By Abdul Kareem
A former Commissioner for Home Affairs Information and Culture, who is also the spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Campaign Council for Borno State, Inuwa expressed confidence that his job has been made easy because his principal has already sold himself through his unprecedented feat of achievement.
Mr Bwala, a veteran journalist expressed such optimism while speaking to journalists following the inauguration of the campaign council last Sunday.
The Humaitarian Times was at the press interactive session.
Your Governor has just inaugurated the campaign council for his re-election bid in 2023, with you as co- chairman of the Media and Publicity Committee. But we expected you to be at the center with your former boss, Kashim Shettima. What really is happening?
I am involved with Senator Kashim Shettima in his quest for the Vice Presidency, as you perhaps know. I am a key stakeholder in Borno and you cannot separate Kashim Shettima’s politics from that of Governor Babagana Umara Zulum. Essentially, I am in the Borno Campaign Council with the full consent of Senator Kashim Shettima, and that does not stop me contributing to events at the center. And I do not see anything wrong in combining the two, after all we are of the same party, with a common set of goals; a common approach for the same actors. If the Governor feels I am important to the project at home and invites me to come down, I feel I owe him and my state the obligation to come down and team up with my colleagues here. So there is nothing wrong, rather, there is something right.
Now that you are here, what will be the highpoints of your campaigns, in the face if an emergent string opposition?
Although “strong” is a relative term in this context, depending upon your own perception, we are not under rating anybody who may be seeking to upstage the system. We accord every party, as a matter of right their places in the political space. We also respect anybody who seeks to participate in the elections, but you know, just like everybody does, that, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum’s position remains unshaken.
Be that as it may, our campaigns are going to be anchored on the Governor’s achievements in the last three and a half years; on issues that define the moment and on what we believe to be the collective goodwill if the people of Borno state.
It is not controvertible to say, Professor Zulum has given very good account of himself as a leader. He has demonstrated capacity to rescue the state from years of challenges, he has developed our infrastructures and he has proved even beyond our borders that he has the best intention to re-write the history of Borno, different from the narrative that portrays us, as a axis of death, poverty and ignorance. Very soon, in conjunction with his media handlers, we will roll out some of the things he has done over the years and allow the people to judge.
We do not intend to engage in diversionary debates that may tend to take away the glow in Zulum’s performance as a Governor: unless otherwise provoked, rather, we will seek for constructive engagements, as we strive towards returning the man, who the world knows as a performer, back to office. Mind you, we are not coming to market a saint, but to sell a man, who has demonstrably become the hope of a better tomorrow for our people. I personally feel that, if there is any Governor who deserves a seamless return to office, that should be Professor Babagana Umara Zulum.
You sound rather too confident of Professor Zulum’s victory, yet the reality on the ground suggests that the PDP,in particular is poised to give you a run for your money.
It seems your concept of reality is different from what others could see. Much as we are not going to underrate any political party, you cannot honestly say that there is any ground enough to give the APC any serious challenge. They may make their points, by rising slightly above the performances of the opposition in the past, but that will not be enough to give any one of them victory over us. We plan to start going out very soon and engaging the people one on one. The flashes you see, by the hoisting of flags and billboards in certain locations, do not translate to the actual votes. As you can see, the campaign council which has just been inaugurated has on board every politician of note, and we do not intend to retire to our houses, but to reach out to every prospective voter, with our message of renewed hope for Borno state. We have mapped out a strategy that will deliver us to victory. We are not fooled by the power of incumbency, nor deceived by the kobo you think we have, we are relying more on physical engagements with the electorates. I assure you that, we have every cause to remain confident that Professor Babagana Umara Zulum is coming back as the Governor of Borno State in 2023. This outings us a pedestal for greater attainments in the future.
But recent events in the state have tended to erode the credibility of your Governor, with the office attack on the office of the NNPP by hoodlums suspected to have been sponsored by the State Government and when the convoy of the Presidential candidate of the PDP was attacked in the same manner. Until recently, when the Governor apologized, there has not been any official reaction to these developments. How do you juxtapose this against your claims that you will create a level playing ground for all parties?
