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North thought Buhari was Nigeria’s Mahatma Gandhi – Bauchi ex-deputy gov

A former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Sule Katagum, speaks with ARMSTRONG BAKAM on the state of the nation and explains why he dumped the All Progressives Congress for the Peoples Democratic Party

You recently dumped the All Progressives Congress and joined the Peoples Democratic Party.  Why did you do that?

First of all, I didn’t ‘dump’ the APC; actually, the APC drove me out of its enclave. I joined the APC in 2014 and we formed the government in 2015 and 2019, I was the Chief of Staff and I even became the deputy governor of Bauchi State under the leadership of former governor M.A. (Mohammed Abdullahi) Abubakar.

Unfortunately, in 2019, we lost the election, and the PDP took over. Since then, we, I mean the administration of  M.A. Abubakar, were treated like pariah people. We were not part of the developing structure of the APC.

In fact, we saw clearly that we were no longer wanted because all activities, all meetings, and all decisions were taken without the input of, first and foremost, the only governor the APC has ever produced in the state, Barrister M.A. Abubakar.

 Just because he, the former governor, lost his re-election, he was treated like that. I could remember when he lost the election. He tried to reach out to those who were in the leadership of the APC at that time. He said, “Look, let us come back together and build the APC from our mistakes that we made. Yes, I made a lot of mistakes, but I was not the only one that made the mistakes. Everybody made mistakes.”

However, I do believe that was not the intention of the new leadership of the party and at the end of the day, up to this year (2022), when the primaries were  held, we realised that even if our former governor of the APC came in and tried to participate in the primaries, he would not have won. Not because he doesn’t have the people and not because he doesn’t have the structure, but just because the party leadership didn’t want him to continue as governor.

If they do not like our principal, that is, M.A. Abubakar, they don’t like us either. So, we were driven out, and the only reasonable and honourable thing to do, for someone like me, is that if you don’t want us, we leave you. So I resigned from the party.

Did you consult with your former boss, the former governor, Barrister Mohammed Abubakar, before quitting the APC?

Well, I consulted widely with my people. I consulted widely with my elders, my family, and, of course, with the former governor. I went to see him and I told him, “Look, Your Excellency, you are a gentleman. You tolerate so much disdain, intolerance and everything but we that are under you can no longer take this kind of thing.

In your resignation letter to the APC ward chairman, you stated that the principles for which you joined the APC in 2014 are no longer valid and that you must leave the party. What are these principles?

The reason that made us join the APC in 2014 were that the party’s principles entailed things like fairness, justice, and so on. If you look at the motto of the APC, we believed strongly in the APC.  In the north, there was no doubt, Buhari was like a messiah,  Buhari was compared to people like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. We thought this was a man who would clean Nigeria and make it what it was supposed to be.

Sadly, the principles, over the years, became more or less like those of the normal Nigerian political party. What we had expected, like I said earlier, after the failure of the Governor Abubakar’s administration in 2019, was a sort of reconciliation, a sort of reaching out in order to speak to ourselves and see how we could go about it.

In fact, to be honest with you, in 2019, I don’t think it was really the PDP as a party that defeated Abubakar; it was more or less an internal affair (that cost him his seat).

What efforts did you make to seek redress?

If they don’t involve me in the running of things or ask me to come and do this or that, if they don’t involve me in stakeholders or whatever, what can I do? Maybe somebody would call you and say they didn’t see you in a meeting, or maybe a meeting will be held tomorrow and they will call you to come to Abuja by 4pm for a meeting.

So, you see, these are some of the tricks, and quietly, they were trying to say, “We are sick and tired of you guys. Can you go through the window or through the door quietly?”

There are two major contenders struggling to unseat the current Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed. They are a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar  (retd.) of the APC and a serving Senator, Haliru Jika of the New Nigeria Peoples Party. What do you think are Mohammed’s chances of returning as governor?

Well, first of all, you must realise that the current governor is an incumbent. He is an erudite politician. He’s someone I think needs no introduction to anybody in the context of Nigerian politics. They are the ones that are trying to remove him from his chair, which I doubt if they can, because he’s a politician who has all kinds of ways of retaining that chair (as governor).

In our own time, my former governor was a bit too nice for a typical Nigerian politician in that aspect. But for someone like Bala, he’s someone who will come out fully and try to retain his seat.

Secondly, let me say this that, from my experiences as a one-time administrator, there’s really no governor in Nigeria who can really do a lot for people in just one term of four years.

A governor makes a lot of mistakes in the first four years. He needs a second term to really consolidate, to really set out his goals, and to achieve them.

And at the same time, we are supporting Bala Mohammed because we believe in what he is doing. If you see somebody performing, applaud him, because tomorrow when he’s no longer the governor, he’s not going to take these roads to Duguri, his hometown, to Lagos or any other place.

You said earlier that you and others who joined the APC in 2014 went all out to ensure that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), won the election. But here we are. The country is worse off with insecurity everywhere; the economy is in a shambles, Are you disappointed by where we are as a country?

Well, let’s be very, very honest with ourselves. We’re all Nigerians. The promises were mainly on security, on the economy, and on corruption. But in all honesty, look at the security situation across the country.

Yes, we agree that maybe Boko Haram has been contained to a certain level. In those days, there were bombings, but now, nobody can travel from his state, for example, from Bauchi to Abuja, without feeling that something could happen to him on the road. Every day, we hear of people being apprehended, and kidnappings are common. In terms of security, I will honestly say, with all due respect to Mr President, that there has been no improvement.

Secondly, of course, there is corruption. Nobody has been vilified; nobody has been taken to prison.

Even the two former governors of Taraba and Plateau states who were sent to prison were pardoned…

You see, that is sending the wrong signal that you can steal, go and spend some time in prison, and come back and your money is still intact.

If the APC members campaign, what are they even going to tell Nigerians (during the campaign)? There’s nothing! Except if people just want to play the ostrich and put their heads underground.  Yesterday (Monday), someone was talking about the kind of development that happened in Lagos. You see, we are individualising this thing now. We’re not talking about an individual; we’re talking about a party structure. The candidate of the APC is part of the APC. He was the greatest contributor and progenitor of Buhari. If not for Bola Tinubu with his influence, I don’t think Buhari would have won the election, but he helped, so he’s part and parcel of the APC.

First of all, he has to explain to Nigerians what really happened. Why did the APC, after promising in 2014 to do all these things for Nigerians, still sits on the brink?

In seven years plus, you (Tinubu) were part and parcel of the government and even a leader of the APC. You had direct access to the President, so what are you coming to tell Nigerians now? Or you didn’t know what was happening? We’re all Nigerians and we need to be very frank with ourselves and agree. But what we are saying is that Atiku (Abubakar), just like (Muhammadu) Buhari, has tried many times.  He doesn’t need to be the President of Nigeria, but there must be a reason because he’s comfortable, he has attained a certain age where he can go and relax and nothing happens.

The Nigerian economy is in shambles right now. The Naira got up above N700 to a dollar and the prices of goods in the market keep skyrocketing. Do you think those managing the economy in Nigeria are bereft of ideas or what do you think is the major problem?

They might have ideas, but you see; the problem in this country is that most of our managers don’t really do things for the generality of Nigerians. You can see that all the managers are PhD holders. They have M.Scs from Harvard University, from whatever, but this attitude towards public wealth or public purse is so sad in this country. We still have people who think their own policies should pave the way for them to make wealth and not for the country to become what they are; they are not for the improvement of the country.

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