Interview with Alhaji Sheu AbudlGafar

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The Dan Madami of Ilorin, Alhaji Sheu AbudlGafar (OON) is a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State, he was at a time the President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendant Progressive Union (IEDPU). In this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, he speaks on Kwara politics as well as the chances of individual politicians vying for the gubernatorial seat under the platform of PDP in the forthcoming 2019 general elections in the state. Excerpts:

What is generating debates in the society now is what seems like desperation among the gubernatorial aspirants to succeed Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, how do you view this?

The phenomenon is as a result of political awareness, and since democracy gives room for such, they are all welcomed. But at least, among them all, one person stands tall. The larger number of aspirants vying for the number seat is a new development in Kwara State on election but it is good. The interesting thing is that at the end of the day, one person will represent the party.

For over 30 years, you’ve known the person of Saka Isau (SAN,) what attributes of him do you want to sell out?

No doubt, I’m very close to Saka Isau, in fact, his political history cannot be complete without mentioning me because myself and Aremu Subair, the Mogaji Are of Ilorin encouraged him and his two other friends to join politics. We brought them into party politics as far back as 1990, since then, he has remained active in the politics amongst all the aspirants seeking nominations, Isau edged them out on experience. He has been in politics for over 30years. He is in touch with grassroots since he joined. He is well known across the state having been at one time or the other the lawyer that handles all our party activities, he may not be our legal adviser, but he’s our grassroots lawyer. He handles all our political problems associated with members of parties that we’ve been in the last 30 years. Isau is cool headed, and I believe he has interest of people generally at heart considering his performance in two public offices he ever held. As Attorney General, he brought quite many changes to the Ministry of justice. He introduced many innovative developments to the ministry. As Secretary to the State Government, he interacted well with the members of the society, he is well known in the three senatorial districts. By his nature, he brought dignity to that office.

Looking at the agitations of the Kwara North that it is their turn to produce the next governorship candidate, what do you think should be done as a matter of urgency to address the issue?

There is nothing wrong if any group demands what they consider fair to them, but there are changes in the political platform under which people now find themselves. If they were to be in APC, that agitation would have worked, but now they are in PDP. I think such clamour for zoning, which they are bringing from the old party to the new one might be a practical miscalculation. Having left APC for PDP, they met some persons in PDP who cannot throw away their chances too. The stage we are in Kwara, each party will be looking for the best candidate that can deliver the state, playing down on the zoning arrangement. There is no zone in Kwara that has not produced Governor at one point or the other; the three senatorial districts have done that, though their tenures of office were different issue entirely. Alhaji Sha’aba Lafiagi from the North came on board as governor not as a result of party but military rule; his tenure was terminated based on the type of government that was in vogue then. Some people are saying Kwara North has not produced Governor, no, they have. For zoning arrangement, we should leave the party to sort out this area. More also, in the dynamic politics we found ourselves, we must look for a credible candidate that is sellable knowing well that we are competing with a strong opposition in the state, we need to believe this otherwise we’ll be deceiving ourselves. Many people left APC for PDP and vice-versa, the changes are there. For a party to succeed, there should be proper screening of the candidate they want to present, in terms of acceptability, political experience as Kwara cannot just be toiled with. Probably if there had been no changes in the political formation, if we had remained in APC, we could say the party had ruled for 8 years with candidate from Kwara South, then we should move to region, but the situation has changed. The PDP is a new party again to us, we were there before we left, coming back with a new frontier, we cannot carry our party old arrangement into the new one. In this circumstance, the best option is to look for a good candidate.

Some members of the state had complained recently that Kwara is one of the poorest state in Nigeria, do you think your friend, Saka Isau (SAN) being a lawyer has the prerequisites to cause positive changes on our economy and on the backlogs arrears owned the local government workers?

I will not want to agree that our state is one of the poorest, but Saka having been a former SSG and a Head of Service, during the time he held these offices, working hard was the watch word. Isau is sufficiently exposed, he has stayed long enough in the party politics and in government couple with his background and those he had interacted with, I believe this will give him the grace to assemble people who will work with him to change the face of the state for the better. The issue of salaries not being paid at the local government level, is because people do not look inward, there are lots of overlapping in the responsibility of the state and local government. If local government are allowed to function as they should, there will be changes. Isau who knows the legal implication of non performance and who will not introduce impunity into the system. Local government are viable.

Let me take you to Osun State, so far, PDP won the gubernatorial poll, though the INEC has called for re-run elections in some areas, what does all these scenario portend to the chances of your party in the 2019 general elections?

Politics is very dynamic; the Osun State poll is a pointer if PDP can manage its fortune. But we cannot relate Osun experience with Kwara, they are quite different. I am looking at 2019 general elections to be keen because of the political awareness, the youths are now coming into politics, no party can arrogate complete victory to itself, they we all have to work hard. I’m not a lawyer but looking at argument the Osun poll has been generating since the election was declared inconclusive, I believe the law is clear on that issue, INEC is guided by electoral Act and unless it is tested in the court, there has precedence in which the number of registered voters, number of polling stations or polling boot, were more than the differences between the winner and the loser. In such situation the INEC guideline state that the elections should be re-run in those areas. Unfortunately, in Nigeria we don’t have politics of ideology, it is politics of personalities and the likes that we have and human beings are difficult to trust but we should wait and see what the re-run will be like by Thursday.

How do you attend to the allegation that Saka Isau is too exposed being learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria and that he might be too strict and unapproachable?

They are misjudging the person of Saka Isau, we’ve been together for over 30 years. He is quite reserved but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to perform or even do the wishes of the people. He’s such a man we want in power. We have professor who are now Governors. He is quite frank, he doesn’t believe in sycophancy because himself doesn’t play it, he is helpful to many people and he is a silent achiever. Send all these people who are competing with him to their wards, let them go and test their popularity, you will find out that Isau is weightier. He has touched lives and this I believe will count in his favour.

The politics of Kwara appears to be different from other states in Nigeria; many people have viewed it in different ways, what is your position?

I’ve been in Kwara politics for over 40 years, and I have been in ‘Sarakite’ group ever since. The foundation of that politics especially in the Ilorin Emirate centres around a person, the Late Waziri of Ilorin, Dr. Olusola Saraki who was a benevolent, people however believe they have to reward him. Away from the Emirates, his good gesture spread to other local governments, he became a system though not based on any ideology because there is no ideology in Nigeria politics but based on returning good for good. He was very good to us that was why we stood by him, when his son succeeded the dynasty, we work with him also but in everything, there must be a change. The level of literacy in Kwara has improved and that is why we expect the politics of Kwara to change especially among the elites. The elites makes much noise but their impact in election is what I don’t know.

We learnt that the gubernatorial aspirants held a meeting with the State governor few days ago and they were adviced to step down for each other…?

For my personal opinion, I will not adviced anyone to step down for the other. If PDP is bold enough, they should adopt direct primary system, this will make many of them to know their worth, many of the aspirants came on board for recognition. If the primary is carefully and sincerely conducted, the story will change and individual will know how popular and accepted he is. Those who were asked to step down, if they eventually agree may carry out sinister motive against the party. Politics generally in Nigeria hasn’t develop to a situation where you allow voters to chose their own leaders otherwise bring all the members of the party out to chose. APC doesn’t want direct primaries because they want to continue having holds on delegates. But I think if the party leadership is able to compel some of these aspirants, it will be good. Those who have featherweights will continue to think they have supporters. I wish the party leaders narrow down the numbers of aspirants for the governorship so that the party will not be denied of good materials.

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