Hon Ahmed Suleiman is an All Progressives Congress, APC, stalwart and stakeholder in Kebbi State. The former aspirant for the House of Representatives for Bunza/Birnin Kebbi/Kalgo federal constituency of Kebbi State in the 2019 general elections, is not only a politician, but also an astute businessman. In this interview with OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU, he shares why he joined politics and why he is in the forefront of those urging former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Jagaban Borgu, to contest for the Nigerian Presidency, among other issues. Excerpts:
How did your journey into the political world begin?
My journey into politics began in 2001, when I became one of the loyalists of the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and currently, I still am. After observing how he played and is still playing his role in the political world, I fell in love with politics.
He is one of the main reasons why I ventured into the political arena and I can say that I have really learnt a lot from him.
So much has been said about Asiwaju Tinubu; to some people, he is seen as being not too good a politician, while to some others, he is seen as the best political strategist around.
Based on your relationship with him since 2001, how would you describe the former governor?
Asiwaju is a political strategist and at the point where we are today, when it comes to the integers of democracy, I will say that Asiwaju is still in control of Lagos State; this goes to show that he is still a politician.
Up to the point where we are today, it is only Asiwaju that still controls his state and even though some see this in a wrong way, we must applaud Asiwaju for this.
Between 1999 and 2007, there were 36 governors in Nigeria. However, it seems that only Asiwaju today, is still politically relevant amongst his peers of 1999 and 2007. What do you think is responsible for this? Why do you think he is still relevant compared to his other peers?
The reason for this is because he is forgiving and easily overlooks things. Asiwaju is not busy stealing money or doing other wrong things; rather, he is been busy investing in people.
This can be seen in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration; from the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to the Minister of Interior and former governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola; the Minister of Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare; Minister of State for Health and former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mamora; Minister of Works and former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola; and many others. They are all part of Asiwaju’s benevolence and this is because he has been committed to building them up.
This is one reason why he has been far ahead of his peers and colleagues, because when people look at him and then at his peers, they see that he is busy investing in other people, while others are after themselves and their families.
Coming down to Kebbi State which happens to be your state, how would you rate the performance of your governor so far, barely after one year in office?
The governor has been performing well. One of the major fulcra of the government policy is the diversification into agriculture. We are into the cultivation of rice and this is one thing that the state has been very good in and has also been benefitting from immensely.
We are very good in farming and I will say that Kebbi State is one of the states that the President has been very proud of.
You earlier said that you contested for the House of Representatives. Considering the fact that 2023 is around the corner, would you still want to contest once again?
Yes, I will still contest again. I never had passion for politics before, but later on, I discovered that if one must really help his people, then he has to come out for it.
I thank God that amongst those that I contested with in Kebbi State, I am the only one who sacrificed his offices, billboards and the vehicles I bought; by leaving them to my boys who really helped me to contest.
Some others collected back their vehicles, but I remain the only one who never did; because the truth is that I still need them tomorrow. This is one thing that I learnt from Asiwaju.
I believe I did a great thing for my state and I thank God for it, because I know my people really needed it and that was why I did it. This should tell you also the kind of person that I am.
Coming back to Asiwaju, there has been rumors going round that come 2023, he will contest for the office of the president, what is your opinion on this?
Asiwaju did not say that he is interested in contesting for the Presidency in 2023; we are the ones urging him to come out and contest, because he has done so much for this country. I once had an interview with someone where this same question was asked and I equally told them that Asiwaju remains the only good man fighting for the democracy of our country now.
If you look at the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Asiwaju was the only surviving governor under the Alliance for Democracy, AD. So, with his track record, he deserves to be respected.
I can remember when former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Kwakwanso, was contesting for the APC presidential ticket with Buhari at the primaries in 2014 in Lagos, it was only Asiwaju who stood up and advised Kwakwanso to let go and allow Buhari to fly the party’s flag, he is an elderly man; and that after Buhari’s tenure, Kwakwanso himself will now come in.
This is why I love Asiwaju, because he is one amongst many. If you leave it up to me, I will give him the opportunity to contest. Many of us believe that Asiwaju should be given an opportunity to contest so that he can do better, because he has done so much in Lagos State.
Looking at the Nigerian political terrain, do you think that Asiwaju stands the chance of winning in 2023?
Yes, he has a better chance of winning in 2023, because there is no other politician like him. As I earlier said, he has really invested in many people and that is an added bonus point for him. This alone makes him different from other people, who will be contesting for that same position. So, he has a 100 percent chance of winning in the election should he contest for it. We have even begun telling others to help ensure that Asiwaju comes out to contest, because he really deserves it. There is absolutely no one like Asiwaju; no one like him!
What is your opinion on the South-East saying that it is their turn to govern Nigeria come 2023?
