Alhaji Mohammed Shittu (MON), National Chairman of the newly-registered Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance(APDA) says his party is out to change the way politics is played in the country. He is offering a new deal in that he calls the Third Force. In this interview with DAILY ASSET Editors, The APDA National Chairman speaks about the package his party has in stock for Nigeria. His ideas are revolutionary, refreshing and promising. Excerpts.
Since the crisis in PDP ended, APDA has rather been quiet, are you strategizing or what are you working on now, we have not heard much from APDA of recent?
You know there are times to talk, there are times for planning, and there are times to watch. We told the world we are here and we are ready to create a Nigeria that will work for all, then we will go back to our drawing board to see how we will carry out these policies and how to put Nigerian economic fruit that we better the country and the people.
Now the Anambra Governorship election just held. How did you see the performance of APDA candidate?
For us as DPDA, we believe that as a political party, its not wining an election that matters, but to be able to impact on the electorate from ethics of political processes and that is what we are going to do in Anambra election. We want to put some ethics that the populate, the electorate will see that we are different either we win or not.
Is this principle going to apply to the presidential election as well?
As we go on, Nigerians we see the difference between APDA and other political parties. And I believe by the time we get to the presidential election, we may not need to campaign, people will choose our candidate proudly.
Will you be specific about these differences, what made APDA different from the other political parties, say the APC, PDP the dominant parties? What is the alternative that you are bringing to the political space?
Aah, for us at APDA, we are forming the electoral system of our own political party. We are saying there should be direct primaries instead of delegates. Let every member be able to choose who represents them. If you are coming for presidential, you go back to your ward. You will be elected from your ward, local government, then the state congresses before coming for the national convention. And then we are saying, if you have come through process, that means the aspirant have to go even to the most remote villages. This take them to know what are the economic indices that will benefit these areas, how is their state of road or state of infrastructure. Now knowing very well that in the next four years you are still coming back to these remote areas than you sitting in Abuja for delegates to come and meet you and elect you. No! you must go to them individually. That is one of the differences.
We are saying our primaries, our elections should be electronically done so that the issue of this delegate, or this man or that is disenfranchised would not be there. We must make sure that electronically we take care of electoral process.
We are saying to Nigerians that, look, the youth that constitute about 60 percent of working population must be given chance by giving them 25 percent of both elective and appointive positions in government.
We are saying women should be given 30 percent of these and then even in our policies, our statements, the physically challenged should take 5 percent so that they will be part and parcel of the electoral process. We are saying, ok, if you do these, you must also look at the economy of the country. We have not had at a go, a rolling plan for the country. We have Green Revolution, it died in Shagari.
We have what they called SAP, it died with Babangida regime. We have what was called Economic Recovery and Reconstruction all died with the regime. We must as a country and as a party, put up an economic blueprint for the nation that can take at least 50 years, and know that in 50 years where can we be. These are the differences we want to make. We will allow, instead of looking outward, like trump has opened the eye of the world. He said look, each country should fend for itself. Americans are no longer going to look at your interest. As leaders, we should look at the interest of the country first. Trump say America first. Nigeria should be first, we should not be enslaving ourselves and depending on importation. Our party is going to close the border. Whatever we have, we should manage it. If we are able to develop these resources, we package them for export.
The ideas that you are espousing sound very interesting, the problem is, how do you bring them to practice? How do you allocate these positions so to speak, for women, for youth, for the physically challenged?
Is very easy, we bring them about democratically. You allow people to feel free, you allow the world or Nigerian people to see that you are different, you mean it and you want to work towards and we have to start ourselves. If I say today, I don’t want Nigerians to import beans because we have a lot of beans in our country, Nigerians should see that my breakfast is beans. I must not tell them that don’t bring beans from outside country we have enough and they see me eating imported rice. We must tax ourselves. The executive members of the party, the elective officers of the party and then extend it to others areas. When Mao was to put up the revolution that is in China today, he wore one uniform for four years. He said I will not buy any clothes until we are able to grow our own factory and able to put up our own fabric factory, then I will get fabrics from that factory and sow my uniform. It took him four years and that is what APDA is preaching.
