By NBF News

Gambo Magaji is the Chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples Party, [ANPP] Board of Trustees, [BoT]. A member of the party from its inception in 1998, he picks hole in the arrangement in the ANPP that has conceded the national chairman of the party to the south in the last seven years, as he told Daily Sun that that ANPP has nothing to show for its investment in the south.

An aspirant for the party national chairmanship seat, Magaji is of the opinion that it is a big contradiction for ANPP that has its followers in the North to continue to concede its leadership to the southern part of the country.

Why are you in the race to lead ANPP? Well, this question keeps recurring. I could recall, one of your colleagues even said, you are chairman of BoT, why are you contesting chairmanship of ANPP?

My reasons are simple. One, as chairman of BoT, I don't have executive powers. Our position as BoT is purely advisory and you can offer an advise but it isn't compulsory that the advise is heeded to and this is exactly what is happening in ANPP today.

I could recall as chairman of BoT, calling meeting twice, and the chairman and secretary of the party refused to attend the meeting. But because there is no provision for sanction in our constitution and also the fact that the board hasn't got executive powers, we couldn't sanction them.

But this is pure indiscipline, pure utter disregard to the highest body of the party, that's the board of trustees, the owners of the party. But because we don't have executive powers and there isn't provision for sanction, we couldn't do anything.

All Nigerian Peoples Party,[ANPP] which was All Peoples Party, [APP] actually you could recall when we started in 1988, immediately after the elections in 1999, we won fifteen states, Peoples Democratic Party, [PDP] won fifteen states, Alliance for Democracy, [AD] won six states. But because the authority at that time wanted at all cost to make sure that Obasanjo become the president, they decided to confiscate six of our states and added those six states to PDP, to make PDP twenty one states, so that PDP could have advantage over APP.

And the worst came when we wanted to hold our convention, to produce our presidential flag bearer. The authority at that time, made it extremely difficult in fact, made it impossible for Olusola Saraki, who was our star at that time to get the nomination form from the party. As a result, he was frustrated, he was humiliated.

We went to Kaduna , we held a convention, we picked Ogbonaya Onu as our flag bearer, only for the party hierarchy to disappear and they emerged in Abuja the following day with a contraption of Olu Falae as our presidential candidate of AD, with six states, with Umaru Shinkafi of APP with nine states as its vice presidential candidate.

So, this contraption actually cleared coast for Obasanjo, because the party followers were so disgusted and disappointed they completely rejected that idea.

In fact, it was a calculated plan by the government of the day anything that could be done to frustrate APP and its flag bearer, whom the party was committed to didn't emerge. So with combination of Olu Falae and Umaru Shinkafi, our people rejected that combination and protested.

In fact, I could recall, that Saraki directed his people in Kwara to vote for PDP instead of APP. Honestly, what was done was purely vindictive, was purely calculated to frustrate a political party which believes in supremacy of democracy, that was APP and at the same time, the seed of killing opposition was sown that very time and it still continue till date.

If you look at ANPP, when we started we had nine governors under APP. When Obasanjo came, all of us know that Obasanjo hates multi- party democracy.. He didn't mince words. If you read his book, Not My Will, he clearly stated it that he is for one party state. So, when he became president, he unleashed havoc on the opposition and over ran the opposition, thereby by 2003, we end up with seven governors; by 2006, two of them left, we had five and after the elections, we got five but now we had three, because the other two had defected to PDP.

So, I am contesting in order to re-engineer, reposition and refashion the party to bring it back on course as a vibrant and committed opposition party and at the same time work towards clinching the leadership of this country, which is possible under the current situation we are in this country.

I have been in this party since its inception, I know what is there and I know what is happening and I know what we want to do and I know what we have and definitely, it isn't difficult to get it done and I have the capacity. I know our problems, I know how to get it back, because the most important thing, this party from 2003 to date, unfortunately didn't have credible and committed leadership and what a political party like ANPP requires today is to have credible, committed, honest accountable leadership which believes in ethics and morals and I have these in me. .I believe once I become the chairman of this party, we would reposition it and face 2011.

