Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Mukhtar Shagari, in this interview speaks on the task of managing the PDP in Sokoto, how to tackle insurgency and why he should be governor in 2015. Excerpts:
As leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Sokoto State, with the governor, Aliyu Wamakko, in a different party, what are the challenges of managing the party?
First, we have a government in Sokoto State which came on the platform of the PDP of which I am deputy governor. Along the line, the governor decided to use his own democratic right to move from PDP to the APC. I decided I would not move to any other political party because I’m a founding member of the PDP.
I entered primary election which I won convincingly, fairly and transparently, and the party decided that another person who is now the governor of Sokoto State should be the candidate. I accepted that in good faith because I believe in the principle of party supremacy. I’m a disciplined member of PDP. I accepted and we contested the election. He became governor, I deputy governor.
So now that he has gone, quite a number of people with whom he came into the party followed him and a few members of the PDP decided to stay. The biggest challenge is rebuilding the party, making it strong and preparing it effectively for the challenges ahead – that is elections in 2015.
It’s a very big challenge but I’ve been able to galvanize our people – get the supporters of the party to stay with us and to still have faith in the ability of the party to form the government in 2015.
Now, we have a caretaker committee which has been put together after the coming in of the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, into the party which has swelled the support base of the PDP in Sokoto State.
Now, our challenge is to come together, unite and work together and make sure that in 2015, we move in as a strong team; committed party men who will work assiduously and work honestly and sincerely to ensure that we have victory in Sokoto State.
As it is now, I think I’ve been fulfilled and I’m really very happy that PDP is waxing stronger in Sokoto State. The evidence is there for everybody to see. You have your correspondents in Sokoto State. They’re in the better position to tell you what is going on. I feel that the challenges we face are enormous but at this moment, I think we’re weathering the storm.
There’re insinuations that the dumping of PDP by the governor has caused misunderstanding between you?
There’s no misunderstanding between me and the governor because we understood ourselves from day one when he decided to defect and I told him very clearly that I would stay with my party. And I never thought that he would think that I would follow him because he knew that I’m a strong founding member of this party and committed member, and I joined the party on principle because I believe that the PDP is the best party for Nigeria — it’s a party that can bring about national unity, cohesion and understanding. It has what it takes to make Nigeria what it should be.
The transformation in the country, whether you like Jonathan, you don’t like him, things are really working out now. It has taken quite a while for things to straighten out.
So as far as the relationship between me and the governor is concerned, it’s a relationship that was built over the years – it’s not political relationship. Politically, we’ve parted ways – he’s in APC, I’m in PDP. That in my own view hasn’t affected the personal relationship that we have.
I made my commitment publicly that I’ll continue to support him and relate with him as the governor of Sokoto State while my own political loyalty is to the PDP. So far, so good. There’s no serious problem between him and me other than the fact that he’s in APC and I’m in PDP.
We understand that both of us were elected on the platform of the PDP. He left the PDP, I stayed. It’s just some sort of balancing – he there, I here. But the objective is to make Sokoto State great, make Sokoto State better and peaceful and prosperous. In that aspect, whatever assignment the governor gives me to do, I’ll do it to the best of my ability.
Are you in any way working to bring him back? The PDP national chairman Adamu Mua’zu talked about bringing back defectors…
Bringing back defectors to PDP isn’t my job. It’s the job of the party and elders of the party. For me, he is my governor, I respect him as my governor, I’m loyal to him as my governor but when it comes to issues of politics, I’m in my party, he’s in his party.
With the coming of former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa into PDP, who can we say is now the leader of PDP in Sokoto State?
Well, consistently, the president of Nigeria, the vice president, the chairman of our party including Bafarawa himself have always said the official and legal leader of the PDP is Mukhtar Shagari. There’s no problem about that. Bafarawa has made it very clear, publicly even in Kaduna that he is not in PDP for any position or anything other than to help PDP form the government in this country and in Sokoto State because he believes that PDP is the best party for Nigeria.
Are you running as governor in 2015?
You know, in 2006, former President Obasanjo called me to his residence in the Villa and directed me to resign my appointment as minister even though he said we were doing well for Nigerians in the water sector. That he would want us to take Sokoto State back to the centre of Nigerian politics. That I was the best person he could find at that time to do that job so we should make sacrifice – for himself and myself – that I should resign.
I resigned, went and contested for the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP. I won convincingly, transparently. At the end of the day, certain things happened. My governor joined the PDP and I was prevailed upon to let him have the ticket. We contested elections three times. Three times I supported him. I never did anything to undermine what PDP had put together.
Now that he is in his second term and he’s in another political party, I think it’s only fair for the PDP to call upon me, to say come back and pick your ticket because you have been very loyal, you’ve been very supportive of the governor, supportive of the party; you’ve been very, very patient!
So for people to ask me, “Are you going to contest?” is very strange to me. I believe I have what it takes to make Sokoto State what it should be; I have what it takes to make Sokoto State a place we’ll all be proud of; I have all it takes to galvanise all the interests we have in Sokoto State in order to make it a better state. This question shouldn’t be asked. People should simply come to me and say, “We’re behind you, we’ll support you.”
