Alhaji Shehu Gabam, a former chief of staff to a Bauchi State governor, is the director general of the Prof. Tunde Adeniran campaign organisation for the national chairmanship of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, he speaks about the forthcoming national convention of the party, warning that any attempt to manipulate the process will spell doom for the party.
There are claims that Prof. Adeniran’s campaign is being bankrolled by a some former presidents and political heavyweights in the party. How do you react to this?
After our formal declaration at Yardua center, a lot issues, analysis, allegations and counter allegations have been going on. A lot of campaign of calumny have also been going on because our aspirant is a major threat and a leading aspirant in the race for the national chairmanship of the party.
The campaign of calumny are from those who are already suffering from defeat mentality. They want to create a scenario that has never existed in history.. We are quite conversant with the history of PDP from 1998 to date; I have been around the founding fathers of the party from G7, G8, G34, which culminated in the formation and registration of PDP under the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar regime. So I am not a novice on how the party was formed. Circumstances, imposition and reckless behaviors led us to the defeat we suffer today. We don’t want a repeat of that history. I was a participant in the process of completing the tenure of former chairman of PDP, Adamu Muazu. I was voted from Bauchi State to complete the tenure because they said the states in the North-east must produce one person for the replacement for Muazu. I was part of the exercise, when Sen Ali Modu Sheriff was imposed. And I was the first individual who went in air to disagree with the imposition of Sheriff. I was the first to fight the imposition of Sheriff before other groups decided to join us, like former ministers forum, PDP Rescue Group, BoT of the party and so on. I started the struggle to ensure that we install discipline, decency, law and order in the party. To ensure that we adhere to the visions of the founding fathers of the party which is anchored on fair play, inclusiveness and equality of all ethnic groups, tribes, religions and affiliations in the party. We provide an ambiance for all Nigerians to realize their political ambitions. For this reason we find it very disturbing when certain characters who created imposition in PDP and because of the threat and decency of the character we are campaigning for they find it very disturbing. The first allegation they raised is that Adeniran is being bankrolled by Sen Buruji Kasahmu.. But let us not forget history that Buruji started his political calculation in Ogun State. We are not the ones that brought him to the light of politics, it was not Prof. Adeniran that brought him to the light of politics in 2009. The internal politics of Ogun State brought him to limelight. When he became vice chairman of the party in the South-west, under the leadership of Dr Bamanga Tukur, it was not Adeniran that promoted him. He emerged also as senator. But giving all the rascality that has been going on in the party for a long time, some of us stood very firm and defended the party at all cost. However since the issue of Sen Kashamu is not flying they said former vice president Atiku Abubakar is the one bankrolling the campaign. And I wonder, first, Atiku is not a member of PDP, there was no time the campaign organization of Adeniran has met with Atiku to discuss any matter relating to the election of national chairman of PDP. Some of those making these allegations are the ones that met both Sen Kashamu and Atiku privately and sought their assistance. But in the day they will deny them, not wanting to talk about them.. We are aware that during the last convention somebody that was not in the PDP, contributed some money. If he is a virus, why did they collect money from him and they are pushing him as if he is the one anchoring what we are doing today.
There are also claims that he is being bankrolled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. I laughed I am one of the IBB boys. I have been director of operations in his presidential campaign twice and because he is a former president he has produced a lot of people in this country. It is not necessary that everybody must like or hate him. He has his good sides and shortcomings. But people should learn how to separate friendship and interest, failure to do that will cause crisis. Simply because Adeniran is vying for chairmanship of PDP does it make sense that he should not relate with people who, one way or the other, helped him in life? Politics is strictly about interest yet, you have relationships that till you depart this world you remain grateful to people. All of us have people we remain grateful to today whether they are in APC or still in PDP. There are people who have contributed immensely to the development of PDP who are in APC today and of course the relationship is still ongoing. The difference is party interest. So nobody can stop the relationship between IBB and Adeniran it started before PDP. So because he is running for chairman so he shouldn’t visit IBB? But we have seen other people, contesting same position, who have also visited IBB. And they have been taking pictures and making noise out of it and being proud about it and saying they have been endorsed. We have never said that. We have been humble. But there is practically nobody with political aura that we have not visited and consulted. We have not made it a media affair. There is a relationship of respect and dignity and that is it. Whether anybody likes it or not IBB played a very crucial role in the emergence of PDP in 1999. Besides IBB, they have also said former president Olusegun Obasanjo is bankrolling Adeniran’s campaign and I laugh. But those behinds these rumours are saying so because he is a threat to them. Those who want to join the party, who want to run for presidency, are doing everything humanly possible so that Obasanjo will not play any role in the politics of the future of Nigeria. But they forget that destiny brought him to power. When we formed this party, Obasanjo wasn’t in the mind of the founding fathers of this party. But to balance the sensitivities that were involved, especially with what happened in the June 12, the military even recommended that we should get somebody from the South-west to emerge as president that’s what creates the issue of zoning. And of course destiny has it on him to emerge the civilian president. Of course, he has a cabinet of which Adeniran was part of as a minister of education. But some of those making these allegations were also beneficiaries of Obasanjo, they