Okwe Obi , Abuja
National Chairman, Action Democratic Party (ADP), Yabaji Sani, in this interview, urged the leadership of All Progressives Congress (APC) to be magnanimous in victory by allowing other political parties to occupy some positions in the National Assembly. Sani, who was also the presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 presidential election, disclosed why his party did not challenge the outcome of the presidential election.
Now that the election has panned out in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, what would be your advice for him?
My advice is for President Buhari to leave a good legacy that his family and friends will be proud of, given the fact that the constitution will not allow him to contest again by the time he completes his second term. To do that, he must ensure that the most important piece of legislation that will position this country to catch up with other countries that have left us behind in terms of development is to sign into law the Electoral Bill as amended in the 2011 Electoral Act. The reason being that leadership is key to the development of every nation and the process of development of every nation is also fundamental for you to be able to have leaders that will have the fear of God and be accountable to the electorate and not to some group of people that will select whoever they want which is the practice of what we have today.
People who have money and the machinery of government use it to their advantage and to the detriment of the country. He should look at the law and make it even more watertight in terms of stamping out anything that suggests rigging. He cannot do everything that is 100 percent perfect, but he can try as much as possible to make it near perfection. That is the only legacy he can leave behind for generations yet unborn. Also, I would like him not to pretend that he does not know the issue of cabal; he has to take ownership of this administration and by extension, leadership of the country. He has to reach out to people who understand governance, because nobody is a reservoir of knowledge. The only thing that brings us together as Nigerians is the fact that we are gifted differently. He should take advantage of the fact that Nigerians are so blessed and exposed. He should create cycle of experts, outside the government to always advice him. If you have an informal structure you are somehow insulated from the vagaries of corruption.
Speaking about surrounding himself with experts, are you suggesting that his ministers are not experts, or is it that you are not just comfortable with them?
No, I am not comfortable with them. One thing that I want you to agree with me is that President Buhari has refused to challenge his ministers. They do not have targets. If you do not have target, especially performance indicators, you are not challenged. They are not there because they are supposed to be there, they are there because they are supposed to be working for Nigerians. Even if it means them signing some kind of contracts between him and them on performance and those who fail to meet up are changed with somebody from the same constituency that will be better. Nigeria is not in short supply of intelligent and brilliant people. He should implement what he said on having an inclusive government given his emergence because some of us did not go to court because we want peace to reign in the nation. So I think it is incumbent on Mr. President and for the sake of having a stable government, to have an all-inclusive government.
Also, he should take a very critical look at the most important sector of the economy which is the oil and gas sector. There is endemic corruption going on there. He must reach out and stop certain practices.
Are you saying that your party is not comfortable with Atiku Abubakar going to court?
No. The court is there for everyone. It is the prerogative of every Nigerian who feels that he or she has not been treated fairly to go to court to seek redress. The election is not totally acceptable due to the way it went. If you look at the bigger picture of the country, you will ask yourself what is four years in the future of the country. But that does not mean that we should not make corrections. The judgement may not give room for the cancellation of the elections but it might lead to certain observations which mean that in future exercises, those observations will be taking into consideration. I am in total support.
The battle for the leadership of the 9th Senate is generating ripples. Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole reportedly said that the party will not share positions with other opposition parties because they form the majority. What is your take?
I do not think that he (Oshiomhole) is being nationalistic because the Senate is not meant for the APC. On the contrary, the Senate belongs to Nigerians. And if sharing the positions will engenders peace and foster democracy, why not? So, I do not buy his idea of not sharing positions with the oppositions. What is important is for them to fast track the development of the country.
You emerged as the presidential candidate of your party while you retained the chairmanship position. Why didn’t you resign to give way for another person to takeover, or was there no other person to step in as chairman?
As at the time it happened we had no choice but to do what we did. We took advantage of the fact that our constitution allows it. When you look at the circumstances around it we did not want to create unnecessary crisis. Because when you introduce the issue of who becomes what, that brings in another problem capable of distracting us even in the issue of pursuing the elections. That is why we decided to go by the provisions of the constitution which allows it and to avert crisis. We are not that strong as a party in terms of structure; we are new and any distractions could affect us.
Do you see anything wrong with militarisation of the polls?
Yes. I blame Mr. President for military involvement. I think that he should have been worried of the negative impact that it might have. Because when you bring the military into politics, it affects the professionalism of the process. So, being a former military officer and head of state, he should have known that it won’t augur well for the military as an institution. We frown at it. It is unfortunate that it happened. But I think that out of desperation or whatever APC government brought in the military in the crudest way and people were unfortunately being intimidated and killed. It should have been shielded. The military have no business with our elections. The excuse of them drafted to maintain law and order is not cogent because we have the Police and the elections were civil exercises. It ended up heightening the whole process.
Earlier, you said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is fraught with corruption, and since the president is also the minister of Petroleum, are you suggesting that he should step aside so that the sector can be investigated?
Of course! If you involve yourself in the day-to-day management of any process, it denies you the opportunity of seeing the true picture of what is happening because you are part and parcel of the process. As a president, it was not intended for him to micromanage any sector of the economy. It is intended for him to micro-supervise certain sectors of the economy. He should employ those who have the expertise to manage the affairs and develop policies for his approval. By so doing, he will now be able to see the true picture of things. For instance, if the National Assembly invites the minister of Petroleum to give account of his stewardship, the only person that will go is either the minister of state for Petroleum or the Group Managing Director which ought not to be so because there are certain issues the National Assembly would love to raise, and interacting directly with the minister himself, will serve the purpose better. Also, there are certain things that would happen and because you are there, you will not be able to take certain decisions. Therefore, he should allow experts to run the place because by their callings they will do better.
You talked about your party lacking structure, what should Nigerians expect now that the elections are over?
We are the future of Nigeria that is why we say that we are the credible alternative. Very soon, our party will become the beautiful bride in 2023. The APC and PDP have equal strength to a very large extent. You now have a situation where both of them will be fielding their candidates from the South; we will be the beautiful bride that will add our strength to any of them before they can win the elections. So, we are preparing to become a very strong party that Nigerians will love. You saw how Nigerians lamented that they needed something different. Because we did not have a level playing field, Nigerians were literally compelled to choose between the two. Had it been that the electoral law was signed and you had a situation that allowed people to freely exercise their franchise, parties like ours would have been a very good choice for Nigerians. We put up a good show in terms of profile, going by the kind of resources that we have.