I believe all the members of the PDP, including the top leadership of the party know very well the sacrifices I’ve really made and how loyal I’ve been to this party.
There are other contenders, like Yusuf Suleiman, Abdullah Wali and Abubakar Gada. How can the issue of who becomes the flag bearer be resolved?
Foremost, we’ve all learnt our lessons. We came together on several occasions – we had a meeting here in my house. We’ve all decided that this time, it’s the interest of the people of Sokoto State and our party that is paramount. So at the end of the day, whoever becomes the candidate of the PDP in Sokoto State, all of us will come together, work together to make sure PDP forms the government in Sokoto State. I don’t see any problem in that respect.
Is it true that when Jonathan was visiting Sokoto State, the governor wasn’t informed?
I don’t know whether the governor was informed or not. But what I’ve made very clear is that the insinuation that a letter was written to me from the presidency regarding the coming of the president was completely false. All I did as far as that trip was concerned was as a leader of the PDP.
They informed me about the programme and we sent the programme we prepared; they compared the two and they sent back to tell me this is the programme for the occasion.
And I had the responsibility of securing the venue for the event — I actually asked the secretary of the PDP to write the SSG to request for the venue. The letter was sent and they provided us the venue. I had the responsibility also as the leader of the party and deputy governor to go to the airport and receive the president.
So the insinuation that a letter was written to me from the Villa regarding arrangements for the visit of the president was completely false. I’m not in charge of security of the president; I’m not in charge of the protocol aspect of the visit of the president. That’s not my job.
Whether a letter was written or not I don’t know. But if a letter was written to me, I know the protocol very well. I would have taken that letter to the governor and I would have called the Villa to say it was wrong to write to the deputy governor when the governor was still there.
So for me, nobody has written to me and I’m not in the position to know whether a letter was written to the governor or not because I’ve not asked him about that and I’ve not asked the Villa about that. It’s not even my business to ask.
If you become governor, what difference do you think you can make?
When I became Minister of Water Resources, out of the blues, by the grace of God, people said this young man, what’s he going to do in water resources? The resources are there. So if I become governor, those positive things will be there. I’ll do whatever I can because I’m a person who believes in hard work. When I’m given assignment, I carry it to the best of my ability. I’m completely selfless and I believe that we should do whatever we can together with people in Sokoto State to ensure that we put Sokoto State on the pedestal of real development.
As minister of water resources, for seven years, there are criticisms that Sokoto State had not benefited from your stewardship from water projects. What would you say about that?
The first thing I did as minister was to release the sum of N270 million to the government of Sokoto State – I took it personally to Sokoto, presented it to the governor before the press for improvement and rehabilitation of water works in Sokoto State.
Apart from that, we embarked upon total rehabilitation of the Goronyo Dam and the provision of irrigation infrastructure which is still ongoing. I believe everybody in Sokoto will tell you that I took the president to Goronyo to commission the first phase of irrigation project. We later awarded the second phase which is ongoing.
The total hectareage of that irrigation is about 4,080 hectares, it’s going on and the people of Goronyo and Sokoto State are benefitting from that. I also constructed a bridge across River Sokoto which cost us about N740 million. I constructed a dam in Shagari and irrigation is ongoing there. Because of the presence of that dam, our people are now rich. Our people have stopped going to Ibadan, Lagos and other places because they have something to do at home. They’re producing watermelon, rice, they’re doing fishing – so many activities are daily going on.
Apart from that, I constructed well over 120 boreholes for the people of Sokoto State. In addition, I gave to Sokoto State government 20 hand pumps to a local government area. If you multiply 20 by 23, you will know the number of the boreholes. These hand pumps were used by the Sokoto State government to provide water for the people in areas like Isa and so many other places.
If you go to most of the local government areas, you’ll see green-white green tanks – all these things were provided by me and I’m still influencing projects coming into Sokoto State from the federal government in the water sector.
While as minister, I did my best. I did not get the CFR for nothing because nobody gives national honours of that level for nothing.
What do you think is the solution to the incessant killings in parts of northern Nigeria?
Security is for everybody. If you see something going wrong, you have to report. Everybody has to do their best. The people of this country, the clerics – pastors, imams, malams, the politicians, the political parties, the traditional institutions – everybody has to play their own part. Government also has to play its part effectively.
It’s no longer time to continue blaming one another. What we have to do is find solution. The national conference… the most important thing it should concentrate on is the unity and security of this country. These are very important matters that we have to focus on rather than talk about more states. First, let’s have a country that is strong and united. Secondly, let’s have security of lives and property.
I believe that if all of us work together as a team and put politics aside and face this very serious matter of security, I think we’ll overcome it. We shouldn’t hesitate to seek support and help from anywhere in order to help us get rid of this. It’s time for concerted efforts and honesty – put our politics aside, let’s face the problem.