Fidelis Naanmiap Tapgun was elected the second civilian governor of Plateau State during the Nigerian Third Republic and later appointed Nigerian Ambassador to Kenya in 2000 before being made Minister of Industry under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government in 2005.
Before then, Tapgun was Director-General of the Obasanjo-Atiku Campaign Organisation between 2002 and 2003, helping ensure to Obasanjo was re-elected in the April 2003 elections.
He spoke on the 2019 elections and how former President Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar will largely influence the outcome of the next general elections.
Do you think the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as PDP presidential candidate is in the interest of Nigeria?
His emergence is a blessing to the party, he has been a foundation member of the party from the start and he has everything it takes to be the President of this country; that is why he was overwhelmingly selected among other presidential aspirants. Others are qualified and can govern this nation but he is more qualified than them, Nigerians know him more.
You think he emerged because Nigerians know him more?
He is well known and has the capability to deal with the present operators we have now.
Will his reconciliation with former President Olusegun Obasanjo add any value to his political aspiration?
Yes, it will add. But you know that the reconciliation will oil his campaign across the country because the retired Generals in this country have a great role to play in our politics and governance whether we like it or not. This is because they have been in power for long, they know the nooks and corners of this country, they have made a lot of people what they are in this country; they have a lot of say on who becomes what. Anybody who thinks can do without them do that at his own risks.
Obasanjo is one among the retired military Generals who is more exposed to the politics of Nigeria than others; others were during the military but he was active in the politics of the country during the military and the civilian, he was elected President in 1999 and that makes him more exposed than the others. He has a lot of political clout to do and undo things in this country.
But when Atiku Abubakar was consulting Nigerians on his presidential aspiration, we were told that he did not get the blessing of General Ibrahim Babangida; do you think he will still make a headway in 2019?
Well, that was in the past, all these are speculations that came and passed. We are talking about what happened during our convention in Port Harcourt, so everything that happened before the presidential primaries is in the past. Of course, you know that Obasanjo didn’t like him and he has liked him now, so you can see the changes that happened in human relationships; even if it is true that Babangida said he didn’t like him, all these are in the past now. We have buried them; we are now talking about the current issues on the ground, which is why we want to move forward.
Bishop Oyedepo and Bishop Kukah who were in Abeokuta have come out to say that they did not endorse Atiku; don’t you think that has negative impact on his acceptability?
It is true that they didn’t, Bishop Kukah has come out clearly to say it, it is not endorsement; Kukah has been in the peace team headed by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retired) and all their efforts in this country is to bring peace. He said they have been trying all through to reconcile Obasanjo and Atiku. Bishop Kukah served in Oputa panel and he knows exactly where the problem of this country lies, he was not too comfortable with what was going on between Atiku Abubakar and Obasanjo.
Both of them were in the presidency. Obasanjo was President and Atiku was his Vice, they were there for eight years and for one thing and the other, they became great enemies and that wasn’t anything good for the country, but as for religious persons, they are for peace. He didn’t endorse Atiku; he went to witness the reconciliation, the same thing with Bishop Oyedepo. Also, Sheik Gumi has been an advocate of peace all through, so the religious groups were there to witness the reconciliation and give it a blessing for the good of the country.
Do you think the PDP has the political strength to wrestle power from the APC, coupled with the fact that President Buhari and APC will do everything possible to retain power?
It has not just the ability, we have the capability, PDP has the capability to do it and we are going to do it by the grace of God. It is not by our power, wisdom or anything but with God on our side we will make it, because a lot have gone through the lives of Nigerians in the last four years and when they cry, God listens and they have been crying, and God is listening.
Are you considering the victory of PDP in 2019 on the basis that some governors including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki dumped the PDP in 2015 and the party lost power, and the same group of politicians are now back to PDP. Is it on that ground that APC will loss power in 2019?
Yes, that is the more reason why PDP will win election in 2019. It was because of their leaving that makes Buhari win election, now they have left Buhari and that is the reason why he will lose.
But what do you think went wrong in 2015 that most PDP leaders left the party?
Everything went wrong; a lot of things were done in a wrong manner. You know that very well, PDP made a lot of mistakes and derailed so to say. PDP did a lot of things wrong and it resulted in that failure because in the 16 years we were in power, people took things for granted. The party thought that everything it says the people were saying yes and the people got tired of it and decided to react and they reacted very bad that took us to where we are. That is why everything we are doing now; we are trying to do it in a correct manner so that we will not fall into this same trap again. Today, we have a different PDP from what we had in 2015, the party has been reformed and things are done in the right manner.
