Read Excerpt of the interview
You were one of the strong supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari. What informed your decision to join SDP?
Response: Because Buhari has failed. Yes. You are journalists. I took him round in 2007 when I was the ANPP gubernatorial candidate and he was then the presidential candidate of ANPP. I took him round Kwara as the leader of that party then. And Nigerians’ expectations before 2015 was that we have got a messiah to rescue Nigeria. But, all of you here will agree with me, without exception, that Nigeria is going down every day, if not every second. Only people that are ungodly and sycophantic and are not lovers of the people would say Buhari is doing well. You see, I will say Buhari because he is the head. You have to blame the head. If the head is good, everywhere will be fine. So, that is the reason. And in any case, till 2019, that’s when I was in APC. I left APC for PDP. It is from PDP now that I moved to SDP for reasons best known to all of you maybe.
Interviewer: The way you’ve said it now, we know you to be one of the dignitaries as far as politics is concerned in Kwara State and we know that you associated with the present government in Kwara State in the 2019…
Response: (Interrupts) That what? This present? No. As I said, 2019 election, it was under PDP. I didn’t run though but I supported PDP.
Interviewer: We observed that bigwigs like you in Kwara State who were strongly supporting this government in 2019 are moving out to SDP just like we see you today. Can one say what is happening at the national level is replicating in Kwara State?
Response: No. Kwara is a distinct place. It’s quite different from what’s happening at the national level. Those of us in SDP, we decided to have what is called third force. The platform as SDP is now the third force for obvious reasons. 70%, without exaggeration, of those in APC in 2019 are now in SDP because the struggle was won then. After the struggle was won, you would discover that the governor abandoned majority. You can do your investigative journalism. About 90% of the people he appointed were not part of the struggle. They are not known by the people that they did the struggle with. This is not how politics should be. I wasn’t part of them but I praise their courage for the struggle for 3 years those that are now in SDP. Just go and find out how he appointed his political appointees. Who are they? Where were they? Let’s be fair. In fact, my friend, I call in my friend, that’s Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, because in 2011 we were both candidates. When he was in CPC I was the candidate of ANPP just like Belgore was ACN. I must say that I’m disappointed in him.
Interviewer: You’re the secretary General of North Central Peoples Forum, Your forum agitation is that North Central should produce the next President?
Response: The forum believes North Central people have been shortchanged. I want to tell you, all the governors of North Central, they support the forum’s movement. We have visited all of them including Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and the reason is because being shortchanged as a zone. So we are looking for what can make us relevant. We believe without North Central no Nigeria. Without River Niger and Benue no Nigerian. The way they are treating us, not only in the north but in the whole Nigeria. Since we are the bridge, we want to prove that bridge and that’s why we said we want to be president or vice president, and everything that is possible to be to make us relevant.
Interviewer: Is that feasible?
Response: It’s very feasible. The election is not over. Primaries are still on. So, it’s feasible.
Interviewer: Sir, indigenes of North Central are the chairmen of the two major political parties. I want to ask you this question because of what you said that North Central is being shortchanged. The two major political parties have selected their chairmen from North Central, are you not satisfied with that?
Response: We are not. Party is not government. We are talking about government and you see when you people are saying this, Dr Bello (from North West), when he was chairman of PDP, Yar’adua (the former president) was from North West. Do you understand what I’m saying? So it has happened before. And it can happen again. Let me say this, governance, me I’m not for this zoning because you jettison quality. I mean, if the best person today is going to be from North Central and you said because we have to go to the South, you know at a particular point in time it’s just like beauty contest. It is all about the people that showed up… It doesn’t mean that winner is the most beautiful woman. So, now, those people coming out because most of them said it’s South. Then if you have the best candidate from another zone, then you’ve killed… It may not be the in another time (in 2027 for example). Zoning is not good as far as I’m concerned. You see, in developed countries, they don’t know anything about this zoning. It’s only in this part of the world. They look for the best candidate and they vote. Look at the election in France. In 20 years, this is the only person that has gotten the 2nd term. You know they change you as they wish to see who can serve them. This is what it should be in Nigeria. Forget about we politicians. People know what they want because nobody wants to know who is minister, commissioner. They want good governance. That’s what we need to deliver. And that’s what Nigerians should focus on in 2023. Either federal, state.
