In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, former deputy governor of Sokoto State Murtakr Shagari speaks on some topical political issues.
Looking at the recent leadership crisis in PDP and the defections of some governors, it would seem like the party is yet to get its act together ahead of 2023. Isn’t that the case?
PDP is the most dynamic political party in Nigeria today. Defections from one party to another have become a tradition in the political setup of Nigeria because of lack of ideology and principles. Governors moving from PDP to APC is not new because governors had also moved from APC to PDP. Do not forget that APC is a collection of dissatisfied and disgruntled politicians who left PDP and moved to APC. So it will not be surprising to me if before the end of this year, or early next year, we see governors, senators and politicians moving from from APC into PDP and from PDP to APC.
It has become part of a political tradition which is unfortunate because if we do not have stability of membership in parties it will affect our political culture. I think it is important that we imbibe politics of principles, ideology, service to the nation and the people rather than politics of self-aggrandisement and satisfying of self ego. The governors that moved from PDP to APC have given their reasons for doing so but Nigerians are not satisfied with those reasons. In my view, if there is a problem in your political party you should stay in the party and resolve the problem so that democracy will be strengthened.
You have mentioned the need for politicians to change their behaviour. But the political class does not seem ready for that. How should parties begin to address this situation?
The big political parties must have a mechanism of selecting leaders and candidates who have character, integrity, pedigree and interest of the nation at heart. What can change or destroy things is leadership. Parties need to have the right kind of people in leadership, that way it can select the right people into the State and National Assemblies, get the best persons as governors and commissioners. You have to produce people who will see party leadership as a calling and an assignment to move the nation forward and bring about good change and good leadership with transparency and integrity in politics. People tend to mirror their leaders. If they see that their leader is corrupt, then they think corruption is okay. When one leader is seen as an honest man but those people around him are corrupt you can’t make a difference because no single tree can make a forest. You need almost everybody to do so. So the parties must go back to the drawing board and decide to bring people, not on account of how much money they can contribute to the party, but in terms of how much positive change they can bring to the leadership of the country.
Let’s look at Zamfara State. You and only a handful of people have gone through the experience of the deputy governor of the state who has refused to defect with his governor. He decided to stay back in his party and they want him out of the position. Being a member of your party, have you had an opportunity to speak with him on the situation?
The matter in Zamfara State is subjudice. The parties have gone to court. PDP has gone to court and I know that some APC members have also gone to court to challenge the dissolution of the state executive committee. PDP is saying the governorship is ours and it can’t be taken to another party, particularly a party that did not participate in the election. So I think we should leave it to the judiciary to decide what the real situation should be. However, the scenarios between me and the deputy governor of Zamfara State are different. But I salute his courage and principles. I know this family. I know they always stand by what they believe is right. I actually salute him for having the courage to stay in his party and like I said, as long as we do not develop this mindset of staying back and resolving issues in our party, we will continue to have problems in our democratic journey.
In my case, I was elected by the delegates with 80 percent of the votes to be PDP flag bearer. Without consultation, President Obasanjo agreed with the ANPP at that time to come into PDP, and they asked him to concede the governorship to them, even without their candidate being part of the process. He (Obasanjo) did that. He only informed me after he had already decided to do that. I have told everybody that when he mentioned it to me, he wasn’t sure whether I would agree or not. But I said this is President and leader of my party, who without anybody’s prompting, having met me at a meeting, decided to invite me to be part of his cabinet. He also gave me all the opportunities in this world to perform which I did to the extent that he gave me the third highest award in the country: CFR. Interestingly, he had called me to the Villa and requested that I resign my appointment to contest the governorship in Sokoto State. He was made the request reluctantly because he said I was doing a wonderful job as water resources minister. But he said he wants PDP to win Sokoto State and that I was the one that can do that. I asked him if it was the directive and he said yes. So I resigned.
After I resigned, he was told I won’t be able to win the primary election because there were some other political gladiators. But I said winning elections takes a process. So I agreed to run. Initially, I didn’t want to be deputy governor but I was told that if I don’t contest, the possibility of a DPP candidate winning was high. According to the report he had, if the election held at that time, Governor Wamakko who was in ANPP and I in PDP would each get 30 percent of the votes while the DPP candidate, Bafarawa’s party at the time, would get 40 percent of the votes. Being a loyal party member coupled with the respect I have for the elders who spoke to me, I agreed to team up with Wamakko and we won the election.
