My emergence as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in these turbulent times is an act of God. I truly believe that whatever God decides is what happens. I did not plan to be the Chairman of PDP; it was the collective decision of owners and leaders of the party that felt that I could offer a leadership that is needed at this moment in time. Any party that is in opposition needs someone that would unite the people to confront the challenges ahead of that party. For me I have been in opposition politics all my life. I was a minority leader in the Senate which is an opposition; in the APP and ANPP, I was in the Senate as an NRC Senator which was also then an opposition party because the SDP had a larger number of members even though it was truncated by the military. It was also an opposition party. I was a governor in Borno State. You know that when I was a governor, we were in opposition for the eight years; so today my emergence as the Chairman of the PDP is to build a party that has lost election after nearly two decades as the party in government.
More importantly, most of the people today that are in APC were PDP members. I am ready for the job and I am going to build all the bridges so that we can bring the party together once again. That was how I became the Chairman, it was not planned, but when God wants to change something He makes people to make the right decision.
In this country today, whether rightly or wrongly, I am seen as the progenitor of Boko Haram, and so many were surprised by my emergence.
Nigeria is a country of laws. Nigeria is a country that has the largest black population in the world and nobody today in this country is above the law. That I am the progenitor of Boko haram was a fiction and imagination of the writers. I was the governor of Borno State for eight years and, when I was a governor, there was no local government that was under Boko Haram.
The issue of Boko Haram came when the government at that time, under President Umaru Yar’Adua, destroyed their mosque and, that was it. They succeeded in killing three people when I was the governor and, one of those three people was my blood brother, same father and same mother; second one that they killed was the gubernatorial candidate of my political party; third one was Chairman of my party who was also my first cousin. I have never seen anybody in my life that was connected to Boko Haram apart from their leader who was arrested by the military then.
The military invited me to see him for the first time in their barracks. If for any reason I had any connection with Boko Haram, I would have been arrested. I am not above the law but you know media is a very strong institution; if your enemy or the people who are afraid of you go to the media and put a false report, the author will write based on information that was given to them by people who believe that unless they dent your image, they will not get what they want politically. Otherwise, there is no way I could be linked to Boko Haram because by my disposition, my background and where I come from, I have nothing to do with Boko Haram.
Boko Haram wanted to kill me all the time because they believed that I was the one that reported them to President Musa Yar’Adua to destroy their enclave when it was destroyed that time. It was after I left government that they moved to their different camps and bushes. Why should they kill my brother? Why should they kill my family if I am a sponsor of Boko Haram? Is there anywhere in the world that you sponsor something to kill you? But unfortunately, the wrong information was circulated to the media by our enemies and, unfortunately, I am not the talking type, so along the line, they kept on fabricating the same lies until it stuck. Let me give you a typical example. Just a week ago, all the social media planted my picture, showing me with the card of APC purporting that I was joining the party. At that time nobody wrote that I was Boko Haram, only that Sheriff is going back to APC. When we registered with APC we went to our villages to do it, that village they are showing on the social media was a village that was taken over by Boko Haram for the past three years, so how could I have gone there to register? Few days after I became the Chairman of the PDP, Ali Sheriff is now Boko Haram; so if you are in APC you are not a Boko Haram.
Throughout my period in APC nobody said I was Boko Haram. Immediately I left the APC, I was termed Boko Haram, therefore you could understand that Nigeria is a very interesting country and the fact that today you cannot do without the media and whosoever has the machinery of the media, unless by chance like the way you have talked to me, they would still be disseminating every kind of stories but nobody will ask why is it that when Ali Modu Sheriff went back to APC, nobody said he is Boko Haram but today that he is PDP Chairman, he is Boko Haram. To cut the story short, I have nothing to do with Boko Haram in my entire life. Nobody in my family or relation is Boko Haram or close to any Boko Haram member. These people that wanted to kill me!
