BY GBENGA OKE
Senator Mahmud Kanti Bello represented Katsina North Senatorial District between 2003 and 2011 and was Senate Majority Whip. In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on the newly formed APC and its acceptability in the North. He also flayed President Goodluck Jonathan for failing to keep to the alleged one term agreement and insists that APC is the party for all Nigerians. Excerpts:
Many believe that APC will be torn apart when the party decides to choose candidates for election…
Even councillorship positions must be decided honestly because that is what will show Nigerians whether we are honest or not.
Are you saying that zoning will not decide how things will move in the party?
Not a question of zoning, there will be congresses after registration and if the registration is hijacked by some people, then there will be problem. Every Nigerian that intends to register with the party should be allowed and should be given equal right. I can tell you that when we merged and came together as APC, we were not all saints, there are some bad guys within the party, and we cannot run away from that because we couldn’t have sent people away when we were registering the party because this is a Nigerian party. Some of us are in this party with our life and in the interest of this country and we will do everything possible for it to succeed and we are not going to leave any stone unturned from any quarter that wants to cheat ordinary people or party members.
So, how prepared is the new party to fight the PDP in the coming elections given that elections will take place six months to the end of the life of the present administration?
We do not have any problems with time once we are willing. All that people want is that it must be different from the PDP, people want distinct party, crises-free and you can only get that if you are honest.
Putting the cards on table now, there is no way zoning will not play out…
(Cuts in) Which zoning? Zoning is not even part of the constitution of the APC. There is nothing like zoning but there is something we call fairness but most importantly, there must be capability, credibility and somebody who can do the job. So, don’t bring the question of zoning because it is not part of our constitution. It is part of PDP’s previous constitution because President Jonathan kicked against it and he is the leader of the party and that is one of the reasons why I disagreed with him.
Not because the North is having an agenda but because I sat down with you and we made an agreement that this is the way we want to live together, you cannot come and change it because you have an advantage. It is not because Jonathan is from the South-South and I am a Northerner, it is because there is a rule and the rules have been disobeyed and that is why the PDP is having a lot of troubles now and they will continue to have problems because some people want to cut corners and that is what I am saying to my new party not to allow this to happen; be honest with your people and be sincere.
How does the North’s clamour for power shift play out in APC?
We need a large hearted President; we need somebody who is honest and ready to take criticism. What we have been suffering in this country is a President without experience and without focus and because of that, we don’t even know where we are going and that is why there is no respect for the party. And you can see what is happening within the PDP, the five governors are going stronger and fighting the chairman, Bamanga Tukur.
All these show lack of discipline for the party, I cannot say that to Chief Akande because I respect him, not because I cannot mobilize the same people Chief Akande can mobilize in my own state in my own right, but because he is my leader and I recognize him as a leader. We need a disciplined society and that is why we need General Buhari because he has the power to bring discipline and wage war against corruption.
If you are still talking about Buhari as a Presidential candidate, how does that come to play when people are already calling for generational change?
I hope that the party will accept him. I am not saying he has to be. Where were you when there were problems in South Africa and Mandela became President? We just need somebody to clear this corruption menace. Do you agree with me that Buhari is not corrupt? And do you agree with me also that the problems of this country are corruption? All these subsidy and pension problems boil down to corruption and something needs to be done urgently.
Will you then say APC leaders are ready to drop their ambition to salvage this country?
That is what we are saying that everybody having ambition, please drop it and it should not be shown now. It is something to put something on paper, another is the implementation. For me, the only way to implement all these things is through honesty of purpose.
What is your comment on the call for the adoption of part time National Assembly?
We are so selfish in this country but every right thinking Nigerian will agree that we cannot afford the system we are operating now. It is the system that we are operating that is wrong, and in the whole world, go and check, it is only Nigeria and United States that are operating this system.
Nigeria is a nation but the revenue and the economy of California is many times bigger than that of Nigeria even that of Texas is bigger than that of Nigeria. Our local governments are what they call counties in the United States, but yet we decided to have 109 Senators and at the same-time we wanted to function as Senators of the United States of America.
We have legislative aides, constituency offices, vehicles and others, but are we as rich as the United States? I am not saying the National Assembly members are being over-paid, I am saying the system is wrong, reduce the numbers and have one single house with maybe 180 members. You cannot reduce their remuneration, you have reduced their function. It is just like arithmetic, if you reduce it, you get less result.
There are several things some of those monies go into, like housing which is expensive in Abuja, you have constituency officers who want you to do things for them because they elected you, you need to buy vehicles and motorcycles for them most times, whether you have quality contribution on the floor or not, they are less concerned. That is our culture, so reduce the number that will also reduce the cost.