Hon. Bala Bantex, the newly elected chairman of All Progressives Congress in Kaduna State, speaks on the prospects of the party in the state ahead of the 2015 general elections, in this interview with John Shiklam Excerpts:
Not long ago, you said you were quitting active politics, but you later came back. Why did you change your mind?
That is very true because coming out from the amalgamation of the various political parties, my previous experiences, politically, is that one of the problems the Nigerian citizens are faced with is lack of political education, more than anything else. For example, the Nigerian citizens are not familiar with the responsibilities vested on them by the constitution towards good governance. Nigerian citizens today do not know that sovereignty belongs to them from whom government is supposed to draw her authority, as clearly spelt out in chapter two of the constitution.
When I looked at all that, I had earlier felt that the greatest contribution I could personally make was not to contest for public office; it was not to be caged within a particular political party, but to make myself available to every Nigerian to share my experiences. I had hoped to go into a civil society work to help organise communities towards understanding their roles towards the attainment of good governance.
To be very honest, in coming back, I nearly had wanted to serve the party as a committed member, but not too long after I came into the party, the issue of the chairmanship came up and the issue of the need to zone it to the southern part of Kaduna State came up. The need for my people to present a credible person to champion that cause also came up and I felt caged in the need to respond to their call and that was why I made myself available. So it is not about double talk, it is about changing vistas in our political journey.
Tell us about your journey into politics?
I was in Jos doing my business as a successful architect. I designed the Governor’s Office in Rayfiled, Jos, as a young boy in those days. I was enjoying my professional practice when people from my village came to my office one afternoon and said they wanted me to participate in the constitutional conference. I mentioned some people that would do better but they insisted they wanted me to go. I went to that conference and did my best by producing a report in the form of a book on the conference and gave it to the two local governments that were then in the federal constituency, which by the grace of God were split into two, and told them good bye.
I later found myself in the defunct United Congress Progressive Party on whose platform I became the chairman of Kaura local government under the military. I later went back to my business in Abuja before pressure came from the Peoples Democratic Party that was looking for a credible person to win the local government ticket for them.
I came and by the grace of God I won the election and other elections were won on the platform of the PDP. We founded the PDP. I was given a national award as the best performing local government chairman. After my tenure as local government chairman in 2002, as is very usual of me, I was not participating in politics anymore. I went back to Jos to face my business and thereafter in 2007 a group of people came to meet and insisted that I must go to the House of Representatives to represent them. There was serious pressure on me, but incidentally, while everybody had come in unison to produce me as candidate, the PDP leadership, in spite of my tract record, having brought the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to commission projects initiated by my administration in the local government, the party did not think I was fit for the ticket. I asked the people to let me go since I didn’t have a ticket, but they said they would not let me go anywhere. They said they will carry me to another party. So they settled for the defunct Action Congress and I contested the election on that platform. People came out massively and voted for me and I won the House of Representatives seat. While I was in the AC, the PDP hoisted their person in the AC as a state chairman who came in a rancorous manner and sacked every person that was the leader of the party in my constituency without my knowledge.
In a country where our political parties are not sufficiently ideological, we hope to make the APC more of an ideological party.
Don’t you think that selling APC in the southern part of Kaduna State, which is dominated by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the state, might be a very difficult task for you?
That probably is part of the reasons why I was elected the chairman of APC in Kaduna State. It is true that southern Kaduna has been a zone that is predominantly PDP but has not benefitted commensurately for that kind of wholesome loyalty to a particular political party.
Some of us believed that, probably, one of the reasons behind that is the absence of a robust process of consensus building that you will normally get from an active alternative political platform to provide people with a platform for robust discussion. As you are aware, democracy basically is about consensus building. Consensus arises from different opinions. So when you have a region that is predominantly a bloc, it means they are not involved in true democratic practice because there is no consensus building which has to do with different shades of opinions.
Southern Kaduna as it is today is in very dire need of an alternative platform for people to express alternative views, which all along have been bottled up within one bottle called PDP. The zone, having bottled itself within the PDP, we thought it needed the leadership of the new party to be able to loosen up the people so that they may benefit from this process of consensus which democracy is all about.
But Kaduna State appears to remain a difficult terrain for APC considering that PDP has been in power in the state since 1999, coupled with the presence of people like Vice President Namadi Sambo and other prominent politicians in the party.
The quest for good governance by Nigerians has tremendously improved from 1999 to date. Remember that when we started in 1999 some of the governors, particularly, within the PDP were of the view that democracy should be guarded. They were always saying our “nascent democracy should be guarded.” This means not allowing internal democracy to take place, putting leaders that are anointed by people at the top. I was in the PDP, ever since that time, we kept saying that it was wrong. You don’t teach a little child how to walk by teaching him how to jump like an antelope. Allow people to make mistakes in their choices and grow that way. But they said we needed to be guided by institutionalising undemocratic processes. The people accommodated that for a long time, but now I don’t think people are ready do that. They know by how much they are being short changed and it doesn’t appear Nigerians are ready to continue in the old ways.
You talked about the vice president, I want you to go and check how influential is he in Kaduna State politically.