Frontline contender for the chairmanship position of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and a former National Deputy Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mallam Saliu Mustapha, has said that one of the reasons he is contesting the position is to blow Buhari’s trumpet, to make noise about his achievements while in office. In this interview with JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, he spoke on that and other issues.
One major concern within the APC is the issue of the dominance of governors. There is this belief that they have hijacked the party structure. If you are made the party chairman, how do you hope to reconcile the differences between the governors and other interested party leaders?
It is all about approach, modus operandi. If I’m made the Chairman today, the way and manner I will lead the National Working Committee is not to be dictatorial but to work together as a team. The moment there is teamwork; it will be difficult for an individual to subvert the will of a united front. Don’t forget that every member of the EXCO will be from a particular region, and from a particular state, representing those governors or those powerful interests, that you are assuming will want to go against the NEC. By the time we’re doing things jointly with whoever represents the state or zone, it will be difficult for power blocs or major stakeholders in the state or locality to feel aggrieved because they will know that their interests are being protected. That is why I’m saying I will do things differently. It’s all about experience, how you manage people, how you’re able to carry them along.
One thing that the opposition may use against you in a future election is the issue of security. What do you have to say to PDP members who may use insecurity as a potential weapon in their campaign against the APC government?
No PDP man should raise his head or open his mouth to challenge APC as far as insecurity is concerned. This is because we are only trying to contain what they, under their watch, started. They are lucky to have a party that believes in the rule of law, and tenets of democracy. That’s why we don’t want to make it a political issue. Anybody that means well for this country should not use insecurity which is a global problem as a political tool to challenge the order. But it’s unfortunate that whenever PDP people talk on this issue, they give the impression that we’ve not managed it properly. But it started under their watch. What did they do? I believe that, so far, this government has done extremely well under the circumstance we find ourselves. There is room for improvement, no doubt. It is only one who has not experienced or lost a loved one through this insecurity that will think it’s a laughing matter. I’m waiting for PDP to challenge me on that. I will reel out statistics of how we have been able to manage better than what they did.
Beyond the issue of security, after seven years of managing Nigeria, can you say that APC has met the expectations of Nigerians by fulfilling the obligations that brought your party to power?
We have done a lot. This administration has done very well. Infrastructure-wise, name it! Even rail is a major achievement. But because we don’t blow our trumpet enough, some people just assume and say anything they like. That is why some of us have decided to contest this election so that we’ll be able to let people know our achievements. Buhari has a legacy that must be protected. Globally, we have seen what the pandemic has done. I’m just coming from abroad. People should not think that Nigeria is an isolated case. We’re doing our best. In fact, in America today, anybody you talk to, will tell you that they are voting out Joe Biden in the next election because he has not been able to meet some of their expectations. And when I take them up, they will say, look, Nigeria is far better. The problem is how we portray ourselves, how we market or sell whatever we’ve done. I’m sure before the end of his tenure President Buhari will have recorded more successful goals. In fact, one of the major ones is that in the past administration who signed budget before 1st of January? Before now, December, January, and February were wasted months. But people don’t realize that this is a major achievement that, January 1, the budget would be ready. That means there is no room for laxity.
This administration has 17 months to go. What would you advise the government to focus its attention on?
My prayer is that another APC government will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Government should be continuous, be it Party A or B. But we are always having this issue of, if this person comes in, he forgets about the other person’s programme or ongoing projects and want to start his own. I think by the time we get out of that, I am thinking we’ll be able to see more result-oriented projects that were started by previous governments. For this administration, my prayer and advice will be for them to conclude many of the good works that were started under Buhari’s watch and launch them so that nobody will come tomorrow to take the credit. I want to assure Nigerians that they will see a lot being achieved in these 17 months that are left. Take insecurity, for instance. From the little I have heard due to my closeness to some people a lot of equipment is coming in, in the days ahead. And, with them, I’m sure insecurity will be a thing of the past. Before the President leaves office this insecurity matter would have been brought to zero.
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.