President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term must not be based on military loyalty but on the good performances of the people around him. He should also do away with non-performing ministers in his cabinet. It is also vital for him to establish a commission that will deal with electoral offenders. These are some of the thoughts of a northern leader and the Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani in an interview with Bayo Akinloye. Excerpts:
Are you worried about the rising insecurity in Nigeria?
Any rational and patriotic citizen should be worried whenever there is pervasive insecurity in the country that seeks to stultify economic activities. And that is why even the president has said he was the saddest leader in the world as a result of the challenges to security posed by terrorism, herdsmen/farmers phenomenon, ethno-religious crises, banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, cultism and armed robbery across the country, which have collectively challenged his political will and wit to go as far as his regime’s effort can go in order to tame the menace.
Such assurances from the president have inspired confidence among the citizens that they have a president, who cares and who is also worried and determined to put the whole shebang of the insecurity astern by making them history.
But all one can advise now is that because the nature of the insecurity differs from one geopolitical zone to another, it is important to know the underlying causes with a view to developing the variegated strategies of addressing them. For example, banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in the North-West may not be the same as the nature of insecurity posed by herdsmen/farmers saga in the north-central zone, and these may not be the same with cultism in the South-East, South-South, and South-West. Also, these kinds of challenges in the North-West may not be one and the same thing with the insurgency in the North-East.
It would, therefore, be foolhardy of the authority to imagine that because one has the hammer, then every problem is a nail. Hence, the significance of the need for applying the United Nation’s resolution that all affected states must address the underlying causes of challenges to national security.
Also, there is the need for all Nigerians to come to terms with the reality that Nigeria is at war with herself and there is the need to come together with a view to living up the synergistic potential against collective challenges for common good. To this end, the imperative for a well-articulated narrative against the insecurity cannot be overemphasised.
A situation where some groups would gloat over any misfortune suffered by our security agents in the hands of insurgency or bandits is not acceptable and must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians.
By May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in for a second term in office. What do you think about his first term in terms of general performance?
The regime came into office with campaign promises to fight insecurity and corruption in order to pave the way for the economy to take root and thrive. But the paucity of resources would not allow the regime to prosecute those three campaign ideas with the same zeal at the same time. There has to be a priority. In this case, more attention must have gone into the fight against the insurgency in North-East, since no form of socio-economic development can take place amid insecurity.
In the same way, because corruption steals the resources, no socio-economic development can be in place in the face of unbridled corruption. That explains the emphasis on the fight against corruption. These two had to take precedence over the other socio-economic undertakings like infrastructure, education, health, and the economy. Yet, we cannot say the government left the economy and other aspects unattended to. For example, the economy is being diversified gradually and agriculture is beginning to take pride of place. The recession which was foretold by the trio of (Charles) Soludo, Ngozi Iweala, and (Sanusi Lamido) Sanusi before 2015 has been exited and efforts were made to grow the GDP, improve the foreign reserves, reduce inflation and also reduce the interest rate.
Also, the fight against corruption using punitive measures by the EFCC and the ICPC as well as preventive measures of BVN, TSA, IPPIS, etc., are capable of creating enabling environment for investors to do business in the economy. I’ve taken note of those who cry foul by alleging selective fight against corruption.
My advice is that those who have been arraigned for corrupt practices should defend themselves instead of saying, ‘we’re not the only ones who are corrupt’. After all, the fight against corruption is a work in progress, which is expected to outlive the regime. That is why I do not see the wisdom in PDP saying all allegations of corruption against present functionaries of government should be done away with before May 29, 2019.
Afenifere and Ohanaeze said it was disrespectful for the Miyetti Allah group to be mentioned in the same breath as them. What’s your thought on that?
I guess the reasons why the presidency likened the Miyetti Allah to Afenifere and to Ohanaeze Ndigbo is because all the three are ethnic-based organisations. Somehow, I do not share the view that Miyetti Allah should be criminalised for the sinful acts of a few of its members, who are criminals and should be treated as such. It would offend many people’s sense of justice if Afenifere is criminalised because few of its members have gone astray and have become criminals. Similarly, it would not be fair to brand Ohaneze as criminal for criminal acts of few of its members.
Kano, for ages, has been seen as one indivisible emirate until when the Kano State House of Assembly, supported by the state government decided otherwise. Some think the division of the Kano emirate into five is geared towards undermining the influence of Emir Sanusi at the expense of the emirate. How do you see this?
I do not have the facts for a well-informed comment on this issue. But I am aware that emirates and chiefdoms have undergone changes over the long history of nations. You would recall how Chief Solomon Lar split emirates and chiefdoms in former Plateau State under the guise of emancipation, which some of us saw as mere multiplication of feudal points manned by sinecure personnel.
