From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, the immediate past Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr Anthony Sani, has said that political pundits can easily predict that North is always ready to give up power to whichever presidential candidate the region wishes to support irrespective of which part of the country the candidate comes from.
Sani went down memory lane to say that the kind of presidential election between MKO Abiola and Bashir Tofa in 1993 may play out again in 2023 where the late Abiola as the presidential candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) floored Tofa of National Republican Convention (NRC) in his Kano home state and other states of the northern region.
To this end, the ACF chieftain said that those who are alleging that the North is not known for giving up power easily are most unfair to the region which does not play politics of regional identity and ethno-religious jingoism. Excerpts:
Ahead of the 2023 presidential race, the Igbo are mounting pressure to produce a president from Eastern region. So far some northerners, including northern elders, are actually supporting the Igbo in this respect. Don’t you think the chance of the Igbo to produce the president for the country is now getting brighter?
I have said it several times that multi-party democracy allows the Igbo to design their winning game plan and use it to canvass the presidency across the nation instead of using threats and intimidation. Democracy is never a bull fight in the sumo-ring, but a contest of ideas and reasons. If their chances of producing the president are brighter this time around using democratic tenets, then I wish them good luck. But as they do so, they should not imagine that 2023 is the final hour.
But some people are saying that the North is not known for giving up political power easily. Sir, don’t you think that the North will carry the day in the event that a northern candidate is fielded against a Southeast candidate?
Those who allege that the North is not known for giving power easily are most unfair to the North.This is because the North voted for Chief M. K. O Abiola against a northerner, Bashir Tofa in 1993. Kano State people even voted against the son of the soil and in favour of Chief M. K. O Abiola. In 1999, the North agreed that the Southwest should present the presidential candidates which resulted in the fielding of both Chief Obasanjo in PDP and Chief Olu Falae In APP in the hope of making up for the injustice meted to the Southwest. In 2003, President Obasanjo got 25 per cent in most Northern states when General Buhari stood for the elections. Also, in 2011, President Jonathan got 25 per cent in most Northern states when General Buhari contested the elections. So, when some southerners allege that the North regards power to rule the country as its own patrimony, I begin to wonder the basis of such allegations.
Former Heads of State, General Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar recently expressed support for the formation of North Central People’s Forum (NCPF). Some people are attributing this as a support and a lobby for 2023 presidential candidate from North-central. Do you think so?
I do not believe the endorsement of North Central People’s Forum by the duo of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar has to do with any desire to produce the president in 2023 from North-central zone. It has more to do with promotion of what most people in North-central zone share, make their realization possible and then actual. This is in contradistinction with Middle Belt Forum which aims and objectives are amorphous and rooted in what no longer exists, considering that states have been created to allay the fears of domination of the minorities by the majorities. More so that the Middle Belt Forum is larded with ethnic and religious colouration that are fissiparous.
The Yoruba leader, Aare Kankanfo, Gani Adams, has said that there is nothing wrong for any region of the country to break up. What is your reaction to this?
What Chief Gani Adams has said mimics what some few Yoruba leaders have said of recent, to wit, that because of inability to manage our diversity, every ethnic nationality now hankers for separation. But I have not heard any nationality clamouring to separate from Nigeria besides IPOB which is a minority even within the Igbo ethnic nationality. This is because intermarriage and urbanization have supplanted relative pluralism on ethnic nationalism. As a result, most Nigerians have come to believe that certain benefits of one big Nigeria are by far more than the uncertain gains of separation. I recall when Col. Mamman Gaddafi came to Nigeria in 2010 or so and suggested that Nigeria be split along religious lines; and as the spokesman of ACF then, I let him know that there are many sections of Nigeria where members of same families belong to different faiths. Col. Gaddafi then veered and suggested that the cleavages be along ethnic lines. I then drew his attention to the trite that Nigeria comprises about 371 ethnic groups, and so he should keep to what he knew about Nigeria. All that is required is to realize that the process of nation building is a continuous process and that challenges would always arise, and there should be mechanism in place for confronting them as they arise.
At a time Nigeria is yet to survive COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession is here with us, threatening hundreds of jobs losses. It is like the country is caught between the red devil and the deep blue sea. Can Nigeria survive this alarming situation?
