Read full interview of former House of Reps member, Hon. Mashood Mustapha (MM) who was a Coordinator of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Campaign Rally in 2019 election. He gives insight on causes of crisis rocking the party’s in the state, solution, assessment of Gov AbdulRazaq administration and his relationship with erstwhile president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki
As an APC chieftain, what is your assessment of Gov AbdulRazaq led administration?
If you look at the government that was ushered in 2019, precisely on the 29th of May, compare to the past government. I think I will give kudos to this present administration headed by Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq. He has do alot in terms of infrastructural development. He had done alone in trying to right most of the wrongs that have happened and bedeviled the system. For me, I think somebody that is coming from the private sector, coming with such lofty knowledge and experience had actually help in managing the lean resources of the state. It is not a state problem alone, it is a national and global problem when we talk about economic recession. At some point, went into economic recession in two occasions now and we are able to wriggle ourselves out as a nation on those two occasions. The problem actually tripled to from the national level to the state level and the local level. For me, I think if we look around the whole three senatorial district of the state, the governor has done well within the little resources available. Alot of things have been said in terms of other areas which has to do with carrying along the stakeholders, which is the major issue at hand which made a lot of members and our supporters to have a kind of negative understanding about the way government is being run. But one thing we should avert our minds to which is very important is the dynamic position of individuals. The understanding of people who are saddled with the responsibility. The way I will run my government will of course be different from if Alhaji Raheem Adedoyin for example is saddled with the responsibility. We all have one thing at the back of our minds; service to our people. But you have to at the area you want to see as a priority and you prioritise such areas. For me, the governor feels that the infrastructural level of the state had gone so bad that he need to tackle such, especially if we have to go into specifics. We look at the area of health sector. Most of our health centres, our medical health centre, our hospitals, our general hospitals have gone very bad. If you go to Sobi hospital now, you can attest to the fact that it has come back to life. Alot of lives have been saved in the course of upgrading such facilities, expecially in my own ward. I give kudos to the governor and I want to use this opportunity to appreciate him. When I went to commiserate with my fellow colleague who lost his Dad and we passed through the health centre and I saw the monumental development that was going on there in terms of the rehabilitation of the health centre. I think it is something we should look at. But when people talk about stomach infrastructure; carrying stakeholders along to help the pocket and other areas, the governor might be a bit not too keen in that aspect. I know they all have to go hand in hand and those are areas some of us that are very close to him have been advising him to look towards that direction so that it will not look as if when he start to do it at that later date, people will start reading political meaning into it. For me, I think the governor has done tremendously well. I want to challenge the press to do investigative journalism so as to be able to compare. Most of you have been around for a very long time and you know what the government of the past were able to achieve in terms of infrastructural development compare to what this present government is doing.
It is alleged that Gov AbdulRazaq did not carry along many party stalwarts that worked for his emergence, and this particular allegation seems to be major problem that is causing disaffection within the party, what can you say on this?
I want you to mind what I am going to tell you because I will open up the whole thing so that we will be better informed. Just like everybody knows, I was equally a contestant. I have been in the political system of Kwara for a very long time. So when this conscription came together to become APC, we were the people the PDP came to meet. We were the landlord then, before we all came together. It was a coming together of strange bird fellows. It is just unfortunate that some people don’t understand what the dynamism of governance is all about. Their understanding is all about opposition. All their lives, most of them have always be an opposition. So there is absurdly nothing that will come up, they will always tail that route of opposition. We go into a group together under the All Progressive Congress, APC. People who have been progressive, people who have never been in governance, those that have so much experience in governance. And having all this kind of people together and the beauty of democracy is to expect the kind of things we are seeing. It is not unexpected. It is normal in a political setting and whether we like it or not, that is what activates political environment. No matter who you bring to occupy the exalted seat or office, some people will still have one thing or the other even if you decided to channel all the resources to service the so called stakeholders and carry them along, some people will still complain about other things. It is normal. But you see, there is one fundamental thing that happened and I had the opportunity of discussing it with one of the members of the opposing council in Abuja. What led to the crisis was just one single thing; lack of understanding of the convention of the party. And what is the convention? During Shagari, party has it own power and supremacy, the government has it own power. They came to power to take positions. But since the convention of the party, has put the leadership on the governor. We must