-old young man as their National Youth Leader. What can the APC do better? They can’t do better by bringing another 20 year-old as their national youth leader. I believe the only way the APC can do better is by bringing somebody from the younger generation that can be a bridge builder on board as the national chairman. Doing so will automatically give the APC the goodwill and empathy of the Nigerian youths. Some of these things are what makes me believe that if given the opportunity, I will lead APC to another round of victory in the 2023 general elections.

If you are lucky to emerge as that consensus candidate, what will you do differently as APC chairman? 

If I am chosen to be that consensus candidate, it will be the best decision the APC stakeholders will make because among all the aspirants, I am the only person that appeals to the youths as well as the elders of the party. I strongly believe that if I am chosen as the consensus candidate, all the other aspirants will gladly support my choice because they all know my capabilities as an effective grassroots mobiliser with effective leadership skills needed to give the party the victory in the forthcoming elections.

I also promise that if I emerge as the consensus candidate and I become the national chairman, I will not abuse the opportunity given to me. We have seen how some former political office holders who have held the post of APC national chairman have abused the opportunity. But I believe that the APC stands to benefit a lot if I emerge as the national chairman. To me, the most important thing we should consider is winning the general election and retaining our position as the ruling party.

I can also assure you that I will entrench party discipline and supremacy such that all party members must abide by the party manifesto, constitution and code of conduct. That is when people will take our party serious. I will ensure compliance from the national to the ward level. There won’t be a situation whereby somebody in zone A is doing something different from another person in zone B. We have a manifesto we adopted and campaigned with, so why can’t we tailor our activities through this manifesto?

Are you sure the convention will hold in February? 

For me, anything that the party leadership decides on, I will stand by it. If you recall, the last time the Secretary addressed a press conference, he announced some committees. So, I believe it is a work in progress. I believe that there is no cause for alarm concerning the date of the convention. I believe that the right thing will be done by the party leadership. Those who are at the helm of affairs of the party are seasoned politicians who also know the implication of us not getting it right.

If you become the national chairman, do you have what it takes to lead the APC to victory by defeating the PDP in 2023?

I believe that the APC has the capacity to defeat the PDP in the 2023 presidential election. I am 100 percent certain about that. I said so because having compared the two parties, Nigerians know that APC is the better party. The only problem that APC has right now is that nobody has been marketing our deliverables. Nobody has been marketing the dividends of this government to Nigerians. APC under my leadership will introduce the new media into the system now such that anything we are doing, it will be made available to Nigerians to see. We will also ensure that the government will work in tandem with our manifesto and the promises we made during the electioneering campaign. As somebody who is aspiring for this position, I will also ensure there is a free, fair and transparent election whereby popular candidates will emerge at our primaries. By the time you have that, our general election will be halfway won already. I say so because if popular candidates emerge at your primaries, then you will have less campaign to do.

There are two factions of APC in your state, Kwara. Don’t you think this will work against your aspiration to be APC’s national chairman? 

I don’t think so. One, we don’t believe there are factions in Kwara. Two, we have this family approach to our politics generally in APC. Yes, disagreement is inevitable in politics. But we have just one leader, and that is President Muhammadu Buhari. We all defer to him. And I’m sure at the right time he will call everybody to order. For me as an aspirant and a major stakeholder in Kwara today, nobody can say he joined APC before I did, by virtue of my position in the legacy arrangement that brought about the merger. So that’s why when you said faction, I said I don’t belong to any faction. All I know is that I’m in APC, and there’s one APC. These few people who have different approaches or perceptions to what is on the ground, I don’t have any problem with any of them. I’m well accepted by everybody. When I had a programme recently, the other people that I thought are not with the government, were all at my function. So when I get this position, it will be one of my first litmus tests to see how I can reconcile everybody.

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