Interview: Do you have anybody in mind who can do it for this country?
Response: There are so many of them. But from the people that have come out now in all the parties, as we speak, I don’t see any. If you want me to talk frankly and sincerely.
Interviewer: Coming back to the state, do you see SDP pulling any surprise in the next election?
Response: We will pull surprise. I can assure you.
Response: By people voting for us. Because we are going to field the best candidates at all levels. That is it. It’s about candidate, not about the party. And after March next year, come back here and quote me that I said so today.
Interviewer: Are you going to take another shot at elective office?
Response: I’m running for governor.
Interviewer: To a large extent, former president, Jonathan, was voted out of office due to corruption allegation. President Buhari came in with the hope from that people that the man would reduce corruption if possible eradicate corruption. Recently, his government pardon Nyame and Dariye. What’s your view on this?
Response: It’s because they are corrupt, that’s why they have to pardon those people and when they too get out and the next government can have mercy on them. That’s the truth. This country, we come to a point by which, because we are at the lowest edge now, anybody that can say the truth is an enemy of this country. Anybody. You’ll see clergymen, mallams, pastors, anybody. Let’s tell ourselves that truth, before we go out by 12, 1am, people were safe. And Kwara is one of the safest place in Nigeria. Even in Abuja, when it’s about 8, 9pm, you don’t see people around again. Are we having a country? We have lost it. We need to regain this country back and whichever group that can do it, we need to bring them on board. If they are not interested in politics we should go and beg them.
Interviewer: There are challenges in the state. What would be your focus in tackling the challenges we have in this state order of priority? In addition to that, how would you rate the present administration in the state?
Response: If I rate him well, I’d have been in APC. If I’m to rate him sincerely and honestly, maybe 20%. It’s a bad failure. I’m not exaggerating. Everything I tell you I’m not playing politics with it. If he had done very well… He invited me 6 months to his administration that I should work with him. I said that I would if it’s for the development. I didn’t say I was joining his party, and nothing more after that first discussion. I think he just wanted good names to be with him. When he got a new chairman of the party, Fagbemi, we met at the airport. Sorry! He came to my office in Abuja. Somebody brought him. I told him to go and tell his governor that I would be contesting against him. He said I should not do that, be with us. I said I would agree on one condition. I said pick your phone, call your governor. If he answers his phone or he calls back for the time that you’re going to be here, I’ll join you. He said he would not pick it and he may not call back in 2 days. And I said you want me to be with that person, and you’re nominated chairman. I said forget it, I have been in this game for 42 years. In 1980, I was NPN youth leader in this state. I’ve been a national officer of major political parties; NRC, NPP. I’ve been a candidate so I understand this game. I said he’s not the man that should rule our state. I said I would do everything within my power to make sure that man doesn’t come back. Whether I’m contetsing or not. We need a good state.
Going back to your (first) question. You see, the thing is this; the first thing that is lacking in this state is lack of fairness and justice. We don’t have It. I want to bridge that gap to say I’m a Baruba man, I’m an Ilorin man, I’m an Igbomina man. You have to be justifiable to one another. If that is in place, all these he’s north, he’s central will never happen. In fact, if I do only four years and I’m to achieve that and I die, I will die happy. Number two, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Whatever that is due to everybody… You know, let me tell you, the time I wanted to be governor by my own desire was in 1999 when I contested against Late Governor Lawal. The only time I didn’t contest was in 2003 because Lawal was contesting and I was supporting him. When you look down the line till now, the kind of situation we found ourselves, the poverty level is unbelievable. And I asked myself; why? Former governor of Anambra, Obi, I was watching his programme last week, he said 70% of wealth is in the hand of 1% of Nigerians which is 20,000 if we use 200,000,000. And the man was honest, he said “I am one of them”. So you can imagine the remaining 99% are sharing 30% of the wealth. That’s the worst thing that can ever happened to any nation. Anybody