Hon Alhassan Ado Dogowa is the leader of the Northern caucus in the House of Representatives, representing Dogowa/Tudun Wada Federal Constituency of Kano State in the Green Chamber. He is in his fourth term in the House, a member of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the ruling party as well as a member of the national caucus of the party. Vocal, fluent and intelligent, the Kano-born politician and die-hard Buhari apologist, in this interview insists that President Buhari has no option but to contest the 2019 elections.
He also speaks on the intraparty crisis rocking the APC in several states of the federation as well as the recent rift that erupted between the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun and the leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
How would you rate the performance of the APC at the state and federal levels in relation to the promises made to Nigerians during their campaigns?
If I should be very candid to you, without any fear of contradiction, I will say that the APC as a party and the APC as a government , especially when the two are linked to our very honest and respected President Muhammadu Buhari, I think that we have done quite well in terms of performance- because when you are rating somebody’s performance especially a democratic government, it has to be rated in accordance with the promises made in the course of the campaign.I want to believe that the party and the President, at the time in point, made three major promises to Nigerians. These three promises were to bring about good governance through the restoration of moral values and discontinuation of institutional abuse of power- what we used to call impunity in the PDP. In my opinion, the President has achieved that for our nation. When you find yourself in a situation where a lot of devilish deeds have been inflicted on the system, then certainly, it is not likely that all these problems would be totally eliminated in a blink of an eye. I want to believe that with the foundation that he has laid, Mr. President has restored significantly Nigerians confidence in the system – not only within, but in the way, we are seen by people from outside Nigeria.
Secondly, Mr President during his campaigns had pledged to fight corruption. This was one of his major commitments to the people of Nigeria. You would bear me witness that President Buhari is fighting corruption to the best of his ability even though corruption is also fighting back. This is what the President and most of the institutions fighting corruption in Nigeria are going through. But even with that, I want to also believe that President Buhari has done very well in the area of the fight against corruption.
The last commitment he made to Nigerians during his campaign was a major commitment. Major, because the business of every government falls here. The major mandate of every government, even if it is an autocratic one is to protect the lives and property of the people. The president took over the mantle of leadership at a time when the security of the country had totally collapsed. Security of people at work, security of people in places of worship, in the streets and even in their own bedrooms was not guaranteed.The issue of Boko Haram and kidnapping were major challenges when Buhari took over the leadership of this country. I am not trying to say that the last government led by former President Goodluck Jonathan did not do anything at all about security. But all I want to say is that Mr. President took over under a very difficult condition in the sense that you cannot be sure of going out and coming back to your house. You may remember that in this very city of Kano, a whole Emir, who is revered and respected, an old gentleman was attacked and was almost killed. You may also recall that worshipers in churches and mosques were not left out. In the Central Mosques at the Emir’s palace in Kano State, over 200 people were killed … all I want to say is that whether you like Buhari or you do not like Buhari, whether you are of the APC or not, you cannot dispute the fact that the wave of insecurity has been reduced significantly in this present administration. The first order Buhari gave was when he ordered the military high command to relocate to the North-east, where the fight was most intense. At the end, Buhari has brought to bear his experiences and wisdom as a military man and has succeeded in taming the scourge of insurgency. Even though I can acknowledge that in recent times, the security problem has now taken a different dimension. It is no longer Boko Haram.
From the Chibok girls to the Dapchi girls, onwards to the herdsmen/farmers clashes…?
(Cuts in) Yes, you might have noticed a change in the dimension of the security problem. President Buhari has condemned them all. The party has condemned them and we as an institution in the legislature, we have also condemned the incidents so have the traditional rulers condemned the wave of incidents. We as a National Assembly, we have set up a very high powered committee to look into the matter of the farmers and herdsmen clashes, to consult with the affected people , to consult with the farmers and the herdsmen, to look into the legislation at the state levels- legislation that are being enacted in so many states- in Ekiti, and I understand that there is one in Benue State.We would want to liaise with them and interface. Of course, we cannot go down and dictate or make laws for the states. Where laws are meant to be made by the state assembly, we will give them that respect. But where we need to advise ourselves and see how we can have a look at it again, then we will consult them in the most friendly manner and see how we could make amend so that at the end of the day, we can accommodate ourselves on one page. The most important thing is for us to be secured, to have a crisis-free nation. What I am trying to buttress is that we now have a new challenge -the clashes- at our hand which, of course, like we have succeeded in taming the scourge of Boko Haram, we would also join hands with our president to make sure that new spate of insecurity is effectively addressed.
Looking at the number of Nigerians that have been killed in different parts of the country in recent time, can we say in all sincerity that insecurity is coming down under this administration?
