National Chairman of the newly formed mega party, Advanced Democratic Party (ADP) Alhaji Yagbaji Sani, is talking tough. He is of the opinion that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cannot lead Nigeria to the desired destination. In fact Sani, in this interview with IHEANACHO NWOSU, branded the APC a party of vengeance. He spoke on other issues including the shape 2019 may take.
The American embassy paid your party executive a visit, which for some, was considered a bit unusual. What prompted such meeting? Was it at your own instance?
No, not at all. It was not at our instance, but I believe that the American government is a very active government and they are just being proactive, I am sure. They are seeing the deterioration going on in the major political organizations that we have in this country and then looking ahead, the possible scenario that will emerge and how they believe they should engage in the emerging political scenario in the country. I think that is why they decided on their own to visit us, because they look at the whole political space and assess each political organization. Today, I think they came to the conclusion that ADP has all it takes both in terms of the makeup and in terms of what we have done so far, by way of reaching out to the grassroots and the wide acceptance that ADP has received across the country. So, I believe that they are just trying to be proactive to ensure that they are at the starting block of the unfolding scenario, which I believe will lead to a new party. That is ADP, the mega party taking over power in 2019. For those with discerning look and observation, this is not something that is hidden; it is obvious.
What was the meeting centered on?
The meeting was centered on what is the thrust of our manifesto. Is it capitalist oriented or is it going to be a welfare kind of economic programme that we are going to have? They wanted to know how we are going to impact on Nigerians and how we are really going to play in the global economic system because Nigeria like they say, is very important to them and they want to be sure that what will emerge at the end of the day is something that will move the country to the next level in terms of the economic advancement and the impact on lives of the people. They wanted to know how our constitution is structured, what kind of party are we bringing and how we can collaborate to help sustain democratic system in Nigeria and of course underscoring the fact that America has been practicing democracy for more than 200 years now. So, you can of course take it from them that they should have the kind of experience that you can learn from and to stabilize our democratic system.
Was that the first meeting that the party held with a country, an embassy or an international body since the formation and registration started?
Yes, it is the first meeting we are having with a foreign body here, but they are not the first people to really talk to us. Those who consider Nigeria as an important economic system and also geopolitical system talk to us. Other countries have also made contact with the leadership, wanting to know what we are doing. But it’s not as engaging as that of the United States of America. So theirs came in a very different way and we believe that they are watching with close attention as this will lead to the political development of this country.
How has the ADP taken advantage of the current crisis in PDP? Are u people benefiting from that?
Yes, we are. You will be surprised the calibre of people that are calling us, that we are talking to both in government and those who are outside government, at the national, at the state and at other lower levels. Believe me, it’s a kind of a party shift that we are going to have and its going to be a pleasant surprise in the sense that for the first time in this country, we are going to put in place a political organization as an institution that will be self sustaining and it will guarantee continuity in the country in terms of upholding democracy, ensuring that there’s no impunity and giving the people the actual power which will come from the people. So, we believe that with the experience that we have had so far and the way to put together our constitution, it’s going to give this country hope and it’s going to confirm to us that really it is not that we lack the ability, it is just that the environment and the instruments to implement political development have not been there and even if it was there, it was weak or wasn’t adhered to. We have now learnt our lessons as a nation that if a big political organization like PDP can just crumble as we are seeing it now, then that tells you that it is not so much the size or the amount of time you spent in power really, but it is more of how you guarantee continuity, discipline and how you guarantee that people are given their rights under the democratic disposition which we are supposed to have. You see, these things were not given due consideration or we are not taking seriously the experience that we have had. APC as you know is a collection of strange fellows that had a marriage of convenience for the purpose of grabbing power and grabbing power for what purpose? They did not think about what they were taking the power for, and why they were taking power. Are we even engaged ourselves? Are we united? Do we really have the kind of focus? How much are we coming to depolarize the political environment, which it has been? What we have seen happening is depolarisation of the political regions because what APC has done instead of amplifying those things that unite us, they are just amplifying those things that divide us and that’s why we have time for distractions that should not be coming in this country.
When we talk about the condition of APC, which you have talked about, would you say that is responsible for what many people now say that this administration is not delivering on its promises?
In fact, the association is like an emergency kind of. It is a government of emergency, built on conspiracy against each other. So when you have a government of emergency built on conspiracy, then what do you have? Retrogression, you have social disintegration, political alignment and this is what is happening. This is why you have every arm of the government against each other. It’s like a house fighting against each other. You look at the Judiciary, the National Assembly and the Executive. Even within the Executive, they are all fighting each other. So I wonder how you can deliver when the whole system/segments are not in unison. There’s no harmony, no leadership. Despite that the constitution gives each arm of government independence to an extent, it is expected that you work in harmony and unison to achieve one goal. But here you have the three arms completely at war with each other. So, this is why APC can never stand the test of time. It’s not meant to stand the time. It’s not meant to succeed. It’s a conspiracy against the people of this country that you have together. It’s not a government that has come to really deliver anything. There is nothing they can even deliver. The only thing they have is that you have this assembly, they have their own programme, the executive has its own programme, the judiciary has its own programme and they are never together. They are fighting each other. A government that is formed on that foundation is a stillborn baby.
