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Mohammed Shittu, APDA Chairman: "Our Mission In Politics"

Mohammed Shittu is the chairman of Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, (APDA) one of the new five parties recently issued certificates of registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC). He speaks with TAIWO AMODU on the mission of his party, as politicians regroup for 2019 elections

HOW prepared are you for the 2019 general election? We also learnt certain people in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are funding the APDA, only waiting to join when the coast is clear?

As social democrats, we believe that issue of being stooge for some people isn’t the issue. The issue we have on ground now is that as a party, we are raising our heads high and we are ready to absorb anybody who shares the same ideology with us. Whoever we know, even if he is the sitting president who shares our ideology and we know that he will carry out our manifesto, we are ready. So, our hands are open. To answer the first leg of your question, we are prepared for 2019.

Walking into your secretariat, the impression one gets is that you are just around to test the waters, waiting for those who will jump the ship in the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the PDP and ultimately, pick your bill?

I want to tell you: the PDP we started in very obscure place, we started with Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s property on Airport Road here (Abuja). Even the present Wadata Plaza, we were using a three bedroom, where we had other tenants using the building, but at the end of the day, it won the 1999 presidential election. So, it isn’t about a property. Party is people.

But, who are the forces behind the new party, because there has been insinuations that certain members of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP are the financiers?

I have told you that even to the president of this country, our doors are open.

Meaning that you may even adopt Buhari as your candidate in 2019?

No, what we are telling you is that it isn’t necessary that he must contest under our party; we can share our views, share ideology. In a civilised society, the opposition party can share same ideology with a sitting president in another party.

So, what is APDA’s ideology? What do you intend to do differently from the ruling party, the APC and the PDP, which was in the saddle for 16 years?

We intend to put food on the table of Nigerians; we intend to improve on our social security: housing. Then we intend to put a comparative advantage of each state, so that each state can catch on that then we start our industrialization, because we must industrialize to be able to create employment. It isn’t for government to create employment. Again, instead of calling ourselves Afro-centric in foreign policy, we shall look at policy that suits us. These are what we must do. We must be able to stop this growing agitations by empowering the people and then make sure that education and agriculture are taken care of by the federal government. States should depend on their cash crops and solid minerals resources by taking comparative advantage of what they have in their state.

Take Maiduguri for instance, if you clear Sambisa Forest today and start gum Arabic plantation, it will employ millions of youths. It has value chain: from harvesting, processing to importation. It will add to our foreign exchange earnings. You can go to Ondo State, put up Cocoa plantation. From plantation, you establish processing plant, it will go into marketing and exportation. This will create jobs. You must be practical in not just saying it in the papers. As a party, these are some of the little things we want to do. It is simple but it gives life, it grows the economy and it can change the country by discouraging importation.

Are you sure Nigerians are ready to accept the APDA in 2019?[b]

We know we will win. People say our political parties lack ideology.

[b]What is your take?

Well, that’s what we are bringing on board.

So, what is the ideology of the APDA?

We are social democrats. We are for welfare of the state.

You said your doors are open to everybody, but how do you sieve to ensure that it is only those who share your ideology that are taken on board?

We are introducing electronic registration, we are introducing voting in our primary and e-payment to ensure transparency. We are saying, don’t bring a billion to us. Rather, our election, even if you want to be the president of this country, go back to your ward. So, from your ward to local government and if you win there, come to state and from your state, to federal. That way, we are sieving them because if you start from ward, it gives you sense of belonging, you know their needs and when you get to Abuja, you know you are going back to them.

How soon are you making your presence felt in 36 states of the federation?

You are a journalist. Call other states, activities are going on there. Before you came, I have talked to not less than 10 state chairmen.

How do you convince Nigerians that this platform isn’t another PDP?

By our actions. No party has been able to introduce electronic voting that we are bringing into party primaries. People are knocking doors, we aren’t sleeping. We aren’t a party that will think that we are going to buy votes. I have told you that we want to deemphasise money in politics. We are going to introduce bill in the national assembly to make it a crime to distribute gift like rice during election campaigns, because whoever didn’t give you money or gift during campaign you have the confidence to push for his recall.