Former Governor of Kwara State, ABDULFATAH AHMED spoke with the NPO Reports’ BUKOLA AFENI in his Abuja residence, dissecting the coming elections, what differences Nigerians can see between the ruling APC and opposition PDP. Excerpts:
Nigerians are counting days to the very crucial 2023 elections; what is your assessment of the whole exercise from preparations to where we are today?
I think we are getting prepared for the next elections. Campaigns are in top gear. We have seen all the front runners going through all the nooks and corners setting their manifestoes, and INEC the umpire, putting their plans in place so that we have free and fair elections.
With all the clamour for electoral reforms and all claims by the present administration, do you substantially see much difference between the coming elections and previous ones such as 2015, 2019 and others?
Of course, I expect to see a lot of difference. The electoral reform is a game changer. I want to commend the Federal Government for ensuring that the Electoral Law has been passed and made functional. We expect to see a one-man, one-vote activity.
We expect to see only those who have been accredited cast their votes, which means that the voting process is more credible than what they are used to be in the past. It means that we expect people to be very sportsman in their decisions concerning the results that will come out from the elections.
What is your faith that the APC-led Government can organise a free and fair credible poll?
In all honesty, from what we have seen so far with the INEC, I have a lot of confidence in their ability to carry out free, fair and credible elections.
What impressions do you have of INEC so far?
So far, I am impressed with what INEC has done. It should translate into the kind of result Nigerians like.
In the build-up to the campaigns, your party PDP has been more vociferous condemning the APC administration. But many Nigerians believe PDP itself brought Nigeria to where it was before it became necessary to change the government. Any contrary opinion to this?
Of course, I have a lot of contrary opinions, because the PDP came in 1999, and took over from the military administration. They brought in a lot of reforms, which brought a sort of shift in a public sector-driven economy, and created an environment for the private sector that strengthened most of the economic activities that we see. It brought a lot of regulatory agencies that we see. We saw that the third tier of government, which is the local government had the opportunity of defining itself in the body polity of Nigeria’s political environment.
We saw how the economy grew to become the biggest in Africa. That alone means that we are doing a lot of work about creating space and opportunities for youths who today, unfortunately, do not have such opportunities.
The PDP has done tremendously well much more above what the APC has done, and today with the benefit of hindsight, Nigerians know that this is the best time for them to look at those who have done it before, and those who can do it again.
That is why we expect that with the PDP coming in, it is surely not only learning from the mistakes of the APC, it will also come up with new strategies to drive good governance for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Many Nigerians believe that PDP and APC are two sides of the same coin, what can you say about this, if you disagree what is your reason?
Of course, they are two different parties. We have the APC which has its manifesto, which has its constitution, and PDP has its manifesto, which has its constitution.
I cannot see them as being the same. Yes, people could have moved from one party to the other. Largely, I can see differences in ideology, and those who stick to the ideology of APC are still in APC, and those who want to be with the ideology of PDP are in PDP. So, they are two different parties.
How will you rate corruption under the PDP and the APC government?
I think the PDP government stood out clearly in driving its fight against corruption, and it started by setting up the agencies that we see today, the ICPC, the EFCC and other regulatory agencies to ensure that corruption is reduced. But don’t forget, these are all institutions and they are strong as they are made to be by the government in power. So, by and large, the PDP was able to not only create just institutions, but able to put them into optimal use and that saw a gradual reduction in our perception in respect to corruption.
By and large, the APC has not been able to add anything different from what the PDP has done, and it has not been able to strengthen the current agencies to introduce new ways of doing things, especially in the face of changing technology, and the face of changing crime rate globally.
So, I think the PDP did not only set up those agencies but also saw the use of those agencies to drive anti-corruption crusade. I want to say the APC, just like I said, has not added much to these agencies.
So, I will say that the PDP has done more in the aspect of fighting corruption than the APC.
In your state, Kwara you appear to have been quiet, why has this been so?
I have not been quiet. I just came back from a major tour of my Senatorial District, which is the southern part of Kwara, Kwara south senatorial District, where we had a major interface with the people. We went around and met with the community and traditional rulers. We spoke with them about the need for us to see how to bring about new ways of growing Kwara state.
They have seen the difference from what we have left behind, and they have seen what is going on now. They have seen that despite the lean resources we had, we could bring much more benefits to the majority of the people.
Kwarans are very clear, they know where they want their businesses to go, and they know how they want their economy to be driven. So, between you and I, this is the time and they have all made up their minds that they want to grow positively. They have seen that the current administration cannot take them to the Promised Land. In trying to draw a comparison from what we did, they are sure that things have changed negatively within the period of the last four years.”
What are the chances of the PDP returning to power after the “O To Ge” phenomenal ouster?
It is clear because the “O To Ge” came in under a false pretence. It came in by propaganda; by creating stories about events and activities that did not exist. But don’t forget this is governance, you have to demonstrate. It is not enough to come and tell people that things are working, or things are not working, people have been able to see the difference between what they told them, and what they have put on the ground.
People are convinced that these people only came to power on a false platform, and the false platform has not been able to change their lives for the better.
As it is today, they are ready to elect leaders who will tell them the reality of what is on the ground and carry them along accordingly. This can only happen under the PDP. Don’t forget when I was in PDP, I had precedence there. I had a program which we called “Ibi a ba ise De”.
On monthly basis, we came out and we discussed with the people. What we had collected from allocation, and how we had applied the resources. It was a monthly program, so we made ourselves available.
If this is the kind of thing that people are looking forward to, I am sure PDP will provide it, because they want to be sure that the funds that are put together as revenue for the state are spent in ways and manners that people in the state know where the funds are going into.
We cannot run governance in absentia; you run governance by interfacing with the people. Of course, it is about the people, it is about the citizens. So, these are some of the things that they have not seen in the current administration which they truly want to see, that the governance is carried out in ways and manners where you see the governed, and you see the Governor, and you see an interface, these are kinds of things that Kwarans are Looking forward to.
What is the political future of His Excellency AbdulFatah Ahmed? Any hope for a future elective position?
Well, that will be purely by choice of providence, as it were, am still very active in politics.
I am a staunch member of the PDP and Insha Allah, we hope to entrench a new government in Nigeria after the 25th February under the PDP.
We hope to change the way and manner things are going on today. In terms of security, in terms of economy, in terms of improvement of infrastructure which Nigerians will be happy with. I hope to be part of that government, God willing.
Nigeria has a huge population of youth most of them jobless. Elections are coming, how do you see this vis a vis the issue of violence?
I think the youth should ask serious questions, and they must see that they have answers to these questions before they decide to cast their votes because the issues are clear now in Nigeria.
There are issues of economy, there are issues of insecurity, there are issues of unemployment, you must open your eyes and look at all these candidates, who are front runners today.
How many of them have the most visible antecedents that you can see, and say, yes, this man can do this job, not because people say so?
Today’s world is made easy by social media, and so many things. We have access to information. We should be able to question what people will say and find out truly what we are expecting in terms of who to vote for.
It is somebody that will still have the capacity to do these things because he is going to solve our problems as individuals. We must be very cautious of that because talk is cheap. A lot of people come and say so many things. But we must be sure of their antecedents, based on what they had done, that it can truly demonstrate what we should expect to see from them. Youth should be very cautious. This is their time. This is their opportunity to ensure that they choose the right leadership, knowing fully well that when they make the wrong choices, they have to live with the consequences of the choices. So, this is the time to think right.