But there are those who are saying your aspiration could upturn what has been the practice in the party; that in the past seven years or so we have had the national chairman of the party coming from the south; why are you a northerner throwing your hat into the ring? You want to ruffle the system ?

No, the issue is simple. For two consecutive terms, the leadership of this party was conceded to the south on the understanding that we want to ensure justice, fairness and equity in the political dispensation within ANPP. There is nowhere, even in our constitution where it is said that the chairman must come from the south and the presidential candidate must come from the North.

What we did was actually purely administrative in order to ensure that equity, fairness and justice is done to all the political strata within the constituencies that is Nigeria .

Our constitution is very clear. All it says is that we should ensure federal character. If you look into our constitution, even the disposition of the various political offices, the issue of zoning was very much taken care of, because for instance, if you find the chairman, you have two deputy chairmen, north/ south, you have six vice national chairmen, to take care of each zone and most of the positions you have assistant, six per every position, making sure that each zone is really represented.

So, if you are talking of zoning or whatever it is that has always been taken care of. What we were doing at that time.. actually how the whole thing started was that in 2003, we held our convention to elect our presidential candidate before the election of our national chairman. That was how Buhari emerged as our flag bearer so in order to ensure balancing, we said okay, let us give it to the south and that was how Don Etiebet emerged.

In 2006 September, we didn't change the configuration, we held our convention and it happened that Ume Ezeoke emerged and later on Buhari emerged as our presidential flagbearer .

But our worry today is that for seven years, the leadership of this party has been ceded to the south, but unfortunately, as we are talking today we don't have even a councilor in the whole of southern Nigeria ! So, if you invest, you expect to reap a dividend, but in our own case in ANPP, for the past seven years, our investment hasn't yielded a dividend. All that we have been getting is a loss.

So, you as an investor, if for good seven years, you have been investing and getting a loss, what do you do. Taiwo, I am asking you, are you going to continue to invest in that sector or not ?

If the business has a long gestation period, I would persist?

Well, it is only in mining, not in other areas. So, the issue is ANPP has been ceding the chairman to the south for the past seven years in the hope that those who are leading the party, who happen to come from the south are going to expand the frontiers of the party in their locality.

But unfortunately, the opposite is the case. Today, we don't have even a councilor and you can go to most of the states in the south they don't have even a secretariat of the party in their respective state headquarters. Not that the party hasn't been funding those areas, but the fact that people are docile, people have lost hope and confidence in the leadership of the party.

Because it is simple. I am a Fulani man, I have cattle and there is no way I can give somebody who doesn't know how to herd cattle to herd them for me and this is exactly what is happening to ANPP. The followers of ANPP is in the north, the leadership in the south, but they have proved beyond reasonable doubt that even if they are committed, the commitment is peripheral. It isn't that resources haven't been made available unfortunately it hasn't been properly utilized.

Look at it, the most shameful thing I can tell you, there was an election in Anambra State , that is the state of the current national chairman. We fielded a candidate, at the end of the day, the candidate polled 1,462 votes only! If I were the chairman, I would have resigned, because it has shown in most unmistakable terms that Anambra people have passed vote- of- no- confidence on me, because there is no way as chairman of a party I can field a candidate and get that figure.

So, the issue is, this shows to you that the leadership isn't committed to the cause, aspirations and survival of this party. It has been exhibited in many terms. Even when Don Etiebet left and he went back to PDP, because Don Etiebet, Ume Ezeoke, all came to our party through our merger with…

Why do you always allow external forces to give you national chairman?

No, not external forces. I told you that what happened in 2003, was that Buhari was elected, or rather given the ticket, so we thought we should give it to the south and most especially since we have merged with the other party, we thought we should give it to someone from the other party, whom we thought was credible that's why we gave it to Don Etiebet and made Admiral Aikhomu our chairman of BoT , but today the two of them had left us, they are back to PDP. I wouldn't be surprised, if after our convention, Ume Ezeoke too, retraced his steps back to PDP.

