Alh Nurudeen Mohammed is one of the respected elder statesmen of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara state. During the military era, he served many of the military administrators as their Commissioner for Finance till the return of Nigeria to civilian rule in 1999.
Alh Mohammed also went into politics and sought to become the governor of Kwara state on several occasions but he did not succeed. The APC chieftain,who had been an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari,during his days in the Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) was appointed as Nigeria’s ambassador to Malaysia and Brunnei, from where he returned lately after his assignment.
He spoke to our state correspondent, Demola Akinyemi, at his residence in Ilorin on the crisis in the ruling APC and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Tell us briefly your foray into politics before the ambassadorial assignment
I've been into politics since 1979. We were in the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, the UPN, UNPP and several other parties and later the APC. We lost to the PDP in the earlier elections, but in the last elections, God decided to turn the table around and gave victory to the coalition that came together to form the APC and this is where we are. I have been to Malaysia but I came for the elections and incidentally, the candidate of the APC, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq decided that I should handle the election process which I did and God gave us victory. But again, management of victory is what we are now battling with.
How do you see the emergence of APC candidate as the governor of Kwara state considering your opposition experience?
The political history of Kwara state right from the days of NPN was a coalition of people like Olusola Saraki on one side, with the Dantoros, Adamu Attahs and others coming together in NPN against the UPN and God gave victory to us in the NPN. The dominant political force in Kwara state then was Olusola Saraki, and some of us who didn’t believe in his political ideology were just watching as he ruled the state for all that long. Eventually however, God came and gave us victory this time.
How do you see the APC administration since May 2019?
It's been successful, the governor is doing his best, providing what government is supposed to provide which is service to the people and meeting the needs of the common people. From all I have been hearing, our roads are now in better conditions, water supply every where, schools have been renovated and hospitals have been taken care of among other things.
As a respected member of the party, what is your advice on how to resolve the current crisis in the party?
We are all members of the same family, there's therefore the need to resolve it amicably. We have to first listen to the other side to find out their grievances before advising the governor to accommodate those demands. We were together as a family before God gave us victory. Now it's management of the victory due to different opinions, different reactions and different outlooks that have resulted into one family splitting into various groups. So, we need to come back to a round table and discuss. Even though when we come round to the table, there will still be a lot of noise but we just have to listen to each other..
Considering how the :Otoge' movement was launched to ensure victory for your party, did you envisage the present crisis?
I didn't envisage this crisis, but the point to be made is that we were only concerned about snatching power from somebody who had been holding it for long, so for everybody, all efforts were directed at stopping the other person from getting there. So, there was a general consensus and a marriage of all efforts to deliver for our party.
Now, after winning the war, there now comes the problem of how to manage the victory which is what we are experiencing now.
It appears whatever you have done to resolve the crisis as an elder statesman has not yielded the desired result
I have been talking. But I can’t come out and be telling you what I've been doing, it's not right. The aggrieved persons for instance would not want the matter to be in the open, but I am trying my best.
If the aggrieved parties will all come and sit down, things will work out. We go around in the nights and talk, when the result come at the end of the day, we will all see it. And again, like I accused most of our people that when we were looking for victory, every one of us in our various denominations and beliefs was calling on God to give us victory but when the victory was given to us, did we remember God again and say God please keep us united so that we can deliver? Nobody has said God keep us united so, God is teaching us a lesson in Kwara.
Was that the cause of the crisis?
Apart from the other dimensions that we have mentioned, there is also the spiritual aspect to it in my own opinion. We asked God to give us victory, but we didn't remember to say God thank you and please keep us together. So, God has left us alone with the devil.
Is it too late to return to God and salvage this situation?
No, it is not too late, God is always there ready to welcome erring people.
Have you done that?
Don't you see me with my tesbi (praying beads)?
Recently, stakeholders from Kwara north where you are from agitated for 2023 governorship slot, how do you see the agitation?
Answer- In Kwara north, we are entitled to the governorship position. But the question now is the timing. For whatever reasons, when we were all together trying to fight and deliver Kwara state, we all came together and put somebody there. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria permits that person to run for two terms. Now, unless you want to bring another crisis, you shouldn’t be saying that the governor must do only one term, because the constitution permits him two terms.
There is an argument that the lack of a respected leader within the APC in Kwara state, unlike in the days of Dr Bukola Saraki who would give an instruction and everyone would fall in line, was responsible for the current leadership crisis in the state party
When Baba Saraki himself was faced by his son, and was booted out, what happened to the central figure? Management of diversity is the issue, the central figure can always backfire.
Although the central figure can assist but sometimes these problems would still come.
The current governor has been seen to be working hard to develop the state to the admiration of many and while some people are impressed, others are saying that he has not done anything. How do we reconcile this issue of politics and performance?
Its normal, that's politics, no matter what you are doing some other persons will say you are doing nothing. But the generality of the people out there who will take the final decision, are they satisfied?Those of us who are struggling for power, we can cause all kinds of confusion within ourselves but the person on the steering wheel, who is driving and doing the correct things, what are the voters thinking about him? That is the most important thing. But again, like I say we are supposed to be able to manage our diversity; diversity of opinions, diversity of reactions, diversity of feelings, diversity of temperament, diversity of so many things which coalesce together in this party. Some people are displeased, we have to find out the cause of their displeasure and see how we can accommodate ourselves.
Don't you think that if the current crisis is not resolved early enough it can cost the governor his second term?
We have agreed on so many things, the whole boat can tumble and drop all of us into the ocean. That is clear, that if we don't manage the journey very well, the boat can capsize and all of us will go down, that’s why all of us are struggling to see what we can do to manage the situation.
There have been allegations of hoarding of materials in the ongoing party registration, what’s your take?
I have heard complaints that some people were trying to frustrate the registration of others, some people have been registered, some have not. They are normal problems of administration. The party has not declared who should be a member and who should not. And again, registration is a continuous exercise, some people join, some leave the party while and others die. So, the gate of the party is permanently open to members to be registered continuously. Registration is a continuous exercise. But under this political heat going on, some people are frustrating others from registering. But if I were you, I will just go and sit down and leave the whole matter alone. When they finish the entire registration, I will just walk across and say I want to join the party. I can decide that I’m not joining now, and wait till next year and walk to the party’s office and register as a member. Membership registration of the party never closes, so, nobody should disturb himself.
What do you think can be done to check the incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen on the residents?
This issue has always been there, we are just over exaggerating it. If there are criminal elements doing some things, law enforcement and other relevant agencies should be able to handle them. Everyone, has Fulani men around their village who speak your language and do their rearing, they are part of the community. Then, you have the itinerant herdsmen who move with the weather. Now, it’s February, the rains have withdrawn from the desert areas, through the grassland areas, towards the forest, so they move with the rain backwards, feeding their cattle.
Those ones have always been doing that for hundreds of years. As they move through communities there are always clashes, cattle do not distinguish between the grass that they should eat and the grass they shouldn’t eat. So, they cross into people's farms and normally every community has this problem which they managed. So, it has been in existence.
But suddenly, everything has turned upside down. Are you going to drive away those ones around your village who were born there and speak your language or those ones who for hundreds of years continue to move with the weather? Cattle routes were marked out in the past so that they could be moving.