Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Against the backdrop of outcry by some Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari should sack the Service Chiefs for their seemingly inability to tackle rising cases of insecurity in the country, the immediate past Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and an elder-statesman, Mr Anthony Sani, has said such outcry is of no effect as Buhari cannot sack them now.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Sani, who was also the spokesman for Northern delegates in the 2014 confab, maintained that as long as Buhari has failed to address the shortcomings and predicaments of the Service Chiefs, he is in a fix to let them go.
He also took a critical look at the killings in Southern Kaduna, suggesting that Buhari should embark on Presidential visit to the region. The former ACF scribe spoke on other national issues. Excerpts:
As a northern elder statesman and immediate past Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), what is your view on the current state of the nation, considering the high level of insecurity in the land?
While I agree that the insecurity posed by insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, clashes between herders and farmers, cultism, ritual killings and raping are not acceptable, and the government and citizens must do everything within their capacity and capability to contain them, I expect the challenges to bring about national grandeur, bring about purposeful leadership and bring about the best in every one against the collective challenges. To that end, it is within the purview of the media to continuously do fact checks for the express purpose of assessing progress needed for informed lines of actions by the government, security agents and by every Nigerian. It is not for some media and leaders to inflame our worst instincts that are fissiparous. Nigerians should, therefore, come together and unleash their synergistic potentials against collective challenges posed by criminals who are not from the moon, but live among us. Containment and mitigation of insecurity should not be left to government and the security agents alone. It is a collective responsibility.
It is against the background of this insecurity that some Nigerians are calling for the sack of the Service Chiefs, saying that they have outlived their usefulness on security issues. Do you support this call?
The inability of the security apparatus to put an end to the insecurity on a permanent basis is responsible for the calls that the Service Chiefs be replaced. But since the president has been a vintage General now in vantage position, I want to believe he is aware of the sand bags on the path for the Service Chiefs by way of enough number of trained and adequately equipped security personnel.That is to say, maybe the president is aware that the issues go beyond mere personal ability and capacity of the individual Service Chiefs. And that is why when the president is hesitant to strident calls for removal of the Service Chiefs, I tend to sympathize with him. And now that the president has come out and publicly made the axiomatic statement to the effect that the best by the Service Chiefs is not good enough as long as the insecurity has not been put astern, and has been meeting more often with them, I hope there will be some changes in strategies in order to inspire hope and confidence in the system.
The ethno-religious conflicts in Southern Kaduna span decades which appear as if there is no hope of end in sight to the killings. What is the way forward?
You are right when you say that the conflicts in Kaduna South span decades and transcend regimes, and is festering. I recall it was so intense during the military regimes and a prominent leader was accused of complicity. And in order to address some of the concerns, General Isa Jafaru gave every ethnic extraction in that senatorial district a chiefdom, while Governor Makarfi decided to address the hue and cry about infrastructure, all in effort to make the people have feeling of belonging and shoo-in.Yet the crises and mistrust have refused to ebb. Perhaps that explains the frustrations of Governor El-Rufai who seems to be saying he would rather concentrate on the struggles against COVID-19 instead of on festering ethno-religious conflicts. The way forward is, therefore, not for the governor to look the other way from the killings, but to do more in order to bring the situations under control. After all, great leaders are never defined by tea party, but by great challenges; and this is precisely because such great men pursue causes higher than themselves as worthy impulse. The people of Kaduna State, especially Kaduna South, should, therefore, note that in mechanism of community living, we have time to stay the course, time to make compromises and there are times to let go for larger, common interests. President Buhari may consider presidential visits to the feuding communities with a view to appealing to them to sheathe their swords and embrace peace which is sine qua non for any socio-economic development. Matter of insecurity cannot be left to the government alone because it is a collective mission. More so for a government that is beset with myriad of challenges amid severe paucity of resources.
The panel of investigation on the acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, has been given deadline by President Buhari to round off sitting and submit report on him. Are you not embarrassed as an elder statesman of this country that a person entrusted with the fight against corruption is himself being found wanting?
