Senator Mohammed Bello, a member of the sixth National Assembly is a leading aspirant in the Kano State governorship race come 2019. In this interview with some correspondents in Abuja, Bello says that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would upstage the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). This, he says can be actualised if the right persons are allowed to emerge candidates of the party in all the positions in the states and the federal level. TOM OKPE was there for The Daily Times
What is your view on former President’s Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida’s call on President Muhammadu Buhari not to reconnect?
I will always remain the same, because when you talk about political parties, you are not talking about coalition, third force and so on.
What the people coming up with the idea of third force means is that they are trying to bring something that is completely new.
They are trying to bring in something that is fresh which is very difficult in this part of the world, because there has always been players who had remained on the scene for a very long time.
What you do is that you come; you work with them and take over from them. For example, how can you come and say you are going to create a new political party or get into another new political party and then come and take over power from people who have retained power probably for 16 years and then the new entrants who have retained power for 3 years?
So how do you do that? If you create a new political party it takes time for the political party to be on ground.
You need to have the politicians that would be able to work with the political party. In everything you are going to do, like if you are going to build a house you need architects and quantity surveyors.
There is no way you just jump into politics bringing in new people. How are they going to weather the storm? How are they going to know where they are going to put their pillars and to make their building very strong? You have to work exactly with those who know what politics is all about.
So basically even the leader of the third force or the leader of the coalition, former President Obasanjo has said that the moment it becomes a political party he is going to withdraw.
What I think he has in mind is probably a pressure group which is not a political party, it is more of a group that monitors and pile pressure on government to fulfill its campaign promises.
What if the personalities in the third force are new or same old brigades?
Like I said, when they said there was an alignment and that some parties have come together the ACN, CPC, and the ANPP to form what we call the APC, 40 percent of the people that went into the APC came from the PDP. Most of them today are governors.
So basically it is almost the same thing we are having. When somebody loses his primary election from a particular party, he moves to another one to get his ticket.
Take the case of Benue State for example, the governor, Samuel Ortom came from the PDP, Nasir El-Rufai came from the PDP, virtually most of them.
Ganduje from Kano is from the PDP, same applies to the case of Kwara. So it is not that easy for you to come and say with a new movement you are going to change things.
Who are those that want to change the change? You have people like Donald Duke, Oyinlola, these people have been governors before. What did they do before that they would use to change things today?
What I have noticed in Nigeria is that people want all the time to remain relevant, they want to remain in control, they want to be the ones controlling the entire steering of the country which cannot be possible, because that is why you have two major political parties.
Just like we have in America, the Democrats and Republicans, it depends on which party is in power and what they were able to deliver to the people. Here in Nigeria, Abubakar Rimi tried it, he was very popular, he joined the NPP at the time but he still lost the election to Sabo Bakin Zuwo.
So it is not that easy for you to say you are going to bring in a new political party and also say you are going to bring in a third force with the same kind of people who are familiar to Nigerians.
How will you rate the performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration?
I have seen some changes. Even though some of the promises they made have not been delivered. But this is governance. Everybody has got his own style.
For example, you can’t take it away from the APC that they have been able to decimate the Boko Haram insurgents. This concerns me because it came from Borno State which is where I acquired my University education.
So whatever affects Maiduguri affects me. This problem also affected us in Kano, it got to a point we couldn’t even go to the mosque.
Everybody was afraid, subsequently the problem got to us in Abuja. So this problem was growing out of proportion so much that even the governor of Borno State could not move freely not to talk about the common people.
So whoever came to rescue us from this problem deserves to be commended. The only problem I have observed today is that hunger has taken over and the reason is due to the policies in place.
The policy on the dollar, how did it become like that suddenly? The exchange rate has moved from N160 to about N320. What really happened, how did we find ourselves in this mess? This was the government that promised us an exchange rate of N40 to a dollar; then the issue of petrol.
They said we were going to buy petrol at N40 per liter, and then today we are buying petrol at N145 per liter. They also promised us that we would buy a bag of 50 Kg rice at N5, 000 and we would stop the importation of rice.
I agree, we are almost at the point of stopping the importation of rice, but there is still a problem. The price of the local rice is almost the same thing as the price of the imported rice.
Even the President mentioned this in his last visit to Kano in spite the incentives given to farmers. So there is need for the government to make life easier for Nigerians.
The government cannot take an easy way out; it has to be responsible to the people. The downtrodden people are in real trouble today.
Additionally, the President needs to be more sensitive to issues in the country because he is now in charge, he is the Commander in Chief. So he needs to know exactly what is happening in every nook and cranny of the country.
