Engr Mohammed Jibril Imam is the Niger State APC Chairman, in this interview with journalists, he chronicles the activities of the just concluded congresses that was conducted peacefully without rancor in the state, saying it will straighten the party for 2019, Peoples Daily correspondent, Yakubu Mustapha, was there. Except:
How far so far on the just concluded APC congresses in Niger State?
The congress was quite successful compared to what happened in other states of the country. Here we thank God that the stakeholders, party faithful, the executives, the press, the security personnel that make sure that the security was well managed. The Congress has come and gone with a huge success just like I said, you need to compare before you say you have achieve a lot. We started with the ward congress later it was followed by the local government and the last one was the state congress. The most difficult as usual from experience by the party was the ward congress because all the card carrying members of the party (APC) are delegates, it’s not an electoral college, once you’re a card carrying member you are a delegate to the ward congress and you can see the numbers, if you compare the number that would have attended that of people that voted that day is quite colossal, each unit we have about 100 and we have over 300 polling units so we are talking of about 40,000. Party members participating are over 40,000 in the ward congress, what it means is like if you are a card carrying member like myself, you are eligible to vote in ward congress. So you can see the enormity number that were involved and to manage such numbers is not always easy, but we thank God it came and gone the executive of the wards are in place, the congress were conducted by the congress committee and thereafter appeal committee was inaugurated so that if you have appeal you could lodge your complain, here in Niger state what we had was little or no appeal because we had resolved that we will take the other option of election to party congresses, there are two ways, either you go by direct election or you go by consensus, some people used the word loosely affirmation but affirmation is not the word but consensus whereby if there are multiple candidates we persuade other or some candidates to step down so that you can allowed for one candidate and also the unity of the party and that is what we emphasized in all the three congresses that were held.
What is the party doing to reconcile the aggrieved members?
The state government has done a lot in that direction, we give commendation to our Governor for his foresight. I think last three days; he met with all those that bought forms. The governor had to invite them for a meeting in Government House where he personally thanked them for stepping down and he promised them that their submission to the party will not be in vein. So, I am sure something is being worked out to compensate all those that opted for consensus, almost virtually all of them and the party on its own, as soon as we are inaugurated, because our tenure expires in June. Once we are inaugurated for a new beginning, we will want to see how we can pacify not only those who bought forms, but across the state to ensure we bring our party members back on fold. As you can see, this congress generated a lot of heat at the beginning but as God will have it, we had it very smooth.
2019 is around the corner, do you intend to adopt the principles of consensus, or are you continuing with zoning arrangement?
Indeed, the party constitution, though some people used to say that there is nothing like zoning in APC, but we call it geographical spread, it is indirectly saying zoning. We believe that if we leave it open, you have concentration of position in one area as against another and there will be no geographical spread and it will not be in line with Nigerian constitution, which allows for participation by everybody. So that zoning is going to be maintained and we are going to go through the whole process of doing primaries, we are not going to discriminate against anybody, but still, we prefer to have consensus so as not to heat the polity when time comes, so consensus is not illegal, it is legal in the political parlance, instead of going for the whole election rather than consensus.
What are the lessons learnt from the just concluded congresses?
We need to do a lot of work to solidify the party, you know after congresses, a lot of things need to be done to bring everybody on board not only in Niger State, we will go to them, talk to them to sheath their swords and support the party because they brought in the party and government, so we are going to make them understand that it is not good to throw away the baby with the bath water and the stakeholders that I know will reason with us and we are going to actually use them very well in a lot of assignments drown from their worth of experience so as to tackle the 2019 elections.
How prepared is your party APC for the 2019 election and are you sure of returning to power?
We are prepared, but our strategies I cannot reveal it because we have our strategies. I have learnt a lot of lessons because we need to win, we have to do a lot more work than we did in 2015 because we must realize what is on ground because we know what to do to be able to scale through. The strategies we are trying to do have not been perfected, but I believe with our achievements on ground, it may not be desirable to those who are staying in Minna but for those of us who are always in contact with the hinterlands, we know that a lot have been achieved. The secondary schools in Niger State, most of them were built as far back as 1975, never has there been any renovation even for once for over 50 years of its existence. We have a lot of them that are all rebranded for what we called the Whole School Approach. The one that you can easily sight is Maryam Babangida Science School, Minna, you can see complete transformation of the school, wearing a new facelift and we have a host of them at least three in each zone of the state, which involved a lot of money and we are continuing with that because education is the bedrock of every society, provision of science equipments, new hospitals are being established and old ones renovated and equipped, we have completed most of the electrification projects and very soon the governor will start commissioning some of them.
How do you intend to keep your members intact?
We have a lot of programmes which we are doing. APC is known as a constitutional party, we are waiting for the ban on campaign to be lifted for us to roll out our activities. However, at the wards, activities are being organized including in the polling units. In fact, the APC have been very active in all the wards and polling units. Incidentally, it is only APC that have polling unit executives in Niger State. You will be surprised that our population is well over 500,000. You can see, even with that number, you know that the party is very strong in the state. So for the opposition to say 1000 of our members defected, 1000 is not a small number that you would receive them in a school. If the number is that large, I expected the state PDP Chairman to be there because 1000 is a big number. We take it as a political gimmick and a pass because our members are still intact. They should give us at least the names of 10 people who defected, ten members of APC.
Can you confidently say that PDP does not pose a threat to APC in Niger in 2019 general elections?
In politics, you don’t say anybody can’t pose a threat to you but the way they are going about it is to gain cheap popularity and that is not the way to go about it. They should come for tutelage from me who have been in opposition for more than 30 years. Every political party has its own strength; however, our own strength is much more than theirs. If you have 40,000 executives to follow you and your opposition have zero, you will know our strength is stronger than theirs. If each of these 40,000 can bring 10 people each, that means we already have 400,000, so we are way ahead of them, it is simple arithmetic, their strength technically is weakened. We have more than 40,000 polling unit executives; we have their record and database. If these executives can vouch for at least 5 people, that means we already have 200,000 votes and if they can vouch for 10 each, then it means we have 400,000. The party is rooted in the polling unit, that is how we know our strength, compared to a party that has zero polling unit executive. Despite our strength, we are trying to surpass our record in 2015 by 2019, we are going to surpass our records because the government is working very hard. Like Mashegu, I want you to take a tour to see our achievements. It is one of the local government councils where the state and local government have done a lot. The PDP do not have their fact, they said that people are defecting in the area but this is the area where the people received palliatives from the Council Chairman and the party faithfuls are being taken care of. So I don’t see why someone who have received a lot from the government will want to defect to the level of zero where there is nothing. All they are just saying is just mere propaganda.