APC knows power must shift to South – Ado Alhassan Dogowa, House of Reps Majority Leader

An unrepentant APC gladiator and a Buhari advocate, Ado opens up on the new Electoral Act, zoning of APC’s presidential ticket to the South, crises in the APC, Kwankwaso ill-bound third political force agenda, the presidential aspiration of Bola Tinubu and Osinbajo, the plot to draft Jonathan to APC, the recent APC’s electoral loss of Jos- North and some Abuja councils, among several other contemporary political issues. Excerpts:

There are a number of issues in the political scene, but first let’s hear your remarks on the Electoral Act that has just been assented to by Mr. President.
I think this is something that everyone can presume, that in a nascent democracy like our own, I think every other steps that we take in pursuance of our democratic efficacy is welcomed. It is a good step in the right direction, especially when you are discussing the legal framework that provides for the basis for whatever comes up come 2023. We have a Constitution on one hand, which, of course, is the supreme document and which has made provisions for fundamental issues to deal with the establishment and structure of the electoral empire and processes, but like you know, we have this Act, which is like a supplementary legislation that is designed to address some of the challenges that might have been left out in the Constitution. What the National Assembly has done in the Electoral Act is something that Nigerians must welcome. It is also something that represents the commitment of the 9th House of Representatives to provide for electoral reforms – provide reforms in the area of acceptability, provide reforms in the area where we had some encumbrances in our electoral history. The case of Kogi State is a typical example where an election was going on and the candidate died and the question is what do we do? The case of Bayelsa State is another typical example. The running mate was found wanting. Then the question is who should bear the consequences? This was an encumbrance and this is what we call lacuna in our legislative framework. As far as that is able to provide solutions to some of these lacunas in our electoral procedures and more, I think to that extent, the Electoral Act is an excellent work. To allow Mr. President and the generality of our people to have a multiplicity of options in the selection process – if a state or party wants to go by direct primary or indirect, they should be free to do so. Of course, it was a very controversial aspect of the Electoral Act. We in the House had wanted to make it direct, because we knew that President Buhari emerged from the background of direct primary and we have always known him to be in favour of popular procedure. He has always welcomed the system of allowing the people to determine the procedure and it was from that background that that we initially wanted to provide only for direct mode of primary. That was our initial arrangement. We thought that Mr. President would have welcomed this idea from the perspective that he also came from that background and for the fact that we know him to be a proponent of proper procedure. But for whatever reason, Mr President refused assent and brought it back. We have always identified with Mr President and this is a House that has a majority of its members from the same political party with President Buhari and this is a House that has always worked in partnership with the executive arm of government – for that commitment and for that reason, we decided to give to Mr President what he wanted.
The president raised a point of concern with regard to a particular aspect of the Electoral Act and requested the House to amend it. How soon will it take to alter that aspect of the Act?
As usual, the House is an institution and our procedure is also institutional. One good thing you must have to acknowledge is the fact that he has assented to the bill. so it is now an existing law. Whether or not the National Assembly will heed to his request is another ball game because we already have a legislation in place. And for us to go back and review it again, we have to go to our normal institutional legislative procedure. That would not be breached. And don’t forget, there is a global standard. Global standard in the sense that there is a global guideline for all democratic nations and Nigeria is a signatory to that guideline, which states that you cannot continue to tinker with the legislative framework that covers electoral process within a period that is less than a year to the election. We are a signatory to that international understanding that if you want to have perfect democracy, your legal framework, your rules and regulations and your guidelines for the conduct of elections of that particular election must be ready one year in advance. I want to believe that Mr. President knows that, that the Attorney General of the Federation knows that treaty and I believe that President Buhari would not want us to tinker with a framework that would subject our electoral process to questions. I do not want to say more because as I am speaking to you now, we have not taken any decision in this respect. But whether or not, the House would accept to review the legislation which Mr President has assented is something I will be able to state only after collating the views of my colleagues.
Your party has taken a position on zoning and your party members are reacting differently to the zoning arrangement of your party in the next dispensation. Let’s hear your view?
My reaction would be natural. Natural because I belong to every cadre of authority of this great party, right from my polling unit, ward, and naturally as by virtue of the office I hold as the number three man in the House of Representatives- it gives me also the opportunity to be a member of the state caucus of the party. I am also a natural member of the national caucus and the NEC of the party. So most of things that you have heard about are decisions that have passed through these various positions of authorities, which I belonged to and, therefore, I would be in favour of the decision, because I was consulted. At the end we think we are trying to come up with a new All Progressives Congress, a new APC that is devoid of that kind of emotional feeling or that kind of presumption that oh this is a northern party simply because we have a Northern president. Oh this is a Northern party because they don’t have even a governor in the Southeast (those days)! The Igbo have not accepted the party. Oh this is a Northern party because they don’t have spread to the South-south. We have now taken into cognizance that the APC has grown to be called by whatever standard, a national party of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We now have governors in the South-south and in the Southeast where people felt we could never have governors from. Only a few days ago, the APC won a legislative bye-election in Cross River State. So you can see how the party has grown so wide, so fast. It is now a party of the Igbo, the party of the South-south, and the party of the people in the North- central. It is the party of Plateau. It is the party in the Northeast and it is also our party in the Northwest. It is the party in the Southwest. It is against this background that we are now coming up with a zoning formula, a formula that would be nationally accepted and a formula that would have national reflection. And one good thing we have got about this party is leadership. Of course, it was accidental, very accidental, but it has gone far in helping the fortunes of our party. This development was the appointment of the Governor of Yobe State to act as a Caretaker Committee Chairman of our party. This man has brought about a lot of successes, a lot of political windfalls to this party. He has opened up the windows, he has opened up the doors and has brought in people who you would never imagined they would come and join the APC. The immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara, for instance. If you were close to Dogara, you will never have imagined that Dogara would have a second thought to come to APC again. But he made it possible. The Governor of Cross River, the Governor of Ebonyi State and these are the kinds of very high personalities that the APC was able to get over through the dexterity and maturity of the Governor of Yobe State.
