Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje is a member of Board of Trustees (BoT) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). He speaks on the looming crisis in the APC, the warning letter from members of the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) and the feud between the senate and the Inspector General of Police among other issues.
In your letter to the APC, you talked about marginalisation of your group in the sharing of public offices. How?
We stand for good governance and once good governance is absent, many things are absent. When we were in PDP, we complained about lack of respect for rule of law and marginalisation of Southern part of the country. We complained against impunity of government. If you read the preamble and first paragraph of that letter, all the things we complained against at the time are repeating themselves today under the APC.
Now that former Osun governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who co-signed the letter with you, has left APC for African
Democratic Congress (ADC), are you saying the members of the nPDP are on their way out of the APC as well?
Oyinlola was the Secretary of the then defunct nPDP. His leaving the party (APC) for another political party, I think, is to send a signal to everybody that, that group has been so discontented over time. We have been probably trying to bear and persevere, that is how we got to this point.
From his (Oyinlola) own end, maybe his followers back home could no longer bear it. Those of us who are leaders in our own small way, we are being directed by our followers and it is where their interest is that we go. So, probably, the signal that of Oyinlola should send is that those of us who are still remaining here still have the interest of APC at heart and we have been trying to suppress our followers that they should still be patient. But you all know that patience has its limit of elasticity, no matter how elastic it is.
There have been reports on the parallel congresses in some state chapters of the party. As a member of Board of Trustees of APC, don’t you think this portends danger for the party?
I have counted about 21 states where we had parallel congresses. My number may not be sacrosanct. But I counted 21 states and I was asking myself, how many states does APC control? You can imagine that. I have had the opportunity of chairing the PDP and the impression people have is that you don’t have internal democracy. As bad as people thought it was then, we never had 21 where we were having parallel congresses. As a matter of fact, there are three traditional parallel congresses or election areas when we were in PDP and we were always prepared for them.
So, for the party in government that controls may be 22 to 24 states to have parallel congresses in 21 states, even in the states where we don’t control, there were parallel congresses, I think is a dangerous sign. In Enugu State, we had parallel congress there and it was even violent. It is all over the place. That takes me back to the warning I sounded in 2016. In Rivers (State), we don’t control government there; you see the violence that is going on about parallel congresses. It is left to the party to decide what to do. But if you ask me as an individual, it is a dangerous trend and I think the earlier the party gets its act together, the better for APC.
I tried also to look at who are the people forming these parallel congresses and I discovered that they have one thing or the other to do with government. If you don’t have Ministers running parallel congress, it is an official of government. Then, what does that mean? They want to crash the roof of your own house on your head.
In Kwara State for instance, which I can tell you I know most. I tried to get information about some people who went and gathered themselves to say that they were running a parallel congress or something, and I discovered that they are brothers who felt aggrieved, and they thought the only way to lay their complaints was to do what they were doing.
We are looking forward to what will happen. Like I said, it is history repeating itself. We have had this kind of thing several years ago but when the night comes, the bird shall go home to roost. When we were about leaving the congress venue, some people came up with a song which we all know. That is ‘if I am the one who is heavy or you are the one who is heavier on ground, let’s meet at the voting arena’. We crossed our legs and we are looking forward to the day of election. Because we believe that you cannot be a member of the family where you have benefited so much, where your foundation or what you say you are today was built and then you want to destroy that place, it is like the traditional biting the finger that fed you. It doesn’t pay; it is a law of karma. What goes around will come around. We are watching.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has declared his interest for 2019 and your group has resurrected again. What would be the implication for him?
Those of us in APC are desirous that he comes back, hence that letter we wrote. If you look at the content of the letter, what we are saying is that for us to win big, we must sit down so that we review and revisit all the agreement that we reached with ourselves before we formed the APC. We were only reminding the party. We want him to win and the only way to do it is to ensure that everybody is carried along and those of us who felt aggrieved; this is the right time for us to complain so that we do not carry it to election period. It is not as if we are rebelling.
But let me warn that every politician, individuals and even as a group, we have aspirations and every politician will go to where his aspiration will be fulfilled. That is the warning. If the APC is desirous of meeting the aspiration of every group that comes to APC, all well and good, if not, people will find where their aspiration will be fulfilled. This is the time to talk to each other. We can only wish the APC good luck.
Looking at your experience as former Chairman of PDP and nPDP, where do you think the APC got it wrong?
If I was a Chairman of APC, I would listen to my followers. If I am the Chairman of APC, I will carry everybody along. If I am the Chairman of APC, I will rule by the constitution of the party. If I am the Chairman of APC, I will say the fact and damn consequences, no matter whose ox is gored. If I am the Chairman of APC and I apply the rule and people are not pleased with it, I will resign. But if it is the minority that is not pleased with what I’m doing, then I’m doing something good and I would continue. I will make sure that the rule of law takes its stand.
When I was the PDP Chairman after my transition from the post of Secretary, I knew the work we have been doing as Secretary to instil internal democracy and discipline in the party, and the discipline was at the peak by the time I left the chairmanship. The record is there. And it is unfortunate that immediately my team left, the PDP has not found its feet.
It is because I was applying those virtues I just enumerated. I was listening to the people; I was taking advice from the right quarters. I was not looking at the basis to say you are the leader even the President, because the constitution gives me the mandate to manage the party. And if the President thought that he is more than the party, I will call his bluff, because the party made him President. Without that platform, he can’t get there. Maybe those are the things the leadership of APC could not do and that is why they found themselves where we find ourselves today.
Whatever you are doing, you must be honest to yourself and to the people that you are interacting with. I always tell you, the moment I’m appointed into any position today that is the day I will start preparing the day I will leave. So, I do not fear anybody whether you will remove me or not. Like I said in 2016, the courage, honesty of purpose, direction and rule of law were the things that were not properly observed. It is my personal observation.
Senate and Inspector General of Police have been in the news in recent times over snubbing of summons and the latest is on the suspected cultists who were transferred to Abuja from Ilorin. As a stakeholder in this business, what is your reaction to this development?
It is part of what we have been discussing here. It is lack of respect for due process, rule of law, absolute disdain for peace and order and flagrant disobedience to highest authority in Nigeria. What do I mean by that? If people can disobey the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, what other authority is there to obey? I don’t know.
To me, invitation to IG by the senate is in order and I’m happy that senior members of bar are not keeping quiet at all. They said the invitation to IG is in accordance with the law. So, why would someone who is supposed to ensure that the laws of the land are obeyed is now the number one person disobeying the law and the executive feels okay with that.
Something that got some of us worried sometimes ago even before now was the audacity of the IG to disobey the person that appointed him. During the president’s visit to Benue to empathise with the people, the president openly told all of us that the IG flagrantly disobeyed him. As if that was a thing of pride even for the president and we all laughed, but it is a serious thing.
To me, that is arrant disobedience to the rule of law. With his latest action towards the senate, it is not Bukola (Saraki) that is being rubbished; it is system that is being denigrated. Once the system is weakened, it is the highest point of corruption. When you run a government without respect for rule of law, it is highest point of corruption. And I appeal to the government to correct itself with immediate alacrity, failure to do needful would mean that anarchy has already entered our corridor and it is knocking at our door. May God forbid it!