Now these ideas will definitely cost you a lot in terms of trying to create awareness, attempt to form a government that will implement theses laudable policies or if you like, manifesto. How prepared is APDA, do you have the financial muscles to push through these reforms in the Nigerian political landscape?
When you talk of resources, Barak Obama, nobody dreamt he could be the president of America. The masses, their ten Naira, ten kobo, ten dollars, five dollars, ten shilling, then they were able to make it. If people key into these policies that we want to implement, they will fund it. We don’t need billionaires to fund our project. We need people to believe in the project. And when people believe in that project they will invest in it. You are here today I didn’t give you ten kobo before you came to interview me. If you keep on like this, Nigerians will hear me and they will know that this party is different, and they will vote for us. It takes one to start a project. We have started and we are calling on Nigerians to join us to change the fortune of this country. Do you see documentaries where Nigerians are being sold as slaves on CNN? Are they not the working population taking their money, taking themselves to Libya to be sold to slavery? Is that what we want our Nigerian youths to do? We have questions! We have pains and we want Nigerian youth to rise. They should not go collecting ten kobo from major parties because they want to have ten thousand naira. They should do away with that, and come to a party that will create jobs for them.
Now talking about the level of poverty and the need for youth empowerment, how would you assess the poverty alleviation programmes of the Buhari administration; the five-thousand-naira payout, the npower project and all of that, do they have the desired impact in your view?
For us at APDA, we don’t like comment on government, we want to comment on what APDA is doing. The only thing is that you cannot alleviate poverty, you only eradicate or improve the well-being of the people. In the process of alleviating poverty, you create more poverty. Because you kill the mind by giving cash, I think the mind of that person will wait until the end of a month to collect money. He will not be productive, he will not have any innovation rather, I will create an avenue for the Nigerian youth to be innovative. How do you create that avenue? We will take our step out of going to share money in Abuja to generating fund with their locality. There is no locality in Nigeria that does not have major resources for export. Are you talking of the aquatic resources that are in the south south, or middle belt or north central Lokoja, Benue? Are you talking of the solid mineral that is everywhere in all parts of the country or talking the agricultural resources? No state in Nigeria that does not have at least one natural resource. As a party, we will make sure that each state takes comparative advantage of the resources within their domain and use it to generate fund, not to come and share fund in Abuja. That way you create wealth because we will put forth a law that if you want to export one material from Nigeria, we will say NO! instead, bring your industry to Nigeria into where these raw materials are sited, go to that community and we will community development committee that will overlook these projects on behalf of the community.
Then you establish these factories when processing takes place, you know, is a chain from the farm to processing to packaging to transportation. It has created jobs than to just take it raw out of the country, that’s why we are in impoverished today. APDA will change from that!
You talk about states taking comparative advantage of the resources found within, can we take it that APDA subscribes to this issue of resource control?
We are not talking of resources control neither are we…
(daily asset cuts in) Yes am talking of resource control; do you in your manifesto subscribe to it, what is your position about resource control?; and that includes all the natural resources, the oil, the cement, tin and all the solid minerals that are there?
We are saying, you cannot take control because no federal power, we have five federal systems in the world; Nigeria, USA, Argentina, Brazil… none of the federal powers allows resources control. Rather, federal government should structure it in a way so that where these resources come from also benefit. They have a little advantage over, they pay tax to the federal system while the federal system takes care of some. And that is why we in APDA are saying, the local government autonomy is too important for us to kick start the economic development of our country because that is where these resources are located. So we have our own mechanism of how we take these resources within these terrains. No federal system that will allow you to take control of your resources, rather these resources will pay tax. You allow state to construct ray, you allow state to construct road or local government. Do you know some Chinese that come to Nigeria, these companies belong to local government in China, and if you are visiting these factories in China they have to take the permission from the local government before they give you visa. These are systems we should run.
