By NBF News

Mark my word! ANPP'll bounce back - Senator Ibrahim

Saturday, March 13, 2010
Former governor of Yobe State and senator representing Yobe East Senatorial District, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, has described the presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), General Muhammadu Buhari, as a political liability to the party.

Speaking with Saturday Sun , in Abuja, Bukar submitted that Buhari's romance with the party did not add value to the troubled party. He described the latter's exit from ANPP as good riddance to bad rubbish. Bukar also gives insight into efforts to rebuild the party.

We have seen former ANPP governors and incumbent governors defecting to the PDP, but you have remained with ANPP. Why are you still in the party, in spite of its problem?

This is a very difficult question to answer. But why should I defect? I haven't seen any reason I should defect from ANPP to any other party. ANPP is a party. I can recall we started it. In fact, it was the biggest political gathering I have ever seen in this country when APP was established in Abuja. Unfortunately, due to certain personality conflicts, particularly between the late Minister of Power, Chief Bola Ige and others, we had problems.

When we started, it was a very huge movement and we were hoping it would be a very big political movement of the progressives and all other people of similar mindsets. It was a very huge gathering, but because of personality conflict between Bola Ige and some other leaders at that time, like Ojukwu, it came out to be what we have today. So, it was really a huge gathering but it didn't work out on that day in Abuja. We moved from one part of Abuja to another. We eventually ended up in Lagos before we broke up and then we formed All Peoples party (APP) and Bola Ige and his group formed Alliance for Democracy (AD).

That was how we started. It was a very big political movement. The PDP just came up much later, even though it became a monster. So, it was a good beginning, a good gathering; it was a big political movement. I can't say it was based on any ideology, but definitely we were all progressives; we all considered ourselves as people fighting the cause of Nigerians and that's the kind of party I have always associated with all my lives —NEPU, PRP, SDP, ANPP. You know I thought we were going to extend our reach, but as you rightly said, we started big, nine states and dwindled into a party with only three governors.

I think the rest is history. You know the history, as I do, but I have no reason really to move anywhere else. I don't like conservative parties. I have never pretended to be a conservative and the alternative is PDP, as we know today the ultra conservative party. So, I don't see any reason I should have moved anywhere. Our fortunes have dwindled; no doubt about that, but I still believe we can rebuild, particularly the way things are going now with PDP, which has been disappointing Nigerians left, right and center. On almost every issue, they have been a failure.

It is really amazing how it has managed to rig and get sovereignty over the years and still hanging on, but I believe the PDP will not last long. This 2011 will likely be the end of PDP, as we know it today and I hope a party like ANPP, with credible leadership, can go back to its former self, winning many more states, particularly with the news that the people disturbing our party, the people retarding our progress are out. I mean General Buhari and his people. I understand they are leaving us formally. I think, if we rebuild ANPP it can still be a strong party, a credible party of the progressives by inviting our people, because most of the people who started with us have left us, but we have managed to keep some states, like Borno, Yobe, Kano and I can't see any other party winning in those states. But we are still hopeful to claim states, like Kaduna and Bauchi. Of course, there are so many states within our reach, so that we can go back to our former nine states' status.

I think our main problem in ANPP, right from the word go, has been bad leadership, particularly, at the national level. We have not been lucky to get people who could build parties of our dream, a united party opposed to all the elements of conservatism. This has been my ideological line and I have never changed that thinking and I am not likely to change it now. There's no way I could have left for any other party in the circumstances. I can't definitely function in PDP. I mean if I go to PDP, who am I going to fight? What am I going to use to even campaign as senator, or probably a presidential candidate? Who am I going to fight? Who am I going to tell people that I am fighting, if I join PDP?

So, you can see that it is really no alternative. I don't have any reason to belong to any other party for now. Our party can work with others, like AC, Labour, but not conservative party or ultra conservative, like PDP, which is even trying to turn Nigeria into a one party state. I am opposed to one party state. I believe in multi-party system.

You have acknowledged that the fortune of your party, ANPP, has dwindled. What are those of you who have stayed back doing to rebuild your party?

