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Saraki Debunks Ties With IBB, Say He's The Best Candidate For Aso Rock

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ABUJA, Nov 04, (THEWILL) - Kwara State Governor and a presidential aspirant of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Bukola Saraki has said he is not fronting for fellow presidential aspirant, General Ibrahim Babangida stressing that he is better qualified than any of the contenders for the presidency in next year’s Presidential Election.

In an exclusive interview granted the Nigerian Village Square team, the outgoing Chairman of Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum said his experience as elected state chief executive for two terms has placed him in vantage position over other aspirants.

He said: “I am not a proxy for IBB or for anybody. I am the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum. I have been Chairman of Governors’ Forum for 3 years. If you understand the politics within political parties, I was comfortable as Chairman of Governors’ Forum. All I needed to do was to just sit down there. Every aspirant would come to me. Every aspirant would offer me something in their administration because they know that by virtue of how I’ve carried myself in the last 3 years, I am respected among my colleagues and I should be able to influence things.

“Therefore, for me to risk all that; to say I’m resigning as Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, and I am taking on the sitting President from our own party; that certainly can’t be for proxy or for anything else. This is what I believe in. People only talk about Babangida, but I also talk to Atiku just like I talk to General Gusau. I still go to the Economic Council meetings where the Vice President is Chairman. So, I don’t believe that because we have party primaries, it means we are at war. No, it’s a party affair - we are not at war, ” the aspirant added.

Insisting that he is the most qualified to rule Nigeria at present, Saraki noted that: “The opportunity I have had in public sector as State Governor in the past 7 years has given me the opportunity to see that the issue of Nigeria is really about leadership and capacity. I believe that the experience I have acquired as Governor of Kwara State; the capacity that I have demonstrated, is a major credential here.

“Out of all the candidates out there, I believe I have that ability and capacity to turn Nigeria around. The enormity of the task ahead, and the urgency it requires, does not allow for ‘trial and error’ or leaving things to chance. If I felt that the old ways, the old thinking, the way we used to do things can work for us now, I’ll not be in this race.” “What we need now is a President who can truly provide leadership; a leader that has the courage to take on the necessary reforms; a leader who is decisive, and who is ready to embrace new and innovative ideas and ways of doing things. This is what has worked for Kwara State.” On the vexed issue of zoning, Saraki said: “There is a document signed. There is a resolution where certain understandings were made: eight years in the south, eight years in the north. And those are the issues in the party, concerning the office of president. We cannot run away from that. But that does not say that Mr. President cannot contest. Nobody has said that. But we are saying that those are what the issues are. Nevertheless, I as an individual believe that there are more serious issues to offer more than just zoning, and I don’t want us to just talk as if zoning is the only thing out there that we are all running on. We are running on a platform that talks about performance, generational change and capacity at all levels. Don’t let us narrow it down to just the issue of zoning”.

He promised that if elected, the security of life and property will be his priority adding that people will be made to account for their actions too. Saraki admitted that state police is good for the country. I believe in state police. You see, even at the moment, we have ‘state police’, because the State Governors pay their allowances. The State Governor buys the equipment. The State Governor buys the vehicle. It is the state governor that does everything apart from paying salaries.

“I think we will gain more from State Police than those threats suggest. Those fears appear to have been inherited for a while that once a governor has state police, oh, he’s going to intimidate all the political opponents. But if we believe that we have a strong system that ensures that even the opposition in a free and fair election can seek redress, the way that the judiciary has shown that they’ll always ensure that justice prevails, then the issue of police and security will no longer be as significant in elections as it is currently feared. But for the improvement of security, definitely state police.” Saraki said as part of those that participated actively in the search for peace in the Niger Delta, he believes in negotiation.

“Now, the fact that the MEND and all the other militants are giving it a chance to work, I think we should build on that. What are the issues that have not made it to work now? I think they are mainly administrative inefficiencies or funding issues, and I believe that as a government we must do all it takes to make it work. What commitments have the government made? I know government made commitments on relocation centers, rehabilitation centers. I know up to date we are behind on schedule on that. This may be due to underestimation of the cost or how much it will take to resettle the militants or find alternatives for them, because these are individuals who we are trying to start a new life for.

“I believe in that negotiation. I believe that government must honour its commitments whatever those commitments are because that is the only way we can build trust. Whatever funding is required must be made a priority, because the MEND, the militants, have shown good intention in at least giving that a chance and we must not lose that opportunity.”Speaking on the already tensed contest in the PDP, Saraki allayed fears that it is ‘not war’ but “I feel that as a Governor, who’s been Chairman of the Governors’ Forum for 3 years, it should not be too difficult for me because these are my colleagues, and the know me. The PDP primaries are about the Governors really; it’s about elected officials and it’s about people you know and who know you, and they are not people that you need to fund. So, it is about them believing that Dr. Bukola Saraki’s administration will make Nigeria better.”

The youthful governor noted that he believes in generational change. “You’d be surprised I get a lot of calls from people who say, “Look we really believe that it’s time for our own generation to provide leadership.” There are people in the private sector who are running business who want a different attitude from the public sector process and I have said that and my views on these are known.