Alhaji Habu Muazu was previously Youth Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the past administration of former governor, Senator Danjuma Goje. Now a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Gombe State and leading 2019 guber aspirant, Muazu in this interview with journalists in Abuja, assures that with him as candidate of the party, it will be easy for the APC to defeat the ruling PDP. Ali Abare was there.
The new leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said it will conduct direct primary election for governorship aspirants in Osun State, against the use of delegates to pick the flag bearer for the party. What is your take on this decision?
It’s a great development. Democracy is a process and with a new leadership in the party led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, it’s commendable that after reviewing the process of electing a candidate for the party, the leadership is realizing the capital intensive nature of the delegate system. Not only that, the delegate system encourages individuals with the resources to dominate the party and to impose a candidate on the party. I’m happy that the leadership has seen reason for the APC to adopt the Option A4 which will foster a sense of belonging across the party. For politicians like us with support from the grassroots, this is the best option to elect candidates for the party. Once a politician is acceptable to the people, such need no fear this decision by the new APC leadership. However, if a politician lacks the needed support and followership but must rely on a godfather to clear the way for him, that’s when such politicians will have sleepless nights. In any case, both the two processes have inherent advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the delegate system is more organized and takes less time and delegates can pick a candidate with less rancor. The only disadvantage is when some people hijack the entire process for selfish reasons, either to profit financially or to extract blind loyalty from a governorship candidate. Imposition of candidates is a major reason leading to the downfall of a party because aggrieved aspirants may not necessarily work for the interest of a candidate imposed by an individual or some few people with vested interest. If the Option A4 is adopted, only popular and acceptable candidates will emerge and there will be less acrimony as the process is transparent, with other aspirants that lost out committing themselves to help their candidate win in the general election. Such candidate will know his responsibility to the people that elected him and will therefore work for the collective good of the people instead of dancing to the tunes of a few individuals to the detriment of the people. I’m happy with this decision taken by the new leadership of the party. If the party uses Osun to test run this process, it’s our hope that the APC employs this option in subsequent governorship primaries.
Some people think the direct primary can bring about acrimony particularly when party members line up openly behind the aspirant of their choice?
No, it’s not true. Certainly, not everybody will like you as a politician. But as long as you belong to the same party, you will still come together after a candidate has emerged to deliver the party. Even through the delegate system, as a politician, you must be able to understand who is supporting you or not. However, once a candidate emerges through a credible primary election, all will come together to join hands and to lead the party to success at the polls. A true politician forgives easily. He knows that not everybody will stand for him but once that bridge has been crossed, he forgives everybody. We must have our differences but once a candidate emerges, we all come together as one. It happens that sometimes, those who initially opposed one’s aspiration may even work harder than those that supported an aspirant from the beginning. It’s normal in politics to have dissenting views and politicians forgive easily. Option A4 will not bring discord within the APC, rather it will facilitate for only popular and acceptable candidates to emerge which will make it easy for the party to win at the general election.
How do you think the direct primary election could sanitize the choice of the party’s governorship candidate, against the backdrop of allegations of manipulation, imposition of candidates and lack luster performance by governors?
The direct primary will cut down on expenses because some party leaders, in the delegate system, consider it an opportunity to make quick money. Once it’s time to pick candidates for the party, some people feel it’s their time to make money. The issue is that, some people are willing to collect money even from aspirants who may lack the capacity to lead, who may not even be politicians but who comes around with bags full of money. Such political merchants can gather together some leaders of the party at the state level, particularly those who lack the interest of the people at heart but who will dance to the tune of the highest bidder. But with this direct primary, it’s near impossible for a money bag to buy the conscience of all the members of the party. Once you did not pay for your way to get the ticket of the party, it goes to show that if elected, you are going to work for the good of all and not a selected few. If elected through such open, transparent system, a candidate if elected governor, will have no option than to carry everybody along and to work for the benefit of the people. But once a candidate emerges because he expended huge resources on some few individuals, he may not feel duty bound and may even work against the collective interest of the people. Such a governor feels he bought the office with his money and may therefore feel no sense of responsibility towards the people. Such leaders lack compassion for the people. They pride themselves as buying the office with money and as such they owe nobody any responsibility. But with the direct primary, only credible and capable leaders will emerge that will work for the benefit of all. Such a governor if elected, will carry the people along and will work earnestly toward uplifting the standard of living of the people.
What motivated you to consider joining the race to occupy the Gombe State Government House, considering that Gombe has proven to be a tough political battle ground, especially for evolving political parties?
I joined the race because I have been part of the political development of the state. In 2003, I was among the few individuals that worked to install a new government in Gombe State. I knew the process that led to that success as I played significant role in the manifestation of that electoral victory. I believe I possess the required experience and political sagacity to rule the state. I know all the political intrigues leading to the formation of a government. I have the reach and contacts as well as a formidable blueprint to lead the people of the state to the Promised Land. I joined the race because so many things are being left undone in Gombe State and I’m happy about that. I want to bring real change to the state so that the common people can have a role to play as well as a sense of belonging. My major motivation is my empathy towards the common people and my abiding desire to uplift their standard of living. I want to return governance back to the people and to give them a sense of belonging.
