Buhari will never allow election rigged for him-Senator Abu Ibrahim

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Senator Abu Ibrahim represents Katsina South Senatorial District. He is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs. A close allay to the President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Ibrahim is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of Buhari Support Groups (BSG). In this interview he spoke on the three years of achievements of the present administration, nPDP matter and the spread of BSG among others.
 
By Gabriel Agbonika
The APC government is three years old, how do you see this administration vis a vis the outcry that the administration has performed below expectation?
To be fair, without being bias, this government has performed very well. Nigerians forget too easily that by the time this government took over, the largest source of our foreign exchange had just collapsed.  The price of crude oil fell from $120 per barrel to below $40 and with that the government continued to survive. If an unbiased person can go round the country, you will see many positive developments. First of all, the country went into recession but it came out despite the huge gap of the foreign exchange earnings.
Again the government has invested heavily in infrastructure. Have you ever heard anything about railway, development in Nigeria over the past twenty years? But today you are a witness to it, because this government has invested heavily on railway. Road infrastructure is also going on very heavily. I have seen pictures of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing going round South East visiting road projects and this is quite remarkable despite the fact that our revenue earning had gone down within the first two years of this administration.
In terms of even stabilizing the socio-economic situation in Nigeria, the federal government has helped state governments through a bailout so as to pay government workers’ salaries. Tell me has there been any administration in this country, from the beginning of democracy in 1999 where the federal government was giving assistance to the states to pay salaries in order to meet their budget obligations? It is only this government. I challenge anybody to tell me from the time of Obasanjo to everybody, whoever thought of making the state governments  stable? But Buhari realised that if the states are stable Nigeria will be stable. So he initiated that policy of sustaining stability through financial assistance to both tiers of local and state governments.
Look at the budget of this government on infrastructure, before it was very low but now it has been increased. Look at the N-Power programmes it is meant to be creative, that is the purpose of education, not just to graduate and get job under the government.  No it is to make us amend our ways. This N-Power programme is therefore changing the perception to life of Nigerians, that they have to fend for themselves by giving them small loans which they can use to start business of their own.
I saw somebody on wheelchair who was begging before but he said he is no longer begging because of the N5,000 that was given to him and with that N5,000, he started selling chips.
The opposition in particular is of the view that President Buhari does not have the spirit of a democrat and that even if he is defeated in the 2019 election, he may not have the will like President Jonathan to concede defeat. What is your take on this?
I know President Buhari very well, he is a highly honest person with visible integrity; if you go and tell President Buhari that you are going to rig election for him he will not allow it; maybe some people around him may do it, but if he knows he will stop it, he will never allow something that is not right to happen around him. But you see, the opposition, especially the PDP has been decimated the party. PDP is dead. So they have to argue, they have to cry, they have to criticize. They are accusing the APC government of selective prosecution on corruption charges. But of course if you hear that PDP people got arrested, it is because they were the ones in government. You can’t arrest APC people because they have not been in government to steal public funds.
The PDP people were the ministers, they were the spenders of our money, they were the ones who negotiated for 20  per cent bribes, they were the ones who paid for power projects which has never been achieved; so why would you arrest anybody except them.
And I told my colleagues that we will be the next targets if we don’t do the right thing. The PDP people are crying for nothing, they have destroyed the economy of this country, they have destroyed the culture of this country. Look at our former President Obasanjo how many governors did he remove illegally? They were many of them such as Dariye, Ngige and the Oyo Governor and so on.  He was removing people just like that.  He will call a state Assembly of 10 lawmakers out of 26 and they will remove their leader. If we don’t make references to what happened before, people will not know our efforts. We are best to correct the mistakes of the past governments.
When the price of crude oil crashed from $120 per barrel to $40, it affected us but the government was able to steer the economy back to a stable position. Look at the agricultural sector, how much did we invest there? But it is improving now because we are becoming self sufficient in food production. In area of solid mineral under Obasanjo and Jonathan’s administrations, the sector was completely abandoned as financial resources available to it was filtered and mismanaged or diverted to other personal interests.
 
The nPDP members are saying that they are responsible for the victory of President Buhari in 2015 election, that thrice Buhari contested without winning and that it was when they joined that they put life into it.  They want this government to recognize and reward them officially.
They have contributed, but they did not make Buhari President. Nobody should tell you that he made Buhari win Kano state, nobody will tell me that he helped Buhari win Katsina state; in the whole of the North West, nobody will tell you that Buhari won those areas because of them, even in the north east. In fact there are those nPDP who asked Buhari to come and campaign for them.
I could remember we had to go to Gombe to campaign for somebody, Buhari had to cut short his tour to go to Gombe to campaign for somebody but he is now claiming that he is nPDP. Well, this is normal in politics. But Nigerians should take it that this is not a new group because there is nothing like new PDP. There is nothing like ACN, there is nothing like CPC, there is nothing like ANPP. They have ceased to exist. This group is a recent creation for the purpose of extracting concession from the party.
 