that wants to come as president and can not redistribute this wealth appropriately, that’s why I said among all these people I’ve not seen one. Unfortunately. Number two, for Kwarans, You see, let me tell you, each of us now, we just finished eating. Are we going to eat more that this food? In fact, I’m not eating till tomorrow night when it’s time to break fast. You don’t need much but as little as we have taken, a lot of people can’t afford that. A lot of people. I broke my fast with a friend two days ago in Ilorin. The family are not here, he invited me. He then sent someone ‘koko’ at Maraba and moinmoin. We spent N500 and we were satisfied. So, what’s this? For me, redistribution of wealth is what is more important because anything, I’m a Muslim and in Islam, anything you acquire illegally is like a burden to you. So, for me, this time, I want to, let me tell you, it’s not because I want to become governor, I’ve been telling people I’m popular than some people in government in kwara and in Nigeria. I want to prove a point that governance can be very good by being open, transparent and honest. That’s all I want to do. If I’m able to do that, I’m fine. That’s my point because I can see poverty in the open, very clear. You see, some of us, I can not imagine people suffering around me. So what do you do? And it’s only when you’re in government that you can redistribute wealth and you can bring succour to the people. It’s very simple, what people are ‘chopping’ in government is not what is not making them to do what they need to do. To go to the hospital and be treated free cost nothing. It’s not up to what one person is shiponing in terms of corruption. For me, it’s for good governance. I’m not playing politics. Politics is gone for those time and I’m very serious. You know what I tell God? I said God you know my intention, you know why. If you want me to serve your people, because, you see, anybody that is not coming out can not add value to anybody’s life, irrespective, in your own little way. I believe that is the reason why God created us; to add value to somebody’s life. But I said, no government has a plenty of resources. If you give me, people will know that not everybody is a thief. You know me when I was commissioner here. I first became sole administrator of water. One of my friends, I don’t want to mention his name. He came with money that I have just been appointed because he was one of the contractors. When he came, I said “Listen, I appreciate you but I’m not here for this. Do your work and I’ll pay you if you do your work.” We set a rule, me and that governor then, that we know these are the projects. Any contractor that is about to finish we would know. At the end of the month when we go to Abuja we would collect N120m maximum then, not billion. We would settle them. The man didn’t believe me until he started doing his work and we started paying. As at then, I said “I’m richer than you. I was begged to come and be commissioner. I didn’t come to look for money”. What I’m trying to say is that it was yesterday Emti Mamman. Mamman is from Edu. He was in Trade Bank that time. I’ve forgotten that I’ve done anything, we were talking yesterday morning then after talking for almost an hour he was campaigning for his candidate, Yaman. They all left APC loyal to that place because they want to become governor. He said “I can’t thank you enough”, and I asked him why. He said the borehole you gave me in my house for over 20 years I’ve never even remove the pump to say they are servicing it. I’ve forgotten. I can’t remember nothing. I can do what I want to do and that’s what governance is all about. Anybody from Oyun here? When campaigning in 2007 to Erin-Ile at the palace, I wanted to start talking and Kabiesi asked me to sit down. Kabiesi said “You’ve forgotten what you have done”. He said “That water we are drinking, I was in your office as commissioner and within 24 hours you brought the pumping machine, you brought everything and it worked within 24 hours because you told them if it doesn’t work don’t come back to the office”. That’s what I did then. He said “That’s the water we are still drinking so you don’t need campaign here. I can remember nothing, I was doing it genuinely. That’s governance. You see, when you are in a position, apart from the human being you satisfied God will reward you for taking care of his people because poor people will always be more anywhere anytime in this world and the purpose of government is to reduce that suffering but we are adding to their suffering. That’s what we are doing now as government. So, I want to have that difference so that in other states when they see their governor they can stone them you’re a thief. I’m telling you. That’s my mission. Nothing more. I pray God help me.