Up till today, if they have the chance they will kill me because they think I reported them to Yar’Adua who leveled their places of worship and, along the line their leader was killed. And that is my crime and why they want to kill me but people that are afraid of me changed the story and they keep on doing it. Every day they write different things, but you and I know that nobody is above the laws of Nigeria. I believe today that President Buhari, even if it is his son or blood brother that is Boko Haram member, he will arrest and prosecute him. So the allegation is the figment of the imagination of the writers.
If Boko haram have the opportunity today, they will kill me. They wanted to kill me, and my crime was simple; I stopped them from operating in the state and in fact, I outlawed them. I did a lot to stop them in Borno. I made it clear that if you are found among them, you will be prosecuted and jailed. It was a proscribed group in the state during my time as governor.
During my tenure their leader was arrested and taken to Abuja severally but each time they bailed him before it culminated in their attacks. And eventually, their building was destroyed and their leader was killed. The military threw them out of the towns and they entered the bushes. After my regime, they regrouped from the bushes and other local governments and started what they are doing now. I have nothing to do with them.
It was during my administration that their leader was arrested; it was during my time they were proscribed; it was under my regime that their leader was arrested and charged to court and they were bailed by citizens of Nigeria from Abuja, they are all on record. It was my own family that they started killing. They went to that mosque to kill my younger brother thinking it was me and that was the mosque I usually go to pray; so where did I come in?
Their leader arrested and brought to Abuja more than five times when I was the chief security officer of the state.
The security system cannot do much once they arrest and arraign them and the court grants them bail; what would they do since we are in the time of rule of law. If the court says you are not guilty, then you are not guilty.
It is absolutely false that I destroyed the local government system and didn’t allow it to function as governor; All my local governments were functioning. I was the only governor, I remember that time that conducted local government election, and gave them independence. In my time I had an opposition local government chairman, even inside Maiduguri which is Juare Local government. In my time, every local government in Borno State had a hospital and, today, most of these refugees are in the buildings I constructed in Borno State. In my time, I did many roads in all the local governments and the local governments were functioning and, to crown it all, their money was never missing. When I was leaving government, I left N65 billion. Today, I stand to be corrected; if any state in Nigeria has left even N5 billion for his successor. I still stand to be corrected. So, anybody telling you that I destroyed local government system in the state is not being truthful. The most-properly run government in Nigeria was in Borno and I want to tell you that the statements of accounts of how Borno Local governments operated; the outstanding money, close to N40 billion was part of the N65 billion that I left in the coffers of Borno State. So, for anybody to write that is absolutely rubbish. I challenge anybody to prove me wrong.
The PDP, now a party in disarray
PDP will be rebuilt, will be reunited, PDP will come together. I formed a party from the scratch that won elections all over Nigeria. The UNCP, which was short-lived, was built by me and we won elections all over Nigeria. I won election to the senate and 80 per cent of those that won election at that time were from UNCP and I, by the grace of God with few other leaders like Jerry Useni who is still alive, Issah Mohammed, built it together and it won elections all over Nigeria. So, I have the capacity to rebuild PDP. UNCP was started by me from the confab. It was UNCP that birthed PDP and APP; some members of UNCP went to form PDP and some went to form APP at that time. PDP formed government in Nigeria and we (APP) were strong opposition party in the country. This APC you are seeing, I was a founding member. APC is ACN and CPC that got together to form the APC. Therefore, from my antecedents, I have won elections from scratch; I built party in Borno State, we formed government of APP then; I came to the National Assembly and due to disagreements, I unseated a sitting government to become the governor for eight years; therefore somebody that is not a builder cannot achieve such feat.
The problems of PDP were many and we understood them and we can reposition this party. At a point in time the leaders of the party could not agree on certain basic principles. For arguments sake, many states lost elections today because those the people wanted were not the ones eventually given the tickets of the party. Some of them did not leave the party but they stayed within the party and because of anger, they allowed the party to lose the election. We will reconcile with them and bring them back to the party. We will go to their homes, talk to them and make sure that everyone put his dagger down. They should know that the party they built would not be allowed to be destroyed. We will beg everybody, we will go to everybody’s home to make sure that their anger does not exist because when a human being is angry he has a right to be pacified and we are going to pacify them in their homes because when wrongs are done, another wrong cannot correct that. When people leave their anger the right things would be done.