understand that there will always be one captain in the ship at all times. In a situation where everybody sees himself as a gladiator in his own tendency then you should understand what will definitely comes out of it. The crystallisation of the problem came because some people feel that the governor rode on their back through their influence to become the governor and they should be able to dictates the tune otherwise why will someone not refer to the governor as the leader of the party rather see someone else as the leader of the party. That’s the major problem at that time. The issue of not carrying the governor along, it depends on your approach. My own tendency, which is our own tendency of MM, we cannot come out to say that the governor is not carrying us along, even at the media level. Because the chairman of our team, is a media guru. There is absolutely nothing the governor will do in the area of media that he will not consult him so what are we talking about. If you feel that there are certain things the governor is not doing well, it is not for you to attack the governor as a leader, you consult your leader. Lai Muhammed ran for this seat at some point, he couldn’t get it. If he had succeeded, he will have been the leader of the party in the State. Gbemisola Saraki contested for governorship of Kwara State at some point, if she was elected, either she is a woman or not, she will have become the leader of the party. When Baba Saraki of blessed memory brought in Bukola Saraki because of the convention of the party then and the system that was being practiced. Everybody refer to the governor as the leader of the party. All of us should understand the fact that it is a power tussle. When it comes to issue of not carrying the stakeholders along, I think it is relative, it depends on your expectation. If you have very high expectations that this government we are forming because of the Otoge mantra. It was a revolution. Kwara people took position that they wanted a different way, they wanted a different narratives in the activities of their affairs and they came together with one voice. And that was how the Otoge mantra became an household name. It had come to stay because the awareness is now very high. Everybody will take up their own position and they will determine the faith whether of the incumbent or any other that is aspiring for that position. We should all be aware of that and nobody should see the next election as a tea party. For me, I think the basic problem was people not accepting the fact that we must obey and agree to submit ourselves to the constituted authority. Almighty Allah that created us said we must gather ourselves from the community level to the larger level, from the beginning to the end and we must appoint someone to lead us. For the mere fact that AbdulRahman has his own method, all of us needs to key because we have all agree that he should lead us. We all voted for him. Why must we now come, just because his idea or his system does not go down well with us. We now say we must rock the boat. As far as I am concerned, we are not rocking the boat for the governor. We are rocking the boat for the teeming masses that came out in mass to vote for the government. They voted for the party not AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq. So why must we now say what we use our hands to built, we now use our leg to destroy it. If stakeholders says the governor is not doing the needful, why can’t we support him to govern. So that those people that suffered will enjoy within that period. Fortunately enough, the constitution does not say the moment you are elected, you have it until you die. It is not a monarchical thing. The position of governor and erected officials in Nigeria are tenured. So if you have any issue, all you need to do is wait until then so that stakeholders will now gather together and review the four years and know whether he has done well base on certain parameters. We have such and similar situations in most part of the country. Nobody ever say we must dismantle the house; we must truncate the entire process to the extent that people are now having ill feelings towards the entire party. The party machinery had crumbled. And for me, I think we should retract and retrace our steps. This is the time for governance. We still have close to two years to the next election. For crying out loud and for goodness sake, who are going to suffer? When two elephant fight, it is the grass that suffers. So it is our people. Those poor people that do not have access to a lot of things. They are in their villages looking for succour from the government, to have drinkable water, to have support from the government in terms of fertiliser for their farms, to have security so that they can go to their farms without being kidnapped. For all this things, there are numerous things to be done by the government. I keep saying that politics is like a vocation. Politics should be played during the political period when it is time for governance. It is only in Nigeria that we played politics 24 hours a day. We played politics seven days of the week and 12 months of the year, year in year out. The moment the government is elected and swore in, the next minute, they start working towards the next election. Nobody care about how the government will be able to fulfil all those promises made to the people. So for me, I think the stakeholders should sheath their sword. Let us come together and if we have issues, let us say it to the governor. He is a human being like us. He has ears and he has brain to decipher everything that we come up with. And he will be able to monitor whatever we say. If at the end of the day, we realise that he did not listen to us as stakeholders then we take positions when the time comes. But the time had not come. If they think they are doing the right thing, I think they are doing it at the wrong time.
As a front runner in the electioneering that gave President Buhari and Gov AbduRazaq victory in the 2019 elections, can you shed more light on allegations levelled against Gov AbdulRazaq that he siphoned N1 billion campaign fund?
