You recently joined the governorship race for Adamawa state, what motivated this move?
Well, first and foremost, I would like to tell you that we have been in this game called politics for so long and I’m not just coming around the politics of Adamawa state. Because the immediate past governor brought down the state to its knees and I feel after robust consultations with my people in the state, they encouraged me to come out and contest the election. This is because the majority of the people feel I will be the uniting factor in the state. That was what motivated me to throw in my hat into the race so that within the PDP, I could offer myself for the election coming up within 90 days.
My motivation is based on the fact that Adamawa state has been brought to its knees by the past governor and we need an emancipator to bring it out and work extra hard to recover the lost ground.
Adamawa is one state where the issue of zoning resonates anytime there is election for the governorship. Are you sure, you are the favorite despite the clamor for the zoning within the party?
The last governor was from the southern part of the state and I am from the northern part. I believe the people of Adamawa state are not particular about zoning; they are particular about somebody who can come to the state, give it the accelerated development. That is what the people of Adamawa want.
It is not about zoning, they are looking for somebody who is sincere and committed. We in Adamawa were left far behind; under developed for 7 years where some state have achieved a lot in form of infrastructural development, human development. Adamawa people are not even particular about zoning. If you are talking about zoning, the last governor (Murtala) Nyako, before his impeachment is from the southern zone and I’m not from the southern zone.
Recently there was a rumor that Ribadu is being persuaded by the leadership of the PDP and even the Presidency to contest the election.
I think I have talked about this on more than three occasions. First and foremost, I don’t believe that Nuhu Ribadu will jettison what he has been professing simply because he wants to be governor to jump ship. But, if he is sure of his popularity, he can contest the election in whatever party. This is a man who contested Presidential election in 2011 under defunct ACN now in APC. As I speak to you today, Ribadu has not come out to say he wants to contest in PDP or APC. Everybody is watching and as far as I’m concerned, he is welcome to PDP if he desires to depart from his party. Our doors are opened; we are not just coming around as politicians. I don’t think there is anyone who has been in politics earlier than myself. Nuhu Ribadu just jumped into politics after his EFCC assignment.
Politics is something you grow within, it is not about you are in Abuja and you want to be governor. Yes, if you want to be governor you have to test your popularity. We have been in this game since 1990s. As far as I’m concerned, Nuhu Ribadu, like any other person, has constitutional right to contest the governorship of Adamawa state. If he wants to abandon his party, the APC, he is welcome.
What we are saying is that the field is there, the people are there, it is the people who will decide who will govern them. The least you can give the people of Adamawa state today is the right to make their own choices. Adamawa people of 2014 is different from the people of 2011 when the them federal government imposed Nyako on us and we have seen the result. He did not contest the primaries; the then leadership of the party, for whatever reasons imposed Nyako on PDP. He never aspired to be governor of Adamawa state from PDP.
There are insinuations that should Nuhu Ribadu accede to calls from PDP stakeholders to dump his APC, he would be offered an automatic ticket. How true is this?
There is nothing like automatic ticket in our party. Some people are just having wishful thinking. The constitution is clear about it; nothing like automatic ticket in the PDP under President Goodluck Jonathan. You know they will say what they think, this is a man who believe in democracy. You think you are popular, come and test your popularity. President Jonathan is not given to automatic for anybody. Even when he was a sitting President, he did not get automatic ticket, he slugged it out with Atiku that time. Quote me, the least you can give to Adamawa people today after Nyako is the constitutional right to make their own choice in the party and the general elections. Anything short of that is gross injustice and God will not forgive whoever is involved.
What are the chances of the PDP in view of the rising profile of the APC in the North-East?
I don’t think the profile of theAPC is rising. On the contrary, it is declining. Who are the APC people? When Nyako left PDP and joined APC, most of them in the APC, like Engr, Gundiri, Buba Marwa joined the PDP. Now, another political heavyweight in APC is Ali Modu Sheriff is leaving for the PDP. I can’t see why you say that the APC profile is rising. Gradually,the space is closing up on them; people are leaving APC for PDP.
As a former Speaker of Adamawa, do you still have the contact and structure on ground to contest the state governorship?