Apart from local government autonomy what is APDA policy on revenue sharing format, are you satisfied with the sharing principles in place?
For us a country must start somewhere, we are at about 57-58 years of independence, we have put all these formulas into consideration, and as a party we will put our heads together so that our economy will stable.
Since 1999, we have seen that new political parties like APDA are always into alliance when it comes to presidential elections, and 2019 is already been discussed, are you thinking of alliances with other political parties in the quest to win elections?
I have clarified one thing to you, as a party, we have our ideology, we are nationalist and social democrats we believe that whatever will be better the lot of this country, is what APDA will do. If you are coming to alliance with the APDA and to add value to the development of the country, we welcome you we open our door wide. But we are not going to alliance just to win election because you can go into alliance just to win election without ideology you go back square one. Ours is ideological political party, we believe that the country first. And whoever have this notion and believe with us, we open our door and welcome them.
Has APDA been approached by the APC for merger collaborations, alliance, working relationship or any kind of relationship at all, and what is the position of the APDA to that request or that proposal?
For us is too early, is too early to talk of merger anything, is too early. We are waiting and watching and playing our cards close to our heart.
So how about the PDP?
I said is too early because our ideology is about nationalism, about the country first. Do they believe in the country or do they believe in the individualism? Until we study the ground, look at their ideologies and then we can then further say yes or no. But for now, is too early for us to comment on these areas.
Not long ago we heard of some wrangling within the ranks of APDA, they were claims and counter claims about leadership, about the founders and so. Am referring to your crisis with chief Dr. Raymond Dokpesi and other prominent politicians. What actually happened?
When a new baby is born, it must undergo these teething problems, they are teething problems because they find this is a nationalist movement and probably they don’t know the aims. But it has been settled at the court. The court has settled it.
Have you also settled it politically?
In fact, I have forgotten that we had crisis if do not mention it.
Has it been settled politically too?
Politically it has been settled. You can see them contesting in different political parties, because we have different ideologies. (laughs). In fact, they are contesting now, they are aspirants, candidates in their own other political parties because our ideologies differ. We are nationalist we believe that the country first.
Now as a nationalist political party with social democratic ideology, what is your status right now in terms of your membership, in terms of the spread of your membership?
I believed you wouldn’t be here if haven’t heard about us. And every day we keep on growing in size, in number, in states and prominent Nigerians that have their believe in this ideology have keyed into it. We senators that are as I speak with you who are members of our political party, very soon you will see it, it will be clear to you.
Is the former military president also your member, president Ibrahim Babangida?
They are already they told Nigerians that they are now fathers so they are there to mentor everybody.
So former president Babangida is also your father, the father of APDA?
Yes, he is a father, president Obasanjo is a father, Babangida is a father, president Buhari is a father of this party. They all believe in our ideology because they are nationalist, they believe in Nigeria.
Is president Jonathan also a father of the party?
He is a father. Because they believe in this party. They need something like this before they leave this world. They want to see us change in Nigeria, they want to see that we take Nigeria out of the woods. They are now tutoring us on where they failed and where they gained and how we go about this political party and that is why you see prominent people fighting us because they know where we are going.
These beautiful ideas that you have expoused about empowering the people, about positive change may not work if you still have a corrupt system of governance. What will be the APDA’s approach to containing the hydra-headed evil of corruption different from what we have?
Luckily, as APDA, that’s why we say let’s look inwards, we are Africans, we are agrarian society. If you still money, we take you back to your community, tell your community how much you have stolen and how it would have bettered their lives if so and so industry is sited in their place, therefore we will tell your community that if you return this money so and so percentage of that money we will put it in your community to develop any resources within your community. If you like bring back the money, you are going to be buried there anyway when you die. You are claiming there, your children will go back there, so don’t do it for them, if you like don’t return the money! We have different ways; we have our ways I don’t want to reveal all, but I have given you a tip of an eye what we will do that people will willingly bring back the stolen money.
