Former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who now represents Kano Central Senatorial District in the Senate, speaks on a wide range of national issues. He spoke to MUYIWA OYINLOLA
Should the presidency remain in the North or power should shift to the South in 2019 because you are one those who led the agitation for power to return to the North in the last political dispensation?
In this game, one has to try and be a team player. And I have been a team player for a very long time since I started politics. During the days of SDP and NRC, we collectively decided that power should shift to the South. And we worked so hard. At the end of the day, after the first primary election of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Falae and others, the government then decided to cancel it and we started all over, and in SDP, we decided that power should go to the South and once that decision was taken, Abiola was elected as our candidate in SDP. Of course, NRC then decided to field our senior brother in Kano, Chief Bashir Tofa as their candidate.
But because of the position of our party, Chief Bashir Tofa is somebody I know very well and his house and my house in Kano are close, just a stone throw. The same polling booth, the same ward. But because of the position of our party, we went there, and we defeated Tofa in our polling booth, in the ward, in the local government, in the state. So, that was the situation then. Of course, during the discussion, I may put in my opinion also. But once a decision is taken, then we stand by it.
And I’m sure you remember also, in 1998/1999 our party, the PDP decided that power should shift to the South. That was the position. And we went to the drawing board and started campaigning. We supported a candidate from the South West, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and I’m sure you remember that in that election, Rimi, our leader in Kano, also my senior brother, we worked against him. We supported Obasanjo. Obasanjo got almost 100 per cent of our delegates. In fact, when we went to Jos, Rimi had to withdraw because there was no way. We told him, this is the decision of our party, in other words, this is the position of the country as far as we were concerned in the PDP. And we stood by it.
And so also in 2003. Many of our leaders in the North wanted to contest with him. Of course, we said no way, there was no way we could allow anybody from the North to move against a president who had just spent one term into his two-term tenure. So, they came, we rejected them, from the North. We said no, this is our candidate.
We went to the Eagles Square against their will, because we realised they didn’t understand. We supported Obasanjo. He won the primary free and fair. And we went back home and we worked for him, and he became president the second time.
And after that, together with Obasanjo and other leaders in the party, we said, no, this time, it should go to the North. We went again, supported Yar’Adua from our backyard in Katsina, and he won the election. And so on and so forth.
The point there is, at any point in time, we have our own way of doing things in our parties. Sometimes, we sit down and say South, and once we agree on South, we’ll go back and tell our people, this time, it’s South, and it’s going to be South. Even if my brother or my sister decides to come from my family, (against what we have agreed on) I say no to that. This is politics. It has nothing to do with you’re my neighbour, you’re my friend, you’re this, you’re that. If you’re a Muslim, if you’re a Christian, if you’re from the South, if you’re from the North, at this particular time, if we say, South, that is it.
And by the grace of God, over the years, our people, because of the respect they have for us, when we say this is the time for the South, they agree. When we say the decision we took is North, it’s North. And that is how it operates.
So, 2019, when it comes, of course, we’ll sit down and decide on where, based on the reality on the ground. And I can tell you, if any party makes the mistake, because, it’s like season, it’s like time. When it is time for North, leave it. When it is time for South, leave it. And that’s how we succeed. That’s how we have been very successful by the grace of God.
So President Buhari should not enjoy two terms of eight years?
That’s when the time comes, that what I’m telling you. It’s not my decision. There are stakeholders at every given time. I have been opportune to, right from 1992/93 when I was deputy speaker of House Representatives, I have always been part of these politicians, and we sit there. Once we see facts and figures, we won’t say we’re Northerners, we have to take it, no. But when we have reason to say this is for North, based on facts and figures and we make it clear, we’ll put the things on the ground. If somebody thinks either they have the government or because they have resources they can bend it, you can’t bend it.
Some of your colleagues, like Senator Abu Ibrahim, and a few others are saying that the president should be allowed to have a second term?
Of course, that’s what I’m telling you. Second term of Mr. President, so many people, some close to him wanted to uproot him, we said no.
I’m talking of the President, President Buhari?
Of course, President Muhammadu Buhari is going for second term and if he’s going for second term he should be allowed to go for second term. What is the problem in that? I don’t see any problem with that.
Will you elders toe along that line now that he’s even sick?
I am not sure you’re well yourself. Because you see somebody smiling doesn’t mean he’s well. Because somebody is in the hospital, it doesn’t mean that somebody who is not in the hospital is healthier than him. So, I don’t think we should be going into the details of that. Only God knows who is sick. Only God knows who will die, and we should leave it at that.
Only recently, a pressure group in the North shortlisted 11 names of potential candidates for 2019 presidency and you’re among them. Are you going to yield to the prompting?
You cannot stop people from making their speculation. People, in the past even speculated I have left APC, I was in party this and that. So many allegations and counter-allegations may be because one is being quiet. The idea of being quiet is to allow the state government, the local governments, government at any level to do whatever they feel should be done to better the lives of our people.
