One of the aspirants for the position of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Umaru Almakura, says the party is at injury time.
In this interview with CROSS UDO, he also denies the purported endorsement of one of the aspirants as the consensus candidate by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that the President’s beliefs are in due process.
You have presented yourself to contest for the national chairmanship of APC, what are you bringing to the table?
I feel it will be a disservice if I do not partake or show interest in the race for the chairmanship of the party, particularly at this point, which I consider as the transition period. I think it would be a disservice for me as a committed member of APC if I do not show interest by throwing my hat in the ring, at least to add value to the entire process. What I’m bringing to the table is the experience I’ve garnered over time.
My experience dated back to its inception during the process of the merger of the party. I strongly believe in the sustainability of the party so that the younger Nigerians coming behind will benefit from this mutual understanding to move the country forward. I am also bringing to the table some political values I have imbibed under the tutelage of Mr. President over time.
If I become the national chairman, these ideals I have imbibed will be brought to bear to sustain the party in her future endeavours. Besides, I want to give the party a strong footing not only to be an election-winning machine but a platform where Nigerians will come and talk together, work together for the benefit of the country.
Finally, my cumulative experience in the field of politics, political administration, serving as a youth leader, serving in different capacities as a political office holder will be handy in this instance.
My political background will serve as a fortress to smoothen administration, adjudicate or mediate, or preside or direct affairs of the party. I think our party at this point needs someone with this pedigree to ensure a successful transition, and victory at the 2023 elections.
The APC is going into the convention with a seriously fragmented house, how do you hope to address these teething issues when you become elected ahead of the 2023 general elections?
You see, a party with about 41.7 million people is not a small party. A party that has within it, the complexity of differences at different levels, you do not expect the party to be like Quiet Ocean. It is populated by people and no two individuals are the same.
What I’m bringing to the table is to respect the individuality, the peculiarity of each of these tendencies, and see how I can manage these diversities harmoniously for the benefit of the party and the country.
I believe in leadership, I believe and respect leadership, because whoever is the leader, requires the support, encouragement, and commitment of the followership. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m a follower. And I will do anything that needs to be done to support our leaders who are handling the issues of the party, so that by God’s grace, we will have a very successful convention come March 26. It’s not easy.
But you can understand this, the party that has brought up different kinds of people and we are working together, and that has very good leadership.
Besides, it is a transition period, the period where certain decisions will be taken, and it will be total and you will expect a lot of people to clamour. But I think these differences will be harmonised most peacefully. There will always be one winner in any contest. And people believe in that philosophy, especially with the leadership, we are seeing from Mr. President, I believe everything will be taken care of. So, the party has run into a bit of a pickle right now given the crisis chairmanship crisis.
The ruling party is still engulfed in crisis some few days before the convention. I am sure you are conversant with the crises that bedevil your party. Do you think it was the right timing for Bello to have been imposed on the party?
I can tell you without mincing words that from the mindset of our leaders, this convention would hold God’s will. It is something that I’m sure will be sorted out. I need to have more facts to be able to know. But for now, I am on the path to moving the party forward.
But was it the right time for Bello to have replaced Buni?
No, I don’t know, because the facts are yet to be properly put before the public domain.
But you are a major stakeholder, didn’t you know about this?
Don’t forget, I am an aspirant and there are limits to which I can get certain information. I sit back part of my principle is to carry everybody along, and I relate with everyone. I don’t have any circle; I don’t have any group. I belong to everybody.
Because if I become the chairman, I should have the confidence of people… that is not clandestine. I have maintained that position of non-interference, nonparticipation in anything clandestine. All I am focused on is seeing what my president wants and seeing what is best for the party at any point in time.
There is a report that the security agencies, the anti-graft agencies have been able to do the background checks on each of the chairmanship aspirants and they have tendered the report to the President for a final decision in terms of a consensus candidate. Do you think you can come out clean?
I don’t think so. I discharged my responsibility as governor, to the best of my ability, and as I speak, there’s no single petition against me or any case that has to do with my propriety or otherwise.
You have debunked the report that the President is not supporting anyone for the chairmanship position. Are you optimistic that your race to the national chairmanship of APC would be fair, and open to all?
Yes, I’m very optimistic. I am always an optimist until things prove themselves otherwise. And what has given me hope for this optimism is the uprightness of Mr. President and his passion for due process. So, I believe that whatever comes from Mr. President must come through a process.
And I consider the process for the emergence of leadership, I believe it’s going to be transparent. I believe it’s going to be fair. And I believe it is going to conform to the articles and sections of the Constitution dealing with that.
During your preambles, you said the APC is at injury time. Why do you think so?
You see, this is a very difficult time. We have about one year, six months, or five months for Mr. President to complete his tenure. Anyone who thinks well for this party and this country will be in a tremble to ensure that the right things are done so that APC will seamlessly continue the streak of winning that it has always known. So that’s why we have to be focused.
That’s why we have to abide by constitutional provisions. That’s why we have to be free and fair. We have to ensure adherence to the party culture, and also the constitution of the party. I believe if that is done, it’s a delicate period, to have a very seamless and successful convention, which will usher in a successful election. And you can see the election primaries are coming shortly after.
INEC has put April to June, for the parties to do their primaries. So that is why I say we have to be careful to ensure that this convention is successful so that we can seamlessly transit into very smooth primaries for the emergence of people who will represent us at polls in 2023.
Although you described it as speculation. There was a report that you are daring Mr. President, by going ahead with your campaign when it was speculated that Mr. President had endorsed somebody. But you are being his friend should have relaxed after that came out. What do you have to tell those who say you are daring Mr. President?
No, the sources of information were not authentic. They were not genuine. And I know what Mr. President stands for, he always stands for what is right and due process. And unless I have an authoritative source of information that is clear.
I still have my doubts. I have many avenues through which I can reach Mr. President and the people around him. And since those speculations did not come through those avenues, I consider them as speculation. That is why as I speak with you, my campaign is going with a different tempo, to ensure that my campaign is going far and wide to await the next line of action as directed by the party leadership.
As a Senator, you have done well for women in your state, but the affirmative action in the Senate failed. Why did it fail when somebody like Senator Almakura was there?
Well, a tree cannot make a forest. I have a passion for women. And I can tell you, I voted in favour of women. But one Almakura cannot change 109 people who wish to vote otherwise. Thank you very much.