What we will do to Jonathan if fielded by APC in 2023 – Tambuwal

Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto is the Chairperson of the PDP Governors’ Forum. He played a key role in the success of the recently concluded national convention of the PDP and has been working with his colleagues to strengthen and stabilise the opposition party ahead of the 2023 general elections.


In this short interview with Musikilu Mojeed, Mr Tambuwal, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, spoke about why he left the APC in 2018, his presidential ambition, and what he and his colleagues are doing to wrestle power from the APC in 2023.


He also spoke about speculation that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan might leave the PDP to the APC. He revealed what the PDP will do if the former president is nominated candidate of the ruling party in 2023.


The interview was transcribed by reporter Samuel Adenekan.

What we will do to Jonathan if fielded by APC in 2023 - Tambuwal


PT: You have just concluded your party’s convention. As the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, how did it all play out? Contrary to the expectation that it might be chaotic, it appears to have ended up well.

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Tambuwal: First, let me thank the Almighty God for a successful convention. We give every glory to him. I would like to use this medium to thank all our party leaders, all our party members and especially all our delegates at the convention for the way and manner they conducted themselves.

Yes, you are right. There were a lot of permutations, analyses and projections that the PDP Convention was going to be mad in view of pendency of court matters, in view of the fact that there are some measure of disagreements in the party. But to God be the glory, we have been able to manage the situation and conduct a very free, fair and transparent convention.

In my speech at the convention, I did say that it’s a difficult thing to manage the PDP. By that I admitted the fact that there were some issues and we had to really do a lot of background work as leaders of the party, governors and other stakeholders to get to where we have gotten.

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A lot has gone into it. A lot of diplomacy, discussions, engagements. It is all about engagement and talking to people, making them see the reason why certain things happen. With persuasion, we got to where we got to. Deployment of consensus also helped the process right from states to zonal levels.


PT: But there is one outstanding issue. Uche Secondus, your party’s chairperson remains aggrieved. He might be heading to the Supreme Court, how are you going to handle that? If he succeeds at the Supreme Court, that may nullify all you have achieved.

Tambuwal: The matter in court is at the Court of Appeal now. As I said earlier in the course of my press briefing at the last two meetings of Governors Forum, I do not want to go into matters that are before the court of law. But I can assure you that we have activated a mechanism for dialoguing and engagement with our brother Secondus on how we can actually engage him and see that we take the matter out of the court and find a better solution to it.


In any case, his National Working Committee (NWC) remains in place. It is not as if they are going to be dissolved today, tomorrow with the coming of the new stream of executive. His executive will remain in place till December. His executive committee will run the full course of its tenure.

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PT: Now that the convention is over, what next for the PDP? Some people believe the PDP has not been playing its opposition role well.

Tambuwal: First and foremost, with the outcome of the convention, with the election of a professor as a woman leader and of course the election of possibly the youngest youth leader in the history of Nigeria since the return to democracy …. I don’t think there is any political party that has produced a 25 years old as a youth leader. You can see that the PDP is adopting some strategies of doing things differently, of responding to the yearning of the electorates and generally of the people.

So, with the coming of the Ayu-led executive, we have sent the signal that we are a serious political party. We are determined to engage our people on the way forward, on developing a pathway for the people, on reclaiming the government at the centre come 2023.

In that process, I can assure you that the role expected of the PDP is going to be enhanced in terms of giving credible opposition to the government in power and also coming up with alternative views on policies and interventions. You are going to see more of that going forward from the PDP.


Immediately they settle down, I’m sure Dr Ayu will role out … From what I have heard, they are going to embark on tours of chapters for engagements at states levels and zonal levels so that they can build momentum for the party. Don’t forget that the party will go back to do the e-registration of new members.


PT: I don’t know if you have read reports that you governors have taken over the party, that most of the officers produced at the convention were candidates of the governors.

Tambuwal: What people fail to understand is that … They should go into how we were able to arrive at most of the consensus.

What we did was that every zone was allowed to build consensus around who should be their candidates from those zones and it was not governors that sat to say so so so person should be chosen.

