BY CHIBUZO UKAIBE
Mohammed Shittu Kabiru is the national chairman Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), he speaks on some issues in his newly registered party as well as some national issues.
Your party was recently unveiled but the nagging question remains who are the big names behind your party?
APDA is a party born out of like minds, who sat and looked at the political situation in Nigeria. For the past 17 years we have been calling ourselves a nascent democracy but what we discovered is that we can’t be calling ourselves that anymore. We believe we should advance beyond this stage by bringing some technological inputs in our electoral system to address the abnormalities there in.
At the heart of the problems today in Nigeria are parties without ideology. So what is the ideological framework of your party?
We are socio-democrats. The welfare of citizens and technological advancement are paramount in our minds. We also believe that this party must be taken to the people. People will fund the activities of the party. It will be a truly people party. We believe that everybody is equal in this party and we don’t have god fatherism like we see in other parties. Nobody will claim supremacy in the party, it is a party for the masses. We will break the yoke of city based politicians and make the party a grassroots based party.
These ideas are not different from what the major political parties said in the past when they were starting off. but we discover that few years after they assumed office they derail. What mechanisms do you have to ensure this does not happen in APDA?
That is why we are introducing electronic voting, especially in our primaries. We are also looking at e-payment in the party. And all this will be embedded in our constitution which people will not violate. People will be sued for violating the constitution. We also have biometric registration for our members. We must know our members. So even when anyone is going for presidential elections, he or she must start from the ward level. They must be elected at ward, local government and state levels, before they come to the national convention. These are embedded in our constitution unlike other parties that just say it.
you mentioned presidential candidate, will you field a candidate in 2019?
From which zone?
There is no doubt that we are bringing out a presidential candidate from the North.
Why the North?
We feel that it is for the sake of equity. This issue has become a national phenomenon. When a nation sat and agreed, it will not only be our party that will be talking about it. It was agreed that the presidency should be rotated among the six geopolitical zones and in the case of fairness, the North still has six years of their tenure remaining in their presidency. So we are getting our presidential candidate from the North.
And you are confident that you will win?
Definitely. We are very sure. We are confident because we have put in place mechanisms that will check rigging. We have let the world know that we are transparent and we will be transparent through out the course of our campaigns. We want to stop giving of gifts during election campaigns because we are taking the party back to the people. We are not calling for a billionaire to come and invest. It is not an investment just like some other parties will say.
Aren’t you afraid of the ruling party?
We are not jittery in anyway because we have Nigerians by our side. We believe we are working for Nigerians and bring out programs that will help them get out of this current sad situation, so I believe Nigerians will be on our side.
Do you have the structures across the 36 states to pull this off?
You are a journalist, you can do your investigation. In all the 36 states and Abuja, we have strong structures and these are things you can verify.
What is your membership strength?
Between when we were registered and yesterday (last week), when I looked into our records, we were over 13million and it is counting as I am taking to you.
And you insist you can withstand the APC as it is today?
There is a saying that the stalls are not the market but the people. You can build a beautiful stall but without the people, there is no market. Because we are taking our party to the people in the grassroots, we believe they will be with us. We will execute programmes that will benefit the people so they will be with us.
Are you not concerned that you will be going against parties which are already in government and as the trend goes would likely deploy apparatus of state in the election for their purpose?
Our strength is that people have over time collected money and voted wrongly. I believe we have learnt our lesson, because we have seen what has happened to the country. If you receive N10,000 to vote for someone, you are indirectly paying one million Naira worth of development. So Nigerians will now choose between those that give them money for their votes or those who want to better their lives, like APDA.
Barely weeks after your party was given registration certificate, it appears to be heading into crisis. Having collected the party’s certificate of registration, you were accused of trying to hijack the party?
APDA is not in crisis. The sign of a strong party is the expression of different views. We have already sworn to Nigerians as contained in our constitution that there will be no god-fatherism or supremacy of an individual in our party. And we will uphold that mandate for Nigerians. So the issue of hijacking the party, does not exist. It was a case of different views with some individuals. I have expressed my view that there will be no supremacy of any individual.
You kept mentioning god fatherism, is there any one trying to play god father in the party?
That is how some people would want to see things because people see things differently. But we don’t have any crisis at all.
What is your take on the Biafra agitation, do you see it materializing?
I want to advise whoever is making the call for Biafra that it has been attempted before and it failed. We also had a leader who said no victor, no vanquished and on that Nigeria stands. We are in a time where US is expanding its territory and Europe is increase. But in Nigeria there is an agitation to create an enclave which will create other enclaves. Let’s us remember Southern Sudan and crisis is it facing today. So I want to advise my brothers that we should not take that path. I want us to see how we can unite and make Nigeria great again. Every state has mineral resources why can’t we look at those states, harness the comparative advantage and provide employment opportunities for the youths there.
What’s your message for the Northern youths calling on Igbos to leave their region by October?
It is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. We need this country together that is why APDA slogan says stronger together. It is only together that we can be strong, as soon as we start breaking, we are off. We have nothing to gain if we divide. Instead of using our money to buy guns and kill ourselves, why can’t we unite and use that money to develop our economy.
Are you comfortable with the Federal Government’s approach to addressing the issue?
Definitely, we have to bring everyone together to the round table. It is just like a house where there are people with different views you have to bring them to the round table for discussion so that a view on issues can be adopted.
