National Chairman of the Allied Party of Nigeria (ACPN) Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima has described the current 92 registered political parties as not representative of the country’s estimated 200 million population. Galadima, whose party was founded by the late strongman of Kwara State politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, spoke with Onyebuchi Ezigbo on election violence, 2023 presidency run and the continued border closure by the federal government. Excerpts:
Kogi’s governorship election has come and gone. Are still pursuing your court action over your party’s exclusion by INEC?
I want to say that we are still not happy and as a result of that we are still in court. We lost at the Federal High Court but we are not pleased with the judgment and we are now at Appeal. If the appeal comes in favour of the ACPN, all I can say is that the exercise carried out by INEC and all the political parties on the 16th of November, 2019 would be voided at the end of the day by the Appeal court and we are confident of that, because INEC can’t deny us our legitimate right to participate.
We have a candidate that was duly nominated and passed through all the processes of nomination. We did our primaries, we informed the INEC only for INEC to shift the goal post at the last minute, which is not acceptable to us and we are very hopeful that the Appeal Court judgment will rule in favour of ACPN.
What’s your general assessment of INEC’s performance at the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections?
You know I said most of the time INEC is not responsible for the outcome of election, because INEC can only set rules and conduct of thuggery and other vices are conduct of political actors, because it is the political party leaders, parties and candidates that employ thugs that have nothing to do with INEC.
But on the part of political parties, despite the number of security agents that were deployed to Kogi and Bayelsa, there was still violence and they couldn’t avoid it because the security men were handicapped.
When you deploy security men just like civilians to monitor election, what do you expect? When you deploy security men to monitor elections and they were not armed, what do you expect? Do you want them to put their lives in danger? It is not possible and let me tell you, Nigerians are very stubborn people. With AK 47 in their hands, it is not possible.
So, that was the reason the violence couldn’t be curtailed or stopped by the security agencies. They are just ordinary civilians in the polling units and areas where the elections were being conducted. So, deploying so many policemen to Kogi and Bayelsa without arms is just a waste of time and they are part of us. It would be dying unjustly for any policeman to go to Kogi or Bayelsa to lose his life by facing thugs that are fully armed.
What do you think is the reason for this level of desperation that the political actors exhibit during elections?
Honestly, their actions are not justified at all and as at now, I can deduce two reasons why they are so desperate for public office. First is the over remuneration and access to public funds. Governor of a state is like the president of this country. No governor in the world is as powerful as the Nigerian governor just like the Nigerian president. They control everything and they deploy government resources the way they like.
Also look at the enormous resources at their disposal, it makes them feel very important and arrogant and they feel they are everything, because they know whatever they spend they can get it there, because of the access they have to resources and public funds.
I think it is time for legislators to look into this to make service and political office in Nigeria a purely service matter and if it is so little, will our people want to kill themselves over public office? Second one is the issue of impunity, in the sense that if you commit an offence you go free. If you commit once and you are not punished and nothing is forthcoming as punishment, you will be tempted to continue and the other people, who are watching would say ‘if you can do it and go scot free, then they can also do it’.
This is the reason we have high rate of crime and criminality in this country. You can imagine Boko Haram members being given amnesty, bandits being given amnesty. What does that promote? It encourages people to also do similar things, because in Nigeria we don’t respect law. We only make laws but when it comes to execution, it becomes a different thing and that is why in advanced countries, people enjoy more peace than our country.
In Nigeria anything goes. You can’t go to Saudi Arabia and commit any crime; you can’t deep your hands into public funds in Saudi Arabia, because of its consequences. A lot of factors are responsible for this. The government is encouraging these things, because the resources do not go round. The resources of this country are concentrated in just few people’s hands, so, in essence you can’t really blame anybody.
During the 2019 general election, there were about 92 political parties that officially took part in the exercise. But some stakeholders, including INEC and the lawmakers are calling for a reduction in the number of political parties to. Do you agree?
The major objective of political parties is not mainly to win elections. Part of the role of political parties is to mould people’s opinion in a certain way, which they think is in line with their objectives and ideologies. If a political a party doesn’t win election now, it does not mean that the party can’t win election in the future?
Let me tell you, there are some political parties that have controlled two, three states before that do not have any state now due to the poor system we operate. Forming or membership of a political party is a right that is supported by the constitution. There is freedom of association; there is freedom of religion. So, in essence, it means that if people have come together to form a political party, it is based on the belief they have and it is a right and it would be unconstitutional of INEC to drown any political party.
Let me tell you, we haven’t even had enough in this country. Benin Republic isn’t up to a state in this country, a country that is less than 10 million people and they have over 170 political parties, even the UK, where the major parties are overshadowing other parties. We have over 200 political parties in the US. India has almost 3,000 political parties and so on and so forth.
With our population of almost 200 million people as they say with 92 political parties, you can see we don’t have enough. So, I will just appeal to INEC not to take a decision, because of the outcry or outburst of some people who do not understand what it takes to run a political party and the idea behind the formation of political parties. It is constitutional that once a political party is registered, the party is beyond the people in it, because the preponderance of opinions and ideology professed by the political parties.
So, I wouldn’t align myself with people that are calling for de-registration of political parties. Let political parties evolve. Parties that don’t win elections now may in the future, probably win elections. It has happened before and it is happening now. Amongst the parties that won elections in 2019, some of them are new parties and there is an opportunity for others to win election as long as the conditions are conducive.
What wins elections in this country? It is the funds and that is the reason why most of these parties that are in government are still able to muscle themselves to expand, because of the unlimited access they have to the public funds and resources of the government. If given such resources, we can move mountains and that is the reason why parties experience members cross-carpeting uncontrollably.
