Your party, the PDP, is relishing the moment in Kano, where the governor is in a conflict with his predecessor, who is also a member of his party. Do you see the crisis giving your party an edge in 2019?
Internal crisis is very dangerous. If you want to achieve something, you must first put your house in order. You must be united. This is a golden opportunity for the PDP to pick up the governorship of Kano State.
Whenever you have this kind of serious crisis, you realise that there’s a party with all the necessary apparatus to take over power. It is not like a brand new political party; rather, it is an old party with capable hands. We have Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, Malam Aminu Wali and others. We can turn this opportunity into victory.
You also have issues in the PDP. How can you convince people that you are presenting a new party?
Whenever you want to see something as “new”, you must first of all put it on a scale. The scale I am talking about is the performance of the government. For instance, there were so many expectations from the new political party that took over (APC). We haven’t seen any change. People are complaining that they are not able to afford one-square meal a day, let alone three. People have been jumping across fences stealing cooked food. This thing has become very serious, and that is a good reason to change government.
In Kano, some of your senior members are moving to other parties. How would you reconcile this?
Towards the year of an election, there will always be alignment and realignment. There are lots of people we expect to come into the PDP.
What do you think would give you advantage over the APC in the forthcoming presidential election?
There is what we call political wind. For instance, Nigerians got tired of former President Goodluck Jonathan and that gave way for the APC. The APC came with something new. The PDP had been in government for about 16 years. Definitely, people expected change from what had been the status quo. There are a lot of people saying that the PDP government was even better than this current one. How much were we buying petrol per litre? How much were we exchanging naira to the dollars? I am a grassroots politician and I have interacted with them. They are all complaining seriously of hunger. Everybody is angered by the performance of the APC and they are asking for a change.
Some people may see this as mere rhetoric. What do you think the PDP would offer to convince people in Kano?
The PDP would have to be committed to stopping hunger in the land. All we get are excuses. We have started producing rice in Nigeria, but the price remains the same with the imported rice. They gave some excuses that people from Niger were coming to buy the rice. The question is: Whose responsibility is it to guard our borders? Whose responsibility is it to make sure that citizens do not suffer? It is the responsibility of the government. People can’t even move around freely because petrol is expensive.
You are painting a very rosy picture of the PDP in Kano. Can the same thing be applied at the national level despite your 16-year rule, which a lot of Nigerians say was responsible for the economic downturn?
The problems I am enumerating in Kano are all over the federation. When there is no food security, there is always a huge problem. If you notice, there is crisis everywhere; there is serious kidnapping all over the place, basic problem of herdsmen conflict, and problems in Zamfara. These things have been there for so many years. What I am saying is that the basic thing required is not even available. If the PDP is able to produce the right candidate, things would definitely be better.
We are also dealing with the issue of “Third Force”, which is gathering momentum. Would you support a presidential candidate from another party, apart from the PDP or APC?
The Third Force is serving as a check; it is not a political party. At the same time, it is saying that the government should go. Basically, whatever the Third Force is going to do will be to the advantage of the PDP.
The Third Force aims at providing an alternative to the APC and PDP, arguing that both parties have failed Nigerians. Are you still comfortable with their arrangement?
You just don’t come up in a day and form a political party, no matter how strong you are. You need to put in a lot of work. Before the APC came to be, they put a lot of work into it. The leader of the Third Force (Obasanjo) said he would no longer be part of it the moment it becomes a political party. So he is not even comfortable with the arrangement. I see that as a pressure group, rather than a political party.
You wish to actualise your governorship ambition on the platform of the PDP. But, apart from other factors we identified, there are very powerful contenders for that position; how do you hope to work your way through?
Politics is never a walk in the park. I have been a party chairman and a senator of the Federal Republic, so I know this very well. What we are trying to do in Kano is to ensure that every aspirant would go to the villages, local governments and the wards to consult people, so that at the end of the day, the people can now decide who becomes the governorship candidate. If anybody tries to interfere with the process, then they are creating a problem for the PDP. If you allow people to choose what they want, you have already solved your problem by about 50 per cent. If you force a candidate on the people, you are creating a serious problem for the party. A major problem in Nigeria is that we don’t practice internal democracy.
Do you have confidence that the process will give you the party’s ticket?
Absolutely, I am a man of the people. I am a grassroots person, so I know this. I am always going to the grassroots, asking if they agree with my ideas. Because of what I have done in the past, I was able to work with them as a party chairman, and even as a senator because I was dealing with 483 wards and 44 local government areas in Kano. I have been consulting people within those local governments.
Assuming you get the ticket, you are likely to confront a sitting governor. Do you think you can beat him?
Absolutely, I will do that without the slightest doubt. I know the kind of support I have; I know my people. Everyone has his own style and I have mine. The people know that I am very concerned and sensitive to their plight. They call me ‘Shugaban Talakawa’ (leader of the masses). They keep complaining about hunger and not being able to move around freely because of the scarcity of fuel and even insecurity. They need someone who will provide security for them, take care of them and be a part of them. They don’t need a governor, they need a leader.
When you list the problems of fuel scarcity and hunger, they are general problems that most Nigerians are complaining about. What are the key weaknesses of the current governor of Kano State?
One of the problems is that there is internal wrangling. They have turned the state into a theatre of war. If they had put their house in order, that would be a different ball game entirely. Ganduje is performing well, but I can do better.