This is one of the diversionary strategies being employed to take away the campaigns and public discourse generally from issues. But let me just say that, as you perhaps know, Borno has been a monolithic political entity since 1999, and for any political party to now start crying foul over alleged intolerance calls for closer scrutiny. The two scenarios were like trying to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Some how, one could say they were intended to deliberately create a narrative about the Governor, having seen that it was not possible to put a blemish on his clean record. Yes, we seemed to have allowed mischief to take the day, but the true stories shall eventually be told. To deny that there were no incidents, is to play the ostrich, but in the first place, you can only react to issues about which you have adequate knowledge.
Those who know Governor Babagana Umara Zulum can attest to the fact that he will be the last person to sanction violence or political brigandage. As you may be aware, the disbandment of the notorious ECOMOG group by Governor Zulum was one step towards discouraging political thuggery. He has never hidden his disdain for any form of violence, to effect that he issued an executive order against such acts.
It was therefore most uncharitable to attribute the said events to him or his Government. The fact that he went out of the way to apologize for the incidents was the hallmark of tolerance in leadership. That apology was not an admittance that he was involved in, but the fact that he is the chief security officer and as a leader, he takes responsibility for any form of breach of the peace in his domain. It was intended to appease frayed nerves and give assurance that his Government is a responsive one.
In any case, a narrative might have already been created, but the police are already investigating the incident involving Atiku’s convoy and I don’t want to preempt their findings, more so that, I was not physically around. But the true stories, which were never told will be known in the full, ness of time.
I know, that, despite outlawing political miscreants: they tend to still find a way of circumventing and making themselves part of such political outings, like the visit of the PDP Presidential candidate.
Very often they trail convoys from behind and in the process often throw objects at onlookers and passersby. That I understand was the situation, as some APC youths, who were also holding their party flags, started shouting at those shouting in the convoy. They started throwing objects at each other, resulting in a general panic, among others who were not involved. Some violent hoodlums cashed in on the situation and started unleashing violence on everybody around the area.
There is another issue that seems to be working against you people for the elections: a controversial N2 Billion, being given to the State every month in addition to its statutory allocation, which was attributed to President Buhari. There have never been clarifications on this either. Can you clarify?
It is not my duty to offer clarifications on any Government receipt or policy. But that is one mischief from the bottom of hell fire. Common sense dictates that it was a mere political gimmick. I have personally interacted with Mallam Garba Shehu, the Presidential spokesman, and he denied that there was ever any such encounter during the Presidents visit when he was alleged to have made that remark. There is no better authority than the Presidents mouthpiece to clarify the issue. I have equally sought clarifications from people who were at the Shehu’s palace, where the matter was said to have been discussed and all of them denied having heard any such remark.
Because the Governor has not said anything so far lends credence to what I said earlier, that one can only clarify issues where they exist. Nothing like that transpired and nobody is obliged to respond to mischief. Let anybody engage us on the issues of performance, competence, credibility, capacity, or acceptability. Anything that will tend to drag us into murky political debates is not worth it.
Some people are bound to say that, the campaign council as constituted was a mere parade of names, as most of those listed were not around for the inauguration. The party chairman particularly took exception to the absence of individuals. What do you have to show as a mark of participation by those who were not there?
Politics is a game of numbers, and can you say in all honesty that there were names of people on the council that was not there? You were there and you must have seen the assemblage. Some of us who were on the list could not even get a space to stand in the Multi-Purpose Hall. We were inaugurated standing outside. And I was one of the last people to depart, and there was nobody I expected to see that I did not see. The Chairman’s remarks about attendance by a particular individual were not to say the event was not fully attended. I am sure he was talking about that particular individual, whom I know got the notice of the inauguration very late and missed booking the flight. I had the course to inquire, and I know it was not intentional rather, he did not get to know about it in time for him to book a flight. There was the issue of a communication gap and we are not blaming anybody. It could happen to anyone. One thing I can say with authority is that we are united in this quest and everybody has accepted to be part of it. One could not have been on the list without having been adequately consulted, so every name there has been part of the formation itself. There has never been a more formidable team than what we have. We have on board people who were hitherto reluctant or generally passive, but who have agreed to work for the victory of the Governor. Thank you.