Former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Alhaji Saliu Mustapha, has said that General Muhammadu Buhari is the only change Nigerians need to turn things around in the country.
Mustapha, who spoke to AIDOGHIE PAULINUS in Abuja, also said it is absurd for people to believe that the former military head of state would take the nation backward.
Mustapha said: “I can’t imagine why people will think that way. This is absurd because everybody that is a living being is not getting outdated. Everybody is getting advanced. So, why do they think that he will take Nigeria backward?”
He spoke on these and other issues. Excerpts:
What are the chances of General Muhammadu Buhari winning the forthcoming 2015 presidential election?
Your question is timely in the sense that General Buhari has a lot of chances in winning this election. And as you can see, even from our presidential primaries, the convention we held, you could see the kind of interest, which Nigerians who came out en masse poured out at that convention. It has never happened in the history of Nigeria. Never before had Nigerians sat down, observed, shown interest in a presidential primary election in one of the parties. That goes a long way to tell you that it is not just the interest in the party, but in the candidature of General Muhammadu Buhari, that a lot of Nigerians are there waiting, ready to support his presidential bid. And why this is happening is that in the past, he had run elections, the electorate have always been there to vote for him, but unfortunately, in one way or the other, the system has always manipulated the outcome and people have been crying. And these are some of the things we have always been saying, that it will come to a stage in the democratic growth of this country that those who have even been manipulating would be tired that they will say look, this thing is not getting any better, let’s do the right thing. And that is why so many of us believe that his chances are bright, especially if the institutions do their work rightly, allow a free and fair election, one man, one vote, and let the votes count. With these, there is no way General Buhari will not win the election.
In that case, are you confident of a free and fair election?
I have seen a lot of abracadabra in this country. I am one of those who don’t praise people when you appoint them into an office. I praise them after they leave office. If I relate that to our discourse, I won’t want to give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the kudos yet. But we pray that they do the right thing because this country belongs to all of us. We don’t want to see any form of irregularities that will bring chaos in this country. I am not agitating for chaos, but the people are getting wiser by the day. Any attempt to fool the people, you will discover the kind of reaction because if you look at the past, the results were being changed, and you hear that they snatched ballot boxes, they have done this. But today, there is the social media, telephones are there and as elections are being conducted, votes being cast, results will be announced immediately and before you even carry the ballot box to another collation centre, people have already snapped the results and have started posting it on the social media. So, it will be difficult for anybody to engage in manipulation.
Again, Nigerians are tired of past manipulations and that is why people just want a change. Nigerians are yearning for a change and fortunately for General Buhari and the APC, we are using the name, the platform ‘change.’ So, a lot of Nigerians are coming out and you can see voluntary participation and support because people are tired of the misrule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). People just want a change for the better. That is why you can see that General Buhari is not the one that has the billions to hire the crowd or to pay people; rather it is the people that are bringing out their widow’s mite to support him in whatever form. In every corner I go to, there are people that are even doing things that are not documented for his cause.
You sounded as if you don’t have confidence in the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega. Why?
We don’t want to cast any negativity on INEC at the moment. But if you follow the historical record of INEC, there have been cases whereby you discover that there was deliberate negligence on the part of INEC. Look at the 2011 elections! A lot of people did not know that there was a systemic rigging. We came out for the presidential election, we had voted in Abuja and in so many other parts of the country, people had cast their votes and by one o clock, you were cancelling the election that materials were not deployed to some parts of the country. But people did not know that that was a systematic way of rigging the opposition out.
Do you foresee that happening in the forthcoming election?
They shouldn’t try that this time round.
If they do, what happens?
That is what I am telling you that the consequence of INEC not meeting up with the peoples’ expectations, only God can tell because you can see from the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC), they never thought people would raise questions, that people would raise observations. Everybody is asking for his PVC now. In the past, it was not taken seriously. But people are still insisting even in areas where they have not got them. If they must use the PVC, people want their cards before the elections. And if they are not going to use them, they better come up with another option so that everybody will know in time. People are getting wiser by the day that they now know that their votes cannot just be purchased with N200, N500 or even as much as N5, 000. Nobody wants to sell his votes because the enlightenment has been going on that if you sell your votes, you have mortgaged your future for another four years.
General Buhari’s critics believe that if elected, he will take Nigeria 10, 20 years backward. What is your take on this?
I can’t imagine why people will think that way. This is absurd because everybody that is a living being is not getting outdated. Everybody is getting advanced. So, why do they think that he will take Nigeria backward? Do they think he doesn’t know what is happening today? I don’t know why people raise this kind of argument.
Sometimes, I just keep quiet and laugh. But, to set the record straight, even if it is not General Buhari, even if you go and wake Lord Lugard up today, Lord Lugard cannot take us backward because people live with the dynamics of the day. Besides, the world is growing. Will General Buhari say he will not want people to use aeroplanes again and they should go back and be climbing camels? It is not possible. For me, this is not an argument that people shouldn’t be raising. We want this man because as a person, as an individual, he connotes the characteristics that give leadership in any form.
Why your unflinching support for General Buhari?
A lot of people used to ask those of us, the young elements around him this same question. When we were growing up, we saw what he did and since some of us have come of age, we have not seen any leader that has been able to give those constant, unflinching credentials in leadership. Leadership is not just coming out to be flamboyant. No! It is about standing firm on just issues that you know are going to advance the cause of your people. General Buhari has the experience and with the dynamism of young people like us around him, I mean, that complements everything. He has shown us direction, he has shown us leadership and that is why we, the younger elements around him, are running around, making sure that this man, at least, comes for another leadership period to lay that solid, viable foundation that we lack, which can take us to the sky.
Are you saying that General Buhari is the only change we need at this time?
Within the arena of those who are aspiring to lead this country to greater height, I think nobody can match, or we don’t have anybody that can do better than him.
So, he is the only visible change agent we can see?
For now, he is the one who can give us that change and we hope and pray that the Almighty Allah will guide and continue to protect him with that wisdom he has shown some of us that has made us to believe in him, for him to be able to win this election so as to lead Nigeria to a greener pasture. -SunNews