A former Minister of Sports and the current National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, in a recent interview, said that the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and APC’s position on restructuring has been misunderstood.
Read the interview below (as seen on Vanguard);
The APC seems not to be leading the conversation on restructuring despite having it on its manifesto. Why is this so?
I think the insinuation that the APC is not leading this conversation on restructuring is not correct. A couple of weeks ago we set up a committee under the chairmanship of the governor of Kaduna, Nasir el-Rufai. The committee has about six state governors and some of us in the NWC and senators and very prominent people in this country. One of the first steps we are taking is articulating the real meaning of restructuring not only as it means to our party but also as has been canvassed in different parts of the country.
Let me say that when this issue started a couple of weeks ago, it also opened the space for a lot of opportunism. People who were in power in the past and never talked about restructuring suddenly became advocates of restructuring to the extent that even now there are so many people who are looking for an agenda to pursue and are now ‘free-riding’ on restructuring because it has become a political currency. So, if you are speaking the language of restructuring, whether you understand what it means or not; whether you understand the implications or not to the polity, then people would listen to you.
Gov. Nasir el-Rufai’s headship of the committee has been questioned by some people who accuse him of being a consistent critique of restructuring. Again, it appears your party was forced into setting up that committee…
Again, I think it is, with due respect, presumptuous to say that what is contained in our manifesto came about as a result of pressure from anybody. There is never a good time or a bad time to do what you promised to do. I keep emphasising one point that the manifesto of a political party is not the same thing as a government programme. The manifesto of a political party is the groundnorm for running the party. The PDP had its manifesto for 16 years, but that did not stop President Yar-Adua from having the 7-point agenda or President Jonathan from having the transformation agenda, and I am very sure that what you had in those documents was not everything contained in the PDP manifesto. The essence of APC’s restructuring is how to get governance closer.
When President Buhari was coming to power, he promised to tackle three things, corruption, insecurity and the economy, but we as a political party, we are leading the charge because we are the ones that promised Nigerians. It might take us two, three, eight or even ten years. The question we should ask ourselves is if it was so easy to implement this…because restructuring did not start today. So, if we have not done it up till this day since independence, I think we should also be fair, but some people will say, oh, because APC promised it in its manifesto. APC promised it in its manifesto because APC has a fundamental recognition that something is not right with the status quo and it needs to be fixed. President Muhammadu Buhari in his recent address even acknowledged that there are issues and that is why we have the National Assembly and the National Council of State.
Are we expecting the APC administration to forward something to the National Assembly with regards to the devolution of power and all that when the el-Rufai committee submits its report?
Certainly, because you see, the original driving force for the committee…it is in our manifesto. If you look at our manifesto, it is just about six lines. We have it on Pages 3, 29 and 37 making references to restructuring. Now, these need to be articulated so that all party members can have a shared understanding because what we find these days is that different people have different understanding and we do not even know what it means anymore. Another critical element is that we are taking on board the national conference report of 2014 and 2005. And we are distilling them and a critical section of our demography is the youth population, and the youth population was never part of those conversations. So, what we are doing now is how do we bring them on board? So, they must have a voice in this conversation, and that is what we are doing when you see us rolling out these plans.
Since the coming into power of this government, a lot has gone wrong especially in terms of relationship between the various organs of government and the party to the extent that the National Chairman has not had opportunity to meet one on one with the President who is the leader of the party and the party is supposed to guide the President in actualizing its manifesto. Why is this so?
This is a difficult question. The situation you have described is very close to reality, but what I can say which is the question I have asked myself is whether these were deliberate or they just happened because of the way things are. Every President has his own style and his own ways of doing things. I don’t think there is a standard prescription on how Presidents are supposed to behave in relation to the party. I was told that in the Second Republic, President Shehu Shagari would not do anything without Chief Adisa Akinloye, who was the party chairman, knowing about it and that the party chairman could even summon the President. But in 1999, President Obasanjo became not just the President of Nigeria, but he appropriated the title of the leader of the party.
He had his own relationship with the party chairman and how he wanted the relationship between the government and the party to be. President Yar’adua came, and he had his own ways, what we are experiencing now is the way President Buhari understands and want the relationship between the government and the party to be. It does not mean that it is a bad thing. It is just a way of doing things; it is his own style. I have given you different examples, and it does not mean that any of those is bad. If you work in that context, everybody that work in that context will have to learn to adapt to that style, that strategy and that way of doing things. It does not mean that it is bad. Each of them came with their own challenges.
But for us at the party level, what we have learnt to do is to continue to do our work and keep the party going in spite of the difficult. But I also know that the situation that we have found ourselves, the health of the president has also been a challenge. Before I joined the party leadership, I understand that they were meeting with him regularly. I also learnt that on one occasion when the chairman went to see him, he said he wants to be seeing all the NWC members and not just the chairman. It is not as if he did not want to work with the party, but you will agree that because of his health situation, things have been very difficult. I agree with you completely that it is one of the challenges that we have had to deal with.