I think we need to be fair and objective in our assessment. I used to read allegations in the media that the fight against corruption has been selective because it has been directed at only the opposition. And when some of us pointed out that it was because the opposition ruled for 16 years; and that when the ruling party ruled for some years and allegations are made against some functionaries of government, they would not be spared, we were called names. But now that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice has written a petition against the helmsman of the EFCC, the president cannot be faulted for ordering for a thorough investigations to know the facts lest he be accused of protective of the head of anti-corruption campaigns. More so that Mr President has insisted against the Senate to retain the head of EFCC in acting capacity. I, therefore, do not see the investigations as an embarrassment, since the head is first a human being with all the human frailty before he is head of EFCC. At this point, Nigerians cannot draw conclusions before the panel completes its work and submit its reports which may indict or exonerate the head of EFCC.
President Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, recently kicked against zoning of the presidency in 2023, saying a competent candidate can emerge from any part of the country. He had since come under criticism by many Nigerians. Do you also wish to criticise him?
I do not believe there has been any national consensus on rotation of the president between the North and the South that has been binding on political parties, which places in the order of things in our multi-party democracy is to field candidates for elective positions. As I have said in several media comments on this subject matter, when some people posit that President Buhari is a product of politics of identity symbolized by rotation or zoning of the post of president between the North and the South, I wonder the basis of such assertion. Now some facts of history to put things in correct perspective: the annulment of elections of June 12,1993, made some sections of the country to morally blackmail the nation into conceding the president to the Southwest in 1999. That was why General Olusegun Obasanjo was preferred over Dr Alex Ekwueme during the PDP primaries which took place in Jos; and that also caused Chief Olu Falae to be candidate for APP for the 1999 elections that threw up President Obasanjo.That national consensus was actually brokered by the military which annulled the elections of June 12,1993, in order to make up for the injustice meted to the Southwest by the annulment and following the death of Chief M K O Abiola. In 2003, General Mohammed Buhari from the North contested with President Obasanjo from the South.That could not possibly happen if, indeed, there was national consensus on zoning that was binding on the political parties. In 2007, both candidates General Buhari and Umaru Yar’Adua were from the North. This was precisely because President Obasanjo foisted the later on PDP in the hope of enthroning the politics of rotation between the North and the South. And when President Yar’Adua passed on in 2010 and President Jonathan completed the tenure of their combined ticket in 2011, it was expected that any politics of rotation between the North and the South would persuade President Jonathan from contesting for the president with a northerner, but he contested against Buhari from the North in 2011, and still repeated same in 2015. In 2019, of the over 75 presidential candidates, about 70 of them were southerners and only about six were northerners. If there was any national consensus on politics of identity called rotation of president between the North and the South that was binding on the political parties, such breaches of the letter and spirit of the rotation or zoning would not arise. The foregoings are, therefore, testament to fact of history that President Buhari was not a product of politics of rotation or zoning of the post of president between the North and the South, but more a product of political exigency. Therefore,one would suggest that those who agitate for politics of zoning or rotation of the post of president between the North and South are advised to either bring about national consensus that is binding on the political parties,or they should design their winning game plans and use same to canvass the needed electoral mandate. And in doing so, they should not lose sight of the nature of politics, to wit, that even in Washington, politics goes beyond ideals to include about who gets what, why, where, how and when. It is also about group goal, group interest, group cohesion, group coherence and even group conspiracy. Democracy is a contest of ideas and reasons, and certainly not a bullfight nor affirmative actions dispensed out of pity.
On the contrary, Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-rufai said the 2023 presidency should go to the South, and added that he would not support a northern candidate. What is your reaction on this?
The different positions held by Mamman Daura and Governor El-Rufai on politics of rotation of president between the North and the South are testament to the submission by some people that there is no national consensus on zoning that is binding on political parities.
Also an elder statesman, Buba Galadima had said in an interview that President Buhari may use surrogate as a form of third term in office. Do you agree with him?
Buba Galadima is a seasoned politician who is too intelligent not to know that we are in multi-party democracy that thrives on majority. If President Buhari decides to support an aspirant who prevails in APC and becomes the presidential candidate of the party, and Nigerians vote for such candidate, it is not correct of anybody to submit that it is third term of President Buhari. More so that Nigerians have a choice to accept or reject such a candidate democratically.
Prominent Igbo voices are saying that there will be no Nigeria if Southeast zone is denied presidency in 2023. How worried are you about this statement at a time most Nigerians are preaching one united nation?
I have said it severally that democracy is contest of ideas and reasons, and not a bullfight through threats, intimidation. In a multiparty democracy, it is the people who have the final say. What the Igbo should do is to design a winning game plan on pan-Nigeria platform and canvass the needed electoral mandate.