The governorship candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Adamawa state, Nuhu Ribadu, has given insight into why he believes President Goodluck Jonathn will get re-elected for a second term in the presidential election slated for this Saturday.
PREMIUM TIMES’ team of editors comprising Musikilu Mojeed, Emmanuel Ogala and Sani Tukur caught up with Mr. Ribadu on his campaign trail in Adamawa state, for a rare chat.
It’s just a few days to the general election, which your party hopes to win. So how has the campaign been so far? What are your chances in the election?
Thank you very much. I believe that whoever works hard will see results. If you work hard and sell your programmes properly to the people, you will get listening ears.
If you reach out to most of the people in the rural areas where the majority reside, and sell your message properly and correctly, you are likely going to get a favourable result and that is exactly what is happening with the PDP.
We have worked very hard especially in the last couple of weeks or months; we have reached every part of the country. In my own case, here in Adamawa, we have worked very hard; we have visited almost all the districts, wards and of course the local governments and we are beginning to see the result of such visits. Already, four gubernatorial candidates of other parties have stepped down for me. And more than two thirds of the state executives of the APC have decided to dump their party to join our own. Again, the director general of the PDM campaign organisation has relinquished his post to join us. These are all good results of our intensive work.
The party is on ground and widely accepted. We simply sold a simple message of unity, peace and security, progress and development.
It is resonating very well with our people. I am very happy with the level of work that we have put in and the outcome we are seeing. I believe we are going to win this election; we will win at the national level and we will certainly win also at the state level.
People say there is underdevelopment here resulting from the actions of your party in the past; how do you convince the people that it is now a new deal?
Incidentally, what is happening in Adamawa, just like in many other states, is like a twisted thing; the people in the opposition today were the ones in the PDP and they were the ones who ran the state down. They did so badly and then moved on to the APC. Today, PDP is surely the new deal; it is the change in Adamawa.
The state began to see relative development when the speaker became the acting governor after taking over from an APC government. The PDP of today in Adamawa has nothing to do with what happened in the past. We were never part of the government, we did not participate in the government; so what we have is new and fresh. As the flag-bearer of the party today, I had nothing with the former government. It is therefore only fair to exclude us from the failure we are talking about.
Why did you cross over from the APC to the PDP; especially being a former presidential candidate of the ACN?
I think it is politics. You always look at your options and go for what you believe best suits the interest of your people. Don’t be afraid to take it. At the time I moved, I had the interest of Adamawa people at heart. I stand in a better position to contribute to the good of Adamawa state in my present condition. I believe my new party is the one that will give me the opportunity to achieve that objective.
Party differences are just in names; they are basically the same. You may not know it, but close to two-thirds of the APC gubernatorial candidates were in the PDP. Very few of us are the opposite. What matters is the individual. What he has to offer and his intentions and capabilities on what he wants to do for the people.
Adamawa is almost exclusively a PDP state and that is a fact. When the people that you relate with, those who are part of you continue to pass strong messages, a time will come when you have to listen. It makes sense not to feel that you are always right, and everyone else is wrong. What is important, as I said in the beginning, is that you put the people first; you put Nigeria first and I feel that I will serve my country better and do my best in my present party.
I also believe that there is need for unity in our country. We need to build a nation, not just a geographical entity. We need to build a bond of brotherhood and trust each other. It is in the best interest of Nigeria that President Goodluck Jonathan continues to be the president of Nigeria.
This brings us to the next question. We notice you have been going around selling President Goodluck Jonathan. Why do you think he deserves additional four years?
Because first of all I know him fairly better than most people. Secondly, I also know a little bit more than many people in this country. Thirdly, I am an unrepentant advocate and believer in the unity of Nigeria. I respect people no matter where they come from. This country should give all of us equal opportunity to be whatever we want to be. At a time, this country worked hard to promote unity; we worked hard to produce a president from the South West and he was there for eight years and it helped the unity of Nigeria.
