The Deputy Whip of the Senate and National Coordinator of Project 774, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi spoke the activities of the project and the presidential ambition of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima. Excerpts:
What is the general principle of this Project 774 that warrants its formation?
You know in politics there should be so many routes, all leading to the same direction, because you are dealing with people and all political parties have support groups, project 774 for Tinubu/Shettima is a support group and we came up with this idea because we know politics is local and when you have campaign structure, which is usually up, and attempts are made to send things down, for example you have the Presidential Campaign council, you have states campaign council, you have zonal, you have local government, but by the time you start getting down, capacity at that level is a beat weak.
So the whole idea of project 774 is to have a bottom top approach, so ours is to promote grass route politics for development within the framework of our local government areas as our national development domain, and that is why we tagged it 774 because we have 774 local governments.
By our structure, while we have a national executive and state taskforce teams, but what is important is that we have more people at the lower level, that is at the local government and Ward level, because on the election day, you must have people who will go and get out the votes, that is our target as our own contribution to bring success to our party.
How do you integrate this project 774 with the APC campaign structure, are you really recognized by the APC National Secretariat, are you giving a role in the APC Presidential Campaign Council?
Well, I am a member of the presidential campaign council in my own right, and the party has so many support groups in thousands and we are one of such group,but every support groups comes from a different angle to look at what their strength are, and our group is looking at from that perspective of the grass route, where to the votes are, the polling units so that on the election day, we have people who will go out, because they believe in this voluntary effort to contribute to the success of our party.
What are the reports now? Have you meet with the 774 local governments? Is your candidate really in good stead, as we hear of issues of anti-party activities.
Well, in politics, so many things happen, but when we speak about the reality, for us we know our candidate is the front-runner and he is the candidate to beat and as far as we are concerned, we anchor all of this on the fact that the various states in which we are in charge and even states where we are not in charge, things that are happening there are pointers that truly our party will carry the day.
And this is our inspiration to go out there, mobilize people, sell our candidate, and our own talking point is simple, who is our candidate? What has he done before, as a pointer to what he can do again.
The question Nigerians should ask is, what is the antecedent of these candidates, what have they done before?
For us, we believe very strongly that the character of our Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates speaks volume and we give you the need hope that new, innovative and progressive things are going to happen with their presidency.
Beyond his eight years as a Governor of Lagos State, providing Infrastructure and other services to Lagos people, what other qualities, do you think Tinubu has that makes you think that he is the best to rule the country.
Well, I will talk of two things here. Before Nigeria’s return to democracy, he was one of those who were in the forefront fighting for the restoration of democracy and even after leaving government all attempt to emasculate the political space always provoke his interest in standing up, to say no that democracy is about opening the space for everybody to participate.
And I think, while AD which he used in coming into governance was brutally murdered by political gimmicks, he floated AC, which latter become ACN and as a democrat he made this platform available for the people.
So that tells you, he is a man who has a sense of accommodation, he is a man who has a sense of tolerance and he is some body who believes that democracy is what we must promote for the common good.
To my mind, beyond what he has done given the power, you need to also look at what he has done outside power to ensure that the democratic space continue to be expanded and I think he has done tremendously well.
The second point I will like to make, is as a young man growing up, from 1999 when he became governor, I am extremely close to the late Royal Father of Borgu and I have heard very tremendous discussions with him.
One thing the late Royal Father told me very clearly about Tinubu when they were in the Senate,was that he always find him very excited, because when the truth is spoken, you must find him (Tinubu) there, and he is very courageous, very bold, he knows exactly what he wants to say and he says it the way it should be said that was how the late Royal Father attracted that closeness to Tinubu, meanwhile the late Royal Father was NRC, while Tinubu was SDP, so you can see that because of the character and what he exhibited there was a hand of fellowship and that was how the relationship build up then and Tinubu is one person who naver forgets his friends.
During the four years of the struggle for Borgu throne, he was also extending his hand of fellowship to the late Royal Father, and I remember very vividly when we got victory in 2004, he (The Royal Father) came to Abuja and called me and one of my brother and said he wanted to give a title to his friend(Tinubu) and ask me to go get a befitting title for his friend because of my knowledge of history of Borgu Kingdom.
What we first did was to ask the meaning of Asiwaju and I was told It means somebody that opens the way. And I said in our own history Borgu people have naver been conquered by anybody.
And I said the secret of war in Borgu is normally given to a man called “Jagaba” that was how the title came about and like he said in his book, the Royal Father gave him that title because he trusted him and that he believes he has the courage to provide leadership.