If I were a teacher to mark President Buhari on security, I will mark him significantly above average. The fact that some other things are coming up and issues to do with security are not finally rested, does not mean that Buhari is a failure in terms of managing security. What I will like to say in essence is that while we were addressing one form of insecurity, another form of insecurity is now coming up. Even the issue of kidnapping school girls or boys, kidnapping of people at home or in their places of work, these are issues that came up later. Because that was not the form of insecurity that we were facing before now. We were, in the past, facing virtually what we call terrorism and terrorism by way of Boko Haram. And every one of us can acknowledge that it was like a global problem. Then all of a sudden, something else came up. It is like while you are concluding on one form of insecurity, another form is coming up. I want to assure you that the kind of commitment that Mr. President has against defeating Boko Haram is uncommon and you will agree with me that that aspect of insecurity has been effectively addressed and reduced significantly. Finally, I want to make it clear that all hands must join in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria. It is not for the president alone: it is not also for the National Assembly alone. And it is not even for the judiciary which is another arm of government- it is not even for the police or the military alone. The fight against insecurity is for all Nigerians, all Nigerians including civilians, tribal and, religious leaders, traditional rulers. Everybody must join hands to address the present form of insecurity.
Let us look at the crisis in the APC. Name them, Kaduna, Kano, Kogi states, APC is now looking like the PDP, some four years ago. What is your take?
I think that for me, from my experience, obviously, you cannot rule out conflict and crisis in a living political party, especially one that is controlling government. And I want to say that the pocket of crisis that we have here and there, in APC controlled states is not the best for the party. But you must note that you cannot rule out these conflicts in a living political party. The PDP which is like a dead political party- a party that is dead and is already in the casket….. the only thing I know that is remaining of the PDP, especially in the Northern part of the country is just to take it for final interment into mother earth. Even in the dead PDP, it has its own crisis. So by interpretation, these are things that you cannot rule out. If I can remember my political science very well, the definition of what you call politics, if you go by Aristotle, is conflict and conflict resolution. That was Aristotle’s definition. I want to now go next step to say that it is only when these conflicts cannot be resolved, that is when it becomes an issue, that is when it becomes unfortunate
In Kano and Kaduna states APC, we have clear attributes of conflicts that cannot be resolved. The conflicts in these states, going by your words, are the type that cannot be resolved. Are we moving towards an unfortunate situation?
I think that may well be your own opinion. To the best of my knowledge and to the best of my own experience in Kano politics and my relationship with Kaduna politics, these conflicts have still not come to the extent that you will tell me that it is non-resolvable, that it cannot be reconciled. No! I tell you that it can still be reconciled.
But what are those unspoken signs that tend to assure you that the parties in dispute are likely to resolve their differences? What are you seeing to assure you that Governor Ganduje would reconcile with Senator Kwankwaso when only last week he foreclosed all further talks with his former boss?
You know that is Ganduje. When a leader is speaking, of course, he may speak to the apex. But for Ganduje that I know, the listening Ganduje, the humble Ganduje, the patient Ganduje, the dynamic Ganduje, I will tell you that he is so dynamic that he can be reversed. He is somebody that listens and I will beat my chest to tell you that I am one of the closest persons to the governor and to the government of the state. And I know of so many other statements or steps that he has taken personally, but we were able to encourage him to change his position in the interest of the government and the people of Kano State. Ganduje is a very patient person, but when you push a patient person to the wall, certainly he is bound to make strong statements. But I want to say it, without any fear of contradiction, the case in Kano is still something that we can resolve because the leader of the party in the state, who is also the governor is somebody that is very dynamic. He is somebody that can listen, most especially now when our revered president has set up a committee under the leadership of Senator Bola Tinubu to consult and resolve all the crisis in the party.
I am sure that the Ganduje I know is bound to listen to the efforts and commitments of President Buhari. The only thing that I might also tell you- three things that are key to the resolution of the conflict in Kano State APC- they are one, that every one of us, no matter how highly placed you are and no matter how lowly placed you are in the structure of the party, every one of us must have effective respect for the rules of the party as it is contained in the constitution of the party- one of which is respect for the hierarchy of the party.
By the constitution of the party, the governor of every state is the leader of the party. So, whoever is in Kano and calls himself a Kano man, no matter his ambition, must have to respect this fundamental requirement. Secondly, the people of Kano State, especially those of us in the APC- party men, youth, and women-we have taken a resolution on that occasion. We told the world that as far as Kano State is concerned, especially the Kano State APC, we are behind Buhari. And we were the first state that called on President Buhari to please respond to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians to run again for the presidency come 2019. Our votes, our commitments, and our resources would be deployed to make sure that Buhari is returned. So our second position is that whoever is in the APC in Kano, whoever that person might be, highly placed, middle placed or low placed, must respect this commitment of the people of Kano State.