We also saw how Alhaji Abubakar Rimi followed suit by balkanising Kano emirate and Alhaji Bakin Zuwo had to restore it. There was another example where my friend, Gen. Jaafaru Isa, created six chiefdoms out of Zazzau emirate in Southern Kaduna. In this democratic dispensation, there has been such split of the Olubadan stool. Echoes of the split can still be heard in Plateau and Nasarawa States which have more emirates and chiefdoms than the state House of Assembly constituencies.
What seems disagreeable in what has happened in Kano is the apparent lack of consultations that should precede the exercise in order to carry the people along. As a result, there is the avoidable impression that the split of the Kano emirate is politically motivated against the person of Sarki Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. But I am very sanguine that the political versatility of Kano people will bring about amicable resolution of the challenges posed by the exercise to the satisfaction of the majority.
With banditry, insurgency, and kidnapping, things appear to be getting worse in the north than in the south. Is that correct?
I have not done any fact-check for the purpose of comparison. But I am sure that the insecurity posed by banditry and kidnapping transcends regional boundaries. More so because Nigeria can be likened to a big river fed by the tributaries and when a tributary is poisoned, the whole river becomes contaminated.
What needs to be done to end the cycle of violence and insecurity in the country?
What needs to be done in order to tame the insecurity is for the authority to declare war against such criminals through a well-articulated national narrative and address the underlying causes of the insecurity across the nation. What is to be done first should be so approached, considering the needed resources for prosecution are not limitless.
Do you think the governors and state lawmakers are as interested in their people as they should?
One cannot say especially, when regard is paid to the fact that they have been elected by their people to deliver on the promise of their electoral mandate. If they ignore the people, the voters should do the needful by deploying their democratic rights to recall them. If they are not recalled by the electorate, then, it would be undemocratic of my humble self to dismiss them as elected leaders, who ignore their people.
According to the latest Fragile States Index, Nigeria is still living on the edge. Do you think the nation’s leaders are doing enough to get off the edge?
We do not need Fragile State Index to conclude that both the leaders and the led have not done enough in the important task of bringing about the order, justice, liberty, common decency and prosperity for all, as long as we still experience insecurity that straddles the nation. The President himself has expressed his profound sadness over the issue and has expressed his determination to overcome it. All that is required of the rest of us is to give the needed support in that regard.
Should the world pay more attention to the country before it jumped from the fry pan into the fire?
The president has appealed to the world for support in the light of limited resources available for prosecution of the war against insecurity. I have read some countries like Jordan and Japan have come in with some financial support. And this is necessary, because if Nigeria is in crisis, it would affect the world, especially the neighbouring countries in West Africa since no country is an island unto itself.
The president is expected to announce his cabinet soon. What are your expectations? Will you want all the ministers to be replaced?
The President is in a better position to know which ministers have performed (well) and which have not performed (well). He is expected to drop non-performing ministers and retain performing ones since he is the one expected to impel progress by multiplication of his own strength through members of the cabinet. Motivation is the instrument and social skill is the requirement.
The chasm between the north and the south seems to be widening in terms of unity, development, education, and cooperation. What’s responsible and what can be done to correct the situation?
I am not sure if there is any serious gulf between the North and the South different from what we used to know it. For example, education which impels development arrived in the South a century earlier than it reached the North. But if you compare the development status of the North at independence in that region, you would hardly avoid the conclusion that the North has made some strides. And I think the North will reach the Promised Land someday.
As to unity, I know the annulment of elections of June 12, 1993, tended to bring about the mistrust between regions; the same with the civil war. But recent events of the political alliance between the South-west and the North have demonstrated the resilience of Nigeria to maintain its unity. This is more so that it is about the first time of the South-west in a political alliance with the North. In the same way, the way the President paid the pensions of the Biafran police has helped to break barriers.
And, if you compare the margin of victory of the APC in 2015 of three million votes over and above that of the main opposition party, the PDP, with that of 3.9 million votes in 2019, you would observe that the 0.9 million improvement came mostly from the South-east and the South-south which gave APC less than 10 per cent in 2015, which goes to show democracy is bringing about more unity, because politicians cross the aisles, make friends and build bonds.
Lately, the Defence Headquarters issued a statement denying involvement in any plans to overthrow the government of President Buhari. Does that bother you?
The rumours bothered me only to the extent of the stupidity shown by those who think they can truncate our democracy through some form of overthrow or insurrection. For example, the advent of ICT which has helped people to overcome distance and time would make it impossible for the military to organise any overthrow of the government.
