Tuesday, January 15, 2019 4:20 pm
Kassim Afegbua is one of the spokespersons of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Presidential Campaign Council. He spoke with Ayorinde Oluokun, on why Nigerians will reject President Muhammadu Buhari at the polls in 2019 and why the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is a better option as the country’s next leader.
The PDP presidential campaign kicked off in Sokoto, Northwest, Nigeria. What is your impression of that first outing?
It was very good, very encouraging. It proved that Nigerians are very tired of the present leadership of the country by APC. The turnout was a very bold statement that this government has failed to deliver on its electoral promises. And you can also see that of Kwara (the North Central rally) which was also quite encouraging.
But the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir-El Rufai, said the crowd at the Sokoto rally was made up of people from Niger…
What do you expect a failing government, and a failed governor of Kaduna State to say? They will look for things to distract attention from the event. And for him, I was very happy with the mockery tweet of Shehu Sani when he said ‘if you say those people were imported from Niger because of proximity, you can also import your own from Sudan because of affinity’. But talking seriously, if El-Rufai thinks you can import people from Niger, that means our borders are porous and that will be one of the failures of the APC government. Are they saying that the borders are so porous that you just open your door and people will just be trooping in? I want to believe that the APC never thought that there will be that type of mammoth crowd to announce the official take off of the campaign of PDP. We are very proud of the North West zone, we are proud of the North Central and we are calling on other zones to come out and make a loud statement about the failures, foibles and frailties of this administration that has brought untold hardship, poverty, hunger, malnourishment to Nigerians. And thank God, Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President spoke about this – that two powerful persons have slowed down the progress of her husband in delivering electoral promises. There is therefore no need for any further confirmation that this government has failed.
On APC’s own part, will they not say Nigerians are suffering the 16 years of looting by the PDP and that is what the people should look at in deciding who to vote for in 2019, rather than the three and a half years they have been in power?
You see, in Yoruba land, they say it is from the beginning that you know a child that will be very smart, articulate, that will be able to deliver on dreams and translate them to realities for him to benefit. If in three and a half years what the APC, against all the programmes and projects promised in its manifesto can only deliver are hunger, poverty, deprivations, insecurity, killings, bloodshed, do you need anybody to tell you that the government has failed? But in 16 years of PDP, all of these things were not there. A Bag of rice was still selling for N8,000 under the PDP for 16 years, today, it is N20,000; beans, okro, garri, the same thing. I go to the market to take stock of what is happening. So, what explanations do you have to give for the geometric rise in the prices of these common food items that affect the lives of everybody?
Two, the character and body language of the President when he took over the government was the reason the Nigerian economy nosedived. He came on board, threatening that he is going to jail, arrest and all that, and for six months, he didn’t appoint ministers, so those people who are the foreign investors in the economy were not too certain about the kind of policies he is going to come up with. So, they (investors) bought off the dollars in the market and billions of dollars went out of the Nigerian economy. By the time he (Buhari) was settling down, he came up with ministers, most of who are round peg in square holes. He made a lawyer the minister of budget and planning, he appointed persons who don’t have the experience of arresting an economy that was in kind of shock. The government says it is fighting corruption and there is so much recovery. The EFCC Chairman came up recently to catalogue the recoveries they have made. What I was taught in anti-corruption school was that when you have that kind of money you re-invest it in the economy so that life will be better for the average person. As we speak, we have not seen the impact of that. Do you fight corruption to create poverty, malnourishment, hunger? No, you fight corruption because you want to make life better for the people. The EFCC as we speak now has become a department under the presidency. They will only go after persons who are perceived to be against President Buhari. They recently returned properties they had earlier seized from Musiliu Obanikoro for no reason.
But former governor Orji Uzor Kalu who has been campaigning for re-election of the President is still under prosecution by EFCC
He (Kalu) just joined them. When you picked an oasis in the desert, it is easily identifiable. Mention 20 EFCC cases and tell me the political parties they belong? The Chairman of EFCC wears a brooch with the photograph of the president on his lapel. The last time they launched the next level programme of APC at the presidential villa, the service chiefs were there.
They said they were there by mistake.
Then, if we have service chiefs who go to attend APC events by mistake, they are not competent to preside over our security agencies and platforms. You cannot say you were there by mistake. We have challenges on our hands, while they were there, Boko Haram was killing soldiers in North East.
What would you say are the strong points of Atiku over Buhari?
First of all, you have to look at the character indices of individuals. And I will go by this illustration- this is one man who declared that he has 150 cows and these 150 cows have not multiplied in the last four years, because if they have multiplied, he should have been able to get N45m to buy his presidential form. He has to prevail on people he called ‘lazy youths’ to go and buy it for him?