Which implies –(cuts in)
Which implies that whoever is from Kano- I don’t want to call names- must step down. Whoever is in Kano and is an APC member and has respect for the provisions of the constitution must respect the commitment of the people and government of Kano State. He cannot aspire for the presidency as far as the APC in the state is concerned.The third position is that whoever wants peace must live in peace. If you want peace in the party, you must also show the tendency of peacemaking. It is not to speak peace by words of the mouth while in the actual sense you go by the side and try to create mischief. We must also, over and above all things, respect the government in place, a government that we all put our hands together to bring to existence.
The duo of Senator Tinubu and Oyegun, party leader and National party chairman appear to be at loggerheads of late. What is your take on this?
I think that Tinubu – Oyegun … I don’t want to say crisis … I think the Tinubu –Oyegun problem is one that one can look at as a little bit personal. I don’t think it has any significant political implication. They are people who know themselves better than myself. They started together and if I can remember, Tinubu played a very important role in the emergence of Oyegun in that position as the National Chairman of the party. Therefore, I am afraid if I can make so much contribution in this regard.
I still want to tell you that no matter what dimension, their frosty relationship takes, I still believe that it is one that can be addressed. This is because all of us in the party have one common point of bound – and that is to say that we are all bound by the respect we have for President Buhari… I want to say that we are a lucky political party because we have somebody who is well respected – I am telling you that in 24 hours if Buhari summons Tinubu and Oyegun to a roundtable , that crisis would be over once and for all. The possibility of getting a resolution of the dispute in Kano and Kaduna is still this same factor- which is that we are bound by the respect and honour we have for President Muhammadu Buhari. And any crisis, no matter how badly it has gone, if Buhari wades into it, that matter must die.
Very often, we hear speculations that there is the likelihood of a mass defection in the National Assembly from the APC to the PDP. Quickly too, what happens if Buhari declines to run in 2019 elections?
Taking the first question, I don’t want to respond to presumptions. What you just said might be nothing but somebody’s opinion. To the best of what I know of today’s House of Representatives under the leadership of the able Speaker, I am not aware of any speculation like that. I am not aware of any arrangement or any plan by any member to defect either individually or collectively, out of the APC. All I can tell you and you can bear me witness is that within the spate of about three to four months back, what the APC has been experiencing in the House is a case of other members coming into the party. Just last month we got a member from another party coming into the APC. Just last Wednesday, we got a member from APGA from the South-east. The APC members in the green chamber, quote me, are not planning to defect out of it, but we are waxing stronger and stronger.
But have you heard that the PDP is dishing out tickets to any member of the House of Representatives who is ready to defect to it?
You know the PDP is a sinking party- a party that is dying and would continue to die. They are bound to make all these kinds of flimsy commitments to lure members into their party. But why would you even have to.allow yourself to be lured into a party that would provide no hope for you or a party that has no hope for Nigerians? Members of the House of Representatives are very intelligent people. They have also experienced professionals in various fields of endeavour, competent in their understanding of the dynamics of Nigerian politics. No one member of the APC in the House can allow himself to jump into such a trap. A party that is sunk to the neck level, a party that is sinking in a deep sea…. After all let me tell you that the APC also is not oblivious and is also not under any illusion of the kind of support that those of us in the House are giving the party in our various fields of responsibilities. I am not speaking on behalf of the leadership of the party, but I know that they have huge respect for our members in the House because of the kind of support we give to the party and the government. As a member of NEC and member of the National Caucus of the party, I am assuring you that the APC would also have respect for members of the House of Representatives who are loyal and supportive of the party and that their coming back to the House through the issuance of tickets to run for the election would also be an easy one.
What happens if President Buhari decides not to contest?
I do not think that there is any danger . We have made up our minds, especially myself that is from Kano State where we made the declaration, the clarion call asking President Muhammadu Buhari to contest. Where we declared that President Muhammadu Buhari, Kano people would give more than the two million votes we gave him in the last election. So being bound by this commitment, I don’t even have any imagination that Buhari would not contest. As far as I am concerned Buhari must contest.
As a journalist, I look at scenarios.Scenario one is that he would contest. Scenario two is that he would not contest. Assuming President Buhari decides against contesting in the 2019 elections, what will be the fate of the APC?
I think as long as Buhari remains in the APC, as long as he remains the president of the country through this transition, don’t undermine my resolve that he has to contest. He has no option but to contest. But if for any reason he decides on something, on the contrary, I want to contend that Buhari would provide the direction and would be expected to provide the next option and whatever option he offers, all of us would be bound by that option. All I want to tell you is that Buhari is the APC in Nigeria. He is the government in Nigeria. Buhari is the leader of the APC in Nigeria and, therefore, Buhari is the direction of where we would go and he would certainly lead us to success.
Source: The Punch