By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Alhaji Aliyu Bello is a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress and State Secretary of the party in Nasarawa State. In this interview with our Reporter, Bello speaks on issues bordering on the affairs of the APC, particularly as it affects the zoning of the party’s presidential ticket preparatory to the 2023 general election. Excerpts:
Recently, the National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was dissolved and an interim committee headed by Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, was put in place to man affairs of the party. So far, how can you assess the performance of the committee?
Before assessing the performance of the interim committee, I want to sincerely express my gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of our party for the timely intervention, using the National Executive Committee of our party, to dissolve the NWC. Because at the time, the party has become a laughing stock. We have had about three or four National Chairman or acting chairman, as well as so many court cases. There were indeed so many problems the party was not able to contain with. The leadership failure was so conspicuous, very open. Thus, the intervention was timely and we thank God that the NEC, which is the second highest organ of the party, decided to dissolve the NWC and install an interim committee. The committee is being headed by a party administrator, who has been party chairman of about two political parties in Yobe. He was elected a chairman of APC before he became the National Secretary. And you saw their performance in the first tenure, 2015 general election. He is a party administrator and by the time he was given his recent appointment, if you look at the fortunes of the party and the values of the founding fathers, it’s glaring that these are coming back in the party. By his coming, lots of people that have lost hope in the party, people that left the party like Hon. Yakubu Dogara and other prominent politicians, are coming back. The Mai Mala led caretaker committee resolved the lingering crisis in the south-south, especially between Amaechi and Silva, all former governors, that came to an end and was put to rest. There was a frank and realistic reconciliation and they have now agreed to work together. There are other similar reconciliations here and there and it’s by no means, a great achievement. There is stability now in the party.
Speaking on reconciliations within the party, a lot of people are expressing doubt regarding the setting up of committees to reconcile aggrieved party members. They claim that previous reconciliation committees put in place by the former party chairman yielded no result with such committees mostly moribund. What is your take on this?
The mere reason is because, once you are a leader, you can’t be a judge in your own case. Most the committees set up by Comrade Oshiomhole couldn’t stand because he was also party to the crisis. How can you set up a committee to investigate you or to reconcile you? It’s expected that you first step aside because he was also at loggerheads with his party members in his own state, which led to his suspension by the party ward executives. Because he need also to be reconciled, how can you then set up a committee to reconcile yourself? It was not possible. That was the main reason why. The party in Edo State rejected most of the committees that he set up because he ought not to have set them in the first instance. He was supposed to have resigned or step aside and allow other working committee members to take charge. The acting chairman should set up that committee not Oshiomhole per se.
You spoke glowingly of the acting National Chairman of the APC, but he is also the Governor of Yobe State. Do you think that his dual responsibility could hinder his performance?
It won’t hinder him a bit. Even last week, you can see the plethora of activities in Yobe, the model primary school being commissioned with lots of work ongoing in the state. It has nothing to do with his emergence as the acting chairman at the extra ordinary convention, because his performance in the state is excellent, his performance in the party is also excellent. We are proud of him and impressed with his performance.
A lot of Nigerians are looking up to the APC, to see how things will unfold as the country inches towards the 2023 general election. There are a lot of debates on whether the party should zone the presidential seat or not. What is your view on this?
First of all, zoning is not a constitutional matter. Everybody knows that at times, zoning breads incompetency, it brings into power people that are not competent. Looking at the kind of situation we have in Nigeria, there is that understanding, whether it’s written or not, whether constitutional or not, there is that very understanding, that power has to be shifted between the North and the South. We in the APC cannot deny that fact, because President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North, by and large from the North-West but he is representing the North. He has spent four years and Nigerians have given him the mandate to spend another four years. After his four years, the North must have taken about 8 years under APC. Under normal circumstances, no right thinking person from the North, under APC, that will come out and say he wants to contest for the presidency. Personally, I think it’s incumbent upon us and advisable, it’s only moral to agree to that moral understanding, that mutual understanding between the North and the South. If I will be giving my own opinion, I will suggest that APC in the entire South has only room in the South-West. In the entire South. We have no room in the South-south, South-east. We cannot take out ticket to those who don’t even value the policies and programmes of our party. The entire people in the South-south and South-east do not even value, appreciate, agree that our manifesto and policies and programmes, is in tandem with their own aspiration. They don’t like APC, they don’t believe in APC. Why should we take out ticket to that place, for goodness sake. If we are going to be frank with ourselves, the only safest zone for APC in the South, it’s the South-west.