That is a very good question and I don’t expect that kind of question. Now that you have asked, I’m obliged to respond to it to the best of my knowledge. Just like I said during my opening remark, I don’t mince words, I say things the way as I see it. And that’s why people say MM is too strict. I am just human like any other person. But I always love to satisfy my conscience because I owe everything to the Almighty God who will call me to answer him whether I like it or not. For me, I think the issue of One billion should not have arisen at all because it was a very clear and straightforward case. The issue of One billion is not handed over to any individual. Whether the governor, whether Lai Muhammed, whether Mashood Mustapha, whether BOB as the chairman then, nobody can come and say it before me that one person collected the money. I want to debunk all those wrong insinuations because it was BOB that invited me, night before, I was with Lai Muhammed at Savannah Hotel. BOB came and said Hon. Mustapha, there will be a meeting to share the money that was coming from Abuja and the money will be shared base on the template sent from Abuja. That there will be some stakeholders to represent the party, a party elder, and that you have been chosen because I was the chairman of the campaign committee as at then. I coordinated the entire campaign system just like I was the campaign coordinator for Buhari in 2015. The next morning, BOB called me and said we should meet at the party secretariat off nupe road. We met there and we drove together to the secretariat along fate roundabout. We all met there. As at that time, I was even having a strain relationship with the governor. The governor came with his own nominee as the representation of the stakeholders. And for records, I can tell you that the people that were present that time based on the template sent from Abuja. They said the governorship candidate, must be present. They said the party chairman in the state must be present. That is the commitment saddled with the responsibility of sharing the money. The money was not even sent on the basis that this committee should go and share on their own position. They came with figures and how the money should be spent just as logistics for the election. Eventually we got in there, and BOB went in with me, the governorship candidate then who is the governor now was seated. They said all the three senatorial candidates must be there. The three of them were there. They said three out of the six house of rep must be there. I stand to be challenged based on this fact I am giving you gentlemen of the press. They said the state secretary must be there. Then the party treasurer should equally be there and one national official which happened to be as at that time, Lanre Onilu must be there then one person per senatorial district. Then they now said a party leader nominated by BOB. But because I had issue with the governor, he wasn’t comfortable with me. So the issue of defending the governor does not arise. I am just clearing the air about what I know. Me and the governor had issue because of conflicting issues. I told him the party is supreme. The party brought me and I must be here. When they roll out the template anybody can cross check this fact. They didn’t even bring the money there because we were scared of people coming around to attack us and go away with the fund that was meant for the logistics of the elections. It was base on that template that the money was shared. So I really don’t know how some people will just go and doctored some lies in the cause of trying to defend themselves or trying to paint somebody blank. I don’t think it is a good way to do politics. Let us always be very truthful about what the situation is. As far as I am concerned, nobody took custody of any N1 billion, nobody went with any N1 billion and the governor did not even have the power to do that as the candidate then because they came with the way the money should be shared. That is why there is no controversy in any way on that matter.
As APC Chieftain, and veteran politician, don’t you think the internal crisis within the party, can affect its victory in 2023 elections?
I want to believe that there are so many intricacies that came up and snowball into the bigger crisis. We were just managing the whole thing in micro level. But you know this common saying that failure has no family but success have sisters and brothers. It is the crisis that started from the very day PDP decided to come into APC. We had issues of tendencies. We went to Abuja and before we got there, we were in Ilorin, waiting to receive the PDP that were supposed to be coming to come and join those of us that were already on ground in APC. But some of them out of mischief ran to Abuja behind us to look for a way to come in from the top instead of the bottom. And the party constitution says anybody that want to join the party should join. That was the beginning of the crisis. And like I said, most of them do not really understand what it is, because it was like the success we eventually achieved most of our people do not believe it was going to be a success story. They were just there to play their normal role of opposition. They were not prepared for governance. And that is why we are having the problem that we are battling with in the state. Before election, the issue of membership and forming the party structure polarised that group of people that came together to form and work under the platform of APC and everybody sees themselves as having belong to different groups. Having that notion, everybody went into the election with that mindset that we will never allow this person to take this position. At the end of the day, we we eventually came up with a particular person to lead and fly the flag of the party, some people have already taken position that they will never allow him to succeed. I can tell you that within the system then, some people even work again the system from succeeding because they were not comfortable. But we have garner a lot of experience in the act of governance. We know what it is because some of us left that