Alhaji Kabiru Umar is an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari and leader of the pro-North Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). He has been with the president from their days in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and currently a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this interview conducted by NOAH EBIJE, the businessman cum politician gave an idea of what awaits ex-military Generals opposed to Buhari’s re-election if he wins a second term in February 2019. He also said the North will rather back Igbo as Buhari’s successor in 2023 because Southeast is regarded as a natural ally of the North in the nation’s political history.
You were in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and today you are an APC chieftain. How has the transition been?
I’m in APC because I believe in it. APC is an amalgamation of three parties – ANPP, CPC, ACN and part of APGA; all of these parties are now in power at the centre. I belonged to an opposition party in the past, and I’m proud to say that. So, we’re an opposition bridge that came together and chased the party in power out of governance and I think that is a feat that one can be proud of. I didn’t join PDP when it was quite thick in performing, I did not join PDP, then why should I join it now when for the period they run the country, not that they did positive things, the negative things outweigh the positive things. So what is there for one to follow? I have never been a PDP man ever since the creation of that party. I have never been in PDP and I don’t hope to be.
Why do you say so?
You see, I’m a Northerner and we are backward in terms of money and education and the only thing we have that we are boastful of is political power, either during the first, second or whatever republic because politics is a game of number. And then during the 1999 political activity, the military made it a point that Obasanjo must be elected and I felt I was too small to change that but I could prevent myself from following PDP because I did not support Obasanjo presidency in 1999 simply because politics is a game of number. Why should we subjugate our right simply because some few individuals made it a point that one of them must be the president because of their personal arrangement. Why should I, Kabiru follow them?
From the picture you painted of retired Generals, it appears you are now more bitter by the current alleged gang-up by the ex-military chiefs against Buhari’s re-election in 2019. How bitter are you?
The issue of the gang up is selfish, why did they support Buhari in the first place? They supported him because they wanted him to do their bidding. The issue is simple, some of them have oil wells here and there, they don’t want to pay royalty, they don’t do anything. I mean they are supposed to be ashamed of what they are doing. If not that Buhari is even tolerant, he would have exposed them. See what General TY Danjuma said some months ago, he has unfettered access to Buhari or anybody in this country but see the statement he made and where he made it. It was disappointing and then nobody tells him anything. See what happened, late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua mentioned it when a minister visited him and the minister complained about electricity, I remember very well when Yar’adua told the minister that Obasanjo government spent over $600m, and yet there was no electricity, the minister couldn’t talk, never talked again. It was during Obasanjo period that we had the highest top ranking security officers and minister of justice killed in his own domain and nothing happened. I do remember there was one occasion that took place where Wole Soyinka said the killers of Bola Ige were in their midst. He did mention that the killers of Bola Ige were in the gathering, nobody challenged him because those who matter knew it. I think I have to mention names because it happened. Why was Audu Ogbe removed as chairman of PDP because he challenged Obasanjo, Omisore was in prison and he was made the senatorial candidate, Ogbe challenged it, and that was the beginning of his problem, not to talk of the issue between him and Atiku, something of that nature. Anybody in the same group wants their party to win, so there is nothing wrong. But Omisore was in prison and he became a senatorial candidate of PDP and eventually became the senator. You know for Obasanjo to begin to talk to people, I’ve been wondering why people should listen to him. I mean it is disappointing that people are listening to Obasanjo. I think it is disappointing. He said all unprintable things and lots of people are saying that. See what he did to the father of former Speaker of House of Reps, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, Alhaji Alani Bankole when he wanted to contest as governor of Ogun state. The same thing with Ajimobi, Amosun what did he do to them? What did he do to AD then? He made sure that all the governors were removed, when AD said they have no presidential candidate, they voted for Obasanjo but it was only Tinubu that survived. Is he somebody that can be trusted? You understand, he can’t be trusted by whatever yardstick.
Some Nigerians are saying that the northern numerical strength you mentioned is a fluke because of the allegation that the region often hire people from neighboring countries like Niger Republic to vote in the north. What is your reaction to this?
Those who are saying this don’t know what they are saying. The north does not need to bring anybody from anywhere to vote. We don’t have that kind of culture. We don’t have that culture of paying Peter to go and write exams for Gabriel. We don’t have that culture. That culture is alien to the north, that is the truth. How can somebody say northern population is a fluke? As a northerner, I feel bad because it is blackmail. From the first and second republics till date, the north does not have that culture of hiring political supporters from neighbouring countries.
One thing is that you cannot differentiate somebody from Maradi in Niger Republic from somebody in the neighbouring communities in Nigeria because they speak the same dialect, use same dresses, and what have you. But to say that we bring people from Niger Republic to come and vote in Nigeria, I think it is an insult to the north.
What is your view on the struggle between Igbo and Yoruba for the 2023 presidency?
I think that is their own issue, I am just a passenger. However, it depends on the time and the situation. The north has a long political alliance with Igbo. In the first and second republics, there was an alliance between the NPP and NPN, they called it Accord before it was broken. So it all depends on the situation and issues on the ground. Issues on the ground are very important, as well as the quality of the candidate. Whether such candidate comes from South-south or South-east or wherever, quality of the candidate and the prevailing situation will determine whatever… For now, nobody can predict the situation because saying it is one thing and actualising it is another thing. You never can tell what will happen before 2023, I stand to be corrected.