From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Alhaji Mohammed Shittu is the chairman of Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA). In this interview, he carpeted some of the actions of the present administration, particularly, the doling out of funds to states without commensurate development.
Now 2019 is fast approaching, where will your party zone the presidency to?
APDA is an ideological political party. As an ideological party, we believe that every Nigerian has the right to aspire for the presidency. Therefore we are not zoning. We believe that merit is the lead way to a better Nigeria.
You mean it does not bother the party?
We are not looking at zoning but merit. We are looking for people who can bail us out of this mess. Do you see what is happening in the US and China? Do they zone their own presidency? Shouldn’t we by now, as a country get ourselves out of zoning or parochial thinking? We believe in one indivisible Nigeria where indigeneship must be removed in a view of promoting coherence and allow people to invest in where they reside freely. We should be talking about residency and not indigeneship. When you carry your bag and go to the US within six months, you become a citizen there. If you give birth there, the child becomes a citizen by birth. We should start advising African leaders to start giving birth in Nigeria so that their children shouldcan be citizens of Nigeria.
There is no geo-political zone in this country that does not have one man who has integrity, don’t you think that if the party opens the contest for all it would create confusion?
Until we remove the issue of indigeneship and allow our rewarding system to be meritorious, we are getting this country nowhere. APDA has found that out and that is why we are against zoning. All we need is a credible person who will take us out of poverty.
Your party is believed to be an offshoot of PDP, will your party go into alliance with the PDP or any other political party come 2019?
In political system you don’t close shop. But what I know is that APDA will slug it out as a party and not as a merger with any party. APDA has come with its own ideology and believe in it. We will stand and contest the presidency as a party.
What is your party’s take on restructuring?
Restructuring is one of our cardinal principles. But we are saying that before we restructure, there are certain things that must be taking out of the exclusive list and bring into concurrent list. States should be allowed to construct rail lines and roads. States should have postal services. They should be allowed to control their monetary system. That is why we are saying that things in the exclusive list should be shifted into the concurrent list and rejig it. Also states should be allowed to control their security. If the aforementioned are done, it would bring development and a huge competition between the states and the federal government.
You are advocating autonomy of the states; do you think these states can function effectively on their own; considering the fact that some states owe salaries for more than five months?
All the states have natural resources. For instance, if Kogi State is allowed to tap into the natural resources like the Ajeokuta steel it will help. If it is allowed to tap at least 60percent of it, it will change the negative narrative of Kogi State. The state has aquatic resources. The state should plant rice to feed the nation. The dependency of states on the federal government is the major problem affecting the country. We must discourage the distribution of funds to states. States are lazy. They depend on the federal government. Apart from Kebbi and Lagos, how many states own farm? If you allow Zamfara to tap into tomatoes they won’t be running to Abuja, if you allow Oyo or Ondo to tap into cocoa, they won’t be running to Abuja.
How is your party different from other political parties?
Good question. Our party is different from other parties because we do not believe in zoning. Secondly, we are not going into delegate system. We are using biometrics. Every member is a delegate.
Since your party is about to adopt electronic, how would you ascertain the party’s reception in other states?
Let me give you an example which you can verify, it is in the Anambra election; it was by electronic. And just about a week now, Channels TV has been conducting online election in their gubernatorial candidate. We have shown them that we are master in that. People have accepted us. We are in trend with the new innovation. Also, as enshrined in our constitution, 25percent of elective position goes to the youths, 30prscent is for the women, while 5percent goes to the physically challenged.
President Buhari is seen as a man of integrity even before assuming the office of the president, of recent his administration has been engulfed in series of allegation of corruption, how do you access the government?
When you are fighting corruption, it is as if you are fighting counterfeit drugs. Drugs barons will always fight back, so corrupt individuals will fight back. How the government would respond to the fight is what determines the side of the government. We have not seen anything yet, we will see more than this. We as APDA, we are watching and taking note to learn from what is happening to be able to curb it in future.
Are you saying that President Buhari is a weak leader?
You can’t say Buhari is a weak leader until the end of their regime. We as a party don’t judge people. We look at your action. Action must be judged according to intention. The end of the administration will determine if they have done well or not.
From what we have seen on the ground, has the administration met the expectations of Nigerians?
As a Party we are accessing them, because we give constructive criticism. We are still taking stock. Any issue on corruption confronting the administration, should be presented in court. Because whatever we say now will serve as enlightenment. We will meet at the campaign rally so that Nigerians can judge.
From what you have said, don’t you think that some Nigerians will conclude that your party is a sleeping dog?
I have called you here to proffer solutions. We don’t just criticize for the sake of it. We proffer solutions.
Most Nigerians appear to be doubt as regards the performances of the ministers, should the president sack non-performing ministers or should he continue to keep them?
Sacking of minsters does not put food on the table of hungry Nigerians. The man that appointed them should know that some of them are not doing well.
What is your take on the bail fund?
There is nothing wrong in giving out bailout funds. The problem is the utilization of these funds to better the lives of the citizens. We won’t condone situation where people die recklessly because they have not been paid. The essence of governance is the provision of basic amenities. Without the aforementioned amenities, their loyalty to the country would remain questionable. Measures should be taken to monitor these funds so that they can be appropriately deployed. We also make bold to say that the National Assembly should stop the issue of saying that those funds should be appropriated. If we had not bailed out these states they would have collapsed. Even as we talk they are still bailing some banks. When it affects the citizens is when you are talking about appropriation? We need to look inward as Africans. We are an agrarian society, states should delve into farming. We should bail out these states and encouraging them to go into farming. They should also take comparative advantage to harness natural resources. Be it aquatic, agricultural or mineral resources.
Are you now saying that the National Assembly should amend the constitution?
It is appropriate that we look at our national purse and then be able to alleviate the sufferings of the citizens. So putting constitutional problem to stop them from assessing those funds, for us would be counted productive. We therefore urge the National Assembly to look at this and put it under the doctrine of necessity.
But don’t you think it will lead to another stealing because some governors, shortly after these funds were released, were said to have allegedly diverted them, neglecting the welfare of the people?
We believe that there must be a measure, such as providing the slips or a breakdown of the debts owed by them, the number of months owed so that the Central Bank can pay directly, instead of doling out these cash to the states.