Marcus Gundiri almost got elected as the governor of Adamawa State in the 2012 election. He tells OBIORA IFOH why the other 13 aspirants in the race are working hard to stop him before tomorrow’s primaries. Excerpts:
What is the overview of the dynamics of politics in Adamawa State since the impeachment of the former governor, Murtala Nyako?
Well, there are so many things that have happened. First and foremost is the intention of additional number of people that want to contest the governorship, 14 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Some of us that were not at the party for up to two years were granted waivers and screened, one was dropped but he appealed and has now been granted permission to contest election.
For some of us, the road has been rough but we have remained steady. We have seen a lot of hatred from some of our brothers that said ‘they were in PDP for a long time’ and that ‘they shaped PDP.’ I will say that nobody shapes a party; it is the people that shape a party and not individuals, especially a party like PDP. PDP is a party that everybody contributes. Every member of PDP contributes to the running of the party.
So, for somebody to tell us that we do not belong or that we are outsiders in the party, is not just the right thing to do. If the party wants to be together, we should indeed be together. We can discuss issues, but a few trying to express hatred towards some of the people in a political party, will lead to a divided house and that would be very costly in time of elections. So those are the type of things that have happened and many more after the impeachment.
You contested election in Adamawa State in 2012 and up till date, a lot of people believe that you were robbed in that election, what really happened?
A lot of things happened. We went into an election. Many people thought that I was just a greenhorn in politics. But, what happened then was that most people didn’t know that I was a Commissioner for Water Agriculture in old Gongola State. I was also Permanent Secretary in charge of Rural Development. So, I did a lot in almost all the constituencies of Adamawa and people always recognise my contributions towards the development of the state.
Therefore, I was accepted as a leader and the people actually showed me that love by voting for someone who was new in politics. The good thing about what happened then was that the votes I got cut across every religion and tribe in Adamawa State. And I can confidently say the whole episode played out to be a lesson to everyone. After the announcement of results of 17 local governments and I was leading very comfortably, there was a blackout at the collation centre and the returning officer said: “Well, let us go for an hour break.”
But that one hour break translated to two hours. And, when he came back, some of the results announced were changed; but the four councils that were not announced brought out outrageous results and we challenged that in court.
And the rest is history because the result was never turned in our favour. And, here we are today still struggling. But, one thing I would tell people is that Adamawa people have accepted me as a leader; and I thank God and them for that. It is always better to deal with people like us who have known the rots. The forthcoming elections in 2014 and 2015 are not mock elections; they are very serious business and we have people that are experienced in this, people that have that followership. We are not trying candidates. We are actually going to have a very serious fight with the All Progressives Congress, APC, which is just waiting for PDP candidate to emerge.
Why did it take you so long before leaving the APC for PDP?
I went to court and the court processes took a very long time. Before we ended up in the Supreme Court, it was very late for me to jump into the PDP because we were still expecting that something would still come out of the court. It was not right for me at that time to go into the PDP while I was still in court. So when the court proceedings were over, we did not waste much time to join the PDP. I cannot say I came late to the PDP; that was the appointed time for me. One thing is, we made sure our leaving APC will be something to reckon with. We did not want to just leave APC just like that without making a serious impact. We made sure that our movement from the APC would weaken the party and that is exactly what we did.
Why do you think your co-aspirants are not comfortable with you joining the PDP?
Well, most of them feel that I will take the shine out of what they are doing. Frankly speaking, in Adamawa today, there is no single candidate that has the grassroots’ support as I have. And, some people feel it was better for them to build that reputation too. But, as far as I am concerned, there is no one who can prevent me from what I have already set my mind to do. The party has already given me a waiver to contest; and screened me to contest elections, so be it. There is no one, only God can stop me from what I have set my mind to achieve.
Would you still beat your chest and say with a lot of confidence that the entrance of Nuhu Ribadu and acting governor, Ahmadu Fintiri into the race cannot hamper your chances?
The process of picking candidate is by primary, where delegates will vote. Adamawa has about 678 adhoc delegates from 226 wards, we also have the special delegates, people who were elected, appointed or occupy party positions. In total, about 900 delegates would vote and everyone will definitely have his own share of the votes.
But I can assure you that I am not afraid of any contestant coming into the race. In fact, the more, the merrier and the better for democracy. We will all go into the race and see how it comes out. The only thing is that we should become friends at the end of the contest.. If it is done democratically, we would just congratulate whoever wins at the end of the day.
Nine out of the 14 aspirants seem to be rooting for a consensus. Do you think that is democratic enough?
That is not democratic. Let us go and vote in the primaries, whoever emerges represents the people of Adamawa State. Because the issue of consensus would bring back the memories of Nyako. Nyako was brought out from nowhere and imposed on the people. And you can see the result. And the issue of consensus should not just even arise at this point in time because it is going to create problem for the people and it can generate a lot of bad feelings among the illiterates.
You are a Christian, what is the guarantee that the Fulani would not continue to dominate the reigns of Adamawa State?
Adamawa State is made up of 85 languages and ethnic groups. The most populated are the Kwates, found in seven local government areas in Adamawa; then you have the Chambas who populate about three local governments. They are followed by the Hiegis, Omichika or Kanwe people, followed by the Kilbas.
I am sure the Fulanis would rank about number 10 in that order. The only thing that the Fulani can say is that they have the resources, but they cannot say that they have the population to continue to rule. There is nobody who can rule the state without the inputs of other tribes. Even the Kwates with seven local governments still need other local governments to be able to win an election. We are not worried about the Fulani man, if he contests and wins an election that is free and fair, so be it. Remember that Boni Haruna is not a Fulani but he was the governor of Adamawa for eight years. So anyone can become a governor in the state provided all other tribes come together to vote for him.