BubaGaladima, an engineer, is a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari right from the days in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). In this interview, he insists that Nigeria is drifting politically and economically. He reveals why he parted ways with Buhari.Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, presents the excerpts:
YOUR recent comments about President Muhammadu Buhari is eliciting reactions from different quarters. Would you say Nigeria is on a reverse gear?
At least if it is not on a reverse gear it is on a standstill.
What do you mean by being at a standstill?
In all human endeavours, there is no development. A lot of money was pumped into the economy and one is not seeing the impact of the money that was put into the economy. The reason is simple, the government of change has not changed the personnel of those they call names every day. They only decide they are giving money and they pay themselves because nobody has checked or cross checked or investigated what commitment the previous government held. People are just stealing left, right and centre because their initial fear that when this government comes in they would be chased is no more there. So, it is business as usual in everything.
Are you saying the alleged stealing spree is being perpetrated by those appointed by President Buhari?
How many were appointed? Ministers were appointed nine months after election and the ministers were forced to work with those they inherited in the system. People who call the shots for 16 years still call the shots. So, how do you expect the government to move forward? Talk to any of the ministers individually and hear them talk.
Do you agree with claims in some circles that some of the ministers are misfits and are responsible for the poor state of the economy?
Yes and no. No because it is the prerogative of the president to appoint whosoever he wishes to help him deliver on his promises. Yes, because the president has not appointed those who have the capacity, knowledge, and experience to run a government of the 21st century. Those appointed were accused severally of being outsiders. The reason that most of the people that were appointed, were appointed was because they knew one person or the other; they are linked. They were brought in by one person or the other and that the president does not even know those he appointed and gave public trust. This was variously canvassed by Dr Junaid [Muhammed], Dr Usman Bugage, Senator [Saidu] Dansadau and above all, the president’s own wife and all these four people cannot be wrong.
But some of the president’s men have argued that the appointments were made because the president wanted the best?
No, we should be fair to him; he has the prerogative to appoint anybody that would help his government. But in appointing people outside the party, the president must look at those key areas of national life within government and look for experts not lackeys. They should be technocrats, world class or nationally acknowledged experts.
It should be such that when they are appointed everybody would say yes, these are people we know that can help the president deliver his promises. But if he appoints people who have no credentials, no background or have not been tested, obviously, the result will be what we have obtained.
So you belong to the school that believes that the president should quickly rejig his cabinet?
I have a different opinion on this matter. What the president needs to do is to make sure that he gives directives and blueprint to whosoever he appoints as minister or head of parastatal and let him deliver on those blueprints. This has not been done because there aren’t people of experience and knowledge around the president, to assist him develop such blueprint. So, even if he appoints whosoever, no matter how much of an expert he is, if there is no blueprint, if he doesn’t know the thinking of the president, if he doesn’t know what the president wants to achieve, it will come back to the same thing.
However, whether the president rejiggs the cabinet or he doesn’t, the buck stops on his table. That is why I keep saying that the president does not need to appoint people because they are brought in by people close to him. He needs to appoint people that can help him deliver on his promises, people of impeccable character, a woman or man of substance, knowledge that can help the president deliver on his promises. For now, everybody is just waiting for what the president has to say. So, there is no motion in the country. This is why everybody is complaining and some people holding critical offices receive quarterly allocations and just pocket them. There is nothing positive anybody is seeing around him or her, no impact of development, money is not in circulation. When people claim that they have done or achieved 70 per cent budget implementation, then you ask, what have you seen that is that new since this government came to be? They are only paying salary, pocketing recurrent expenditure. Roads have collapsed; infrastructure is decaying. We shouldn’t be accusing PDP when we ourselves have not shown visible efforts to better the lives of the people.
There is this claim that the president has been hijacked by a clique. As someone who has worked with him closely, can this be true? Do you see him as someone that can be hijacked?
The issue is that people do not understand the president. The country does not understand the president. Many around him do not tell him the truth because they fear him. And in this business if you want to deliver, you don’t need to fear the principal, you tell him to his face what you believe is correct and right.
I don’t want us to accuse innocent people as I have said in other interviews. Those people that we accuse of influencing the president, were they there some two, three, four, five, ten years ago? They are there because he is there and everything we say about him, the president hears. If the president does not act on rumours we peddle around about the activities of those people, it means the president must have checked, investigated and found out that what we are saying about those people are wrong. Or alternatively they are doing it in cohort with the president himself; that he accepts what they are doing, if not things they say about them shouldn’t have been left unpunished.