Are you convinced that this will work?
It will work because we are Africans that is the way we ‘ve been fighting even when you steal meat from your mother’s pot! What your mother would do is to take you to your father, call other children and tell them that look he has stolen meat. Will you do it again? Eeh?. Look if we tell your own community that look this what this man have, and this is the resources you have, this is the amount that could have developed this resources to bring-in processing plant where all your children and grand children would be working. If you bring back this money, we do this or that to your community, but if you didn’t bring back then we hold your community responsible, people will bring back the stolen money. Because they know that even if go and spend one million years in United States of America, the day you die, your corpse is coming back here, the children are coming back here to marry, they need their family, is a very simple logic.
So would you have taken somebody like Maina to his village?
Definitely! But I can’t talk about Maina here because the case is still in the court. But as a party, we have our own mechanism for fighting corruption.
One of the things that is the major headache of the country is Boko Haram, insecurity in the country arising especially from extremism. What is APDA’s position on this issue of Boko haram and the entire insecurity, because you cannot do any of these aforementioned things if the nation is insecure?
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Go back to 2006, I had interview with various medias, I had interview, am now talking as an individual even before I came to APDA, with the popular AIT’s Gbenga on Focus Nigeria back in 2006. I told them that you have a forest in between Maiduguri belt up to Gombe which is fertile. These areas are fertile for gumarabic. Any gumarabic you find around that belt is the best in the world. And gumarabic is costlier than the crude oil. If by 2006 we have sited gumarabic factories and processing plants around that area, would you have Boko Haram? But young people grow without jobs! What do you wasn’t them to do? To sleep in their houses and die? They must think of survival. How do you survive when there is no industry to go into? Is to carry arms and that is why you see the profession of arms from Libya that has now come through that belt. And until we establish industries around there, we will continue having insurgency from that area. It is not to carry a gun and kill them, you must provide a source of livelihood for them. The only way to do that as an agrarian society is to put up these gumarabic, let them star seeing that.
Is that been done in your view?
No! Nothing is done there. The best beans come from that area you see; all the beans you have been eating.
In other words Buhari government is not doing much?
Buhari government is doing much, because Buhari government is now making sure that they first of all eliminate the insurgency. What we are saying is that after eliminating the insurgency and overcome it, you must start developing cottage industries instead of putting up camps and leaving them inside the camps without working. Establish the camps and put processing industries around these IDPs. A they live, they are working, their children will be going to school, you establish a new environment for them, not until they go back to their village. This is what APDA is saying.
Would you, in the event of forming government, allow self determination for IPOB?
I have told you that we can settle at the law, that Nigeria is indivisible. No federal system will take that. No federal system out of five federal systems in the world, rather, federal systems go to acquire more territories. America started from 13 states, today America is above 50 states. You acquire more. They acquired Alaska, in fact we are supposed to acquire more islands that are within us here. Federal system grows to acquire. Federal system does not allow people out of it. It is indivisible, it has been settled at the law, and APDA will uphold it. The is why we are nationalists. Anybody, anything is coming that will take arms against this country will be dealt with severely without looking back.
Wow! Dealt with severely! Will that be within the ambit of the law?
Yes. Because you have contravened the law. The law said, the country is indivisible and if you take arms, you want to divide the country. Has the law already catch up with you? Do you have law court to judge that? Haven’t you read the constitution of the country you are born into? What kills this country is the issue of tribalism and nepotism. We will stop it and that is why in our party we don’t zone. Merit is the bane of our reward, and we mean it and we started doing and that is why they are fighting us. They are fighting us. they don’t want he party to even rise. But God in his infinite mercy will rise this party to rescue Nigerians.
