From Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja

Deputy Chief Whip of the 9th Senate, Sabi Abdullahi, chairs Project 774, a support group for Tinubu/Shettima in the 2023 presidential election, speaks about Tinubu’s chances in the February 25 presidential election, threats from Atiku and Obi and APC saboteurs in Aso Rock, the power tussle in Niger State chapter of the party, among others.

Nigerians have reservations about your party’s candidate capacity and agility for the job. Does your candidate have the capacity, agility for office because there are concerns about his age as well?

As far as I am concerned, if you look at the reality on ground, we’ve gone more than 30 days on active campaigns and, if you check the APC campaign calendar, Tinubu has been following this rigorous campaign schedules. As we speak today (Friday), he was in Osun yesterday and, he’s in Ekiti State today. Now, I ask; somebody who is ‘unhealthy,’ can he cope with the stress and strain of this rigorous campaign? If you are to use what people do as a yardstick, Tinubu is healthy! Or, let’s ask ourselves: Is there any human being, after a certain age, who doesn’t have a health challenge? And, can that health challenge stop him from being who he is and performing his duty? Look, it is when somebody has a debilitating sickness, is bedridden, that you talk of being incapable. At any rate, even a man who is bedridden and has a family and in charge of certain things, is capable of giving instructions from that same bed! There is delegated authority. If those people you have given directives to are not doing the job or doing a good job, that’s when you are now assessed as a failure because supervisory role is the function of capacity. One thing we must acknowledge with Tinubu is that he has this knack, a special gift  for attracting talents and deploying them to achieve a purpose for the good of the people. He demonstrated this during his time as Lagos State governor. In governance, they talk about delegated powers. In management, the art of delegation is the key to success. If you’re able to identify the right person to do the job, for you, at all, times, then you have successes and this man has done creditably well. If he hadn’t done that in Lagos, we wouldn’t be talking about his success in Lagos. So, for me, it’s out of mischief that people are saying that he has no agility. Is he not moving? Is he on wheelchair? He’s been moving from one place to the other. Nobody has been speaking for him; he’s been speaking for himself and, of course, when you listen to him, you would know he’s articulate. He’s been able to assess, process and separate issues and bring them together and he’s been able to make an informed opinion when he makes his pronouncements. Even in terms of Tinubu’s brain, his brain is active. I don’t see any concern there.

What about the threat from the PDP, particularly Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party?

It will bring out the best in us. It’s not a challenge. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t like saying bad things about people. I like to talk about issues. The facts are clear. I was a former civil servant. I was in the Agricultural sector. I know what they planned to do and what they didn’t do. All manner of programmes came up. All manner of funds were released, but there’s nothing to show for it. To my mind, as far as I’m concerned, Nigerians know better. There’s no perfect system anywhere, but in comparison, we are far better and we want to do even far batter and consolidate when we bring in Tinubu presidency and I know it will come to be.

Earlier in the week, Kaduna State Governor alleged there are saboteurs of Tinubu’s ambition in Aso Rock. What’s your take on that?

By his position, he knows more than I do and so, if he has the facts that made him to make that statement, then, he is right! I can’t say what he said is wrong or what he’s said is not wrong, but one thing I know for sure is that in politics, it’s not impossible for some people to be unhappy if you want to do one or two things. It’s not impossible for some people to be angry, but one thing I would say is that I would depend on what’s on the surface. 

Would you want to appeal to the alleged saboteurs to have a rethink?

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That’s why I said I would depend on what’s on the surface. What is important is that this is our ship. We built it and it would be a disservice if we destroy it and it would be, also, in our collective interest to consolidate on what we have collectively achieved in the last eight years. That should be a genuine call and all members of the party should realise that the APC is our party. At a point, every politician who goes into a contest and loses is aggrieved, but I don’t think your losing a contest should make you aggrieved to the extent that you want to destroy the same party that you are a beneficiary of. 

Why did you refuse to obtain Police permit for the Tinubu rally in your New Bussa, your senatorial district last week?

We should start with what is the general principle of the rally. Let’s prioritise that. I wouldn’t want a situation where I would cast aspersions on the character of some people. I don’t need to bring anybody’s reputation down to uplift mine. It’s uncharitable for anybody to think I would do anything outside the norms and processes that should be. I’ve contested and campaigned twice in Niger North senatorial district. Even if I’m a novice, I think I must have learned one or two things. But, the question you may ask is, during this period, by the Electoral Act (2022), what is this period for? It’s the campaign period. It’s declared by law. No political party needs anybody to give you permission to go for campaigns. The Inspector General of Police said so. All you need to do is to write the police (in your locality) that you are having a programme that day, for them to come and protect lives and property. I believe I processed the procedures because I know that’s what brings certainty, that’s what removes confusion. All the people that I ought to write, I did so, intimated  them of the date and venue of the rally. I wrote them and they gave me the go-ahead. I have eight local governments; 87 wards….We agreed preparing for the programme, wrote to the Area Command, the DPO in Borgu, just as we’ve always done in the past. I wrote to the state party chairman, the zonal chairman and the eight local government APC chairmen. What else was I expected to do? I’m not on the ballot, but on the basis of the fact that feedback from my party executives, followers indicated that based on the last Niger North senatorial primaries, people were still  aggrieved, and I’m the main character and needed to talk to people and pacify them, otherwise, there would be problem. This has been ongoing for quite a while and I said, ‘okay, I’ll look for an appropriate time.’ Based on consultations, I did and agreed to do the programme on January 31, 2023. We did all we could to mobilise people and we got to the venue but we were told that we couldn’t hold the rally. So, I asked the Police Area Commander, ‘who?’ They blocked the stadium and I said, ‘good. I’m a bonafide son of Borgu. I live in this locality; in my father’s compound.’ We held the rally in the front of my father’s house and, thereafter, we had a roadshow, locked down the entire town.

Did the Area Commander tell you who stopped the rally?

You know they won’t just tell you like that who gave the order.

He must have told you, a serving senator, who gave the order. He must have given you a response?

Well, the response he gave was that he was given instructions from their headquarters in Minna, the state capital. As far as I’m concerned, honestly, I wasn’t even angry. I was calm that night and reported to my own principals here that this was what I was passing through, but I had an idea (who gave the order). 

What is the real objective of Project 774? Is there any deficiency in the APC campaign structure to warrant the formation of Project 774?

Well, in politics, there should be so many routes and not everyone can face the same direction. All political parties have support groups. Project 774 Tinubu/Shettima Support Group came up because politics is local…so, the whole idea of Project 774 is to promote grassroots politics for development within the framework of our local governments and that is why it was termed Project 774 because we have 774 local governments in Nigeria. So, our structure is this: while we have the national executives and we have state task teams, what is important is that we have more people at the lower level; that is, the local governments, wards and polling units. At the end of the day, on Election Day, we must have people who would go out and get the votes. That’s our own contribution to bring success to our party…I’m a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and as I said earlier, it’s a support group. The party has so many structures, and every support group comes from a different angle, to harness their strengths and our own is to look at it from the perspective of the grassroots, where the votes are, the polling units. Our candidate is the candidate to beat and as far as we are concerned, we anchor all of these on the facts that the various states in which we are in charge and, even states where we are not in charge, things that are happening there, they are pointers that, truly, our pan can take. This is our contribution; go out there, mobilise people, sell our candidate and our talking point is simple: what has he done before and what can he do? What are his antecedents and what has he done before now? Looking back, the character of the candidate should serve as a pointer, speaks volume that new things, innovative things would happen in their presidency.