Has the party set up any reconciliation committee after the Port-Harcourt presidential convention because there were one or two persons that were aggrieved?
There wasn’t need for a reconciliation committee because there was no room for it. Usually why people protest at the end of convention is when the system used is faulty but this convention was very open, it was very transparent, it was done in public view, everybody saw it, the aspirants were there, their agents were there, they inspected everything. The list of delegates were printed in a booklet from all the states and the convention committee went from state to state to confirm with agents of all the candidates, so the number of the delegates were correct.
Each state queued to vote; when it was Plateau’s turn, we stood on the line and they called names and counted the number with agents of all the candidates. It was very transparent, that is why there was no room for any complaint and no body has complained. All the aspirants who spoke before the primaries said any candidate who wins, they will all support him and they have all kept to their words, there is no need for any reconciliation, all we are planning now is just to campaign and win the election, that is all.
The nomination of former Governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi as the running mate of Atiku has generated tension in the polity, especially in the Southeast, do you think he has the needed political value for the presidential project?
No, it is not true. Well, you don’t expect that everybody will accept his nomination easily, it is politics. It is only Governor Umahi who said he was not consulted; it’s not that he is against it, because if he does, he will be stoned out of the east. He has corrected his statement and said it is not that he is against it, but that in such things, people should be consulted and I think Atiku has gone there and nobody from the West complains. The arrangement is that the West was not going to lose out at the end of the day, so they know what they are going to get.
Do you think the nomination of Peter Obi will make smooth the Atiku campaign?
Certainly, it has already added more flip, more credence and value to PDP’s reorganization to success in 2019.
Why do you think so?
Because he is a man of character, he was governor for eight years in Anambra and people are testifying to what he did and showed as a modest person, that is what we need in this country. When he left office, you saw the amount of money he left in the Bank account for the state, it was filtered away by the government that is there and that is what brought about their quarrel initially, Peter Obi left a lot of money.
The fear of Nigerians now is that in 2015, Jonathan was purely a civilian and had no courage of contesting the presidential result and so relinquished power easily to Buhari who might not do same in 2019 due to allegations of vote buying as witnessed in recent elections in some states. What do you think will be if such happens?
Well, we don’t want to speculate, we want to believe that he knows what Nigerians want and he knows that there is going to be election, he knows that one person will win, he knows that if he fails…an example has been set, and anybody who tries to do something contrary will be digging his own grave I think, that is what I see. So I don’t believe, all these things people are saying Buhari will not do it, I think he will do it as soon as the results are out…may be he will not do it until, like Jonathan did, the result were not complete and he said ‘okay I have conceded defeat, may be he will wait until the final results but when he sees the final results.
Looking at elections that took place in Ekiti, Osun and other bye-elections, people believe that there are a lot of vote buying, what will PDP do if such is repeated in 2019?
Yes, it is true. It was in the open and not just a matter of belief.
Don’t you think that will also play out during the 2019 general elections?
These were just two states and the election held in one state after another but in 2019, the election will be held in 36 states and the FCT, it will need an enormous character to be able to do that; that is buying of votes, it will be difficult for anyone who specializes in that game.
What do you think is wrong with the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari?
I don’t want to begin to go round the country, it is a common thing, and so many things have failed, so many things. Everything that was promised, not even one has been achieved, everything is wrong.
But the government has been applauded in the area of fighting corruption
Is there any fight against corruption? I am asking you whether there is fight against corruption. Since he started about four years now, not one person has been convicted. No single person has been convicted, some of the cases EFCC took to court they failed. They have jailed only two people, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, their prosecution both started from the previous administration of PDP, they were arraigned by PDP administration but since this government came on ground, there is no one single person that has been convicted for corruption. You hear a lot of names in the newspaper but not a single person has been convicted.
Some individuals felt the fight against corruption is lopsided and that it is a witch-hunt against PDP, how do you view it?
It is not what I think, that is exactly what is happening, it is the perception of three quarters of Nigerians that the fight is lopsided against people in government that left office in 2015, against PDP, that is why it is not succeeding. What has surfaced in their own administration has overtaken what PDP did in terms of corruption and nobody is saying anything about it.
The Federal Government recently placed a ban on traveling by some persons. Do you think that executive order is healthy for economic growth of the country?
