Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, a former two-term PDP governor of Niger State in an interview, shares his thoughts on the leadership crisis rocking his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The ‘Chief Servant’ as he is popularly called during his tenure also speaks on issues relating to the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
Former Military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) clocked 80 years last week. When you compare his leadership of Nigeria with his successors, especially the current administration, can you say there is any difference or nothing has changed?
For me, as an analyst and a political commentator on issues, believe me, if I put on scale the kind of leadership that Babangida provided for Nigeria and that if we had continue with the kind of character like that, we would have gone far beyond where we are today. But again, the problem with our country is that instead of continuity, anybody who comes in thinks that he has to start everything from the beginning, abandoning all that has been done by his predecessor. By so doing, he is redirecting the country elsewhere. But if the foundation that he laid, the infrastructure he built and the kind of accommodation that he has created for Nigerians are sustained, we will not be having all these crisis of people trying to break away from Nigeria or agitating for this and that. The agitators won’t succeed because they would have been overwhelmed by those who will say ‘No, we want to remain in Nigeria’. But it has now become like a political gimmick. People now use it negotiate now. I believe that like IBB did, a government needs to be inclusive and carry everybody along. So for me, IBB has done wonderfully well for Nigeria.
Your party, the PDP just survived a major political crisis which borders on the leadership of the party. Can you say that peace has finally returned or there are still dangers ahead?
When you have a crisis, particularly in a political party, this is something involving people. I believe that our political parties are not institutionalised the way they should be. Unfortunately for us in the PDP, we have had a history of disgracing our national chairmen right from day one. So, what has happened now is actually helping the situation. When some people made attempts to forcefully remove the current national chairman, many of us rose up and said ‘No, we cannot continue with the culture of disgracing our national chairmen out of office because of the selfish ambition of some other people’. So, we later reached a compromise that the chairmen should stay and the convention was moved forward from December to October. So, this is the best that we can produce now so that nobody feels disgraced in the current situation.
Some people believe that the convention was brought forward to October in order to pacify a major stakeholder in the party who is hell-bent on removing the national chairman. Do you also share this view?
I am not interested in whoever feels he can cause problem so that he can be pacified. I am more interested in the logistics of having a convention. If it is possible for us to have the convention in October, why not? If you talk about a tenure of four years after the ninth month of the year, you can claim that it has passed. So, whether October or December, it is just a matter of days. If it coincides that some people took that position to pacify somebody else, that is their business.
A lot of Nigerians believe that there is no difference between the APC and PDP especially in terms of ideology. What is your take on that ?
In a way the PDP having been in government for 16 years, you can say that it has more solid ways of solving problems. But in terms of ideology, I don’t know because what we need in terms of difference is the ideological underpinning of the parties. So that wherever you find yourself whether in the APC or PDP, one can say I am a welfarist, liberal democrat or labour. People should be able to pin you down and say this is exactly what you are. This issue of somebody just decamping to APC tomorrow with the mandate of PDP or decamping to PDP with the mandate of APC, I think we must amend our constitution to say if you have been elected under a particular mandate, and you want to leave for another party, then you must resign your position. Otherwise, we will be creating political prostitutes in the nation.
You have lost three states ( Ebonyi, Cross River and Zamfara) to APC in the last one year. How do you think PDP can recover those states in the next general election?
If I remember the state that we lost, if I remember the way and manner the governors that defected came, I will still say, we will regain them very nicely. I recall Ebonyi, the former governor Sam Egwu, the former secretary to the governor Anyim Pius Anyim, I recall because I followed vividly how a deputy governor was being frustrated, how he ended up being our gubernatorial candidate and how he won that election. And Ebonyi is one of those states that will always hold stability strongly and I believe these people and their support, friends and colleagues will do so much for us.
Cross River is a PDP state, we may have lost it but we are going to win that state back. I will love in the future to see either a constitutional provision or in our electoral law to say if a party elect you to a particular office, giving you a mandate as president, governor, national and state assembly member, councillor, chairman of a local government or whatever, that if for any reason you don’t want to go with that party again, then you should resign but not to defect with the mandate, for example, this one that you are referring to, they have defected with the mandate of PDP to APC. That is morally wrong and politically incorrect because the political culture that we are building, we are already putting the holes of political correction in them.
So like I said earlier, a law must be enacted that if you are elected on the platform of PDP, resign your job if you are no longer comfortable with the party. Don’t take the mandate elsewhere. Look, corruption is not just about stealing money. I remember Jonathan said so and people misunderstood him at that time about corruption. Corruption is not about stealing money but corruption is even in the behaviour that you display in the presence of your subordinates. Anything that will spoil the procedure and the process of doing things is corruption. If you don’t want to be in politics, nobody is saying you should be. When I was drafted I had an option as a permanent secretary at that time. I had an option to say please allow me to continue with my civil service but I chose to go. So whatever came with it I must bear it.
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, aren’t you worried about the spate of attacks on INEC offices nationwide?
I am very much concerned. I thought insecurity stops at the banditry and the Boko haram thing but with what is happening in the south, it is no more a Fulani thing. I am aware of a state that any time they have a problem, they will say Fulani have done this so they unite. My concern is what has the INEC office done that you will go and burn it? what will you achieve but then when you look at the subtotal of people who constitutionally have a right to ask but not to burn and not to fight, but to ask. We have a lot of treason in this country but I think the people who are burning INEC offices and police stations are people who are trying to provoke the state, I mean the country. By provoking the country, they want an activity that will be taken that they will not justify all their actions. Maybe it may be too much to ask because it is part of the fundamental human rights of people; this dual citizenship thing, I think we must look at it and review it properly. Are you a Nigerian or not a Nigerian? You will go and serve in the military of a foreign country, then you come back to Nigeria and start agitating for what is not. That is wrong. In other countries, unless you satisfy certain requirements, you cannot even run for elections but here everybody wakes up and begin to run for elections, producing leaders that sometimes may not appreciate the gravity of the situation that we are in.