Barr. Mohammed Bello Mustapha is a front runner for the office of the national secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with ANDREW ESSIEN and TOPE FAYEHUN, he speaks on why he is the best candidate for the office and what he will bring to bear on the party
Why are you running for the office of the national secretary?
This is not he first time I have vied for that position. I have been contesting for the position right from when we started the process leading to the merger of the defunct parties which formed the APC. I am vying for the office because I possess the requisite experience to effectively and efficiently man it. I have what it takes to take the party to greater heights.
Also, I am a lawyer with more than 10years post-call to bar experience. I have been company secretary for different organisations and as lawyers we are trained to manage that office.
With all sense of modesty and responsibility, I believe that I have what it takes to bring everybody in the party together. I have a vision and a mission for the party which is to mend fences and reconcile aggrieved members of the party. I want to bring everybody together and make everyone have a considerable sense of belonging. I will ensure everybody carried along, while supporting the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, particularly the chairman so that together, we can move the party forward.
I also have a vision of a better party where justice, equity and fairness will reign. I can assure you that under my leadership as the national secretary, justice must be done to each and every member of the party. I am aware of the enormous task of bringing everyone together and I assure you that I am more than prepared for the task at this point in time.
For most contest in this country, there is usually a god-father who supports an aspirant. Do you have one?
I have God, I do not have a god-father. I åhowever have leaders that I respect and cherish, I see some of them as role models. When you talk about god-father, I have only God who gives power to whoever He wishes and I can assure you that I have been praying and God will give it to me with the support of the people.
Let me also use this opportunity to tell you that there was an agreement by the leaders of the party and I believe they will live above board. I believe they only need to be reminded about the promise they made to me and the people of my state at the last convention.
Like I said earlier, if you go back down memory lane, I had contested this same office and at each point, I was asked by the leaders of the party to step down which I always did, graciously. This happened in 2014 and 2017 for the office of the national vice chairman, North East and in 2018 for the office of the national secretary. For three consecutive times I was asked to step down which I did with an understanding and an agreement which was anchored by the Asiwaju himself, Bola Tinubu -who has earned my tremendous respect over the years – that I was going to be adequately compensated and when it is time for Mai Mala Buni to go for the governorship of his state, I will automatically replace him.
Mind you, it is supposed to be the convention that the first runner-up replaces Mai Mala in the event of his exit from the office. This happened in Kwara State, in the case of the office for the national publicity secretary. When Bolaji Abdullahi left, Issa-Onilu was the first runner-up and he replaced Bolaji Abdullahi and in his case, there wasn’t that understanding as it were.
In my case, it is a ‘locus classicus’ case, because everyone stepped down for Mai Mala at the convention, I was the only one that contested the elections properly with him. I was the first runner-up and there was a promise made by the leaders of the party to me. I believe they still have this at the back of their minds and they will fulfil it by the grace of God.
I have tremendous respect for the leaders of my party, President Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju of Africa, the national chairman of our party and a host of other leaders of our party. I will be coming onboard to add to what they have already laid as a foundation for the party and together, we will lift the party to its greater heights.
Some names are already being peddled as likely replacements for the former secretary. What stands you apart as the best choice for the party?
Yes, I contested with Bulama in the last convention but he stepped down in the afternoon. I stepped down later that evening. Besides being the first runner-up and the promise that I will be adequately compensated which I was not but have still remained loyal member of the party, I also served in the presidential campaign council in three different committees. I have served APC creditably well and I say that with all sense of modesty.
My state, Taraba has been grossly marginalised in the party. We have never had a shot at the membership of the NWC of the party, the state has no federal political appointment and despite all these, we still remain loyal party men and women. Our performance in the last elections also speaks for itself. Juxtapose this with Borno State. Look at how many political holders they have. Is it always about Borno and Yobe? It is about the North-east because the position was zoned to the region and every other state has the right to participate because all other states have had the opportunity to take a shot at the NWC except Taraba which has never had one. So, I think it is only normal, credible, just and fair that the party considers the state.