He is not the one that told them, they bought it for him voluntarily…
Okay, fine, but for a good manager of men and resources, to drive 50 cows to produce N50 million shouldn’t be a problem for a man with managerial acumen and competencies to drive business. On the other hand, Atiku is a successful businessman- everybody accords him that recognition. From 1992 when he first came on board to contest for the president and he lost to Abiola, he has always been known to be a rich man. And even in 1999, when APC was being formed, he was one of the chief sponsors of the party. He was in APC, he donated money and he gave Buhari his private jet. The President was flying it over the place and he enjoyed it at that time. That time, they (APC) didn’t say he was corrupt, it is now that they are saying he is corrupt. For such a man who has managed businesses for decades and has been successful – that means he knows how to manage resources – men and women, human capital development and what have you because to drive businesses to the level of multibillion returns, you require a lot of tact, diplomacy, managerial ability and what have you. It takes a man who understands prosperity to preach it.
And that’s why you see him (Atiku) coming up with policies and programmes that he said he is going to use to interface with the country. As we speak now, there is so much of division and polarization in the country. But Atiku is coming on board to say “let’s unite again and let us look at the competencies of the various regions and regional configurations in this country and see how we can galvanise them, package them to have regional platforms where people can discuss about national unity. As we speak now, we are divided along ethnic and religious lines and it has never been this bad. There is too much of nepotism as we speak. From one state alone- Katsina- we have over 48 appointments and they are out there, it is not hidden.
The recent one is the Border Commission where the President appointed his in-law as the boss. So, these two persons (Atiku and Buhari) their world view differ in terms of how they appreciate life, how they appreciate the country. Atiku has friends cut across all the states, geo-political zones of the country, he has been a businessman, and he attends people’s events. You don’t have a Buhari attending anybody’s event, occasion or whatever to even build some kind of cross –cultural linkages and affinities.
But do you think that is enough for Atiku to win the presidency in 2019 against Buhari who is immensely popular in the northern part of the country and his party has the majority of the governors and is in control of South west, which has the second highest votes in the country?
It is our responsibility as Nigerians and as members of PDP to speak to issues that touch the very fabric of the nation – the issue of unity, economic prosperity, security- these are the key issues. Voters’ opinions across the geopolitical zones, because we have gone round are that Nigerians want a stop to these killings. The expectations for some of us when we were in APC were that given his military background, he will be able to use the right approach to combat crimes and criminalities. We have a President that is not interacting with Nigerians. Rather than talk to Nigerians, he goes overseas and talks to people in a controlled environment and that keeps fueling the suspicion that there is something wrong with the person occupying Aso Rock Villa. So, to that extent it is our responsibility as political players to speak to Nigerians and say, ‘wait, we cannot continue like this, we cannot continue with extreme poverty.’ The APC has programmes and projects documented in its manifesto, but they are not implementing them. Restructuring is there, but the President said he doesn’t believe in it. While the Vice President is talking about State Police, the President is saying ‘No to state Police.’ So, you have a government that is not coordinated, no synergy among the security apparatus in the country, in one government, you have different discordant tunes. So, such a government can only deliver failure.
You think all these problems that you mentioned, does it mean that all of them will disappear instantly if Atiku is elected in 2019? The APC has argued that even in 16 years of PDP, there were killings, ethnic strife, poverty …
But life was not difficult as this and I keep telling people that all you need is to look at the statistics. Life was not like this under Jonathan. In this age and time, we need to integrate processes of government, not just the outcome. So, Atiku, first four years, even if he is going to spend just four years, is getting to understand what the problem is.
As a member of PDP Presidential Campaign Council, what are your fears concerning the 2019 general elections?
Our fear is that the APC government is not ready to ensure that the 2019 election is free, fair and credible; they want to rig the election. PDP has started campaign with the zonal rallies and by the time we finish that, we will start state by state. Our schedule is quite loaded. But APC which is the ruling party has not been able to put a campaign council together, they are already fighting. Tinubu is refusing to lead the campaign because he knows he is marketing a bad product.
But the Vice President has been doing house to house campaign
Those are what I called a roadshow which is just to tell Nigerians that we are preparing for campaigns. Osinbajo is not the one contesting election, it is President Buhari; I want to see Buhari go to the marketplaces and shake hands with the people, so that people can connect with him. The Police has become a department in the presidency now. But the Police should realize that under a democracy, they must protect every Nigerian, irrespective of the political party they belong to.
Read the cover story here://www.thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2019/01/buhari-atiku-its-battle-royale/