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Former member of the House of Representatives (BurninKudu/Buji constituency of Jigawa State) Farouk Aliyu told John Akubo in Dutse that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has given the opposition reason to believe. He hopes the opposition would present a formidable front in 2011. Excerpts:

DO you share the views that because the ACN is reclaiming states from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the south west, there are hopes that the electoral contest will be stiffer?

It will be good if all the opposition political parties can come together under one umbrella. For example, we in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) are in touch with the ACN, talking of a possible merger. But we in the CPC want an alliance; we don't want to merge, but we are talking because in politics nothing is sacrosanct. I am sure that between now and the election time Nigerians certainly will have a formidable front from the opposition to confront the PDP. We hope that our talks with the ACN will reach a conclusion so that Nigerians can be saved.

Were you surprised when the National Assembly members opted to review their salaries, after revelation by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor?

No I am not. This country can ill afford that kind of senseless expenditure. How can 700 people take over 10 percent of the nation's resources? I think it is unfair to Nigerians. If the federal lawmakers were doing their job appropriately it might not be considered to be too expensive to keep them because the government will perform, projects will be done and Nigerians will get the best. But a situation where the legislature and the executive connive to dupe the people, then it is unfortunate.

The National Assembly finally backed down from inserting the controversial clause in the Electoral Act that would have made them members of the National Executive Committee of their respective parties…

I hope that the electorates are watching, because before you pass any law you call for public hearing.

The National Assembly called for joint public hearing recently and no segment of the society supported what they wanted to do, which means if they were guided by conscience, this thing should have been dropped at the public hearing day. But what did we have?

What do you make of the statement by Governor Sule Lamido calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make a statement that it is against the Electoral Act for people to stay behind after voting despite the clamour for people to guard their votes?

The 11 years and eight months of PDP is enough testimony to make people protect their votes and in protecting your votes you can do it by any means. We in Jigawa State will adopt the Ekiti State example. We will tell our supporters not to go to the polling booths with weapons but that they should go there to vote and after the voting they should move away and wait till the end of the casting of votes then move closer, hold hands and form a ring.

They did that in Ekiti. No one could enter the ring as the agents are made to be in the center with the ballot box. The PDP members came in trucks with guns, shot in the air but they could not kill anybody because of the number of the people trying to protect their votes. But if any body dares to shoot and kill somebody because he is trying to protect his votes then whatever happens after, the consequence will be on the person that started shooting. I assure you if that is done the votes will be protected. I don't know why Governor Sule Lamido wants INEC to say that people should vote and go home. Probably he would want to connive with officials to change the figures. Let his people stay behind to protect their own votes because nobody is saying that this protection of votes is only for the opposition. Let PDP make sure they also protect their votes.

What difference do you expect the CPC will make in the lives of Jigawa people?

There are so many things we can do. We will run a very transparent government in the sense that the people will partake in decision-making. We will form a government that will be all inclusive because there are people in Jigawa who feel aggrieved that they don't feel a sense of belonging; they feel marginalised. So we will run a government where everybody will be part of the decisions that will be made by the government and a government that will have respect for the rule of law.

There will be political reengineering whereby the caliber of individuals will ensure they are people proven with impeccable characters so that they can do their work as stipulated by the constitution. We in the CPC will elect people who will do the right thing.

What do you make of the suggestions of Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and former governor of Lagos State Alhaji Bola Tinubu on the same ticket?

The ACN is insisting on merger while we are talking of alliance. We are still talking. The leaderships of CPC and Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) have already signed an alliance. Buhari and Orji Uzor Kalu are in agreement. We have aligned with them and they have accepted Buhari as their sole candidate. They have accepted to work with CPC to actualise the Presidential bid of Buhari and we have accepted to work for PPA candidates in the South East; we will go there and campaign for PPA.

We have sealed the deal with them so no part of this country is going to be left out in this alliance. It is an all-inclusive thing; it is not for one section, South, North or West. What we are trying to do is to achieve a goal that will salvage the Nigerian people.

How acceptable do you find that combination considering the issue of religion?

Well my assessment should not matter now, because it is a matter of the general interest of Nigerians.

however on personal opinion Muslim-Muslim ticket in this country at this time is a hard sell because a Muslim does not trust a Christian and vice versa in this country; that is a reality. For you to give everybody sense of belonging I think it will be fairer if it is a Muslim/Christian or a Christian/Muslim ticket. So that nobody thinks he is left out. I personally do not subscribe to Muslim/Muslim ticket or Christian/Christian ticket for now until when we all start to believe in one another. That is when Nigerians will realise that leadership has got nothing to do with religion or tribe. Experience has shown that there are good Christian or Muslim leaders just like there are bad leaders in the two faiths. But because of the ignorance among our people, they don't care as far as the person is from their village or their tribe.

Incidentally, the June 12, 1993 presidential election, regarded as the most successful election in the country was a Muslim/Muslim ticket…

This is the 17th year after that election. In 17 years, instead of us building on that achievement, we have degenerated. We have had many religious crises since 1993, in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri and recently the notorious Jos crises, in fact all over the country. If we had built on that, this country would have got out of the woods.

In our tours to consult with Christian religious leaders, one of them told us Buhari was the best person for the job in Nigeria. He said: 'Nobody can take us out of the woods except you and we know you are not a religious bigot, we know you are not a fundamentalist but let me warn that we shall not accept a Muslim/Muslim ticket.' He said they have nothing against the Muslims, that in Lagos even Fashola is a Muslim but any Christian who tries to work against Fashola will not succeed. He said in Nigeria we still do not see religion as secondary and he appealed to us to look for a Christian presidential candidate with outstanding credentials to be a running mate to Buhari. He said that once we do that the Christian leaders would campaign for Buhari in the Church. If Buhari becomes President, by the time he is through with his tenure, Nigerians will understand that leadership has got nothing to do with religion.

In Jigawa the opposition seems to be coming together and the Saminu Turaki group has been discussing with CPC, ACN and the ANPP. Is it true that Saminu is sponsoring a sole candidate for the opposition?

Nobody is sponsoring me, and I personally fell out with Turaki long time ago. I am the only elected person in Nigeria who went through a referendum to be recalled, because others get political solution. In my own case under Saminu's Government they conducted a referendum for INEC to recall me but it did not succeed.

So everybody is aware that I am not a stooge, but in politics it is all about interests as there are no permanent enemies. The face off I had with Saminu were not personal but institutional and on principles. I dislike the way he was governing Jigawa and I stood against him. I did not like the way he wanted us to move to PDP and I did not move to PDP; I stayed back in ANPP. He moved to PDP and what ever happened is history. I am aware that their talks with other political parties have collapsed; they have joined the CPC.

Soon, the CPC will formally receive members of the Saminu's group. We have some senators, members of House of Representatives and party elders in the PDP who were aligned with Saminu that are decamping to CPC. We have kept posts for them but Saminu has not said he is coming over. But I am sure that he will follow his people because he has no place in the PDP. We are talking to everybody; we are talking to PDP members and some people in the ANPP to join the CPC.