Hon. Nicholas Msheliza is the Director of Contact & Mobilisation of Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCO) and in this interview with Gabriel Atumeyi, he speaks on the task of his organisation and the politics of the 2019 elections.
What is APCO and what is you mandate?
APCO connotes Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation. There used to be Atiku Media Organisation, we have the Atiku support groups, all these groups and organisations are now bound together under APCO in order to drive the Presidential aspiration of His Excellency Atiku Abubakar. APCO therefore has under it, all these organs including all the voluntary support groups that had been singing the aspiration of Atiku even many years before now, as I speak to you, we have recorded more than one thousand support groups.
What is your perception of politics in the Post 2015 era?
My perception of politics in this country in the post 2015 era is that the politics of ideology has taken a back seat because now, it is more of politics of personal interest than national interest, that is why you see this gale of defections and so on. But what I have seen also is that the failed promises of the government of the day and nepotic tendencies in most decisions being taken. This is causing a lot of political interests to again realign, to form a coalition to see if they could force some change. What I have seen in this post 2015 dispensation is that there has been polarisation in this country than ever before, the ethnic division is increasing, the religious divide is becoming wider and these parameters have shown that something drastic has to happen, the level of poverty has also increased. You heard what the British prime minister said when she came to Nigeria, that majority of the world’s poor are domiciled in Nigeria. We also know that some of the few richest people in the world are also in Nigeria. But the implication is that there is no longer a middle class in this country. There is majority poor and the minority rich and in between we don’t have anybody.
It is known that governance and politics are two sides of a coin. What is your perception of governance under the present dispensation?
They have used politics to enshrine dictatorship. Dictatorship is now the order of the day under the veil of politics. A situation where there is total disobedience to court orders, a situation where for isolated elections, you will deploy 30,000 policemen and other paramilitaries to a state as small as Ekiti just to run election, a situation where the third arm of government, the judiciary is haunted, we shouldn’t call that democracy but dictatorship. A situation where there is selective and cosmetic treatment of the fight against corruption, selective in the sense that it is one-sided and where you have a case but you are smart enough to defect to the ruling party, then you will be safe. This is not true governance. So you would now notice that governance today in Nigeria, is what is the policy or process that is acceptable to the people in power regardless of what the law says. We have heard not long ago even when the president was addressing the Nigerian Bar Association, when he said national interest is above the rule of law. True democracy is supposed to enthrone government of the people, for the people and by the people but the government of the day is not practicing what it preached in the build up to the 2015 elections.
There have been talks of a consensus candidate for the party, do you see Mr. Atiku emerging as the Presidential flag bearer?
There are two ways to this. Atiku could either emerge as the consensus candidate or through a free and fair primaries at the National convention. As to his chances, Atiku today is the front runner in this contest and I want the public to know that based on his pedigree and experience there is nobody better suited for that office today than Atiku Abubakar. If you look at the crop of contestants, with due respect, all of them are eminently qualified to be president of Nigeria. However, when you put them on a balance and measure them, Atiku is by far better and more qualified. He has experience, he has been vice president before, he has been a governor before, he has been a successful business man all this while, he understands the economy, he understands poverty, he is an employer of labour, he is an educator. On the political front, he is a bridge builder; he has the network all over the country. He is perhaps the best we can have today that can stand the tyranny of the APC government if given the chance.
How do you see the chances of Mr. Atiku in a possible 2019 election?
Sure, if God helps and he gets the ticket, 2019 would be an Atiku and a PDP year. It would be a year of abundance and blessing for Nigeria because it would be the year we would usher in social, political and economic emancipation for Nigeria and Nigerians. I have to tell you this, if Atiku does not get the ticket, I doubt if we would have any other candidate among this pack that can stand the APC. Atiku is widely accepted and widely acclaimed in the north. A situation where people are singing that Buhari had twelve million votes in the North is not true. I can bet with anyone and I want to give this analysis, when Buhari contested against Umar Yar’Ardua, whom he lost to, he had about 6.7 million votes, where were the 12 million votes then? He contested against a fellow northerner and failed. When Buhari contested against Jonathan the first time and lost, where were the 12 million votes? Jonathan is not from the northwest but he defeated Buhari then. Now it was only during the second contest against Jonathan because the entire north felt it was their turn and Jonathan refused to relinquish that to them. And in the north then whether it was APC or PDP it was a gang up. That was when Buhari got this votes that they are claiming. These 12 million votes that they are claiming belongs to both APC, PDP and others. Remember Buhari won Plateau, Kogi, Benue, that used to be predominantly PDP states. Do you think he will win these states again, absolutely no. And again, he is going to contest this time around against a fellow northerner and so Atiku has a very bright chance if given the mandate. Now I have to also come up with this that it will also be the first time that someone from the northeast of this country may fly the ticket under this democratic dispensation. It will now give us also a sense of belonging, that truly, we are one united north. Previously it has always been north west, north central. North east has never had it. So if the other parts of the north which I am calling out to with a loud voice would be magnanimous enough and be their brother’s keeper and allow us also to have a shot at it, then that is when we would know that we are truly one united north and I think even the people of the south will acknowledge that and say oh so there is unity.
