Femi Ogbonnikan holds a conversation with Dr Muiz Banire (SAN), immediate past National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress on the consequences of brazenly flouting the electoral processes, abuse of the party’s constitution and the Rule of Law
How do you view what happened in Lagos State recently with regards to the emergence of a new leadership in governance of the state?
I have no problem with the mode of succession in Lagos State, as far as it is in compliance with the Rule of Law. For me, it is what the masses want. Eventually, the people are the determining factor. I have no quarrel with the procedure. The only people that I, possibly, have problems with, are the electorates.
What is your problem with the electorates?
There are so many problems with them. Poverty is one of them. There are too many poor people in the state these days. They, hardly, are able to reason objectively about the propriety or otherwise of anything. Poverty is one challenge. Ignorance is another challenge. Thirdly, parochialism is another challenge. Fourthly, and that is by extension, out of poverty, money-politics. Then, thuggery or violence is another issue. These are the issues, more or less, in my very strong views that are militating against a genuine succession line.
Would you say that the people are genuinely at the centre of the process?
We are beginning to see it in the Northern states and you can see that in a lot of places where President Muhammadu Buhari won convincingly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors lost. You can see the sophistry of the electorates there. They are beginning to understand what the issues are. That is what I have been canvassing for, nationally, all over, that electorates, generally, must be informed. It is the duty of the elites to do some of these works, particularly, the education of the masses on what should be the determining factor when they are exercising their franchise.
Do you foresee an ‘o to ge’ (it is enough) revolution happening in Lagos?
As far as I am concerned, it is a natural process that is inevitable. I have said this thing repeatedly. I have not come across any empire in the world or dynasty that lasts for ever. I have not. I am sure that, God, in His divine wisdom, must have structured it that way. There is nothing anybody can do.
What is the point of your departure from the establishment or from power structure in Lagos State?
I have said it one million times and I am repeating it again, the difference is that, I am not a professional politician. I am just a professional that is interested in good governance and by extension, I have to be part of the political process. The professional politicians know how to do their own. As far as I am concerned, there are certain minimum standards that must, at all times, be our guiding principle. Those are the ones I personally urge people, to at least, imbibe so that at the end of the day, we can have good governance.
If you are now kicking against the laid down process now, it has been alleged that you were a beneficiary at the formative stage…
What is the process have I benefitted from? There is no process. I have never attempted, let alone, contested an election. How would I have benefitted, then? Imposition is a function of an election. Nobody quarrels with appointments. If you are elected a governor today, if you like, take all the commissioners from your bedroom. It is your discretion and nobody would quarrel with you. But in elections, there are rules and regulations that bind the process. That is my contention, that those rules and regulations must be respected. The failure to do so continues to hurt the system. That is my own contention. I am not even interested in contesting. I have never been a beneficiary of such a process. It is not possible.
Recently, it was alleged that you and some people brought Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, to Lagos during which the former FCT minister was accused of attacking the person of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, over his dominance of politics in Lagos. How did this happen?
I don’t need El-Rufai to come and lecture us here about godfatherism. I have always detested godfatherism and my position is, ‘I don’t care’. I don’t want them to see the position of El-Rufai as evil. The good news is that, you must have read about Baba Adeboye too, on his position on godfatherism, recently. That it is something that is evil and that is what I have been condemning. It doesn’t help the system at all; it does not allow quality people to emerge; it doesn’t allow genuine people to emerge; it doesn’t allow transparency in the system; and it doesn’t allow institutions to function. I have always been against it and that is my own position. I don’t need El-Rufai for that. I don’t need any other person. One thing about democracy is freedom of information and freedom to express yourself. That can’t be curtailed by anybody in what ever form, particularly, those who claim to be democrats. We are bound to continuously disagree till eternity. That is the beuty of democracy, but the ignoramus that would wake up to question your own opinion, rather than say their own opinion, to advance arguments. That is the problem. These are the people I don’t dignify most times, because it is not worth it. My principles are the ones that I believe in. I will continue to advance them, except you can advance superior argument why I should move away from mine.
How do you feel about the recent losses suffered by your party (APC) at the election petition tribunals, particularly the loss of Zamfara state governorship candidate and senatorial seats in some other states to the opposition PDP candidates?
I have predicted all these. If you read my last report, those that I wrote and also sent to the President before my exit from office. I predicted that, all these things would happen. It is no surprise to me. In fact, we are lucky that most of these primaries have not been challenged. If they have been challenged most of them would have gone the same way. That has been my contention for a long time. There is a need for us to continuously respect the Rule of Law. It is only when you respect the Rule of Law that you would get the joy, otherwise, you would incur the wrath of the Rule of Law. When we are getting this kind of result, it is the wrath of the Rule of Law that is at work, because we have disobeyed the Rule of Law. It is no news to me. It is not surprising at all. That has been my own contention.
What did you say to the party before you exited from office after the expiration of your tenure?
My position has been simple. It is the even an advice, “let us go by the Rule of Law.” We have the Constitution of the party; we have the Electoral Act; and we have the Constitution of Nigeria. These are our governing legislations which we must continuously adhere to. Failure or refusal to adhere strictly to the Rule of Law will lead us to nowhere than where we are now, that we are unhappy with. For me, it is not a matter of choice. I have continuously warned that, if at the end of the day, it is found that we have violated the Rule of Law, then, we will have ourselves to blame. There is no other advice than to continue to adhere to, or, subscribe to the constitution of the party and the Electoral Act. They should let us live by the dictates of the Rule of Law.
What are the likely implications of the European Union (EU) report on the 2019 general elections on Abubakar Atiku’s petition against President Muhammadu Buhari?
Unfortunately, I have not read it, not even in the newspaper. I stumbled on it on social media, but unfortunately, I have not been able to read it at all. I don’t even know what the content is, except I get a copy of it. As a responsible person, I won’t comment until I read the report. Our people are dangerous. They can cook up petty things for you to digest.
Can APC survive beyond 2023 with its present structure?
It depends on the way we are able to put our house in order. Except we want to pretend, all is not well with the party. That is the reality. The only way we can get out of it is to apply the Rule of Law and go back to the basics. If we can apply what the rule of the party says, that is the only way we can sustain the legacy of the party.
Are you still a member of the APC?
It is a question that is a bit tricky. Honestly, my position is, I tend to tell people clearly that, I am a Buharist. I can’t say proudly that I am a member of the APC again. But I can say, I am a Buharist. It is as simple as that. At this moment now, I only follow the person that I believe in. If I don’t believe in you, I will move away. I have said it from day one, that the combination of President Buhari and Osinbajo are the people that I believe can shape the destiny of our country, positively. Except we are able to see any other credible human being, like them. I have not been able to see anybody that can fault or challenge their credibility, because beyond competence is integrity. You must hold on to your integrity. Once people can’t fault that one, then, some of us that believe in integrity will continue to believe in them, rather than any platform.