Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) who was appointed All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council Northeast Zonal Director in this interview with AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH said President Muhammadu Buhari has done more than anyone else for the Northeast to deserve overwhelming votes from the zone.
You have been appointed Northeast Zonal Director of the APC Presidential Campaign Council amidst other senators and bigwigs from the zone, what do you think informed this decision?
Idon’t know why I was considered but all I can say is that I feel highly honored by the confidence reposed in me by the President or whoever was responsible for my appointment and I am looking forward to delivering my best.
It’s not that I am better than any other senator from north east or many other people that are eminently qualified to hold that office. But I am thrilled. I am sure Mr. President has his contribution in it and I am sure he didn’t take that decision alone. But all I can say is I am highly honoured.
Do you think this is not a compensation for your unreserved support on the floor of the senate for the President and your subsequent travails in the hands of your colleagues?
My support for President Muhammadu Buhari is borne out of my conviction, based on my encounter with him while I was very young.
Remember that during his military days he was appointed military administrator of the northeastern state around 1976.
In those days, he instilled discipline, transparency and honesty in the system which made most youths then adore and adopt him for mentorship.
In 2002, he ventured into politics and joined ANPP, the same party I belonged. Since then, we have virtually been threading the same path politically, just as many of us have since been convinced that Nigeria needs leaders like him and the fact that his type of person is not common.
Beginning from 2003, he attempted three times until by the grace of God he came out victorious in 2015 in a transparent election following the adoption of card reader.
And within the three and half years that he has been president, the difference is very clear and transparent compared to the government of PDP that we had for 16 years which was not really democratic but more of a kleptocracy. These aren’t mere allegations but rather armed with facts and figures to back it up.
Under that government, it was like everybody was for himself and his family, grabbing whatever they can but this time around we have a government led by a very transparent, honest, disciplined person concentrating on three key areas and he has not changed or veered out of that course for once.
That is the area of tackling the menace of insecurity, tackling corruption and also concentrating on developing our infrastructure that have long been ignored and are decaying.
Many have contended that of all the APC Presidential Campaign Council Zonal directors, you would be facing the biggest challenges because Buhari’s most formidable opponent which is Atiku also comes from the northeast with you. How would you tackle Atiku’s challenges?
Well, you don’t take any opponent or competitor for granted. Atiku was Vice President of Nigeria for eight years and of course one of the strongest influential vice presidents Nigeria has ever had. It is also true that he is from northeast where I come from and is also seriously campaigning for the forthcoming presidential election.
Buhari was a military administrator of the northeast Besides, Buhari was a military head of state, though for a short period of about 20 months, and he has now been a president in a civilian administration for about three and half years now.
Atiku, as I said was one of the most influential vice presidents of the country under the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was given all the powers devolved upon that office and his performance is there for Nigerians to judge. As I have said, 16 years of PDP governance which he unarguably played a formidable role, took Nigeria from bad to worse; even the PDP recently apologised to the country for its misrule. As for Atiku, if you read the book of his former principal Obasanjo, entitled “Under My Watch”, you would see the letters and terms he described Atiku with.
And as for us from the northeast, we have not seen any development that Atiku brought to the northeast in his eight years of being one of the strongest vice presidents. Well, he is an extremely rich person, but that is to himself and maybe by extension to his family. An average poor man in the northeast and Nigeria in general doesn’t know that Atiku is rich because they have not seen anything that he did to lift them from cradle of poverty. Besides, there is no practical concern or empathy from him to those people to warrant him being given the opportunity to be president.
This is a clear departure from President Buhari’s countenance and disposition to the plight of the masses since he became the president of the country. There are countless examples to buttress this expression. Under his watch is the ‘anchor borrowers scheme’ which has gulped up N500 billion so far. That made most of our farmers to go back to farming for profit. There is Vice President Osinbajo’s ‘TraderMoni scheme’ which is designed to help petty traders expand their trade through the provision of collateral-free loans of N10,000 (Ten thousand Naira).
There is also the ‘N-Power-Enhance’, designed to advance the social investment programme (N-Power) which has empowered thousands of Nigerian youths across the country. Beneficiaries are engaged in different areas of public service, including education (N-Teach), health (N-Health), agriculture (N-Agro), building/construction (N-Build). Beneficiaries are paid a monthly stipend of N30,000 during their period of engagement. This is to mitigate youth unemployment in the country.
Elaborate opportunities are being provided for small traders through the provisions of small scale loans without demand for tangible collateral to secure such loans, just as it also attract minimal interest rate charges.
So, you cannot compare this government which is government for the people and by the people with the government of PDP that was more of a kleptocracy.
