Architect Audu Sule Katagum is the Deputy Governor of Bauchi state. In this interview with BODE GBADEBO, he bares his mind on the controversies surrounding the last governorship primaries in the state and the chances of the APC at the 2019 elections.
Recently, There has been a reconciliatory move by the national headquarters of the APC on the contentious primaries that took place in Bauchi. We want to know whether these issues have been resolved and if not, what is the government doing to stop possible implosion in the party?
First and foremost, I don’t really think there was any contention to the primaries as far as Bauchi state is concerned. Of course, for any election that you need, one person will only be the winner and on such cases, the loser will not agree because everybody wants to be a winner. Now, with regards to Bauchi primary election of the APC elective seats, we all know initially that, what the stakeholders of APC here in Bauchi wanted, was indirect primaries but at the end of the day, we had to talk to the leadership of the party at the national level and we conducted election as they directed us to do. In most cases all over the state we had to conduct election very late, in the evening and night in some cases and at the end of it, as far as the government is concerned, the rightful people won the tickets. For example, there were three other contestants for the governorship ticket and at the end of the day, there was no doubt His Excellency won. After the election, of course, there were a lot of issues including decamping. Some people decided to go to court but the government immediately set up a reconciliatory committee that sat down some of these people who lost out in the election and I believe we were able to convince more than half of them to understand the situation that only God gives whom he pleases. Some agreed to that, some wanted refund of their money while some wanted some other incentives from the government and I am happy to let you know that a lot of issues have been resolved. Some came back and agree to
assist the party while some decided to leave the party. We wish them well and we will face them in the general elections.
There are three prominent members of the party who are contesting the outcome of the party’s governorship primaries. Don’t you think that not reconciling with them mayt affect APC’s chances at the polls?
No. If you look at the primaries, the votes that were garnered by his excellency, the governor of Bauchi, was the highest. The three aspirants did not get more than one per cent of what the governor got. So, with regards to them becoming some sort of stumbling blocks to the governor’s chances, I don’t think so. In the first place, they failed to realise that the people of Bauchi state themselves are happy with their current governor and this issue of the primaries were conducted everywhere in Bauchi state fair and free. Like I told you earlier, the stakeholders of APC in Bauchi have chosen to do it by indirect mode as recommended by constitution of the party but a day before the exercise, we got a directive from the party headquarters in Abuja that we should do it using ballot boxes and the instruction given by the headquarters was that, if the committee that was to conduct the election comes, they should not even see the governor, because they don’t want any situation whereby the committee might be compromised by the state government and this was accepted by the governor. In fact, when the committee came and wanted to see him, he said ‘don’t see me, call all the other contenders let us sit down four of us’. And this was what happened. The people who were contesting the governorship also insisted that a certain group of people should conduct the election, that is the National Union of Teachers, which the governor conceded. The election materials were brought to Bauchi. All the contenders had their agents at the election office in Bauchi, they all verified that the election materials were not tampered with and each local government had agents of each aspirants, who escorted the same materials to each local government. So at the local governments, again they had their representatives, everybody saw what was brought in and at the end of the counting, nobody said anything. The governor garnered 75,000 votes while the highest among the rest was about 7,000 or 6,000. So if you look at the figures, I don’t think they will say they can constitute any hurdle to our re-election. We are just praying that they will come back and see reasons. People elected this governor in 2015 because they know what he was going to do and he has delivered on the promises he made to the electorate.
One of the states that Apc is banking on to win the presidential election is Bauchi State. do you think the APC and President Buhari still have that kind of support they onced enjoyed?
Look! Mr President is probably one individual that nobody can say something bad about him. As far as the general populace is concerned, especially in the North, nobody is blaming Buhari on what has happened. If you look at what has been happening all over Nigeria, nobody is saying it is the president who has done this. Honestly, all elections in Bauchi since 1999 have always been since he started
contesting election in 2003, Bauchi state is probably the state after Kano state that gives Buhari the highest votes and nothing has changed. I will show you, go into the towns, villages and talk of Buhari, he is the same, he is in the hearts of the people, nobody can change that, nobody can change that perception people have about him, especially in the North. This is a man of integrity, this is the man that we need to continue our leadership. So we clearly understand that what has happened in the primaries will not affect election of Mr President or thinking pattern or love the people of Bauchi have for him.
There is plan by the governor to give interest-free loans to small-scale business owners but some people believe it is a votes-buying plot. What is your take?
My take is that I don’t think the government want to use this as a political leverage and I don’t think His Excellency the governor of Bauchi state needs to do that. Like I said earlier, even from the primary election, we are going to be honest with ourselves, the governor has already made his mark in Bauchi, he has already proved that he is governor of the masses. Now on this issue of loan, this did not start with this administration, because the last government also gave such loans to business men and small market people in Bauchi and this offer actually came in as early as two years ago. The market people asked the governor for this kind of loan because Bauchi as you know we call it a civil service state and how do you improve economic activities or industry? They were able to present
their case to the governor as far back as two years ago but that time the governor told them ‘look, I don’t have the resources but I assure you we will look at it carefully and then by the time we are sure that it is going to be of economic interest, of course, we want to help all the marketers’. Now, every business man in Bauchi is benefiting from this loan. So, it is something that has been ongoing and this is the time that the government realise we can afford to do this right now and this is why it is coming right now. If you say it is a political move, I think whatever one does now till election will be considered a political move and I think it’s not really a bad idea to support the government to be re-elected to continue doing what we are doing now.
Bauchi state has been relatively peaceful under this administration. What is your magic wand regarding security?
Governor Mohammed Abubakar has a good relationship with the service chiefs in the state. Security is a major priority to this administration, he is always on top of things and there is a beautiful synergy between this government and the Police, Army and the Civil Defence Corps. So this good relationship has translated into a working cooperation. The governor is accessible to the service chiefs in the state to come to him any time there is any issue that requires attention. That is just the template and of course, he has been taking care of them.
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