What I expect the president to do is to come out clean. The other time, the president said anybody accusing top members of his government should come up with his or her evidence if such person had any .The following day, Sahara Reporters came out clean on a minister, divulged all his properties, bank account in the United States. Every sensible man would have thought that the president would query such a
minister or at worst ask him to step aside until proper investigation is carried out on how he came about those properties and money in his account. But that was not done.
You have been attacked by the presidency over a report credited to you that the president may be alone in 2019. Did you make such comment?
Do you know Shehu Garba very well? Do you know his political career? Two years ago, was he talking for the president? Have you researched on what he has been saying about Buhari and on Buhari in the last 16 years? How did he suddenly become a Buhari man, a Buhari protector if not that he is only protecting his salary? Does he share in Buhari’s ideals, if Buhari has any? I keep on wondering when people just speak.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have joined issues with people like Garba Shehu because they don’t have the knowledge, the history, the pedigree and even the intellect to engage people like me on a political debate. If I were the president, I would have cautioned my aides, including Garba Shehu not to stir the hornet’s nest. I say so because, I want to claim that there is no body in Nigeria, and you know that better, nobody in Nigeria that can counter me if I speak about Buhari, because the person has not suffered one per cent of what I suffered for Buhari. The man has not defended Buhari one per cent of how I have defended. The man has not suffered any humiliation, deprivation in the last 15 years as I have done for Buhari. I have been arrested, intimidated, questioned, detained and tried for treason. Even Buhari himself has not received such humiliation. When Buhari was smelling and nobody wanted to touch him, we were the people who put our lives on line. If you have the chance, ask Buhari, how much he paid me. Let him say how much benefit I got for supporting him with all these deprivations.
My children were never given scholarships or employment under the PDP government. And even now, under a platform that we established I suffer the same fate. This is despite the fact that I am a senior stakeholder in this party called APC and in the Nigerian project. I was one of the nine signatories that signed for the merger of political parties to form APC. So, only one of the nine people will be my peer, top or bottom. Not only that, as I speak to you I am a member of the National Caucus of the APC. I am a member of Board of Trustees of the party, the comatose BoT of the party that has never met for two years and we are supposed to meet every quarter. That is even in contravention of the law and INEC needs to act.
Could you clear the air on the allegation that you parted ways with President Buhari because you allegedly used your position in CPC to manipulate processes and influenced the emergence of candidates for different positions? Secondly, why did you leave Buhari to support Rabiu Kwankwaso in 2015 APC primaries?
This is a complete Holy Quran and I want to say, I heard Garba Shehu saying certain things. I supported Kwankwaso in the last election. I have no regret and I will explain. And if another chance provides itself and Kwankwaso wants to be president again, I can still support him because I feel he has got the vision. He has the programme to run a modern Nigeria. I believe in that and I still do.
On the issue of manipulating candidature, I think Garba Shehu is singing the views of his mentors to destroy Buhari. This is because he is abusing Buhari and not me. This is why I swore by the Holy Quran before you. I could have taken Garba Shehu to the court but you know what the Nigerian courts are now and what they are facing, I may not get justice immediately as and when due to address this matter. So, I am now reverting to swearing by the Holy Quran to which I subscribe as a religion. Garba Shehu is a Muslim, Buhari himself is a Muslim, so I challenge all of them to swear on the Holy Quran on what I am going to say. Let Buhari tell the world that he does not know how candidates of CPC came about in 2011 and that he did not chair the meeting where the candidates of Katsina, Kano, Borno, Bauchi were selected. Let him swear that he doesn’t know then I will take responsibility. Let Garba Shehu or any other person say that one person has given me money to influence my decision on the issue of candidature for the CPC candidates, including gubernatorial candidates. As national secretary, I know INEC does not accept names from the secretary of the party alone. They accept only names signed by the national chairman. Buhari was the supreme head of the party being the chairman of the Board of Trustees which has the final say on any issue. So, let Buhari contradict me and say that he did not know how the candidates of Katsina, Kano, Bauchi and Borno came about, I will produce documents to show that Buhari nominated those candidates, all the gubernatorial candidates except that of Taraba, Ahmad Gamalia
At what point did you give up on Buhari since you have been supporting him all this while?
When we met in January 2002, in Kaduna to decide on what to do in the politics of northern Nigeria, 34 of us took the step. And of the 34, by 2015 only two of us remained with him. So, the question is, are the other 32 people wrong and Buhari is right or is Buhari wrong that he has to fight the 32 people? We started parting ways on the issue of nomination of people to the merger committee. When the party nominated people, Buhari single handedly changed the people and brought nine persons. And these nine people were never seen in the affairs of our party to represent us and they were not politicians and I protested. I felt Buhari was being high handed because it was a party issue, it was not a dynasty and we all must talk. They prevailed on me to leave matters as they were. That was the beginning of the problem.