ruling party because we were the ruling party then at the state level and all that was important to us was how we are going to make sure that we win and make a statement. So we put not anything but all to it to make that we succeed irrespective of who the candidate was. And we thank God that that Kwara people spoke and they spoke so loudly that God heard our call and made it possible for us to succeed. But we couldn’t mange the success because of those problems that came pre the election, pre the primaries. That is it. There are so many things that were happening that we are just managing because people were giving us hope. So we were just like pressing those issues. It is just like you a container and you have smoke and you decided to use your container to cover the smoke, one way or the other, the smoke will find it way to come out. Those are the things you have seen crystallising after the election because a lot of things were happening that we were just trying to manage. For my ambition, some people ask me why is it that you that was disqualified during the cause of the primary. Why are you now working with the governor? I told them that after the primary election, I felt betrayed and I felt disappointed by the conduct of some people. I see it as an experience that will remain indelible in my mind for a very long time. Because if you have the quest or aspirations to achieve certain things. I don’t believe that you have failed. You have only not succeed. For the mere fact that you did not succeed doesn’t mean that you failed because the experience you have garnered and you will have cause to advise another person. Those experience you have garner does not make you to be a failure. For me, the experience was enough as someone that tried and tested the water of running for the number one position in the state. I want to tell you without any form of ambiguity that after the primaries the governor was working with the party and it was Bashir Bolarinwa, the then chairman of APC, that brought the governorship candidate then to my office in Abuja to come and appeal to me that I should forget about what has happened, let us be forward looking and work together. Without any disrespect to the exalted office of the governor as the candidate then, I told him, why do you bring AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq to me? You only booked an appointment with me. You never told me you are bringing someone to see me. The governor humbled himself and I ventilated my position holistically. And at the end of the day, we came to terms. I told him that this MM you have came to meet is just one out of the eminent that cut across the length and breath of the state. I told him he has to go back to Kwara and go to our secretariat. He came to kwara without me leaving Abuja and he met with my people. He discussed with them and pleaded with them and even ask them to talk to me to make sure that the team work together with him. So if he is not working with the party, how come BOB brought him to my office to come and talk to me to come and plead with me. After that, I realised that it is only God that gives power and he gives it to whoever he choses. He has given it to AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, whether rightly or wrongly, whether we are comfortable with it or not. The issue is that someone has been picked. So who are we to challenge God’s position. For me,as a man that believes in faith, I decided to key in. The third reason why I decided to key in was that people tagged me as mole within the system. That MM is a mole and there is no way he would have had any issue with the system. That Saraki and MM are 5 and 6 and there is no way they will have issue. It is an orchestrated plan to make sure that it doesn’t work. If after the whole primary, I decided to go to court, it would have been like Zamfara matter. We wouldn’t have had the governorship candidate in APC and PDP would have taken over. And it would have come in the same line of people’s thoughts then, this is what they plan that’s the reason I came to the system. People who never believe. I was humbled with that position to remain and make sure that we remain focused. Fortunately enough, myself and the entire team led by Alhaji Raheem Adedoyin and other stakeholders in the team decided that we should just make sure that we win this election. I remembered when we did the Kwara Central campaign, we trekked about 25 kilometres to talk to people, to gear them and improve them to look towards our direction and we succeeded. So why will I be among those that will create a problem. We believe that we must support the governor and supporting him does not take away the fact that I can stand up tomorrow and say this is what I want. But for the mere fact that I have an ambition or probably I have a particular ambition in mind, should not sway me towards moving for the downfall of the present government because I know the importance of governance and I know what governance is all about. For me, I always want to make sure that I take one thing at a time and make sure that the right thing is done at the right time no matter my intention or the intention of any member of MM team, we must put it aside. When INEC come out to say it is time for politicking then we will come out and say this is our position whether as a team.
That is if that team support AbdulRahman for second term because he has not come out to say that he want to run. Maybe it is another from our team from another zone that we are going to put forward to run for one or two positions. That is a decision that is beyond me as Mashood Mustapha. The team is not about me, it is about the team. I am not a one man committee like some people. I am a member of a committee and I always make sure that I work within the system and whatever the system come up with. We have decided to step aside and allow the government to run and let them remain focused so that they can do whatever programme. Towards the tail end of the tenure, we will now do what we called reassessment. An assessment in an holistically manner. Then we will now be able to take a position.
