Alhaji Shettima Dibal, the Wazirin Biu, was deputy to former Governor Ali Modu-Sheriff from 2003 to 2011. In rare comments about his former boss, Dibal spoke to reporters in Abuja on recent political developments in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Borno State.
Former Governor Ali Modu-Sheriff whom you served as deputy for eight years has returned to the APC recently. First of all, why didn’t you follow him to the PDP ahead of the 2015 election?
To start with, I have always been in politics of purpose and conviction. I don’t do blind politics. I think if I was going to join the PDP that should have been when Goodluck Jonathan became the President in 2010, because we had some familiarity when both of us served as deputy governors. Jonathan is a humble and nice man, yet even when he was President and I was doing nothing around 2011, I wasn’t attracted to the PDP. I think the worst thing that can happen to any reasonable politician is to forget what works in his own base. From 1999 to date, Borno and Yobe are the only two states in the whole of northern Nigeria where the PDP has never been in control, whether by election or defection of a sitting governor. If you look at all the 19 states in the North, you will discover that the PDP has at one time or the other been in control of state government, whether through election or the defection of an incumbent governor from another party. But, in the case of Borno and Yobe, we have never had anything to do with the PDP at the state government level. Borno and Yobe have always been under the APP that later became the ANPP and now the APC. If you recall, in the build up to the 2003 election, the then Governor Mala Kachallah of blessed memory defected from the APP to the AD; the soul of the then AD is part of the APC today. One would have expected Kachallah to join the PDP for his re-election in 2003. I mean, the PDP at that time controlled the Presidency, the security agencies and INEC, but he didn’t do that, because he knows that the people of Borno will never vote PDP into office. Going to the PDP in Borno and Yobe is suicidal. I know that and my politics is always about our people and what they want.
Why then do you think Sheriff joined the PDP? Didn’t he try to persuade you and other associates?
I think Sheriff went into the PDP because he is always afraid of being in opposite political direction with every sitting President. He usually tries to manoeuvre his way to the heart of every sitting President. When he is in the opposition, many people accuse him of working for the sitting President in another party. However, for the 2015 election, he lost influence in the APC. He was not in position to influence anything for Jonathan and the PDP; that is why he left the APC and he did so because he never believed it was possible for a sitting President would lose the election. He did everything to drag Governor Kashim Shettima and all of us in the APC to follow him to the PDP, so that we can work against the victory of Buhari. At some point Kashim Shettima was seriously harassed, intimidated, blackmailed and even threatened to make him leave the APC and go to PDP. But, the governor was very strong. I will tell you that I was surprised by his strength. He stood firm in the APC and he mobilised everyone in Borno and across the Northeast for Buhari’s victory. He did so much behind the scene.
Now that Sheriff is back to the APC, will you say he made the right choice in line with the political philosophy of Borno people or do you think he came with a different motive?
I think Sheriff’s return to the APC has nothing to do with right or wrong. It was about his survival. He returned because he didn’t have any option and, like I said, he always wants to manoeuvre his way to the Presidency. But, then, politics is about growing numbers and whoever joins the APC is ordinarily a plus. However, it will depend on sincerity of purpose or the opposite.
Are you saying Sheriff is not sincere, because he is now promising high votes for Buhari in Borno State in 2019?
Making bogus promises to presidents is not new to Sheriff. After the 2007 election, when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua came to Maiduguri for a state visit, Sheriff said publicly without any prompting that he was going to work for Yar’adua’s re-election. At that time, Sheriff was in the ANPP and Buhari was the ANPP’s presidential candidate and he was still in court challenging Yar’adua’s election. Sheriff didn’t care about Buhari’s interest; he was trying to find a way to penetrate Yar’Adua. Don’t also forget that when Buhari lost election to Yar’Adua in 2007, the ANPP national leaders came to Maiduguri and held a closed door meeting at the Government House which was hosted by Sheriff. One of the outcomes of that meeting was that the ANPP should not go to court to challenge Yar’Adua’s victory. The ANPP took the decision without consulting Buhari who was our candidate. The party decided to abandon Buhari to his fate and he went to court without the ANPP’s support. I believe it was part of that reason and more that Buhari left the ANPP to form the CPC. After the 2007 election, Sheriff was one of the major beneficiaries of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan government. He was a governor on the platform of the ANPP, but his sister-in-law was appointed a Minister by President Jonathan. So, making promises is not new in his tactics.