Then, when we came for the convention of the party to adopt resolutions for the merger, we nominated certain people to chair the convention. He removed all of them and put people of his choice and directed them that they should never relate with the party on the issue of convention. The people he chose were starters; they were not party administrators, so they wouldn’t know the nuisances. So, INEC called the national secretary of the party, myself and asked that for them to attend the convention. We must produce two things-the resolutions to adopt and the list of delegates to the convention. So, I asked Dr Hassan Lawal, who was the chairman of the convention to bring them. He reported me to Buhari at Hilton. Buhari said why was I interfering with the convention processe. I told him I wasn’t interfering, that what happened was that INEC called me to provide certain documentation and I asked the chairman of the convention to make them available to me or to INEC directly. Then he asked me, doesn’t INEC know we have a convention committee? I said no, the convention committee is not known to INEC. The convention committee is only known to the party, that INEC corresponds with only two people at the party-the national chairman and the national secretary. He said no. I said if they don’t do that, we are going to get into trouble because INEC needs our cooperation or they won’t approve the matter and since he was almost shivering to get the merger done, he asked Hassan Lawal to produce the documents.
Another issue was when we came to the interim committees formed after the merger committee, after the conventions of the parties, we came to do the interim national executives committee of the party. That was after the merger certificate had been released to us. Earlier, the decision was that the national secretary of the party would be given to the CPC because CPC was the largest party of all the three political parties plus part of APGA.
Was it larger than ACN?
Yes. ACN had more governors but we had more votes. All their votes were not up to 2 million. The issue in party politics is number of people, not how many officials you have. CPC was the biggest partner, but some people because they were targeting me went to speak to Buhari that I shouldn’t be made the national secretary, that if we are given the national secretary-ship that I would be the national secretary and nobody can manipulate me, because there were several meetings of how to deal with him which he didn’t understand. They came up and said that ANPP wanted the National Secretaryship or they would walk away. Buhari said that they can walk away. Later on, they persuaded him to accept, that we need everybody. We sat down as a party, agreed on who should be the deputy national chairman, Tony Momoh told General that the face of this party is Buba Galadima after you, so where ever any Nigerian the larger part of our supporters see Buba Galadima, they have seen Buhari.
You did observe that Nigeria is standing still, do you see the situation remaining that way till the end of this tenure?
You mean you can change a 74-year-old man? Nigerian should know that they have to take whatever the president decides to do when he decides to do it.
Do you agree with those who say that people around the president are taking decisions for him?
I don’t believe so. They are his own creation. Can the ears of the donkey be larger than the donkey? They are nothing; they merely peddle influence because he allows it. If he doesn’t want to see any of them, within seconds they are booted out. Can they be there if he says they have been dismissed from their position? Will they insist? Did they appoint themselves?
Why have you not made efforts to reconcile with him?
Are we fighting? Garba Shehu himself did me one favour. He said we parted ways on principles and am not looking for positions. I had been given positions several times by PDP to abandon him. The documents are there. They made offers in the past to me but I refused because I do things on principles . And as far as I am alive and free and free to educate ordinary Nigerians on his civic rights I am contented.
Do you have any regrets for taking all the bullets and pains you talked about on Buhari’s behalf?
At least, you should know something, at the end I know that God will reward me and I have a stake in this government. Whether I am physically rewarded or not rewarded, God has already rewarded me because I am a household name, whether they like it or not.
Are you likely move to another party if it becomes increasingly clear that you are unwelcome in APC or if a party with better prospects emerge?
The issue about government is not what you get personally. What is it that the government will do for the society, for the country? That is the issue. When this government will fail is if it can’t deliver. Show me the promise made by Buhari that has been fulfilled. That he would make a litre of petrol N45? We will ask him when the time comes. He said he would make a naira equivalent to a dollar, we will ask him. Then we will know whether he lives by his word.
When will you ask him, in 2019?
Just hold on. I will agree to be locked up and killed for what I stand for. I have defended Buhari even on treason trial when they wanted to drop him. Can any of these charlatans or fair weather friends make that sacrifice? Could any of them be approached with ministerial portfolio two, three times and he rejects it because of Buhari. If Buhari is looking for his correct friends, we are his friends when he was nobody, when he had nothing, we worked for his interest and just because new people came because they had money he embraced them. We used the superiority of our intellect and power of our tongues to make him. After all, I am one of the architects of the card reader and apart from God, he can’t say I didn’t make a contribution. Can he say that? We will ask the right question when the time comes.