The governorship candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party in Gombe State, Khamisu Mailantarki, tells CHIMA AZUBUIKE about his defection from the All Progressives Congress, the 2023 governorship election in the state and other issues
Many have suggested that politics should be a part-time venture. Aside from politics, what else do you do?
Apart from politics, I’m a businessman. I’m into real estate, and agriculture. I own one of the largest fish farms in Nigeria. The farm is the highest producer of catfish in Abuja. I’m making a lead through sports. Now, I’m investing a lot in youths so that I can bring out the best in them. I have always said it and will continue to say it that politicians should not rely on only government jobs, they should explore other options just like in the advanced climes, where you see them venturing into various spheres, there is a lot of money in agriculture, personal businesses. We should not take politics as a means of living; we should take politics as something we can do when we have the opportunity. It should be seen as national assignment after which you retire to your normal schedule. Politics should not be the major source of income to politicians, and if we adopt this measure, it will reduce the tension and it won’t be like a do-or-die affair. I urge youths planning to venture into politics to get something doing.
You were appointed member, Board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission. What is your view on the slow pace of prosecution and justice delivery?
My appointment as a board member of the ICPC is a long story. I was supposed to be a member of board of the ICPC, I was nominated by Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari), but because we do not have any ‘godfather’ in politics, the people that were supposed to protect us were no longer there to protect us. Someone illegally removed my name from the list and nobody could stand for me. I still have the President’s nomination letter. When I contacted the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President there was no positive response from them, and I didn’t have access to the President. I know someone in the Villa removed my name.
What did the President who appointed you do to remedy the situation?
He did nothing. About two persons were dropped from the list officially because they had issue, with the ICPC. I was not dropped officially, I still have Mr President’s nomination letter to represent the North-East but surprisingly, up to today, the nomination is there. The only response I got from the SGF’s office was ‘maybe it was a typographical error’. As I’m talking to you, the North-East is short-changed on the board of the ICPC, nobody is representing the region. This is one bad thing about this government that made us to leave the All Progressives Congress, because nobody will protect the common man. We don’t have any ‘godparent’. The only person that should speak for us is the President but he is not reachable because they won’t allow us to get close to him. He won’t even know the challenges. That was why we were at a position of disadvantage despite what we did to bring the APC to power.
Are you satisfied with the pace of prosecution of corruption cases?
Honestly, I’m not satisfied because it is slow. We should find a way to accelerate this process because we must do something about the system of prosecution. Government must be serious by placing emphasis on the processes involved in prosecution so that we can have a sane country because justice delayed is justice denied. Taking too much time is a waste of government resources, waste of innocent people’s time. If I had the opportunity to participate on the board of the ICPC and with my experience of lawmaking, I would have helped to speed up the process of prosecution in the commission.
You were said to be the representative member with the highest votes in the country. How did that make you feel among your colleagues?
It spurred my commitment for my people. I was elected to the House of Representatives from three local governments; Gombe, Kwami, and Funakaye, with about 129,000 votes in the seventh Assembly which at that time was the highest among 360 members of the House of Representatives in Nigeria. It motivated me from that day to put my energy, resources and even what I didn’t earn from politics to support my people because of the love they showed me and I will never forget it. They showed me love that they have never shown any individual in my state. Whenever they call me to contest, I will always do. I’m contesting the position of the governor now because they demanded I should run. I’m not even bothered about party structures because the people will not vote based on political party but by voting for those with track records, not those with ‘I will do’. Go to my constituency which has 31 wards, you will see electricity, and motorised boreholes. They are all functioning. I created the Mailantarki Sports Foundation to support the youths and after that, we formed the Mailantarki Sports Care Academy from where we have supported a lot of footballers in Gombe State.
Apart from the removal of your name from the list of would-be ICPC board members, what other reasons informed your defection from the APC to the New Nigeria Peoples Party?
It was very terrible. I have never seen a system that doesn’t reward loyalty, hard work like the system in the APC. Everyone knows I formed the APC in Gombe State. I’m one of the few people that brought it to what it is today because I was elected a member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change and I sponsored the process of merger from A to Z singlehandedly. Everyone, including the governor (Muhammadu Yahaya), former governor (Danjuma Goje), all the people that bragged of being leaders of the APC came to join this party, but you can imagine now, I had to leave the party because there was nothing to show the people that we formed the political party with. The party (Gombe APC) was hijacked by some few individuals and they got elected without knowing what the people did. So, it was very disappointing, it was about getting the opportunity and grabbing it. It is not the best way to behave, and that was why we moved to another political party.
What was the reason behind the formation of the APC in Gombe State?
We thought we would have a political party with serious concern about the common man. We wanted a political party with good reward for loyalty, hard work and not one based on family or personal sentiment. When you trace the formation of the APC in Gombe State, you start from the CPC, and I was the face of the political party. I was also a returning officer of Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari) during his election. But everything was done without carrying us along. However, we are happy now that we have found a new political party (NNPP) and the leadership is focused.