I recall the late Royal Father always believe that he saw Nigeria sliding much earlier and he has always told us that he believes in the presidency of President Muhammadu Buhari and that was why he stood by him. people may not know this, as at 2003 when General Muhammadu Buhari came out, we were still in court with the Niger state government but the he (Royal Father) refused to stay with the party in power, stuck his neck and said he is for President Muhammadu Buhari and since then he has worked very hard, when we go back to Borgu, most of his ceremonies are to gavanise support of the political class to understand that we need to do something different, and so he has done all of this believing very strongly.
Let me say this, ours is a support group, and all our members across all the states are doing their little beats to get people to understand what our candidate is all about, and what we said clearly here is, very simple, that this man has done it yesterday, he has shown capacity, that capacity is in two folds after his own performance, where he set the foundation, he did not walk away from it, he is praying active role in ensuring that the right person comes on board to build upon that vision. And so, for us we believed that should be our selling point, that unique selling point about the candidate is what we are looking at. And if you look at the vice presidential candidate, it will be as if him also looked at the model and having served creditably well, for his state, he did not walk away, he played a role and ensured that a successor in the person of professor Babagana Zulum is board and today every body is hailing and saying that the governor is doing what needs to be done for his people.
So I think the point to be made here is that leadership is not all about yourself and I think all of them has shown that their own understanding of leadership is not all about themselves, but about the service to be rendered to the people and how that service is going to be sustained is also key.
It is good you have spoken so well, about his successes in Lagos state, but now, people are talking about capacity, agility, there are concerns about his age, about health challenges, how do you situate this?
As far as I am concerned, if you look at the reality today on ground, we have gone more than 30 days of campaning actively and if you check the APC campaign calendar, this man has been following this rigorous campaign schedules, now I ask, some body who in quote “is unhealthy” can he cope with the stress and strain of this rigorous campaign?
If you are to use what people do as a yardstick, I think this man is healthy.
Let us ask ourselves, is there any human being, who is seating down after certain age that does not have one or two health challenges, and has that health challenges stop him being who he is and from performing his duty?
Even a man who is bedridden and has a family and is in charge of certain things, is capable of giving instructions from that same bed, there are age you reach you are not the one to do all the runnings.
One thing that we must acknowledge to Jagaban Borgu is that he has a special gift for identifying talent and deploying them to archive a purpose for people.
He demonstrated this during the time he was Governor, and that explains why he has different people from different states, two people from Ekiti, some from Ogun state, some from Kwara, Oyo Osun, some Anambra, Kogi.
The point we make here is simple, at this level government is about delegated powers and the act of delegation is the key to success.
If you are able to identify the right person to do the job for you at all times, then your performance will all ways be in top gear and this man has demonstrated that creditably well.
What we have always had in Nigeria as people will say, is not the lack of policy, laws or ideas, but it is about getting the right people who deliver and do the right thing, if he had not done that in Lagos, the success in Lagos would not be the talk in the country, I believe he has done it creditably well.
So for me, it is out of mischief for people to say he is not agile. Is he on wheel chair? No, he has been moving with his legs from one place to another and has been speaking for himself, and when you listen to him, you know he is articulate, he is able to access, process separate issues and able to form opinion.
His brain is active as any normal human being, for me, I don’t see any concern here, when government is put in place, there will be delegated authority.
How do you see the perceived threat based on the campaign of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi?
Yes, they are giving a good show, but it is only for us to bring out the best in us.
It is only a good show and not challenge,I don’t like saying bad things about people, Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is from Adamawa State, I served in Adamawa State, I got the Yola Local Government Best Corper, Adamawa State best Corper, and National honour award winner by the then Head of State, it means I must have done something good to win those awards and so I know Adamawa State very well,I have related with people in Adamawa very well.
I know his home town were the mother lived in Kojoli.
For the eight years he was vice president all the roads are as terrible as it has always been,no single road was rehabilitated for the people of Adamawa State, Charity begins from home, if you are not charitable to your home, then what should be my hope in expecting you to be charitable to me.
Honourable Namdas was the one who fought to bring that road to be constructed.so the facts are clear, because I don’t want us to duel much on the failure of that period,it was colossal, to my mind, Nigerians know better but I think in comparison, we are far better and we want to be more better by bringing in Jagaban to consolidate .
Earlier in the Week the Governor of Kaduna said some elements in the villa were trying to frustrate the candidacy of Asiwaju , what is your take?
By his position, he knows more than I do,if he has the facts that makes him make those statement, they are his facts.I can say what he said is wrong, but one thing I know for sure is that in politics it is not impossible for some people to be unhappy that you want to do one or two things and I know if I go back to my local environment based on what happened, I know there are some people who are still unhappy, they might have a different opinion or idea on what should be within the context of the local politics.
