By Levinus Nwabughogu
Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago is a frontline aspirant to the speakership of the House of Representatives of the 9th National Assembly.
He is a third timer who represents Chanchagi Federal Constituency of Niger State. In this interview with some journalists in Abuja, he insists that equity, justice and fairness are the tripods on which his aspiration is anchored; he also asked member-elect not to be intimidated by anyone.
On whether I have withdrawn from the speakership race?
The developing story is that I have withdrawn from the race, this is not true. I am in the race and I am going to the floor on the day of inauguration and by the grace of God, we will come out victorious because the issue we are calling for has not been addressed, the issue of justice and equity.
So, all men and women of faith have continued to encourage us to continue on this journey and we are not going to rest on our oars. We have our colleagues behind us and by the grace of God, just the 360 of us are going to be in that hallowed chamber on that day to elect one of us. On issues of loyalty to the party; you know when people talk about loyalty, I keep laughing.
Can there be anybody more loyal to the party than we are? We have come with General Buhari from the times of the TBO, to the CPC, to the merger that produced APC and now next level. So, I think that our pedigree, our record, our CV are too much for us to throw away at this is point in time. We are very loyal to the party, we are core Buharists and I have said it several times that the President, in his wisdom, told us to stand on the path of justice, fairness and equity, for whatsoever. So, I don’t think that we are only disciples of a leader who has taught us how to do things rightly.
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The other one is that people talk about competence. I think I am very competent and qualified. Are you talking about academic qualification or legislative experiences; all these questions we have answered and can continue to answer. My CV and profile are open for anybody to confirm or to doubt. We will do this job very well by the grace of God. We can all relate well. My colleagues and I have formed a relationship that is beyond the parliament and this relationship is the one that is propelling us to continue on this journey.
Your colleagues back home in Niger state, would I say, have disowned you and declared support for the party. How would you react to that?
Let me correct your question, my colleagues did not disown me and even my party did not disown me; all that the chairman said was that they want to toe in the direction of the party which is very okay. That is what they want to do but you need to understand that 360 of us will be in that hallowed chamber only to vote ourselves.
There are groups that are demanding for open ballot system of voting in the national assembly, do you subscribe to that?
You see, we are very funny as a people; why didn’t the same group come out to ask for open ballot voting at the general elections if they are genuine in what they are doing? We cannot continue to allow people abuse corporate names or nongovernmental organisations to come under the guise of public whatever and be causing mischief, it is pure mischief.
But you see the issue of who is afraid of who, why are you afraid? You say Mr A has every pedigree and every qualification, he has the numbers and you are already chickening out and you are telling people you want to coerce the institution of parliament to change their rules overnight, these things are not okay and it will not happen.
I want to reassure our colleagues, the honourable members-elect, they should not be intimidated, they should follow their heart. They know where to go. Nobody is going to be there to record you, nobody is going to see your ballot paper, nobody is going to do open ballot voting. So all these things are gimmicks.
You have an opponent from the north central where you come from. How are you handling that? Again, you ran dirty campaigns with Dogara in 2015 but now you are focusing on equity, justice and fairness. Why?
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The issue of my colleague, Hon. John Dyge who is in the race is a welcomed development. He is a core brother because what we are fighting for is beyond my aspiration. It is a call for justice for a people that we are representing and if it was left for north central to decide then, we would say it was fair and we will go to the floor and our colleagues will vote between us. Now, it is an issue of “north central versus the people who are anti north central”.
So, I don’t think that we will ever have a problem, we would team up and before that day, we will come to an understanding. He is my friend. We talk and relate and he believes in my ideals and you need to understand that the renaissance for this started from me: the equity, fairness and stability forum is me./Bago stands for that. So, everybody that is coming on that is because they are believing that they can be emancipated through this movement and it is a welcome thing.
I wasn’t aware in 2015 that Dogara’s election was muddy but I want my campaign to be issue based and these issues are what I have highlighted and they have not been addressed. Yes, of course, I have to remain cool. We don’t have even personal issues with people. All that we are talking about is our people; give our people opportunity and anybody from the north central in the parliament should join this crusade. History will not forget us.
On the issue on the game of numbers, Niger state brought more numbers than any other states in the north central. The margin of votes from Niger state is more than the vote of the entire south west which is made up of six states 258,000 and Niger state alone brought 394,000 so what is the basis of the loyalty talk?