You have been seen continuously together with other governorship aspirants under the platform of the APC, as well as the incumbent Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo. This had led to wagging of tongues across the state. Is there something going on underground that the people should know?
I have always harped on politics without bitterness, like the late Ibrahim Waziri used to say. It’s not good that while aspiring for office, you generate unnecessary bad blood among yourselves. Right from inception, I made up my mind to operate with an open mind and not to consider politics as do-or-die affair. Remember, in politics, there is no permanent friend only permanent interest. If you look at the political terrain, most of us now in the APC were originally members of the PDP. If you consider those in the PDP, they also moved in from some other party. Out of the eight guber aspirants under our party in Gombe, I make it a duty to interact with each and every one of these aspirants, visiting them at home, calling them on phone and generally maintaining cordial relationship. They also do likewise. From time to time, we come together collectively to decide on steps to take on issues arising in the state. If such understanding will lead to peace within the party and state, we urge other politicians to emulate this stand. Let’s build and sustain cordial relationships between aspirants so that our supporters will also follow in line. This will foster unity among party supporters and to eliminate rancor and acrimony. On the issue of the incumbent governor, Dankwambo is the leader of the state and deserves our respect. I respect him for being the leader of the state despite the fact that we belong to different political parties. I am in position to commend him if he does well but also to point it out to him where it is believed he went wrong. That’s fairness to a leader. If he does good, commend him, if he errs, correct him. I have been his critic in secret and openly in the media so that he can take corrections. If Dankwambo does well, it behooves on us to commend him to further encourage him to do more. If because of that someone can accuse me of fraternizing with people, that’s in the nature of politics. In any case, I didn’t join the governorship race to destroy my personal relationship with people. Even if I emerge candidate of our party, I still need the other aspirants to realize my objective. I can’t succeed along and without their contribution. If I reject them thinking if I give somebody money that person will deliver me, that’s self-deception. I respect Governor Dankwambo but we belong to different parties. I am not contesting under his party, the PDP and neither are we contesting against each other. So, I don’t see any reason for bad blood between the two of us. There is no reason whatsoever that will push me to fight with any citizen of Gombe State that is either ahead of me or behind me because of my governorship aspiration. I look up to God to deliver me and I believe God will make me governor of Gombe State. I will not disrespect anybody while seeking to be governor and I want to call on the people to eschew politics of bitterness and rancor. Let’s embrace each other and seek to move our state ahead. The highest is for someone to be governor for eight years, after that then what?
Looking back from 2003 to date, will you say Nigeria’s democracy has evolved, considering the outcry that greeted the fallout of the Ekiti election amidst allegations of vote buying?
There is progress really, especially in the area of election. I knew how election was conducted in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. If you check, you will notice that there is improvement. But this improvement became visible during the 2015 general election with the introduction of the Card Reader machine. But you know, politicians generally are the same and the basic goal is to always win elections at all cost. Those complaining now if given the chance, they will manipulate the process to their advantage. Supposing the PDP emerged victorious in Ekiti State, the APC will be complaining by now. There is a marked improvement in the election process from the dawn of democracy and we are hoping that by 2019 there will be added improvement. Based on the Ekiti experience, after casting votes at the polling units across wards, result collation is done directly without unnecessary human contact unlike previously when the system is subject to abuse while votes are on transit to collation centres. Then elections are won or lost while votes are being moved to collation centres, with politicians hijacking and changing results from the wards. But this is not obtainable now with the new arrangement put in place by INEC. It’s possible but the PDP and APC planned to rig but it wasn’t possible because the votes from the wards are collated instantly and electronically. There is a marked improvement in election. The problem is from politicians who consider election as do-or-die affair. Politicians prefer to win at all cost and if that did not occur then they resort to all manner of disparaging comments.
Lastly, how do you view the chance of the APC winning the governorship election in Gombe State come 2019?
I am very hopeful that APC will win Gombe State this time around because if you check out the activities of all the aspirants in the party, across the state, I want to assure you the ruling PDP can’t measure up to that. The PDP are depending on their governor for direction, but members of the APC are all over the state, reaching out to the people. If you travel to Gombe, you will think it’s an APC state because of the level of political activities. As I am talking to you now, no one can point out a single aspirant under the PDP. Who are they? They are still waiting to get the go ahead from their governor. In the APC, we are about eight governorship aspirants moving from one town to another interacting with people. We are working assiduously towards uniting the aspirants and to present a common front. It’s in that respect that we decided to nominate two persons each from each aspirant to form a committee that works towards the unity of the aspirants. This is also part of the strategy to ensure the APC is victorious come 2019. If you check out all the aspirants under the APC, they are seasoned politicians of note who will each deliver the party. APC hopefully will win the governorship come 2019, particularly with me as the candidate, which will motivate the people to come out enmass to vote for our party. They know my antecedents. I am not coming to make promises, they know what I can do. If the APC makes me it governorship candidate, defeating the PDP will not be a problem. Even those within the PDP knew what I have done for them because many of them knew me and will join me to deliver my party. But if the party chooses an unpopular candidate then I assure you there will be problem. Elections are won based on the acceptability of candidates and nothing more.