It was meant to be a few seconds telephone chat late Saturday night but it ended up dragging for close to forty minutes dwelling on the latest political developments in the polity. During the chat with HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM, Professor of Political Science, Hassan Soliu talked about the declaration of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki to vie for the seat of president next year, the governorship race in the state and chances of President Muhammadu Buhari in Kwara for the 2019 race among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
What is your view about the declaration of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki to contest for president next year and his chances?
Legally, he is qualified to aspire as a true citizen of this country, there is nothing stopping him to vie for the seat. On his chances, I am not a politician but I believe he must have weighed the pros and cons and met his people before throwing his hat into the ring. All what I can say is that I wish him the best of luck, but he is entitled, qualified and has the right to go for the highest office in the country.
How do you see his declaration altering the political narrative in 2019?
Well, let me speak within the context of PDP and you will recall that before his declaration, there were about ten other people who had also indicated their interests to contest for the position. The speculation was that he was going to support one of the aspirants, particularly the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwwal. But now that he too has gone to collect the form, it means that everybody is on his own and the initial calculations and promises made to some aspirants will have to be reviewed in the light of the latest scenario. So certainly, the development is going to rupture the calculation that were made before now and people like former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar especially and other aspirants have to go back to the drawing board.
Going through his declaration speech, what was your impression?
The Senate President used the opportunity to offer himself as the right person who can turn things around. Normally every aspirant or declarant will have to speak on certain issues and position him/herself as the right person to tackle it within that context. No one of them will miss the opportunity to say he should be considered in view of the problems we have in the country to right all the wrongs. I don’t see anything wrong with what Saraki has said as an aspirant. Whether people agree with him or not is a different matter but he has done what a normal aspirant should do. It is left for Nigerians who will elect the president to look at what he has said and make up their minds. He has presented his case and it’s now up to Nigerians to decide.
If he eventually gets the ticket, how do you see him faring against the incumbent?
This is an hypothetical question I must say, but I think we should get to the bridge first before we know how to cross it. The way the primaries of especially the APC and PDP including other political parties are managed will also alter some calculations.
The APC has been promoting and even adopted in some instances, the issue of direct primaries, do you think that is the right way to go now?
Members of political parties will make their demands and either they go for direct and indirect primaries, the two of them are provided for in the constitution of the APC. The senators are talking about direct primaries because they assumed that the governors will have advantage if they go for the opposite and vice versa.
A piece by Ovation Publisher and celebrated columnist, Dele Momodu about Saraki’s presidential ambition trended on many social media platforms and high quarters in the country, what do you make of it?
People are entitled to their own opinion and in politics, perception is also very important which may at times reflect the reality or not. Anything Saraki has said is in furtherance of his interest to become the President of the country and it means that he is fully aware of people’s perception about certain things that have happened around him and he used the opportunity of the audience with Dele Momodu to address such concerns. Also looking at the piece, Saraki is also aware about the perception of some Nigerians about him on the issue of corruption and he has used the opportunity to debunk the notion that he has also looted the Kwara State treasury. He raised the question of how much is coming to the state that anybody will loot without people knowing. I think he has responded and it is now left for those making the allegation to come up with their own fresh allegations or fresh defence. As far as Saraki is concerned, he has challenged them and it is now left for people who may want to differ to now present their case afresh.
How do you see Saraki’s presidential ambition impacting on Kwara?
Every Kwaran should be happy that one of them is coming out to vie for the position and of course, I am also aware of some that are not comfortable with the development. They all have their reasons, I think the middle course is for Saraki to look at some of the issues people are talking about and see what he can do to address them. For the opposition, it is important for them to know that somebody who was unable to meet their expectation as a Senate President may not necessarily mean when he becomes the president, he won’t do more than what he has done. In other words, the two sides should mediate their positions and allow the will of the people to prevail.
Every politics is said to be local, how do you see the governorship race in the state next year among the political parties?
We are in a situation where people are allowed to express their political interest which they are free to do in the context of so many declarations and posters within the PDP, APC as well as other parties that have cropped up in the state. But talking seriously about the issue without minding the interests and individuals involved, I think Kwara is ripe for a candidate that would accelerate our level of development. Those who have ruled before have tried their best but we need an accelerator, somebody who will quicken the governance process. To me, there are two existing perspectives to arrive there. One is about looking for technocrats who will be ready to perform in office, while the other is about the ruling and opposition structures to just choose people from within their brackets. If I must say the truth, I prefer we having a new face who will be able to take cognisance of certain developments within the state and is prepared to add value to politics in Kwara. Such person could even be from among the existing structures but he will have orientation of the rapid development of the state. Any party that fields a technocrat who may not be part of what people consider not to be meeting their expectation would do a lot of good to any one that decides to go in the direction.
But do you think we have such among the aspirants that have already declared their interests across the political parties and others who we hear may also join the race?
I wouldn’t do a candidate by candidate analysis because most of them are known to me. When I talk about a neutral person, it’s in the overall interest of Kwara State but now that you have brought me to this issue, I will say we need to be mindful of the situation in the state and things that had been done rightly and others yet to be in their rightful place so that they will be able to add value. I agree with the Senate President that loyalty alone may not be the only factor in choosing a candidate this time around and parties have to look at the antecedents of the person they are putting forward. Loyalty to Saraki or Buhari or anybody for that matter may not be what we need but the concrete plans that the candidate has to take Kwara to the next level. The level of his preparedness may also be a factor and the one that has nursed the ambition for the last ten years or thereabout may not be sufficient enough because there are huge challenges in Kwara now and the parameters of success has changed from loyalty in the past to performance now giving the challenges we have. The money is not coming the way it used to and we have infrastructural challenges, youth unemployment like we have in other parts of the country and so many other things that are challenging us. I think those in position to decide who will be the next governor of Kwara should consider the overall interest of the state and that we have no other place to run to, therefore, anybody who cannot frontally confront the enormous challenges we have should be excused.
Where do you think the pendulum should swing on the debate of who should produce the next governor between the Kwara north and central?
The question to ask is why are people talking about zoning and why are the people from the two regions agitating? It is because there are things that have been left undone. In a case where you have rapid response to the challenges that confront us, probably the agitation would have gone down. But for me, the two sides are welcome and I hope those who should take decision in the end will know the direction to go because we are at a critical junction in Kwara and it cannot be business as usual to borrow the phrase of the Senate President himself. So we need to think deeper and look for the best candidate that can further unite Kwarans and make governance meaningful to the people. I am not saying those who have ruled or are there now are not doing their best, but certainly the expectations and challenges as at the time Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed came in has changed and we need to look for a candidate that can consolidate and break new grounds, very intelligent, loyal and acceptable to Kwarans given the challenges we have on ground.
How do you see President Buhari faring in Kwara State in next year presidential election?
The chances of potential presidential candidates are very bright in Nigeria and it depends on the amount of work each of them decides to put in. I won’t rule out the chances of President Buhari in Kwara and neither would I rule out the candidate that the PDP may present. Unlike 2015 that we knew before the time the winner and loser, this time around, the President and the PDP have their strongholds and I think the two parties may end up doing well in the state. It is too early and premature to say who will carry the day in Kwara because one of our own is eyeing the office and the calculation will change if he eventually becomes the candidate of the PDP and even if he doesn’t get it. For now concrete analysis would be very difficult because certain variables that one would need to come out with result are not just there. For instance, the candidate that will emerge from PDP is very significant; we already know that of APC. So I won’t rule out Buhari or the PDP candidate.