By Grace Udofia
Chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff has revealed his intentions to contest for the National Chairman of the party, even as he promised to build a strong and united party if elected.
In this interview with The Heritage Times, Sheriff X-rays the operations of the party since its emergence and how he intends to pilot the affairs of the party before and after the upcoming 2023 general elections.
Excerpts from the interview:
You have been going round the country, making consultations and discussing with leaders of the party. Why?
I am doing that first before I will come formally to tell the world my intention and aspiration to contest for the office of the National Chairman.
Our party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) you all know today as a political party is about six and half years old. It is a combination of different political parties that became APC and we also know that our President Muhammadu Buhari even before coming into the APC, had already made 12 million votes from the ANPP days and CPC days. He brought that to merge with the ACN to form our great party today.
What do you think will happen to the party after the exit of His Excellency, the President?
It is we the APC members that will tell the world that we are capable of getting their trust even when he finishes his tenure. In doing that, you need everybody. You need people who know the history of the party, where we are coming from, who know the history of this country, someone who has been in different aspects of life and we need to work together, we need to build bridges across the country.
Today, as a party we are only six years in government, our aspirations are for the APC to be in government in the next 30 to 40 years. Doing that doesn’t come on the platter of gold, we need to put in hard work. Therefore, I believe it is important for me to reach out to all leaders of our party; the youths, the women, different organizations to tell them that we must come together to get our party to run for the next 30, 40, 50 years by the grace of God. And doing that, you need a rugged captain, you don’t need a captain that will capsize. A ship has to be navigated by a knowledgeable person who knows the water and I believe I can do that for our party if given the opportunity by party men and women who are the decision-makers.
There are so many people in the field, but you can look at everybody and see where you can put your deposit. We don’t want a bank that will collapse after a short period. So, I have been going around the country. After you leave now, I will travel again. I just came in last night. I have been away, traveling from one state to the other and I will continue doing that until everybody in our party is consulted. I meet them in their homes to say that, yes I want to run for the National Chairmanship of this party and I believe I can lead us well because party politics is different.
We know in APC, the Governor is the leader of the party in the state. Governor Babagana Zulum is the creation of Kashim Shettima but it appears you and Shettima are not on good terms, have you done consultations with your Governor and Shettima to sell your aspirations?
Everybody in Borno State today without any kind of contradiction is my product, apart from Zulum who is not my product because he was in the academics, he was not a politician, everybody in any position today in Borno in one way or the other, I’m instrumental to be what he or she is today. And I have no problem with any one of them. Maybe, it is just a perception. Everybody in Borno, including Shettima that you are talking about, I discussed with all of them about my ambition. I talk to them one on one.
The Governor is the leader of the state, I have gone and discussed with His Excellency, Zulum about my ambition and aspiration. So, you don’t go out without talking to your home-base. In that respect, I have been talking to all of them. I’m carrying all of them along with my aspirations. Saying that we are not in talking terms is just perception, it’s not correct. I have no problem with any of them.
You don’t for whatever reason, help people or create people and start fighting them. I was a Governor for eight years, I have been in Senate several times. I’m not looking for any of these positions again because I have already gone past them. I’m not looking for anything that someone from Borno is looking for. Therefore, all of them, we will work together to achieve this position for all of us, Nigeria and Borno state in particular
There is a group in the party, though it is not a creation of the Constitution, that is the APC Governors Forum and we know they decide who gets what and how in the APC. We look at your political trajectory, a former Senator, two-term Governor, amongst others but the perception out there is that Ali Modu Sheriff is strong-willed. Will he be a person that the Governors can tell what to do? Most Governors are not comfortable with a strong-willed person. How do you wish to navigate around the Governors Forum?
The Governors Forum, I believe as of today, I don’t think I there is any Governor that I have not visited. I am making consultations with all the Governors. You know, apart from being leaders of the party in the states, they are leaders of this country in all aspects of life. Anybody who can run a state, elected by his people to become a Governor must be respected. Therefore, I am sure every Governor will like his party to always win. He wants to see a Chairman that if the opponents see, they know that they cannot play with our party. They want to build their institutions. They want to put their successors when they live office. They want to put their Senators and members of the House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly. So, every Governor will be interested to work with somebody that he can relate with and somebody that is one of them. I am one of them. I was a Governor and by that automatically I am one of them. I don’t think I have any problem with any Governor. I respect them that is why I visit them. I don’t go and see them in Abuja, no. I go to their states to talk to them because they are the leaders of the party, they are leaders of their states.