Are you saying that the party did not prepare itself or does not have good programmes for Nigeria?
The party came on vengeance. It’s like a vengeance kind of organization that came together to fight perceived enemies. So, yes the former government was not performing, not responsive to the needs of the people, was disorganized also. But you have a worst-case scenario here where you have people coming on vengeance that you bring up charges that this one is corrupt, that one is corrupt. The system is not about personality. You do not make things personal. You look at the components of the government. For instance, look at regulatory agencies and see how to tighten the screws. How do I block those leakages? How do I make it difficult for you to now defraud the system? It’s not you chasing that man who has stolen, has gotten away with the money and you want to recover it whereas, you are chasing one man and one thousand and one people are busy taking advantage of what is happening.
Are you suggesting that those who stole should not be made to account for what they stole?
There is no country that ever does that. No government ever does that. If you look at our institutions, they already have the laws that on their own, Mr. President does not even have to interfere in what they are doing beyond getting the normal daily briefing that you get as the President. You do not have to be the champion of that kind of thing, No. There is no society that does not have corruption, but they fight it in the most intelligent way that they do not have to get in their way to see the bigger picture. The future is bigger than today. So, you do not allow these ones to get in your way before you even have the time to do the right things for the people. So, what I am saying is that there must be corruption and you must fight corruption, but you have to do it in a way that you do not allow corruption to fight you to a standstill. When you deploy all your energies to fighting corruption, which is just one aspect of government, it’s wrong. It’s not everything about the government. There was a time when we said we will pay all our debts. Did that solve our problem? No, it did not solve our problem, which means government is not supposed to be a one track minded organization. It’s supposed to be a multi-tasking organization.
Would you predict very safely that if APC continues the way it is going, it might even be worse than the PDP at the end of the day?
Certainly, it’s going to be worse because PDP eventhough I am saying that there was disconnect between that government and the people of Nigeria, but even at that, you had a system that was working in the case of growing the economy. The economy was performing. I said disconnect, but they were performing. Hunger was not as rampant as we have today. The systems were not fighting themselves the manner you have it today. Corruption was there. I am not saying there is no corruption, but you had at least a system that was performing in terms of the economic improvement by way of internationally recognized yardstick that you can use to measure. To that extent, regardless of what you may say is responsible for that, today everything is disgraceful. That we are in a recession is because you have a completely wrong approach to running the economy. It’s like you have a patient in the hospital who is short of blood and you come to take blood again instead of giving the patient the blood. Of course, you have to give the patient blood, if not, the patient will die. So, that is what we have in this economy. The economy needs you to pump money into it to reflate it. We have a situation where you are just piling up money and taking away from the economy. What do you want to do? Kill the economy? This is the situation we are going into.
The government has also started the process of economic recovery that will soon get Nigeria out of recession. From the picture you have seen so far and being an economic expert, don’t you see it that way?
You know there are certain fundamentals that we need to address. It is not this fire fighting kind of thing. What I told you about the problem with this government is the makeup of the government itself. You see, you cannot have recovery in the environment that is against itself. You will need to do more than what the administration is doing now before you can get the confidence of the investors. You can get the confidence of an average investor in Nigeria to believe in the system and to begin to spend. This is because in the economy that does not spend, no matter how much government is pumping in will disappear and people will not have confidence unless you have to bring in the confidence of the people to begin to spend their money so that you can develop the economy. Government alone cannot do it. So, how do you bring in this confidence back is the question that the government has to address. You do not have a situation where people are stifled. So, if you close down all economic activities, how can you get out of recession? Let us spend our money. Let us bring out our savings. Let the international community really start bringing money to invest in this economy. You have to go beyond that and how do you do that? You have to build the confidence of the people. They say dollar is recovering, but at what rate? The question you should ask yourself is for how long can government really keep supporting the dollar? How much is this reserve? Is it increasing at the rate that we are trying to support the naira? So, the fundamentals are there which we have to address. We must accept the fact that we have to devalue naira to the extent that the international community will have confidence. They know that when you say you pump millions of dollars, they know that you have a limit to how much you can go and at that rate, you will probably be worse off. So, certain painful economic decisions have to be taken. When we inflict ourselves, some are necessary economic harm that should not have been there. Take for instance, the case of Niger Delta. Niger Delta issue is not just a regional issue, it’s a Nigerian issue. It’s our economic issue. It’s the fundamental aspect of how we really survive as a nation. Take it or leave it, that is our take for now. We have not been able to develop other sectors of the economy, bring in the kind of revenue and income that you need to run this economy. So, unless we go back and really build the confidence, nothing will change. We have to engage the Niger Delta people to have confidence in this country and bring back their confidence by not making them think that we will wake up one day and deploy the military to go and fight them and start killing the few people that they have. So, this is what I am saying that beyond what is happening, we must raise the fundamentals and this APC government we have is not properly suited for that kind of political, social and economic situation.
