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2023: Nigeria Should Come First – Dembo

As moves for the upcoming general election in 2023 gradually gathers momentum, the Director-General of Buhari Support Group Centre (BSGC) Alhaji Umaru Dembo, in this interview with Ibrahim Mohammed and AKIN ORIMOLADE, speaks of a wide range of issues including who to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. Excerpts.

In recent times the country has been witnessing spate of killings in different parts of the country, does it worry you?

I personally feel sad but it is happening. I think Nigerians are sometimes careless people, sometimes irresponsible, sometimes good people, we have to try to hold on to our nation well. We are a nation that other nations will envy but we don’t know enough about ourselves and we are not protecting ourselves enough. We allow our country to be overrun by all sort of irresponsible organizations or individuals. We have to take care of ourselves before anybody comes to help us. We have to love and protect our country ourselves. Once we don’t do that, everybody will be selfish and just want to do things for himself then we will continue to run into trouble and eventually, we will have no country. But if we stand well and work together, shield ourselves from oppressors and neo-colonialists, we will be able to forge ahead while being good Nigerians.

There has been a clamour from some quarters that to solve the security challenges in Nigeria, there is need to change the current Service Chiefs, do you share the same view?

I have no idea, I have not been in the army. The President as the Commander in Chief of Armed Forces should know where the shoe pinches and it is up to him if he will take the right decision. The main issue is how to get out of the problem, we won’t say it is the service chiefs or not. Ideas can only be utilized, made functional by the Commander in Chief. Everything rests on the President’s shoulder. I wish he has the right type of advisers who can help him make the right decisions and take us out of this. We just need to get out of the trouble.

Sir, 2023 presidential election is still far away but in a typical Nigerian way, the political atmosphere is being charged well ahead of the poll. What is your take on that? Do you think power should be retained in the north or go to the south-east or south-west?

Basically, we have a constitution. The constitution does not say you rotate or what so ever one calls it. Secondly, Nigerians are now getting wiser and understanding democracy as democracy. As the laws in America, people will elect those who they think will perform for them. If they don’t they will show them. Like what people tried to do with the ENDSARS protests. Now, Nigerians will only elect somebody, it is not a matter of the south or north. It is either you elect someone who will perform well or someone who performs awfully bad. So, it is a matter of democracy and democracy is a game of numbers, where majority of Nigerians feel if the person is capable they will elect the person, if they feel he is incapable, then they will refuse him.

Buhari Support Group Centre where you are the Director-General, worked for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and eventually, President Muhammadu Buhari, emerged as the President do you still want to work for the APC in 2023?

We worked solely for Buhari’s presidency and we have gotten it twice. 2023 depends on how the political terrain comes. If we find that APC is still our party and is good enough and the country to the promise land why not.

What will make APC not to be good enough in 2023?

There are all sort of comments that the ruling party has failed so we don’t know what will come up in 2023. For the presidency, people will be looking for a character that will do well for the nation and keep Nigeria well. 

Sir, don’t you think it is too early to be talking of 2023 now? Would it not be a distraction for Mr President?

Those who are talking of 2023 are Nigerians, they like themselves and are just looking at what they want. They don’t care about Nigeria. They are only bothered about 2023. Comments have come up that Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) wants to contest for presidency, he has enough wisdom and money to throw into the game of presidential processes. We will wait for such people to finish their own games, come out then we access who is who. It is too early but not for those who don’t care about anything but their aims.

Are you saying that APC will implode?

I Am not suspecting but I am open in case something happens then we are free to leave the APC. Some Governors have recently left PDP for APC. If Governors can leave, ordinary people can also leave. People have not started tempting the public with what they can do. When it starts, then we will look and see and think.

What is your thinking the man who will take over from the President Muhammadu Buhari?

A good Nigerian that will treat all Nigerians well

Sir, what is your assessment of Buhari’s years in office?

My general assessment of him is that he has done extremely well. Initially in bringing down Boko Haram to a sizeable situation, we could not manage the northeast before but now it is only some portions that we have the problem. Secondly, he is doing a lot of what should have been done alone time ago on capital projects like the second Niger Bridge, roads and many other projects.

How do you relax?

I just walk, I have some devices in my room, a standing circle and then travel to Zaria and come back.

As a trained journalist and publisher, do you think the Nigerian press has fared well in the area of nation building?

The problem the press has as well as any other sector in Nigeria, they are doing well but they do not have enough salary, no enough facilities, inadequate public transportation and other difficult working conditions. I also worked in New Nigerian Papers but as at that time the value of the Naira was very high. But now the reverse is the case. You don’t have enough money to go around and do your work comfortably. So we have to manage and do what we have.

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