Nicholas Msheliza is the director of contact and mobilisation of Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCO). In this interview with Gabriel Atumeyi, he speaks on the task of this organisation and the politics of the 2019 elections.
What is your perception of politics in the post 2015 era?
Politics of ideology has taken the back seat while politics of personal interest, as against national interest, is at the fore. That is why you see this gale of defections. There is also the air of government failing in their promises as well as nepotism in most decisions being taken. There is more polarisation in this country today, than ever before. Ethnic, religious gap is increasing, and the level of poverty has increased too.
All these are causing lot of political interests to re align again, to form a coalition to see if they can force some change. You heard what the British Prime Minister said when she came to Nigeria. That the majority of the world’s poor are here in Nigeria. We also know that some of the few richest people in the world are also in Nigeria. But the implication is that there is no longer a middle class in this country. There is majority poor and the minority rich and in between, we don’t have anybody.
What is your take on governance under the present administration?
They have used politics to enshrine dictatorship so that dictatorship is the order of the day under the veil of politics. In a situation where there is lack of obedience to court orders, and 30,000 policemen and other paramilitaries are deployed to a state for election, or the judiciary is haunted, that should not call be called a democracy but dictatorship. In a situation where there is selective and cosmetic treatment of the fight against corruption and where you have a case but are smart enough to defect to the ruling party for safety; that is not true governance. We heard, not long ago, when the president, while addressing the Nigerian Bar Association, said national interest is above the rule of law.
True democracy is supposed to enthrone a government of the people, for the people and by the people. But the government of the day is not practicing what it preached in the build up to the 2015 elections.
How do you see the emergence of Atiku as the presidential flag bearer?
The PDP presidential primary in Port Harcourt was free and fair. Atiku emerged without rancor as the party’s candidate and it was no surprise given his political clout. Based on his pedigree and experience, there was nobody better suited to clinch the ticket. Atiku has experience, he has been vice president and governor before, he is a successful business man so he understands the economy, he understands poverty, he is an employer of labour and an educator. On the political front, he is a bridge builder, he has the network all over the country. He is perhaps the best we can have today that can stand the tyranny of the APC government.
What are his chances in the 2019 election? Do you think 2019 would be an Atiku year?
Sure, by the grace of God. You have seen the recent endorsement by Obasanjo and other political and religious leaders in the country. 2019 would be an Atiku and a PDP year. It would be a year of abundance and blessing for Nigeria Because it would be the year we would usher in social, political and economic emancipation for Nigeria and Nigerians. I have to tell you this, if Atiku had not gotten the ticket, I doubt if we would have any other candidate among the pack that can stand the APC. Atiku is widely acceptable and widely acclaimed in the north. All the clamoring that Buhari had 12 million votes in the north is not true. When Buhari contested against Umar Yar’Ardua, whom he lost to, he had about 6.7 million votes, where was the 12 million votes then? He contested against a fellow northerner and failed. When Buhari contested against Jonathan the first time, he lost, where was the 12 million votes? Jonathan is not from the northwest but he defeated Buhari at the time. He only won a second time because the entire north felt it was their turn. And in the north then whether it was APC or PDP, it was a gang up. The 12 million votes they are claiming belong to both APC, PDP and others. Remember that Buhari won Plateau, Kogi, Benue, states that used to be PDP states. Do you think he will win these states again? Absolutely no! Again, he is contesting this time around against a fellow northerner and Atiku has a very bright chance.
What is your assessment of the ability of the Independent National Electoral (INEC) to conduct a free and fair election?
I have to give them kudos, they are trying but there is still much room for improvement. The view of so many is that their integrity or neutrality in the whole process is still a suspect. We have just come out of the Ekiti election and we have done several other isolated elections apart from Ekiti and the truth of the matter is that it is below standard. INEC has to further prove to Nigerians that they are unbiased and neutral in the whole of this process. Everybody working in INEC is also a Nigerian like every other person. If INEC compromises in this process, then there is no hope for the country.
What groundwork have you done as a campaign organisation to mobilise the grassroots for the Atiku agenda?
Our structures are on ground, down to every local government in the country. We have several hundred groups under APCO that are working round the clock to communicate the Atiku philosophy to the electorates. As the days and month go by, you will see more of our activities in that regards.
Do you think Atiku has a women development agenda or what is his perception of women in governance?
Even in his campaign organisation, some of the most sensitive positions are headed by women. Atiku has been in government before, part of the head hunt that Atiku personally did saw the inclusion of so many women including people like Oby Ezekwesili and Okonjo Iweala. That’s why I keep saying he has a testimony to show. Not like those who are saying I will do this or I will do that. He has done it before, he only wants to do more from where he stopped. Let me remind you that Nigerians are living witnesses to the achievements of the Obasanjo administration which couldn’t have been possible without Atiku as head of the economic team.
Your principal has been speaking the restructuring idea of lately, what can you add to this?
He is a proponent of restructuring. Out of all the park, he was the first to start talking about restructuring. Many of the other aspirants are now trying to copy him because they feel that is the language Nigerians like to here. However, they are not copying him well. Atiku started talking about restructuring even before he went into government and he means it. He has a document, he has a blue print and I bet you that the only person that I believe will carry it to the latter is Atiku. There are a lot of aspirants, that are aspiring to be president today, including the incumbent that have no policy document and no blue print. What are they singing now as they go round the country? It is either you hear some of the aspirants say this man or that man is backing them. But even if you wake Atiku up in the middle of the night, he will tell you his programmes for Nigeria.
That is where Nigeria should go, that is how they should sieve them. They should know them by their fruit.
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