We are at the election period, we have been going round, sensitising the people which they, the PDP even know, that’s why you see PDP is not campaigning at all. They are running around complaining, contradicting themselves, they are running around crying, running around criticising unnecessarily instead of campaigning and we are campaigning and we have campaign manual and the president categorically requested us never to insult or denigrate people because it is only the lesser minds that attack personality.
We will be talking about ideas, issues, facts; we will be presenting facts to the people and that is what we have been doing and with that, it is very easy to defeat PDP that is known by Nigerians.
For northeast, with take-off of the Mambila Hydro Power Project, that is enough to vote for Mr. President, not to talk of the terrible security situation we found ourselves with the Boko Haram insurgency. It was only when President Buhari took over that we are able to sleep with our two eyes closed. To us in the northeast, Atiku is not the problem, what we are trying to do is to clean up and take-over the two states which accidentally or mistakenly were won by PDP in 2015. Those two states, Taraba and Gombe shall by God’s grace return to the folds of APC. But in Borno, we have only statutory PDP, even when PDP went there for their campaign, when they shouted “Nigeria”, people replied with “Sai baba or sai Buhari” even when they said “PDP” it was same response.
As the election gets closer, the campaign is getting dirtier, if you recall they said the president has shares in Keystone bank and in 9mobile. Secondly, that the APC has diverted arm purchase money to fund its campaigns. What’s your reaction to these allegations?
As you rightly said, it is a dirty campaign, we will not be playing dirty, and we talk based on facts, issues, and ideas. As far as we are concerned, let them bring the facts and approach the appropriate authorities. These are wild allegations as you have said, but there is no fact. When we alleged that they stole and shared the $2.1 billion meant for arms purchase, we provided proof of evidence, arrested culprits and also arraigned them in the court for trial. But they are talking about the Buhari family having these and that without facts. Even the allegation of the arms purchase, I remember that the National Assembly approved the use of 1 billion dollars for arms purchase which is what they are talking about. I also do know for a fact that under the administration of Buhari, there is no way that the money would go to any individual. There is no third party unlike they that loaded a plane with cash to South Africa in the name of going there to buy arms.
Till today, we have not heard about that money but we will investigate that too, we will get there. Facts will be made available. We know how they distributed that $2.1billion and we know how they stashed dollars in banks, dug soak ways and dumped millions inside.
This government does not tolerate that and when they also raised allegations that Amina Zakari is related to Buhari and she was appointed as the INEC collator in order to rig election for Buhari, but if we may ask, who appointed her into INEC in the first place? She was appointed as INEC commissioner by PDP in 2012.
We read about the arrest of Dangote’s truck at Mayo Belwa for transporting 150 bags of smuggled rice and some people are saying that it is because he opted out of APC presidential campaign council. What’s your take on that?
To start with, Dangote did not opt out of the council, that is not true and I think there was a mix-up somewhere.
Besides, this allegation is a creation of the media because it is not Dangote that was arrested but Dangote’s truck which are two different things.
The truck drivers can do a lot of things outside owner’s knowledge. Dangote would never be involved in any unlawful deals and I am sure he would be the first to order for the arrest of the driver if he is aware that his trucks is carrying such things that is against the law. It is one of those things that the PDP members are peddling about, just to look for excuses here and there.
This year’s budget of N8.83 trillion which is barely $24 billion is about the same amount budgeted during the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s administration in the early eighties when we were about 79 million. How do you feel about budgeting the same amount for almost 200 million population?
This year’s budget is going to be funded by external and internal borrowings. We have to budget according to our revenue projection or available resources.
This government would at all time be objective. It would never budget bogus figure just because the country’s population is high.
The president is a very realistic person and as such this year’s budget is also honest and if it is prudently implemented then there’s no cause for alarm. What the government did since he took over is very commendable and visible. He tries to build critical infrastructure, he has made progress in roads, railways, agriculture, using the little we have and I think that is commendable and I just hope that the National Assembly on resumption will expeditiously pass the budget.
As I have earlier said, we are having relative peace in the National Assembly because we have all agreed to work for the progress of Nigeria and put aside our personal or party interest. Any breach of that collective resolve would take us back to where we started or our trenches. We would ignite the fight afresh and this time, it can be dirtier because we would take it as attempt to fight Nigerians. Anybody frustrating the budget is frustrating Nigerians, so we are sending this signal particularly because it is not about party, it is about the country. So, any leadership of the senate that tries to use the senate to sabotage the effort of this government to deliver services to Nigerians which is the hallmark of the budget would be strongly resisted.
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