Another school of thought is that apart from people like you, Ahmed Lawan that have remained in the opposition before it became the ruling party, 80 per cent of the people in APC now are from PDP, even former national chairman Barnabas Gemade, Danjuma Goje, Wamakko, all of them were in PDP. So why is APC still saying that PDP destroyed Nigeria whereas the likes of Saraki, Yakubu Dogara, Tambuwal all of them were all in the PDP?
But what I am trying to say is that politics is politics, elections are coming, as far as I am concerned there is nothing like new PDP. It is ACN that should be talking about ACN, CPC is talking about CPC but since they joined APC, there is nothing like nPDP. But politics is politics and people listen to them, they are holding important positions but the new PDP itself is dead because there shouldn’t be anything like new PDP. But if they want to expect something, that is politics, but as far as I am concerned that group should not exist.
 
But these people are threatening to pull out of your party?
I am not saying they should pull out and that is why we are listening to them.  But they know within themselves that they are not honest on this issue. They know there, there is nothing like new PDP or other branches of APC.  But as they said they have the right to say we want to go and negotiate which is fair.
 
You said they are not honest, how?
There is no organization called new PDP in the APC as a party that is organized, that have been discussing among themselves for the last three years, all these things just came up recently.
Why do you think these things are coming up recently as you just said now?
I have said that this is politics. Somebody wants certain position, he thinks he must follow us because he wants to get ‘A’. All of us in Nigeria know this did we ever hear last year anything about nPDP. This erupted only 2-3 weeks ago. Simply because party elections are coming, national convention is coming, primary elections are coming for elective officers, so they expect some concession so that they can get better share, that is all.
Do you think if in the long run nPDP decides to pull out how would it affect the fortunes of President Buhari?
APC will win even if they pull out because we are not going to go to sleep. It means we will put in more efforts and we will win. Every single individual has benefited from the party. APC is like a family, so it cannot just throw out people like that, it would do as much as possible to keep them at home. But to say that ‘we will pull out if one of us is not made the President’ will not work; and if they end up pulling out, we will double our efforts and we will win the 2019 elections.
I want to emphasize here that these are people who have constituencies and of course, nobody will like them to go away, but at what expense are we going to keep them? But if they go, we will survive and we will campaign and we will win elections.
 
You are chairing a very sensitive committee, police affairs and you are chairing it at a time when the IGP is refusing to honour the invitation of the Senate; are you not worried?
I have interacted with the IGP and I believe sanity is coming, in our discussion on some of the issues and I believe sanity is coming, I don’t want to discuss what we have agreed upon.
How would you compare the present relationship between the IGP, the executive and the legislature?
The relationship between the executive and the legislature has been soured so many times. Was it not under Obasanjo, to use the French system, they had to cohabit. Now those cohabitations even exist between a husband and wife, they share the same bed, but when they quarrel everybody is sleeping separately, but then if you don’t find a solution to it, then it becomes critical.
Well, I have done something which I think will break the jinx I hope. But if it happens this week everybody will see it, but if it doesn’t happen, then we will go back to the drawing table again.
The Senate criticized the 2018 budget on the ground that it is unrealistic and you ended up increasing it the more, is this rational?
Now, the budget was earmarked to the MTEF, the price of oil was $45 as brought by government, it was raised to $51, that is an addition of $6 and even now it is about $80 per barrel, so the MTEF, the price was reasonable which is accepted by both sides, so it was not a unilateral decision.
So once you raised the benchmark to $51 so the quantum of the budget must increase but what to do with the quantum, that is where the argument will now come in, the executive is saying we should use it to finance budget deficit, while the National Assembly argued that there must be some critical infrastructure that should be funded, is it increase more in terms of that, that should be provided and so on and so forth.
 
You are the chairman Board of Trustees of Buhari Support Groups (BSG), how has it been?
We are doing extremely well. We have opened offices across the country, we have established officers, I have been physically to all the state capitals, our outing in Akwa Ibom was fantastic, Calabar was good, Edo was good, everywhere we have went was reasonably okay, looking at how we started as APC which was left before like a leper, but now it is becoming more stronger.
 
In Ekiti State, is it not going to be a litmus test for your campaign organisation?
These were organisations that worked for Buhari in 2014/2015 so all of them put together 198 of them under one umbrella; so we are using them, we are disseminating information through them and we may use them for election, but campaign has not yet started.
 
 

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