In this interview with Peoples Daily, Barr. Ismaeel Ahmed, chairman, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Youth Forum (APYF), Ahmed spoke on the recent defection of former Borno State Governor, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff, among others, to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and sundry issues. Excerpts:
It has been a roller coaster ride for your party in the last few months. As one of the vocal advocate of the APC, how have you fared so far?
I think you have summed it all up; it’s been a roller coaster. Emotionally wrenching at times but we have managed to stay focus on the things that matter to us that is to rescue this country from the lethargic state it’s currently in. The membership registration was unprecedented as the party success-fully registered people in all the polling units of the country and left double that amount wanting more. The congress was also very inclusive as party members participated directly in choosing their officials. The convention was a bit controversial, but it was well done at the end. So no worries there, a new party that is an amalgam must face its challenges. On the impeachment saga, the Ada-mawa case was a brazen show of legislative dictatorship tantamount to a constitutional coup de tat. Ditto for Nasarawa, although it was an unsuccessful attempt. Ekiti’s election was devastating to me personally but I understood it was part of the process we will have come to accept as part of this game. Osun was a huge relief from all the downsides. All in all, we have done pretty well and we are going stronger God willing.
Some have argued that the APC has lost some of its initial steam. How do you feel about that?
It is a natural sequence of life for the euphoria and excitement for something new to settle after sometime for a more concrete and solidifying purpose. The merger was a long time coming; Nige-rians have yearned and prayed hard for it. When it came, naturally the reaction will be a thunderous ovation. But the applause will have to stop so that the work can begin. That is just what happened, not that the party lost its steam or enthusiastic supporters. If anything, the clear and present danger of the ineptitude and impunity of the PDP further reinforces our ranks. And I won’t say the youth and women have been neglected. Till date the APC remains the only party that has even attempted to define a youth within its constitution. And women have been integrated in every aspect of the party. Delegates, Board of Trustees, NEC, you just name it. So I don’t think that’s an entirely true assessment. There is room for improvement, I agree. And there must be further inclusion. And most importantly we have a very listening Chairman who is capable and is not condescending. He is such a wonderful and a wise man, so the youth are not and will not be neglected.
You recently called for National Thanksgiving service for the defection of Sen. Ali Sheriff from APC to PDP, but many other heavyweights have switched camps as well; Ribadu, Ikimi, Marwa, Shekarau, Bafarawa, Fani Kayode and many more. Isn’t this damaging to your par-ty?
A. The PDP and in fact the Jonathan administration through its numerous spokespersons have constantly and shamelessly tried to link the APC with insurgency simply because we have in our midst Sen. Ali Sheriff. So now that he has defected officially to them, the word being out is that he has always been working for them, I think it calls for celebration by the progressives. We also suggest that all Nigerians should earnestly and seriously begin to ask questions about what’s happening, there are mind numbing issues that must be explained to Nigerians, when the people are left bereft of information then conjectures and plausible de-ductions would fill in the vacuum and this is the case now. This mayhem has continued and perhaps even exacerbated as a result of a government sitting on its hands and politicizing the issue. For other defectors, I am yet to understand what politicians tick but I know ego is one of them. For some I felt really bad because I have personally grown close to them as a result of this movement, but like Asiwaju said, I wish them luck with Goodluck…
INEC has recently released the electoral guidelines for 2015, and the APC has also made some pronouncements as to the mode of its primary elections. What are your hopes?
I am very hopeful indeed and I know that my party and Nigerians are ready to make the change that everyone has been yearning for. As young people we are more than ready to prevent the electoral holocaust that used to be the way of the PDP in this coming election. The primary elections would be transparent and credible I am sure; at the end whoever emerged would have earned the consent of the members of the party and the requisite polit-ical capital to provide the direction needed for victory.
The PDP youths are demanding 30% or nothing from their party, what are the APC Youths demanding from the system?
We believe that we are in the majority as young people and democracy is the government of the many protecting the rights of the few. We are not supposed to be some interest group demanding an affirmative action; we are the live wire of the country and party itself. But we also recognize the fact that we have more experienced leaders who have paid their dues to the system, but we are calling for the young to join the process in order to change the output hence our motto in our Forum; Take part to take charge. So we are demanding that we take our rightful place at the table and use our majority wisely by effecting the change that is required. That is our demand not some peanuts that could be used for political post-uring and punch lines in campaign rallies.
There are rumors that you have some heavyweights interested in running for the presiden-cy under your party. Gen. Buhari, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Gov. Kwankwaso, Gov. Okorocha, D Sam Nda Isiah and Sen. Bukola Saraki. What’s your take on them and are you hopeful that you can defeat the ruling party this time around?
Wow isn’t that an impressive lineup? A party that has such quality should get nothing short of complete control of a drowning country like this. Gen. Buhari is the most dis-ciplined and incorruptible public figure the country had seen in recent history. He has had the privilege to be everything in this country and yet had the responsibility not to take away anything. From humble backgrounds, he rose to the pinnacle of power and yet remained domiciled in his simplicity and contentment of a Fulani man. He carries with him the hopes and faithful loyalty of millions of Nigerians who see him as the only representative of the oppressed that could save them from the oppressors. Vice Presi-dent Atiku is a deft politician with wide contacts and network, experience and depth that is unrivaled. He remains one of the few politicians that has played this game since early 1990’s and yet never took up appointment with any military regime. His generosity and camaraderie with all and sundry is infectious. He understands the dynamics of the country and he is detribalized. Gov. Kwankwaso is the new household name for po-litical pragmatism and economic prudence. He has completely transformed my home state of Kano and built a movement in its wake, the like that has never been seen since the early days of the first republic. He is agile, prudent, visionary and bold. He is a figh-ter and he is also laden with experience being a former deputy speaker of the House of Reps, a Governor and a Minister of defense.
Gov. Okorocha has become synonymous with educational philanthropy having built schools of high quality in almost all the zones of the federation for free. He has more than 10,000 children all over the country who have benefitted from his heavenly gesture. He is the embodiment of Nigeria. He speaks fluent Nigerian languages, he is highly detribalized as the only Nigerian who, as a private citizen everyone has felt his presence through his schools, scholarships and strides. Dr. Sam Isaiah has shown a capacity for success by switching from being a suc-cessful pharmacist to an even more successful entrepreneur and journalist. Maybe he could become the most successful president. Sen. Bukola Saraki has the requisite mix needed in a president. He has political pedigree that is envied by many, he has capacity to get things done and we have seen that when he was chairman of the Governors Fo-rum. He is selfless and very methodical and always provides opportunities for the young people. So tell me with such line up how can any lucid and patriotic citizen contemplate considering the other side after what we have been through?
Who is your candidate amongst them?
Certainly not Jonathan (laughs). Not to worry, you will soon know.