Senator Babba Kaita speaks on his ammunition come 2023
Senator Ahmad Babba Kaita represents Katsina North senatorial district, where President Muhammadu Buhari hails from. In this interview with Daily Trust, he spoke on the dust raised by the ongoing membership revalidation and registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the zoning arrangement in the party and why Katsina State should be rescued in 2023, among other issues.
What is your view on the ongoing revalidation/registration exercise of your party, the APC?
It is part of our democratic requirement to admit new members and refresh the old ones. I think it is fine and we are happy. The enthusiasm so far in various states is encouraging.
The pioneer national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, alongside the leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole have expressed reservations, describing the exercise as alien to the APC constitution. Why are they against it?
In all sincerity and fairness to the aggrieved members, I can say there were things we did wrong as a party, and if we are not careful, they will come to haunt us. Failure to learn from the mistakes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will expose the APC. That is the very reason people like Tinubu, Baba Akande and so many stalwarts of the party are expressing grievances.
The best way to solve this issue is to be fair to everyone within the party, and we can do it. There is no perfect party, even in the most advanced democracies.
However, one of the biggest problems that can destroy a party is the lack of fairness. On this note, we have to ensure that we are fair to one another. We can always parley and make progress, and of course, in politics, it is the game of give and take.
Recognising their importance in the party and the role they played in its emergence, it will be disastrous if they engage in a legal tussle. I would rather want a situation where we come to a roundtable and discuss these issues so that we can find a common ground that would benefit the party and Nigerians in general.
To those around them, the reservations being expressed are due to the suspicion that the exercise was conceived to edge them out ahead of 2023. What is your take on that?
Unfortunately, that is why I made reference to PDP’s experience. Anything that is not founded based on honesty and fairness is bound to fail. I totally agree with some of their grievances. I will not accept any undemocratic way of disenfranchising people; definitely not heavyweights like Tinubu, Baba Akande and so many other people, whose sweat we are enjoying, as far as the party is concerned. But I totally disagree with the idea of going to court.
We still have room for discussions, making amendments and horse-trading, because it is all about interest and power.
The agitation revolves around the party’s presidential ticket in 2023. Is there any agreement to move its ticket from one zone to another?
Not that I know of. But it is common sense that considering the political arithmetic of this country, none of us can produce a president without the support of another. We have to network with other people and bring like-minds to be able to wrest power in favour of our party. If this is the case, we should rotate and accommodate everybody.
It is my belief that though it is a gentlemanly agreement, we should be able to abide by it because, without the contributions of stakeholders from other regions, the APC is doomed. That was what happened to the PDP. They were so power-drunk that they thought everything was possible.
Are you saying the South should be given the presidential ticket of the APC?
I am a firm believer that the only way we can survive as a party is to make sure that power rotates within the regions. Not necessarily between North and South, but all the regions in Nigeria, so that we can have cohesion and the political clout to win elections. In political power, concessions have to be made. Whether it is written or not, we should be able to find an amicable way to rotate power from one region to another.
Some say the magic wand of the APC is President Buhari and now that he is not contesting in 2023, the party’s survival is slim. Do you see the party surviving after him?
That is why I am cautioning party with a very strong voice. Two things made us succeed in 2015: one was abiding by democratic tenets. In its formation, the party was purely and basically democratic. While the PDP was arrogantly abusing the democratic structures of this country, we were patient and reasonable enough to abide by them. Secondly, we rode on the popularity of President Muhammadu Buhari. Should we abuse these forces for any reason, the party is doomed.
Something urgently needs to be done to address the issue of democracy within the party. It is very important.
In my state, we are currently facing such challenges as some individuals think the party belongs to them and want to do whatever they want. In fact, they are already organising another government by 2023. That is just wishful thinking if you do not follow the democratic process.
There are speculations that you would decamp from the party; how true is it?
It is not true. The speculation arose between me and the government of Katsina State. After the disagreement, they decided to test the waters. If that is what they think, I am among the people who laid the foundation of the party in my state.
The APC has not done me wrong, but some members have, not to me alone, but my state at large. I am still there and going nowhere.
The speculation of your defection emanated from your Facebook post after a stakeholders meeting. Who were you referring to?
The post intended to tell Katsina indigenes that what the governor said at the stakeholders meeting were pure lies because, under his watch, we have the party chairman rooting for a candidate; which is well known. Under his nose, we have members of his cabinet rooting for the deputy governor; we have other aides rooting for a specific gubernatorial candidate. He is promoting some candidates over others.
I believe it is not fair for him to come out publicly and declare his neutrality. I felt that was too much for me to swallow and I told people. We have had incidences where he made declarations and it never materialised. We had issues with local government elections, which he promised would be held at an appointed time, but to date, the state has not held the elections.
2023 is around the corner, what is your ambition?
Before my ambition, I am concerned about happenings in Katsina today. My ambition will come later. We are watching the political dynamics and calculations.
I can’t see any reason we should live the way we are. The RUGA system, which most northern governors are not taking seriously, is enough to take care of Katsina. Lagos alone consumes about 30,000 cattle every day. So why will Katsina people be living in poverty? A litre of fresh milk is more expensive than a litre of petrol.
It takes people with understanding to govern. Unfortunately, we have to go through this mess; it has nothing to do with this party. Many governors from the APC are doing their best. Unfortunately, I think we have a problem in Katsina.
What is your assessment of Governor Masari’s management of banditry?
Honestly, in that aspect, I will score him high, but the unfortunate thing is that it is two sides of one coin. No matter what you do, if you do not look at the other side of the coin, you will end up not achieving your objectives.
What would you have done differently if you were in his position?
I would have tried to decentralise the government and make sure that governance is felt at the grassroots. I am sure this will yield positive results. Part of the problem of the Masari administration is that he abandoned useful policies midway. Policies have to be pursued with tenacity.
How do you feel having the president as one of your constituents; and how does he relate with you?
We have a rosy relationship. I am his ardent supporter, which he knows. I always appreciate his ideas and do not doubt his capacity. If there are issues I need to advise him on, I do that.
One of the unfortunate things about representing the president’s constituency is the extra weight you carry from unknown angles. As a senator, anybody who wants to deal with the president within the Senate will always come to you for assistance. This is a burden you do not expect to meet. There are so many burdens that come with being the president’s senator. It is a very serious and challenging affair, but I really like it because it has broadened my horizon.
Is this the reason you are more outstanding than other senators in Katsina?
No, it is the passion and zeal. I wouldn’t say I am the most outstanding, but with all humility, I can say I do not rest. I believe I have a burden on my neck and that burden has a lifespan – four years. So I will do everything humanly possible to achieve some set goals and targets within those years.
Let me assure you that everybody knows the president is full of ethics and would not bend any rule to assist the closest person to him. So my success is purely fuelled by my passion to deliver.
From Ismail Mudashir, Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi & Faruk Shuaibu
Cullen from Daily Trust