Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Shagari, a former Minister of Water Resources and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview, speaks on the recent governorship election in his state and other issues. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI brings the excerpts:
As one of the founding members of PDP, you haven’t dumped the party for any reason? What informed your decision for this staying long in PDP?
I do not believe in opportunism because I just want to do the right thing always. Before I joined PDP in 1998, there were other political parties and I looked at their manifestoes. I convinced myself that PDP is a political party that has what it takes to bring about unity and peace in this country. So, I decided to join the PDP and until this moment nothing has happened that would change my mind. I also believe that as a politician we must have principles. We must not do things because of personal interest. My own style of politics is about development, bringing peace and stability to our country. So, any platform that has what it takes on these aforementioned I will always be with that party. And for me, PDP is the right party. Don’t forget that under this political party called PDP, I had the opportunity to be a minister twice. I also had the opportunity to be a deputy governor for good eight years. So, whatever someone can get in another political party, I have gotten it in the PDP. So, why should I leave the party that has brought me into prominence and get me the opportunity to serve this country. It has also made it possible for me to be awarded with third highest national honour in the country. Besides, if all of us move to a ruling party then its means there is no democracy. It means we are moving toward one part system, which is dangerous for our democracy. I believe in politics of win today and maybe loss tomorrow. My own politics is of principle, although I have nothing against those who move from one party to another.
Are you now satisfied with your party reward for your loyalty?
You see, my style of politics is not about reward for position, rather it is all about the country. It’s about my state and community, it is also about my people and their development. As a Nigerian, I need to ask myself what I can do to make the country better. And politics is the best platform to do so. If the party once again say look, this is an opportunity that you fit into the capacity come and do it, fine. So, it was not about me. If no opportunity comes again, I am satisfied. In Sokoto now, my party has won election and I am happy about that. I am satisfied that my party has formed the government in many states and won many National Assembly seats. These are the people who are working to shape the destiny of this country for better.
In 2008, you won your party’s governorship ticket, but later relinquished it to another person who later became the governor. Will you oblige if the party calls you again to vie for the governorship ticket in 2023?
I have said consistently that I am a core party man. I so much believe in the party supremacy. I am always loyal to the decision taken by my party. So, if the party decides by saying look you are the best man for this job in 2023 that is okay. Just the way I told you that party members met me in my house. Some even called me on phone to say look come out and contest in 2019. So, I am a party loyalist.
You once declared your intention to contest governorship seat in the just concluded elections, but you suddenly backslide. What informed your decision to drop the ambition?
It was the member of the executives and other stakeholders of my party that met in Abuja and asked me to contest because at that time, they have made their research and felt that there was no candidate in Sokoto State that has better credentials in PDP like me. So, they called upon me and I decided to show my interest, but at that time, there was very strong rumour that Tambuwal will join the party. I told some of the stakeholders that look, if Tambuwal moves to PDP with his government, we need to reconsider our position because one of my objectives in politics is about winning elections and provide service to the people. Not just to be a governor. So, when Tambuwal eventually came into the party, I said to myself as a realist that look, if at the end Tambuwal was not able to get presidential ticket and comes back for the governorship ticket, it will be a disservice to the party for me to challenge him for the ticket. Unfortunately, he didn’t get it and he came back home. Immediately the result was announced I went back to my hotel room and pondered over it within myself that I should just support him. Before I left Port Harcourt, I even attempted to see him to tell him about my conviction to support his re-election bid, but couldn’t see him. That is why I did not buy a form though I had planned to do so. I also had little discussion with former Governor Bafarawa about that and we both agreed that we should support Tambuwal. If I had bought a governorship form, the party could have divided between me and Tambuwal.
Was your support for Tambuwal based on conditions that could be withdrawn if he fails to fulfill them?
No, we went into a campaign as a party and told the people of Sokoto State what we are going to do. The people have given us the mandate through him. And he has consistently told Sokoto State that promises he made to them would be fulfilled. What we are going to do is to advise him whenever he needs our advice to make sure that the right things are done. I had no doubt in my mind that he would do whatever he can to fulfill the promises he made to the people of Sokoto State. So, the issue of withdrawing any support does not arise as far as I am concerned.
What did you think will be Tambuwal’s priority in the next four years?
Tambuwal has promised to look into the education sector. He is going to improve on the infrastructure, good healthcare delivery and so on. He also said security will be another priority, as well as economic development of the state. All these will be attended to with the limited resource the state has. So, I believe him and we are ready to support him to achieve success.