Former Special Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Jigawa State gxovernor, Kaloma Dahiru Mustapha, a lawyer, is contesting to represent the Babura/Garki Federal Constituency of Jigawa’s State in the National Assembly, under the Social Democratic Party, SDP. Kaloma, son of former Chief Justice of Nigeria Dahiru Mustapha, spoke with Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Udora Orizu on his vision and on other topical issues.
You are a lawyer from a very rich legal background, what inspired you to move from law to politics?
Nigerians have chosen for themselves a multiparty democracy, as a means to actualise the aspirations of the people. Judging from the general apathy towards leadership, it’s a serious challenge to find people who understand the country, understand where it’s been and why it’s the way it is today and hopefully understand how to chart a better course for our future. I have mentioned it so many times to friends that if I were from the southwest, maybe a Yoruba person, in terms of politics, I don’t think I will ever be into politics. My reason is because of the way the society is structured over there, there’s so many ways to effectively contribute to the society without actually being part of the political system. But it’s completely different thing in the north. We depend on the public sector in everything that we do, and this makes it very paramount that we need to be very careful of the type and quality of people that will lead us. Judging from my own experiences growing up, what shapes my opinion about what it means to be a Nigerian is that there are common misconceptions held by people depending on where they are. All of these things underline the need for us to do something about the system. After all our parents were trained from the taxes collected from the poor people in the rural environment where we come from. And the education more than anything is what provided us with the opportunities that set us apart from the rest of the society. So the least we can do is give back. It’s a very good decision that I have made.
Your party SDP is embroiled in crisis with no Presidential Candidate, how will this affect your chances?
It doesn’t have anything to do with me getting elected. I wouldn’t say SDP is in crisis, it is not. The fundamental thing about a political party is what it represents. To a significant extent this reincarnation of SDP is a reaction to the clear failures of both the PDP and the APC. The manifesto, the policy direction and the documents that defines what the SDP is as a party is a departure from the past SDP, so that it can chart a new and better course for Nigeria. The differences or the quagmire that has caused us not to provide a presidential candidate, I am not competent enough to discuss because I don’t have information about that. But it is not something that should affect our own chances. My people know who I am and what I represent. In our own area SDP is defined by what we do significantly and I don’t see us being affected by what’s happening.
What’s your message to Jigawa federal constituency and Nigerians?
In almost all the developmental statistics, Jigawa state is usually among the bottom three or five. Infant mortality rate is very high, the disparity between GDP growth rate and birth rate very high. We don’t have recognizable economy in terms of industries. The only business in Jigawa is government. Eighty percent of our population are farmers with no real resources to develop their farm land and all that. All of these glaring issues do not mean that Jigawa has no potential to get out of it. If we tap into our human resources and get our people to patriotically work together, people will be able to do a lot of good things. Since we have chosen this multi party democratic system as a means to deliver on our aspirations, the starting point for fixing anything must be through the political system. That dynamics more than anything else is what Nigerians should understand that once we are able to do it and have honest discussions about reality and not sentiments, we will be able to do well. My call on the people of Jigawa state is to understand that we have to take our destiny in our own hands. We can’t sit around and wait for the same people that has been messing up this country to continue again. And for you to deliver something which is different, you have to come out and join the process and once we can work together then Nigeria has already been fixed. For Nigeria as a country, we have to start from the political system, because the political system must be capable of organizing the social system. Once it is functional enough, then it will organize social system to put Nigeria to work and things will start growing. Our policies are fine but the delivery mechanism is what is faulty. The weakness in the political and social system are the reasons why the economy is not thriving the way it should.
You come from the most conservative part of Nigeria, and the message that you are pushing is radical, now how do you get the buy in of people of your constituency?
Our people are poor, not sufficiently educated or exposed but they are human beings and not animals. If you have the time to sit down with them and explain things to them in the language they are familiar with, you will be shocked at the level of understanding these people will throw at you. Remember when the colonial masters came here, they didn’t meet a savage people, they met organized people, with clear and sound history and administrative system. My attempt to get legislative seat is not an end in itself, it’s a much larger vision, I’m not the only one. Make no mistake about it, the frustration that you and I feel, there are so many other people feeling it. The issue is for us to build a critical mass needed, encourage other people to join us in greater numbers for us to succeed. We are the ones now who are making the first steps, there are many others coming and definitely I assure you, we are going to fix this country.
Why didn’t you start from the grassroots in order to understand the dynamics of politics?
Well, I’m a lawyer by training as you know I have a lot of strengths in policy, law making. There are people who I believe are far more qualified to take up an executive position in my local government area, but of course in campaigning, I got a deeper insight of the realities that the people in that area are going through. But ultimately the work of a federal legislator which is where I think I will add a significant value in working for the country and as such it is not necessarily your own constituency, it is working for Nigeria when you are representing your own constituency in an effort to build a better country.
Your background makes you a member of the intellectual class, over six decades of our nationhood, there’s been a crisis of leadership in the Nigerian state which is grounding meaningful progression.
Why do you think we are moving round in circles while the world is moving ahead?
I think we have so many misconceptions about reality. For example I’m sure you hear people referring to the amalgamation as the mistake of 1914. The adjectives they use to describe the formation of the country made it appear as if it is a bad thing or regrettable. But on the contrary the diversities that make up the different ethnic groups in Nigeria are supposed to be a strength as opposed to being a weakness. If you separate the different ethnic groups that make up Nigeria as a country, it will be very small insignificant groups. Nigeria is great because of its people, Nigeria is great because you have different ethnic groups. Despite our own hiccups as a nation, there is an increasing awareness about the roles we must play in taking the lead to save the black race. You cannot continue to be doing the same thing and expect the results to be different. We need a clear departure from the failed practices of the past. We need to take a closer look at the worn out narratives and have a fresh perspective of our reality as a country and its people. The level of social confusion that our people are going through is so serious that we even have identity crisis. There is a mixture of the heritage that we have. We have the western influences, the colonial legacy, the traditional ‘Africaness’
and what it represents. All of these are all contradictory and we are having to deal with these contradictions individually. So there is a serious confusion going on. Civilization is a function of consensus. We have civilised consensus regarding this kind of issues. People have individual opinions and we don’t have any collective vision. There is no common base line on any national issue we are dealing with. I think our generation more than any other anything is at the threshold of the issue in terms of solving Nigeria’s problems. We are going to see a radical change and improvement in our position as a country by the time most of our generation will take control of that.
