Change Mantra Is Hardship On The People – Damishi Sango

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Chairman of Plateau State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Damishi Sango, says if the objective of the Change Mantra of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government is to inflict pains and hardship on the people, then it has succeeded. In this interview with AMOS TAUNA, the former minister of Sports also speaks on Governor Lalong’s performance in Plateau State, saying that the state is now on ground zero, just as he gives insight into why the PDP lost the presidency and the governorship election in some states of the north.

What is your perspective on steps taken by President Buhari-led government in the realization of its change mantra?

I am not the right person to talk on change, the authors of the change are the people who are supposed to talk about change. They are the people who are supposed to tell us whether they have seen the change or they are on the right track or they have derailed or misfired or the change is not as they expected. They are the people to talk about it. From my own perspective, from what l can see, that is the understanding of the general public that things have been made more difficult and if you are talking about change that has brought about negative feelings to the people, then l think they need to review the change, because you have to look at the economy particularly the naira, we are today talking about N500 to the dollar. The economy is biting hard and the people are hungry. In my own area where l come from, by August ending, hunger could have been a thing of the past because you have yam, cocoyam and many other variety of foodstuffs, but we are in the last quarter of the year, the hunger is biting harder and harder. The cash is not there, people can hardly pay their children’s school fees. So, l don’t know what the change is all about and what they want to do with the change. The masses in the country are lamenting, they are in agony, they are in pains and they are becoming desperate. Though l don’t know what the change is all about, whether it was meant to hurt the people, if that was the case, then they have succeeded.

What do you think led the PDP that ruled Nigeria for 16 years, lost the 2015 general elections?

I see it as the issue of personal interest. You see, from the Second Republic, l became active in politics as a young politician and l know that once there was a primary election and a candidate emerges, people now work for the party, it was no longer the issue of the candidate, but it was the issue of the party. With time, people begin to see that if you have a position in government, you have access to the economy, you have the opportunity to use power to acquire things for yourself, community and state and so things started changing. The issue of ‘if l don’t have it, then nobody should have it’. So that type of behaviour started building up and so people felt that if l don’t have it, nobody should have it. That was what happened to us in PDP. You look at the national level, Jonathan was a child of circumstances, a situation when the President died, naturally, according to the constitution of the country, he automatically becomes the President. Now they didn’t want him to go for a second tenure and they introduced regional and religious politics and all sorts of sentiments. That was what happened which in my own view is very dangerous. I am happy that the same people who voted PDP out today are saying had we known. Because politics should be interest of your party, not the interest of your religion or the interest of your tribe. In this party, we have an obligation to put the country first, unfortunately we put our interest, religion, tribe and region first. We need leadership that can cater for all, of course, the Presidency is the highest price, but there are other areas where one tribe cannot take all or one’s religious persuasion can have all, it cannot work in this country. So, if you have the President, of course, the vice President must come from another persuasion. The ministers are there, the Senate President is there and other positions are all there for people of diverse background to be appointed. The whole issue of politics has become the issue of materialism, people are in power because they want to acquire wealth, they want to build their communities, but as a leader, you see the entire country as your community. A governor looks at the entire state as his community, if you are a local government chairman, you should see the area as your community. If you look at the issue of religion which plays a major role in the last elections, a situation where you have sitting governor, how could we have lost election in states where we had PDP sitting governors in the northern parts of the country and we lost the presidential election, it appears there was a conspiracy which is unfortunate. And as far as l am concern, l am a Nigerian and l respect all religious persuasions otherwise you cannot be a wise leader. As an honest leader, you have to understand the heterogeneous nature of this country. There are so many tribes and as a leader, you must take note of all these and carry everybody along. The sufferings that we are suffering today, it cuts across all these tendencies. We have the President as a Muslim, but we all have the same market, exchange rate and as a result, Nigerians should begin to learn of these things so that we all can work together as a people. So, it was these sorts of sentiments that made us to lose the presidency. Of course, for some governors there were other peculiarities. You had some challenges that are different in states but generally speaking, Nigerian politicians must be able to see the nation, state and the people first not the egocentric aspect. Nepotism is a very dangerous element that can kill any nation, it is the worst type of corruption you are talking about. If what we heard from the wife of the President that her husband has been cornered and hijacked, that her husband has been ambushed, then something is wrong and that is not the type of leadership that we want. Nigeria with different religious, tribal and regional persuasions, a leader must be able to take note of all these things into consideration to be able to give a good and balanced leadership in the country because the masses want to have a feeling of belonging. If the masses can pay their children’s school fees, buy fertilizer and other things, if they are made available to them, they don’t care who is in leadership. If they can enter a vehicle to the town and come back without any problem, they don’t care who is the President or the governor.

Plateau State that produced the pioneer National Chairman of PDP is now being led by the APC, what went wrong?