So, the issue from there you can see there wasn't total commitment to this party; they are only committed to the extent of their own personal interest and this is what we want to avoid again. I have been in this party, as I told you from its inception to date and I am not on the party pay role since I joined and I have never benefited anything from the party in terms of patronage, or as chairman of BoT.

When people were submitting names for Government of National Unity and were nominating their sons, where were you?

No, I rejected the issue of Government of National Unity, because I was out of the country. When I came back, I met the contraption and in fact, I challenged the chairman, because the late president didn't write to us to say that he was asking us for government of national unity. What Yar` Adua wanted was for us to assist him putting up a government, so that we could work together. But because Ume Ezeoke was so much immersed and interested in pecuniary gains, when he got the late president letter, he responded by saying that, `yes, the party is interested in working with him in the government of national unity“. It was coined by Ume Ezeoke himself!

I rejected it, because if you partake in government as an opposition, then you are finished; you can not criticize that government. You can not have the moral right to criticize a system, in which you are part and parcel. That did a great damage to the reputation of ANPP.

But we learnt the ANPP governors swayed Ume Ezeoke to agree to the idea of GNU?

Well, that's what you learnt, but the governors, yes, but if they did, as chairman of BoT, I opposed it from day one. What transpired between him and the governors, I don't know about it.

But what are you bringing on board as national chairman, if elected?

If I am elected, as national chairman, first and foremost, I would go back to pre- Kaduna convention, so that we can look into the issue, who were those people, the foundation members of APP and try to go back to them, make them understand that they can not abandon the house they built, because as we are talking today any serious person in PDP was APP: Iwuanyanwu, Ogbulafor, Nwodo—- all of them were APP.

So, the issue is we have to go back to the drawing board, call and appeal to the conscience of those who started this party.

Secondly, we should re -organize, re -strategize , re-engineer and refocus the party, because this is what is required and in doing so a lot of work need to be done. That is going back to the grassroot, re-educating people, making them understand that without opposition, democracy will not survive; making them to understand that being in opposition isn't a curse, but a blessing.

I think being in opposition gives you the opportunity to express yourself, it gives you the free hand to do whatever you want to do and being in opposition helps democracy to survive.

The other aspect which I intend to ensure in ANPP is the institutionalization of internal democracy. Today, none of the political parties is internally democratized. Here I mean, you have imposition of candidates in other political parties, including my own party, which unfortunately isn't helping the survival of democracy in this country.

If we want democracy to survive, we must ensure that political parties themselves imbibe the importance of internal democracy, because by doing that you ensure that also externally, you force the others to do the same.

So, in ANPP first and foremost, we will ensure internal democracy. Whoever is elected by his people, no matter his size, big or small as far as I am concerned, he will be the one to represent his people. It isn't an issue of money bag, because the most important thing is to get people elected. People fail to understand that if you allow people to choose their own candidate, you have solved fifty percent of your electoral problems, because they will fight to their blood to ensure that that man you have chosen becomes the person elected.

Above all, we should ensure level playing ground for everybody, because these are the things which would ensure and endear any political party to the electorate.

But we learnt the governors have pitched tent; which of them is supporting you?

Well, you have learnt governors have pitched tent. As far as I am concerned, as chairman of BoT, they are equal to me. None of them has said anything bad about me, so I don't expect to have opposition from them.

If they have pitched, that I don't know, because none of them has called me to say, `Gambo Magaji, we aren't supporting you`. So, as far as I am concerned, in politics, yes you can have such things. Somebody may like you, may not like you, but it doesn't mean anything. The issue of election, it isn't an individual alone that matters.

Here, we are talking of thirty six states, including Abuja making thirty seven, you are talking of seven hundred and thirty four local government having five delegates from each of these localcouncils, who are coming for convention, plus the executive of various states and also the national executive. So, the issue is simple.. Even if a governor pitches tent with you, he is controlling one state, out of thirty seven. Even his own state, don't be surprised not everybody will vote for his preferred candidate.

So, the issue is simple. We leave this thing, pitching or no pitching to the one who controls our affair. That's God.