‘The idea of imposition is not ideal in a democracy’

Abdullahi A. Sule


Mr. Abdullahi A. Sule served as the Acting Group Managing Director of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, Lagos, from where he contested and won the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary for Nasarawa State. In this interview with LEO SOBECHI (Assistant Politics Editor) and ABEL ABOGONYE, he talks about the challenges of selecting a governorship running mate and the issue of direct and indirect primaries in APC.

Having been in the corporate world, what would you say constitute the developmental challenges confronting Nasarawa State?
I prefer to look at the prospects of Nasarawa State before the challenges. There is the slogan that says ‘Nasarawa State is the home of minerals.’ I don’t want to limit it to solid minerals, because we have both solid and non-solid minerals in the state.The potential in the state are enormous. Coming to the observation that I come from the background of the private sector, the question is what can we do to utilise the opportunity we have to develop what we have to create opportunities for the people and the government.

Nasarawa State is receiving the least from the federal allocation and that is the situation we find ourselves even though the opportunities of the proximity to the Federal Capital Territory are huge. The population is huge but the resources are so limited.  In fact, we are always number 36 and 38 when it comes to federal allocation.
As a result of all that, we need to look at ways to generate revenue for the state. We need the revenue to be able to take care of the increasing population in the state. We have enormous challenges in the state when it comes to employment. The state is not industrialised even with the huge advantages that lie across the state. That is one of the areas that concern us in the state.

Therefore, employment is key to what we are coming to do. Infrastructure-wise, we have a governor who has done quite well in those areas, especially in terms of roads, hospitals, schools and health services.When we come on board, we will leverage on what has already been put in place and make extra input in the area of industrialization, revenue generation, employment creation, which are the areas we will deploy our all effort to develop.

Whenever technocrats like you want to come to government, career politicians are always apprehensive and they set barricades. How would you grapple with that challenge?
It would be wrong for those of us from the professional world to chicken out at every resistance from career politicians who want to rule us forever whenever we want to come into politics. I think it is a mistake if we do that.It is one of the challenges one will encounter to be able to achieve leadership position. Professionals like me should continue to work shoulder to shoulder with career politicians for us to show that we have something to offer.

No particular segment of the society will be able to achieve everything; we have to have a collaboration of various experts to make the society healthy for all of us. Therefore we have to bring the career politicians, the technocrats or professionals and even the non-career people into play, too, in order to develop our state.I agree with what you have said as part of what we have to go through, and I take it in good faith and with all sense of responsibility.

A past governor of the state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu has of recent been behaving strangely. What do you make of his antics against Nasarawa north?
Senator Abdullahi Adamu was the first civilian governor of this state, a long time politician, an elder, not only in our party, but also in the state. He is highly respected by many, including me, for what he has done for this state. He is the architect of development in the state and the one behind the establishment of the state university. We still respect him highly for everything he has done for this state.

So, if Adamu has a new line of thinking today, he should remember that it took the entire state, irrespective of the zone, to bring him to power. It was the people from the various zones that brought him to power and he felt so comfortable and selected his three deputy governors from the north.I strongly believe without any doubt that deep within his mind he knows that the Nasarawa northern zone is part of Nasarawa State and it has contributed to elections in the past, hence the need to have the likes of Solomon Ewuga, Onje Giwado, Labaran Maku, as his deputies at different times.Added to that, Adamu nominated Mr. Akwanga Zanua to be minister, who also happens to come from the same zone we are talking about. Therefore, I believe he has a lot of respect and recognition for the north zone.

Now concerning what you mentioned, which I don’t want to dwell on, but what has caused him to do that is completely unknown to us. And I believe with time we will understand why he is doing what you described he is doing. I also believe that with time he will come back to recognise and respect the zone that greatly contributed to what he is today.

Somehow the ANPP tendencies in the ruling party have been silenced, giving room for members of nPDP to dominate the party. Are you comfortable with their excesses? 
In politics you have joiners everyday and you have quitters everyday. Even a day before the election, you will still go out seeking for people to join, because what you are looking for in politics are people who agree with your line of thinking.So, you need to understand that in a democracy you have to give people the freedom to associate. And if they find out that their association is not meeting up with their expectations, they may leave to join other associations where they are comfortable.

That is expected and that is why it is said there is no permanent enmity or permanent friends in politics. So I have no grudges against people who join today or leave. I have been a managing director in my place of work for nearly 20 years. Any time we have somebody joining us to work, we look at his track record. If the person has worked in one place consistently for 15 or 20 years, we feel more comfortable employing such a person than somebody that, in 20 years has worked with 20 companies.

In life, you want to have people who are more focused, patient and would not jump at every opportunity, and who will not run away at every challenge that confronts them. Life is full of challenges and people who are serious will stay and face those challenges. You have to be a little bit careful with people who jump ship at every challenge.

There are always reports of quarrels between governors and their deputies. How would you react if the party dictates to you who your deputy should be?
I believe that the selection of a running mate is a collective responsibility. If at the end of the day the sole responsibility of choosing the running mate rests on the governor, then the governor would feel comfortable with whom he wants to work with and this is straightforward.However, the governor can never close his ears and say he cannot listen to advice from the team. The team has the right to suggest 20 or one person. It is the responsibility of that governor to agree with one out of the number suggested or even refuses all the twenty, because he may not be comfortable with them, but he may be with the 21st person.

So I don’t think the idea of imposition is ideal in a democracy, where the people would say we have selected the deputy governor and you must work with him. Once you do that you are sure to have problems not too long. That is what they call forced-marriage in the corporate world, and forced marriages don’t get along too well.

Some people are opposed to the clamour for Nasarawa North zone to produce the governor, what do you feel about that?
Well, they are entitled to have their feelings, because those who say Nasarawa North should not rule the state have their own reasons, but our own reasons are straightforward. We say, for the sake of fairness, justice and unity of people living together, we should also be given the opportunity to produce leaders in this state.
If we say, for instance, that certain people are not highly populated or do not have enough local government councils, therefore they should be suppressed forever, then that is not democracy. In democracy people should be given the opportunity to be elected to rule.

Every citizen of Nasarawa State has his fundamental right to vote and be voted for to rule the state. As a result, it does not matter which zone he or she comes from. For those who have this thinking against fairness, justice and unity may have their own reasons. I won’t ague against their reasons, but my own reasons are straightforward and those are the ones I will pursue.

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