Kwarans paying for electing incompetent, incapable administration – Baraje

Former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje in this interview with newsmen in Ilorin to mark his 70th birthday speaks on the failures of the APC administration in Kwara and national level among other issues: ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM was there. Excerpts:
How can you describe your relationship with former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and why has it waxed stronger over the years?
The relationship is that of brotherhood, that’s simply what I can call it. If you were here when the prayer was on, the officiating cleric said if you see two people who are always together, it is because their ways, beliefs and principles of life happened to be the same. So if you see my humble self and former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki always going together, it is because our way of life is the same. One major thing is that people look at us from a distance and say it is a master-servant relationship, but that is not the case. I think by today you know how old he is now considering the years I am celebrating and yet you still find us together and I say yes sir to him in public because he shall ever remain my boss and my leader. Politically, you understand why he is my leader and boss. I was a civil servant when he came in as the governor of the state and under him I served as a permanent secretary, one in government house and one as that of General Statistics under him. He is also my brother because he extends that hand of fellowship and brotherhood to me and treats me like a senior brother. When you find us sitting in a private table, I also talk to him like a junior brother because he gives me that opportunity. So my relationship with Dr Bukola Saraki is multidimensional, he is my leader and he publicly acknowledge our brotherly relationship. One thing you must know is that no matter how high anybody is, usually he has very few people around him that he listens to. I thank God I’m one of them.
Before the advent of the fourth republic, party supremacy was supreme where the National chairman was far and above even the president of the nation and same thing in the state. But now the President and Governor is more powerful than the national and state chairmen. Are you comfortable with the trend or there is a need for us to go back to what it used to be?
That is one of the reasons why our politicking or democracy is having crises. As a onetime national secretary people often referred to as engine room of the party, PDP policies emanates from the office in accordance with the constitution of the party. I used that window to impress on the then president, late Umar Musa Yar’Adua, who was not only a democrat but also a thorough party man. It was in one of our national executive council meetings that he announced that party should come first in any political gathering. That was one of the major achievements we had even before I became the national chairman because it automatically guaranteed checks and balances. So we made it crystal clear that the party comes first and when the president is invited to the national secretariat, we give him instructions and refer him to our manifesto, the tradition of working in accordance to the manifesto. So we were able to reenact the concept of party supremacy, what I inherited was a kind of the hangover from the military rule, which just ended in 1999, people had almost forgot about party politics and supremacy of the party. So when the then president took over who happens to be member of PDP and who had a military background, he brought in the military idea that everything must emanate from the centre. But I thank God I had an understanding President who was a democrat, he didn’t live long but we manage to bring back the idea of party supremacy which is lacking today in our politics. Until we begin to see the party as supreme and everything not centered on the president or governor, party politicking and democracy shall continue to suffer. The PDP constitution as amended right now and as of that time was fashioned strictly after ANC in South Africa where the party chairman holds a meeting regularly with the National Working Committee of the party and the Vice President is also a member a functional member of the legislature…that is what you’ll find in the PDP constitution. My effort was to bring that back and sanitise the party. It worked greatly throughout my period. So until both PDP and any other party begin to regard the party as supreme, we shall continue to have more problems.
As a former PDP National chairman, what do you think is the cause of the crises in the party and what have you been doing to ensure that the party is organised before 2023?
Differences is inavoidable. Any political party even in America like what we witnessed during the Trump administration and what is ongoing now in a country which prides itself as the most advanced democracy in the world, …so in all democracies and political parties, you must have differences, that is why it is a party, it is only abnormal when it is becoming a tradition. Party crisis is all over the country and not only in PDP. In other parties particularly in the APC, it’s worse and by the time their crises will burst, there won’t be APC again. In PDP we have already started by setting up a reconciliation committee headed by our own leader here and President of the 8th Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki to bring back cooperation, integration and reconciliation. And by the way PDP works, which is one of the most wonderful ways I have ever seen, what looks like impossible today, let 2023 get closer, in fact let it be the eleventh hour, then you’ll know the capacity of PDP. You have witnessed it before, we fight, we throw chairs, we do everything, at the eleventh hour to the election you’ll just see that we normalise things. So we are talking to ourselves and I’m happy committee of former chairmen, former national secretaries, former speakers, former senate presidents and former governors are all meeting and talking and before you know it by middle of this year you’ll begin to see magic that PDP does.
I want to note that there is no way that the history of APC will be written without the mention of your name. In retrospect, do you regrets playing any role in the formation of APC and if you have a chance to meet president, what will you tell him?
