Immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir David Lawal, has given a graphic picture of how the Governor of Adamawa State, Jibrilla Bindow, betrayed President Muhammadu Buhari which led to the poor performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state during the presidential and governorship elections.
Lawal said Bindow, right from the onset, pitched tent with the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Al- haji Atiku Abubakar, who Bindow believed, sponsored his governorship in 2015.
Lawal said: “Part of what led to this out- come was a historical position that the government of Bindow had on several occasions publicly declared that their government was a government of Atiku. It is on record that in so many fora, his supporters, his henchmen had said it in his presence and he didn’t take any step to deny it.”
Lawal also dwelt on the 2023 presidency, saying that the constitution did not say that power must leave the North in 2023, even as he said every part of the country was qualified to produce a president for the country. Among other issues, Lawal opened up on the issue of marginalization by the Igbo under President Buhari in the sharing of National Assembly leadership positions, declaring that the agitation by the Igbo is genuine, but the basis defective. He spoke more on these and others in this interview with AID- OGHIE PAULINUS in Abuja.
What went wrong that the APC didn’t win the presidential and governorship election in Adamawa State despite big names like you, General Buba Marwa (retd), wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, Mr Boss Mustapha, Governor Bindow, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and others?
I don’t know. We tried our best. Big names don’t mean big votes. We went into this election as a divided party in the state. It has been so for almost two years and you would recall that most of the so-called big names you mentioned had protested the way and manner the party was being run.
By the governor who hijacked the party structure and his loyalists and which we said was being run wrongly. And we had protested this over and over. I led several delegations to the national party chairman with some of these members you just said in the group, to complain about the manner the congresses were being organised. So, we were doing this being mindful of the fact that the presidential candidate of the PDP is an indigene of Adamawa State; a man who at one time won the governorship election of the state before he migrated to become the vice president of the country. This is by no means a small position, and obviously, would have some supporters in the state. And he will be, maybe not desperate, but he will deploy enormous resources to see that at least, he wins his state. This is the norm in every country where politics like ours is being played. So, it is not therefore surprising that the president didn’t win, but he didn’t lose either because the margin was very small and it is thanks to the combined efforts of these people you have mentioned that we were able to reduce the margin to what people call almost insignificant level.
Who do you blame for this defeat? The national chairman or…?
The national chairman doesn’t vote in Adamawa State.
Because you said that you led several delegations and nothing was done…
It is not a matter of blame. In the end, it is the decision of the voter as to how to cast his own vote. And obviously, if a party goes into an election factionalised, the message to the voter will not be unitary and therefore, probably, even demoralising to the rank and file of the party. So, the zeal to mobilise the voters to vote might not be that much. It is not about blame. It is about the voter in Adamawa State deciding to vote where his heart is.
On the presidential election, do you have evidence to say that Governor Bin- dow worked for Atiku rather than President Buhari?
Part of what led to this outcome was a historical position that the government of Bindow had on several occasions publicly declared that their government was a government of Atiku. It is on record that in so many fora, his supporters, his henchmen had said it in his presence and he didn’t take any step to deny it. I remember at one of their road launching somewhere in Adamawa State, the then-led Chief of Staff, made a long speech in which he insisted that Adamawa State Government was for Atiku. Now, we did also point out the fact that the governor himself had claimed that it was Atiku’s money that facilitated his victory at the polls. He had said that on several occasions. We have also had cause to protest that in Bindow’s government, there were about seven serving com- missioners who were very close to Atiku, including his own daughter. Without regard to their merit as qualified indigenes, but I mean, their political inclinations in normal politics will disqualify them from participating in an APC government. But the governor didn’t think so.
Why didn’t he lean on the Atiku’s backing to win the governorship election?
You see, in a democracy of our type, I
think the person that got this very, very well was the president who admonished the voters to vote for candidates of their choice. In my previous interview with you, I did mention that in 2015, we propagated the principle of APC. That is, from top to bottom, APC, on our understanding that the president would need such a cohesive team to perform. But to our dismay, as the political drama was play- ing out, it was in fact, the APC legislators that were fighting the government to a standstill. So, it didn’t make sense, therefore, to repeat the same principle in which just because somebody is in APC, vote for him whereas as we have seen, they ended up being the most vociferous enemies of the president.
