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Monday, 23 March 2015

Nigerians have made up their minds to vote out Jonathan – Kwankwaso

By Bilesanmi Olalekan
Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State was in Lagos last week for consultation with the Arewa community even as he used the opportunity to receive an award from the Global Excellence magazine. In an interview at the departure lounge of the Lagos airport, Kwakwanso said the smear campaign against his party’s presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, can only further help the APC in the coming elections, because, according to him, “There are some who have already made up their minds, no amount of smear campaign that would change the minds of Nigerians”.
You are coordinating three states in the North for your party, APC, regarding the March 28 election. What would you say are your party’s chances in these states?
The issue of change now has gone so deep and wide to the extent that no one man, no matter how influential, can change the tide. People are yearning for change at all levels, and, therefore, I have no doubt in my mind that, at least, the states that I know best, that is the northern states, I believe APC will capture them.

Including Jigawa where Lamido holds sway?
Yes, including Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Plateau, Nasarawa, all the states, 19 of them.

There is something perhaps you know that some of us don’t know which gives this kind of
confidence, what could this be?
We live with the people and we have seen the tide. I don’t know much about the South, but I know very much what is happening in the North. And, therefore, I am very confident that on the 28th of this month, Nigerians will come out en-masse, both South and North, to vote for change and that is APC. This is the change that is going on in this country.

Don’t you think, with the negative reports being churned out daily on your presidential candidate, there is the probability that the followership will be reducing?
You know the thing about this issue is that there are some people who have already made up their minds, no amount of smear campaign, that would change the minds of Nigerians. Therefore, I believe it is a matter of time that Nigerians would come to vote for APC at all levels including General Buhari who, I believe, is capable and competent enough to lead this country.
How true is the talk that Nigerians may be having a repeat Yar’ Adua/Jonathan scenario in the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket where a healthy vice would take over from a sickly President?
I believe those propounding such theory are not God. It is only God that gives life and takes it. I have not seen Buhari medical report or that of Jonathan. But on the surface, one would think Buhari is healthier than Jonathan. But what worries many people is that some leaders are making such negative statements against the North, even including the First Lady when she was talking of protecting children and throwing them away. I don’t think that is healthy, especially now that we are talking about a game of numbers because that is what politics is. That is why I believe that what they are saying from that end is actually helping the APC to win more votes especially in the North. I think all well-meaning Nigerians who believe we are one country will think the First Lady, as we call her, is speaking like the last lady.

She was quoted to have said that President Jonathan is constitutionally entitled to eight years and so they would have to finish the eight years.
I think she is right. The Constitution says eight years of two terms. Now, they have spent six years already there. They may claim they have just spent four years, they may even claim two years but I know they were not sworn on 29 May, 2011, but May 2010. But again, they can claim any number of years, but I think Nigerians know the truth. six years, I think, is enough for a good governor or President to perform. And by the 28th of this month, Nigerians will pass judgment as whether he has performed or not.

You said change is every where, and yet there are some defections here and there from the APC, and more importantly in Kano.
There will continue to be defections. Ghali Naaba and some others just defected from PDP to APC.

How does this make you feel?
You should tell me, after all, you raised the issue of defection. There are many things unknown to you, people are defecting every now and then, but it is only the popular ones defecting you know because they are being advertised. We are receiving them in thousands every day.

Notwithstanding the change your party seems to be championing, some people believe there is really no difference between your party and the PDP?
I think what Nigerians are saying is that this government has failed, let us try another one. Let us try another people that have not been tested. Let us test APC, and I am sure Nigerians will be impressed by the performance of the party.

Are you impressed by the successes recorded so far in tackling the insurgency?
I think it is all about political will which was not in place before. Now, I think there is the political will for whatever reason. Again, let us wait and see, because they are making progress and we are happy. They are supporting our military because it is key to the survival of our nation. I want to appeal to the service chiefs not allow themselves to be used by any political party. They should be neutral. They should fight for the country, not for any political party.

Until recently, you have not been known to be chastising people publicly, but you did to Governor Fayose. Why?
I was just expressing my mind. Governors should mind their words. Governors should be role models. Governors should respect the institutions, and, when somebody is not doing that, I think one should advise him, especially those of us who have been in the game much longer than him and those who conversant with traditions and cultures in this country, we always respect our elders, including the Yoruba. But for somebody, especially at that level, to come out to be making reckless statements about the North and somebody old enough to be his father, I don’t think that is good enough. That is why we have to advise him, it is just an advise. Even in any society, you have both the bad and good people, from all tribes, but that bad should come from a particular group especially those who are looking for food, those who are living on insults on others, but not from those who are elected, even though we have now seen, on tape, the kind of election we had in Ekiti State. Unfortunately, Ekiti State is one of the highly respected even in the South because of the level of education it has. I am sure they must be thoroughly embarrassed by such statements and definitely it will not help the PDP.

With the kind of social programmes like that of empowerment which has hundreds of thousands beneficiaries in the state, coupled with the different infrastructures going on there, one wonders you source for the funds such that it does not affect salaries?
On the issues of salaries, we had to plug all sorts of wastage, on the issue of over-head, we had to make a lot of savings such that the cost of running government was taken to the barest minimum, and, therefore, we have money to do other projects. I think with good management, government, even at the national level, should be able to replicate some of the projects we are doing . By the grace of God, our incoming government in Kano under our party, APC, will build on that. Nigerians, especially people from Kano, are in love with APC because they have seen our performance, because people have benefited across the state and they will continue to benefit.

Are you fulfilled as a politician?
I am very contented. I am happy. I served Kano State government as a civil servant for 16 years. I retired in 1991, joined politics. I was Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. I was elected delegate of the Constitutional Conference 1994/95. I was governor 1999-2003. I was Minister of Defence for about four years. I was a representative of the North-west on the NNDC Board, and now, I am governor of Kano. And, I am contesting to become a senator so that we can give our own contributions in the National Assembly. I think I am a happy and contented person.

The aura of influence and affluence and even the paraphernalia of office is not reflected in your personality. People have access to you.
That is one of the ways of saving the tax payers money. That is one of the ways of meeting people. I am going to Kano on commercial flight. I use them (commercial flight) except they are not available, so, therefore, it gives me an opportunity at the airport like this to meet people who ordinarily I would not have met and vice versa, and that is one of the ways of getting quality information. People must try as much as possible to be humble. In any case, all those who are 100% using chartered flight, who are having their own aircraft as governors, lets us wait and see what happens in June.

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