But there are so many crises in a number of states in the APC under his watch. How far do you see these crises are capable of underling the chances of APC. You just lost Jos North…?
I think like people say, it is only an empty can that when it drops, it would make noise. When a can that contains heavy things in it, when you drop it , it wouldn’t make any noise. What I am trying to say is that all these kinds of crises that you hear in the APC are natural. The crises are natural because we are operating a democracy and when you operate democracy, certainly you have to accept the fact that you will accept different and various opinions, you will surely come across people with different ideologies, especially the kind of party that we run that evolved as a result of a merger, merger of so many experienced people from different political backgrounds and shades of opinions. Naturally, you will expect some of these crises. But I want to believe that these are not crises that are not beyond compromise. They are not crises that would belittle the chances or undermine the victory of the party come 2023. We would continue the way you are seeing them and we would continue to resolve them. When you are talking about the crises in the various states… the crises we have at hands, I think that they are not more than in nine states and in the nine states, I am telling you we are moving fast to ensure that these crises are resolved amicably . Politics is about give and take. It is about the resolution of these sorts of conflicts and we have the right people at the helm of affairs to be able to resolve some of the crises. When you come to a national election season like we have, you will definitely have this kind of tensions, especially where there is that tendency that power is expected to transit from one hand to another and from one region to another. This is the conviction of our party that power has to shift to the South – but where in the South , it has not be decided. But we all know ourselves and we know what is right and good.
Abuja used to be your command territory, but in the last council polls, you lost, dropping to 4-2 councils. How do you see the struggle for Abuja between your party and the PDP?
The Abuja scenario in the Council polls is no more different from the one you raised in Plateau. You know you cannot rule out personality in politics, you cannot rule out tribal, you cannot rule out cultural peculiarities in politics and take it from me, wherever you are the moment you lose out in the game of choosing the right person, a person that is agreement to the culture of that particular place or the tradition. Or in some places even religion works. So, I want to tell you that our problem in Jos in the recent election, the problem we had in Abuja is all about the cultural factor that surrounded the selection of the candidates. When at the onset you chose a wrong candidate, whether culturally or otherwise, when you choose a wrong candidate sometimes religiously or a wrong candidate sometimes socially, then definitely you miss it. That has less to do with the strength and popularity of the party. Well, sometimes we take lessons from these experiences and move on. People knew what happened. Those of us at the helm of affairs in Abuja knew why we lost in Abuja and Jos. A situation where you have a political party, a party which is a ruling party and it has not decided on its own candidate until 24 hours to election, definitely you will expect things like this to happen. Even in the case of Jos, it was like an agreement. If you have an agreement in any political or electoral process, you have to abide by it, respect it. I think to the best of my knowledge, I may be wrong, I think there was an agreement between the Christians and the Muslims. The last time the Muslim faction got it. And this time around, that Muslim candidate unfortunately lost his life within the tenure of his office. He didn’t complete the tenure of his office. So when they now came to replace him with another candidate, there was a misunderstanding. The Muslims said we need to have our own to complete the tenure and others said no, it was about the person, he has taken it and we have to be given the next shot. This was what they said created our problem in Jos Plateau. Whatever it is, I don’t want to be so obvious, but I want to tell you that the game in Plateau is all about religion, about ethnicity and about culture.
There are two big stakeholders – Tinubu versus Osinbajo struggling, pushing for every delegate vote from Kano today. What is your take on their struggle for the soul of your state?
You know politics is like business. It is like business because market is about people. Business is about market and so politics is like business because it is the business of people. So, where you have a very big market of population, where you have buyers and sellers , then you should expect good traders to patronize the market. The same also happens in politics. When you have contenders wanting to grab the population, then you must have to go to the most populous states for votes. I want to say Kano would traditionally and consistently continue to hold that identity as the biggest democracy in Nigeria and being a very populous state and coincidentally, we have a ruling government under the APC in the state, and the two contenders you are talking about are also from APC, then you will naturally expect that kind of reaction from them.
You are a big politician in the state and if I should ask, who would you choose among the two of them? Who among them would you recommend to Nigerians?