The argument of Sheriff is that in 2003, 2007 and 2011 Buhari got around one million votes in Borno, but in 2015 he got around 600,000 votes. Sheriff is now promising to ensure Buhari gets more than one million votes in Borno State by 2019. What’s your reaction?
I think the most annoying political analysis is to compare Borno’s 2015 election with the results of 2003, 2007, 2011 or with the upcoming 2019. It is the height of insult to people’s intelligence. Look, in 2015, about 20 local government areas held their elections in IDP camps in Maiduguri. Initially, many people thought election was not going to take place in Borno, because the Sheriff’s faction of the PDP kept on spreading fake information that it was not going to take place and because of that voters didn’t turn out for the presidential and National Assembly elections as they did for the governorship and the state assembly. In the first election, presidential and National Assembly in IDP camps, some local governments in northern Borno did not produce more than 2,000 votes each. There is a member of House Reps in the APC that won his election with less than 7,000 votes, as the total votes from four local government areas and the election took place in the IDP camps. Almost two million of our citizens from 20 local government areas were scattered around neighbouring countries like Niger, Cameroon and Chad and states like Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Abuja and some went to Lagos. They all ran for their lives due to killings. After Buhari won, some of these people became energised and they came to Borno to take part in the governorship and state assembly elections. So, 2015 was a different thing entirely. However, for 2019, the governor and all of us have been mobilising people to come out and register, so that they can vote. I remember last year he released funds to stakeholders to go to their communities and mobilise citizens to get their PVCs. In fact, most of the time when the governor visits any place, he demands that people should show him their PVCs. A lot of women in Borno whenever they see the governor driving, will show him their PVCs and he stops and give them some help. This is of public knowledge. Borno today has more than two million registered voters and this happened when Sheriff was still fighting for his chair in the PDP. He came only three months ago. He knows the number of registered voters, he didn’t play any role on that, but now he wants to steal the show. Typical of him.
Are you saying Sheriff’s promise to deliver more than one million votes for Buhari is mere political rhetoric?
It is not rhetoric; it is rather a political antic that is calculated to manipulate and deceive President Muhammadu Buhari, the new National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the entire Presidency. What Sheriff wants is for the Presidency and the APC headquarters to make him the arrowhead of Buhari’s campaign in Borno State. By that, he will get some mileage, access to security and resources principally for him to anoint the next governor of Borno State. He is angry with those who didn’t follow him to the PDP before 2015 election and he wants the next governor to fight them. The same Sheriff said on January 24, 2015 during PDP presidential campaign in Maiduguri that he was going to ensure Buhari’s defeat in Borno State. He said Jonathan should hold him personally responsible if the PDP fails to win Borno State. Of course, the PDP lost woefully. I think if we are to even look at Buhari’s election record in Borno State from 2003 to date, I will say his best was in 2015.
Why will you say so?
In all the previous elections that Buhari took part, whether it was 2003, 2007 and 2011, results in Borno showed that Buhari’s opponents in the PDP from Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan all got the component of 25 per cent of votes needed to defeat Buhari. And you know, sometimes the only thing the PDP presidential candidates need from opposition state is to get 25 per cent votes. PDP candidates have always secured more than 25 per cent in Borno, except in 2015 under Governor Kashim Shettima as leader of the APC. So, whereas Buhari recorded higher votes in previous elections, his opponent got what they wanted from Borno under Sheriff. The greatest mistake PMB or Oshiomhole will make is to ignore those who remained with the APC under intense atmosphere of intimidation to embrace someone who joined the party only three months ago and mind you, he joined not because of conviction and interest in the President, but because he lost grip in the PDP.