At such level also, especially when everybody is quiet like this, the press will have to sell their papers. Somebody will concoct story and say this is the position and you can’t stop that. The only thing is that they should be done within the limits of the law. 2019 as far am concerned is still far, even though the INEC has started reminding us of it. Those of us who have been in this game for some time now, realize that everything has time. This is not the time to start campaigning. This time, if you like, you can make consultations with friends to discuss issues, mend fences and so on. I think that can be done now, but to go into campaigns and so on, I don’t believe this is the time to do that.
And even the issue of political party. For me, our part is good. They have been very supportive to me, in person, to our group in Kano, and across the country. So, we have no reason whatsoever to leave APC. APC is a coalition of so many friends that sat down and of course formed the party. And what the party needs now is our support so that it can be stronger and it can be useful to us and to the country.
You see, it is very easy for people who are what we used to call ‘Abuja politicians’, to be jumping from point A to point B. We left PDP because it was necessary. Now, we don’t have any reason to say we are abandoning APC. If we leave APC now, to go to where?
How correct is it to say you’re politically on exile? It is being said that you have not been going to your district, what are your fears?
I’m sure you’re referring to Kano. This is not the time to talk about Kano. That time will still come. But I believe this is not the time. For now, let’s talk on national issues.
If you don’t go home, can’t one be right to say you have abandoned your constituency?
I want to assure you that I have more supporters today in my constituency in the Central than ever, and so also in Kano itself. We are growing from strength to strength, not only in the state but also Northern Nigeria. Whatever you think about dividends of democracy, people are very happy about what we are doing. And let me also take this opportunity to correct the general belief that buying machines, buying this and that to give to the people in the constituency is the only dividend of democracy, I don’t think that is correct. But even then we’re doing our best in terms of our Foundation, Kwankwasiya Foundation, and our people are very happy.
But you have lost the party structure in Kano?
We have not lost anything. The position of the party in Abuja, national secretariat, is that all those who were elected that time, I think 2014 or so, those names are with INEC, those names are at the national secretariat, and that is also our position. So, nobody has removed anybody as far as I know, across the country. In fact, the party is now in the process of replacing the names of those who have died or left the party. As far as we’re concerned, as far as the national secretariat is concerned, we’re solid. And not only Kano. It’s across the country.
In the last two and a half weeks, the nation has been at the edge following a quit notice given to the Igbos living in the Northern part of the country, by a coalition of Northern youths. As a cosmopolitan politician, and as a Northern leader, how do you react to this?
As far as I’m concerned, the unity and development of this country is key, and therefore I want to tell you now that we will continue to stand with the unity, the fairness and justice across the country. And of course, I call on all my friends, brothers and sisters, across the country, in all the states, in all the local governments, to join hands in ensuring there is peace in this country. Peace can only come when things are being handled the way they should. The issue of education, the issue of security, the issue of health, the issue of protection of lives and properties. This is key. And on the whole, I believe that Nigerians are good people, very good people.
My understanding of the situation in the country, if you look at it, especially based on what we read on the pages of newspapers, is that the people who are agitating from the South East, think they would better if they are given independence as biafrans. All what they are saying, going by what we read in the newspapers is more of appointments, more of development, and so on and so forth.
In my opinion, talking of secession is going too far. And people start agitations for many obvious reasons; and going by my personal experience across the country and beyond; some people may start agitation because of their own personal interest. Some of them are politicians who want to start politicking and everybody has his own way of starting. Before 1992 when I was a civil servant, I started politics through self-help group activities, that was how I galvanized my constituency locally. I wouldn’t be surprised, if the young man who is making this agitation decides to contest election in the next dispensation. That’s how many of them start. They would mobilize, and mobilize, at the end of the day, they become heroes and champions, and at the end of the day, they start pursuing personal interests.
The young men in the North, I don’t know them. I’ve not met them. But I think the ultimatum they gave, I don’t know and I’m not sure whether they mean it is right from their heart, but some of the things that some other people are saying is that people are sick and tired of all these agitations. People want to make progress. People want to move forward. Now, with all these going on, people are just drawing the country backward. Therefore, in their own opinion, they thought this is the time, and they gave ultimatum.
So, I hope people in the leadership position of this country will come and make sure that this unnecessary disruption is stopped and is stopped as soon as possible.
One of the governors in the North has said that the Northern youths behind the ultimatum should be arrested. Do you subscribe to that?
You see, the first thing when you hear anything like that is to invite them if you know them. Sit them down and discuss with them and see if actually they said so. That is one. See if they’ve got any reason. Whether they’ve got any reason or not. You need to dialogue with them. So, I think there is need to exercise caution on both sides. I think there is need for dialogue. I think that is what has been lacking for a very long time.
In terms of appointments and developments, how would you assess this government as far as the South-east is concerned?
There are ways of communicating or putting some of these differences forward. Not by saying you want to leave this country, that is not the answer.
Even if what they are saying is true, I don’t want to go into the merits and demerits of what they are saying. But what they are saying is over and above what should have been done. In politics, we have to dialogue. You’re given today, you’re happy. Another day, you may not get it, either as an individual or as a zone or state, everything has time. And I’m sure you remember there was that kind of allegation by some people during the last administration. But nobody was calling for a break up. That is not the way to go.