I am sorry to disagree on this, but they are not ready when it comes to this issue; because this is not the first time that they wouldl be called to come together and they will refuse. This is why we invite them to come, that even if they may not have anything to contribute, as long as they are willing, they should come so we can consider them.
Igbos are not ready for anything politics; they like sitting down to watch. We can see this from the Obasanjo’s regime, where the Igbos had almost five to six people who indicated interest in presidency in one regime.
Well, that is their own issue. They should go and sit down and think of what to do. It is not their turn yet, so they should wait; after Asiwaju has completed his tenure as President, then they can come in. That is the only thing that they can do.
Coming down to the APC, the party started well with the coalition of the legacy parties that formed the party. Today however, there seems to be cracks in the party and this does not appear to be helping it. What do you think is the solution to all of this so that the party can be able to present a formidable front in 2023?
Crisis is normal in politics. It is not a new thing to us at all and I thank God that it started earlier. The truth is that crises must definitely arise and there will always be ways to tackle and solve them.
I believe that the crisis we have now will be sorted out very soon. Crises will always be in every political paert and there will always be ways to tackle them sooner or later. We can tackle the crisis we are having in the party now.
Do you believe that the Caretaker Committee headed by the Yobe State Governor has the capacity to resolve the APC crisis and organize an acceptable national convention?
Yes, because he has been in the game. The governor has served twice as secretary to the party. He knows what is there; so he knew what to expect before he became the governor.
He was even there when we appointed him as governor of the state. So, he is part of us and knows how to handle the situation at hand and he is doing it well.
We can say that you are from two states in Nigeria; you are from Kebbi State as well as from Lagos State, because of your relationship with Asiwaju. I am pretty sure you know what has been happening in Lagos State. Based on this, how would you rate Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration in terms of his performance so far?
He has been doing a good job; better than that of Akinwunmi Ambode. There is nowhere you will go in Lagos State that you will not see an evidence of Sanwo-Olu’s work. He is working perfectly and really doing a great job. All we need do is to give him maximum support to fulfill his electioneering promise, premised on the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda to take Lagos to the next greater level
What is your assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration?
The President has been doing his best, but I keep telling people that Nigeria was already spoilt while she was two to 30 years old. That is why President Buhari had to come in and he has been doing his best. Even when it comes down to the party, he has been very good.
Since he assumed office, there has been no issue of bombing anymore. It is all a gradual process; and that is why I keep saying that to get everything alright, all requires patience and a gradual process.
How do you see the opposition party which is the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, competing with the APC in 2023?
I will not say anything yet, but we are still campaigning for APC…in the past four years, we can see what the APC has done in Nigeria in the aspect of road, railway, among others; and up till now, PDP knows that because they themselves, have done nothing yet and are not preparing anything yet; they are not making any preparations yet that I am aware of.
There are two major issues that have become major challenges confronting Nigeria: security and corruption. In your opinion, do you think that the APC government has done very well in tackling these two major issues?
Yes, I have said it before. Since coming into the party, there has been no more excesses. I may be a strategist but I will honestly keep saying it with my integrity. On the issue of the Boko-Haram insurgency, it is what has led to so many kidnappings and the killings so far.
It is all to assume office especially by the PDP; because they want to come into power by all means, they have been sponsoring people, but God will definitely expose them. They have been doing all these, because they have not been happy with the way APC is performing in the country.
Despite all these however, the President has been doing his best. We are all doing our best.
In terms of the economy, do you think this administration has done its best?
Yes, I do. It is doing its best. There is no more corruption like before, where we operate so many different accounts. Before now, one person can have over 50 accounts with one ministry; with one account having billions of naira stashed in it; but now, it is just one single account. The economy is really doing well.
What is your assessment of the National Assembly?
The National Assembly is really doing well and that is why it has been cooperating with Mr. President, because when we look back at the past Bukola Saraki-led National Assembly, they drew us back and they were hinderance to the President’s developmental strides.
We just have to give the President some more time to do what he intends doing and in two, or three years’ time, he will do something better than before. He just has many other burdens to carry, so he really needs more time to be focused.
What is your advice to your constituents in Kebbi State, especially as we are gradually inching towards 2023?
I will always say that amongst those who contested in my state, I may know no one amongst them who is exposed like me. So, I will tell my people to go and do their due diligence; and consider someone who is capable and politically exposed.
I have seen so many who came out to contest in Nigeria and even though they may still be there till date, no one knows them. In choosing, they should choose someone who is very exposed, willing and committed to help people, especially youths in the state. This is the advice I am giving to my people and it is the best thing to do.
What is your last advice to APC members nationwide?
They should come together and be united as one. They should be focused and forget their differences by moving forward in order to bring the party together; it is the symbol of our growth.
We should all come together and be united as one, assist each other and move forward.