served in his cabinet. But what pleases them is that Adeniran is being tagged as Obasanjo’s boy today. For what it is worth, there is no iota of truth in those claims. I am a blunt person, if there is any political romance, I will admit it. If there is any financial assistance I will admit it. This is politics. We are not committing a crime. Nobody is contributing under duress. It’s an issue of willingness, belief and likeness for our aspirant because of his character, capacity, commitment and faithfulness to the party. I am committed to assisting him. We will never deny our friends. We will never do so. Nobody should be in any doubt. If we have any formal relationship with Sen Kashamu or anybody we will say it formally and we will not make any appologies to that effect. So far the relationship amongst all of us remain casual. More over, Kashamu visits the national secretariat. So if he is a virus today, why do they receive and listen to him at the secretariat? So it is an issue of morality. It is quite unfortunate and I think they should know that nobody has a monopoly of rascality and nobody has a monopoly of immunity. If our primary aim is to build this party, we need to build it decently. Let us reduce promoting people with questionable character otherwise PDP cannot move forward. We are not afraid of anybody, we are not looking for consensus. We are looking for fair play, the consensus must be transparent. The convention must be open otherwise there will be serious consequences. We will never go back to the era where few people will conspire and try and decide the faith of millions of PDP faithful and Nigerians. It was a protest vote by PDP members that led to the defeat of PDP in 2015. It wasn’t APC that defeated PDP. It was PDP members that caused the defeat of PDP because of imposition, rascality and lack of discipline in the party. But we don’t want to be part of those who will make the situation tense. But we are willing to balance any behaviour that is not decent. We have the capacity to do so. We are ready to come up with facts to expose those people that are involved in it and the beneficiaries of it. We will take it up and deal with it ruthlessly. The era of that kind of conspiracy is gone we are in a civilized world.
If you say the campaign is not getting funding from these names, where then is its funding from to sustain such its national activities?
I have been in four presidential campaign organizations. Like I said I was director of operations IBB presidential campaign, I was also deputy director general of Atiku’s campaign organisation. So I know how campaign organizations can generate funds. The last national convention we had in Abuja, we tasked ourselves individually. The media covered the convention and everybody could see how huge it was. Personally I contributed N500,000. So let’s assume that everybody gives N10,000 you generate millions out of it. Ahead of the none-elective convention stakeholders from states were tasked to bring contributions. I sponsored people from Bauchi State. Stakeholders contributed in conveying people to the last none elective convention. So there is a total departure from the way we generate funds for political activities. Now that we are not in government we have to face reality and this is the test period for every committed member of PDP to contribute his or her quota. Most of them were beneficiaries of PDP. So, if you cannot contribute when the PDP needs it then it is unfortunate. So we are running our campaign according to our own speed. If your have been monitoring it, we have not gone outside our own speed. Apart from the formal declaration at Yar’Adua center there has been nothing symbolic or financially heavy that we have done. The consultations are still ongoing and we will soon commence our zonal tour where we will meet delegates per state and zone to tell them why we agreed to canvass for Adeniran.
It’s appears that the micro-zoning of the chairmanship to the South-west by party leaders in the buildup to the national convention in Port Harcourt is about to be altered. So far there are strong campaigns from the South-south to take the position. What do you say to this?
If you can remember vividly the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party said they will not be involved in micro-zoning. They zoned the Presidency to the North and other positions for the North. So, it is the responsibility of the North to micro-zone those positions. And you are aware the North micro-zoned those positions during the last national convention. The chairmanship was also zoned to the South and the leaders of the region met in Port Harcourt, on their own without any duress from any quarter, and decided to micro-zone to the South-west. And they have not met again to change that position. Recently the South-east met and said they have endorsed the position of the North. The South-west met later and they remained resolute to the micro-zoning that took place in Port Harcourt which they were a part of. So what has changed? What is the new interest? What are the new intrigues? If they want to change the micro-zoning that they did by their own volition and consent, then the three zones should meet again and say we have changed what we zoned. It makes sense and that will define leadership, commitment. It shows that when you make a statement you stand by it. You don’t change things simply because you want to be a benefactor of it and as such you want to sacrifice an entire zone which has played a great role in the development of this country and democracy. The South-west cannot be underrated in anyway and manner. But since 1999, the chairmanship of this party has not gone to them. In the spirit of fairness and justice it makes sense to maintain the micro-zoning that they have done on their own by simply allowing it to go to the South-west. The North did not push them. I was in Port Harcourt. They met us and begged us to support the micro-zoning that they have come up with. Some of the governors met us at the presidential hotel in Port Harcourt and asked us to respect their decision. We said it is your decision we didn’t impose it on you. So it makes sense that they should remember the plea they made before, asking the North to support their micro-zoning position. It will interest you to know that they micro-zoned the position then simply because they didn’t want Raymond Dopkesi to emerge, he was a threat at that time. Today it is a different ball game and they want to shift the post. This is not child’s play. We are talking about the leadership of a party. It makes sense to stand by your words if your really want the whole world to see you as a man of honor and integrity. So let us see whether they will retain those words of decency, integrity and responsibility.