It helped us to stabilize, especially those of us who knew what was going on in 1999. I can only imagine what would have happened to Nigeria if we had terminated the administration of President Obasanjo in 2003 after just one term.
Many people also saw what Obasanjo did in his second term. So, it is based on that understanding that I feel that this man, this simple, honest person that I know, who is unfairly being painted in the opposite, should be allowed another term. I feel there is need to hear about the opposite side of him.
People say a lot about him that is not true. For instance, I don’t think that a single act of corruption can be traced to him as an individual. I know that he is the only president in recent years who did not allocate a single oil bloc to anybody, not to talk of himself. And these are the areas where you can tell corruption in its true colour. He did not allocate oil bloc to himself, family or friends up till now. He also did not give a single marginal field to himself or anybody else even though he is the only president that comes from the Niger Delta where the oil is coming from.
What about the strategic alliance agreements people are talking about? Through this, oil assets are passed to people in what appears non-transparent ways.
Well this is not allocation of marginal fields. These are existing contracts where technical partners had withdrawn and you therefore, have to replace them with someone else to manage it, as partnership in some cases. So, this is not a new allocation at all.
In any case, he is the only president so far who did not renegotiate any Joint Venture contract. I have also not seen any massive, big contract in that industry to date that people are shouting and crying.
I know for a fact that President Jonathan does not have a single property anywhere abroad or any huge business in Nigeria. He does not own a university and none of his children are schooling abroad. It is therefore so unfair the way he is being painted because of politics.
I am surprised that you are speaking this way especially given that the same president asked you to investigate certain corruption in the oil industry and he refused to implement that report. Will you still say that he has the political will to fight corruption?
Well, it is two different things to implement a report or be portrayed as corrupt. We have to treat these issues differently. I was taking about him as an individual, the person I know. These are facts, let people come out and refute them. It is a different thing in terms of how, collectively, government is run. Yes, we did a wonderful job in the committee and we submitted our report, so, my prayer is that the report is implemented. I don’t know how far they have gone, most of the revelations we made were not wild allegations; we pointed out where we felt there was need for systemic changes, with a view to improving the sector.
That is different from what I am talking about. So far, I am yet to come across one single individual associating President Jonathan with corruption as a person.
But people think he likes to appoint corrupt people into his government?
That also is another different thing. That does not necessarily mean he is a corrupt person. Governance is a very complicated and difficult thing.
All my life I have been an anti-corruption advocate. I have always tried to be honest in my life. I dislike corruption. At the same time, I know situations do come up where certain issues may be far more important than other things.
Today, the unity of Nigeria is at stake, our continued existence as one united country is far more important than any other thing. Presently, the unity of our country is threatened.
Are you saying it is only a Jonathan presidency that can foster the unity of this country?
What I am saying is that we are facing an insurgency. We face a very serious threat. Many countries that face the same problem we are facing now have turned upside down. The government of Mali had to collapse, and France had to come to their aid. It is basically the same problem we are facing today. The same thing is going on in Somalia and Yemen.
So wherever you see this type of insurgency, the unity of the country is threatened. It is the same thing with Afghanistan and so on. So I am saying we need to be careful not to add other problems to the ones we already have.
I recently made the point that you do not need to change your commander-in-chief in the middle of a war, especially if there is success. We are presently recording huge success in bringing back peace and order and recovering our territories hitherto taken over by the insurgents. At this point, it makes sense for us to be calm and stable to ensure that we do not add other problems.
If we had terminated Obasanjo’s government in 2003, only God knows what would have happened to this country. He did well after 2003 and I believe it is going to be the same with President Goodluck Jonathan. I am not saying he did not do well, but that he will do even better in his second term.
But can you sincerely say he has done well?
