“Unless the specifics are spelt out to the understanding of ordinary Nigerians, politics of restructuring may not attract electoral value as envisaged by the proponents.”
Noah Ebije, Kaduna
As the 2019 electioneering begins, the Secretary-General, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani, speaks on why he is rooting for President Muhammadu Buhari despite his obvious shortcomings.
The presidential contest appears to be a straight one between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. What advice do you have for the contestants and their respective supporters, now that the race is more of a northern affair?
While I agree with you that the two candidates of the two major political parties are northerners and are the cynosure, it is not correct to assert that the whole politics has become a northern affair. I say so because, of the 76 presidential candidates, only about six are from the north. The politics is therefore not an exclusive preserve of the north as asserted by your good self. But I agree that because the two candidates of the two major political parties are from the north and are Fulani Muslims, politics of real issues of national importance will supplant politics of identity symbolised by region, religion and ethnicity that confer no advantage on any of them.
I therefore call on the candidates to concentrate on the issues raised as well as those contained in the party manifesto with civil sense of decorum. The political parties should help in enlightenment and mobilisation of the people to make judicious use of their democratic rights and ensure votes count so that the leaders who emerge will be accountable.
Unfortunately, the political campaign kicked off at a time serious allegations of bribery and corruption were being levelled against the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole. Is this not a bad omen for a government that prides itself as corruption fighter?
Adams Oshiomhole has denied the allegations. It is left for those who alleged to prove their case against the chairman beyond reasonable doubt. And I am sure if the allegations are credible and proved beyond reasonable doubt, the chairman, the ruling party and the government will do the needful. But if the allegations are hoax, they will inspire sympathy of the public for the ruling party because people would believe the party is being harassed unfairly and unrealistically.
Head or tail north will still produce the next President of Nigeria in 2019. But most Northerners and Nigerians believe that President Buhari is politically and economically weak to continue in office. Don’t you think replacing him with a fellow northerner is the best option?
If President Buhari is politically and economically weak, as alleged, he will be easy to be override by the candidate of the opposition party. In which case, the opposition would be happy to contest with a weak incumbent. But for the opposition to prefer him not to contest is to suggest he is about the candidate to beat and they fear him. I say so because nobody kicks a dead dog.
You seem favourably disposed to this regime without seeing any shortcomings in the governance or leadership style. Are you suggesting the administration has no dark sides?
It is my responsibility to support the regime, having contributed to its emergence. But that does not preclude me from constructive criticism where perceived and visible shortcomings are observed. This I have done several times .For example, the president puts undue premium on loyalty in blithe disregard for the fact that people can change. That may be due to his military background where unalloyed loyalty matters most. I believe the president should be able to take actions where cases of infractions by his appointees have been established. I cite a case in the regime. The senate used the report by the DSS to deny the president confirmation of Magu as chairman of EFCC which did not go down well with Mr. President, going by his decision to retain Magu in an acting capacity despite refusal by the senate to confirm him. Yet the DSS is also his appointee whom he also retained. That does not add up because it conveys an impression of a divided presidency as well as that of the ruling party being at war with itself between the national assembly and the executive.
Another example of attitude that is not consistent with his content of character includes the fact that the president promised to increase the number of ministers. And even though I did not support the move, to renege on his own promise with sleigh of the hand is not good enough. Also, his cavalier attitudes to the management of the ruling party under his watch has contributed in no small measure to the topsy-turvy in the national assembly where the minority is leading majority and at state levels where some governors are rebelling due to avoidable two approaches to party primaries, to wit, direct and indirect methods. The leadership of the national assembly is not in tandem with democratic tenets.
I think this is because the president does see the ruling party more as a mass movement as against a properly organised party that is accountable to the people. As a result, there are complaints that the president does not exercise leadership through impelling progress by multiplying his strength through others where motivation is his instrument and social skill the requirement. Many people think he does not genuinely recognise that people truly matter. That is to say, he is not a team player but propelled by mass movement.
