BORNO PDP BAD, SERIAL LOSERS - BWALA, GOVT SPOKESMAN
Borno State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Inuwa Bwala, has described the state PDP as habitual losers. He disclosed to a select group of journalists in Kaduna the strategy employed by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), to win the polls, adding that if the governorship election were to be conducted 100 times in the state, the ANPP would defeat the PDP 100 times. Excerpts:
After the National Assembly elections, it looked like the PDP was prepared to take over Borno State from the ANPP. Then the tide changed during the presidential election with the CPC winning the state and the ANPP staged a comeback for the governorship. What were the factors responsible?
During the National Assembly elections, the stakes were very high. Even at that, certain political alignments tended to affect the fortunes of the ANPP in the state. But, even those alignments did not completely determine the outcome of the election. We had three stages of our plans for election.
First, we knew that the PDP probably had candidates who were more sellable than others given their experiences in politics. But we also know that if our plans had gone as we envisaged it, many of the things that eventually happened would not have happened. We never knew that the election would be flawed as it were.
Our people were being intimidated, bombs were coming up here and there and people were attributing it to Boko Haram, even though we knew it was more than meet the eyes. We are saying it again that by the grace of God, the solution to Boko Haram will come. We also know that there were certain undertones and so, the security situation in the state greatly affected the election, especially at the centre.
Again, there were the personalities involved in that election. There was a grand design against Senator Ali Modu Sherriff orchestrated mainly by the top members of the PDP. In trying to undo Sherriff, they forgot about other plans. That was what we cashed on to win all other elections except that of Sherriff and the one won by Ndume in the South which we lost by a very slim margin, during the National Assembly election.
If you look at the totality of the votes cast for all the parties in that election, if it were the governorship, the ANPP would still have won because we had more votes cast for us than any of the political parties. Maybe they captured the most sensitive areas in terms of the Senate, but I can assure you that it was the disarmament of the subsequent elections and we knew it.
We knew why we lost the centre and southern Borno. But every other thing was intact and we knew that the odds were against us. But as a party, we were also set to prove bookmakers wrong, that ANPP was not finished in Borno State. The ANPP is like a layman who may not have the physical legs to pursue you, but if you make the mistake of coming closer and he grabs your hand, you will cry. We allowed them to come into our enclave and we grabbed their hand and nobody would let go.
The PDP in Borno State has been playing to the gallery. That is why they have not won elections in the state since 1999 and that was why some of us left them. They failed to realize that, yes they have the big names, the connection, the money and the experience, but they lack the tactics. They are paper tigers. Why they were making noise, we were busy preparing for the elections.
Unfortunately, majority of them reside in Abuja and don't have base at home. It is very difficult for somebody to come from somewhere to come and win in your own enclave no matter how strategically placed you are. We knew the terrain better than them because we have been on ground. While they concentrated on Maiduguri and Jere which are the cosmopolitan centres and working like elite like them, we concentrated on the grassroots and those who understand what we are trying to tell them.
In the presidential election, it was a deliberate plan. Whether we like it or not, Buhari is a factor in Nigerian politics especially in the North. You cannot expect to abuse him and get away with it. In their presidential campaigns, they told the people of Borno not to vote for Buhari and I expected them to stop at that.
But they committed a lot of blunders by casting aspersion on the person of Buhari and the sympathy of the ANPP automatically swayed to CPC. Mind you, majority of CPC supporters were drawn from the ANPP. We x-rayed the strength of our own candidate in the ANPP and said, Buhari may not win, but he will create an impact and for us to gain advantage, why not join forces with the CPC. After all, the CPC were our friends and we worked together during the presidential election.
When it came to the governorship, we knew Mohammed Goni had already lost popularity by that blunder and also lost touch with modern governance and politics. They were just pushing him against his will and beyond his understanding of modern politics. He was becoming more confused as we counted down to the elections.
Besides that, the man doesn't have money. These are the things that you need to win elections. With the realities on ground, he was confused. When we were in school, he came to tell us that we will be 'manya gobe' (leaders of tomorrow) and today, he is struggling the same position with us. When will the manya gobe come when old men like him refuse to leave the road for us? All these factors worked in our favour.
You said that you had an alliance with the CPC for the presidential election even when you had a candidate. Does it mean that this was foreclosed before the elections because when the ANPP presidential candidate came to the state, your governor refused to see him and refused him the use of the Ramat Square?
The working agreement that I am talking about was not officially endorsed and was never discussed. I am not a party official, but party stakeholders used it to win their local governments. In my local government, that was what we used knowing fully well the mentality of my people. When we appealed to their sentiments, the tendency is for it to work and that was what we did. It was not as if there was an official working agreement with the CPC.
Secondly, we never denied Ibrahim Shekarau the use of the Ramat Square. I am the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Information and Culture under whose purview the approval for the use of that square lies. When the PDP applied, it did not spend two minutes on my table. So, why should I deny him when he is from my party? We have never denied anybody the use of that place.
Again, in my capacity as Commissioner for Information, I should have been involved in the arrangement for his visit, but I was never contacted. His press secretary called me when I was already in my village launching our own local campaign to say that they were in Maiduguri for the zonal campaign rally and I told him, Sule, why didn't you call me before now and there was no explanation. I swear to God, I am not playing politics with this. I heard about Shekarau's visit when I was already in my village.
This is politics and he needed us more than we needed him. In that regard, he should have been the one to reach out to us and not the other way round. Ordinarily, my boss is the type that will not refuse to see anybody even if he has his own personal grudges with the person. In government, you don't do these type of things. People are just orchestrating smear campaign to make it look as if there was something against our presidential candidate.
