Engineer Rabiu Suleiman Bichi is the Director- General, APC Campaign Organisation in Kano State. A former Secretary to the State Government, Rabiu is an astute administrator, who says little and acts more. In this interview, he insists his party, the APC, would crush Kwankwaso’s NNPP in the state with a wide margin. He describes Hajia Na ajutu Mohammed as an irritant and says that she has abused roughly everyone that matters in politics even as he argues that her accusation that Tinubu has no programme for the North is baseless.
How prepared is the APC for the presidential and gubernatorial race in Kano State?
Thank you very much. I will begin by thanking everybody, especially the people of Kano State the way they came out enmasse to welcome our presidential candidate during his visit for the zonal rally. It was marvelous. People showed their support and their love for Bola Ahmed Tinubu. So how prepared are we in APC? It is obvious that we are very prepared and I am sure that APC will win the elections, especially in Kano. Kano is APC and APC is Kano. Kano has done its own home work, especially His Excellency. What he did was to ensure that we had little or no rancour, especially during our primaries in the state and the candidates that emerged were the favorites of the APC supporters and members of the public. So, about 80 percent of the serving officers were returned unopposed and with the gubernatorial candidate, after a lot of persuasions and discussions and so many things that went during that time, we were able to come up with our gubernatorial candidate and his deputy. So everybody accepted these two gentlemen as the flag bearers of the party, and if you look at the other parties, you will agree with me that there is no better candidate than our standard bearers in the race in Kano. We are very prepared because we took time to do our homework so that we don’t have to persuade people. I think we just have to remind them about our candidates and that is all.
But we also know that you have a very serious challenge in the person of Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso who, no doubt, is a very influential politician in the state. How are you going to overcome his challenge?
Well, you should have asked me the way round; you should have asked: How would he overcome the APC challenge? We are going to overcome Kwankwaso with ease and you can see our rallies, they are fantastic!.In fact, we have changed our slogan in English to now become “ APC : Wherever you go in Nigeria? That is our new slogan in the APC. Because there is no place , there is nowhere in Kano State that you go, that you will not see developmental projects linked to our party. Our candidates have performed and these are candidates who have done a lot for their people. And if you look at it, APC has reputable candidates for all the elected positions in the state. Other parties don’t even have candidates for some of these positions. You go to some local government areas and ask questions regarding the candidates of some parties, you will discover that they have none. If you even get to see someone, you will discover that he is planted to fill in the blank spaces. But when you get to any local government, any senatorial district or federal constituency in the state, you will find out that our candidates are solid, that they are on the ground and that they are men of the people in that area and they have worked for their people and they are loved by their people and everybody knows that. Even the opposition knows that. But if you go to other local governments and ask about other candidates, even the members of the party will spend time remembering their candidates’ names. That alone shows that they are not ready. So we are prepared to confront any party.
Four years ago, Kwankwaso and his party almost defeated APC, despite your incumbency advantages. And today, Kwankwaso NNPP is confronting a fresh APC governorship candidate, one who is coming to the race for the first time. Don’t you think they would smash you?
Let me give you the answer in a reverse order. Our candidate is not contesting the gubernatorial race for the first time. He contested with Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as his deputy. So they contested 2019. It was a single ticket. Then the earlier part of your question; during that contest, where was I? I was with Kwankwaso. Where was Dangoni? Where was Yusuf Dambatta? Where were so many people? Where was Aminu Dabo and Where was Bala? We all left Kwankwaso’s group. So I believe that you cannot just write all of us off and say that we did not contribute to that success of the Kwankwaso group in 2019. So, if you asked what has happened? Maybe my first answer is that many of the people that contributed that victorious outing are no more with them today. Some of us are back to our home in the APC where we were before we left. What we did there in 2019, we are no longer there to do it again in 2023. We are now on the other side. You can now do your calculations and permutations and see that obviously, the equation has changed, obviously the permutation has changed. That feat of 2019 will not happen. I am sure the election in 2023 is going to be a clear race for the APC in the state. It is going to be a clear win.
