Were you surprised when PDP won the Osun gubernatorial election?
I am and I am not. I was surprised because I had hoped that, with the work we did, we will be able to win the elections. I was confident we were going to win but lost it. That is not to say that I didn’t know that there were some underlying problems with the APC in Osun state. The party in the state was split; they refused to see the need for them to unite and confront the PDP. They were overconfident that we will win but unfortunately, they left their flanks open. I don’t want to lament. We did the best we can like the president, the father of the nation has done that is expected of him. I do hope that our party men and women in the state will understand this reality and close their ranks as fast as they can.
There are fears that the loss is a sign of what will happen to the APC in 2023. What is your take on this?
I don’t have to be pessimistic and I don’t have to be lamenting but we understand as leaders and members of the party the situation we are in. It also doesn’t mean that things will continue this way. I didn’t want to lose the elections but, this is where we are; INEC has declared the PDP winner. We will see the best we can do in the current situation the party finds itself. The main concern now is to find out why we lost the elections, where we went wrong and how we can strategise towards the general elections. It has happened and I am sad but, we are moving on.
Still on losses, prominent members like the senate leader and former governor Aliero have left the party over their party’s primaries in Kebbi state. Are you not worried that others could follow suit?
What do we do? political conflict should not be understood as in physical sciences where two plus two equal four (2+2=4), 1+1=2. It is not just the former governor, Adamu Aliero, or the former majority leader, Sen Yahaya Abdullahi, there is the attorney-general, Malami, or the incumbent governor, Bagudu. It is a state issue and it involves lots of stakeholders. Yes, we are the party leaders but, it’s a problem they chose to let it take the dimension it did.
There is a limit to what I can do as chairman. All politics is local, there is nothing I didn’t do to reconcile them but, the leadership of the state won’t listen. The major individuals involved are from the same state and I am a stranger there. I was supposed to broker peace between them and I tried but it just didn’t work. They have all come to my house an uncountable number of times yet, they just couldn’t see eye to eye. I thought the leaders should try and ensure that there is harmony, equity, and justice in the way and manner in which the fortunes of the party are spread in a manner that will ensure the understanding that is required to forge the interest of the party forward, this did not happen.
We lost the membership of not only former governor Aliero, and the majority leader Dr. Yahaya but, a host of other party members in the state. Even though I am the chairman of the party yet, there is no way I can just get up and tell the leaders of the party in the state to ‘shut up.’ The leaders have all the party and state apparatus in their control and, they decide what they want to do. Ordinarily, they should want victory in their state more than I do. I made this point time and again that, we should not ignore the influence of a former governor, you can take a horse to the river but you cannot force it to drink.
There have been reports that other legislators are planning to abandon the APC because of similar issues. Does this bother you?
It is all media speculations. If a large number of legislators defect as is being speculated, how many will be left? It is not true. reports like that could scare and affect people negatively. Nothing like that is about to happen. Elections are about winning and losing, some of them have good cases in which we intervened but, others lost and there was nothing I could do about it. I deeply regret the loss of any single member of the APC as a result of the stalemate we have tried to resolve. Yes, the party is the unifying factor and, we worked to unite everyone as best as we can. Besides, some of these problems were there before I became chairman.
I have made it clear that, no matter what you do, in the complex situation that we face, reconciliation can only be achieved with those that believe the issues before them are reconcilable. But where leaders don’t see and appreciate the opportunity God has given them and try to play mini gods, they have themselves to answer to the creator who entrusted their leadership position. There is always a day of reckoning and leadership in whatever form is a transient thing to have. when the chips are down, we can only reconcile the reconcilable.
If people are willing to compromise easily because they lost elections, it shows they don’t have the greater interest of the party at heart. It should be the interest of the party and how we can win the presidential elections that should interest every member. it should be about how, we can continue In government as a party and, if some people cannot see that, then it is unfortunate. As a human being, I expect people to appreciate what they have, we must appreciate that power is transient. I was a governor for 8years and today, I am no longer a governor.
I was a minister for 4years and today I am no longer one. I was chairman of, the board of trustees for PDP, I was a senator and today I am longer one. So everything that has a beginning must have an end. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand this and I feel hurt. You will see people at the same party who have the biggest opportunity, they enjoyed the best benefits from the party, and yet, they are the architect of problems for the party.
There were reports that primaries were not held in Taraba yet, someone is parading himself as an APC candidate in the state. Is the party doing anything about that?
As far as I am concerned, there were primaries in Taraba and, we have reports of the primaries that took place there. I didn’t go there myself but, we sent panels and they reported back to us. It was the report we took to INEC and it was accepted.
The Labor party is gradually taking the form of a third force. Are you afraid of the party?
It is the making of the media and I hate to see or think of the media in that context but, that is the reality we face. Some of them have made up their minds to turn against the ruling party because they think that, we are not doing well. The media appears to be sympathetic to those criticizing the ruling party. Yes, there are problems but, we will resolve them and win the general elections.
