Muktari Shehu Shagari was a former minister of Water Resources and former deputy governor of Sokoto State. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he spoke on the recent defections from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other national issues.
Are you surprised with the spate of defections that have been going on in Nigeria recently?
I am not surprised because a number of APC members were originally our members. They were strange bedfellows; they were people who had different political belief and ideology. They came together for a purpose and that was to remove Jonathan as president. When you have this kind of coming together for a single purpose, not based on ideology, then you know that the marriage of convenience will not last long.
What will be the impact of their return on the PDP?
Politics is a game of number. They are coming back with their supporters and a lot of experience. They are also coming with a lot of resources and determination to ensure that the APC does not return to power in 2019. So the combination of these people and the people they meet on ground in the PDP has greatly improved the chances of the PDP in 2019.
Most people blame impunity for PDP’s loss of elections in 2015, don’t you think that the return of these people could start another round of impunity and other vices?
It’s actually true that one of the most important factors that made PDP lose the elections is impunity although there were other factors. We believe that the PDP has learned its lesson just like the Senate President said recently that the PDP has leant its lesson in defeat than APC in victory. So I believe we must have learned some lessons. These people coming together, I have reliably been informed will be treated as members of the party. The party should not impose any candidate. Where there is agreement on consensus, it must be obeyed and respected by all. The elections must be free and fair in such a manner that everybody will accept the outcome.
Talking about elections, were you surprised with the outcome of the Ekiti gubernatorial election?
Well, what happened was actually political robbery. I have never seen or heard in the history of politics where you will take 30,000 policemen to go and man a state that has only 16 local government during elections. If you do that in Ekiti in 2019, where are you going to get 30,000 policemen to send to every state? Even if there was no intervention by the federal government to rig the elections in favour of APC, an impression has been created in the minds of Nigerians that, this was done in order to help APC win the elections. I won’t say much about that because I know the party is going to court and at the end of the day, the justice system will take its place and PDP will be vindicated and the mandate stolen from the PDP will be returned.
What is the PDP doing to avert a reoccurrence in Osun State?
I want to believe that the APC government has learned its lesson because of the backlash of taking all the security agencies to Ekiti State. We all know how people are being killed in some states yet they took these policemen to Ektiti State. We have not seen them sent these numbers of policemen to these affected states. So the PDP will protect its votes in Osun State.
The PDP has been out of power for over three years, do you think it has what it takes to take back power in 2019?
Of course, we are ready and that is why people are returning to the PDP. It has become the bride of everybody. If you look at the promises that APC made to Nigerians, none has been fulfilled and things have gotten from bad to worse every day. This made PDP the only alternative for Nigerians. Nigerians can no longer survive on their salaries because of the economy. That is why politicians are coming together from all sides of the divide to boot out the failed APC government.
Some Nigerians have criticised the APC government’s ongoing fight against corruption, how will you rate it?
It’s very unfortunate that Nigerians now see the fight against corruption as political. It means it has failed. Fighting corruption should be holistic; you don’t just target the opposition. The PDP also fought corruption, the two ex-governors that were jailed, their prosecutions was started by PDP government even while they were still members of the party.
The issue of underage voters is still hanging in the air, some think it could affect the outcome of the general elections, what do you think?
I think child voting is quite unfortunate. It is undemocratic and it has tarnished the image of the country outside. It made nonsense of the elections itself. Preventing and solving this problem is the responsibility of every Nigerian. If you go to vote and see underage children voting, it is your duty to raise alarm and draw the attention of the appropriate authority. So as a Nigerian, you must exercise your civic responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t happen. All the political parties must also be on the lookout for these children. This is child abuse. The government should not allow this just because they want to win elections.
Are you worried over the killings in the north?
I am really worried because if you are travelling to Kaduna, you will have your heart in your mouth; and your family and friends will be calling to know if you arrived safely. It is terrible. I went to Gandi to commiserate with the people that were attacked. In that village, most of the men have been killed and it is mostly women and children that are in the IDPs camps. The men were few. Nobody should be happy at the loss of life of anybody. The government must send security agents in the same manner they sent 30,000 to Ekiti. They must send them to Zamfara, the 1,000 they sent to Zamfara as it was reported, was a joke. They should be able to send about a hundred thousand security men to places like Zamfara. The federal government has to sit up. Mr. President must try to know the truth and stop listening to people that surround him and tell him only lies. We have serious problem in this country especially of insecurity. Nobody is happy. People are always apprehensive because anything can happen even in their homes. These killing and kidnappings must not be allowed to continue. The APC government promised that insecurity would be a thing of the past in 2015. But right now, even the APC supporters know that we have never experienced this type of killings in the history of Nigeria. People are no longer secured. The government must do its responsibility and protect Nigerians. Nigeria is a beautiful country; what is needed is fairness, equity and justice for all. I must be treated in the same manner the other person is treated. The politicians and religious leaders must stop this divisive campaign and preaching. They should stop being selfish. The Ulamas and Christian leaders must preach tolerance and unity. In the past, we used to be untied and loved each other. We have to be our brother’s keeper.