As politician I will reject any invitation, If I have any opportunity to speak with President Muhammadu Buhari today. I will humbly reject it even if I’m invited. There are times advice is effective and there are times they are not to me, there is no advice that can redeem the level at which things have gone today in Nigeria with Mr President. In the first instance, such invitation will never come talk less of saying whether I will reject it or not. Secondly, it is on record that during the 2019 general election, some of us have spoken out our minds on what we expect and after the election I also commented, other prominent Nigerians have spoken their minds, they’re still speaking. Bit those people that have been speaking, have they accepted any of their suggestion? Have they implemented any or shown any concern for such contributions? As far as I am concerned this present administration knows everything and they have the answer, whether the answer is adequate or not, you and I know better. The masses unfortunately are the people we’re worried about. Also, I will not tell you whether I regret or not but what I always thank God for is that as a politician, I remain focused with my principles of serving the people. The moment we got into the agreement to form APC, I realised that the people whom we sat down to discussed and arranged with on the way we want to run government if we win the election, but they did not waste time to show us that all these agreements have been swept under the carpet after we won. None of all those arrangement we brought from PDP were implemented. This government is full of lies but some will say “it is because he didn’t get what he wants in PDP.” But now the language is clearer to all of us when I call them liars, dishonest people, you now know better. I’m sure the people are regretting now.
What do you make of the worsening security situation in the country?
Anybody who is of the view that the issue of security is not a matter of concern is not interested in the unity of Nigeria. The issue of herdsmen is deeper than what people are showing, it’s deeper than what you and I are seeing. If they want to be honest, let them tell us who are these herdsmen and the question I want to ask is that, is it today that we have herdsmen in Nigeria? Some of our people have intermarried in the community they settled, so suddenly overnight they became danger to the people. The question I will ask myself is are they the same people, are they the same Fulanis? I cannot tell you the answer to the problem, but if we’re not careful, that problem will boomerang and the name Nigeria will be in danger.
What is your view about the APC government of Kwara State so far and the refusal to swear in the PDP candidate, Agboola?
First is that Kwara now is dealing with the issue of capacity and competency, that one is there. When people are competent and have the capacity, it will be apparent. So we believe very sincerely that the led are learning, they were tricked and blindfolded then so they’re singing different song now. From ‘Otoge’, it is now ‘Osuwa’. But now that they are in power, they found the shoe too big as a result of dishonesty of purpose and of getting to power with lies and deceit. That is what happened. The PDP has not gone into oblivion in Kwara. In Kwara if we are not on ground, they will not pick our own leader to come and solve the problem at the national level. On the issue of the PDP candidate which the House has refused to swear-in, the last time PDP was in power in Kwara state and opposition won election, the then speaker, Dr Ali Ahmad swore-in those people with immediate effect. It is by law and if you say you’re honestly leading the people, you should obey the law. The unfortunate thing is that some members of the house of assembly don’t know they’re are destroying their political career. But I sympathize with the leadership of the House and the Speaker. He’s a young man who has a bright political future ahead and some people are helping him to ruin that future. I will advise him with alacrity to swear in Agboola so that the whole world will see that he is a law abiding politician. I have been in ruling and opposition party, they’re both very enjoyable. If you have a ruling party that is tolerant, honest and has a purpose of serving the people, it is the opposition that is supposed to be enjoying because they will always put them on their toes. Unfortunately, the ruling party in the country is not only intolerant, they don’t even listen. As the ruling party then, I know how we woo opposition members, we meet them and ask for their opinion when they wanted to deny, we published some of our pictures in public how we sat with them to listen to them. Ask APC today how many times they have called us for any input in the government. Nigeria belongs to both the ruling and the opposition parties and you must have a table where you call the opposition, sit down with them and listen. But the APC have cultivated the culture and tradition of lies that they cannot go back, they can’t because when they try to say the correct thing now people won’t believe, so the only thing left for them is to continue to tell lies and deceive people
The South has said 2023 should be their year for the presidency but there are already vibes coming from the north central about the propriety of the region’s turn, what is you view on this?
The PDP has always made it clear that zoning brings understanding and doesn’t allow power to be concentrated in one region. That is why we took the issue of zoning very seriously in PDP and 2023 will not be different. I know there is very strong committee working on that now, that is why you haven’t seen many people saying they want to vie for the presided. When the time comes, you will hear the right thing from PDP. Whether it’s going to come to North Central or it’s going to the South East or it’s going to the South West, as things begin to unfold, you will know. PDP will have its own convention so for now, let’s be patient.

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