Why I want to be the next APC national chairman – Mustapha
Saliu Mustapha, a former deputy national chairman of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), has worked very closely with President Muhammadu Buhari for decades. He has been in the nation’s political arena for some time. Mustapha, who was recently turbaned Turakin Ilorin Emirate, is currently seeking the position of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He spoke on his ambition and what he intends to bring on the table if he wins. ZEBULON AGOMUO, editor Sunday, brings the excerpts:
There are some other aspirants that have made their ambitions public. In fact, it is said that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of your party, is supporting one of the candidates. May we know who is backing you too?
Well, in politics, everybody uses whatever he has in marketing him- or herself; the same way some people are giving you the impression that Tinubu has endorsed them; I also have a very strong conviction that he is with me.
Discussion is ongoing on this race to the national chairmanship position. I will not fold my arms to say this person seems to be close to this, that person; what I will do is to try to bring out my qualities; what I think should change dynamics of that day. Today, any party that wants to win general election with what has happened in the country in the last one and half years, must first and foremost factor in the younger generation.
PDP has done something smart. For the first time, they have given a 25-year-old young man the position of youth leader. PDP is now using him to canvass; the young man is now going about saying younger generation, this is where you belong. APC can do better; matching PDP’s 25-year-old is nothing. I was going through a document that says 75percent-80percent of total votes cast belongs to the younger generation.
And that was one positive thing the #EndSARS fried to bring out, but unfortunately it was hijacked and criminalised and that was what ended that struggle.
But the younger ones now know they have a say in the country. So, I have endorsement of virtually everybody that matters in the party; and it is not because I am in the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change- defunct) bloc and I am not even using that as a peg for my campaign.
I want to be a chairman for all members. This is because, for us to succeed; all hands must be on deck. My prayer is for us to get this done and quickly go for reconciliation drive. I can’t succeed alone. It has to be a team work.
Some of the people we are contesting this with now, if God makes me the chairman, they are the first people I will even look for to buy into my agenda for the party. The major problem, which every party suffers, is not giving people the opportunity to have a free and fair election.
If in the party you impose unpopular candidate; then you go for general election it becomes difficult for you to win, then you start rigging. If we can encourage free and fair contest, I think the party system or our democracy will be better for us all.
What is your relationship with the faction of the APC controlled by your state governor and the other faction where Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture belongs?
I was one individual who suffered initially from both sides because they put heads together then to disqualify me. But today, in my nature I have forgiven and let go, and that is why both groups are embracing me. When I did my turbaning, to show you how I have been able to work with all the groups, the governor’s group was there and the Lai Mohammed group was also there. Some of them even placed adverts in the newspapers to congratulate me. If I am not seen as a stabilising factor, I would not be enjoying the kind of rapport I am enjoying from all the groups.
You have been in the system for a long time; there are internal crises in the APC; what are you bringing afresh on the table for the party?
Well, what I will bring differently are some of the experiences I have garnered and also looking at the future, try to relate with what is obtainable today. Like I said, with my experience in the past, one of our major problems has been this godfatherism of a thing; not giving people the opportunity to choose their leaders. Every political party, the end goal is how you win a general election. And if you impose an unpopular candidate, you are bound to suffer, first, anti-party within your own party, before you even suffer from the outside forces of the general election. So, for me, if I can bring a leadership that will first guarantee justice and fairness in the party, also be able to uphold our party’s manifesto- because that is what we sell to the electorate-then I would have achieved part of my agenda. People get into the office, they abandon the party manifesto. The same party, you find this governor is going right, the other one is going left. It shouldn’t be so. There should be some uniformity. If you are able to have that, then your party would be able to record better success story than when the states under one party are going different ways. More importantly again, I would want to instill party supremacy and discipline. If that is in place, that is when you can hold your elected members accountable to your party manifesto or what they promised the people during their campaign. So, I have a lot that I am bringing on the table, not even capitalising on qualities of youthfulness, strength, agility and pro-activeness.
The APC has been shifting date for its National Convention until now they announced it is going to be in February next year. There seem to be some people who are not happy with the date. What is your take here?
I want to tell you that the uncertainty is coming to an end. The month has been picked as you are aware. I said it from day one that this thing will be done in February and some people did not understand. One, you need some weeks to notify INEC. Two, we have just finished our state congresses; the appeal committees are just bringing in their reports; you finish considering those reports and then, you will give INEC notice. Now, if for instance, you notify INEC from this week, then that means three weeks will fall into the week of Christmas, and we must be sensitive to our brothers and sisters who will be celebrating Christmas, and immediately after the New Year, almost everybody that travelled, it is that second week of January that they will be settling down. And when you take three weeks from that second week of January, it falls into February; so, there is no uncertainty. We are on the right course. We know what we are doing. The prayer is, may we come out in a more united, focused APC; so that we can give you more dividends of democracy.
Some Nigerians are not happy with the political leadership in the country and as a result they do not see the need to participate in the electoral process. What is your take here?
Many people say they are not interested in politics, they fold their arms and say they are not politicians and allow people who are not supposed to be there to take decisions on our behalf or to lead us. My attitude in politics is not to be desperate. If God ordains it and I put in my best; but if it doesn’t come my way; I take it as the way God has ordained it. I believe this time around we should not fold our arms and just assume that all is well. All is not well because we are operating from the same market forces. If you fold your arms and say you are okay in your own comfort zone, let others go and do the wahala; that will not serve our country well. We saw something that happened in our country in 2020 – the #EndSARS – that was an eye-opener. We are living in a society where the gap between the rich and poor is widening every day; and there is something that is coming out of it. There is a serious class war between those who have and those who do not have. Some of us when we look at those that are higher than us, we say maybe they are corrupt, they stole government money. The same thing; when those we are higher than see us, they say maybe, we stole money too. It is so bad now that we live in a society where we have lost the value system. So, if some of us think they are satisfied with what they have and so, they do not have to bother about what happens in government, gradually we will all regret it when it is too late. As for me, I have been in this journey for decades. Many years ago, an elder statesman, far older than me, called me and spoke to me on why some of us should be interested or get involved in how politics that affects our day to day lives are being formulated.
What actually is your motivation for joining the race for chairmanship this time around?
I cannot tell you that my party or government has been perfect; no. But there is room for improvement and that is the reason I am seeking the chairmanship position of our party. So that the platform that will produce the next government should be something you’ll be proud of. Everybody must join hand to ensure that things go well in our country because when we fold our arms, then everything will go wrong. I have been part of those who built the APC and I think and strongly believe I have what it takes to give the party a better direction in the interest of not only the party but of Nigeria as a country. My prayer is, may God Almighty lead me in the right course, and also give me the right wisdom to excel in the journey I am embarking upon.