Ibrahim Baba, special adviser to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and former member of the House, recently spoke to PREMIUM TIMES’ Samson Adenekan and Nasir Ayitogo on his plan to contest the position of the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Excerpts:
PT: We learnt that you are vying for the seat of APC National Chairman; what is your mission? Considering the calibre of people that have shown interest in that same seat; we have former governors, serving senators, among others, do you think you can match them or fit for this seat?
Baba: My mission is to reposition the party from a ruling party to a governing party to achieve the manifesto we presented to the people in 2015.
I think if you use the word matching, you are not even fair to them. We are all in a political arena and everybody will come out to explore and explain himself to reach where he wants to reach. The most important thing is how you’re able to convince the party faithful to believe in you and your mission.
As I said earlier, I want to reposition the party. We have a manifesto of 2015 and the president has tried to achieve so many things in the area of security and infrastructure and we want the party leaders coming into executive and legislative positions to key 100 per cent into the mission and promises we made to Nigerian people before they elected us in 2015.
PT: You made mention of shifting the party from ruling to governing as your mission. Are you saying the previous APC leadership has not done well?
Answer: Well, everybody can be a ruler but to have good governance is another thing. What I mean by governing instead of ruling is to govern people the way they want and the best way to define this is in results not by just sitting on the seat doing nothing.
Like they say, democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. A government that is not people-centred is not really a government.
PT: If you are given the opportunity to sit on that seat, what are the things you will do differently?
Answer: You see, selecting candidates for party primaries is the key and the most important aspect of any political party. So, I will give equal opportunity to all members to vie for all vacant political offices.
PT: Almost every aspirant vying for that seat has always assured members that there will be a level playing ground for all. Don’t you think this statement has been over flogged?
Answer: Sometimes people will say it without meaning it, that is why I said we want to be a governing party, not ruling. We have laid down rules and procedures and we are going to follow it to the letter. In every situation, we have crops of procedures to be able to achieve or reach where we want to reach. So, we will follow that process.
PT: Your name was penned down in 2020 as the National Secretary of the party but you did not eventually get the seat. What went wrong?
Answer: Well, I cannot divulge what went wrong but you know that it was a decision of the party and the presidency that time to give me that opportunity but something happened along the line.
For me, I can’t tell you exactly what happened but the position was taken.
PT: The party has concluded its registration and there are complaints from some corners about the exercise. Was it fair on your members in Bauchi?
Answer: In my state, it was fair enough. Everyone was given the opportunity to register but there were issues in some states like Kano, Kwara and some other states, although the National Headquarters has made some moves to calm nerves in those states.
PT: Party administration is new to you and could be quite overwhelming. How do you intend to overcome this?
Answer: I can’t say it is new to me because I have been a partisan politician since 2003 and I have passed through a lot of processes as a party member. In 2008, I contested for the chairmanship of my local government in ANPP and in 2011 I contested for the House of Representatives in the CPC and I have gone through a lot of other processes to get to this level of public service.
PT: Which bloc in your party are you banking on to win this race? Do you have the backing of your state chapter?
Answer: I am banking on all the delegates, I don’t want to say this particular bloc and you know I am coming from a particular constituency.
I am not only banking on my state chapter I have also met with almost two-third of all the state executives in Nigeria. So far so good.
PT: Do you think your former colleagues in the National Assembly will play a significant role in your emergence, knowing well that at least two of the Senate President’s colleagues are in this race?
Answer: Yes of course. Not only my former colleagues, even the current National Assembly, the Senate president, speakers. We have met, we have discussed.
I am not saying the Senate President will abandon two of his colleagues in the race. All I am saying is that I am also a member of that constituency and you are being treated equally. I am hoping I will have the backing of all members of the Assembly.
PT: For you to be vying for the national seat of the party and you are from the north, do you believe in the zoning of the presidential ticket to the southern part? Is there any written arrangement to that effect?
Answer: As a democrat, you give equal opportunity to all but once you have some internal arrangements, you should abide by those arrangements.
Though there is no written arrangement to that effect to the best of my knowledge, but you know once you have an association, even your body language should tell you the right thing to do.
I am not saying zoning it to the southern part is right or wrong. All I am saying is that we are giving equal opportunity to all. Once we reach there, we are going to cross that bridge.
PT: You just spoke about body language, unwritten arrangement of zoning, but from the look of things, it seems the race for the APC national chairmanship seat is all a northern affair. Why are there no southern aspirants?
Answer: I think there is a fellow from Edo (referring to Sunny Moniedafe). I also think this race is a matter of interest and it is open to everybody. As I told you, the party is going to be fair to all.
PT: How would you rate the leadership of former chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and the Mala Buni-led interim leadership?
Answer: You know that leadership comes with its own challenges. The time when Oshiomhole was there, it was a critical time. It was a time for selecting candidates to fill different political offices. And the current period is a governance period, not a period for selecting candidates per say. But as you can see there are so many changes coming up, so many new people coming into the party because reconciliation is going on seriously.
We are going to continue with that.
In the last two years, the party has made a lot of progress considering the recent influx of former members who defected and are now coming back, even governors from the PDP.
PT: Aside from that, can you rate the performance of your party in government?
Answer: As I said earlier, when you have an association, it has its rules and if anybody violates the rules, the person should be punished. If anybody supports the party to reach where it is today, the person should be compensated adequately.
We have so many positions in governance that are idle and we have party faithful that are sitting home idle, people who contested and lost elections but have helped the party to attain its current status. By the grace of God, if we come on board, we are going to convince the president to fill those vacancies.
PT: Back to your home state, Bauchi, what is the atmosphere like between the APC and PDP considering the fact that an incumbent governor from your party was defeated by the main opposition?
Answer: We have so many issues in Bauchi. There were so many anti-party activities by our members which led to the emergence of the current government but at the end of it all most of the former members, like the former speaker of the House of Representatives (Yakubu Dogara), have seen the light and have come back home. We have hope that we are going to reclaim that seat in the coming election.
PT: Bauchi State has one of the most enlightened voters in the country, do you think the current state administration is doing well to get re-elected?
Answer: They will vote the governor out. Last week, the president approved the site of another federal university in the state and in the last three months, he approved the location of a federal college of education in the same state.
These are enough grounds to reclaim our seat and the governor is not doing much in terms of social responsibility. He has not been paying salaries, pension and gratuities as at and when due. In infrastructure, only roads are being built and abandoning critical infrastructure in healthcare and education, water, sanitation etc.
PT: In other words, you are giving the governor a pass mark in road construction?
Answer: Well, you can’t take that from him but when you talk about health, water and sanitation, you can write zero for him there.