Former Presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Kano State Governor, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in this interview with newsmen over the weekend spoke on the outcome of the APC Presidential Primary election and some wide range of burning national issues, Edwin Olofu captured the interview.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primaries has just been concluded where you finished second, can you now confirm the rumour that your next line of action is to contest the Kano Central senatorial seat?
Thank you very much. Let me welcome all of you to my office; and let me also take this opportunity to thank you all of you who are my friends; even including those who were not very positive—especially before the primary election. Many thought it was Buhari, Atiku and others. In any way, you have seen others now—and you have seen their capacity. We thank the Almighty God for given us that opportunity to participate in the primary election. It was very historic, we have done our best. I believe that our best was good enough and well articulated. Let me also at this point congratulate our leader, General Muhammadu Buhari for such a wonderful performance; and I also congratulate other aspirants, Atiku Abubakar (Turakin Adamawa); Rochas Okorocha; and of course, my friend, your friend, Sam Nda-Isaiah. Just as we predicted, the primary election was a family affair. It was done in such way that all of us are winners and all of us pledged to support the winner before the primaries and even after the primaries. I thank Almighty God and I also thank all the delegates and those who supported us through various means to achieve such a wonderful result. I started very late and I know up till this moment, it wasn’t up to two months that I started. Many people claimed that I wasn’t known in the South, and other parts of this country—despite all that, I became number two, after our candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari. And I am happy that, at least, now I am known across the country; and that is a good story for me and a good story for all our supporters in this state and across the country. The result didn’t show delegates from Kano alone, it was delegates from across the country; because I have seen, even from the counting, from here Buhari. Buhari, Kwankwaso…and so on—which means that the support I got cut across the whole country, and I want to thank all the delegates. We will continue to build the party so that at the end of the day, APC can win election not only in Kano but across the nation.
On the issue of senatorial seat, you know we just finish counting the votes (for APC Presidential Primaries) and the result was announced late yesterday (Thursday). I was just coming back and we had to go and settle the Kano North Senatorial primaries—we had to move straight because we had to do it before 12 midnight yesterday (Thursday 11 December); and that is done. Now, the next thing is to return and consult my friends and my colleagues here find political future for my humble self and, of course, other people who worked together with us here in Kano, for the next dispensation.
How do you compare the issue of internal democracy between PDP and APC looking at the emergence of the presidential candidates of both parties?
You see, the difference is very, very clear. APC is now the PDP in those days especially in 1999 and 2003. That is how we built PDP. We allowed aspirants to show their interest, the party will support and even encourage those who are interested to go out and campaign; and it has a lot of advantages, especially if you look at it from my own contest. When I declared, I had to go round the country and convince many of my friends, many of them in APC, many of them were in other parties. As a result of that, we have so many people who have now joined APC as a party not because they were APC or they wanted APC ordinarily, but because they knew that my leadership will be good for them and will be good for the country; and that was why they came and I can assure you none of them will go back to any other party. They will stay in APC and support it from bottom to the top; and so all so, other aspirants who have gone round, especially, Sam Nda-Isaiah. Many people didn’t understand the importance of those 10 votes that he got. You know you can lose or win with 10 votes, not only in the election like the one we had, even in general elections, you can lose or win election with 10 votes in this country. So, 10 votes are very critical and those 10 votes will certainly bring in so many people into our party. So, we are not even talking of the votes that were being recorded for Rochas, even Atiku himself and the ones that were scored by the winner, General Muhammadu Buhari. So, if you put the efforts of these five aspirants together, I am sure that will go a long way; and we have seen a lot of changes in the last few months, especially, as it relates to even General Buhari himself.
Ordinarily, General Buhari wouldn’t have taken so much time, so much effort to go round the country to convince people. Now, he is a full-fledged politician who has gone round to ask for support, to ask for understanding. He has worked like any other politician in this country, and that is what we want him to do. We don’t want to sit down in a room and look at him and say ‘let us dash him this ticket.’ Now, he has earned the ticket for himself and that has gone a long way in strengthening the party. It has gone a long way in strengthening and deepening democracy in this country. Looking at what he was saying yesterday (Thursday, 11 December), and even before yesterday, he was like any other polished and experienced politician; and that is how it should be, and I am sure even if by the grace of God, when he gets to the Villa, he will be a wiser politician, a more experienced politician, who will value every delegate, who will value every religion, who will value every other tribe, ethnicity and differences across the country. So, I am very happy and proud that our party decided to give us a level playing ground for everybody to contest.