By the same margin of depletion, four years ago APC had Shekarau, Kawu Sumaila and a number of notable politicians that had left them. Wouldn’t this count against the APC too?
It is true that these politicians have moved on to other parties. But Shekarau is not in NNPP. Shekarau moved to the PDP. And you cannot put Shekarau and Kawu on the same scale by any standard. And anyway, when Shekarau left APC, he left some of his people and allies in the APC. Where is Takai now? Takai is still with APC. So many of them. Even his (Shekarau’s) Shura Council, eighty percent of them are in APC. They didn’t follow him to the PDP. And look at PDP now. Who is their candidate?
So you are saying that tactically, Kano has only two gubernatorial candidates?
Let’s put it this way. Kano has one and half candidates for the race. All others don’t have candidates. Why am I saying so? Those who are in NNPP, are not there for the gubernatorial candidate of the party; they are just followers of Kwankwaso. And fortunately or unfortunately, Kwankwaso is not going to be a governor again in Kano. He has finished his tenure as a governor of Kano State, going by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, their candidate is not the choice of their party members. Let me give an example, go to Dala Local Government and other parts of the metropolitan area, you will see a banner by somebody Bashiru Dala. He is in the group of NNPP members, but they are supporters of our candidate, Gawuna. He is in NNPP but his group is going to vote for Gawuna. It is not something that is not known. It is something there and if you go round, you will see it. These people are in NNPP but they prefer to vote for our candidate.
Why do we have this unusual phenomenon?
Because they are now saying that they want progress in Kano, they want continuity and also that our candidate is better than their own candidate.
Is that not anti- party to be in a party and work for another?
Well, you can call it anything, but we cannot stop somebody from voting for the right person. They are looking at our candidate as the right person. They are putting Kano forward, they are putting merit on the front roll and they know that our candidate merits the post more than the other candidates and they are doing it openly, even now and not during elections. You know that anti- party politics are done during elections. But today as I am talking to you, these people came out and even visited me in my office and also when they go for our rallies, we saw their banners. They came to the office and restated their commitment to our party and we had a group picture. They are not afraid and they are not shy.
A few days ago, a popular Kano politician, Na ajatu pulled out suddenly from APC and the people want to know what are the consequences of her departure from APC? What is the impact, how would it affect politics here?
It would not affect politics in any way. Na’ajatu, as you know, has moved from being a politician to an activist. She used to be an activist anyway. But she was married to a popular politician, the Late Bala Mohammed of blessed memory. That is where she took off. She started student politics in ABU. She contested for the President of the student union. That time, I contested for the treasurer of the Students Union along with her. I worked under her cabinet and it didn’t last. Our cabinet didn’t last. We were dismissed. And so she started her politics, but when she came around, she was low in politics. But with the demise of her husband, she came on….So what I am saying is that she took over as a politician from the point of a surrogate because of the influence of her late husband and her father as well. But now, she is suffering from a fading relevance. She has been around for so many years and all the parties she has been there. She has abused all the candidates that she had supported or she is claiming to be supporting now. She abused Buhari, she abused Atiku. You know that? And she was an arch- rival of Kwankwaso. They were neighbors in their own quarters’. Do you know that? So now she has reached her peak in terms of being a political irritant somehow. To some of us, we feel her departure – you don’t want to lose anybody, we need all votes, even a vote from an irritant. But how can you accommodate this kind of person? She has been everywhere. How do you handle this kind of person? We have tried our best, APC has tried its own best. They accommodated Naajatu, they gave her all that she deserved and they even gave her more than she deserved. She had a lot of respect from all of us, but unfortunately she has abused it. She said now that she is supporting Atiku from the PDP who she had accused and abused before. She is supporting Bilari in Adamawa State though she is not from Adamawa. I don’t know her polling unit in Adamawa. And she is going to support Abba of the NNPP in Kano. And so she is coming from three political parties apart from APC. So I don’t know whether she is supporting any other person from Labour so that she would extend support to all the leading political parties apart from the APC. So if you see such a person, just pray for her, let her land softly. When you reach your peak, you will definitely begin to decline. We don’t know whether the time has come for her to decline politically; that is why she is making a lot of mistakes. The whole APC considered her with regard but unfortunately she is saying something that nobody can understand. She said she asked Tinubu what have you for the North?” That, of course, is to whip up sentiment. How can she say that Tinubu does not have anything for the North? How can somebody say that? A presidential candidate to say he does not have anything for the North? We are no longer fooled by that kind of rhetoric. And we know Tinubu very well. He is a talent hunter, a team builder. During his tenure as Governor of Lagos State, he has all sorts of commissioners from all parts of Nigeria. So how can she say that he does like people from the North?
