Salihu Mustapha is a former National Vice Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), in this interview with journalists, he says APC chairmanship should be ceded to CPC group in the party. Our correspondent, Ikechukwu Okaforadi was there. Excerpts:
Before you join the chairmanship fray, are you aware that leaders of the defunct CPC are promoting the candidacy of Tanko Almakura?
I am not aware that CPC has endorsed former Governor Almakura for the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). If CPC is alive today, I am the most senior person of CPC. Aside late Prince Tony Momoh, I am number two. I am not aware, I am telling you categorically that there is no day the former CPC members met and agreed to promote the candidacy of the former Governor of Nasarawa State. So there is nothing like that. Talk of CPC, like I said, I was former Deputy National Vice Chairman North. Unfortunately our then national chairman, Prince Tony Momoh, just passed on no too long ago. I mean there is nobody promoting the candidacy of Almakura. Unless you are the one that wants to promote it.
There is a document that leaked indicating that Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State is promoting his predecessor on the grounds that Adams Oshiomhole was of the ACN and that Almakura is of the CPC and that they should support him to takeover, we media people are aware of this?
Governor Sule, when did he join politics? He just joined politics. This is his first outing. He used to be a staff member of Dangote, so he cannot say he is promoting somebody to takeover the chairmanship of APC because he is not a member of the CPC. In principle yes, Oyegun came from the defunct ANPP, Oshiomhole came from the defunct ACN, but the party is yet to announce officially the zoning of the party chairmanship to the North Central, when it does, we will make our case known. Yes, some of us believe that since ANPP and ACN have produced the chairmen of the party, then the CPC should be given the opportunity. This is more so because politically, when you look at President Buhari, the CPC camp in the APC will be having an outgoing President. And naturally, if the President comes from the South, the Vice President comes from the North, then those of us that are from the North Central should be allowed to produce the chairman of the party. That is the understanding in principle, but it is not an official thing yet. And even if it becomes, there should be hierarchy. Almakura is a serving senator now, let him contribute his quota there and do the work that he has been voted for.
Looking at the array of persons aspiring for APC chairman, most are former governors, how do you intend to pull your way against them?
Sometimes we are the ones that mortgage ourselves in this country. Before they became governors were they Governors? They contested to become Governors. So, must there be a Governors’ cult that will decide what happens in this country. I mean before they became Governors, they were also ordinary people like you and I. The same way they aspired to become something, all of us should also have the right to aspire. It is not a contest of titles, it is a call for anybody that wants to serve. With all due respect, I need their support, I need their endorsement. I am not saying that I am coming to fight. I believe that we all mean well for ourselves in the party and we are going to create a platform as APC that we can use to deliver on our own electoral promises or goals.
Who are those in your camp that you bank on; have you consulted with the villa in your chairmanship aspiration?
Like I said, it is not a contest of titles, but a contest of what you can offer. I am bringing energy, faithfulness, experience, goodwill. It is teamwork for me, and not one man show. When I say it is teamwork, I mean it is an ongoing consultation, it is an ongoing process. In politics you don’t shutdown until you have finished, otherwise you are doomed to fail. So, it is an ongoing process. On the issue of villa support, we all know the President very well, he is a man that will always tell you that he is not for any man and that he is for every man, but he knows those of us who have been with him since he joined politics. There is a difference between a child that you nurtured for over thirty years and another child that just came in today.
Looking at the situation of APC today, do you think this convention will be held in June?
Well for me, the party knows what it is doing. The party is mindful of INEC timetable, and as a party in government, I believe we are also mindful of the electoral law that is being proposed. Whereby we want all primary elections to be held six months before the general election so that we can have all court cases trashed before swearing in, so that you do not go to court before swearing in. As a party in government, we are mindful of these and the caretaker committee members are also mindful of these. I am sure they will come up with a definite date for the convention before we hit the deadline of INEC. So I want to believe they are taking all these into consideration and part of the work they are to do is to make sure they come up with a feasible date early enough for us to hold the convention.
What are your agenda for the party if you eventually emerge APC chairman?
I want to instill discipline in the party and bring about purposeful leadership. I want to put an enabling environment, with the party as a vehicle to be able to deliver on the promises to Nigerians.
Are you saying that Mai Mala Buni, who is the current caretaker chairman of your party is not doing these things?
He is a caretaker chairman; he is an elected governor. He has work to do in his state for God’s sake. I don’t think you will support the abnormality that we have now or do you want that he should be doing these two works at the same time? Party administration is different. Now, there are certain things he will do, you will be one of the first people that will complain. You see, we should be very clear with some of these things. Party administration is different. We want to have a party that will create an enabling environment for all. A party that will promote certain values, a party that will partner with government, that will sponsor a government so that you will be able to say that during the campaigns, these are our party manifestos, these are what we believe in, so that you can hold us to it and say when you were promoting certain candidate you promised that so and so will be done. We want to now have a party that will be able to instill discipline in the members. Today, we have court cases here and there, but it should not be so. There should be party supremacy. For me, I said I am going to bring all these and I believe I have the integrity, I have the qualities, I have the energy for all these, and I have the goodwill to be able have an accommodating environment, to be a bridge builder, these are the things I want to offer.
You said you led CPC to the merger negotiations before APC was formed, and I believe you must have records of all that transpired during the negotiation, was there a time that an agreement was reached that there shall be power rotation between North and South West?
These are gentleman agreement and understanding. These are not documented things, so whatever APC does might be different from what other parties like PDP will do. So, there is always a gentleman understanding.
Was that gentleman understanding there to rotate power between North and South West?
In the final merger arrangement when we chose the party positions, in principles with good understanding, we chose these positions. Yes, Bisi Akande was to be the protem chairman because we felt that we already had somebody that everybody was looking towards to emerge as the presidential candidate in the primaries. But that did not stop Rochas Okorocha from contesting. So you see when you have an understanding in principle, it is not binding except it is in writing. Yes, we felt the presidency should go to the North at that time, but it did not stop Rochas Okorocha from South East from contesting. So if he had won that day, you would say you wouldn’t give it to him? you will give it to him. So, whatever APC is doing in principle as friends or as a family, let it be within the APC. I am not in the position to now tell you that it was agreed, witnessed and signed by XYZ. There was nothing like that, but there was an understanding in principle that the North should produce the President at that time. For me, I believe that in the political climate in which we are today, we should be able to accommodate and balance the equation for all of us because as of today in Nigeria, there are two sharp divides, which are ethnicity and religion and I think it is time we should be able to work above these divides.