Salisu Magaji Gombe presides over North East Progressives Forum (NEPF) and Arewa Youth Development Association of Nigeria (AYDAN). In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, he spoke about recent events in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some other national issues.
What was your impression of the crisis that almost crippled your party, the PDP?
The crisis that rocked PDP only made it stronger. We are now more united than ever before. There is no faction in the party anymore. The Supreme Court judgement was a blessing for the party. So PDP is moving faster and stronger and it can capture 2019.
You are already talking about 2019, but has your party learnt any lessons from the crisis?
PDP has learnt a very big lesson. I will take you back to 2015. If the PDP had zoned the presidency to the North, we would have defeated APC. But people around the former president pushed him to contest. But to show that the party has learnt its lesson, leaders have zoned the presidency to the entire North, so anybody can emerge from the 19 states in the region. That is the major lesson that PDP has learnt. I also believe that the lessons from the leadership crisis has been learnt; the issue of tolerance, fairness, equity and justice will be imbibed as we move ahead into 2019.
But do you think the PDP is still strong in the North considering the 2015 APC Tsunami that swept through the region?
PDP is still very strong in the North. What they just need is a credible candidate because the North is tired of the APC.
PDP has zoned its ticket to to the North what are your expectations?
We from the North east are calling on Nigerians to consider this part of the North for the presidential ticket. The North-east zone has never produced president of this country. We want the leaders of the party, the governors and other major organs and forum of the party to consider this issue. We have people there that can deliver. The North west has enjoyed it so much, but now we want the party to consider the North-east. The governor of Gombe State Ibrahim Dankwambo is one person that we have identified as formidable candidate for the party from the zone. He has proven over time that he is a credible and experienced Nigerian, having served as accountant general of Gombe State and later as accountant general of the federation under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has proven himself to be a good manager of resources. He is also a very detribalised Nigerian. To this end we are in touch with party leaders from other zones. We have held meetings with some big personalities in the North-east. We have discussed with former chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. We have also met some leaders from the South-east, like Chief Vincent Ogbulafor. We have also forwarded the matter to the elders from the North west. Our group is at the mobilization and contact stage.
But when you put Dankwambo side by side another powerful aspirant like Sule Lamido do you think he stands a chance?
I believe that for the 2019 presidential election, age matters. PDP needs to bring somebody that is strong enough and can deliver. We need a president that will be active physically, mentally and otherwise. That is what Dankwambo represents. He has been an experienced party man. The way he managed Gombe State through out the period of the APC tsunami of 2015 shows he is a rooted party man. While the party lost the presidential election, the PDP won the governorship election because of the massive development strides and political sagacity of the governor in the state. But in the whole of the North only Dankwambo and the Taraba State governor could retain PDP in their states. However, when you talk of former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, he also did very well as governor. He is a very experienced and respected politician. But really age matters. Dankwambo has both age and experience on his side and he can deliver.
He is also a detribalised Nigerian with friends across the length and breath of Nigeria.
But have you asked him if he wants to contest?
No I have not. But we in Gombe State and the North-east want him to contest because we have seen the revolution he has brought to the state. We believe he can replicate that at the federal level. If you go to Gombe State today, there is a revolution with regards to standard roads in the state. If you drive through the state at night, you would think you are in Dubai, the whole place is lite up, streetlights are working. There is so much safety. There has been no religious crisis in the state. He has shown that he can manage religious and ethnic diversity so well.
Boko haram captured a good portion of the states in the North-east but we can see how the governor managed the situation. In Gombe people sleep with their eyes closed. He was very tactically in managing the security issues. He has a sound strategic relationship with the military, including the police commissioner, DSS and local people in the border areas between Gombe and Borno and Yobe States. They always alerted the governor on any issues. That was why he was able to manage the situation so well. Just recently, he launched the fertiliser distribution program. On the issue of Education, he has built a lot of primary and secondary schools. There is major expansion in Gombe State university with the establishment of college for legal studies. He has established college of education and polytechnics. If PDP votes for Dankwambo as their candidate, he will deliver the party to Nigerians in 2019.
If you say PDP is ripe to take over in 2019, do you think, considering the mismanagement that happened under its regime, PDP has made enough amends for the Nigerians to forgive it and allow its return?
Mismanagement of public funds is what people worry about in PDP. That was a problem the PDP had. But we are also seeing the same in the APC today. They are also mismanaging the resources of Nigeria, if not more. But Dankwambo is a chartered account and he has served as account general at both state and federal levels. He has amazed alot of experience in the management of the countries resources, so he will ensure that he blocks leakages as well as grow the internally generated revenue in the country.
Do you think Sheriff and his and team should be punished as some members are canvassing?
The party has a matured leadership. The leaders of the party know what to do they will bring their matured political disposition to bear on the matter. Whatever decision they will take, I am sure will be in good faith and will be accepted by all.
What are your expectations at the none elective Convention next month?
The August convention is non-elective, it is to raise awareness that PDP is still very much alive and kicking. Everybody will be there to show how united the party is. After the non-elective convention, we will have the elective convention, later. That is why they have given time for those who want to contest national, offices to start preparing for it. This one is just clear the grounds but we expect to see good leadership.
Where do you think the chairman should come from this time?
The party will decide on that. The leadership will zone the offices in a fair and just manner I believe.
What kind of leadership do you expect?
We want to see good leadership. Makarfi has delivered, he can make sure we have a good leadership in the party.
What advise do you have for whoever emerges chairman of the party after your elective convention sometime soon?
Let’s wait for that convention. Whoever emerges we will know how to advise him. But be sure we will give him good advise.