I strongly believe that there is no government in the world that can operate without an opposition. Most governments listen to constructive opposition. If being in opposition is a crime, the ruling APC currently arresting everyone will have the right to do whatever they want to do but as a politician we would say what we believe is right to be said. It is our fundamental right to practice party politics and that is all we are doing; we are not insulting anybody, all we are saying is we believe every citizen has the right to aspire and the judgment is left to Nigerians to decide.
President Buhari is a President, he was there by the will of God, whatever God destines will happen and party politics is the right of everybody. You have the freedom of choice like you have the right to freedom of worship and the constitution of Nigeria provides for freedom of expression. Nobody can be jailed because he is expressing his fundamental human rights.
I have started reaching out to estranged PDP members and the response is wonderful. There are people that had been sitting down in their houses after losing the election but after talking to them they have accepted. Calls are coming and I have been making calls every day and immediately we finish the handover and take over, I will hit the road everywhere, pacifying them, asking them to come back; it is a home they built and it is a home that they should not leave. I will visit the zones; I will visit the states and I will visit individuals whose sacrifices made the party and, insha Allah, we will succeed.
It is not yet 2019, but I we will build our party and put our people together before 2019. What I am ready to do today is to build my party; the rest is left to Allah, God almighty who says that power belongs to Him and He gives it to who he wants to give. Only God knows who reaches 2019, but the party will be rebuilt, the party will be repositioned. Every member of this party will be happy to be a member of the PDP.
There is this assertion that PDP destroyed the economy and that is why it is in a mess, but the economy is something that is sometimes affected by global factors that affects people globally. The price of crude oil today is not determined by PDP; it is a global issue. Today, crude oil prices are $28-$29 and PDP does not determine oil price. By 1990 when the world economy crashed the whole world was affected. Today, the EU, US, Caribbean, all over the world are affected by the oil price and other economic factors. It is in every part of the world. When certain indices that affect the economy change, they affect the global economy. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and other oil producers are also affected by the slump in oil prices that has nothing to do with government; PDP is not the one in power now.
I have been a businessman all my life. I was born to a business family, and I ventured into politics in 1978 when NPN came and my uncle was running as a senator. We went to campaign for him and he won the elections and that encouraged me; how he was talking to villagers, how he was getting reception interested me. By the time I came back from England, I lived in Lagos, concentrating on my business. In 1992, I was invited by the NRC in my state, which was in minority, to come around for the senate. I contested against the National Chairman of the SDP’s wife, Ambassador Kingibe and I won the election and it became the election of the century because at the point I joined the NRC, out of the eight local governments in my senatorial district, six of them were controlled by the SDP, only two of them were controlled by the NRC and, everybody had written it off that I will not win the election but eventually I won.
The future of Nigeria will be great, Nigeria will bounce back. Nigeria is a very interesting country that is politically aware. Nigerians will make a decision and when they want to change they will change. Nigeria is a country that no one but Nigerians can determine who will be their leader at any given time. Nigerians collectively voted for Buhari and removed Jonathan who was a sitting President and that makes our country very interesting.
PDP is a deep rooted political party in Nigeria but it was unfortunate that few people destroyed the party. Why they did it, only they know but we will rebuild PDP and put that all behind us and bring the party back to life. Politics is give and take, talking to the people, listening to the views of other people. It is about peoples interests, feelings and combine them to ensure peoples’ views are respected and that they are given the chance to say what they want that is why it is democracy, it cannot be regimental and one directional. People have to be flexible.
I can the apprehension of Nigerians over failure of their expectations by the incumbent APC regime. The disappointment of the youths in any government of the day if their expectations are not met is understandable, because the suffering of Nigerians today is too much. Unless you take deliberate steps to remedy the suffering, it would always breed disappointment. We will tell them what we will do if given the opportunity to rule, we will give them hope.
Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff is the former governor of Borno State and new Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP)
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