However, every Nigerian knew that the campaign machinery of our presidential candidate was somehow very weak.
This explained why the reach out was not as effective as it would have been. Not many people were involved. As a state, we were not involved because we were never invited. I never saw any letter inviting us to any function by our presidential candidate. We would have loved the ANPP to capture the whole of Nigeria, but you cannot also close your eyes to certain realities on ground to the extent that a candidate that was capable of winning was conspicuously absent.
The PDP is crying foul that the governorship election was massively rigged in favour of the ANPP in the state.
How would you react to this?
They are just being bad losers because PDP in Borno are habitual losers. We knew they could not have won that election no matter the circumstance because they knew they did not work to win. Rather, they worked to lose. They were busy playing to the gallery, moving around shouting slogans, pulling down peoples' flags, causing mischief here and there.
They forgot that politics is about appealing to the senses and sentiments of people and not about shouting and playing to the gallery. They were completely and strategically flawed. In the past, I was part of those planning for the PDP. Greater number of their time was spent meeting or going about in convoy, abusing people. With that type of politics, you cannot expect to win in Borno State.
What role did the Kashim Imam camp of the PDP play in the ANPP victory in the state?
It is an open secret that at a stage, Imam found a working relationship with Sherriff, just like many of us who shifted our loyalty to the ANPP. At a point, we realized that there was no way PDP could win in Borno State because it was the same old people who have been planning to fail that were still planning this time around.
Kashim's coming was a blessing to us because he collapsed his entire structure into the ANPP. Even without that, we had the capacity to win, but it was made more overwhelming because it was the two strongest camps in Borno politics that came together. So, who could face them?
They are just making noise because they knew they could not have won. If we conduct election 100 times, we will floor them 100 times and they knew it. What is hunting them is the shame of how to explain to their mentors why they failed. They are going to face the people who gave them money and who they boasted to that they were going to capture Borno this time.
They were the ones who rigged election, but because we won, we will not challenge the areas where they won. They used intimidation to win the areas where they claimed to have won. They have been sending text messages to us. I can show you one of the letters they sent to me, claiming it was from Boko Haram (brought out the letter written in Hausa language). They employ all sorts of tactics asking government to arrest us. If the PDP are crying today because they lost, it is because they are bad losers.
The elections have come and gone, won and lost. What are the plans presently on ground especially considering the fact that the Borno we used to know is not the same Borno we have today?
The governor-elect, Kashim Shettima, has given some insight into some of the plans he has for the state, one of which is adopting a less combative approach to the issue of Boko Haram.
He has admitted that he may adopt a different style in reaching out to these people because different governments have own approaches to issues. His own approach is adopting what I want to call diplomatic approach, by trying to reach out to stakeholders and people who may directly or indirectly have connection with these people. Of course, he needs our support to achieve that.
In terms of development, it is his promise that in the first 100 days, he will pay attention to waterwhich has been a major problem in the state. He is going to sink 100 boreholes in the first 100 days in office and they will be commissioned to celebrate the first 100 days in office. Fertilizer has been a major problem and he has promised to mass purchase fertilizer at a subsidized rate. He is also going to buy more tractors and each local government will have 50 tractors.
These are the immediate plans for the human development of the Borno person.
He is also planning to spearhead a regional economic summit for the North East to discuss our common potentials and see how we can harness these endowments for the individual and corporate development of the area. Education has suffered greatly in Nigeria and Borno State is an extension of what is happening nationwide.
What the new government intends to do is to take up education, agriculture and the provision of water. By the time we sit down and analyze Shettima's blueprint, people will appreciate why he has been chosen as the governor.
He did not win the election because the ANPP campaign structure was overwhelming, but because his personality has impacted so much on his campaign. He is so loved by the people because he has an excellent human relation. In his years in the banking industry, he touched so many lives even outside the government. When he came, he has also touched so many individual and community lives and so, campaigning for him was made easier. So, his own personality and approach to the issues added to our advantage and that was why we defeated the PDP overwhelmingly. From his interaction, you will know that he has a definite plan for every interest group represented in Borno state.
Back to the Boko Haram issue, when you received this letter of threat on April 18, some few days to the governorship poll, how did you react to it?
Given our experiences, you don't take chances when you see these things. We were aware that knowing the weight we have in our various places, our opponents may be employing some tactics to scare us away from actively participating in politics. Whichever way you look at it, it could come from Boko Haram, but I know that I have not offended them in any way.
I have never made any remark about their operation, but have instead sought for their understanding and so, that would not have warranted this letter. Again, I have never said anything about them on television and so, which statement are you quoting from me? I have never been to Kwajafa where they claimed to have followed me to. So, when you look at them, you discover that there are certain discrepancies, but that is not enough for me to ignore it.
Did you call the numbers on the letter?
Yes. We tried to decode the number within Intelligence circles. When we added 080 and call the line, the person picked and immediately I introduced myself, the person switched off which is an indication that the person knew something about this letter. There are things you don't take for granted especially in the circumstances we found ourselves and we are not ruling out the possibility that certain people are using the issue of Boko Haram to perpetuate these things and to probably give them a bad name.
What is your message to the people of Borno?
I will urge them to cooperate with the new government and give peace a chance so that we can reclaim our place in the annals of Nigeria's history, as a 'Home of Peace and Hospitality.' At any rate, Islam was practiced in Borno long before the Sokoto Jihad, therefore our understanding of Islam cannot be questioned. No meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of insecurity; therefore, I am appealing to our brothers and sisters to give peace a chance so that we can build the state.