SDP is relatively not entrenched in the north, in terms of loyalty. Don’t you think the major parties have an edge?
What loyalty are you talking about? Loyalty to failure. The people are far more responsive to the realities more than you realise. Today, I will tell you that the SDP that I am in now less than six months ago, 95% of the people that are in the SDP today were not in the SDP before. In every single day, even in my own locality, we are having almost 200 people in a local government shifting from mostly APC and some PDP to SDP. It’s a reflection of people’s frustration with these so called legacy parties as you are saying. There is no advantage whatsoever. They were given a mandate and an opportunity to serve the people on the basis of clear political arrangements and they failed. I was a card carrying member of the PDP, I attempted to run for legislative seat, the lack of internal democracy, group of people making rules for themselves, how do you expect to trust those people. These basic problems are the reasons why certain things happen the way they do. You have to understand the correlation between bad political practices and political corruption and how it cascades into bad governance. That was what PDP was doing and we felt it was wrong, we left and joined the APC also on the premise that they have a clear conception that Nigerians are not happy and that endeared millions of Nigerians to the APC and retired General Buhari towards the 2015 general elections, we were hopeful but unfortunately things didn’t pan out well as well. The reality is that the SDP as a party, fundamentally has a clear understanding of the need for political and democratic reform. This is why we are in the SDP and why people are cascading to this party and joining us. That is what we are doing, breaking away from the status quo. We didn’t beg them to join our party, while we were campaigning we asked them simple question. Are you satisfied with the quality of representation of the people you voted for over three years ago and the answer is always a resounding no and what you are going to do about it is change, positive change, not the one promised in 2015 on the altar of sheer sentiment. We told them to consider us, try us, we are different and we believe if given opportunity the results of our own stewardship is going to be different.
You talked of reforms, how do you intend to push some of these reforms?
Yes, definitely. Nigerians on themselves are not bad people at all, the problem is systemic. They are good people in bad systems. For example the president consistently misdiagnoses Nigeria’s problem into a question of simple decency. From his own perspective the country is “being managed by indecent and evil people and I have integrity this and that and he thinks everything will automatically fall into place”. The question is what are we actually doing, you have to be able to show what you are doing. Nigeria needs sufficient social checks and balances. You can’t ignore these realities and at the same time say that you are serious. There is hypocrisy also within ourselves. If today we are able to increase transparency across the public sector and everywhere and curtail discretion in the exercise of authority, these two approaches will solve this country’s problems as quickly as possible.
Your father was a Chief Justice of Nigeria, how would he have reacted to the Onnoghen suspension by President Muhammadu Buhari?
Well, I’m fully aware that my father continuously advocated for the creation of a completely independent institution outside the NJC to carter for discipline, removal and enforcement of code of conduct officers. He argued that the self regulation model of the NJC, being that the NJC as a body demands control by the same people it’s supposed to regulate, so he felt that the time had come for Nigeria to set up a completely different agency responsible for that reality. He submitted bills to the National Assembly to that effect, the reform agenda that he put together was by far the most robust, comprehensive reform initiative of any sector of governance ever in this country. He submitted 52 different amendments, I think, to allow of reform of that institution. So the lacunas that are obviously exploitable by people who do not subscribe to the fundamentals of the rule of law. We have three different arms of government, it ought to be impossible for any of them to act on its own to effect the leadership or direction of the other. That’s how constitutional democracy is supposed to work. For example, the CJN is appointed by the president but on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation from the senate. So you see, judicial power is mostly unlimited but judiciary cannot evoke its power by itself. What would have been good is for us to look at things the way they are. For example, if the constitution provides a certain level of power or protection for certain sensitive positions to guard against undue influence or executive influence, in this particular case, the president has suspended the CJN with no recommendation from the NJC and National Assembly as well, he did it on his own. So the question now is if he says he’s suspending him and didn’t remove him, that is more technical than real because the protections were put in place to allow him to continue to function as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, provided he’s being prevented from functioning, that is, he’s being suspended, then it’s just a technicality, because in this case a mockery has been made of the process; there’s no other way of looking at it. This is not a question of whether the CJN was guilty or innocent of anything. This is about process and procedure. Corruption isn’t bad simply because the president doesn’t like it, corruption is bad because the laws in Nigeria says it is bad. The law gave the president authority to act and the law also gave limitations in the exercise of that law and the president must respect that as a free country. Because if you do certain things for good reasons, tomorrow somebody else will do that same thing for bad reasons. That’s why you need standards, you need to trust the system. You cannot do this thing in kind of a clandestine operation. The propriety of the judges is a sacred public trust that should be protected. The perception of the propriety of the judges is the fundamental principles for stability in the country. Even if you feel these people are not doing certain things the way they are supposed to, you are supposed to handle it with extreme caution and care, because the moment you further undermine the perception of the propriety of the judges in relation to the public, what you are doing is that you are destroying the confidence of the population regarding them which means you’re encouraging self help, look at the consequences, look at what is happening, murder is increasing, people are taking the laws into their own hands. So the point is that they need to understand that theirs a right way of doing things.