From my own understanding, I’m not talking because I’m interested, I’m talking out of experience; out of practical interaction, I have not seen a candidate who can beat me in a free and fair contest either in the PDP or at the general election. Wehave been on the assignment for the past one and half year and we are sure of our stand.
How do you react to your unceremonious removal from office by the President?
My removal from office is not based on any offense; nobody invited me to answer questions in the EFCC or the police. My leaving office was predicated on the fact that I have been there for seven years. I worked with with the President since he was Vice President and I’m not expected to be Political Adviser forever. I played myth roles and I can beat my chest that I played it creditably well. In 2010, I came out to set up Goodluck Support Group, the pioneer voluntary organization that went round the country to mobilize people for the President to offer himself for election and as a Political Adviser, I have done the best way I understood it. My job was to defend every political move; every policy of the government and I have taken on anybody who thinks the man is not good enough to be President. I have taken on anybody who showed signs to indicate that Jonathan should not stand election.
It’s funny for them to say that President Jonathan should not offer himself for Reelection. It is a different thing if you day: ok, you have the constitutional right to stand for reelection but I will not vote for you. It on no ground should anyone say that he should not stand for election. I believe that this country belongs to all of us, irrespective of where you come from, what religion you practice, what language you speak. We are equal partners; no one is inferior. If some past Presidents were elected for second term, why would somebody say the President should not run for a second term? I will not allow anyone to stand the constitution on its head. I have said it severally that this is the first President that means what he says. Our railways are working again after 35-40 years. No President in the past had deemed it fit. It this is the first President who exhumed the light rail. I have said that there is no alternative to President Jonathan in 2015 and people have come to confront me asking why I had to make such statement. Some government officials, even in Federal Government also asked why I made the statement.
Are you saying there are saboteurs around the President?
I said we have moved round the country and have found out that there is no alternative to President Jonathan. If a government official walks up to me and ask ‘why should you make that statement?’ To me I have to say he is a saboteur, he doesn’t like the man. If he is really selfless and sincere, he wouldn’t have confronted me. But that is by the way. I remain focused; always standing for continuity, unity of this country. There is no alternative to President Jonathan, the country should rally round him.
There is the insinuation that the PDP in the state does not want a Christian governor and this was why Nyako’s deputy was forced to resign?
The deputy governor was not forced to resign. I have been following the turns of events. The Chairman of the party is a Christian. You cannot divorce the government from the party. The Chairman of the PDP in Adamawa today is Chief Joel Madaki, a Christian and he is our leader, we all respect him, we all support him. What I’m telling you is that irrespective of what is the religion, the party is for everyone, if you are popular within the party, test your popularity. That is the position of the constitution.
What will you do differently from Nyako should you become the governor?
No, don’t compare me with Nyako. I object to it vehemently. Nyako is the highest mistake of democracy in Nigeria. Please, when we are talking, don’t don’t compare me with Nyako. He is a disappointment to his family, to himself, to democracy. At his age, having attained the position he attained in Nigeria: he was Chief of Naval Staff, deputy chief of Defence staff, he was a governor in 1976, military governor though he was removed that time too. You people will not appreciate the anger in the minds of the people of Adamawa state until you visit the state. For the past seven years, Adamawa state was run aground and you are asking what I will do differently. This is an insult. Nyako has run away, his son is on the run, his brothers are on the run, the people of Adamawa are after them. Acting Governor has just come and he met debt on the ground and there is nothing to show for the money.
The Acting governor is said to have hired 50 aides, would you not say this is also on the high side?
If you compare the Acting Governor’s 50 aides with Nyako’s 6000, you will know that the former is being reasonable. Nyako was just as bull in the China’s shop but it took us extra work to get him out, the Adamawa people are having a sigh of relief. What I am saying is that as a somebody from Adamawa state , who has been on the political terrain since the 90s, I know our people; I know what they want. An average Adamawa man wants unity but as it is now, Nyako has created mutual suspicion; you don’t trust your neighbour. That is the immediate problem. The challenge of bringing the people together; both the Muslims, the Christians, over 25 tribes. Bring them together, let them have a sense of belonging; let them run the government; let the state be their own. That had been what has been going for me.a