Like I have earlier said that being a stakeholder in the APC, right from bottom to top, it is going to be a colossal error if I should disclose or tell you whom among them I will choose. But one good thing about the two of them is that they are two, but one person. Osinbajo came to the limelight through the doors of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and till today, as I am speaking to you, I have not learnt of any acrimony and I have not learnt or seen or heard of any misunderstanding that is capable keeping these gentlemen apart. So, I look at them as if these are one person wanting to grab the Presidency with two hands. And if I should be obvious to you, it is Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the one that has made several public pronouncements about his ambition to run for Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I am not sure whether there is any place, anywhere or any platform where Osinbajo has made such a declaration. But whether you like it or not, going by his body language, going by the actions or the inaction of people around him, then you cannot rule out that possibility that Osinbajo too is coming out for the same position. But I still look at these two leaders as one and if there is anything that would separate these two leaders, then that would be left for time to determine.
PDP has been making a lot of noise that they are back and that they would wind up APC adventure in the next general elections, with the coming on board of old hands like Ayu and his team. Do you think they would succeed at this in 2023?
Obviously not, obviously not! The PDP, rather, is losing grounds day by day. It is losing grounds. It is losing the love of Nigerians. Nigerians still have not forgotten those bad days, those ugly days introduced and entrenched during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigerians are still in bloodshed, Nigerians are still in hunger, Nigerians are still crying out because of the failure in our education system and even President Muhammadu Buhari is finding things so tough and so difficult because of the extent and the enormity of damage inflicted on the polity by the PDP in times past.
And all these years, all these almost seven years is not enough for the APC and President Buhari to change the direction and revive the fortunes of Nigerians?
Oh no! Five days can be enough to make destruction, but three, four , five years cannot be enough to make things right. This is natural and you must accept that. If you don’t believe me ask the Engineers, ask the Quantity Surveyors. It takes you five minutes to destroy this building. But if you are given five months, you will not be able to reconstruct it. Buhari has tried enough in the area of security. Today, we don’t have an inch of the Nigerian territory in the hands of Boko Haram. All these crises we have in the polity, most of them are political, my brother. Political in nature because they are motivated by political gladiators who want to create problems where there is none. What we have in the North-central is rather more of communal crisis. Communal crisis has been traditional to most parts of Nigeria. It was not because Buhari came in. When you are talking of the issue of banditry, issues to do with kidnapping, issues to do with these killings all over the place, to my knowledge and I may be wrong in my guess – I look at them as being politically motivated. And I want to tell you that this government would not take that for granted, we are doing the best we could, especially for those of us coming from the institute of the legislature who have the responsibility to provide for the resources to secure the lives or property of our people which is the fundamental responsibility of every government. Buhari cooperates with the legislature and the legislature of the day must also cooperate with him to provide resources for funding the fight against Boko Haram and terrorism.
You just talk about Jonathan and we have speculation that you people in the APC want him to cross over and become your flag bearer. What exactly is the Jonathan story or speculation in APC?
I am not officially or privately privy to such a discussion. I was privy to this development. But the fact remains that you cannot change who is Jonathan. Jonathan remains Jonathan, the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the president that ran under the PDP and lost out for whatever reasons alluded by Nigerians, for whatever reasons surrounding him. These are facts that you cannot take out from him. Whatever argument or reasons that other people may have about Jonathan, I think that also would be left, not for time, but for Nigerians to decide for themselves. The fact remains that we have a very new and unprecedented administration of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under someone who has popular confidence of the people. This is no other person than Presdient Muhammadu Buhari. Up till today, this man enjoys the confidence of Nigerians. Seventy five or 80 per cent of Nigerians believe that there may be other reasons some of these problems continuously remain, but not because Buhari, as a person, wants them to remain. He would, of course, do whatever you want him to do. But don’t forget Buhari is also human and Buhari cannot divide or decentralize himself into the 36 states of the federation. Buhari cannot be the president and at the same time the Chief of Army Staff. He cannot be the security officer, but he cannot divide himself to being the Inspector General of Police. Don’t mind the fact that he can command them, but the constitutional responsibility is vested in the person of the Inspector General of Police himself. Buhari may give orders, in the process of implementation there could be problems. The Chief of Army Staff or the Chief of Defence Staff, these are two different personalities. Buhari may have the constitutional line of responsibility to give them orders, but when they go to discharge of such responsibility, their implementation may differ from the conception of Buhari. The fact remains that we need every hand to be able to put Nigerian on the right track
What you are saying is that we should not blame Buhari for some of the problems that we have today?
Yes! Don’t blame Buhari for some of the problems we face. Blame the system which has refused to adopt some of the concept and philosophy and political ideology of Muhammadu Biuhari. Up till today the system has refused to entrench some of the very vital and laudable conceptions of President Muhammadu Buhari as a person. This is someone that you cannot take away the fact that he is patriotic, he is all out to fight corruption. He is all out to engender a new Nigeria that is devoid of tribal differences and tribal animosity. This is one man that you cannot take away these qualities from him, but believe you or not the system has refused to entrench, refused to accommodate some of these laudable philosophies, laudable opinion and ideology of President Muhammadu Buhari. But, of course, he has started and we are getting somewhere. The Sun

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