Dr Umar Duhu is the immediate past Interim National Vice Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the North- East. He was instrumental to the establishment of APC structures in the North East states. In this interview with SUNDAY ISUWA, the former ANPP Chairman in FCT and Adamawa State explained why he woo Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar into the APC. He also spoke on Buhari and other important National issues. Excerpts:
The 2015 elections have come and gone. What really happened in North-East and Adamawa State in particular?
Well, we thank God for making it possible that in Nigeria, elections have come and gone and results declared and we are enjoying peace. What we expect from this government is to be magnanimous in victory and ensure that all the key players in the APC, particularly some of us that have really paid our dues and been in the opposition for the past 16 years without changing a political party should first be
considered before others who either joined in the process or recently. We were in APP, ANPP then when we merged to form APC, I was the first National Vice Chairman of the party in the North East. I know what I went through to ensure that this party becomes cohesive particularly in the North East.
In Bauchi, where there were so many divergent interests, so much outcry, I ensure a structure was put in place. The same was the case in Gombe State, there were so many crises but I was able to surmount it. I went to Taraba, the same thing, even in my home state, Adamawa, I surmounted all the pressures. There was nothing bad eggs within us did not do or say, but I stood my grounds, and all is history today. Remember the time I bought cola nut to invite Governor Murtala Nyako to join APC. Remember the time I gathered all my National leaders to go and woo former Vice President Atiku Abubakar after a discussion with him, and he joined the vibrant APC. These are things I did in the North East, where the APC won with landslide victory. In Adamawa State, whether I contested election or not, fundamentally, I am the happiest APC member standing, because when I took the APC there, people refused to key into the party. But today, we’ve won elections across board, and some eminent leaders have begun joining. We won three Senators, we won about six houses of Representative seats and one is still in contest. By God’s Will, the House of representative seats would be seven out of eight. If you look at the APC that time, there was no single stakeholder that can truly say he is a financial stakeholder of this party apart from former Vice President Atiku. But the local people, who are the major ingredient in the polity, accepted the APC and voted massively for the party, this where we are today. When I took this party to Adamawa, people like Gen Marwa, felt uncomfortable because they thought it would be business as usual. They wanted to control the structure of the party, but I stood my grounds that it should be all inclusive, but they felt unsatisfied and left the party. I believe they will be desirous to come back to APC which they originally belonged, and the party to beat in Nigeria today.
You were the ANPP chairman in FCT, Adamawa and when your party merged to form the APC you still emerged as the North-East National Vice Chairman. People from PDP are now showing interest to join the APC. What is the party’s position?
The president-elect has said something and the party concurred. So, I will reiterate here that party polity is open. Everyone can come into APC at any time, before, during and after elections. But you cannot say that someone who has cooked food and is about taking it to the dining table just for your visitor to want to snatch it away from you. That’s not possible. Let them come to the APC, let them join the queue and start making contribution to the party and at a point in time; when we feel their expertise are needed, certainly we’ll utilized them. But as it is today, there are people that have sacrificed for this party. This people that have sacrificed for the party deserved commendation because they have been out of government for the past 16 years, working to ensure that a reasonable set of people takes the mantle of leadership. Whatever that has happened to the PDP, I expected that these politicians will remain in PDP and weigh their strength and weaknesses to make amends. But if they now feel they always want to be in corridors of powers, it’s not going to be business as usual. APC has a lot of committed politicians that can hold the party into trust, and hold any key position in this country. They have devoted their time and energy and resources for this party for the past 16 years. You don’t expect somebody coming in now probably with his money and you expect him to assume the role of a stakeholder in the party and dictate to the party how it should be and how appointment should be made. The leaders of the party are sensible enough that they have to look at all the parameters. They have to look at all the parties that formed the merger called APC so that each basket would be delivered to the party that had a stake in the merger. And when we retire back to our initial constituent families, we then put forward who should do what. I can tell you, as a party, we will ensure that the doors are open and a level playing field is created for all comers both new and old. But it will be very difficult for them to be considered for political appointment at least for now because they have been in government for 16 years and they have not sacrificed for the party to deserve appointment. But if a chief executive feels very safe and secured with any of them, and the constituency he is coming from allows that, so be it.
Buhari, having been in the opposition for a very longtime, what advise will you give him in handling the affairs of this country?
My advice to Buhari is in three areas. First is that he should stamp out corruption. He should also ensure that energy, electricity or power is stabilized. Then, he should tackle security issues. When these are tackled, Nigeria will be a better place. These three things are so fundamental. Energy is everything and when you have energy, security will be there because all the street lights will be on. When there is energy, many jobs will be created because with power, many people would have work to do. So, am calling on Buhari to focus on these issues before focusing on education. If you tackle security and stamp out corruption, the education sector would be revamped. Wealthy people would now take their pupils to public schools. Once the legislators legislated that, everyone in government, his children must attend public schools, and go to public hospitals, in this vein, the standard of these facilities definitely improve. With health tourism oversees, a lot of money is being wasted. But when it is foisted on government officials to attend public institutions here in the country, these two institutions would be revamped. It should be a place where both the rich and the poor would feel they belong and Nigeria would be a better place for all of us.
Department and Agencies would be instrumental in running a good government under Buhari. But you find out that some DGs were even card carrying members of the PDP and some have been staying for about 10 to 13 years. What will the APC government do about that?
Basically, in trying to stamp out corruption, a lot of heads will roll. So many agencies will be force to account for their excesses. It is true that the processes of accountability, the issue of moral decadence in the economy would be wiped out. One thing I know, Buhari is an anti-corruption crusader. And once corruption is stamped out, the civil service rules would be followed. Once you stayed in office beyond the time you are supposed to served, you must go, particularly if your appointment is not renewed. We can have sanitized agencies, Ministries, department and paralstatals. For example, NIMASA has been one place that has been so endemic in corruption and Gen Buhari would have to set-up an investigative panel to look at it. Not only that, Petroleum Ministry and the NNPC must be properly investigated if
Buhari is sworn-in. These places are instrumental to the running of any government as serve as the cash cow of any government; hence, they must be thoroughly checked to ensure sanity in its contributions to
the economy and its accountability.
PDP is strategizing for 2019. If you look at history, the then APP won many states in 1999 but before 2003, a lot decamped. APC has won a lot of states in the 2015 election. What is the party doing to ensure they did not lose some of these state governors before 2019?
In politics, viable opposition is what serves as check to the party in government. Am talking of an opposition that will put the APC on its toes and to also suggest better alternatives to do things. So, I will
not be happy to find APC making Nigeria a one party state. I will encourage PDP to re-strategize and give APC the fight of the polity. But I can tell you that APC will deliver dividends of democracy to Nigeria so that by 2019, the APC will be allowed to stay in office beyond the four years term. Let me remind Nigerians that, if there are no changes in government like what happens in Nigeria in the 2015 elections, that country will be in limbo. The PDP thought they were delivering services to this country, not knowing that the common person was not happy it the government. So, if we think that we have won an election and that we will go to sleep, we will have it tough in 2019. That is how democracy develops across the globe. So, government and particularly, our government must evolve ways of doing things better than the outgoing government.