But on a balance, I still believe the bright side of Mr. President far outweigh the dark side and he is the best in the circumstance the nation has found herself. It is now left for the opposition to proffer superior alternative approaches to overcoming the challenges in shorter time to enable voters make informed judgement on the day of election. After all, Shakespeare has said good reasons give way for better ones.
President Buhari under the executive power of Order 6 has placed 50 influential Nigerians on travel ban abroad. What is your reaction to this?
The government has her reasons that informed the Executive Order which was unsuccessfully challenged in the law courts. I therefore do not see anything wrong with the Executive Order that is within the law and aimed at improving the practices in the fight against corruption, more so that the list cut across party lines, religion and region.
What’s your take on Atiku’s choice of an Igbo person as running mate?
The PDP candidate, Atiku, did his own political arithmetic and arrived in his winning game plan of picking Peter Obi. Whether the strategy was well informed is a different matter. I believe time will tell.
There are also those who believe Atiku did not have to pick an Igbo man as running mate in order to make Igbo vote PDP, since South East is hub of the main opposition party. To this school of thought, a running mate from South West would have been more politically savvy. As it is now, South West has been left to the ruling party without any challenge.
Be as it may, the issue of restructuring is an elitist talk that has not inched its way into popular consciousness across the nation, more so that restructuring means different thing to different people. As a result, unless the specifics are properly spelt out to the understanding of ordinary Nigerians, politics of restructuring may not attract electoral value as envisaged by the proponents.
Also, there are some Igbo who feel they will vouch for any candidate who will do only one term as from 2019 and allow them bid for the president in 2023. It is only the president who has only one term left. The wisdom of this school of thought is that South East should vote Buhari 100 percent and morally blackmail him to plead with South West to allow South East to contest in 2023, considering South West has had a fair share. All these permutations will affect the electoral campaigns and therefore the outcomes of the elections. The die is cast.
Different leaders of thought in the country have spoken against increasing poverty in the land, and advised President Buhari to change tactic to bring food to the people’s tables. Don’t you think this will rob him of victory in 2019 if he doesn’t change tactic?
It is true that there is poverty across the country as a result of past mismanagement of oil wealth which is not the result of hard work. President Buhari inherited an economy in shambles and he’s trying to reverse the trends amid limited resources. He is trying to diversify the economy from import dependent to productive export dependent, starting from agriculture and solid minerals that will lead to industrialisation needed for massive employment that can reduce the poverty. But these cannot be a day’s job because they are attained by consciously directed efforts to make desires possible and then actual.
The problem is that most Nigerians are not distant runners and are unwilling to slough off old habit of insatiable consumption without corresponding production. They simply find it hard to appreciate the fact of life that any ailments requiring major surgical interventions cannot be without pains.
Yet I remain sanguine that because most Nigerians are appreciating the fact that corruption has outsourced everything good and we should learn to consume what we produce, the economic challenges may not affect the outcome of the elections substantially. Rather, they may concentrate on the efforts made to overcome the challenges. If the progress made by the regime is impressive, Nigerians May consider returning the regime to power. If they think otherwise, it may affect the way they will vote.
Another thing that may rob him of victory, according to reports, is the issue of insecurity across the country. What is the way out for the president?
When you talk of insecurity across the country, you feign ignorance of the fact of history that in the past, the frequency and spread of attacks were almost ubiquitous across the north, including FCT. But today, the frequency and spread of the attacks have been reduced to fringes of North East zone. As a result, life is returning to normalcy while fears is yielding to confidence and hope.
We must note that containing terrorism completely with hard power of military might alone is not possible. This is because it is guerrilla warfare and not a conventional warfare. That is why the UN advises affected states to address the underlying causes of insurgency. And that is why even though the insurgence has been weakened substantially, we shall experience pockets of suicide bombings for quite sometimes to come before the sects are finally wiped out.