So you are advocating for another round of national discussion?
As for our party, I think we need another conference. We need to look at our allocation formular, that is aspects of our sharing formular.
But what about the 2014 conference, didn’t it address all those issues?
It couldn’t have addressed all those issues because the issues we are facing today are beyond 2014.
How do you mean?
APDA believes that today people are taking about fiscal federalism and secession which were not there as at 2014. So we believe we need to sit down and have that conference now.
The most topical issue today is restructuring. As a party have you sat down to deliberate on it and if you have what manner of restructuring do you advocate for?
We have looked at different mechanisms of restructuring. We have looked at the Russian model. We have also looked at how China emerged as the second largest economy. We also looked at India. But for now, we have not adopted anyone yet. This is a party matter and we are still deliberating on it. At the appropriate time the party will come out with its position.
The president is undergoing medical attention now but some people insist that he must do a second term. What do you think?
That is left for the party to decide when the time comes. For now, our party is focused on mobilisation drive. More over, we don’t talk about people when they are sick because we are all humans. As a nation we must do things that will keep the nation as one and help it blossom, not to engage in what will affect us negatively. We pray to Allah to give the president good health before we start to discuss any event that will take place in two years time. I still believe it’s too early to start talking about 2019. We should focus on our economy. People are suffering. What should be paramount now is how to alleviate the sufferings of the people, not talking about somebody that is sick or whether he can contest elections on a wheel chair.
Would you say his absence is causing the country much?
It depends on how you look at it. Our party believes when the President is not around, you have the Vice President, senate president, speaker of the house of representatives and so on. Government will not stop because one man is not around. Some countries have fought and won war with a sick president. Why should we continue to talk about a man who is sick instead of praying for him and allowing governance to go on.
Some analysts say the economy is beginning to improve. Do you share this view?
As a party, we have to start looking inwards to solve the problems of our country. We can’t continue to look to foreign countries to solve our problems. We need to assemble our economists and experts put them in a room and let them give us a sound economic solution to our problems.
But the government has developed and unveiled an economic recovery plan. You don’t seem to have any faith in it?
For us, I don’t think it is right. We shouldn’t depend on international funding or foreign economic analysts for our economic development. It is wrong, it will never work. Until we are able to develop our own economic blueprint to match our own societal and cultural background then we might be shooting amiss.
Isn’t that what the government intends to do with the patronise local content initiative?
Do you patronize when there is no electricity to manufacture. Do you patronize when we are still exporting raw materials? A situation where we still patronise most of what we consume, how do you patronise local content? We can’t patronise what we don’t manufacture. You can’t give what you don’t have. We have to put mechanisms in place which will enable us process our raw materials into finished goods. As long as we keep exporting raw materials and importing finished goods we are doomed.
Do you agree with those who say that the anti-corruption war of this administration is selective and vindictive?
For us as a party we have a different approach. When we come on board we will unveil it.
You don’t want to assess this administration on its anti-corruption war?
As a party we told you we will advise and not criticise. We want Nigerians to see that we can do things better. We are seeking for the attention and vote of Nigerians, we want them to know that we will change the way things are done. We don’t need to criticise. We are not for criticism but for development.
You were a member of PDP, looking back at the party current situation, what’s your impression?
Like I said, for us as a party, we don’t criticise. We are moving away from the era of criticism into that of proffering solution. Criticism does not help a nation. When we criticise, we damage the country but when we proffer solutions we helps the country blossom.
So what lessons did you learn during your years in PDP?
I will rather talk about my experience as a Nigerian. I have come to know that when we criticise, we kill our developmental programs. So in our party, we are not opposition. Under a parliamentary system of government we can call ourselves opposition. But under a presidential system of government we give constructive advise to the party in power. When you criticise you give them weapons to stop you from coming to power.
But whether or not you see yourself as opposition party, the ruling party sees you as an opposition and will always try to stop you from coming to power?
Like I said in a parliamentary system we have opposition but in a presidential system, you are not opposing but competing for power. So you give constructive criticism. These are ideals that political parties must adopt because we are all out to serve the country. We are not out to damage the other party, only to get to power and become unable to put things in order. Where necessary we give advise, otherwise we keep quiet. When it comes to campaign you come out and tell people your programs.
You said you will contest the 2019 election, but going by the way you will generate revenue do you think it will be enough for all the campaigns?
What do you need money for?
Do you have vehicles, airplane and all those things you need for campaigns?
That is why we are going electronic. However, you can see why campaigns in this part of the world are so expensive. Why must we use aircraft? Why don’t we have good roads? We don’t we have feeders roads?
But as we speak now the sad reality is that these things are not there? Are you going to campaign electronically?
We have people at the ward, local government and state levels. We are bringing a new innovation to campaign for elections in Nigeria.
What will be your party’s agenda if you win in 2019?
We believe that Nigeria deserves the best. We will do away with the old ways of doing things and we will bring in new innovation to governance.
There were rumours that there was a plan to cause for your arrest because you floated a new party. Are you aware of such talk?
The people are with us. Naturally, when you take such a position some people will not relent to cause an opposition.
You have led a political party before this one. What mistakes or lessons have you learnt as you assume leadership of the new party?
I have learnt that until you take the party to the people and for them to own it, you cannot get it right. You must ensure that no individual claims supremacy within the party, or nobody becomes a god fatherism in the party. It is only when the people truly own the party that it will advance its course.