Well, we are doing much. Right now, I belong to a committee of the caucus of the ANPP, which has been charged with the responsibility of talking to people with similar ideological inclinations and similar thinking, so that we could rebuild the party and make it grow again. We have been having series of meetings. We have been talking to AC and all other groups. Nigeria needs more than just one party. As it is now, it's just one party, PDP, while other parties are in shambles. We need to change that situation; we need more than one party. We need parties like AC, APGA, and PPA. These are the kind of parties I believe can grow with us, but I believe we must start from electoral arrangement that can defeat the PDP. We need to offer a credible alternative party that Nigerians can belong to.

There is a movement to form a mega party to tackle the PDP. Is the arrangement to rebuild ANPP in line with mega party idea?

I haven't been contacted by anybody to join mega party. I don't know anything about it. What I desire is for forces opposed to PDP to, at least, come together to fight PDP. Parties slightly to the left should get together in order to defeat PDP. It is just starting now. It happened during the first republic and the second republic. Remember the forces that ensured victory for MKO Abiola on the platform of SDP. We all now know what happened. The same conservative forces in Agbada and uniform gathered together and upturned the whole thing. You all know the intrigues when a man who won a clear election was denied. We all fought; we did everything we could to fight the annulment. Of course, you know the history. Hopefully, a similar thing could happen. That political arrangement brought about by General Ibrahim Babangida was the best political arrangement ever made in Nigeria. It was very good; it was very successful, but the same Babangida, who brought about this political arrangement, was the one who actually defeated it along with some other forces. We are still hopeful and dreaming that one-day a similar situation would happen.

There is need for politics to be based on differences of opinions, on ideological differences, not just going in for the sake of just wielding power. You are just going to win power; if you get the power, what are you going to do next?

That kind of dilemma comes from time to time. So, on one hand, I believe PDP is now the number one party. Bad as it is, but I am still hoping and praying that we can get a better alternative, so that Nigeria can, at least, be a two-party state, so that people have alternatives on ideological groups.

In my opinion, any of the alternatives could get power, depending on where the wind blows. I can't imagine how Nigerians, with a population of over 140 million, can belong to one political party, with no alternatives. I disagree with that on matter of principles and ideology. I don't believe Nigeria's democracy will grow under such an arrangement and Nigerians are seriously opposed to that kind of situation. That's why we are making all the efforts, hoping that we remain where we are in order to fight for the establishment of ideal democracy, a very good democracy for the benefit of all Nigerians living and Nigerians yet unborn.

It is real politics based on some kind of ideology, not just a political arrangement that win power. That's why I detest PDP and that's why I remain in ANPP. I hope that between now and 2011, the ANPP will come back to life again, particularly now that we are trying to put in place a good leadership. Our problem has always been leadership.

Your analysis gives the impression that PDP craves for a one party system. But as we speak, we have over 50 political parties and the intention, according to critics, was actually to decimate opposition and create a better platform for PDP to thrive. Are you for more parties, or the IBB arrangement of two party system?

I think we have enough parties. The issue now is weaving them together along ideological line. We have just eight states being shared by five political parties, as opposed to 28 owned by PDP alone. That's a very bad political arrangement, a very poor political setting. For all the 50 parties, five control eight states, while PDP alone has 28. We need to change that arrangement. It is unbalanced. It is very badly skewed. That's why all our efforts now and the meetings are geared towards changing this. We want to get political parties of similar ideologies come together, whether merged or by whatever political arrangement, so that we can dislodge PDP.

You had dismissed General Buhari's declaration to leave the ANPP. Is it that you don't see General Buhari as an asset to ANPP?

In what way has he been an asset? We started with nine states, when he wasn't with us. He has been with us for many years now. He has been our presidential candidate on two occasions —2003 and 200- and our fortunes have always been dwindling. Are you saying that if he didn't come to us we would have disappeared altogether? I don't think so. I don't see him as a political asset. If he were a political asset, our party fortunes should have been improving since he came in. But it has been going down. So we might probably do better without him, because we don't have anything in common with him.

But where were you when General Buhari picked ANPP ticket?

I was in ANPP.
You were in ANPP and therefore part of those forced Buhari on the ANPP.

All of you governors and I could remember that Rochas Okorocha left the convention venue in anger.