Considering the efforts you put in place before the primaries, do you feel betrayed by the result?
No. You see when I was going into it, I thought I was going to win, but I became number two; and if you look at the quality of people, their experiences, their wealth—I think everybody should congratulate me. And many people, especially, my friends, I am sure they have seen it on papers, …so what I believe is that anybody who voted for Buhari is my friend; and if they had known the relationship between me and him; even those who really didn’t like me, if they had known, they wouldn’t have voted for him because I am sure you must have known that he was telling the whole world when they ask him if you are not getting it who else would you support and he said, ‘Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso,’ and this was just few days to the primary election. Then what else do we want and what else do I want. This is somebody who said that voluntarily at his age and his standing in the society. He voluntarily passed out this information not to me but to the whole world. He said, ‘if it is not me, I will support Kwankwaso,’ so, to me, it is as good as I won the primary election.
Would you now continue to be the strong voice of the opposition you have been known for in recent times and come 2019, are Nigerians expecting to see you in the presidential race or would you become the likes of Nuhu Ribadu and Malam Ibrahim Shekarau who after their failed attempt in 2011 were found missing in the race in 2015?
Well, you see, I think there is a lot of difference between me and many other people. For me I have decided to go into politics as a politician. I didn’t go into politics just to get a position and enjoy myself. No! I am in politics to better the lives of our people. When I left service in 1991 to join politics, I wasn’t dismissed, or I didn’t go out as a result of frustration; in fact they have to give me two weeks to go and think—that was after I gave them my resignation letter. They wanted me to stay behind because they knew my worth—I was a professional by any standard, but I felt I would be more useful to myself and my country if I go into politics. So, I am a politician first and foremost—if anything comes in terms of elected position or appointed, I welcome it and I will keep on moving; and that is why for over 20 years, I have been in and out, in and out and I think I am one of the very few, if there is any politician today, who has been enjoying these experiences of going into various offices, both elective and appointed positions. And it is always good to have such experiences—now, I am in government, I know how sitting governors feel, and at the same time, I know the feelings of those who were in government and they are now outside the government, because before now, I was in government and outside the government. I know the feelings at the state level; I also know the feelings at the national level. So, first and foremost, I am a politician, I am still there.
So, along the line, if I had won the primary election, it would have been a big challenge. Now, what we have is another challenge because I am now back on ground to make sure that PDP is defeated in this state and across the country. In other words, I want to deliver Kano one hundred per cent to APC. Then some of the people I met yesterday, after declaration, they were saying look you have to be on that ticket, you have to be in the Senate for Kano Central; with Buhari as the President, me as a contestant, it will be very difficult for anybody to mention any party other than APC on the Election Day here in Kano. So, now is an opportunity. In the last two months, I have been on and off, now I am fully on ground to complete all these ongoing projects in the state. So, even if there is a disadvantage there, on the other side, you have so many advantages. And even on the side of the disadvantage—if you take it like that, I am happy, somebody I respect a lot and somebody who believes that in this country if not him, it will be Kwankwaso, I don’t think anybody will doubt our relationship with Buhari because this is the information that he gave voluntarily.
While the APC Presidential Primary Election was going on in Lagos, there was a bomb-blast in Kano, coming few days after the vicious attack on Kano Central Mosque. There have been a series of such attacks in parts of northern states. What is the lasting solution to these incessant terror attacks on Nigeria?
I want to seize this opportunity once again to commiserate with the families of those who were involved in the last and even previous killings in this state and across the country. It is very sad, it is very unfortunate that Nigeria as a country is facing these challenges at this crucial time and we are looking for the answer—I believe that the answer is to have a committed, an honest, determined President and Commander-In-Chief; somebody who has the political will to stop the killings not only in Kano, but across the country. Every day, if it is not in Borno, it is in Yobe, it is in Adamawa, it is Bauchi, Gombe, Kano; just yesterday, we learnt they struck again in Plateau and so on. So, it is a national issue which must be addressed by the Commander-In-Chief. And I want to say that Buhari has a military background and that will go a long way in helping him and guiding him on what to do; and by the grace of God, whether from my own house in Kwankwaso town, or from Kano in Gandun Albasa or from anywhere, we will continue to support him, and by the grace of God, when he becomes President, we will succeed; because that is very important, he has his own version of experience, I have my own version of experience, especially, experience in the area of security. And I will rally around him to help him to succeed because his success is not only his own, not only my success, it is not only your success, but the success of this country because even our friends elsewhere are very worried, especially those who have invested their money in this country, especially those who wants to invest; especially those who like or respect this country. People are wondering what is happening in Nigeria. So to answer that question is that we need a competent Commander-in -Chief and if Buhari goes there, I see no reason why all these rubbish will not stop in this country.