President Buhari, who many perceived as major factor holding APC together, will be finishing his second term by 2023, do you think the party has what it takes to sustain its wining streak?
Even if you ask the PDP people, they will tell you that the gale of defection from their party to All Progressive Congress, is making situation worse for them. We politicians can only read between the lines. Just like your own part of profession in the system. We as politicians know that it is not a good omen for PDP. A sitting governor who is the number one citizen in the state with all the structures from the governor’s level up to the level of a chancellor work and are subservient to that government and that old structure is being moved from one political party to another. You should know that it is weakening the party that they are existing from and strengthening the party they are going to. And you now look at the way it has come up now. You have seen not only in the South East where you have seen defection from PDP, you have even seen in the North West as well. And like we were hearing, two more governors are coming. When the Ebonyi governor came, people thought this is a misnomer and it will never happen again, that was from the South East. Somebody from South South just came from Cross River then North West. This is enough to know that people still believe in APC, otherwise why will a sitting governor do that. What about the new governor that just came on board in Zamfara, what is he afraid of. He is just barely two years in the office and now he has come to APC. I think the leadership of the party are doing a lot in strengthening the party at the national level and this bring me down to the issue that I need to really admonish our political party leaders in the state. We should take a cue from what is happening at the national level and let all of us come together. I appeal to Alhaji Lai Muhammed, Senator Gemisola Saraki, Prof Oba and other major stakeholders in the party to let us forget about all this crisis and let all of us come together and support the governor. About three days ago, when the governor of Zamfara defected, Yari was a two term governor in Zamfara. He was at the podium when the national leadership said the governor that has just defected has automatically become the leader of the party of the state. It was said publicly. So the moment we all come to terms that Mr Governor is our leader in the party. Let us all come together and support him so that we can poach from other party instead of allowing people to leave our party. We should take cue from what is happening at the national level and allow all this crisis and acrimonies to go. Let us not beef ourselves. Let us not altercate. There wouldn’t be any better result in any form of altercations. We should try as much as possible to see ourselves as one family. Support the governor. Advice him on how to move forward. So that in 2023 it will be a easy ride. I don’t expect this kind of crisis because of the kind of mantra that brought us together is enough for us to look back. Let us forget about politics now. Let us not play politics as if it is a do or die. Let us not see politics as if it is a way of life. It is the means to the end and not the end itself. And for me, I think the moment we see politics as a vocation. People that have been elected, people that have been appointed should be allowed to run the system while we take the backstage and go and do some other things and not to insist that the moment I’m getting certain things, there wouldn’t be any way. The governor is in the office and nobody can remove him. But if you distract him, it will have adverse effect on some of his performance. The people at the grassroot will suffer the effect. Let me play this scenario for you. Whether we like it or not, by convention, the governor is the leader of the party and that was affirmed during the last defection exercise that took place in Zamfara. Anybody that decided to do anything at the party level contrary, is an exercise in futility. Take for instance, the party at the national level decide to send delegation to Kwara for a particular exercise. Who will they go to?
What is your present relationship with Senator Bukola Saraki?
Dr. Bukola Saraki is a brother, a friend and a benefactor. I will never disparage him anywhere. Anywhere I see him, I must give to him what he deserves. What does he deserves? My regards, my honour and respect. We have political differences and that does not affect our interpersonal relationship and it will never. He was my boss. He will remain my boss. He is somebody that I respect and I will continue to respect him. He can attest to the fact that throughout my political period, I never disrespect him. The mere fact that we have political differences does not take away the fact that I should forget about the fact. I built my political structure through and with him. And for me, I will continue to respect him. He is a leader that you have no choice than to respect because he is a different person. That does not take the fact that I cannot take my own bold position when it comes to issue of decision when I realised that certain things were not going the way I wanted. I made a u-turn and I did not do it when he is out of power, I did it when he was a sitting senator and when my friend was the governor of the state then. We have that relationship and it continues to exist like that. I want to implore the people of PDP to have the interest of Kwara at heart to come to the mainstream because we have a lot to benefit. One of the points Cross River governor gave as part of the reason for his defection was because of the benefits from the federal government. The president said it clearly that anybody that want to become the president of Nigeria must come to APC. Why can’t all of us just come together and build APC together so that we can align ourselves with the federal so that all those good things can be brought for the betterment of our people in the state.