From your expression you seem to nurse fears that the process might be manipulated. What are those fears and who are those behind the schemes to manipulate the process?
We have no fears. Prof. Adeniran’s campaign is led by people that are very experienced in the art of politics. I am a young man but I have been in politics right from my childhood. There is no political actor that I have not met or related with. There is no conspiracy in this game that I don’t know. That is part of the reason why we decided to be transparent and own up to issues. What we are doing is advising those engaged in campaign of calumny that we have capacity to balance the issues. But we don’t want to be accused of creating the tension. However, they should desist from such campaigns. We are deeply connected to intelligence and information. We are also knowledgeable about movements. And we also know their meetings with those individuals they are accusing us of. We know they are seeking for their support. Some days ago we saw a breaking news that one of them when to Sen Kashamu’s house. He organized some chieftains to go and beg him for reconciliation. And these are the same people saying that Kashamu is bankrolling us. So we are just advising that we are not afraid of anybody. If you look at the analysis and our declaration nobody, can say we have inferiority complex. We know where we stand and where our strengths are. We advise them to work on their strengths not propaganda. We have capacity to balance propaganda issues. We know PDP was defeated because of propaganda. We now have the machinery to balance propaganda. But once they stop taking about issues and start talking about issues that affect ones credibility then it will be a different ball game entirely. We believe in the character of Prof. Adeniran, we believe in his sincerity and transparency. He has served with integrity and without any dent. We have not received any compliant of any kind arising from the period he served as minister and ambassador. He has served in different capacities and he did very well. And that is the reason why we support him. We can’t keep making mistakes of the past by bringing people with questionable character, who still having investigative issues around them. More over we don’t want to create a space for this government to ferociously attack PDP again. How will PDP members feel when their chairman, soon after the convention, is picked by security agencies because he has a pending legal issue or is connect to some dirty deal. It will dampen the zeal of party members. So we want somebody with credibility and decency, who has the courage to talk about the party without being questioned as being morally bankrupt. These are our reasons and they are solid reasons. We are also challenging those trying to tarnish his image to bring a better person if they have any, we don’t have any issues with. But don’t bring somebody with questionable character that will finally bury the party.
If there are attempts at coming up with a fresh micro-zoning, what will be the action of your team?
Of course there will be problem, because the South-west has met and said they stand by the current micro-zoning of the chairmanship position. Definitely there is a problem in the South as a whole. And I know that the South-east will definitely concur with that because any man who is a man of honor will stand by what he has said. So in the interest of balancing the sensitivities in this country, it is natural for them to adhere to what they did in Port Harcourt, there are no two ways about it.
Your party’s leadership has not started selling forms for position ahead of the convention, don’t you think time is running out?
That is the responsibility of the national caretaker committee. I have confidence in the committee. I have confidence in Makarfi; his calmness and composure in dealing with the party affairs. I expect that they will not do anything that will be detrimental to the convention. I am sure they will do everything humanly possible to adhere to the time given to them to organize the national convention, I don’t expect them to do otherwise. I am sure they are working on that diligently because they know the consequences. We cannot afford to have any other crisis this time around. Any other crisis will spell doom for the party and we may not recover from it. For those going around blackmailing people, if their plan is to bury PDP then that is fine. But if they are committed to the party, they should go for decency, credibility and consistency. These are the issues we are talking about. Adeniran has never wavered, he has remained in PDP since 1998. Consistency is very important. PDP must imbibe a culture of reward system. As a founding member of this party, I have never been rewarded. I have never held any political appointment or gotten any contract under this party. I am committed to this party because one of the founding fathers, Late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi was my hero. He was part of the heroes who fought Gen. Sani Abacha. They confronted the military machinery and won the battle field. So why don’t we allow for fair play and democracy today. For some of those who have served as governors, if there was no fair play how would they have become governors? Imposition led to our defeat and that must be stopped. If they want us to remain intact, as one family, certain things must be taken off. That era is gone. We are not afraid of anybody. We are ready to go to any political field to deal with the issues.