By Wilfred Eya
Mallam Mustapha Saliu is aspiring to the position of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He believes the ruling party needs a younger person at its helm of affairs at this point in time. He spoke with some journalists in Lagos. Excepts:
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Often times, a lot of us sit back, fold our hands, assume and say what is my business; the politicians would sort it out. But no, you do not have to assume because assumption is the mother of all errors. It is time for us to get involved. You do not have to be a card carrying member of the APC but you can be a stakeholder by extension. I do not want to assume that everything is okay with the APC. There is always room for improvement. No system is perfect. We can only add value and do the best we can at a given time. This can be achieved when we all put all hands on deck and not just by politicians alone. God has given us capacity and wisdom in different spheres of life. I want a situation where if somebody asks me tomorrow when you were chairman, what did you do and I will be able to tell him I did XYZ. If we do not get involved from this stage, then the platform would be managed by people who do not have our interest at heart. When I talk about interest, I mean the collective interest of the nation. It is when you have people of good character and conscience who are there that they would make sure the platform produces people based on merit. That is when you can say that APC or party XYZ was able to deliver. The party would be able to deliver based on the people who are managing the government at that time. But if the party produces people who are bankrupt, then the end result would be a bad system of administration. I believe that the number one goal of every political party is to win election, be in government so as to deliver on their promises. Those promises are usually captured in the party’s manifesto. But these days, you have in the same party where Governor A is doing one thing and Governor B is doing a different thing. I want to be the leader of the party alongside other NEC members to see that the electorate get what you promise them or for the party to be held accountable to its manifesto. I want to lead a party where there is equity, justice, fairness and development of the country. I want to lead a party where a popular candidate would always emerge and not through imposition. Any time you have an imposition right from the party level, then be rest assured that there would be rigging in the general election. Like you all know, the APC is getting ready for its national convention in February. The PDP has also done something. For the first time, they brought a 55 year old as a national youth leader. I think it speaks to what happened during the #EndSars where the younger generation made a statement that they can decide their future. The APC can do better and this time should be able to bring a younger person as the national chairman that would be able to connect with the younger generation.
The APC in Kwara is in crisis; what faction of the APC do you belong to in your state, Kwara?
The answer is that I do not belong to any faction. Two is that I think I am one of the oldest members of the APC in my state. As a former Deputy National chairman of CPC, I led it into the merger. So, nobody is older than me in APC chapter in Kwara State. They all met me in APC. I have retained that neutrality and I am hoping that given the opportunity to be the chairman of the party, my first priority would be reconciling the factions. In a political party, the more, the merrier. You need all hands on deck. For instance, in an election, if your opponent goes to canvass for votes, then would you say that you have enough support and would not canvass for votes any longer; no. For me, reconciliation would be a litmus test for me. We would try as much as possible to see that we accommodate one another because there is a lot to be done. We still have to fulfill our electoral promises. So, we should not waste time quarrelling over nothing. So, if given the opportunity, it would be my first litmus test to reconcile everybody for us to have a united house in Kwara. I relate with everybody. If we all in the party go to election and came out victorious, there is no basis to start quarrelling. There are people who are even coming to join now. So, it is also about managing and accommodating one another which I think I can be of help if I become the national chairman of APC.
What are you doing to reach out to some members of your party who since 1999 have become well entrenched politicians and now very influential in APC? I ask this question because we have other aspirants to the position of national chairman and the advantage they have is that they have godfathers in the party.
In every political space, there are bound to be various interests and you must recognize that. The most important thing which also relates to the first question is how you are able to manage and cooperate with one another. When I was Deputy National chairman of the CPC, some would come and say this is how I want this primary to be and another would come and say a different thing. However, the whole thing is about managing and giving people a sense of belonging. The issue is how you approach some of these matters and how you manage various interests and give members a sense of belonging. For me, I am driven by my convictions. Different people may come and say they all want to get the governorship ticket but we would sit down eyeball to eyeball and say do we just want to contest or to contest and win. You can say you go for Senate, you go for House of Representatives and so on and so forth. You can say this person stands a better chance to win based on our demography.
What are the challenges you have identified in APC which you intend to tackle when you assume the leadership of the party?
In life, we all face challenges. If I sit here and tell you there are no challenges in the APC, then I am not being realistic. But the most important thing is, are they surmountable. Will they make the party more unified? Are there things you can embrace and work with? We have challenges but our challenges are not such that can tear the party or stop it from existing. They are rather the challenges that would make us come out better. These are challenges that would give us an opportunity to address things in a more positive way. If we did not have challenges, we would not find ourselves where we are today. But as God would have it, we have been able to manage it properly. That is why the APC is still very united and strong. You can see some people are dumping their own parties to join the APC. So, I do not look at the challenges as major setbacks.
All the aspirants are from North Central; does that mean that the position has been zoned to the geopolitical bloc?
There is no written or unwritten agreement on zoning. Like I said earlier, it is about strategy and you look at the overall interest of the party and what you want to achieve. Today, we have a president from the Northern extraction and we have a vice president from the Southern extraction. If you bring a chairman from the North Central or Middle Belt of the country, it is also strategic so as to give everybody a sense of belonging. So, it is not for you to write it down that you must get a chairman for a particular bloc; no. It is about your party’s winning strategy. That is why you can see there are more aspirants from the North Central. But it is not also only the North Central. You have Ali Modu Sheriff from the North East and also Yisa Yuguda from the North East. Yari is from North West. So, I do not want you to look at it from that angle that there is an understanding that it must be from the North Central. It is about looking at your winning strategy. Where do you think that if you position certain offices, it would go your way not just for your party’s primaries but the general elections when you go out to ask the electorate for their votes?
Since the beginning of this dispensation, the presidents we have been producing have not been different to the nature and tendencies of the person that would become chairmen of their ruling parties. Are you the candidate of the president?
What is your position on zoning of the presidency?
Every party would decide on its winning formula. If party XYZ decides to pick somebody from Gongola(there is no such state again), maybe they think they can gather enough votes to win the election. So, zoning would depend on the party’s strategy of winning the election.
There are about eight of you gunning for the same position and majority of the contenders are former governors or serving senators and we all know the kind of influence governors in Nigeria wield today; are you not scared and what do you think are your chances?
For me, it is not about title or status but what you can offer. I am not intimidated by the name of former this, former that. The most important thing for me is what I have to offer and what I am bringing to the table. I am not scared of the contest; I am only appealing to some of them to endorse me because I know I have a lot to offer. It is about ideas on how to move the party forward and not about positions held in the past.
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