Even if it is a single soul that dies, he needs to act almost immediately for us to understand that yes he is concerned about us, yes he cares because believe you me he is a caring person, he is a sensitive person, but something is going wrong somewhere and it is unfortunate that people now have a complete different impression of who he is.
What is your take on calls from different quarters that President Buhari should not re-contest in 2019?
That is an opinion you cannot take away from a democrat. There is nowhere in the constitution that says Buhari cannot contest in an election due to non performance or due to age or for any other reasons.
It is his right to say he is going to contest or not going to contest. All he needs to do is to put everything on a scale and see where he has done right or wrong and take into consideration his own wellbeing.
Will it be okay for him to continue to saddle the problem of 180 million Nigerians on his head? Or is he going to gravitate into a very serious problem when he faces more challenges because I am sure the challenges he faced in the first four years has taken a toll on him already. That question is better answered by the principal actor himself.
If I were in his shoes, I would not continue in office because he needs to take his health into consideration. If I were him, I would begin as quickly as possible to nurture people that would be able to take over from me. They must be people with credibility, integrity, capacity and ability to be able to continue from where he stopped.
Is the PDP capable of wrestling power from the APC come 2019?
The PDP is not trying to improve on what the President has done. The PDP has its own idea, manifesto. The PDP is coming in to make sure that where these problems have been created they deal with them.
For example the PDP would have to look at the crash of the dollar, and the fuel crisis. These are some of the things we need to look at to make life easier for Nigerians.
The party can take control not only back home in Kano, but even at the national level. But it depends on the candidate they present during the election.
If they have a high profile and exposed candidate, somebody that everybody knows that can address the problems of Nigeria, believe me, people would give him the chance.
If they do exactly what they like, they bring anybody they feel they like that he is the right choice for us, then there is going to be a problem.
They should let the people decide exactly what they want. They should allow people who are popular, people who can deliver the goods to pick the tickets at the primaries.
In most cases, you find that politicians always like to manipulate, redirect, be in charge, and produce their own people, somebody they can be able to control to pick the ticket and this has not been able to solve our problems.
This is the reason why we are where we are today. In Kano right now, we have serious problems. Kano people are today disenchanted because they believe that they have been over taxed.
And they don’t understand what the idea of taxation means because they believe that since money come from the Federal Government, they deserve good roads, hospitals and other basic amenities.
But if you want to tax people, you must help them to understand why you are taking it from them and whatever taxes you have collected, you need to show them exactly what you have done with their taxes.
You must let them know which road or any of the social amenities put in place with monies recovered from taxation. This is the idea of transparency.
I also feel it is difficult to tax a cart pusher, the water vendor, Akara sellers, I feel it is a bit too much to go to that level. We can tax them in the future, but not now.
When you provide free education for them, free health care services, then you can ask them to pay taxes. The poor in the society need to be catered for. We can only do this when we bring those who have the ability to govern.
For me, I believe the PDP can easily win election if it brings somebody that is better than the person that is there. People need to look at the pedigree of the person contesting the election.
It is not about people saying we have been in the party, the party belongs to us and we must bring the candidate. If we do that there is no way we would achieve the desired goal.
What is your future political ambition like especially in your state, Kano?
I have been having consultation with lots of people particularly at the grassroots. I have had consultation with more than 1000 organisations, they have come to me, spoken to me and have asked me why are you no longer in politics, why are you not participating in politics and I told them that my own politics seem to be different from the way they are doing it.
My own idea of politics is how do you develop the human being, how do you make peoples’ life better so as to improve their wellbeing and should not make their situation to get worse because this is what I have discovered for a very long time.
People’s situation keeps getting worse and so they need somebody who can give them assistance because you can’t be sending people to hospitals and they can’t be treated.
I have seen a situation whereby a pregnant woman was brought into Nasarawa Hospital and before they could take her out of the Golf car that brought her, she was dead while trying to give birth.
In the first place why do you have to bring such patient from the local government area to the Nasarawa hospital in the Kano metropolis when we have health centers there.
Even as a member of the National Assembly I know I built health centers before. So what is going on in those health centers, why is the government not taking Healthcare Services to the local communities?
They need to make the health centers more functional rather than coming to spend huge sum of money to build bigger hospitals in the city centre when the real population is in the rural areas.
So, my own is that yes I have taken the challenge, I have accepted that I am going to throw my hat into the ring to go and provide the services the people of Kano State needs.
I believe the PDP can easily win election if it brings somebody that is better than the person that is there. People need to look at the pedigree of the person contesting the election. It is not about people saying we have been in the party, the party belongs to us and we must bring the candidate. If we do that there is no way we would achieve the desired goal.