I heard it but they have come out to say it is not true, they denied it because Nigerians are criticising them, and we want to see how they will implement it. If that is also the case, if you look at the list it is only PDP people, there is no one single APC man involved, that is the lop-sidedness we are talking about. You see this fighting corruption, even me in 2015 when I was campaigning, what I said was that Buhari is a no nonsense man in terms of corruption, I believed that if he comes in, even if that is what he is going to fight to the end while in office, I will be satisfied with that but since he came nothing has happened that impressed me about fighting corruption. May be it is not his fault, may be he is trying to do it but people around him are manipulating the system and they are getting away with it; in situation like this, you are the head, all that happened is before your table and you have to take responsibility. So, he may be clean and incorruptible himself, he may be trying his best to fight corruption but people around him are not helping him at all, they are perpetrating it, they are doing it worst than what they alleged PDP did.
The Senate President Bukola Saraki has been under pressure since he was elected President of the Senate and he has crossed over to PDP and members of the ruling APC have vowed to impeach him, don’t you think that action will overheat the polity?
There is no pressure in the Senate, if you watch their plenary of recent, they have said no body will impeach Saraki, and I can assure you he will not be impeached. There are no Senators in that chamber that will impeach Saraki because he knows how to move with everybody in that house, whether you are PDP or APC, he has the intellectual capacity to move along with you, nobody will impeach him, if you hear what the Leader of the Senate was saying…he said that nobody will impeach Saraki, that they don’t have time for that, that they are all Senators and they have chosen their own leader, he will be there until he completes his tenure.
He has been nominated as the Director General of Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Council; do you think he can lead Atiku and PDP to victory in 2019?
Why not, he is more than fit to lead the campaign to victory. He is heading the campaign council; there are other presidential aspirants that have been appointed to manage the six geopolitical zones, so he is at the top. Obasanjo did it in 2003 when I was in Legacy House; we had something like that with Adamu Ciroma, Tony Anenih and with coordinators for states. Ahmadu Ali was the coordinator for North Central, so it is common.
Some younger persons had complained about the emergence of Gen. Jeremiah Useni retired as the PDP governorship candidate due to his age, do you think he has the energy to carry out governance in the state in the face of security challenges?
Well, Plateau people have said he is fit through their vote, who am I to say no he is not fit. If they went for the primaries and he won, then Plateau people said he is fit.
Do you think he is capable of handling the challenges in the state?
Yes, he is capable, he has handled it in the past, he had that to his credit, he has held that position in the past during the military and I am sure he knows the problem of Plateau state. I am sure he does, I am sure he knows what he is going to face and he knows exactly what to do.
As an elder statesman, what is your counsel to Nigerians as we approach 2019 polls?
We should live in peace with one another and we should take away religion out of our politics. That has been killing this country, religion has been killing us; people mix religion and politics, they are two different things, completely different. But the temptation in this country today is that when you commit offence and you are being prosecuted they will say it is because I am a Muslim or it is because I am a Christian, which should be out of our minds. Religion is a personal matter between yourself and God, only you know what you are asking him for, only God knows what you are asking him for, it is not for the public, nobody cares about that.
But history has shown that religion, ethnicity cannot be detached from politics, how do you think the two can be separated today?
It is the people who attach them and they can be detached, politics is not only played in Nigeria, most countries of the world play politics and we don’t see that. It is because of our level of poverty, our level of sentimental activities and some of our leaders try to encourage it, which is unfortunate but we pray that God will get us out of this one day. People should look at politics as politics, look at you as an individual, if you come out for election, people should be able to look at you and say what can you do, we have known you for this and that, you can do it and not because you are a Christian or a Muslim.
Plateau State has passed through series of crisis that has consumed innocent lives, armed robbery and kidnapping, what do you think is the solution to the security challenges?
Well, we all have to turn back to God and seek for guidance and to show us what to do to stop some of these things, apparently these things are not just in Plateau state, it is all over the country and that is part of what the Federal Government is being blamed for, because one of their priority was to eliminate Boko Haram but it has been getting stronger and stronger by the day since they came into power; recently you saw how they murdered two innocent girls working with the Red Cross, these are Nigerians. It is not something of Plateau state alone, it is all over the country and our security architecture has not been properly constructed, that is the problem. The whole thing is getting more complicated that is why I said we should all turn back to God to show us the way to get out of this mess. We have been facing these challenges day after day, which is unfortunate. – Culled from The Sun.