I just told you that there are parties amongst us that in the past had two, three states that do not have any state now, because most of them after winning elections on the platform of a party took that mandate of that party to another party, which is not good for the politics. So our party ACPN doesn’t support deregistration of political parties. Under multiparty democracy that we have, people have the right to free choice.
Look at the last election, how many people contested? You can imagine if it was restrained to only three, four or five political parties, where would the opportunity be for people to be able to express themselves? Political parties are sources of expression by the people.
Talking of ideology, your party is one of those that emerged as a result of the vision of the late Olusola Saraki. How would you describe ACPN in terms of its ideology and vision?
I would want to let people know that ACPN was formed based on the vision of late Abubakar Olushola Saraki, the Wasiri of Ilorin and his other comrades, because you know an individual can’t register a party. All political parties are Nigerian parties. INEC can’t register a party for a family or for an individual.
According to section 221-229 of the Nigerian constitution, there are processes of party registration and let me tell you, we have vision and ideology and that is one of the major reasons I still remain the ACPN up till this very moment. You can imagine some of the people that even registered this party are no longer in the party but I want to put it to you in terms of ideology and vision that none of the political parties in Nigeria beats ACPN. In our constitution, we believe that the economy of this country is central to our economic development.
The people are the focus of our party manifesto; the people and the private sector, because we believe that it is the people and the private sector that can drive the economy not the government, even in advanced countries, go to the UK the government build businesses and they hand it over to the private sector to manage and those are countries that are even better than Nigeria.
In Nigeria, our people don’t believe that government’s business is our business. They don’t even believe that the people in government are representing them and that the resources of government belong to them. So, if the government sets up an enterprise, they say ‘oh, is this a government business? They put in everything to sabotage that enterprise but if it is their business there is a drive.
Look at most of the major businesses of government in the past; where is NITEL and other giant businesses of government in the past, where are they? That is one of the ideologies of ACPN. We have governance positions covering health, provision of infrastructure and every sphere of human endeavours. In fact, we have one of the best political party ideologies.
What is your view about the zoning of the presidency to the South and possibly to the Southeast in 2023?
Power isn’t given al-a-cart. You have to struggle for it and get it and let me tell you, if the Southeast must produce the presidency of this country, they must work in conjunction with other parts of the country to get it, because power isn’t given freely. When you talk about zoning, it is subjective; it depends on the individual parties.
For example, in my party, you can never say that the ACPN that has never produced the presidency of this country must look in one direction. It isn’t possible. We will look at the direction that would favour our party, because we also want to produce the president of this country.
So, for us, if the presidency comes from the Southwest or from the South-south that is the starting point. Then in another term, we now look at another area, because one of the major principles of our constitution is also zoning. Our party believes in zoning, but it depends on our party. We must first of all get there before we start talking of other steps to take it to the next level.
Has your party decided where to zone its presidential ticket?
We haven’t. We just participated in a general election, whereby we supported the APC to make President Muhammadu Buhari president again in order to run from now till 2023, but there is nothing wrong with zoning, because zoning is supported by the Nigerian constitution and it is because of that we have federal character so that presidency and other positions of government can go around.
But for parties that have enjoyed access to presidency like PDP and APC, I would enjoin them to honour the zoning arrangement made with their people. For instance, the PDP was there for 16 years: 1999 to 2015.
Two people from the South had been president and two people from the North also and the turn of the APC, the sitting president is from the north, so naturally in the APC, the presidency of this country should go to the South.
So, I will enjoin the two leading parties in this country: the APC and PDP, to honour the agreement they had with their members to shift the presidency to the South. For our party and other parties that are still struggling to produce the president of this country, I don’t think that anybody can erode zoning into the way of our party.
As a policy, how do you view the closure of the Nigerian border?
I am not among those Nigerians that are complaining about the border closure and I want to tell you that I am one of those that supported it. I support it on principle and in the interest of this country.
You see, Nigeria is so blessed, we have the human and natural resources in abundance but despite all these abundance and a lot we haven’t even harnessed and some highly valued resources, we haven’t even started tapping the solid minerals.
Even in agriculture, we have one of the best lands and we are so blessed with the climatic condition. There is nothing that can’t be grown in this country but for our people especially farmers, they are not making it in this country, because our country has been turned into a dumbing ground for all manner of things even fake things, foods that are not good for consumption, expired foods, expired drugs and our neighbouring countries from Togo, Benin Republic to Cameroon – all of them are living on Nigeria and not only that, the sabotage our economy that is for us to make progress as a nation and also create jobs for our people. The best step so far is closing our border.
You can imagine Benin Republic even as far as Ghana coming to beg our country to open our borders for their goods. That means that they appreciate the importance of Nigeria as a country, because all of them live on Nigeria.
For instance, you can imagine the number of petroleum that they said we consume on a daily bases with the closure of the border, which has been discovered that we don’t even consume half of that, because as the government subsidises Nigerians, it also subsidizes all these neighbouring countries.
Our petroleum products are smuggled today, because of the porous nature of our borders. I think it is a measure and policy of government that I support and I want it to continue so that we can grow our economy and create jobs for our people, so that we an also look inward.
It is not in our best interest as a nation, for a country that doesn’t eat its food. Now, tell me, where will the job come from? You don’t eat your food and entertain every junk, every fake product brought into this country, because our borders are not controlled. It is a policy of government that I support and I want it to continue in the interest of the entity called Nigeria.