Plateau State did not just produced the National Chairman of the PDP but Plateau State is the birth place of PDP. It was in Plateaus State that the name PDP came up because I was there live when the name of the party was being debated and we eventually came up with that name. So, Plateau State is the birth place of PDP. In the whole of the 19 Northern states, PDP won overwhelmingly in Plateau State, Goodluck Jonathan won in Plateau State with over 500,000 votes. We won our three senatorial seats, out of the eight House of Representatives seats, PDP won six, in the 24 House of Assembly seats, PDP won 13. So, on the issue of the governorship that we lost, there were protests. I can tell you that those of us who were on ground still believe that PDP was rigged out. The governorship election, yes there were protests, but we still won the election and we were rigged out. I am a politician on the ground. l am over 60 years of age, l am not a small boy, l can defend what l am telling you. When the results of the governorship election was being collated, of the 17 local government areas, 16 had submitted their results while Jos North was still collating, yet it is the nearest and smallest local government in terms of size, land and so its result could have been collated before others. So, what happened that every other result came in except that of Jos North? They waited to see the difference between PDP and APC and immediately the result of other local government areas were made known, that of Jos North was jacked up. We know what happened, but that is now history. That was a combination of forces that wanted to make sure that Plateau State will no longer be under the leadership of PDP. So many forces were behind the whole exercise because they were enemies of Plateau State, but we are now wiser.

How will you assess the performance of Governor Lalong’s administration so far?

How can you assess something that is not assessable? When you want to assess something, there must be yardsticks which you have to start from zero and begin to go to a certain point, but l don’t see anything to assess. Somebody was telling me a few days ago that Governor Lalong has been able to pay salaries and I said, yes, even a market woman if she is given a bailout from Lagos to pay, she will pay. If you are given a bail- out to go and pay salaries, certainly, you have no problem in paying workers their entitlements. So, what achievements are you talking about? Is being given money to go and pay salaries an achievement? So, l don’t want to assess something that is not assessable. If there is anything at all, Lalong is not a democrat, he came and dissolved an existing democratically elected local government councils with impunity. Yet, there is a pending judgment by the Supreme Court that elected local government councils should not be dissolved by anybody. He is a lawyer and he did that knowing that what he will do is to play along the judiciary for the entire duration to be exhausted. So, these are the issues and it is paining the people of the State. Supposing the President is to come and dissolve the Plateau State House of Assembly as well as remove the governor, how will he feel? And yet the governor is a lawyer. I am sorry to say that l am disappointed. I cannot say l have seen anything that l can assess. The projects that Baba Jang left are still there. You see, if you want to judge a city, go to its center, that is, the center of the town. The major road that cut across from Maraba Jema’a into the city of Jos is like the eye of the state, have you driven along that road? It is an eye sore. When l want to enter Jos today, l go through Zawan from here and go through a long journey before going into the main city of Jos. So, what achievement has he recorded? I addressed a press conference about two months ago, if you go through the text, l really blasted the present administration in the state over the monumental corruption that has taken place in the state. It is unfortunate and at the same time, l said look at Plateau people now, you can see the difference. How can you throw away a baby with birth water? But remove the baby and throw away the dirty water. Out of sentiment and anger, they did anti-party activity.

As a major stakeholder and the Plateau State Chairman of PDP, what are your plan for 2019?

Well, l will say we are beginning to come back to our senses and gathering ourselves back. We are angry and never again are we going to make the mistake that we made in 2015 governorship election in the state because Plateau State is a PDP state, the people are completely PDP. The mistakes we made, everybody has learned a lesson. I want to make it very clear that as we will continue the build-up to 2019. The most important thing is for us to reconcile and embrace ourselves back and work on the errors that we made. God will hear us and forgive us and He will restore us. We are going to take back our mandate because right now Plateau State is wearing a strange garment and so we are watching among ourselves to forgive one another, we are calling one another through various committees to ensure that the party regained its lost glory. Secondly, by the time we will be going for party congresses, there will be a level playing ground for every member aspiring for the various offices. Nobody will stop you so long as you qualify. The one that the members vote is the one that will be elected and we will all work for him. That mistake will not be made again.

Will the two factions of PDP be able to come together for a common front ahead of 2019?

I want to correct that impression of two factions in the party. When two brothers are having minor differences, there is bound to be understanding between them, there isn’t any faction but a disagreement. Look at the tongue and the teeth, they are all in the same mouth, sometimes the teeth will bite the tongue but they continue to live together. It is not a faction but a disagreement and it is being resolved. No court of law in this country has declared PDP as having two factions and that is why Dariye, who said he has left the party on the basis of factions got it wrong. His lawyers did not advise him well. He has to surrender that mandate because there are no factions in PDP. When you say there are factions which can warrant somebody to decamp, it means that from the national to the ward, factions must be declared by a competent Court of jurisdiction to say that there is faction in the party. It is a small disagreement among members of the party and it is being resolved amicably. So, anybody who thinks he can misapplied that word in order to steal our senatorial seat and give it to another party on a platter of gold is not going to work.

What is your call to Nigerians as we look towards 2019 general elections?

This country is our country and l have always said that democracy is still the best form of government in this country. Any attempt to bring in dictatorship in any way must be resisted by all Nigerians. We want democracy being the best form of government and l urge Nigerians to be patient and ensure that democracy continues. If we don’t like the government, we have the opportunity to throw that government out through the ballot box not through any other means. So, Nigerians must be patient and PDP should be warming up to take over the leadership of the country because Nigerians are already fed up. That is why l do say a ‘change must always be changed.’ You know when you want to do something and it is not working, you need to change the change.

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