By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
In this interview with a select group of journalists at the weekend, Senator Tanko Almakura, one of the aspirants for the All Progressives Congress (APC) chairmanship race explained why his campaign has continued despite the alleged endorsement of Abdullahi Adamu, his predecessor in office in Nasarawa State, by President Muhammedu Buhari.
He also spoke on what he is bringing to the table should he get the opportunity to serve the party at the national level.
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You have presented yourself to contest for national APC. What are you bringing to the table?
Personally, I think it would be a disservice for me as a committed member of APC if I do not show interest in throwing my hat in the ring, so that I’ll be able to add value to the administration of the party, especially at this point in time that is about the transition period. What I’m bringing to the table is the experience I’ve garnered over time. Particularly, my participation in the merger taking into consideration the unanimity and total submission that the different tendencies in this country have had to do to ensure that we come as one united indivisible people with one destiny is something we must sustain; something we must promote; so that younger Nigerians coming behind will benefit from this mutual understanding to move the country forward. I am also bringing to the table my experience with President Muhammadu Buhari, because I’ve learned the tutelage of transparency, good values, and commitment to what is good for everybody.
I feel if I become the national chairman, those experiences I have had to garner from my interaction with him, will be brought to bear to sustain those values, and legacies. Not only that, virtually all the people that came together to put this party together not necessarily to be an election winning machine but a platform why Nigerians will come and talk together work together for the benefit of the country, and given the way and manner and faith with which Mr. President has held all these tendencies together as one and indivisible party is something that we are striving to sustain. So, the future will be bright.
Finally, my experiences in the field of politics, political administration as a youth leader as a secretary, by belonging to different constituencies like the youth, the women, the governors, the legislators are all advantages that can be brought to bear to smoothen administration, on the party in such a manner that when you adjudicate or mediate, or preside or direct affairs within the party, you are doing that with people that you have known each other. Not only that, people you have understood their mentality, their mindset, because we belong to those constituencies. I think our party at this point in time requires someone with those pedigrees for the party to ensure a successful transition, and also success at the 2023 elections.
As regards the Convention of your party, as we speak, your party is submerged in a lot of crises. A lot of party members are aggrieved as we speak. If you eventually emerge as the party’s national chairman, how do you hope to bring all these people together ahead of the elections in 2023?
Okay, thank you very much. You see, a party with about 41.7 million people is not a tea party. A party that has within it, the complexity of differences at different levels, you do not expect the party to be a very quiet ocean. It is populated by people and no two individuals are the same. What I’m bringing to the table is to respect the individuality, the peculiarity of each of these tendencies, and see how I can synthesize them harmoniously for the benefit of the party and the country.
I believe in leadership, I believe and respect leadership, because whoever is the leader, requires the support, encouragement and commitment of the followership. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m a follower. And I will do anything that needs to be done to support our leaders who are handling the issues of the party, so that by God’s grace, we will have a very successful convention come March 26. It’s not easy. But you can understand this, the party that has brought up different kinds of people and we are working together, and that has very good leadership. Besides, it is a transition period, the period where certain decisions will be taken, and it will be total and you will expect a lot of people to clamour, scramble to have different ideas. But I think these differences will be harmonized in the most peaceful manner. There will always be one winner in any contest. And people believe in that philosophy, especially with the leadership, we are seeing from Mr. President, I believe everything will be taken care of.
So the party has run into a bit of a pickle right now given the chairmanship crisis. We hear on the one hand Bello, supposedly imposed and Buni’s exit that wasn’t too tidy. So now a fresh angle is that INEC is not recognizing Bello but recognizing Buni. And this is coming a few weeks before the convention. Is that convention still going to hold? Do you think it was the right timing for Bello to have been imposed upon the party?
I can tell you without mincing words, that from the mindset of our leaders, this convention would definitely hold God willing. The issue about the rancour and all that, is something that is beyond me to comprehend. It is something that I’m sure will be sorted out in between them. I need to have more facts to be able to know. But for now, I am supporting harmonious, unanimous and mutual understanding to move the party forward.