Sir, is that not a kind of anti-party statement?
At 63 years old in a country like Nigeria with about 90 political parties, am not afraid of pitching my tent with any political party. I mean, if as an individual, if by chance or by mistake, somebody gets the APC ticket and decides not to follow the APC manifesto and decides not to do some developmental goals in line with the APC constitution, in line with the APC manifesto, I don’t think it makes sense for my state to continue to be a state of underdevelopment. It is a state of penury, so I can’t continue to support somebody just because he says we are in the same political party. It is not religion. Political party is not religion. Even in religion, people do change faith.
Is there any agreement with Fintiri, maybe he will join APC later?
I don’t know much about Fintiri. I first came into contact with Fintiri when he was Speaker and was working to impeach Governor Nyako, the then APC governor decampee. And I was one of those the party assigned the responsibility of working to frustrate the impeachment. It was at that time I first heard of his name and subsequently, told to frustrate that impeachment process.
But I was not likely to do so. After that of course, he later became acting governor for three months or less than three months. But I am not a state party man.
Can APC ever rise again in Adamawa?
Definitely! Part of the consequences of what has happened is APC trying to rebrand itself in our state. And definitely, we will learn our lessons from what has happened in the last four years. We will rebuild our party, we will reorganise our party with the belief that even those in our party who probably misadvise the governor or probably advised him wrongly whether deliberately or not, would have learned their lesson and will now be able to rebuild a party that am sure definitely, we will reclaim our mandate in 2023. This I am very sure of.
With the struggle for leadership positions in the 9th National Assembly, do you fear that the APC might lose control of the legislature like it did in 2015?
APC didn’t lose the legislature in 2015. Obviously, those who emerged as leaders, except one, were APC members. It was just the candidates themselves that were a dis- appointment to the government. They per- formed in a way that bears that out. Now, I am not a senator, I don’t have votes in the National Assembly. I believe majority of the senators in this 9th Assembly are people that are matured, grandparents, experienced in politics and have learnt their lessons from what happened in 2015. And my expectation is that they will try to avoid those pitfalls and choose leaders that are APC in nature, APC in party, APC in conviction and committed to the manifesto of the party and committed to support the government to succeed, a gov- ernment in which they are a part because the National Assembly is part of the government.
There are concerns that only the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole and APC National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are the two people pulling the strings in the party. Do you agree that the party has been hijacked by powerful forces ahead of 2023?
Truly, if they pull strings, those strings do not include my own tail. I don’t know what strings they are pulling. As I have just told you, as I have learnt from Adamawa State, and which I continue to say, getting the nomination of the party to contest election is a completely different ball game from the general election because the electorates have their own minds and they have their own PVC and it is not a colony owned. It is one man, one PVC and one vote.
There are insinuations that the North may not cede power to the South in 2023. Do you believe this?
I don’t attend any meeting in which a so called north takes decisions. If there is such an organization that takes those decisions, they don’t invite me. For obvious reasons, I am a democrat and I believe every part of Nigeria has qualified candidates for the presidential. Every part of Nigeria! Indeed, I don’t see why the… even if it is in the north, if we say the Northwest has produced a presidential candidate, the Southwest had produced one, I don’t see why the North Central can- not produce or the Northeast cannot produce just as South-South, Southeast, Southwest and even Northwest can still produce. The constitution doesn’t say it is prohibited. And as I said, I believe every zone, every state, has capable people that can run this country effectively.
Do you believe in the principle that deputies should always succeed their principals like Osinbajo succeeding Buhari in 2023?
It is not in the constitution, so it is not a principle. Principle of what? It is not in APC constitution, it is not in the national constitution, it is not in the Bible, I don’t know whether it is in the Koran; I don’t know. So, I don’t see how it became a principle.
From the way you are sounding, you are speaking as if in 2023, there is no hope for the southerners at all?
When I said every area can produce a president, where do you get this conclusion? I just said every part of Nigeria can produce a president, a competent one. I know so many. Being a cosmopolitan man, I know Igbos not less than ten that can successfully run this country; I know Yorubas that can do, I know Ijaws that can do, I know Hausas that can do, I know even Kilba. Hey myself, my friend, I can be president of this country. I consider myself quite competent to do so from a small tribe of 300,000 people. There are so many such tribes that can produce good, competent leaders all over Nigeria.
