The former Minister of National Planning, Professor Abubakar Suleiman in this interview with MUMINI ABDULKAREEM AND KAYODE ADEOTI talks about why he has decided to work with Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the gale of defections and the 2019 elections in the state among other sundry issues in the polity. Excerpts:
In recent times, the wind of defection from one party to the other seems to be blowing so hard in the Nigeria polity, how do you see this?
Defection has become a normal process in some parts of developing countries. It is more pronounced in West Africa and most especially in Nigeria; it’s dated back to the first republic. We should see it as a sign of democratic revolution. Democracy is just evolving. It often occur as a result of people lacking faith in political parties or parties lacking ideological substance, when party system is a reflection of federal traits, contradiction and plurality. When all these prevail in the polity, one will expect this type of political situation that is happening. But, it’s just a part of our own history as a people. The recent defection should be seen within that context. It’s our own peculiarity as a nation and shows clearly that something fundamental is wrong with the government of the day. Politicians defected en mass from the ruling APC to the opposition party, I don’t see any member of the ruling party leaving the party if they’re sure that their political institution will win the election that is just some few months away.
In Kwara State, majority of PDP members defected to the ruling party, why didn’t you go with your colleagues?
They’ve their reason for leaving the party, everybody belongs to a political party for a reason, it’s out of their individual volitions. I’m a party man, I’ve passion for PDP, I’ve done so much for the party in the last general election, I believe in the party manifestos and I also believe it can transform this country. Base on my belief and conviction, I don’t see why defection of some people should make me jump the ship and leave what we built.
Would your staying back in PDP not appear as a betrayal of sort to some people as you have strongly criticised the ruling APC before now?
I didn’t join PDP in contract with anybody, I joined as Suleiman Abubakar and we are not into any cult. My staying behind is out of my own decision and conviction. I’m not just a politician but a political scientist. We didn’t join PDP together and we will not leave same time too. So the issue of betrayal cannot come in. Who am I betraying? As a matter of fact I’ve once been in the CPC. Today, some people joined the party out of their conviction, thank God, the party they left some years back is now better. If the Senate President, Bukola Saraki believes that something has gone wrong in the state and we need to fix it, fine. Politics itself is dynamic, Saraki of yesterday and of today might be of different species. If he has realised that we need to fix this state, this country together, why not give him that benefit of doubt. Why must we be jumping all the time? 2003 they came we jumped, 2013 we did same, what did we achieve? This time again, we should leave the party for them? It’s not politically rational. Let’s experiment this new partnership and I have the belief that it will end well. There is a mechanism and sharing formulae in place now. What we are doing is experimentation base on my conviction that things might work better.
Was there any collective decision between you and the leadership of the old PDP before the decision on defection?
There was nothing like that, we never sat down to take any collective decision. What we wanted to do was to explore opportunity with the leadership of the defected APC. We had also, option of talking to the decamped members of the ruling party. We were supposed to meet the Senate President and dialogue. I was awaiting the actualisation of these plans when I read on the social media, the defection of my party members to APC. We never sat down to agree on this decision. Some group of people just decided to abscond, though they’re at liberty. Some have grudges with the Senate President, yes I’ve mine too but that doesn’t mean I should die with my aspiration, my visions and that is why I’m giving room for reconciliation, dialogue, one has to be fluid and dynamic.
There appears to be a kind of division in the former PDP now…?
No, there is none, for every cause, there must be a clear methodology with means of achieving goals. We have the vision but all along we are in one faction or the other which is very fundamental, we lack unity. For three years, we were bugged down with factions, there was faction in that party even up to the time of this defection. One thing I’ve always stressed then was that if we are moving to another party, we should agree on one candidate. But they said it is not possible. As at now, about four aspirants are gunning for the gubernatorial ticket and by the time this defected PDP gets integrated into APC, then, they will discover that many faction exist in that party. We are lacking focus. With the kind of factionalisation that exist in APC they’ve moved to now, they might not be able to sail smooth in the poll
With the coming together of the APC blogs in Kwara state, coupled with the Federal Government might, it won’t be out of place to say your party will not have it rosy in the 2019 poll.
We had the federal might in 2015, yet it yielded nothing.
(Cuts in)…. it was not President Buhari
Buhari was there when election was held in Bayelsa yet APC failed. What APC government did during Ekiti State general election cannot be repeated in Kwara State. Every state government looks up to his state during the election while Buhari will look up to the centre. Mobilisation of troops to one state will not be possible again because the resources will not even be there. The concentration on one state will not be there. If anybody believes that they will mobilise troops to Kwara to get rid of Saraki, that person must be a joker of the century. The man Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki is now more solid than before.
…how do you mean?
Saraki of 2015 was just with his people but many members of APC of yesterday are with him now, including the former Deputy Governor, Chief Joel Ogundeji and myself weren’t with him in 2015 but we’re now on the same page with many other personalities that matters. He has better supporters now, he has not lost many people, we have lost much.
We learnt the present APC in the state are now meeting with members at the national level, was that decision in the horizon before the defection?
No doubt about the fact that other forces want to seize power from the Senate President in Kwara, there is no doubt also about the fact that lots of people are reaching out to leaders in the South/West and other parts of the country. But Tinubu, the party national leader is having challenges in Lagos state with the Banires, El-Rufai is facing same in Kaduna state with Shehu Sani and Humunyi. Kogi State Governor is having his trying times too. I believe we should sit down with the Senate President and the Governor to make them see reasons why Kwarans are angry, we must make them realise why they need to effect a change in the style of their leadership, going out of the party is not the best solution. Don’t forget the Senate President is facing some challenges too and he has told some of us that there is no sacrifice that will be too much for him to make, he’s ready to make concession. Saraki is going to surprise Kwarans in 2019 with the steps he is going to take.
How has the relationship been with the decamped APC members and has there been any meeting on the sharing formular to decide who gets what in the forthcoming poll?
The relationship has been very cordial, we have been meeting with both the Senate President and the Governor and some other stakeholders in the state. They’ve given us enough assurance of fair play, of justice, equity and within the next two weeks, I am confident we are going to have a united Kwara state.
You’ve long declared your intention to vie for the governorship seat under the platform of PDP, with this massive defection of many political big wigs into your party, would you still continue your aspiration?
Yes, I’m still much in the race, it has not altered my ambition and I believe what will be will be. I’ve said this on many occasions, my ambition is not worth the blood of anybody and is not borne out of desperation, if it is the will of God for me to be governor, then it will come to pass, I leave everything to God. Saraki and the Governor of the state have assured us of transparency. In other word, I’ve told God that if my ambition will end me in hell, God should give me a better thing.
Would you continue to work for the party if you’re offered a lower office?
It is left for people to decide not me, what is important is service to the people.
The Senate President was linked to the incident of Offa banks robbery by the police; do you see any political undertones in this?
What has become permanent feature of Buhari’s government is persecution. Many people have said linking Saraki to Offa robbery incident is persecution, I will not say no to that. As long as you’re not with him, Buhari will go out to bring you down. I will not want to debunk the assertion that all the attempts made against Saraki by the IGP and the President is just a way of humiliating him. I’m a victim of Buhari led administration; his government is good when it comes to injustice. And I’ve always been saying it, when you travel on the way of injustice, you won’t end well.