I hope you provide government based on rule of law, because the experience we have had is that, since 1999, the successive governments only pay lips service to the issue of the rule of law, and you see them selecting court rulings and judgments to adhere to, right from Obasanjo’s time all the way to president Buhari’s time they select court rulings to comply with. How is APDA going to resist this temptation of selecting what to obey, what to comply with, and what not to comply with?
As a nationalist, we are guided by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and other international acts that guide us. There are international conventions and the Nigerian constitution will be abided with totally, in toto.
You are talking about international conventions, federalism and the need to expand our federal structure. Will APDA government for instance, revive the vexed issue of Bakassi that was ceded to Cameroon?
It can be renegotiated. We will renegotiate it because they are our people. We cannot abandon them. We will follow international convention to reacquire it.
It seems APDA does not have policy or does not give preeminence to education. In all your discussions, you have not said anything about education whereas all of these things revolves around the quality of human resources you have. Am I right Mr. Chairman?
No! you are wrong. Because, when we say, establish industries, definitely these people must go to either vocational schools, technical schools, polytechnics, universities, technology institutes and others before you can have those who will man these industries.
The problems Mr. Chairman are legends in terms of the frequent strikes by ASUU, the fallen standard, the poor quality of education even the admissions, which, as it should be on how applicants are admitted, the issue of cut-off-marks are all issues that are prevailing in the education sector. So my question is, what are the alternatives that APDA hopes to bring to the table to improve the education sector?
You see as a party, our educational system will be different because, we don’t just send people to universities. Because what we have now is that people just want to have a degree, they just want to have a certificate in their hand because, before they come for a work what you require from them is the certificate. You don’t border if they acquired this knowledge and if they can use it. APDA will deviate from that. We will look at our educational system, if you are from a technical school, you may even earn more than a degree holder depends on the sector that you are working in, depends on hours. No we have to change our educational orientation. Not to just acquire certificates. That is why Nasir el-Rufai is going through what he is going through today in Kaduna because is garbage-in, garbage-out. We are developing our own mechanisms on how to handle this educational backwardness because when they come out there is no industry for them to work. Everybody is looking for white-color job. If you get a job and you are earning N15, 000, and am working in an industry where am earning N250, 000, who will care about white-color job?
That is why our focus is more on putting up these industries and allow these people to go in so that they can see the difference between working in industry and having a white-color job. If I am in my community and I have industries there, I will only come to Abuja during holidays. I don’t need to be here, therefore your ban migration will reduce then if these universities are with these local areas where raw materials are found, and the human capital is needed in these industry, as you leave the school, you go in there. You don’t even want to know where is Abuja or where is Lagos.
But with the minimum wage of 18, 000.00 naira, how do you address the issue of ruler-urban migration?
Go to China, China is the less paying workforce in the world and I threw this question to a class. Do you know what they told me? They said if you give and individual 100, 000.00-naira salary, it goes to one family. But if you break N100, 000 into N5000, it goes to over 30 families and creates growth in the economy and then you tax them and the money comes back. But in Nigeria somebody want to acquire one billion. That one billion would have changed the fortune of twenty billion Nigerians and then you tax them and the states will grow from there. Let us not go into classroom, we are in an interview and I believe you have taken from what you want. (laughs) and thank you for coming
Mr. Chairman. We will close with agriculture because, this is a sector that everybody is interested in because a nation that cannot feed itself cannot really claim to be a nation state; also because, it definitely cannot pursue development with empty stomach. So I would like find out the APDA’s policy to transform the agricultural sector different from what we have now which more or less is an archaic agricultural method?
You allow communities where the agricultural resources are to take comparative advantage. There many other things I don’t want to say because is like selling out policies out. Each state of this country has something. Is it Benue? You have full fruits in Benue state, what are we doing with these fruits? We have soybeans in that same Benue, Benue should be the hub of our soybeans factories in Nigeria because that is where you have the best soybeans. Not to talk of the fruits, not to talk of the yam.