Shehu Musa Gabam is the national secretary of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the Bauchi State gubernatorial aspirant gives insight on the battle for 2019 and other national issues
Most people were surprised when you left the PDP. What informed that decision?
Most of us that were the founders of the party left after diligent consultation and belief that we have exhausted all means and processes to reform the party. We are nationalist who believe in building a viral structure that will further unite this country. We believe in creating political ambience that will give every minority a place and sense of belonging to vie for any position and to realize political potentials. We came to terms with this fact that it is impossible to redeem PDP at this critical time. The situation the nation finds itself today is one that needs immediate change. There is no place on earth that operate a rigid constitution. We discovered that few people and some governors have hijacked the party. They refused any kind of reform in the party. After we lost elections in 2015, a lot of committees were constituted to review why we lost.
The first committee was of the deputy senate president-led by Sen Ike Ekweremadu. In the North-east, it was held in Gombe State and the former national deputy chairman, lead the delegation to Gombe where I also made a presentation. Opinions were collected and suggestion were made on why we lost elections and what should be done. The NEC approved those suggestion by Ekweremadu report and it was agreed that it will be implemented to the letter. PDP wasn’t defeated by APC. We were defeated by internal process of PDP. We wanted to know why they revolted against the party and the party accepted its fault and promised to make a change. Sen Ahmed Makarafi-led executiv also set up a committee headed by Prof Jerry Gana with the mandate to authenticate the fundamental reason why PDP lost elections. It was also meant to create an interface between the PDP and other emerging parties to serve as an emerging force, so that those parties can liaised, harmonized and fuse into PDP to become one. I was part of most of those committees. We generated some of the best ideas any party will wish to have. We generated how the constitution of the party will be amended. The NWC under Makarfi accepted what we did with gratitude and even gave us certificate as a mark of gratitude for what we did. It was agreed that virtually everything that was agree upon will be applied at the convention. We agreed that there won’t be any imposition anymore or impunity. There will be no rascality while respect for the rules of the party will be strictly adhered to by all members. But there was a violation of all these suggestions and recommendation on the day of the national convention.
The so called unity list was circulated by governors. A governor will be carrying the unity list at the convention as a mark of arrogance. So we couldn’t tolerate this anymore. A party shouldn’t be like a banana republic where people will have no respect for the rule of law or its constitution. The founding fathers of the party bolted out of military regime and formed a party of like minds from G-7 to G-34 movement that later become a full party. PDP was intended to meet the yearnings of all Nigerians. All those principles were derailed. They were not adhered to. They said those principles have become outdated and so they will not adhere to them. They continued with their arrogance and people like us could not stand it. We are part of the formation of PDP when my late boss, Abubakar Rimi was sent to prison. We have been paying a price to build democracy and I cannot allow someone who by accident becomes a governor to impose his will on Nigerians that lead to the defection of prominent members of the party which lead to our defeat in 2015.
What will make the SDP different from the PDP?
There is a lot of difference. We are rejiging the party to a modern party, it has a sense of belonging and freedom to air views. Everybody can also contest elections.
But most of those in the SDP now are from the PDP, don’t you think they will come with their baggage of impunity and alternate interests?
No, I am not worried. When you move into a new place, it has its own conditions and you will be careful not to spoil this one the way the other one was spoilt. If we were not after changing the status quo, we would have remained in PDP. The country is stranded politically. It is looking for a new lease of life. Both APC and PDP have proven that they are incompetent to preside over the country. They lack the ability to understand the dynamics of the country. Just like the president said, Nigerian youths are illiterates and are looking for free education. These are most uncharitable comments coming from a party that is ruling the country. SDP is generational driven. Our policy is that, the younger person should drive the process and the older people stay behind to advice and guide the young one with their wisdom and quantum of experience. If you look at our fundamental principle, it is respect for the rule of law. When we joined the SDP, it was operating on a low profile but today, we have become a force to reckon with. We didn’t come here to play.
Most parties in Nigeria lack ideology, what is the SDP ideology?
