CHIMA: Buhari Has Come To Overhaul Our Polity
• We Brought Him To Partisan Politics
Having followed Buhari as he tried to be president, what made you to sustain the confidence that he could win?
WHEN I came to know Buhari in 1999/2000, I was a member of the national executive of the APP (All Peoples Party) and also I was the special assistant to the then national secretary of APP, Chief George Muoghalu, who is now a national officer of All Progressives Congress (APC). We tried to refocus APP and prepare it for the next election. In the first instance, we started with intellectual disposition by having seminars.
The first was on agriculture, revolutionizing agriculture in Nigeria. And somebody gave the view that General Muhammadu Buhari has a robust idea of driving agricultural revolution in this country. That was my first time of seeing him one on one because he attended the seminar and spoke. I personally took interest in him because of his background when he was head of state. Within that period, as a student of the University of Ife, I enjoyed rich meals because of his policy of meal ticket system. And when I finished my programme and came back, he was still the head of state. As a civil servant I enjoyed his policy on distribution of commodities, which they called essential commodities, nobody was hoarding anything in the country. Civil servants and students enjoyed because things were sold at very cheap prices and the economy was booming again. The currency then was stable; the dollar was not stronger than the naira. Soon after he left office, things never became normal.
And when he became the Chairman of PTF (Petroleum Special Trust Fund) I saw him turning Nigeria around from his small vantage position. And when I went into history to discover what happened during his time as petroleum minister, coupled with the fact that he was once governor of northeastern state and what happened there, I said this is a man to bring to governance.
I became restless because by 2001/2002 I had a rally, the first of its kind in the municipal at the old parade ground. It was actually that rally that brought General Jerry Useni to APP. Incidentally, I invited General Buhari, and he could not come but sent somebody to represent him. I started worrying him; I got to know his lieutenants then. Alhaji Sule Ahmed, who may no longer be with him now, he is from Kaduna and others including permanently Malam Sarki, his Personal Assistant. I kept worrying General Buhari, asking him to come and lead this country. And it was to yield fruit in 2002 during one of the APP NEC, (National Executive Committee) meetings.
Of course, in all these discussions I had, I always discussed with my boss then, Chief Muoghalu, because I could not afford to do things on my own without my boss knowing what I was doing. And he shared the same ideas and encouraged me.
By 2002, when there was another NEC meeting to decisively change the name of the party from APP to ANPP and also prepare for the general election in 2003, I felt it incumbent on me that Buhari should be part of it. I mounted pressure on him; he knows these things I am telling you. Those around him knew also. Eventually he agreed to attend. When he arrived at Abuja a night before the NEC, he told me that when it is time for him to come in I should tell him.
And he entered into the NEC meeting in jubilant and triumphant mood. As a little boy, people didn’t know the role I was playing then, except the people that came with him. And when it was time to change the name of the party, I remember vividly that General Buhari when he spoke said we should not be in a hurry to change the name of the party, that it should remain APP. But the majority opinion was against him because the decision had already been taken. By then (Chief Don) Etiebet and (Chief Edwin) Ume-Ezeoke had left PDP and Etiebet from UNDP and others, so they agreed in the committee to change the name to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
But after that the next business of the meeting was making financial contribution. And Buhari is not known to have money, but people around him made a contribution of N7 million. People clapped hands, but I went to General Buhari and those around him, including Alhaji Ahmed Sule from Kaduna and told them it must be different. Buhari does not have money but his class is different. After all, he is a former head of state. They went and consulted together and came back to announce a donation of N20 million. That changed the entire story. And that put Buhari, apart from his name and personality in a different stage altogether until 2003 primaries.
He won the election and became the candidate of the ANPP. In 2007 he re-contested the presidential election. This time around, he didn’t want to go to court but the same ANPP under Ume-Ezeoke asked him to go to court with the then governors.
And then he went to court, this time around unlike the first story, the party asked him to withdraw the case half way. He has been suffering betrayals. But you discover that there are people who generally would want Buhari to be in their party and use him to win election especially in the north and when it comes to his own, becoming president, you see them playing pranks. You see them betraying Buhari.
It was out of annoyance that he went to form the Congress for Progressive Change (AP), to see how the party he formed himself with close allies could sell him. But I want to tell you he still suffered the same fate. People hijacked all the documents for the registration. All that could have frustrated him but he managed to hold himself together and showed a good outing. In three months of the new party he contested and the result was a marvelous outcome. And within this period he had come to appreciate me for my consistency, my determination and my commitment to that cause.
I was not committing myself to the cause not because Buhari is my friend or what I would get. I knew what Nigeria would benefit under General Buhari administration. I know people who don’t like him because they are confused, they don’t even know him. Very soon they would be smiling because school fees would certainly be reduced.
Prices of commodities would certainly fall because the issue of oil being refined abroad would stop, because thieves in oil marketing would disappear. Very soon there would be hostels for students and bursary for them. Drugs in the hospital and employment people have been seeking would soon become a thing of the past. T
hat the dollar is rising every day and making the naira nonsensical is because there are saboteurs who make the dollar so big so that they can repatriate money and double it against their citizens.
You once worked with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, do you think the political collaboration between Southwest and Buhari would bear enduring socio-political fruits?
I wish to inform you that what attracted me to Awolowo was the kind of way he led his people, the legacies he established in the Western region. And that is why when you go to my country home; the only politician in Nigeria whose picture and statement of life hang on the wall is Chief Obafemi Awolowo. When I was in the Unity Party of Nigeria, as students’ leader and youth leader, and after that when I was by circumstance in the National Party of Nigeria, my conscience could not allow me to vote for (Alhaji Shehu) Shagari, while Awolowo was contesting. The way I loved Awolowo and I still love him unto death is the way I love General Buhari. They share many things in common – the love of the masses, tangible welfare schemes for the masses, social welfare schemes. And very soon you will see Nigeria and ask yourself whether it is the same Nigeria people have been governing all these years. Buhari’s government, within two years the difference will be clear.
And finally to answer your question, I was present when Awolowo made the last prediction. We were around him like his disciples when he delivered what we call his sermon on the mount. It was at Warri when we visited the late (Pa Alfred) Rewane, his best friend. That was where he talked about life after life. Thereafter, he then predicted that time will come in Nigeria when the positive forces in party ‘A’ and positive forces in party ‘B’ will coalesce to rescue this country. I think it has happened now. Awolowo’s dream has come to reality in the marriage that brought APC to power.
If you were a thief before and you are in APC under a Buhari government by now you should have forgotten that you would ever steal again. You either go for deliverance or you ultimately repent and wear a new gown because a new Nigeria is coming. I see a new direction for this country. I see a new dawn and a new vision for this country. And those who were living in doubt their eyes would soon be opened.
Can Buhari deliver?
It is not a question of whether he will; it is rather a question of knowing that he would deliver. He has always come for a rescue mission. I know him for doing the impossible. Total overhauling that is the meaning of Buhari. He is coming to overhaul. You still talk of election using card reader and all that and people are carrying ballot boxes. It would never happen because he would be there. If Buhari will return he would return because of performance. And I am predicting a situation where he would be begged to continue but because of his person he would not like to exceed his constitutional tenure of of