ATIKU NOT BEST NORTH CAN GET — HASSAN KONTAGORA
If Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, thinks that his emergence during the week as the PDP northern consensus aspirant means the race for the coveted candidacy of the PDP for next year's presidential poll is as good as won, he would need to put up his thinking cap again. There are ominous signs already emerging from his constituency, the North, the same zone is said to represent as consensus aspirant.
In an exclusive chat with Saturday Sun on Wednesday, Alhaji Hassan Sani Kontagora, publisher of the Hotline magazine with base in the North, the PDP governorship aspirant in Niger State faulted the emergence of Atiku as the North's consensus aspirant.
To him, the choice of Atiku as the consensus aspirant was to offer former military president a soft landing. But why would IBB want a soft landing? You ask him. His response came like a lightening: 'It is because he put himself in a cage and was desperately looking for a way to get out. He knew he would not be able to beat Goodluck Jonathan. Therefore, the only way out is to land softly.
'Why is it that within 30 minutes of the announcement of their consensus aspirant, Raymond Dokpesi, the Director-General of IBB Campaign Organisation became the Director-General of Atiku Campaign Organisation? He is now running about with Atiku. How? How? Even if IBB should throw in the towel, I don't think he should have done so easily, so cheaply and so poorly,' he explained.
He categorically rejected the choice of Atiku Abubakar, saying: 'Let him know that beyond his choice as the aspirant of a few people in the North, the presidential primary is coming. Let him also know that when the votes of the primary election would be counted, the vote of Hassan Sani is not going to be for him,' he said.
Kontagora also has a question for Mallam Adamu Ciroma : 'Is Adamu Ciroma telling me that what he said is what his wife, Inna Ciroma is saying as the Women Leader of the PDP? Is that also true of Hajia Umar? That they don't want Goodluck Jonathan? That Atiku is the aspirant they want? These are women leaders in the PDP. Is Ciroma's wife with him? Let Inna Ciroma come out to tell us what her husband said is what she is hanging on as the PDP Women Leader.'
The voice of this opinion leader in the North is strong on this issue of the Northern Political Leaders Forum.
The Northern Political Leaders Forum has finalized that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is the PDP's northern consensus aspirant. Is that the final position?
Are you talking about Northern Political Leaders or Northern PDP leaders?
They call the group Northern Political Leaders Forum led by Mallam Adamu Ciroma.
For which party?
In this particular exercise, it is for the People's Democratic Party, PDP.
Are we doing of PDP or the North? I am asking you? Are all northerners in PDP? If they believe that all northerners are in the PDP, well, it is their business. I do not believe that this country is running a one-party system. And if they are trying to make people believe that this country is running a one- party system, then that is their business. But what I want them to understand is that Adamu Ciroma has reached the age that he is no longer useful, valid or relevant in the affairs of this country. He is doing all he possibly can to destroy all that has been built before his exit. If this is the Adamu Ciroma that I know; who was with Sardauna when he was very young, trained to be honest and sincere to his people in order to give them good leadership now embarking on an exercise that would make the people of the North to look stupid, it is unfortunate.
How would they look stupid with just a mere exercise to search for a credible northern representative?
If you tell Nigerians that the North has no candidate in PDP than Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, then we are stupid.
Because Atiku Abubakar is not the northern candidate.
Who then is?
The northern candidate is whoever is going to make this country great. Our candidate is whoever is going to make us realize our dreams. He is not somebody who is going to be a Muslim. Our candidate is not someone who is going to be a Christian. Our candidate is somebody who is going to be our brother. Our candidate is going to be somebody who will care for us. Our candidate is someone who will treat us impartially and sincerely. That is our candidate. And that candidate, as far as Hassan Kontagora is concerned is any Nigerian, no matter where he comes from; no matter which religion he belongs as long as he is a brother and he is going to treat us as brothers. That person is my candidate. And that candidate is Goodluck Jonathan.
Are you saying Atiku Abubakar is not acceptable to you? You are a PDP member and this exercise was carried out by your party members in the North?