For instance, in the case of the youth leader, is he coming from a state where there is a sitting governor? The example of the woman I gave you, is she coming from a state where there is a sitting governor? The legal adviser, is he coming from a state where there is a sitting governor? The treasurer from Gombe, is he from a state where there is a sitting governor? No! And these are key principal officers of the party.

What we have done is to devise a mechanism for each zone to sit and see if consensus is possible. Where there was none in the case of the three positions that were eventually contested, delegates were allowed to exercise their franchise and added colour and full complementarity of an election process.

So, it is not that the governors have taken over or imposed their people on the party. Far from that. What we have is a product of consultation, consensus-building and stakeholders engagement.

PT: But in spite of how smooth it all looks, I’m sure there are still disagreements here and there. How will you go about resolving them?

Tambuwal: It is all about engagement. It’s all about persuasion and making people see why we must work together.

First and foremost, to everyone of us, both in PDP and APC, who are not happy with the current situation of the country. It is about Nigeria, even some members of the APC are very worried and concerned about the direction of the country.

First and foremost for us in the PDP, it’s about Nigeria. For us in the PDP, second is the PDP. How are we going to reposition the PDP for the party to position itself as an alternative to the APC or another party that may come up.

It is important for all of us at the party to understand that it’s all about the party, not about self. First is Nigeria, second is the party and then you can now promote your desire and ambitions. So, I appeal to those that are feeling aggrieved to look at the bigger picture and that bigger picture is Nigeria.


PT: You talked about Nigeria, what is it that you are not happy about?

Tambuwal: Are we all happy about the current situation of security in the country? Are we happy about the so-called fight against corruption? The general state of affairs of the country is that we are in a very serious crisis. I’m sure that every Nigerian that understands governance is not happy with the direction of affairs of the country.

It is not about me, it is about the country and its governance, clearly this administration has lost direction.


PT: You were part of the people that brought this administration to power, are you saying you are disappointed at the turn of events?

Tambuwal: I am part of those that supported the formation of the APC, the coming on board of President Muhammadu Buhari but I have exonerated myself when I left in August 2018. I made it public. I made it clear that I was not convinced with the government’s performance in the first term.

So, you can say that I was part of the first term but second term, no. You can’t say that I was part of the second term because I disagreed, I left the party, I joined the PDP and I was collectively prosecuted politically.


PT: By the way, why did you leave the APC?

Tambuwal: When my colleagues, six governors came to see me to talk to me about why I was leaving, I told them all of these.

First, I was not convinced about how the government was being run, particularly around three key issues – the level of insecurity in Nigeria, the economy and the fight against corruption. I made it clear to six of them when they came to see me here in Sokoto State and unfortunately they tried to persuade me and I told them that it’s nothing personal.

What we will do to Jonathan if fielded by APC in 2023 - Tambuwal
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan smiles during a press conference at the South African Parliament in Cape Town, on May 7, 2013. The leaders of Africa’s two biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, pledged closer ties on Tuesday in what was hailed as a milestone in a sometime patchy relationship. President Jacob Zuma rolled out a red carpet for his counterpart Goodluck Jonathan as ministers signed nine sectoral pacts covering oil and gas, power, defence and communication. AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH

I told them ‘I fought against PDP in 2015. I had nothing personal against then President Goodluck Jonathan and I had nothing personal against the PDP. I don’t feel anything wrong if I go back to PDP because it’s nothing personal, I just don’t like the way the country was run at the first term by the APC government.’


PT: Now your party has 13 governors, that is just about one-third of the total number of states, how are you going to muster the necessary forces to unseat the APC?

Tambuwal: First, power belongs to God and he gives it to whoever he wishes and desires at his own time. So he will be the one to give us.

Let me refer you to recent political history. How many governors did the APC have when they took power from the PDP if it is about governors? It is not about the number of governors. It is about the people, the electorates were not happy with the government of Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 and it was clear and they voted the government out. I’m sure, if you carry out a referendum today, you will see the outcome. Even in APC-controlled states, you will see that people are not happy with the government at the centre.