My move to the NNPP was not my own personal decision but that of many people, especially the youths in Gombe State. I got massive votes which explain the love they have for me. There was serious pressure for me to contest even when there was no mention of the political party at that time. Having carefully studied the political party with transformational leadership, there is no one else other than Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (presidential candidate of the NNPP). He was a governor in Kano State. Our presidential candidate’s legacy is still clear in Kano. He supported the poor. You don’t need to be a son of anyone to excel in any discipline; education, agriculture and so on.
Anywhere you see a successful Nigerian pilot in London, America, ask him where he is from. He is from Kano State. Ask him about his family background, he will tell you he is from a poor background. Now, we have joined the NNPP because it has the manifesto to address the issues of the common man. It will be based on previous performance. Even in Gombe State, we are not promising what we have no capacity to do.
Why did you caution the governor of the state about his administration’s continued borrowing?
I cautioned the governor because I was part of the process that brought the governor on board and I know that during our campaign, the APC campaign, we strongly emphasised that the previous government borrowed a lot of money to the tune of N100m and it was one of our campaign points. We didn’t expect that when we come into government, it would be the same if not worse. Now if you look at the record, Gombe State Government has borrowed more than N100bn within the last three years. This is more than what the PDP government borrowed in eight years. This was not what we promised or what the APC government promised the people of the state. What are we doing with all this money because if you go to Gombe State, the people are paying revenue, government is taking loans and people are crying. There is no good schools, books, teachers, no scholarship.
Some have alleged that there is a pact with the APC, and Governor Muhammadu Yahaya, and that you may not be one of the serious candidates to unseat him?
That is just to blackmail us. You know when you are doing well, people bring all sorts of allegations. It is not true, there is no connection between me and the governor. It is a fact that I was instrumental to bringing him as governor. It is also a fact that I’m the founding father of the APC. Apart from that, nothing more. I have nothing to do with the governor. I’m a candidate of the NNPP and there is no connection, we are not connected, no synergy between us. We are protecting the interest of the common man in Gombe State. That claim is false and it is an attempt to blackmail and tarnish our reputation. I have never heard it. I got to know about this for the first time from you. The NNPP is independent; the NNPP is the only saviour. We are open for support but we are not in any working relationship with the governor.
How can you match the APC in Gombe State considering the financial resources needed to prosecute such a project?
Don’t look at it that way. We are well prepared, ready because the people are pressurising us to run. The people of Gombe State are well prepared to change this injustice. The current government in the state is not doing the right thing and people are tired of what the APC is doing in Gombe State. When you walk round the state, you will know what they are saying and we don’t believe in any artificial force, we believe the people are responsible to elect who they want and we know God gives power to who he wishes. The people will determine who will be the winner. In the APC, they are holding all the money and they feel they can come one day and buy votes. The electorate can collect the money but they have the right to vote their choice. The NNPP will win the governorship election in Gombe State come 2023.
Currently, local government retirees have yet to get their gratuity. Also, the present local government workers don’t benefit from the N30,000 minimum wage. How will you tackle this?
When we come on board, we want to assure the people of Gombe State that we will do whatever it is to end the abnormalities and make every person, especially the civil servants happy. We will do what we need to do to stop all these injustices, irregularities within the shortest period of time. This is what we are assuring the people of Gombe State.
What in your view is the way out of insecurity, unemployment challenges in the state and country?
You will not dissociate it from unemployment. If jobs are created and all youths are engaged positively, be it in agriculture, business, sports, I am sure the issue of insecurity will reduce drastically. We are going to emphasise on job creation to engage the youths. Then, we will provide necessary equipment to the police and other security agencies so that they can be responsive to crime prevention. Our economy will be people-friendly and will make Kalare (local militia group), Boko Haram membership uninteresting to the youths. We don’t intend to politicise the issues because we are experienced. We have done it before and we will do it again.
There are concerns that election in Gombe State may not be peaceful with the recent mayhems at the political secretariat, campaign offices of political parties. What is the way out?
As politicians, we should not create the impression that politics is a do-or-die affair. We are brothers, friends, we are a family before any politics. So, we should take politics as sports by embracing each other no matter the outcome. That is very important. We should be more sophisticated, show brotherly love. It should be like a game and we should practise peace. The NNPP stands for peace, and I want to call on other stakeholders in other political parties to leave everything in the hands of God and those that will elect us. Let us not give them drugs, let us not give them machetes, we should encourage them to obtain their voter cards. If you encourage the killing of someone, attack of someone, you are not being fair because you can’t do that with your kids. Politics should be without bitterness. That is what we stand for.
What is your advice to supporters known for their online activism without Permanent Voter Cards?
You don’t need to make noise on social media. What is important is to have a voter card. Whatever your choice of candidate is, you can’t achieve anything without a voter card. A voter card is more important than any other thing. I’m urging the youths, their family members to make it a duty to obtain their voter card as it determines who leads you. You can’t complain of bad leaders tomorrow when you failed participate in electing leaders of your choice.