In this interview, a former commissioner for Home Affairs, Information and Culture in Borno State, Hon Inuwa Bwala, speaks on the politics of Borno and his ambition to run for the House of Representatives in 2023. Excerpts:
There is no doubt, the politics of 2023 have begun in earnest. How is the situation in Borno State?
Borno is a virtual one-party state, as you know. The performances of the Governor, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum seem to have overwhelmed all others, to the effect that other political parties are reluctant to even field candidates, and there is no aspirant either from his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). As far as the Governorship race is concerned, it is a done deal for Prof Babagana Umara Zulum.
The above scenario is also playing out for the Borno Central Senatorial District, where Senator Kashim Shettima holds sway. Every aspirant is intimidated by Kashim Shettima’s rating with the electorate and others are reluctant to join the race.
Except in a situation where Kashim Shettima or Professor Zulum is picked as running mate to any of the Presidential aspirants that may emerge as the candidate; which is more likely, their positions look secure in the face of the unfolding political calculations.
With Senator Abubakar Kyari’s exit from the Senate to become the Deputy National Chairman of the APC, the coast also seems clear for Hon M T Monguno to ascend to the Senate, with little or no contest.
Politics is not about who is in the contest, but about the quality of people in it. I have a pedigree and our people have seen it. I leave them as the ultimate judges
I think where the contest may be fiercest is in Borno South Senatorial District, where a dozen aspirants are gunning for Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume’s seat. Except perhaps Aliyu Betara, the positions of the other House of Representatives members from that zone also appears shaky. Betara seems to be coasting home to victory; thanks to his unequalled performance. There does not seem to be much threat to Mohammed Jaha, the member representing Damboa/Chibok/Gwoza Federal Constituency either, given his equally good performance.
We understand you are also in the race for the House of Representatives, as we saw your pictures flying on social media. Can you confirm that development?
I have been consulting with people at home. I am still consulting with our leaders and that is why I have not yet openly declared interest, but it is a very likely development. People have been coming to meet me and encourage me to throw my cap in the ring, apparently out of their dissatisfaction with the performance of the person there now. I agree with them to a very large extent and I have confidence in my capacity to do better. After consulting with our leaders and relevant stakeholders, I am likely going to join the race and that will be very soon, as time is no longer a friend. As for my pictures on social media, I am aware that a group of youths approached me during the National Congress of the APC in Abuja with the design and a promise to print posters for me free of charge. I promised to get back to them soon, but they seemed to be in a hurry and could not wait for me to discuss with them further before releasing the pictures. It was pre-emptive but it also tested the waters and the response has been enthusiastic. I will formally react to that in the fullness of time.
But why do you want to join the race when there is an incumbent and we understand one of your own relations is also in the race?
The tragedy of our politics in Askira-Uba/Hawul Federal Constituency is such that, as one of the most intellectually endowed and politically sophisticated areas in Borno, we have not been lucky with quality representation. People are often interested in building themselves at the expense of the development of the area. Very often we seldom see quality presentations, nay relevant development projects in the names of constituency projects. While others are doing superlatively in their constituencies, our representatives build around themselves cocoons and shun people when it matters most. And we reasoned that, so long as we continue to have people who shy away from their duties, so long as we have mediocre as representatives: people who cannot even express themselves in public, so long shall we continue to wallow in that wilderness of misrepresentation. It is scandalous that mere public appearance became so difficult for some of them to comply. Others could not sponsor a single bill throughout their tenures and yet others could not show a single development attracted to the constituency through their instrumentality. I am worried like every constituent and I feel I could do better, given the chance. I have weighed the caliber of those seeking to go in, including the so-called relation you talk about, and I cannot see any capacity to do anything differently. Politics is not about who is in the contest, but about the quality of people in it. I have a pedigree and our people have seen it. I leave them as the ultimate judges.
The say you are broke and may not even be able to sustain your campaign. Do you have the financial war chest to contest?
(Laughs) I do not know when the position was put up for sale to the highest bidder or the moneyed. I even heard one contestant saying he has bought the ticket ahead of the election. You may recall what the President told the national leadership of my party, the APC, that they should not avail tickets to the highest bidder. The import of that message was to discourage money politics. In the first place, I do not believe in money politics, but in the will of the majority. I may not be as rich as all others in the race, but I know that if allowed to put our popularity to test, I am miles ahead. I am not going to be throwing money at delegates, nay electorates, so that I will not claim to have bought the position at the end of the day. I am offering myself for service and our people know this much. The condition we find ourselves in today does not give the luxury of playing games with leadership, rather we need tested and trusted hands, who can give quality leadership to the people. Politics should no longer be the game of who has the widest financial war chest or who has the anointing of a particular tin god. It should be tailored towards public will and good. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had no money when he was made President, neither President Buhari nor former President Goodluck Jonathan. The late Mohammed Goni and my dear father, Mala Kachallah had no money when they became governors in Borno State. I do not know of any of those who represented Askira-Uba/Hawul Federal Constituency who had money before they got elected. Money may be required for logistics but not to buy the hearts of people.
The vogue in your party is to go for consensus arrangement. What would you say to that, if it is eventually evoked in respect of your own race?
I am going into the contest with an open mind. I know as a matter of fact that, in choosing a consensus candidate, the party will go for the best material. I also know that, whatever are the yardsticks that may be employed in choosing, the odds will favour me. I have been on the turf long enough and I have made my impact felt by my people at all times. I virtually live amongst them and can count all 25 wards in the constituency on my fingertips. I have paid my dues, so to say and I know I will be the consensus candidate if that becomes the option that may be used to nominate the candidate. If there is anybody who the ticket should be conceded to, that person should be me. I have won primary elections on two occasions and was denied the ticket on both occasions. I don’t want to be available for a third one. My support cut across party, religious and ethnic lines and my name is a household name in the politics of my area. People have called to tell me that they have been waiting for me to step out. Having stepped out, it is only God and the peoples’ will, that can stop me.