Senator Habu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South) is the Deputy Minority Leader, also a member of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with Ali Abare Abubakar and Ikechukwu Okaforadi, Sen Habu sheds more light on issues relating to the party’s presidential primaries, insisting however that Gen Buhari remains the candidate to beat. Excerpts:
Recently during plenary, the Senate expressed its dissatisfaction with the manner the war against the Boko Haram insurgency is being prosecuted. What is your take on the effort by the federal government towards tackling this menace ravaging the North east?
Well, I don’t think there is any progress. Previously we have confided the Boko Haram in the Sambisa forest but now they are taking over territories, sacking emirs, killing Imams and so on. They are invariably taking over both the traditional as well as religious leaderships. So there is no progress and that explains why everybody was disgusted.
As we approach the APC Presidential primaries scheduled to hold in October, how do you react to insinuations that the thread holding the party together will snap as a result of the party’s inability to reconcile the interests of its leading presidential aspirants?
Well, it’s false; it’s not true that the APC will break apart after the presidential primaries. I am speaking from a vantage position both as a member of the APC National Executive Council (NEC), the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) as well as the APC Caucus. So I know every level of decision making and I didn’t see any indication of the party coming apart because of the primary election. In fact, the presidential front runners in the APC communicate with each other. Buhari, Kwankwaso and Atiku visit each other. I am a Buhari loyalist and I don’t hide it. I am a Buhari man, there is no doubts about it, I will pray for him, work for him to ensure he emerges victorious but that does not stop me from communicating with either Kwankwaso or Atiku. They know me, I know them. But you know, the people insinuate things because they want to create problems. The APC will hold all its conventions and congresses or primaries without rancor, this I assure you and people will see. My principal, that is General Buhari, accepts the fact that others have the right to contest, at the same time, we as members feel that as a party, we try to see if we can have a consensus candidate. This is because the APC have to cut down on cost because we are not a government party. The PDP can afford to award a N10 bn contract and take ten percent, which amounts to one billion Naira. If they give a N100 bn contract, they get N10 bn as cuts for the party. The APC does not have that kind of money; so obviously, the party must have to cut cost. So if some of us try to push for consensus, we are doing it for the interest of the party. There are some of us working hard to see if we shall have a consensus, if somebody say, well let me withdraw to allow the party to win, such a person should be praised, not that he doesn’t like the party or will not like to contest or doesn’t like democracy but he is trying to save the party lots of resources that we shall use for the main election itself because the most important thing is to win the election. So, I assure you and you can quote me anywhere, all the serious problems that the people are insinuating are not there. Luckily enough, the party has purged itself with the type of people that could create problems for the APC. Tom Ikimi, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff, Attahiru Bafarawa and Ibrahim Shekarau, these are people that we know who are always being used by the government because they are in the opposition. By the struck of luck, these people all left the APC, we are competent and don’t fear that anyone is planted.
There has never been a time in the history of democracy in Nigeria that the opposition came together to form a formidable challenge to the ruling party. Do you think the APC would maximize this potential to actually challenge the PDP come 2015?
You see, if you look at how the APC was formed, it is indeed the first in history with parties given up their registration to form a new party. Look at the history of what happened, alliances were there but this is the first time parties were saying, take over my registration so that it can join a new party. All these were done not by force, people on their own volition decided that yes, we want a strong opposition party. On their own volition they said they were given up their registration. Some people were chairmen of political parties but they willingly relinquished their positions to join the APC. People from across the country look at the issue seriously and agreed that yes, people have commitments that we have reached the point to make sacrifices to see that this party is born, because they knew if PDP is allowed to vie against the ACN, ANPP or CPC, PDP will always have the upper hand. Everybody wants to save Nigeria from the PDP because I bet you, if PDP continues for the next five years, forget about Nigeria. I always call PDP, Poverty Development Party, because there is nothing the people of this country are getting but poverty. And we have to save Nigeria from the clutches of PDP, that’s why we needed to make sacrifices.
The general impression is that Gen Buhari stands a better chance to bring victory to the APC, considering his acceptability and integrity, leading many to want the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar as well as Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso to step down for him. What is your take on this?
Well, I think I told you, Iam a Buhari man and I will support him hundred percent. But in fact, to be objective, if today, the APC wants to get to almost the same level with the PDP, they should give it to Buhari. Buhari has the capacity, look at what happened in 2011, he formed the CPC within nine months without structures and with no money but he was able to garner almost 12 million votes and all the 16 northern states supporting him and winning in those states. As of now, this is the person that you are sure, will bring strength to the party. Secondly, Buhari’s supporters are people who are willing to go to any length for him; no other person in Nigeria has that kind of support. So we have a good opportunity and people talk of money, if you talk of money, who has more money than Jonathan? You can see all the posters which cost money, even recently, a plane with $9m was held in South Africa with our money cornered for the election. So we don’t even think of money, if you think of money there are some whose only CV is money. As far as I am concerned, Buhari remains the only person and you can say it anywhere, for APC to have a strong takeoff, we need to have Buhari as our candidate. I will employ others to look at the interest of the party to make sure the APC succeeds. After all, Buhari has the integrity, the image and required leadership qualities needed now by the country, to fight corruption, once they say it is him, everybody knows there won’t be any play. Fighting insurgency, Buhari is a general and can even lead the troops himself wherever he wants them to go, even if he will take them to Sambisa, he will only put on his military fatigue and go there. Buhari has the entire requirement to remove Nigeria out of its present predicament, occasioned by decades of misrule by the PDP. Because Nigeria without peace, I am sorry to say we are finished as a nation. Either we allow a revolution or the army takes over or the nation collapses and we can see what is happening now. If you hear how 100 Boko Haram can send a battalion to start running, you will see we require qualitative leadership and somebody Nigerians will respect to get the country moving again. To me personally, Buhari has what it takes and the needed requirement to lead the country, particularly at these trying times.