Sir, All presidential aspirants have emphasized the youth involvement in governance as necessary for national growth and development. How do you see the not too young to run bill, how do you see the involvement in governance of the youth in this administration so far and what do you think Mr. Atiku might do?
Well I do not think the APC government has any place for the youth because number one, if you even look at it by the fact of the cost of their expression of interest and nomination forms, it is N45 million. They have confidently and tactically shut out the youths, they don’t have any provision whatsoever. While most parties including the PDP reduced the cost of nomination forms to give youths a sense of inclusion, APC went towards the extreme. So the issue of youths participation in this government is mere lip service as far as I know. Number two, the youths are getting more underemployed and more unemployed by the day, people are losing their jobs daily, there is no entrepreneurial advantage that the youths are getting from the government. Now based on your question of how Atiku will address this, this is simple, he has always said that a substantial percentage of government activities under his watch will be devoted to the youth and women of this country. He has also said that he would want to mentor the youths in the art of governance and democracy so that they could easily take over. When we speak of youths in governance, countries like France, Canada etc always come to mind. But we have to note that those countries got developed economically, politically, socially and got stabilised and it became easy for the youths to take over and run them. We need someone with experience and the capacity to get this country stabilised economically, socially, politically and educationally. Then the youths can easily take over and run them. So he has elaborate plans for youth inclusion in his government if by the grace of God he is given the mandate and he wins the presidency of this country.
Do you have faith in the Independent National Electoral (INEC) to conduct a free and fair election?
Well, about the integrity of INEC, I have to give them kudos, they are trying but there is still much room for improvement. The view of so many is that their integrity or neutrality in the whole process, is still suspect. We have just come out of the Ekiti election and we have done several other isolated elections apart from Ekiti and the truth of the matter is that it was below standard. INEC has to prove to Nigerians more than they are doing now that they are unbiased and neutral in the whole of this process. Everybody working in INEC is also a Nigerian like every other person. If INEC compromises in this process then there is no hope for the country.
Do you think Atiku Abubakar has a women development agenda or what is his perception of women’s role in national governance?
Number one, even in the campaign organisation, some of the most sensitive positions are being handled by women. In our committees and sub-committees we have women. Atiku has been in government before, part of the head hunt that Atiku personally did, saw to the inclusion of so many women during their time, including people like Oby Ezekwesili and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. That’s why I keep saying he has a testimony to show. Not like those who are saying I will do this or I will do that. He has done it before, he only wants to do more. The affirmative action happened during their time. Women will have a prominent role in the government. Let me remind you that Nigerians are living witnesses to the achievements of the Obasanjo administration, which couldn’t have been possible without Atiku Abubakar as the head of the Economic team
Your Principal has said a lot about restructuring, do you see him working the talk
He is a proponent of restructuring, out of the pack, he was the first to start talking about restructuring. Many of the other aspirants are now trying to copy him because they feel that is what Nigerians like to hear. However, they are not copying him well. Atiku started talking about restructuring even before he went into government and he means it. He has a document, he has a blueprint and I bet you, at the right time, he will unveil it, when he has the ticket and the only person that I believe will carry it out to the latter is Atiku. There are a lot of people aspiring to be President today, including the incumbent that have no policy document, that have no blueprint. What are they saying now as the go round the country, nothing. It is either you hear some of the aspirants say this man or that man is backing them or they are the only one that can beat Buhari. Is it a boxing tournament? But even if you wake up Atiku in the middle of the night, he will tell you his programmes for Nigeria. That is where Nigeria should go, that is how they should sieve them. They should know them by their fruits.