Segun Sowunmi is the Director, Media and Publicity of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization. This highly detribalized Nigerian who hails from Ogun State is passionate about Nigeria. According to him, Nigeria has all it takes to re-invent herself and become a great country in the world. The strategist who has navigated the murky waters of Nigeria’s media and strategy served as Director-General, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s Presidential Campaign in Ogun State between 2011 and 2015. Segun, a staunch defender of the PDP speaks many languages. He tells Integrity Reporters about Atiku’s presidential ambition and why Nigeria’s unity and continued existence depends on making the right choice during next year’s presidential election.
Q: What kind of politician is Atiku Abubakar?
A: Atiku played a major role in getting us together in the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. With all of his imperfections, we can still say: to God be the glory that an African country has a leader like Atiku. Remember, Atiku also played a major role in getting together, the All Progressives Congress, APC. So, we can also thank God that Nigeria has an alternative party called APC, so we have two national parties that the people can choose from. Atiku has used his life to deepen and strengthen democracy in the country and this is well known.
People have to know that the only time that Atiku presented himself for presidential election was in 2007. He knew that he was not going to win but he wanted to study the environment. So, when you look at his life, you will know that it is a life of somebody who is on a journey and he believes that Nigeria can be great. Talking about financial implications of contesting an election, even the cost of contesting local government election is expensive, not to talk of presidential election. But Atiku has contested over and over; he did it in 1992 for the first time, on June 12, with Abiola, and 2007, 2011 and 2015. I am confident that somehow, he will still be able to put himself together to do it again in 2019. When you examine his presidential desire, you may be tempted to think it is merely ambition, but no, it is not ambition. You would see that he is burning with a desire to rescue Nigeria, to deliver the Nigerian youth, to deliver restructuring for Nigeria, to deliver job opportunities for Nigerians; to open new opportunities for Nigeria and more.
Atiku also represents anything that is good. He is a mentor to Nigerian youths, when he said he would give 40 per cent of positions to young people, he meant it. This means that the system would train young people in governance and prepare them for bigger responsibilities now and in the future. Anyhow you look at it, Atiku is a very good material for presidential election, he is a good politician.
Q: You seem to be desperately pushing for Atiku, Why?
We need people like Atiku now because Nigeria is so divided. We need somebody like Atiku that is popular and known everywhere. He is not like the others who are very fanatical and religiously inclined, parochial and sectional. For somebody like me, I know that this country is so divided and we need somebody that can unite her. Atiku is related to the South West by marriage, everything about the first lady is for us and we are for her and we cannot let her down, she is our daughter and their children are our children. So, we are going to give them what we need to give them. The same relationship exists between him and the Easterners; in the South-South, the same relationship exists. Providence have just made it that he would be the one to unite the country. He has done business in the area for more than 30 years and in those days, you would never hear of any issue between him and the community. His logistics company is one of the largest in the South-South region and he makes people comfortable, he does what a leader would do. He provides leadership, and is also very generous.
Q: How prepared is he?
A: I think he is very prepared. Some other persons that are like Atiku would have been lazy about their ambition. They would rather have preferred to stay on one place, waiting for you bring the ticket or wait for the last minute to pick the ticket. Atiku came in when the PDP needed someone like him the most. The party just concluded its convention and there were issues, some members threatened to pull out and some even pulled out. So, we need someone to unite the party and he came in, so a lot of people are hopeful that maybe he would provide leadership and he has been providing exactly that.
He was the one that brought in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE when he was the Vice President. He is a kind of person that would sit down, bring the best brain together and get solutions, that’s the kind of person he is.
When you talk about security, the major challenges facing this country is border issue. As former customs personnel, he understands that to manage the border requires a certain level of skills and he would be able to come up with policies that would not make it easy for some of these people to come into the country anyhow.
In terms of restructuring, everybody in this country knows that we cannot continue like this. Atiku has been talking about restructuring since the Abacha’s conference and he is still talking about it till today. He would be telling you what he would do and how he would do it to make it a reality.
He would tell you about how to transfer more power to the states by channeling those things on the exclusive list to the states. If you are seeing someone that has that kind of skill and you insist on not following him, who are you going to follow? You want to follow someone who cannot even organize himself? Or a person who has never done any business for himself? Atiku is the most competent, the most organized and most prepared for this race and everybody knows. He is the leader that has a plan and 2019 is a referendum where Nigerians would choose who replaces Buhari. If the exercise will be transparent, I Atiku would win.
Q: If he gets the ticket, do you think he can defeat the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari?
A: Immediately the PDP concludes it primaries and the name of the flag bearer is Atiku, then the election is over. Look, Obasanjo defeated Buhari twice, Yara Adua did the same thing to him and Jonathan too. Is it Atiku that will not defeat Buhari? Nigerians are going to choose between two options, a Fulani man who is only about parochialism, sectionalism and ethnicity and the one that is pan-Nigerian and highly exposed. If you are going to choose, you would choose that one that is pan-Nigeria, and I can assure you that the entire country will support this pan-Nigerian personality. So where is Buhari going to get his followers from? Is Nigeria only made up of those his so-called people? Even in that Kastina, is he going to get all his votes there? What happened in 2015 is an aberration and even with that, he was only able to beat Jonathan with about 2m votes. What makes him think he’s going to do better now? Look at the Middle Belt, people have been dying there and the president has not done anything about it, including Zamfara and Benue States. More people are today out of jobs. He goes everywhere embarrassing the country, calling the youths lazy, telling the women to go and seat down in the bed room. Once Atiku gets the ticket, the election is over, he would win.
Q: How would you describe the administration of Buhari in the three and half years?
A: I can describe it as a hope dashed. It was as if somebody bewitched us in this country, as if we lost our senses and now we have all seen it. Nothing has been added. Everything they are boasting about today was done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Even in their own expectations, they have failed themselves. They said they are fighting corruption but looking at them, they are even more corrupt than the people they are harassing. You would hear that money has been recovered and nobody would talk, how about collecting bribes from MTN? Yet, nobody would talk. Nobody would tell you how they are appropriating the subsidy money and stuffs like that. They would tell you they are running a budget of 7trillion but the whole economy is dry. Everything is just a mess. Can you believe that he would be told that his minister for finance forged her NYSC certificate but he pretends as if he didn’t hear? I don’t know how we made that mistake. We thought there would be a little discipline in some organs of the government but there is nothing like that. They even collect more bribes than they were doing before, so what was the change they promised? They can’t even run their party. Choosing leaders is one of the benefits of democracy, therefore nobody should allow anybody to deprive them of that right.
Q: What is your advice to PDP members and to Nigerians?
A: I would advise the PDP leaders to conduct a transparent election; I do not want them to cheat on behalf of Atiku or on behalf of anybody. A political party is the microcosm of the larger society. Select your delegates and allow your delegates conduct the processes that will present the person that Nigerians are going to choose. Let the best candidate emerge. I know the PDP chairman, I know who he is because I have studied him.