Dauda Birma, a former Education minister and presidential aspirant on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), in this interview with ZEBULON AGOMUO, Editor, spoke on the political developments in Adamawa State, in relation to the return bid of Governor Mohammed Bindow. He explained that Aisha Buhari’s brother, Mahmud Halilu Ahmed, has not invested anything in the state party to be compensated with the position of governor just because he is the President’s brother-in-law. Birma, who also acknowledged that Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has impacted the state through his huge investments, however, explained why he has pitched tent with Buhari. Excerpts:
May we know the political situation in your state, Adamawa? Governor Mohammed Bindow has picked the APC governorship ticket. How about that?
Yes, Bindow has picked the ticket. You know, there are people who are totally disconnected from the political process but want to reap from where they did not sow. Must it be the younger brother of the First Lady, Aisha, or Nuhu Ribadu who believes that his name alone is enough to get people to vote for him without him working for it? People on ground in Adamawa prefer to have Bindow back because he has done tremendously well with the resources available to him. No governor who preceded him has done what he has done in Adamawa in terms of infrastructure.
It is true that civil servants are complaining in terms of certain things, but what is the percentage of the civil servants compared to the entire population of people in the state? It is the people whose lives have been touched in so many ways, who now make a living from various empowerment programmes provided by the administration in the state. The roads are good and everybody is happy with Bindow and they are ready to support and vote for him for a second term. You know the matter has somehow been complicated with Atiku Abubakar now becoming the Presidential candidate of the PDP and he will struggle tooth and nail to ensure that he has PDP governor in Adamawa State and we will make sure that does not happen.
Reason is simple. Bindow is on ground and doing well and we want him to continue.
But it would have been expected that you and others would rally round and support your own. What is happening?
See, when you say our own; we have an attitude in the north; we don’t differentiate somebody from Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kano, etc; if he is a northerner, he is a northerner. Therefore, we regard Buhari as our own. And you know that I have a long-standing relationship with Buhari; whether he respects that relationship or not is a different matter. I don’t change my attitude because your attitude is changed. I remain constant such that anytime you realise and come back, you still find me where you left me. So, I cannot be Buhari’s friend yesterday and then when it comes tomorrow I begin to say another thing; no; I don’t do such things. So, that is that.
How would APC compensate Aisha’s brother who lost the governorship ticket?
The question to ask is, has he worked with or for APC in Adamawa? The only qualification he has is that he is the First Lady’s younger brother; that is the only qualification he has. Does he need to be compensated? You know the ground for compensation is determined by the amount of work you have done for the party; and still work for the party. In this case, there is no ground for compensation.
You are a friend of the President and the level of respect you and others in the state, including the governor of Adamawa, have for the President; he enjoys your support also; why wouldn’t you allow his brother-in-law to get the ticket as a mark of respect for and loyalty to the President?
Let me tell you frankly right away; if I were sitting with the President now, I would tell him to his face that I would not support his brother-in-law just because he is his brother-in-law. Never! I am supporting Buhari because he earned it. I have committed myself long, long ago; I have never committed myself to his family; to his wife; his brother-in-law or to anybody. My commitment is to him which I have made public. So, if I see him now, on this issue, I would tell him ‘my commitment is to you and not to your family.
How do you see the Presidential election playing out with the emergence of Atiku as PDP candidate?
Buhari is coming back as President if he is alive and healthy. If he is not healthy, that’s a different matter; if he is not alive that’s a different matter. But if he is alive and healthy, he would be President of Nigeria in June 2019.
Do you think that a sitting governor or President should invest much in campaign to be re-elected if he has performed very well in his first term. Wouldn’t his performance speak for him?
You know that Nigeria is a large, wide and diverse country. We have diversity based on geo-political zone; we have diversity of culture and we have diversity based on religion and all that. What you think of somebody may not be what somebody else thinks about that person. Where I come from, North East, which is ravaged by insurgency which before this time made the place very insecure; which made us incapable of visiting our home; and made life generally, very difficult for the people, has now become peaceful. I can visit my home in Yola around 12 midnight and still drive to my village which is two-hour drive – without any fear of insurgency or anything like that. Therefore, my perception of Buhari’s performance may not be the same perception of somebody in Benue, Delta or somebody in any other place. Therefore, we learn to always concede other people the right to either agree or disagree (with you).
You were close to the late General Sani Abacha. One would have thought that you would support his former Chief Security Officer, Al-Mustapha, who is vying for Presidency?
Al-Mustapha was the chief security officer to Abacha; I had a relationship with Abacha who was two years behind me in secondary school in Kano. Maybe, at that time, Al-Mustapha was in primary school, I never knew him. I only got to know Al-Mustapha when he was CSO to Abacha; so you do not expect me to pass the same attitude I had with Abacha to Al-Mustapha. Secondly, if Abacha’s son wants to be anybody in Kano; I don’t come from Kano; I am not into Kano politics; therefore it is uncalled for, for me to start calling for support for Abacha’s son in Kano; it is completely the business of people in Kano. Abacha was like a younger brother to me; he was two years behind me in secondary school; we had loyalty to each other and he has died (may God have mercy on his soul); this type of sentiment is not transferable. Therefore, you can’t say because I was in good terms with Abacha and you take it for granted that I will transfer that same sympathy; I don’t agree with you.
Can we say you have retired from active politics?
I have not retired at all; I am still in APC telling people what to do.
So, does it mean you have no aspiration for now?
My aspiration is to make sure that as long as I am healthy I will have an opinion and I will pass on the opinion to people who need to know, and when people come to me I will guide them. That is all.
How would you convince the Adamawa people that they should vote for the APC when one of their own is a presidential candidate of a big party? And how would that affect Bindow’s return bid?
A presidential candidate is a presidential candidate, let him go to Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, etc to canvass vote, but let him allow us to decide in Adamawa what is good for us. As a presidential candidate he is not going to run Adamawa for us; it is Bindow who has presided over Adamawa close to four years now, whose track record we have seen and he has impressed us. So, we want to reward him by returning him to power to continue his good job. The reward for somebody who has done well for you is for you to do well for him as well.
But people say that Atiku Abubakar’s investments in the state have helped the state a lot. You mean the people will forget all that? Does that not show that the state would experience a quantum transformation should he become president in 2019?
Atiku Abubakar is a fantastic investor; he has done well. Nobody can take that away from him. But that is different from governance. What we have now is Bindow who has run the state for four years; we are happy with him and he has impressed the people. Atiku Abubakar will continue to be Atiku Abubakar; he will continue to invest and doing what he has been doing in other areas and that is that.
From some of the elections conducted so far by the INEC, some people believe that the commission needed to up its game so as to conduct credible election in 2019. What is your take?
You see, people praise INEC only when INEC has produced the type of result they want; but when they deceive themselves; believing that they are on the right side, and discover later that they are on the wrong side. I have not seen anything INEC has done which INEC should be ashamed of and therefore, I believe that INEC has done very well and we should commend them.
Assuming you are now offered a ministerial appointment, would you turn it down?
I am 78 years old now. There are things that I think are for me and there are things that are not for me. If I am asked to be the President of the federation, I would be the president of the federation – whether I am 78 or 88. This is because I know I will work with some people; but as a minister, I think 78 is a problem.