Well even for the single fact that the country is still standing as one entity, remember I told you about how some countries have collapsed because of this type of problem. He has been able to hold this country together. He had challenges and difficulties at first. He was being tossed here and there. When such problems come to a place, normally people get confused. He managed the divergent views on the matter extremely well. Some people did not get it right and even waged a campaign even against our military even to the extent Nigeria could not get enough war equipment to prosecute the war. He had to go through that for a year or two.
It demoralized the Army very unfairly. He also had to manage the sensitivity of religion, and the diversity of our country. He managed all these properly and at the appropriate time, when everybody appeared to understand what was going on, we saw what has happened. The military took action, and today the whole of Adamawa and Yobe are free of extremists. Only a fraction of what they used to control in Borno is remaining now. He did all this with very minimal casualty or collateral damages.
He is not interested in grandstanding or making noise simply because he wants to take credit for destroying Boko Haram and I think that is what is needed. We need a sober person, somebody who reflects and understands implications before taking action. He did fairly well, if you ask me, at least in that regard.
He has been able to organize a strong coalition of countries around the region in spite of all the difficulties. In spite of all the frustrations by the western world, he has been able to acquire weapons and to re-energize and motivate the military. We are seeing the results.
Taking you back to the issue of corruption, the emir of Kano recently criticized the government over corruption. He said the whole issue of kerosene subsidy and all of the corruption in the oil and gas industry was not addressed by the government audit. What do you say to that?
I was a bit surprised because as an emir, you are supposed to be non partisan. An emir should be father to all, not to get involved in politics, not to support one against another.
This must be a big problem for us. It is a new development that we have not seen before. We respect the traditional institution and would not want to be exchanging words with them. But at the same time, the truth must be said. When he was the governor of the Central Bank, he made his own allegations. He went before the National Assembly and defended his own position. The National Assembly did a thorough investigation and came out with a report. A critical institution of governance in this country, the parliament, came out with a report that what he said was not true.
Also, PriceWaterHouseCoppers, an internationally recognized accounting firm, investigated and came out with a report that the claims were not true. It is fundamental that we understand what is going on. We are talking about systems and institutions. We should not allow ourselves to be carried away for whatever it is; sentiment or personal ambition to achieve a set objective to damage and tarnish things.
It is wrong for a leader like him to stand before the world and make allegations against the government and the president of Nigeria. I think it was a big mistake and unethical. More so, when everything that he said was disproved by appropriate and realistic institutions that are in a position to know.
Taking about kerosene. Of course, the Jonathan administration did not introduce it. The whole regime of subsidy began during the regime of Obasanjo, Umaru (Yar’Adua] continued. In fact, it was during the regime of Jonathan that reduced it by half.
Kerosene is also a very sensitive product because it is the only one that goes directly to the ordinary citizen. It would therefore, be tough for any government to sit down and wipe it out completely. There are certain things that make sense to the ordinary man. I have no issues whatsoever with anything to do with that.
My major concern actually is that the CBN has no business with such issues. You are the government’s banker; you manage the currency; you do not go out to the customer and insist that you must know what is happening in his own house. Nowhere in the world is such a thing happening.
I doubt very much if there is sincerity in what we are witnessing. I think they are extremely unfair to Goodluck Jonahan. It is looking like desperation to get something to hook him by all means. I feel that is not just, it is ungodly and unfair.
By your analogy, it shows that the only reason you want Jonathan back in government is for unity or a kind of pay back to the South South for supporting the north in the past. It is not about who is the best. What about the economic wellbeing of the whole country?
As far as I’m concerned, we could achieve all at the same time. It doesn’t mean that you will forsake one for the other. Please accept the fact that this is a federating environment. In a federating entity, people come to the centre from different backgrounds, locations and different interests. It makes sense for you to exhibit equity, fairness, justice and equal opportunity for all.
It makes sense for everyone from every part of the country to aspire to whatever office and others will be comfortable with it. I feel that it is in the best interest of Nigeria that this man should continue.