For the second time, the Southeast is already shouting of marginalization under Buhari in the sharing of National Assembly leadership positions. Do you think their complaint is genuine?
Personal to me, their complaint is genuine, but their basis is defective.
How do you mean Sir?
I keep telling you I am not a member of the National Assembly. But my understand- ing of their rules is that you must be a rank- ing member. That is to say you must have been a member before, and therefore, has knowledge of how the place operates. But if the goodwill is there, somebody must begin somewhere. I mean, if the goodwill is there and the desire to unite the country and make everybody feel a sense of belonging is there, you can bend over backward, modify the rules and even a green horn can take one of the leadership positions. However, be that as it may, it is also true that in a political party contest, those who delivered the votes are en- titled to the perks of the office.
But in this case, the Southeast even has a ranking lawmaker.
Yes. Orji Uzor Kalu was in the House of Representatives and now going to the Sen- ate. He is a ranking lawmaker.
Yeah. I didn’t know that. He was in the House?
And he was a governor.
Yes. And he was a governor. Is he not eminently qualified?
He is qualified. Maybe not eminently, but he is qualified. Maybe not eminently, but he is your boss. He is qualified.
Why are you removing the eminently?
Because as I said, the qualification criteria is subjective. If you like, you can say hey, how are you going to give the Senate President to Abia in which the president didn’t get much votes, the people don’t believe in APC and they believe in a different political party that lost? So, how do you dissuade the worries and the feeling of marginalization by those who overwhelmingly voted for the party? These are the reasons why they voted for the party and they are entitled to the perks of the office, the benefits of the office be- cause they delivered the votes. Without the mandate of the overwhelming votes of those people, we would not have won the election. So, that is why I am saying that on the face of political party system, those who delivered the votes are entitled more to rewards of their votes. Those who delivered few votes are still entitled to, but in principle, the minimum constitutional requirements. But if the good will is there, why not? You can bend over backward and say hey, these are our brothers. You can still give it to them.
Don’t you think by giving the position of Senate President to the Southeast, it will win more followers to APC?
This type of thing, you know they say I am too troublesome. But you see, APC has won presidential election. Even in spite of the minimal votes it got from the South-east, it still won. APC, as it is, you have to go like searching for a needle through a haystack to be able to find one elected per- son from APC in Southeast. And there are zones that have hundreds of elected members. So, you want to jump them where you have people and people where you can choose from and go and start…?
Should it be done on that basis?
I don’t think you heard me. I think you have a preconceived mind. You want your boss to be Senate President. I don’t mind, he is my friend. We are not discussing personalities, but if you want us to do… Uzor Kalu is my friend and among all those contesting for this thing, I think he is the closest to me. But I am pointing out the realities to you, the realities of politics. I don’t say ok, let me give you the presidency so that you can vote for
me. Vote for me and then you get what you are looking for. It has always been the case with the Southeast. They go their own way which they are entitled to doing and then they come round and say marginalization in an election in which they marginalised themselves. They marginalised themselves in this election. They went PDP which lost. No-body forced them to vote PDP. But they lost. So, that is politics. Politics is a game of risk. You lose, you sit down and watch through the window when people are chopping on the dining table. So, they shouldn’t blame anybody on marginalization.
How do you assess the Buhari government on its three point agenda in the last four years and what do you think should be done differently in the second term?
It is an unfair statement because for two years, I was an active member of the government; the Secretary to the Government which people say is the engine room of the government. So, to ask me how we have per- formed is like asking a mother whether her son is smart.
What is next for you politically? Are you looking at the presidency in 2023?
I, B.D. Lawal, joined politics in 2003. I joined politics in the Buhari political structure to contribute my quota and effort to- wards making Buhari president. In 2003, my goals, my ambitions were not achieved. In 2007, it wasn’t. In 2011, it wasn’t. But in 2015, God gave us what we have always been looking for patiently and doggedly. Now, by the constitution of Nigeria, President Buhari can only be president for two tenures, two terms and by the grace of God, He has made the second tenure possible. Buhari has won the election. So, to that extent, as far as I am concerned, God has been kind to me, He has helped me achieve my ambition in politics.
Are you saying that you are done?
As far as I am concerned, my principal, primary goal of joining politics has been achieved.
So, every other thing is addition?
Every other thing is a hobby.