So you could see that it was not Wamakko that nominated me, I surrendered my own ticket to him to contest. In our second term he decided to move to APC. He didn’t consult me despite the fact that he consulted almost everybody. So based on principles, political ideology and my belief in solving party problems rather than running away, when he announced that he was going, I said I was not going. In Zamfara, the deputy governor was nominated by the governor as his running mate. So, morally, what would Wamakko have used to try and impeach me? I stood on a higher moral ground. I have been a member of the party since 1998, I am a founding member.
In Zamfara, the governor can want to tell the deputy to go on the grounds that he brought him. Even though I can’t talk about the matter because it is still in court, I don’t know what the House of Assembly would use to impeach the young man. But you can see that the scenarios are different. I can say that up till now, I have not received a call from the deputy governor on what he should do. And when someone does not ask for your advice why do you have to go and say I have come to advise you. But I wish him well and it is my hope that he and the governor would work together in the interest of the people of the state. They can work together. It happened with Wamakko and I, despite the fact that he left PDP and I stayed. I must commend Wamakko for tolerating me despite the fact that we were members of different parties. We showed Nigerians that it is possible for members of different parties to work together in the interest of the people and that is what we did.
What are the prospects of PDP in Sokoto and what is your next move?
PDP is actually the ruling party in Sokoto State. I played a very important role, alongside others, to ensure that we won the 2019 election. My priority now is to help the governor fulfill his mandate based on the promises made to the people of the state. To also help him ensure that his performance is spectacular. Also help him to ensure that at the end of the day when 2023 comes, we give him the opportunity to also select the best person he thinks can build on his achievements, and cement his legacies and move the state forward. We will also help him to find somebody who understands the dynamics of development and the economy and how to move the state forward and make it better. Somebody who can interact and will be fully acceptable by the people. I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that we have good governance and management of resources in Sokoto. By the 24th to 26th of every month salaries are paid.
With the economic problems we have in this country today, it is an important achievement for a governor to be able to pay a monthly salary on 24th and 26th. And he does owe a single kobo. It is a legacy whoever comes after him has to continue with it. In Education, water supply, infrastructure, healthcare delivery and management of resources Tambuwal has done well. I’m so proud of him and I am happy that I supported him to become governor this time. What will happen in the future we leave to him to decide.
Let’s look at the politics in the Northwest, where people think PDP might have it tough in 2023 because of its inability to hold congress months after, the rising profile of PRP in the region and the dominance of the APC in the zone. What are the prospects of PDP in the region ahead of 2023?
Our zonal congress will come up.
Reconciliation is ongoing. The major problem about the congress is in Kano and not all the states. The zonal chairmanship was actually zoned to Kano. So it is the gladiators in Kano that are the problem. But we will overcome that. Like I said, PDP is a dynamic party, full of people with experience and wisdom, so we will overcome that. Secondly, I do not know what you mean by the rising profile of PRP. Is it because Prof Jega has joined or what? I have not heard anybody talking about PRP in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi or anywhere in the North West. PRP was a party that was formed by an icon at that time.
But since the party divided into two in the Second Republic, PRP has never been the same again. I do not know if the party has a counsellor even in Kano State, so where is the rising profile. As far as APC is concerned they have a lot of explanations to give to the people of the North West when it comes to 2023 because of the security situation in the region. Today, it will be madness for anybody to start going from Sokoto to Zamfara or Gusau to Sokoto anytime after 5pm. Many villagers have left their places because they are being attacked almost on a daily basis by bandits.
Zamfara is a theater of insecurity. See what is happening in Katsina. Kaduna has become the center of kidnapping. We shouldn’t forget that despite the love they have for Buhari, northerners voted for APC because they believed that there will be security for everybody. They actually believe that poverty will be a thing of the past. They believed there would be infrastructure. But all these are absent. APC would have to prepare itself to tell the people of the North, not just North West why all the promises they made are not being fulfilled, especially on security. One of the things used against Jonathan was that the North has become completely insecure, especially the North East. But is it secure today? It is still not secured.
Also in politics before you are elected into office your rating will be about 80 percent. By the time you come into power, the rating will start nosediving particularly if the expectations of electorates are not being met. Are the expectations of electorates being met today by the APC? I won’t answer it and I don’t want you to answer it. We will leave that to the electorates to answer in 2023.