When the time comes, people will vote against the party that produced this kind of government at the centre. It is clear that Nigerians are getting better and wiser in decision making than before when it comes to voting. What happened in Sokoto is a clear example. APC won virtually six house of reps seats and three senators here but two weeks after, I was elected to come back for a second term. This is a classical case of what can happen.

Like I said, it is first about God and then the people.


PT: The Nigerian people became disappointed in your party in 2015. What lessons have you learnt? How prepared are you to show Nigerians that you can offer something better?

Tambuwal: By the time Nigerians compare the government of President Muhammadu Buhari with the PDP administration from Obasanjo to Jonathan, they will be better informed as to which party is better prepared to keep the country together and work for the country and come up with policies and programmes that are good for the country.

So, I believe that from the lessons learnt in terms of performance, either party or individuals in political parties, we have learnt a lot of lessons. We have been in power and we have lost power. We must have learnt some lessons. The way and manner PDP does congresses and conventions now show that we have learnt some lessons. Even how we manage our party affairs shows that we have learnt some lessons. Was that how PDP was run before? No! Even by our ward, local government, state congresses, we have given people ample facts. Our ways of running party affairs have changed.

We have learnt from our mistakes.


PT: At your last convention, the two living former presidents produced by your party were absent. Namadi Sambo, your former VP, was also absent.

Tambuwal: First, President Obasanjo left partisan politics a long time ago, sometime in 2014. President Jonathan was reached out to by the Chairman of the Convention Committee alongside the Governor of Bayelsa, and Governor of Oyo State, who was the secretary. They went to him and gave him a run down as the convention unfolded. They briefed him. He took the excuse that he was on his way for an annual AU programme, an international engagement in Kenya. He cannot be at two events at the same time and we all quite understand.

For Namadi Sambo, I am not in a position to respond on his behalf and I believe that it’s a matter of possible inconvenience because a few days before then I was expecting him at the convention but subsequently I realised he was not going to make it to the convention.


PT: I asked that question because I am sure you have also heard the speculation that President Jonathan is likely on his way out of your party to the APC.

Tambuwal: Rumour says that. Even myself, there was a rumour that I was going back to the APC but it remains a rumour. I have had cause to do an interview with VON Hausa where similar question was asked by the reporter on the possibility of President Jonathan going to the APC. We advise that he should not even contemplate it. Otherwise, how are they going to market him? His situation will be like that of my senior brother, Adams Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu.

What we will do to Jonathan if fielded by APC in 2023 - Tambuwal

You know that in Edo, during the last governorship election, it was more of what Adams himself had said about his own candidate, Ize-Iyamu, which became campaign issues. People will just exhume what President Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed and rest of APC stalwarts had said about Jonathan. That, I can guarantee, is what we in PDP will do. So, I advise President Jonathan, if he has any aspiration, he should possibly consider it in the PDP rather than leaving to join the APC.

PT: I was thinking you were going to encourage him to go elsewhere since you are known to also have presidential ambition, and the more your competitors go away, the clearer the field for you.

Left to me, I feel like some of my colleagues in the APC should come back to the PDP for us to work together to make things happen.

I have said it before in this interview that power belongs to God and it is He alone that can give it at every appointed time. I know, as a believer, if it is my destiny to become the president of Nigeria, I will. President Jonathan in PDP will not alter or change God’s plan. That is my conviction. I will rather have him in the PDP because I know that he has value to add.


PT: Are you preparing to run for president again? We know that you have tried to run before.

Tambuwal: You know that this period, we have been working to reposition the party. Without the party platform together and stabilized, what is ambition? You have to have a platform before you can talk about ambition. Now that we have almost done all the Congresses and conventions, I will come back to you after consulting in a matter of a few weeks, few months.

I have tried it before. It (presidential ambition) was in air in 2014. After consultation, I decided not to run. In 2018, after consultations with a number of stakeholders I threw my hat into the race. I will commence my consultation extensively now and make it public after.

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