But is this the right time for Bello to have come into the party to replace Buni?
No, I don’t know, because the facts are yet to be properly put before the public domain.
But you are a major stakeholder, didn’t you know about this?
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Don’t forget, I am an aspirant and there are limits to which I can get certain information. I sit back, in fact, part of my principle is to carry everybody along and I relate with everyone. I don’t have any circle, I don’t have any group. I belong to everybody. Because if I become the chairman, I should have the confidence of people that this is somebody that is not clandestine. He doesn’t have any agenda. He doesn’t have any group he is working for that is a plus and I have maintained that position of non interference, non participation in anything that is clandestine. All I am focused on is seeing what my president wants, and seeing what is best for the party at any point in time.
I like your confidence, you are sure on 26th March, the convention will hold. But what we read in the papers, is that there are over 200 court cases to stop this convention. Are you still confident that this convention will hold?
I still consider that as speculative. There could be more than 200 cases but I’m just seeing that on the pages of newspapers. When a newspaper came up with a shouting headline that the President has endorsed so and so, the villa debunked that. So, I don’t take things that come either as headlines or whatever, except I do my due diligence to assure myself that yes, what he said is authentic, and until it is, I consider our convention a doable thing. And I consider that we are going to go through it without any problems.
There is a report that the security agencies, the anti graft agencies have been able to do the background checks on each of the chairmanship aspirants and they have tendered the report to the President for a final decision in terms of a consensus candidate. Do you think that anything in your past or any indictment during your years as governor or even presently as senator, that could be a hindrance for you getting into that position?
I don’t think so. I discharged my responsibility as governor, to the best of my ability, and as I speak, there’s no single petition against me, or any case that has to do with my propriety or otherwise.
You have debunked the report that the president is supporting anyone for the chairmanship position. Are you optimistic that your race to the national chairmanship of APC would be fair, and open to all?
Yes, I’m very optimistic. I am always an optimist until things prove themselves otherwise. And what has really given me the hope for this optimism is the uprightness of Mr. President and his passion for due process. So, I believe that whatever comes from Mr. President must come through a process. And I consider the process for the emergence of leadership, I believe it’s going to be transparent. I believe it’s going to be fair. And I believe it is going to conform with the articles and sections of the Constitution dealing with that.
During your preambles, you said the APC is at injury time. Why do you think so?
You see, this is a very difficult time. We have about one year, six months or five months for Mr. President to complete his tenure. Anyone who thinks well for this party and for this country will like to ensure that the right things are done so that APC will seamlessly continue the streak of the winning that it has always known. So that’s why we have to be really focused. That’s why we have to really abide by constitutional provisions. That’s why we have to be free and fair. We have to ensure adherence to the party culture, and also the constitution of the party in the way and manner things are done. I believe if that is done, it’s a delicate period, to have a very seamless and successful convention, which will usher in a successful election. And you can see the election primaries are coming shortly after. INEC has put April to June, for the parties to do their primaries. So that is why I say we have to be really careful to ensure that this convention is successful, so that we can seamlessly transition into very smooth primaries for the emergence of people who will represent us at the polls in 2023.
Although you described it as speculation, there was a report that you are daring Mr. President, by going ahead with your campaign when it was speculated that Mr. President had endorsed somebody. But you being his friend should have relaxed after that came out. What do you have to tell those who say you are daring Mr. President?
No. The sources of information were not authentic. They were not genuine. And I know what Mr. President stands for; he always stands for what is right and due process. And unless I have an authoritative source of information that is clear, I still have my doubts. I have many avenues through which I can reach Mr. President and people around him. And since those speculations did not come through those avenues, I consider them as a speculation. That is why as I speak with you, my campaign is going with a different tempo, to ensure that my campaign is going far and wide to await the next line of action as directed by the party leadership.
You did well for women in your state as a governor, but the affirmative action in the Senate failed. Why did it fail when somebody like Senator Almakura was there?
Well, a tree cannot make a forest. I have a passion for women. And I can tell you, I voted in favor of women. But one Almakura cannot change 109 people who wish to vote otherwise. Thank you very much.