It is not impossible for some people to be angry but one thing I will say is that I will depend on what is on the surface.
Some people might be unhappy, it is not out of place.
But What is important is that this is our ship, we built it and it will be a dis-service if we destroy it. It will be also in our collective interest to consolidate on what we have archive in the last eight years.
At a point, every politician who goes for a contest and losses is agrived but I don’t think your losing a contest should make you aggrived to the extent that you want to destroy the same party that you had been a beneficiary of.
That explained when I lost my primaries in a bad circumstances because there was no primary as far as am concerned, it was just show of force, even though I petitioned the party, my petition was to put the record straight as to what transpired and not to use it as a basis to go to court and I never went to court and am not leaving the party.
By my own tradition and upbringing if I stick to something ,I stick to it in good and in bad, so I am not leaving APC, I have always been a progressive all my life, I believe in my party, I am a progressive in heart and in doing .I want to advise all APC members to keep faith
with the progressive fold and lets continue to do progressive things for our country and come 2023, we are hopeful that we will get the mandate and when we get it, more progressive things will come to Nigeria.
You have barely 20 days to the election, how much ground do you think you can cover on your campaign for your party.
Politics is local, I just came back from Borgu where I went to canvasse support at my own senatorial district, and it was a huge success, and I want to assure you that Niger North is for Jagaban Borgu / Kashim Shettima and they are going to win that senatorial district just like many other parts of this country.
And we are campaning in all the 36 States of the country including FCT just as many other support groups out there in the field going to mobilize voters. And many Nigerians know the truth about the success of Jagaban in Lagos.
Is it truth you did not obtain permission for your rally in Borgu?
I will not want a situation where I come out and bcast aspersion on the character of people.
I don’t need to bring any ones reputation down for my reputation to be seen, it is uncharitable for any one who know me to accept that I will do anything outside the norms, I have contested twice, I have done campaign, and this period has been declared by law (electoral act 2022) as campaign period and no political party needs any permission from any body to go on campaign, even the IG of police said so, all you need is to write the Police to come and protect lives and properties.
And I will tell you I am a man who believe in process and procedures because it gives credibility and certainty to what one is doing, I have written to all the people we were suppose to write to intimate them on the date of the programme, the venue, which is the New Busssia Township Stadium that I renovated, I got permission from the local government to renovated it before starting the project of renovation.
We have written to the Police Area Command, I wrote the State Party Chairman, and I wrote the eight local government APC Chairmen, Based on the feed back from party executives, my followers, that people are still agrived from the outcome of to the primary election and that I should come and pacify them so that we don’t have problems and I finally decided to do the programme on 31st and we mobilize people to come and we were told we can not hold the programme.
They blocked the stadium, and we decided to used my father’s neighborhood which has been rehabilitated by me and all the people came in front of our house and on the basis of that the entire place was filled with people.
And went on a road show and 80 per cent of the road we used was constructed by my humble self and you saw the mammoth crowd that were in attendance.
Are you safe?is there a threat to your life?
For me as far am concerned, from the way they are behaving, I am yet to declare that but I think am just waiting for the next action because truly what has happened is enough for me to say there is a threat to my life, because I don’t know why , what is the offence here as a Party Man, am not on the ballot am just campaning for my Party, it is not my duty to inform the governor, and as far as am concerned I have done what I should do within the contest of the law by informing to the State Party Chairman.
The governor got the ticket of Niger North senatorial district and how he got it is entirely different I will not say he snatched it and as far as am concerned, I am not desperate and there are different ways you can be of a service to the people, my Life is all about service.
Since that primary ended happened no body from the government or even Party has approached me to say come lets seat down what has happened has happened, lets forge a common front.
The rally we had was for our party and I charged all our supporters to vote all our party all through, if you look at the video you will hear me calling all the offices from the Presidential Candidates, Gubernatorial, Senatorial,House of Representatives and the states constituency.
Are you mindful of the fact that to the altercation between PDP and APC could create an advantage for Labour Party?
I don’t think so because politics is not magic, politics is reality, the reality on ground today is that only APC and PDP has compliment of candidates across board, when you are a candidate, you have a vested interest within the domain of your constituency and you go out within that contest to campaign vigorously, because if you are campaning for presidency the best you can do is what you see the political parties do , you go to the state and every body is assembled and you take the message down .
Now in taking the message down, the senatorial candidate will focus in his Senatorial district, the houses and senatorial candidates will focus on their constituency from the same party and the Governor will also do his own at the local government levels and other strategic towns., These are all the engine room of every electioneering in every political party. And APC has credible candidates all across, so I believe that places us at much more advantage position than any body, irrespective of whatever crisis that may arise artificially.