I believe the leaders of the party will not fail my state and particularly me, because of the sacrifices I have made for the party. I think it will be just for Taraba to automatically occupy the position at this time, if justice must be seen to be done to us. Let me also say that Mai Mala cannot hold two elective offices at once. He must handover to a newly elected national secretary before he takes over in Yobe as governor. Therefore, a national secretary must emerge between now and the second or third week of May so that there is time for the former secretary to handover and the new one can properly takeover.
If elected, what will be your strategy to ensure that there is calm in the party especially when you consider the issues it has faced in recent times?
I will work with the national chairman in particular and the NWC in general, to make sure that we reconcile aggrieved members of the party and mend fences. I have been in the opposition all my political life and so I am close to most of them. We will appeal to them to come back and those who are within the party that are not happy, we will find a way to appease them and carry everybody along. I think this is not a very difficult task.
Is it safe to say that you are contesting to become the scribe of the APC in order to give it a new face?
Not a new face per say because it is a huge responsibility. I alone cannot give the party a new face but together with other members of the NWC we will do great things. One thing I can assure you is that I have big ideas and if I come on board with these ideas, we will make everybody have a sense of belonging and together, we will lift the party to its greater heights.
Let me also say that I believe in party supremacy. This is democracy and one person cannot do it alone and therefore all hands must be on deck for the party to move forward. I can assure that I will bring some ideas that are very helpful to the party.
Do you think you can properly work in an Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC?
Absolutely! That is the importance of having big ideas. One will have to sell his ideas to the national chairman who I believe has a listening ear, more so, he was a labour leader. I know he will listen to me and other members of the NWC. I will sell my ideas on how better we can make the party be and how we can make the party more virile and acceptable.
I can work with anybody, the national chairman and other members of the NWC and together, we can move the party forward.
What agenda will you set for elected members of your party at all levels?
I will ensure that party supremacy is respected, the decisions of the NWC must be respected by all and sundry. This is because all elected party members rode on the back of the party to achieve their aspirations hence, the party is the mother of all. Party supremacy must be enshrined and adhered to by all. That is why the people must be carried along so that when a decision is taken, it will be in line with the desires of the people.
Do you think the APC has the confidence of Nigerians based on several issues facing the country?
That is why I earlier said that when I come on board, I have great work to do especially giving people all the assurances that we mean business. I have also said that I have tremendous respect for the leaders of the party but the most important factor is that the President is integrity personified.
Yes, there are challenges but they are all surmountable. With time, the President will overcome all these challenges, be it insecurity, economy and all other challenges the government might be facing at this time. Bear in mind the good intention and the zeal to work which is there too. I can assure you that we will earn more confidence of Nigerians than we did in 2015 and 2019. The President is ready to face these challenges head-on and by this, he and by extension, the party will emerge victorious even in 2023.
Taraba State has been marginalised and abandoned, we have not been considered for federal appointments, we have no member of the NWC from our state up till now. The Youths are not being carried along as we are supposed to.
I want to charge my party to advance youth participation in governance. It is time the youths take their rightful place in the scheme of things in this country. Don’t forget that we were the agents of this change we have today. Look at other advanced and industrialised nations of the world. You will see that it is young men that are governors and presidents.
At middle and late 40s you are still seen as a young man, that is fine. What then is the problem with allowing such young men to occupy sensitive positions like ministers and the likes? Don’t forget that the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill has been passed into law. Therefore, it is better for the powers that be to encourage youth participation in governance. They cannot just come up in 2023, without the requisite experience, to say I want to be this or that. We have to get them involved now so that within the next two to three years, they will be familiar with the workings of government and governance.
All this has to be done because this is the party that wants to stand the test of time and continue to lead and provide quality governance. A lot of things has to be put into consideration even in appointments because there are people who have paid their dues, all those who are yet to be considered have to be considered. It is time the party leaders look into this and consider their pledges.
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