In fact, you know what I always say. If I’m not chosen and they get whoever they choose and he is not having the kind of aspiration. I’m not the only one that’s having this feeling, let me just tell you, there are other people too that have this good intention. Yes, let them continue managing it with what they will get. But I beg God. You know, politics is extremely expensive and you look at it that why do you want to serve the people and you have to spend your money. What I’ve promised myself I would not do; I will not do some unholy things. What is it? You know those days even till now, people will go and lock up delegates somewhere, give them 50,000 or 100,000. I will never do it. If I don’t want to be elected, let it be. But when I go out to the field to appeal to people, I will give them money for feeding, transport fare, etc., those are logistics. But I will now say ‘How many of you delegate are from Isin LG, you’re this so take 20,000 each’, I won’t do it. I want to serve you. If you vote me in the primary to be your candidate, we will do it together. I can only be in one position; governor. You are the one to bring the commissioner, you’re the one to bring the adviser. So, what’s it? And we’ll sit down what is available we will share. So, why should I continue giving you money. That’s why we will never get good government because someone that wants to be governor has spent N2b. He will want to get his money back. In 2011, when I stepped down for Fatah, the governor then, Bukola Saraki asked me how much I’ve spent. I’m saying it before the camera, I said “Sir, I don’t need your money. I spent what I could afford”. A penny I didn’t take from him. If I said I needed N500m that day, he would give me because he was desperate. His sister was contesting, Abdulrahman was contesting, Belgore was also contesting and he was afraid. For me, they said we should go and take form. For my party now, it’s N16m. I don’t have N16m. I’ve told people, I said that I have a family to take care. So some friends said when it’s time they will contribute the money. I said fine. For me it (the huge amount) is madness. We are institutionalising corruption. From day one, the business you do with N16m, you can be getting half a million every month. Why should you go and waste it? If not that you’re going there to steal money. And people forget they are going to die, and God is going to ask them for every bits of what they did. The people I want to be talking to, you see I believe in God absolutely. I said God give me those people that will reason the way I’m reasoning so they can follow me and propagate. Jesus Christ and Muhammed (SAW), they don’t have any money but they got the best of followers and today they are heroes in this world and hereafter too. For me, I believe if God is ready to use you, He knows the kind of people He will give you.
Interviewer: Having said all these, I think we should talk about sensitization. …
Response: I finished in July. I spent 3 years but you see how do you sensitise people? The organisation that suppose to do it which is the National Orientation Agency (NOA) which I was the last chairman of that board. They don’t have a vehicle here in Kwara. They don’t have anywhere to do sensitisation. No machine. Government is not serious. That’s the truth. If I tell you what I know, you will cry. And they are making the followership to be worst than even the leadership we are accusing because the followership, if you don’t give money they won’t follow you. Don’t just blame the leadership, the followership is as bad as the leaders. Look, if I call people here now. They come from there various places and I don’t give them transport fare, next time they won’t come back if I call them. In fact, they will abuse me behind. They may not abuse me in my presence. But those days we contribute money to run parties. People in the villages, towns, they contributed to send people to go and represent them. It’s the community and the community will have the 2 or 3 major parties and sponsored different people there. That’s what they did. But now, communities have even left that, they don’t do that again. Secondly, individuals, especially this election time, you’ll see some people they have a budget. Followers, they have a budget of what they want to get. That’s the truth. Some, they will collect money they won’t do your own. Some will go for the highest bidder. That’s why you see some people they said politics is not for decent people. Anything I spent on politics, I don’t look at it. It’s just like sadaqah or you go to play casino and you lose money. Some of us we are used to it. But you see those who are not used to it will want to reap. You can’t reap in politics. You can’t be rich in politics if you’re sincere and honest. If you have, spend it because that is what the environment dictates. But if you’re able to get the position to change the system. Fine. That’s what some of us are looking for.
Interviewer: There are about four candidates contesting. Supposing the party says you should agree with consensus, will you buy that?
Response: Did you listen to Fayose what he said recently after taking the form and ate amala? He told Channels. He said he will not step down for anybody. If he’s the consensus candidate he will thank everybody. Let me tell you, let’s be modest, among the people that are out let somebody come out and say I senior this person in politics. I want that person. In the political party system, I was a national officer of two different major political parties. I was a Director General of a candidate in 2011 and I deliver him as our candidate. That’s Shekarau. I’ve seen it all. I want one of them to come with his credentials. Political credentials, not academics. I will submit to him but if I can’t see that person they can choose whoever. If the party says this is the person they want, I’m a party man, I will concur. I will not because of that and dump the party. I don’t change party because of issues like this. I came to SDP, yes, in Kwara because just 2 other parties are no-go-area for me. Abdulrahman has bastardised the whole APC. Saraki, people said ‘Otoge’ and it’s worse now the way he’s handpicking people.