Let’s look at some of the arguments she presented. That Tinubu bought the governors, that the primaries were induced with money and of course that Tinubu is not very fit to withstand the task of the President of Nigeria. Are these arguments part of the irritation you are talking about or they are incontestable facts?
You see they are irritations. I don’t like to hear some of these arguments. They are baseless. If you look at it, is she on the medical board to declare him unfit? She is not . Is she a medical doctor – even though I learnt that her father is a medical doctor? She is not. She was in the FAIS Department when we were in ABU. She was not in Sciences. I can’t understand how she can now declare somebody unfit. This man has been going around bouncing. Look at when he came to Kano, there was an open bus and the man was standing in that open bus for good seven hours. You saw him. Didn’t you? So if somebody is not fit, how does she want him to get fit? Does she want him to be jogging or to be at the gym or to be at the wrestling or boxing ring? This man is mentally sound, he can argue and he can perform. Secondly, the issue of inducement….. I can say that everybody has induced somebody. I can say that everybody has induced anybody. Induce governors, how? He was a governor like them. How can he induce his colleagues? If I have a governor as a friend and that governor who has been my friend for a very long time, decided to support me, how is that an inducement? So these are things that are vague. Some people, I must tell you, have this complex of knowing too much. You are everywhere, you know everything and you are even the person that determines everything. We have complexes like that. You are a professor on every topic and you are a professor on every subject. You know everything. And this sort of people have been misleading our people, they have been misleading the entire populace of Nigeria and God willing when Tinubu comes to power, these things would be things of the past.
Just before the flag off of the campaigns, we had issues of cohesion within your APC; I mean the open dispute between Ado Doguwa and Garo. Ahead of the polls, how have you handled the issue of cohesion in your party?
We have handled it very well. APC is now one big family in the state and we have placed our differences behind us. But if we are going to discuss this further, you will find that every big party in the country would not win elections. It is only in these small parties that are being formed for the sole purpose of promoting one candidate that would not have issues of cohesion. But otherwise, anywhere that there would be internal democracy, internal elections, there is bound to be this kind of flexing of muscles and ego massaging and so on. Let me ask you a question. Have you asked PDP about the Wike saga? The new parties are just out to promote the candidature of one person but whenever they take to internal democracy, I mean primaries, they are going to have crises. We have managed our own crisis better. We now move together, we go to rallies together, go to campaigns together and everybody is promoting the party and the aspirations of everybody within the party. We were in Tudun Wada Local Government, you saw what happened between Dogowa and Garo that you just referred to in your question. They spoke very well of each other and they held hands to show the people that they were together.
We are moving towards the elections and Kano is a tight state. Violence is a possibility in the politics of Kano. What do you envisage?
Yes, it used to be the case, but I believe that this year is going to be different, radically different. If you see the way APC is going about campaigns, nobody is holding any weapons, everything is going on peacefully. And the security agencies are on top to make sure that the exercise will be violent free.
Can you say this of the other parties?
I don’t know because I am not in the other parties. But the way I see it, I think that they are trying to bring disruptions. I learnt that they go about their campaigns wielding dangerous weapons, intimidating the public and so on. If you could recall some five days ago, there was the peace summit and for the second time, every candidate was asked to sign a peace pact. So I believe that anybody who signs that commitment should be held to account in the event of breach and I am sure that if we mean well for Kano, we should allow elections to hold peacefully.