From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Ibrahim Shehu Shema, the former Governor of Katsina State, has solicited the support of Nigerians irrespective of the differences to fix the socioeconomic and security challenges of the country.

He said the country is faced with existential threats particularly in northern Nigeria, hence urgent actions are required by all stakeholders to fix the challenge.

In an interview with BBC Hausa Service, he also explained why he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Your successor, Aminu Bello Masari, not long ago ended his tenure as governor of Katsina State. What’s your assessment of the tenure?

Well, I have to thank God for giving me and my team the opportunity to serve the people of Katsina State for eight years. I also appreciate Him for giving me the good health and knowledge to return to my law profession which I have been practising long before the opportunity to serve my people beckoned. I served as Commissioner for Justice and later became the governor. However, in 2015, Aminu Bello Masari, succeeded me as governor. That’s I can say for now.

Political leaders often complain that people desert them after office. Did you experience that?

My experience was quite different. I am not in short supply of the love and support of my people. Each time I enter Katsina, people from different areas come to show love and solidarity. It’s only God that can make it like that. People still appreciate and make reference to the good things I did during my tenure as governor. They say it in my front and behind me. Also, if you listen to people’s conversations, you will realize that they are still grateful to God for the good things I did as governor of Katsina State. However, everybody must not be happy with me, but my joy is that quite a good population of the people are happy with me.

As former governor, are you still surrounded by political loyalists long after you left office?

I don’t know about that one, but all I know and can tell you is that lots of people still come to pay homage to me each time I arrive Katsina or elsewhere, Abuja or Kaduna.

You spent eight years as governor. Your successor also did. How will you rate your successor’s ability to develop the state?

I cannot assess him or review his time in office, because I was not involved in the activities of government during that period, and I had no idea, neither was I involved in the administration.

But you are a stakeholder in Katsina State and should be interested in what is happening in the state?

Well, you are right, but the way I see things might be different from the way the people of the state see them. I think the answer to this question will be better provided by the people and residents of the state.

Can you speak on what you see?

I didn’t see much. All I know is that my successor, Masari, has spent eight years as the governor of the state. God has helped him to finish his tenure successfully, and he has handed over the power to someone else.

But are you impressed with his developmental steps?

I am not the best person to answer that question. Katsina people should be in a better position to answer that question. They would know if he did well, and if they are okay with what he did in the state within his time in office. For me, I am not always in Katsina. I stay more in Kaduna or Abuja. That’s the reason I can’t speak much on that because I might have limited knowledge of what’s happening in the state.

Suddenly, you announced your exit from the PDP. What happened?

I left PDP since March 23rd, 2023, and I made it public then that I am done with the PDP. What happened was that PDP announced that they have suspended me alongside Anyim Pius Anyim and Ayo Fayose. But in my case, they announced that my Executive Committee from the Ward to Local Government levels have been suspended. I wrote a letter to the party telling them that due process was not followed in the suspension. I told them I was not treated fairly, that’s it’s impressed to remember that I was a critical stakeholder in the party, hence they should consider that before any unfair actions against me. It’s important to note that I have served the party in different leadership positions including Vice Chairman for 19 Northern States; Disciplinary Committee Chairman; and several other critical positions. But someone just woke up one day and suspended me and I wasn’t told the reason for that action.

What did you do afterwards?

I wrote to the party leadership, giving them 48 hours to change their decision. I demanded that the suspension of my ward and local government officials should be lifted immediately. I also demanded explanation for what happened, and told them that if my demands are not met, I will leave the party. But after 72 hours, I was informed that the suspension has been lifted, but expected actions were not taken as regards my ward and local government party officials.

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Don’t you think it was better to rebuild the party instead of leaving?

I have contributed greatly to the building of the party for several years. I have listed the leadership positions that I have served in the party including chairman, Peoples Democratic Institute, South-South reconciliation committee among several others. I was a member of NEC, Caucus of the party. Having served in these positions, I should be given some regards and privileges. But on the contrary, the party suspended me without any concrete reason. So I left after there was breakdown in trust and communication. I have chosen to associate and join the APC. Besides, the constitution gives fundamental right to everyone to join any political association/party of his or her choice. For that reason, I joined the APC.

Many people said your decision was because PDP lost power at federal level, and you won’t like to be in the opposition.

That’s not correct. I have been in the opposition for nine years now. I never considered leaving the party despite all the maltreatments that had come my way from the party.

Many of your supporters left PDP before you. Why?

They have the constitutional right to do that. I have no power to stop anyone from joining any political association or party that he or she chooses. They have their reasons for doing that. Maybe APC promised them something that I do not know. In the 2023 elections, PDP did not give me chance, neither did they work with me. So, I don’t know the arrangements/agreements that the supporters you claimed might have had with APC. For me, I wasn’t promised anything, and besides, that was not the reason for joining the party.

But what inspired you to join APC?

It’s simple. Everybody in Nigeria knows that the state of this country is not good at all. Nigeria is in a dire state, and it requires that everybody join forces to salvage the country from imminent collapse. We can’t fold our hands and watch things deteriorate in this country because of party differences. It’s time that every patriotic Nigeria join hands with the government to fix the country. APC is in power now. But you must know that elections are gone and litigations have also finished. Governance is in process now, so it’s expected that everyone irrespective of party should support the government.

Must you be in government to render your support? Can’t you do that in the opposition?

Oppositions operate with principles and interests. If the opposition plays its roles with the people in mind, success would be achieved. But if it’s for personal or selfish gains as being seen in some areas, then the objective would be defeated.

Why don’t you play this opposition the way you suggested it?

I have been playing this opposition for nine years in PDP, meanwhile, APC has been in power for eight years, and I wasn’t a member until March last year. I didn’t also associate with my successor who had good plans and intentions for the people of Katsina State.

You said that Nigeria is facing serious socioeconomic challenges. What exactly do you mean by that?

The challenges are there for all people to see. We have a big challenge in our economy, security and rising poverty. But the challenge of security in the North is a big one and an existential threat. These challenges require cooperation of the people irrespective of differences. No President or Governor can fix the security and other economy challenges facing the country without the collective support of Nigerians. Nobody has the magic hand to fix these things. It requires the support of all persons. Though, these challenges did not start today but it can be fixed on a short and long term basis. The economy has been messed up, and we all can feel the impact of the instability in the exchange rate.

But all these happened under APC government

Yes, and that’s why I told you earlier that we must join hands together to make these things better. I joined APC for an opportunity to contribute my quota to the growth and development of Nigeria. Most important thing to me is the people. I am constantly looking for a way to make life better for the people of the state.

What exactly do you want to achieve in APC?

Opportunity to serve the people, provide security, development and peaceful co-existence.

Do you feel comfortable with these people that you had contended with during your time as governor?

That’s politics for you. Remember that in politics, there’s no permanent enemy or friend. What we have is permanent interest. For now, the interest of the people is my priority.

As a former governor, what’s your advice to the current governors?

First, they should listen to the needs to the people. During my time as governor, we established what was called Community Development Committee. Membership was across party lines. We asked them to visit communities, and know what they want from government. All stakeholders were involved in the committee including traditional and religious leaders. Their recommendations were included in the budget of the state. That strategy went a long way to solve some challenges and meet the needs of the communities.


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