The issue of the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the APC has drawn lots of criticism and condemnation from Christians. Does this bother you?
Is it the Christian that is not a Nigerian or the Muslim that is not a Nigerian? The national convention of our party in open and transparent primary elections voted for the APC flag bearer in the person of his Excellency, Ahmed Bola Tinubu. As the tradition and guidelines of our party dictate, our candidate enjoys the prerogative of nominating his running mate.
Our party has spoken in the choice of the presidential candidate and in turn, the party has spoken through its presidential candidate’ mandate, so we are all for it. We stand soldier to soldier with our candidate and his running mate. We will do everything to ensure victory. These are very delicate issues that I don’t want to go into the nitty gritty of this matter.
I, therefore, urge all loyal members of our party to close ranks whether Muslims or Christians to work in earnest for our success in the forthcoming elections.
The APC is generally believed to revolve around President Buhari, and now that his tenure is almost coming to an end, there are fears that the party will disintegrate after 2023. What is your take on this?
It is a statement of facts that President Buhari’s integrity has been a big influencing factor in the life of the APC which intimidates the psyche of PDP and other political party followers. It brought enormous value to the fortune of the APC. If he goes, we will miss him but, we will do our best to maintain his legacies. We will ensure that we win the general elections.
We should be prepared as a party that such a day will come because when you give birth to a child, you desire that one day, you will wean the child and the child will grow. I won’t say I am not sad but, I am preparing to face the reality of him not being there as president one day. of course it will affect the party but, we have no choice. I cannot tell you that, we will do this or that but, we will prepare for that time.
Coming back to the state of the nation, many Nigerians are blaming the ruling party for the state of the economy, especially their policies that are believed to have led to a high rate of inflation and increase in the prices of goods and services. What can you say?
We are in government and whatever is being fed to the mind of the electorate, we take the blame for it. There is no way I can explain why people blame the ruling party for some of the things happening.
We are in government and we must take the bashing of the electorates. I am a farmer and without being immodest, I can tell you that, I am one of the biggest farmers in the country today because of where I come from. I know how much I sell my maize when I produce it.
As I talk to you today, 100kg of maize from my farm is being sold for N17,000 but by the time the middlemen take the produce to the market, it becomes a different ball game. I don’t know why they increase the price like that, they claim it is the cost of transportation. So you can see that, we don’t have a sense of patriotism again as Nigerians. The media is quick in throwing blame and yet, failed to report on some of the causes of the problems we face as a country.
No country in the world is not having a problem with inflation today. In Britain, it is the same thing, president Micron of France is facing the same thing, and Joe Biden in America Is also facing their fair share of inflation. It is a global phenomenon. Major economies of the world are sneezing and we are catching a cold, lets’s appreciate this fact. The Ukraine /Russia conflict has also contributed to this inflation. I never knew the impact Ukraine wheat is making on the prices of food until their war with Russia started, I didn’t know how many countries were depending on food from Ukraine until this crisis started. It is affecting wheat in African countries. Let us stop being myopic and thinking these things are happening only in Nigeria. We must all join hands and take the right steps to change the situation.
But are you not bothered with the persistent fuel crises and hardship it has brought on Nigerians?
I am more worried than you are because we are the government of the day. I know what I spent to buy fuel. Maybe I can observe the pains of some people but, I am sad. I do know that the federal government is doing all it can to make sure the scarcity comes to an end. I have also heard some arguments that Nigerian fuel is still the lowest compared to other countries but, it doesn’t make sense to Nigerians. The common man does not care about the dollar which has lots of effects on our economy. The pound sterling is not our national currency yet, it affects us. People don’t understand that economies like Britain or America that buy fuel at a dollar or sterling are different from ours yet, they compare the prices to Nigerian prices and say, ours is still cheap. we should be mindful of oversimplifying the exchange rates when we are talking about cost. The state of microeconomics in this country is not at the same level as either the UK, America or the so-called developed economies. The impact of changes In oil prices to the level that we now talk about hits us more than it hits the British or American consumer We should be more worried and I am determined to add my voice that my party does everything it can to stop it. What Nigerians don’t know is that it pains the president more than it does me and you. I have had the opportunity to discuss this issue with the president and, I know his feelings about this. He is not a magician, it is not just about our economy, Other countries’ economies and policies have a bearing on Nigeria’s economy and, that is why we are feeling the brunt now.
Coming back to you, having been a governor, minister, senator and now party national chairman, which will you say has been the most challenging?
Each comes with its challenge…
But the chairmanship of a big party is believed by many to be the most challenging, how are you coping?
I am coping the best I can. When I was nominated at the convention, I told the world, I can do it and the party allowed me to do it. It is not time to complain but, to work. I am trying to do the best I can to see that I lead the party to victory. Right now, as of the date of this interview, the news in currency is that we have lost in the last governorship elections in Osun and I am not happy about it. But we will prepare for 2023 because that is the real battle. APC should prepare to work for victory in the 2023 elections because nothing good comes easy