In politics, the issue isn't in making mistakes but in learning something from your mistakes and correcting it, so that you move on. But as far as I am concerned, I haven't seen the asset in General Buhari. We started with nine states and since he came in the only state we won was Bauchi and we lost so many other states

You have also lost Bauchi
No, we haven't lost Bauchi. It is an ANPP state, even though the governor is PDP. All the Bauchi senators are still in ANPP and have all refused to go along with the governor; so I can't say we have lost Bauchi.

Your party's fortune has dwindled, but some have said you shouldn't blame Buhari, as the PDP did, through your involvement in Government of National Unity. What do you say?

Where was Buhari when that was going on? Why didn't he stop that from happening, if that's the reason for our dwindling fortune? Where was he?

He was fighting his election in court, while you people were romancing the government in power?

I don't know about that, but what is the outcome now? Since he came, we haven't gained anything. I was never in support of our joining the PDP government. There are certain things in politics and in life, you just accept. If the fight is beyond you, you just have to face the reality. I don't know really how they took ANPP to partake in a PDP government. I was never a party to it. I never supported the idea, but it isn't everything that happens in your party that you have to be necessarily opposed to. I haven't seen any gain for ANPP in a PDP government, whether during the Obasanjo period or during the Yar'Adua period. We gained nothing, even ministers were just ANPP in name; there was nothing they could do to further the cause of ANPP. They were carrying out PDP programme that was of no benefit to ANPP and at that time General Buhari didn't stop it.

In a way, I think we have ideological differences with Buhari. There won't be any problem leaving him and I don't see what asset he is to the party. I respect Buhari, as a person. I respect him because he is one of the few Nigerians, who believe in something, even though we don't know what that thing he believes. At least, he believes in something. I respect him for his honesty, but honesty alone isn't enough in politics. There are millions of honest Nigerians, more honest than Buhari and most of them can't even become councilors. So, honesty alone isn't something that will bring you political victory.

I don't want to discuss Buhari too much, but he is definitely not a democrat. From the day I said I was going to join the presidential race, from that day, as far as General Buhari is concerned, I was a rebel. He doesn't tolerate differences in political opinions or political idea. You know he is a General; so, you are either hundred percent with him, or you are hundred percent against him. That's the kind of politics I observed Buhari and those who are close to him are playing. I am a democrat. I don't believe in this wholesale expectation of one man over another. I don't believe in that kind of thing, that's not a democratic thinking. That's the thinking of Generals. You are either with them or against them. There's no middle course. But politics is a game of all course —middle, extreme left, extreme right, the good, the bad, the ugly must all come together in politics to ensure victory.

So, I am not sure really, if Buhari was an asset to the ANPP.

Can we say we have arrived, as far as democracy is concerned, considering the fact that we have retired military men in the saddle in some states, even the Senate President is a retired military officer?

Well, I think the beauty of politics is the fact that it can accommodate everybody. There's no military involvement in politics, from the ward level to the national level. But military men are free to participate in politics. We can't stop them from participating in our political activity or democratic experiment. They have been part of this experiment and politics accommodates everybody.

As far as I am concerned, it is a democracy, the imperfections notwithstanding. Any military man who is in politics now came in as a democrat or pretends that he is a democrat. Even by nature of their training, it isn't part of their lives. But gradually, as our democracy grows, their own participation also becomes more and more and I believe that they have something to contribute. When they come and partake in politics, it is richer for it, not poorer. So, as far as I am concerned we are now in a democracy; we are learning, slowly. The speed might not be what many of us expect, but I believe things are changing for the better.

The Senate President you talk about he is a good politician. Which Senate President has ever lasted the number of years he has been in the saddle? That shows that he is a good politician. He has learnt fast and he has been able to keep the Senate united. When we are in the Senate we don't talk about whether military or PDP.

This recent development is an example. The issue of vice president acting for the president is a failure of leadership of PDP. What is my business trying to solve the problem? The Senate president, vice president, speaker, everything in this country belongs to the PDP and they can't solve a simple matter, like the VP acting when the president isn't around. You can imagine that such an elementary issue in politics and governance is causing a quarrel and they have created unnecessary crisis that involves everybody trying to find a solution to a problem, which they could have controlled. It is a failure of leadership.