Please note that COVID-19 is a freak or vicissitude of life which has stifled global economic activities and thus, demand for oil that has in turn resulted in recession.These are part of dynamics in mechanism of community living which leaders and individuals must face with courage and in hope as they navigate the ebb and flow in labyrinth of life. And when you consider the fact that hard times are cathartic and productive as well, then you would not wonder whether Nigeria would survive by overcoming the challenges you have listed. All that is required is for the leaders and the led to come to terms with the reality and fashion out how best to overcome them.This country has passed through several recessions and managed to exit them. In fact, this is about the second recession within the life of this regime. And despite the drastic fall in the price of oil that reduced the amount of revenues available to the government, the regime managed to exit the first one in record time. I have noticed the government has embarked on some policies that would fasten the exit of the current recession. One of these policies is the Finance Bill that seeks to encourage local production, improve employment and reduce inflation. What is required is unbridled commitment by the government in implementation of such policies while Nigerians support the government in its efforts to take the economy out of the woods.As they do so, they must note that government is not of limitless capacity. On the other hand, the government should take into account the affordability of the people. Nigerians must learn to consume what they produce. Nigerians must also note that hard times are expected to bring about national grandeur, bring about purposeful qualities in leaders and bring about the best in every one.
While Nigerians are battling the problem of economic hardship, the issue of banditry and kidnapping have taken bloody tolls on the citizenry. Again, what is the solution here?
The EndSARS protests directed at the police provided the criminals with the opportunity to get guns by attacking the police locations and set free some criminals from prisons. And because public opinion demoralized the police away from part of their responsibilities of protecting the society from criminal elements, the criminals who go by the names banditry, kidnappers, armed robbers etc, took advantage to unleash their heinous activities on innocent people. The solution is for the police to go back to their posts and secure the nation against activities of the men of the under world while the processes of reforms of the police are started in earnest amid consciously directed efforts at addressing the underlying causes of insecurity, which include poverty that comes with unemployment and ignorance.
What is your reactions to the N18.4 billion provided for the police in the budget for 2021?
As far as my judgement is concerned, the N18.4 billion provided for the police is inadequate.This is because the much-talked about police reforms include having enough number of adequately trained police personnel who are sufficiently equipped to secure the people and property in Nigeria.There is also the funds needed for motivation by way of salaries and allowances as well as for logistics, considering the Nigerian Police is the primary agency with the mandate to ensure internal security of the country.Those clamouring for state police should note that insufficient number of adequately trained and fully equipped state police personnel reminiscent of what currently obtained with Nigerian police would not be the magic wand. Also, multiplication of security outfits in a country as diverse as Nigeria may not cut the Gordian knot of insecurity.
What is your take on arraignment of Senator Ndume for failure to produce Mallam Maina in the court whom he had bailed?
I believe the law is running its course by signaling to all Nigerians that nobody is above the law. We hope no Nigerian would be an exemption, and Senator Abaribe would be required to produce the leader of IPOB, Mr Kanu, whom he has bailed, but has been unable to produce him in the court when required.
What is your view about the hankering for regulation of social media?
Social media has very important roles to play in socio-economic development of societies in that it provides platforms for interactions that can lead to progress from change.This is because it helps humanity overcome distance and time as well as provision of cheap sources of information and distribution.It also has advantage of enabling regular blokes to speak to power. That is why it becomes worrisome when social media promotes fake news and hate speeches that bring about not only loss of credibility on the part of social media platforms, but also bring about violent conflicts. It is against these backdrops that there are clamour for some form of regulation of activities of social media for the benefits of not only the society, but also for the benefits of the social media platform themselves.That is why CEOs of facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter have appeared in American Congress several times for the express purpose of finding how best social media platforms could be managed for performance. After all, there is no social action or system, including family, that is without some form of regulation. That is why some form of regulation of social media media may be very necessary. More so that regulation of social media cannot reasonably be regarded as one and the same thing with banning of social media. But in doing so, the sanctions for infractions should not include capital punishment.
Yes, I have read the concern by some people, especially from the South, who have wondered how the governor would be in possession of gold worth N5 billion which he sold to the CBN, given the constitutional provision that gold is solid mineral in exclusive list. The governor has reportedly replied that the state has bought the gold from illegal miners of gold ostensibly in his state. While the nation notes the negative activities of gunmen which the governor seems to say are encouraged by miners of solid minerals in the state, and how the Federal Government once banned mining in Zamfara State for security reasons, the point being made is that solid minerals are exclusive right of the central government and not state governments which should not encourage illegal mining in their states for whatever reasons. I, therefore, suggest that the Federal Government be more serious in the management of solid minerals by not encouraging illegal mining.This way, the Federal Government would improve its sources of revenues and pay the states with solid mineral what are due and payable to the states, the 13 per cent derivation and help stop calls for resource control. Zamfara State is not expected to encourage bad behaviours by patronizing illegal miners of solid minerals in the state.