In this interview with ABDULLAHI OLESIN, a contender for the office of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Malam Salihu Mustapha, attributes the heightened security challenges in the country to the forthcoming 2023 general elections. Excerpts:
What do you think is responsible for the heightened security challanges in the country?
I acknowledge that there are security challenges bedeviling the country at the moment. I also acknowledge that the insecurity is a global challenge. There is hardly any country of the world that is not facing one internal security challange or the other. So, since it is a global phenomenon, Nigeria, being the largest black nation on mother earth is naturally not going to be immune. So, that explains that. But be that as it may, there is no government that will be so irresponsible as to neglect the security of its people. It is true of Nigeria, and particularly President Muhammadu Buhari. He says this all the time that the number one reason he is elected to govern this country is to tackle the security challenges he inherited from previous administrations. The number two is to fight corruption while number three is to stabilise the economy. So, the president is fully aware of the people’s expectations and he is living up to it in the circumstances he has found himself. And the circumstances are that the bulk of the present security challenges are inherited.
Although I am not trying to find excuses for the government, like you, I also believe that things can be better, but certainly, the government is not resting, it is doing the best it can. It will only take a while before the results start to manifest. And that is why I am appealing for calm and patience from Nigerians.
However, from the political point of view, it is no brainer to observe that there is a syndicated sabotage of government efforts on security arrangement in the country. When government is filling one hole, some elements, for reasons best known to them, will be unraveling another. What they are ignorant of is that if it rains, it rains everywhere, and on everybody! So, when you say that insecurity is heightened at this time, I cannot but agree hundred percent. And the only reason why it is heightened is because of 2023.
It is a recurring decimal and as long as this kind of culture does not stop, insecurity will be heightened at one point or another in our polity.
So, what is the solution to this problem?
The people should pay more than a passing interest on their own security. The government is no doubt trying its best, in the circumstances it found itself. But the people too have to join hands actively with the govnment at all levels to nip this crisis in the bud. As I am talking to you now, I have lost a dear friend, Barrister Gulak Ahmed, to the insecurity going on in the country; he was shot in broad daylight in Owerri. We should join hands together to end these criminalities. We should not leave the government to it all alone.
In the midst of all of these, you have announced your intention to contest for the APC national chairman, what is the underlying motivation for this?
First and foremost, I believe in the service to the community and to me, the community is not just where you live; the community comprises of what you do, where you work, and people you associate with. My being in APC, as I’ve always said, is an ideological pathway; I have always found myself with the progressives, and if I can be of value or I can add anything to make it better, I think I will be most humble to do that. I am part of those who brought about the merger that gave birth to APC. As the deputy national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), we know what we did then, we all had to forgo our positions to allow for a bigger picture because we believe putting all hands on deck and forming a united front was what Nigeria badly needed at that time to overcome its challanges.
So, for me, there are so many things that I would say are part of what have motivated me to come out to contest this position; it is a party I am part and parcel of from the begining, and I would not want to see a project so noble as APC just go down the drain. I believe I have a lot to offer especially coming from someone who knows where we started from and the whole ideas and dreams of our founding members. So, I believe we can do better, and some of us can offer a lot more to consolidate on what is being presently achieved, because of course, APC has done well; I must say and also acknowledge that, but we can still do better; there is room for more excellent work to be done.
You will be contesting with bigwigs in the party – former governors, senators and others. When you look at that, do you not feel intimidated by their profiles?
Like I said in my earlier response, this is a call to service, and when you are called to serve, you are not to be intimidated by names or titles; the most important thing is what you have to offer, how well are your intentions, what new ideas do you have to bring to the table and how accessible will you be because in politics and party administration, you have to be very tolerant, and very accessible to allow a lot of people to come on board the ship.
Those you have mentioned, at one time of their lives, they were never governors, they were not born with those titles of governors or senators, they also aspired for it based on what they believed they could offer then. So for me, if my ambition today is to be the chairman of the party, on the strenght of my experience and network, I think I should be given the chance.
I am a thoroughbred party man. In terms of party administration, I have the widest experience so far. The records are there to show. I have learned to manage people, I have learned to accommodate different interests, and I have learned to stabilise the platform from some of the best hands that have managed political parties before. So, by and large, I have paid my dues in the Nigeria political milieu. I believe I am better suited to lead the party at this time.
Are you aware that there is an unwritten agreement for power to rotate between the North and the South in APC?
Thank God you said it is an unwritten agreement.
So, what is your take on it?
As a founding member of this party, what we did in 2014 was, we looked at those who are vying and like you all know, President Buhari has always had a vote bank that is irreducible since he has been contesting in elections. So, we saw him as our best chance to have won in that general election, and if you noticed, almost everybody went for him. But that did not stop those that wanted to contest. Rochas Okorocha is from the South East; Musa Kwankwanso is from the same North West as Buhari; Atiku Abubakar is from North East and late Sam Nda Isaiah of blessed memory is from the North Central. They all contested against President Buhari, and he emerged the winner. If by chance, any of these other people from the North Central or South East had won that primary, they would have been given the ticket. So, sometimes when you talk about power rotation, it is an internal winning strategy of the political party. It is sometimes imperative in party politics in order to protect diverse interests. For us in APC, you are right to an extent to say there was an unwritten understanding that says let this position come from the North because we were contesting against somebody from the South then. I am an ardent advocate of equity and fairness in the polity.
So, for me, in all honesty, anything that would bring unity in the party, anything that will give all sections of the country the needed sense of belonging in the Nigerian project, I am hundred percent for it. So, I look forward to what the party will agree upon in the day ahead. As a stakeholder, I am bound by the decision of the party, and I will respect it.