Also, note that we have just had the elections which are said to be free and fair as testified (to) by observers, both foreign and local; and President Buhari has been declared the winner with improved margin in both number and spread over those of 2015.
This shows most Nigerians believe that despite some observed shortcomings on the part of the regime and the person of the President as a natural concomitant of human frailties, President Buhari is still the best who can navigate the nation out of the labyrinth of woods created by past regimes. As a result, any thought of overthrow of the regime would be revolting and would not get any traction.
Do you think the security agencies should investigate the source of the information?
That is expected of the security agencies. This is more so that the main opposition party has accused the regime of a plan to frame its presidential candidate, Atiku (Abubakar). A thorough investigation would enable Nigerians to know the truth for common good.
What do you think President Buhari’s second term would be like?
The president has told the nation of his resolve to work harder through an inclusive government by way of balancing competing demands among constituencies and among sectors. That determination will enable him to make most Nigerians experience change by way of dividends of democracy. We pray he gets what it takes for his resolve to come unto its own.
What areas do you want President Buhari to work harder on so that he could deliver all his campaign promises?
He should prioritise his campaign promises by first overcoming the insecurity in order to allow farmers have access to their farms and businessmen’s movements that are needed for economic activities, and this should be followed by fighting corruption that steals national resources. One way he can do this is through attitudinal and value change. That is to say, there should be a cultural renaissance that can enlist the people in the fight against corruption by way of stigmatisation.
What electoral reforms do you think is important for the country to make now before the next general election?
The needed electoral reforms should be the formation of a commission to try electoral offenders. Electoral voting should be legalised early for INEC to master, preparatory to next elections. All persons who have pending cases of corruption in the courts should be barred from contesting elections. A situation where ex-governors with cases in court stand elections, win and make laws for the nation offends the sense of justice and makes nonsense of the regimes’ fight against corruption.
Also, in order to avoid the bandwagon effect and reduce cost, all the elections should be held on the same day. Also, INEC should conduct elections into local government councils in view of unbridled abuse by governors of the state electoral commissions, which kill democracy at that level of governance.
The call for state police hasn’t gone away. What’s your view about it?
Those calling for state police are merely groping. This is because unless we have a sufficient number of trained and equipped Nigerian police and they still do not deliver on their mandate, we cannot reasonably submit that state police whose number are not adequate and not well-trained and equipped will do better than the Nigerian Police. What is more, state police can be abused by governors reminiscent of what happened with state electoral commissions. In addition, in states that are diverse, state police can exacerbate conflicts instead of being the solution.
Can this country make lasting progress without the restructuring of its administration?
I have never believed the problems of this country lie in further restructuring. This is because this country has been restructured several times: be it geographical, political or economy. We started with three regions and moved to four regions with a weak centre. Then moved to 12, 19, 30 and now 36 states, where the national government is appropriately balanced with state-level powers.
We have tried the parliamentary system, went through military dictatorships and the unitary system of government with a strong centre and now we’re practising a presidential system of government. We restructured the economy under the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of President Ibrahim Babangida.
In the current republic, there has been privatisation under the watch of the former Vice-President, Atiku, which has not yielded the desired results. That is why we do not think the problem of Nigeria is in further restructuring but in our attitudes and the way we do things. After all, Lagos and Kaduna states are managing for performance using the same structure which some pundits say is unworkable.
Boko Haram seems to be the biggest threat to the North’s development. Has the group come to stay?
Boko Haram poses a great danger to our survival as a nation. But the way President Buhari has weakened the sect’s oomph and has consigned them to the fringes of the North-east suggests the terrorist group can be defeated and has not come to stay.
If you were to meet President Buhari today, what would you tell him?
If I were to be in any rendezvous with President Buhari, I would tell him to ensure that the opposition party should not be the leadership of the national assembly. This is, precisely, because the mandate is to the APC, which is expected to account to Nigerians at the end of the tenure. It would amount to anti-democracy for the minority to lead the majority. The place of the opposition is to provide viable alternative platform since democracy without a viable alternative is a sham.
I would also advise the president to note that where he seems to preside over a divided presidency should not be repeated in the coming tenure. Also, because what propelled the president to victory appears to be a mass movement and not due to an organised political party, the president should still try and carry the elite along in order to reduce fissiparous tendencies in the polity.
Loyalty is good, especially in a military setting, which is regimented and emphasises ‘obey before complaint’. But loyalty at the expense of performance is not helpful. Lastly, I would ask him to look for people who share his vision of Nigeria and appoint them to help him deliver on his electoral mandate.