There is no party that doesn’t have ideology but the third world countries have no defined ideology for now because their democracy is evolving and because of sycophancy that has bedevilled the system, you will find scanty people that have ideology. Sycophancy has enveloped every facet of our lives so badly that, people’s conscious’ have been covered with corruption, which is why when people are stealing, instead of telling them to stop, they are praised by the society. But democracy in Nigeria is evolving and people are beginning to stand up for their right. The sycophants are still there and that is why you see the attempt to invade the National Assembly recently where the mace was stolen. This is because they want everybody to become a sycophant like them.
Both the PDP and APC have zoned the presidency to the North, is the SDP toeing that line?
We are. I don’t believe in the principle of zoning as a human being but our peculiarity demands that for now. With time, it will be phased out because every principle of zoning is parochially design, ethnically designed to favor some people. But very soon, you will see people talking about personality not party or zone again. In this forth coming elections, there are large number of people that will vote personality not party.
Different people are beginning to set up formations and alliances, is the SDP thinking along that line?
SPD is open to virtually every coalition and party that will want to come in. we will not form alliance, we have the capacity to absorb everybody. We are in discussion with some formations and coalitions. I was part of some before. We have recently absorb about four parties, ADPA officers are with us except for the chairman. APGA officers are with us except the chairman, ACCORD party and the rest. We are enlarging day by day. That was how we built PDP.
What happens if PDP reaches out to the SDP?
Alliances are allowed in a democracy but we have to define the terms.
Coming back to state of the nation, how worried are you over the spate of killing that has bedeviled some parts of Nigeria?
There is no decent human being that will be comfortable with the killing that is going on in Nigeria. some of these issues are clear cases of incompetence and lack of political will. The primary responsibility of government is to provide security of lives and properties for its citizen. Failure to do that means you have violated the oath of office. What is happening especially in the north is political and religious driven. We are so unfortunate to have leaders with parochial mindset and they believe they cannot get anything until they bring religion and ethnic sentiment to it. As large as the north is, some people outside the north don’t want to see us united and this is historical. It baffles me that the north will crack its walls and allow strangers to come and dictate to them. But we forget that we cannot relocate to another land.
What will it take to end these killings?
These killings will stop if we have a strong government in place. The law must be allowed to take it’s course without sentiments. Individuals should not be allowed to break the law and get away with it. Why should a group of people invade a community, kill the people and nothing is done? We need political will to deal with these issues.
Some seem to believe that restructuring will solve our problems as a nation, do you share such view?
Yes I believe in restructuring because when we got independence, the population of Nigeria was about 27million. So there was empty land everywhere. But Nigerian population has reached almost 200million which means the land has shrunk compared to the population. So we need to adjust and this is called restructuring. Every state that has natural resources should be allowed to harness and use it to develop their state, and be giving the center a percentage. If people have basic amenities, there will be less crises. Those afraid of restructuring are politicians who will fizzle out in the process. The SDP is in support of restructuring because we are not ignorant of what it is all about. It is in the interest of my people for the country to be restructured because it will bring development, more funds and security. It will create more employment. Nigeria will not fail. We will be strong and viable once again. Every county has its own crises. There is no month that somebody is not killed in America with their development and technology. Nigeria case is a child play compared to what we see in that country. As bad as boko haram is, it has prepared the nation, through its military, to re-strategise and develop capacity to meet up with the menace. I don’t think there is any individual that has the capacity to divide this country. All the agitation you are seeing will fizzle out the very day you get a decisive, strong and patriotic leader who understands our geography as a people. If we are lucky to have a career politician as a president, all these thing will disappear. Our problem is that largely, those that have been president in Nigeria have not been career politicians. That is why you will see the kind of attack we saw in parliament recently directly or indirectly motivated by the executive to break the powers to the Senate. At the point of our crises, Nigerians know who to come to gather. You can see now that 2019 is approaching, people are coming together to form one formation after the other. They understand that we don’t have any other country except Nigeria in respective our difference, as for SDP, the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. Very soon, you will begin to see people on the floor of the National Assembly decamping to SDP, you will be shocked to see that SDP has taken over the National Assembly as a majority.
Coming back to you, there have been reports that you will contest the gubernatorial seat of Bauchi State. How true is this?
That is why I am a politician. By God’s grace, I will go for the number-one seat of my state.
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