National Chairman of the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), Alhaji Kawu Baraje spoke to journalists after formally registering with the All Progressives Congress, APC, in his Baboko ward of Ilorin West Local Government Area of Kwara State.
The former PDP acting national chairman bares his mind on sundry political issues in the country. Excerpts:
What is the significance of the membership registration to APC?
This is a process of capturing members into the party more especially since APC is a new party in Nigeria and it is a first attempt to practicalise and capture our members. This in essence will show how acceptable APC is in Nigeria. So it is a very, very vital exercise for us, very important and it determines a number of things, the acceptability of the party, our performance in congresses and convention which will culminate in eventual performances in future elections. So it is very important to us.
The deputy national chairman of PDP has said you people including former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who left the PDPare just on a voyage and that very soon you will return to the party. What is your reaction to this?
It is their wishful thinking. If at all you want me to respond. It shows that they are missing us because you will remember that when some of us first quit, one of them said we would not lose sleep. So if they are still saying that we are coming back, it means that our positions and the various vacancies we left behind cannot be filled. It means the people in PDP are missing us and so they are wishing and dreaming every day that we shall come back. For us we belong to the progressives and until a politician finds himself or herself in a particular society where he or she belongs he will not rest. This is where we belong and we have found our nest and we have made it very comfortable here. The struggle that we are doing is not for ourselves, it is to salvage the nation and we are on the course to salvage this country; that we shall do by the grace of God.
The APC Reps on Tuesday blocked the continuation of budget debate. How will you react to this?
I will not agree with the word, “block”. I read it today in the media, they are using the word, “block”, I think it is wrongly applied. You block by creating artificial barrier. The legal issues raised by members of APC in the House of Representatives are strictly in accordance with the law of the country, in accordance with procedure and if anybody breaches the procedural system, it should be raised. What we are fighting against is impunity, lack of procedure and abandonment of the law and order; those are the kinds of things our members in the House of Reps are also struggling for. Nobody is blocking anybody. I want our brothers and sisters in the media to please always follow things keenly and use the appropriate expression and word. APC is not blocking. If I may take you back, where the members had a discussion that unless the issue of Rivers State is solved, then APC members should not participate in the debates, that was the language. Nobody is saying they shouldn’t pass any budget. If at the end of the day members of APC didn’t participate, if they can pass the budget without them, well and good if the laws allow it. That’s what we are saying. And the moment the people who belonged to the impunity side heard that directive, have you ever heard any disturbance in Rivers State again? Why do people have to drag us into that kind of situation before we begin to heed the law? So it is not as if there is a directive that we should block or something but these people are telling you that democracy is growing faster and stronger and more viable in the country. You see I hardly talk because there are some of us who were rightly involved in the political maneuvers and activities in the country and if we make any statement, it can overturn the entire country. We need to be a little bit careful that is why we kept quiet. The issue of saying that we are going to throw Nigeria into turmoil, has it ever happened? It happened about four years ago in America when the opposition party shut down America for about four, five days, what did American government do, what did Obama do? He started negotiating with the opposition party and the matters were resolved.
There has been some kind of horse-trading and politicking over the defection of 11 Senators to APC following Senator Mark’s refusal to read their letter of defection….
I’m not aware of horse-trading. I am aware that some senators, 11 of them expressed their democratic wish to cross from their party to APC, it’s a right, it’s allowed by the Constitution. I was in PDP, I know how many senators we received from other political parties when I was there, there were no hue and cry and now Senators want to defect from PDP to APC, then the whole roof is being blown off, where is the justice? Where is rule of law and order, where is procedure? I think what you our friends in the media should do is to recall some of those instances and remind those people who are there engaging in impunity.
I am aware those Senators wanted to cross and they still want to cross and I am aware there is a lot of suppression, asking them not to cross but the wish of the people will triumph.
The 2015 election timetable has been released with the Presidential election coming first and a lot of people have been condemning the timetable, what is your reaction to this?
The timetable is okay. You see my opinion is that whatever form the timetable takes, the timetable will not conduct election. Agreed, because of the level of awareness of our electorates, the pattern can make a kind of bandwagon effect but that notwithstanding the awareness is growing in Nigeria faster and faster. So no matter the form of the timetable, the wish of the people is what matters. And I believe that to me as far as APC is concerned, we are not bothered by the present timetable as released. All we are bothered at is free, fair and credible election. We must insist, you and I must insist that this time around, we want free, fair, credible election. Without that APC will not accept any shoddy result.
There is no perfect election. What we are saying is that we have not even moved near free and fair election in Nigeria. We have not moved close to election, you can see people’s comments. An individual will just stand somewhere and say if you don’t elect a particular person in Nigeria in 2015, there will be war and that kind of person is left roaming the streets and we could also hear somebody earlier who said what we need in Nigeria is free, fair election and the following day, you are looking for him, where is justice in Nigeria?
In America that is regarded as the mother of democracy, there has never been a perfect election. So all we are asking Professor Attahiru Jega and his team is give us free, fair credible election. No suppression, no ballot paper stuffing, no unnecessary postponement if you see that a favoured candidate is not winning or if you know that a particular constituency is not the base of that particular party, you flood the place with armed forces, all these are the kinds of things that don’t give free and fair election and many more. So all we are begging is free, fair and credible election.
What is your message to APC members as regards registration?
Today is a very important day in the life of APC. Today is a day of history. Today goes well down in the annals of Nigerian politics because APC is a conglomerate of all that is Nigeria and so today we are registering in order for us to test our acceptability though we know very well that APC is acceptable throughout Nigeria.
Today is important because every one of us will now be card-carrying member of the party, our membership will be formalised. As a result of this, we urge all our teeming supporters to please, come out en-masse and register, not only registering, to ensure that the registration is properly done with their passport photograph, and ensure that their names are properly written. This is because when INEC begins to come out with their voters’ list; we can easily cross check and ensure that all our members are properly registered. So we urge them to please, come out en-masse, register in good time and have all their details properly documented.
Are you confident the APC will win the 2015 Presidential election?
I will not even say it is confidence, I am very sure. What I am saying is that the chances of APC winning from the lowest rung of the cadres of election to the topmost are unprecedentedly high. This is because we have tested and analysed the acceptability of APC and Nigerians particularly my friends from the press can attest to this. Since many of us have accepted APC, the gale of people coming from different parties, not only from PDP, has been highly tremendous, wonderful, magical and unstoppable and if you look at individuals that are coming into APC, they are not only team players, but they are leaders that commands highest number of people in their various domains. So what are we saying?
As far as I am concerned by the grace of God, it is already a bygone decision by Nigerians that APC is the party of their dream.