Must I take Atiku Abubakar as my candidate? In fact, when did Atiku Abubakar come back to PDP? I have been in PDP for almost seven years now. When did Atiku Abubakar come back to PDP? Tell me. He left it. And if Atiku Abubakar is a strong stalwart of the PDP, I am challenging him to tell me why for eight years he was the Vice President of this country, he could not become the president when there was no argument as to where an aspirant or a candidate should come from? Yet he couldn't make his way. What was the use of his years as Vice President? If as Vice President he could not make his mark to become the president of this country from the northern part where he is given the latitude and every freedom to do it, is it now he is going to do it? Is it now he is going to do well? Is Atiku Abubakar the one that I know; who was Vice President for eight years, yet I could not go to Yola peacefully? I have to spend seven or eight hours on pothole-ridden road to Yola and could not make a road to his home town? Is he the one that would today be my leader?
What does this portend for the Jonathan's camp as far as you are concerned?
Jonathan's camp is this country. You should have asked what this portends for people like Adamu Ciroma and Atiku Abubakar? Let me tell you, there is nobody, no matter what happened between me and IBB, who will convince me that Atiku is better than IBB. This can only be the case if IBB found a soft landing. He told them to take Atiku in order to easily get out or fizzle out.
Do you believe that was what happened?
Yes, that was what happened. Atiku Abubakar is not better than IBB, no matter what happened between me and my brother.
Why would IBB need a soft landing?
It is because he put himself in a cage and was desperately looking for a way to get out. He knew he would not be able to beat Goodluck Jonathan. Therefore, the only way out is to land softly. Why did his camp within 30 minutes of the announcement of their consensus aspirant mandate Raymond Dokpesi, the Director-General of IBB Campaign Organisation to become the Director-General of Atiku Campaign Organisation? He is now running about with Atiku. How? How? Even if IBB should throw in the towel, I don't think he should have done so easily, so cheaply and so poorly.
Can PDP survive where an aspirant is massively supported by the North and the other, an incumbent president with his major support base in the South?
Who told you North supports the other candidate? Who told you North? Ask Adamu Ciroma to tell us the criteria his committee used to gauge that the people of the North want Atiku Abubakar. Which North is he even talking about because I don't believe there is one North. I believe there is North West, North East and North Central. And in the North Central, I believe it is Goodluck Jonathan. In the North East where Atiku comes from, I believe it is Goodluck Jonathan. In the North West, I don't know if that is where they are talking about because they said Hausa-Fulani. I am not saying Hausa-Fulani.
What I am saying is a Nigerian. That is what I am saying. But if the Hausa-Fulani who are in the majority in the North West say they do not like Jonathan Goodluck, I don't think they understand what politics is about. How can you come out openly, even before the date of the election to say you don't want somebody? Why do we have open-secret election? It is because people should not come out and make others stupid. If that is the case, why don't we do it the way it is supposed to be done? That people should just easily queue behind their candidates in all elections. We could have done it that way. But if I have to enter a polling booth, fold my ballot paper in secret, why should people come out to say that, Hassan Sani Kontagora, doesn't like Goodluck Jonathan? That is not the way to play politics. You don't tell somebody in political contest that you do not like him openly. Is Adamu Ciroma telling me that what he said is what his wife, Inna Ciroma is saying as the Women Leader of the PDP? Is that also true of Hajia Umar? That they don't want Goodluck Jonathan? That Atiku is the aspirant they want? These are women leaders in the PDP. Is Ciroma's wife with him? Let Inna Ciroma come out to tell us what her husband said is what she is hanging on to as the PDP women leader.
Do you mean that Atiku has no chance of winning the presidential primary election?
That is something that we want to do. We don't want people to think that PDP is trying to be tribalistic or sectional. No. We are not going to say that until the result is out. If you want to practise democracy, you have to do it in the real context of democracy. In democracy, you will have to wait until the result is known. So, for now, we are not going to respond to that question. But people can see. Jonathan is not forcing people to vote for him. Even Atiku cannot force people to vote for him. Now that the primary is between Atiku and Jonathan, let's go ahead. That's all. For me to tell you that this is what will happen, it means the PDP is trying to be sectional, the way Adamu Ciroma wants it to be. He is trying to spoil the party and we are not going to allow him have his way. What he did is his personal business.