In that respect, they are the entities of this country that will make Nigeria great all the time. They are what we call the federating units of our nation. What makes Nigeria is the 36 states of the federation. Therefore, I don’t have any problem with any Governor and I will not have by the special grace of God because I have absolute respect for all of them.
It is not easy for anybody to become a Governor. Governor is one person in the state that will be in charge of the whole state so there is no reasonable politician that will disrespect a Governor or look down upon him. You cannot do that. I am going to work with them as leaders of the states and people that are stakeholders of this party, people who collectively will decide the future of our party with His Excellency, the President on top. I don’t have fear of that at all because I don’t think any Governor will like to see somebody that people will not respect as his National Chairman. Every Governor will like to see his Chairman be somebody that will be respected by the larger society. I don’t have any problem with any Governor. I respect them, they are the ones that will make decisions on behalf of the party because it is in the Constitution of our party that they are leaders of our party.
You said you have been visiting some states concerning your aspirations. What kind of response are you getting from those states?
That is not for public consumption. Whatever any Governor decides to talk to the public on television, those statements you hear them, but what I discussed with them is not for public consumption.
Definitely, the next Chairman is the one who will pilot the affairs of the party to the 2023 general election. The party now is going through a turbulent experience. What plans do you have to see that if eventually elected, your party will be going to election united?
You know, political party administration is never a new thing to me. I was the Acting National Chairman of the ANPP. When the merger was coming, I was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the ANPP that makes up the APC. Party is about talking to people, listening to them, understanding their problems, finding amicable solutions to aggrieved people. Carry them along, make them feel important because they are important. Let them know that they have a right to aspire for anything and there is also the right to get angry because we are all human beings. We make the party.
Right now, you are very angry with me and I drove into your house, seat in your sitting room, meet your wife and children and tell them that tell Oga that I am sorry. You are respected and we can sit down and iron out our differences. Maybe you are angry for lack of listening to me, you are angry may be because you are misled. If I can explain to you and you listen to me by the time we depart, we will never be enemies again.
A lot of the problems that you see today, are created not even by the principal actors but people that are surrounding these actors. A story that has not been said by a big man goes to be told to another big man by his boy, his boy also picked the story from the street and the big man is angry without listening to the next person.
We will find a solution to all the problems. I have the strength to visit the 774 Local Government Areas of this country. I had done that when we formed the UNCP. I was one of the founders of the ANPP and I have gone to the 774 local government areas of this country and I will do that again. I have the experience and the political will. I will make sure that because of internal problems, what happened to us in Zamfara, in Bayelsa does not happen to us again. In Zamfara we lost the whole structure; a Governor, Senators, House of Representatives members completely. We won all and you know why we lost? Because of the misunderstanding amongst members of our party. We will never allow anything like that to happen in APC under our leadership. We will make sure that everybody is given his or her respect and everybody is consulted so that the party survives. Survival of the party is paramount. If the followership of the party is not carried along the party will always have a problem. So we will have no problem.
You said you have been reaching out to Governors and leaders of the party. Beyond that, are you making efforts to reach out to other contestants for a consensus arrangement?
Talking to other people, of course, I am going to talk to all of them. You cannot sit down in your house and expect somebody that is also looking for the same position to come to you. You have to go to him. I am going to visit all of them and talk to all of them. We are one family, we are brothers and sisters of the same father and mother (party). We can be useful to the party in different capacities. So, I intend to consult them. That is why I am not always in Abuja. I follow people to their homes, to their villages, meet them in the comfort of their homes to tell them that together, we can build the party.
Finally, what are you bringing in as a National Chairman?
What I am bringing in as National Chairman. See, I am bringing my experience as somebody who knows the terrain of Nigeria. I am bringing my experience as a two-term Governor of a State. I will be bringing my experience as a leader of the National Assembly. Who are the politicians? House of Assembly members, chairmen of local governments, National Assembly members, Governors. These are the leaders of the party. I have been all.
So, I am coming to the table as someone who understands the terrain. I am coming as someone who has run political parties in different aspects. I am not a newcomer. I am not a novice. I told you I was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of ANPP that formed the APC today. I am bringing to the table my knowledge of who and who worked hard to make sure that we succeed and who and who left because they were angry. I will go to their houses and bring them back. So, I am bringing a package that will meet the aspirations of every man and woman of this party.