But chairman, your party has been discussing with some people. Up till now, Nigerians really want to know who are really these people or are you people just saying all these things to make yourselves happy?
Look at even APC, as ragged-packed as it is, it took them until close to the elections that you began to see the faces of the governors who were leaving the PDP for the new party and all that. So, it does not just happen like that for some reasons. You do not expect some infant groups to just carelessly declare. It’s not even necessary for some reasons like strategic planning and things like that because it’s like when you are playing soccer, there are some best players who are reserved for strategic reasons. When it’s time for them to come in and then strike and give you the goals you want, you do that. You can liken it to that. We have people, believe me. I mean people at the highest level that this government probably will be surprised that are with us and then for a good reason. This is because they too know that this is not something that can stand the test of time and even the pronouncement of the stakeholders. We can say that they represent intense groups that formed APC itself. Recently, you can know that things were not alright and that the cookie is already crumbling. Politicians are smart and know what they are doing, but you do not expect some masquerades like you call them to come out now. No, the big masquerades do not appear just like that. It’s at the end of the show that we see the big ones coming out. But I can assure you that you should believe me that the biggest names that you think in this country are politically occupying the highest positions in this country, at the state and federal levels, are talking to us in a very serious manner because they know that this one cannot stand the test of time. It’s not it yet. This is what we are having here.
Finally, you tend to have dismissed all these agitations for the restructuring of Nigeria. Is it that ADP does not believe in the call for restructuring or the way it is being presented?
You see, we look at Nigeria as a nation and we look at the experience we have had so far and till the coming on board of the APC government, it is not so much the issue of the restructuring in the manner that people are looking at it. We believe that the structure we are talking about is economic restructuring. This is because what matters to you is what concerns everyone, whether you are an Igbo man or Hausa man or Yoruba man or Nupe man or whatever tribe you are. The challenges are how am I going to be able to live fairly well with my salary? Am I getting the dividends of democracy like we talked about? This economic recession that we are talking about, does it affect us across the country and does it discriminate whether you are a Yoruba man or Hausa man or Igbo man or Edo man or whatever it is you want to call yourself. What is the issue? Have we organized our economic system? How have we organized our deliverables? How is it getting to an average Nigerian? Is an average Nigerian happy? Look at countries like Sweden and other countries and how they are able to fully distribute wealth when you have low rate of influence and a high level of affluence in the society. Nigeria can organize the economy because we have all it requires to be a model for other developing societies. Do u know why I said so? God has so blessed us in this country and believe me that there are some countries that do not have the natural resources that we have, but are making it. Look at Singapore. What do they have in terms of natural resources? What does Britain for instance have in terms of natural resources and we have them in this country.
We look at every place in this country. We have oil and gas, agriculture, good weather, skilled labour, people that can really work in this country with energy. If they are given the opportunity to come to government, believe me, you will forget that you are a Yoruba man or a Hausa man. What is important to us as a country and as a nation is to organize our economic and wealth distribution system in such a way that people will feel that you are part and parcel of this and that you are a stakeholder and what should come to you is coming to you.
Looking at the states for instance. If the states in this country are allowed to produce, allowed to take proper exploration of what God has given to us, believe me, it will add a lot to the centre. That is what we need to do and it does not take much. What does it take? You are not going to invent it, the resources we are talking about are there under the ground, not that you are going to start trying to see how are we are going to manufacture or how do we make you to be self sustaining? It’s already there and all we need is to organize people, give the right people the chance, recruit your leadership in a proper way so that those who will emerge as the leaders are those that can really turn things around for us in this country. To have this big union that we have, is an advantage which we would not want to lose because if Europeans are trying to come back to assert themselves in the global economic holder as United States is doing, so why should we? If we are not talking about the ECOWAS to become a more vibrant union and why should we as a nation be thinking of disintegrating? Something is wrong somewhere. All we need to do is to go back to the drawing board and see how we can make each unit to be self-sustaining. That is all that we need to talk about and that is what we should do as a nation. In the global economy, we will have respect. We will be able to assert ourselves. We will be able to get certain things to ourselves. When it comes to trade, when it comes to security, when it comes to political issues, Nigeria should be given that respect which God has given to us.
Can you truly win Niger state as it is today if election is conducted?
Believe me, we can. And if you go to every other state, believe me there is a formula that you can use and you will win.
You already have structures in states?
We have structures in states. We have up to the ward level that have been formed already. Had it been you are on our WhatsApp page, you would be able to see the kind of thing happening. People are already having structures, units and up to the polling unit. We have structures already there. We are taking full advantage of what is happening in those parties, APC and PDP. So people are yelling, people are anxious because they know that it’s not that we are wanting in ability to manage our affairs.