You must be speaking based on what you heard me telling the people in my rallies. It’s okay because I am communicating with the people of my own federating unit. I was reminding the people of Adamawa that we are a just and fair people and that we are such that if you do us a favour, we will return it at any given opportunity.
I gave them instances where people from the South-South stood by northern politicians in the past. They give us 100 per cent support, always. They took the same position with the Tafawa Balewas in the 60s. They supported the Prime Ministership of Tafawa Balewa. They voted 100 per cent for Shehu Shagari. They voted for Umaru Yar’Adua. Now, one of them, for the first time in the history of this country, has emerged as President. The constitution says you can only serve two terms of four years each. I think it is only fair that we give them the chance. So it is not about sacrificing one for the other. We can achieve both. Getting power should not be the monopoly of any one person or group.
I am sure you have gone round Adamawa state to campaign and must have noticed that the work ahead is enormous, the expectation is also very high. So, in specific terms what should the people of the state expect from your administration in say the first one or two years?
First and foremost I am going to bring fairness and justice. I will unify the state and restore to normal the lives of the people displaced by the insurgency. I will resettle and empower them. I will bring back the schools destroyed. I will restore full hospital services within the period we are talking about. This is going to be a priority.
I will clean up the system of government. I will sanitise it. I will bring order by fighting crimes in Adamawa. It is time for anyone who is a criminal or a fraudster to leave Adamawa because when I come, they will have no hiding place. Some crimes associated with economic deprivation like cattle rustling will also be phased out.
I intend to work honestly and bring all of us together to make Adamawa a safe place.
Of course, I will preserve the people’s money. There will be no corruption in Adamawa. It is the money so saved that we intend to use to rebuild our schools and hospitals. I will provide water and build the roads. Adamawa is the only state in which local governments are not interconnected with tarred roads. You have been to some of them and you have seen how our local governments look like. Things are even better now after Fintiri came and Bala Ngilari is now continuing.
I want to do feeder roads. I want to look for opportunity for people to get employment in all areas and sectors.
Are the resources there to do all these things?
When you talk about resources, it cannot always be enough. Just use what you have maximally, honestly and fairly. If you give me 10 naira, I will use it such that if you see the work, you will think it is 50 naira. That is what my philosophy is all about.
We will also see how we can improve the internally generated revenue. We will also reduce the cost of governance drastically. We will block all the loopholes of wastages. That is what I know how to do best. All my life, all I do is work.
When you became the candidate of the PDP, the major challenge you faced was from the members of your party. It however looks like you were able to overcome it. How did you achieve that?
As I said earlier, PDP is the party of change in Adamawa. It represents what people want to see. Even those who were aggrieved understood eventually that there was need for us to come together. I was very humble. I reached out and spoke to many people and explained what happened.
Primaries are usually very difficult. It’s not just in Adamawa. You may be surprised, but this is the first time that primaries took place in Adamawa. We have never had it before. In the past, somebody is just picked and he will be governor. Boni Haruna never went through primaries. Neither did Nyako.
Many states have had difficulties and challenges. What matters is what happens after. In our own case, we reached out to those who we could and spoke to people, appealed to their right thinking faculties and convinced them that we should put Adamawa first and come together to salvage our state.
It worked because majority are reasonable people. It is natural to have disagreements but it is also normal for you to settle and work like we have done.
You say you are confident the PDP will win because you have worked hard. So how many states will the PDP win?
The result may not be too different from what we had in 2011. Of course it is a guess. Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen. I feel that President Jonathan will win with a big margin.
Which and which state will he win?
For sure, he is winning Adamawa because I am here. I am not sure if it is right for me to get involved in other states. It may not look appropriate.
Are you saying Jonathan is going to humiliate Buhari again?
There is nothing like humiliation. It is a contest. If you go into a contest, you either win or lose.
With great respect for General Buhari, it is an election and when you go into election there is always that 50-50 chance between winning and losing.