Salihu Mustapha is the deputy national chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a contender for the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, he speaks on events in the party in the build up to its national convention.
There are indications that the CPC camp in your party has endorsed former governor of Nasarawa State Tanko Almakura for the APC chairmanship seat. What’s your reaction?
I’m not aware that CPC has endorsed the former governor for the position. If CPC is alive today, I’m the most senior person of that party. There is nobody promoting the candidature of Almakura. Unless you are the one that wants to promote it. However, in principle, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun came from the ANPP while Comrade Adams Oshiomhole came from the ACN. But the party is yet to officially announce the zoning of the party chairmanship to the North Central. When it does, we will make our case known. Some of us believe that since ANPP and ACN have produced party chairmen, the CPC should be given the opportunity because, politically, those of us from the CPC camp in the APC will be having an outgoing president as President Bihari leaves office. Naturally, if the president comes from the south and the vice president comes from the north, then those of us that come from the center should be able to produce the chairman of the party. That is the understanding in principle but it is not an official thing yet.
Most of the people who have indicated interest for the APC chairmanship seat are former governors. How do you intend to contest against them?
Before they became governors were they governors? They contested to become governors. Must there be a governors’ cult that will decide what happens in the country? They were ordinary people like me and you before they became governor. The same way they aspired to become something, all of us should also have the right to aspire. It is not a contest of titles, it is a call to anybody who wants to serve to come and serve. With all due respect, I need their support, I need their endorsement. I’m not saying that I am coming to fight, I believe that we all mean well for ourselves in the party and we are going to create a platform as APC that we can use to deliver on our own electoral promises or goals.
Who are those in your camp and have you consulted with the villa about your aspiration?
I’m bringing energy, fidelity, experience, goodwill. It’s a team work for me, and not a one-man show. Its an ongoing consultation. In politics you don’t shutdown until you have finished, otherwise you are doomed to fail. So it is an ongoing process. Then on the issue of villa support, we all know the president very well, he is a man that will always tell you that he is not for any man and he is for every man, but he knows those of us who have been with him since. There is difference between a child that you nurtured for over 30 years and another child that just came in today. We will not say more than this.
Do you see the APC national convention holding in June?
The party knows what it’s doing. The party is mindful of INEC’s timetable, and as a party in government, I believe we are also mindful of the electoral law that is being proposed, whereby, we want all primary elections to be actualised six months before the general election so that we can have all court cases thrashed before swearing-in. So that you don’t go to court before swearing in. As a party in government we are mindful of these and the caretaker committee is also mindful of these. I know and I am sure they will come up with a definite date for the convention before we hit INEC’s deadline. So I want to believe they are taking all these into consideration and part of the work they are to do is to make sure they come up with a feasible date early enough for us to hold the convention.
What is your agenda for the party i
f you are eventually elected the chairman of the APC?
I want to instill discipline in the party and bring about purposeful leadership. I want to put an enabling environment with the party as a vehicle to be able to deliver on the promises to Nigerians.
Are you saying the present leadership is not doing these things?
This is a caretaker commitee with an elected governor as chairman. I don’t think you will support the abnormalities that we have now. Or do you want that he should be doing these two works at the same time? Party administration is different. We want to have a party that will create an enabling environment for all, a party that will promote certain values, a party that will partner with government, that will sponsor a government so that you will be able to say that during the campaigns these are our party manifestos. These are what we believe in, so that you can hold us to it and say when you were promoting a certain candidate you promised certain things would be done. We want to have a party that will instill discipline in the members. Today we have court cases which should not be so. There should be party supremacy. I am going to bring all these and I believe I have the integrity, energy and goodwill to achieve all these. I am a bridge builder, these are the things I want to offer.
Was there a power rotation agreement in APC such that after the north rules, power will move to the South West?
These are discussions, gentlemen agreement and understanding. These are not documented things, so whatever APC does might be different from what other parties like PDP will do. So, there is always a gentleman understanding.
Was that gentleman understanding there?
In the final merger arrangement when we chose the party positions, in principle with good understanding, we chose these positions. Yes, Bisi Akande was to be the protem chairman because we felt that we already had somebody who everybody was looking at emerging as the presidential candidate in the primaries. But this did not stop Rochas Okorocha from contesting. So you see when you have an understanding in principle, it is not binding except it is in writing. We felt the presidency should go to the north at that time, but it did not stop Okorocha from South East from contesting. So if he had won won’t they give it to him? you will give it to him. So whatever APC is doing in principle as friends or as a family, let it be within the APC. I am not in the position to tell you that there was such an agreement that was signed by certain persons. There was nothing like that. But there was an understanding in principle that the north should produce the president at that time. For me, I believe that we should accommodate and balance the equation because in today’s Nigeria, there are two sharp divides which are ethnicity and religion, and I think it is time we should work above these divides.