But people from the South-east are making a case for a shot at the presidency come 2023. Sen Uzor Orji Kalu is traversing the length and breadth of the country, making it seem he will take a shot at the presidency….
I don’t think Senator Uzor Orji Kalu, even if you will ask him, he was able to win his election because he is Uzor Orji Kalu and not because he is an APC member. The APC in Abia State could not even get the required 13 percent, even five percent of the total vote cast APC couldn’t get. He won his election, yes, because of his pedigree and he was a former governor and he assisted so many people. Maybe that was why he won his election under APC. But they didn’t voted for him because of APC. Even the president under the APC couldn’t get 5 percent of the total votes there. The entire South-east, the APC couldn’t get up to five percent of the total votes, not to talk of 25 percent basic requirement. But if you go to South-west, we are now controlling about five states, under the APC. Why should you take your presidential ticket to where the people don’t believe in your party?
When you mentioned the South-west, the leader of the ruling APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu readily comes to mind. Do you think he has a chance to run for the presidency?
In the entire APC, apart from Buhari, the next person you will talk about is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Right from the formation of the party. There is no doubt, he is the best possible option, he is the ultimate option for the APC. There is no other option apart from Tinubu. Right from the inception, Tinubu and Buhari’s factors, made what APC it is now. Buhari has taken his turn. If we are, this is my personal opinion, all I am saying is that Tinubu is the ultimate option.
Recently, Nigerians woke up to the jerk in the price of petrol, as well as electricity tariff, leaving many people with no option than to cry out, especially as food prices also rise. As a stalwart of the APC, what do you think is the way forward?
Nigerians should know that every situation has its emergencies and we have to bear the fallout of such emergencies. Speaking about the high cost of food items, in 1999, when the PDP took over power, a bag of rice then was N1, 300. People should ask themselves, before PDP relinquished power, it was 18,000. So if it is now N23, 000 because of the global situation which has affected the entire world, why are people complaining? We have to thank God that it’s this same man that asked everybody to go and farm. If not because of the agricultural revolution that President Buhari has instilled into Nigerians, we would have suffered more than any other African country. But now we have food in abundance, people are farming everywhere. But the coronavirus pandemic and its negative impact on the global economy is a major contributing factor. If you are talking about the increase in fuel price, it was about N33 when the PDP took over power, how much was it when the PDP handed over to Buhari? That time there was a boom, oil price was very high, $150/barrel. Now, even with the oil, nobody is buying because of the pandemic. People are just complaining on social media but the reality we all know is that we have a global problem. Buhari was unfortunate in the sense that in his first tenure, he came and met depression in the country, in his second tenure, some months after taking over, there was this pandemic. No president, if not Buhari, will be able to contain this global situation. We thank God but we know, as human beings, we will continue to complain. When you complained that the president should remove fuel subsidy and subsidy is removed, what do you expect? The price of fuel will now be determined by market forces. As time goes on, the price may come down to even N30 or N40 or even rise to N200. As Nigerians, a lot of people will cry if Buhari leaves office because there is no government that ploughed money into the hands of the downtrodden people. N-Power through online application. Central Bank of Nigeria gives loan, with many accessing these facilities. It’s the same people that are abusing Buhari. When you collect N500, 000 loan from the CBN, instead of starting a business, you go and marry and after spending the money you turn back to abuse the government. It’s only under this administration that vulnerable people are being paid N5000 through conditional cash transfer. In the history of this country, no president, no government has empowered people directly like the government of Buhari. We will leave to see that history will eventually vindicated him.