You have said that with his military background, General Buhari can fix the problem of insecurity in this country. Are you saying that military Generals in politics are better than civilians in politics at this point in time?
I didn’t say so! But you see, in this political era, a General who has gone through the system over the years, under normal circumstances, is in a better position to handle the issue of security—this is very important. But that is not to say that civilians can’t do the job.
Your Excellency, we want to take you back. If after due consultation, eventually and at the end, they say you should run for the Senate seat. Will you accept?
I think you are just repeating what we have already discussed…I thought you would ask a different question! Well, I am consulting and this consultation will soon end because it is not an open-ended thing. We have to take decisions, but I don’t want anything that will appear tomorrow on papers or even on radio today or television without consulting with my friends here or elsewhere; because in politics, it is very important that before you make up your mind on something, at least, you have to meet your friends and ask them what they think should be done. It is just like before I contested for the seat of Mr. President, I had to consult widely and out of that consultation, so many people were committed to the project to the extent that now we have seen the result and I think the result is good, not only good, very good, because the man who came first believe in me and of course, I am number two in the contest and this is somebody who showed interest just in the last two months. So, let me take the opportunity once again to thank all the delegates, even those who voted for me and those who had the intention to vote for me; but for whatever reason, either they were not allowed or they were asked to do another thing. Even those who went there with another candidate in mind, I think all of us added value to APC and we also added value to the democracy itself better than PDP that started very well in 1999, they were doing what we have done yesterday; but along the line, somebody hijacked the party, took over and coerce everybody—former governors, sitting governors, Senators, everybody who wanted to contest the Presidential seat was being forced to run away. And at the end of the day, they acted like any other small party or parties that we have seen in the past. They were just sitting in the room to give one man a ticket or one woman a ticket. Only one form was printed for Mr. President; and I can assure you that will not help him that will not help their party because that is a recipe for total failure of the party. I am happy that over the years, during when we were there, those of us who were in the party, were saying we will stay for sixteen years—but you press men, your ears were not good enough, and you thought we were saying 60 years! You have to know the difference between 16 and 60! In this term, PDP will be 16 and that was what we were saying! Sixteen is 16, please; don’t write 60 again, because there is that wide or big difference. Not only that, we have seen over the years, this issue of incapacity, to the extent that even the primary responsibility of government, this administration has no capacity to provide; and that is the issue of security. Any government in Nigeria, any government elsewhere, at all levels, that cannot protect lives and properties of its people—that government is not even worth being there, talk less of looking for third-term. Any time I have this opportunity, I remind Nigerians that what we are seeing in Abuja is not second-term. It is just like when we were saying 16, people are saying 60! I don’t know why people are still talking about second-term! I don’t know why they think the term is the second one now because we are aware that in 2010, Umar Musa Yar’Adua died, this President was sworn in as a full-fledged President of this country. Before 2011, he spent well over one year; and he is having another four years, making it over five years in office. And I don’t know how we can add another four years to make it eight years because we have checked the Constitution of this country and we did not see anything which says more than eight years. So, eight years are eight years and we hope that they should be dusting their tables, because this is the time, I have started doing my own here in Kano.
This is time to finish my projects, this is time to do what is necessary for the people to have peace; and therefore, let me also thank God that General Buhari has been elected by my party. I am sure you heard what he said yesterday, ‘the North and the South, make sure you come together and work as a family; Christians and Muslims, ethnic nationalities should come and work as Nigerians.’ And definitely General Buhari will work on the issue of corruption and other vices that are militating against the development of this our dear country. Now, I am sure you know the economy has collapsed. Government has close to nothing and these all have to do with the issue of having the capacity to protect our economy. That is why I believe General Buhari will work together with team of professionals across the country to make sure that our economy is revived and revamped so that all of us at the state level, at Local Government level and at the national level, people can secure jobs, people can go to school and so on and so forth.