Well, Atiku has bought his form and whoever buys form for the contest of an election must contest. So, let's see. Let's go for the primary and see. It is after the primary election that we will talk. But I don't want people to believe that after the election, the northern people have anything against Jonathan. I don't want the northern people to think that they are the only ones that can do the job of ruling this country. I don't want people to think that we are trying to be biased, tribal or religious. In fact, even in the North, which religion are you talking about, Islam or Christianity. Even in the North today, you have to take a good account of what is happening to know which religion has the highest population. We know the Muslims are more in number. But that includes the Yoruba Muslims. What I do as my religion teaches me is to be diplomatic, honest to people so that even if they are not in my religion, they may convert to mine. My religion teaches me to be political.
Do you have any message for Atiku Abubakar?
I don't know. He should find the message himself. The only thing I want to tell him is that: I hope he would abide by the outcome of the primary. Let him know that beyond his choice as the aspirant of a few people in the North, the presidential primary is coming. Let him also know that when the votes of the primary election would be counted, the vote of Hassan Sani is not going to be for him.
Are you going to be a delegate?
What are you talking my friend. Who are the delegates? Are they not going to be the party people? You want me to show you my card? (Brings out his card to show this reporter).
Not all party members would vote at the primary election.
Why can't I vote? Am I not a party member? Why? Who are you? Tell me. Is there a card that is better than this? (Brandishes the card). Tell me. If I am contesting the governorship of Niger State, you mean I cannot be a delegate? You mean Hassan Sani Kontagora who is going to be the next governor of Niger State is not going to be a delegate? Is that what you are saying? Is that how you practise democracy?
These people are already causing trouble. They have already made the North to look stupid. Adamu Ciroma has become somebody we thought is sensible who tries hard to become senseless. What legacy is he trying to leave behind? If he has no children, please let him think of other people's children. If he has children, let him go and sleep and think about his children. Is that the kind of Nigeria he is going to leave behind? A Nigeria where you talk about Christian-Muslim? Hausa-Fulani? I am asking him. In the North, we have more than 200 tribes. Is it only Hausa-Fulani, the majority of them who are even in the North West? How about the North East and North Central? The majority of the Hausa-Fulani he is talking about are in the North West. So, all our brothers in the North Central and North East are nothing? We are the only ones that matter? I am disappointed in Ciroma if at this age he is thinking this way. Why was he not in the place where the announcement was made? Why did he hide himself? He should have been there to announce it himself. How can you ask small children to go and announce it for you? How many of you did this exercise? How many northerners do we have in this country?
Why did the committee members not come and ask me? Don't I have the right to speak on the matter? Am I no longer a northerner? Is it because I said I prefer Jonathan Goodluck? If those people in the North who are supporting Jonathan were not consulted, then I am telling you that Adamu Ciroma has made a blunder of his reputation. Who are the religious leaders he consulted? Who are the Emirs he consulted? Who are they? Who are they? Emir of Kano? Shehu of Borno? Emir of Zazzau? Lamido of Adamawa? Who are they? We want to know them. Are they politicians today? Why drag them into political matters? Please, he is taking a dangerous step. Let him retrace his steps for the sake of the harmony of this country.
Why would you not want Atiku Abubakar? They say he is a democrat.
They told you Atiku Abubakar is my father? I am asking you, my friend? You look at me in the face and you are asking me why I don't want Atiku Abubakar. Who told you I must want Atiku Abubakar? Why should I want him. Let Atiku know that even if he becomes the president of this country, I Hassan Sani Kontagora did not vote him.
Could Gusau have been better?
My friend, if people will look at me and tell me that Atiku is better than Gusau, even Bukola Saraki, I am sorry, not the Atiku that I know. He is not better than any of them.
Why these strong views about Atiku?
Are my own views about him strong? Why can't I hold my views? Look, I am not a harlot who goes for money. Look at me straight in the face, Ashaka, I am not a harlot. I am going to do what I want to do. Ashaka, I am telling you I am not with Abubakar Atiku. Ashaka, I am telling you Atiku Abubakar will never win. Ashaka, go and tell Atiku Abubakar that I said I am not with him.
Of the aspirants that were screened, it is only Atiku that you wrote off. Yet, he is the one that emerged. Why?
That is why I wrote all of them off. All of them, including Adamu Ciroma. You cannot come to tell me that Atiku Abubakar is better than Babangida. You cannot convince me that Atiku Abubakar is better than Bukola.