Alhaji Buba Galadima is a blunt and unrepentant critic of the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari though he was originally one of the close associates of the president.
In this interview, he gave a bleak prognosis about the dwindling fortunes of the Nigerian economy, saying that the masses may soon begin to pick food from dustbins, if nothing is done to urgently halt the current recession.
Looking at the recent US election and all the scenario that played out, what lesson is there for Nigeria to learn?
I found it disappointing that in America where institutions are well established, one man can hold the entire country down. It took the efforts of the press to force Donald Trump to accept defeat. That is a very bad precedent, especially for Africa and other third world countries. For me, America has lost the moral fabric to talk about democracy. And the danger of it is that some people will always like to point at the disgraceful outing in this 2020 election. Unless they put their acts together and the President-elect himself, Joe Biden, stands up for justice and human rights, the world democracy will go back to square one.
But you still have to give credit to the resilience of their institutions; otherwise, the crisis would have gone out of control. Don’t you think so?
It is not only the resilience of their institutions, but also a situation where people don’t look at party affiliation. For example, much as Trump tried to use the Republican states to subvert the will of the people, the governors and secretaries of the states stood their grounds and refused to subvert the will of the people on the altar of political affiliation. That is very commendable as far as I am concerned, because if it were in Nigeria, the governors would have declared support for the president in the name of party supremacy whether he won or he didn’t win. That is quite commendable and eventually history will judge those guys. It was the behaviour of the Republican in those states that forced Trump to accept defeat.
Coming back to Nigeria, the economy has again entered into another recession with the contraction of the GDP as announced by the National Bureau of Statistics. Do you think the recession could have been averted if the country had a better management team?
You’ve been interviewing me for nearly 10 years if I am correct and there is nothing I have not said about the issues of capacity, management and ineptitude of those running the affairs of our country. I want to tell you again that Nigerians have not seen anything yet from this government. Nigerians may be picking food from dustbin in the nearest future. I am sorry, it is not what I want, but that is what will happen. People will pick from dustbin. Ghana-must-go reincarnate is going to happen in Nigeria. People will carry a bag of naira to the market to buy one cup of rice because there is no manager of the economy and there is nobody supervising officials of government. You hear everyday government borrowing millions of dollars and you will never see where these dollars are going. Currently, people are just looting money and stockpiling it for themselves and their families. I know of a Chief Executive Officer of a parastatal who has over 100 petitions against him. Even his son was arrested in Dubai for ridding a car of more than $150,000. Yet, nobody has investigated him. Even if the man is clean, the mere fact that his son was found with millions of dollars in his account and driving a car of over $150,000 in Dubai is enough for the government to look into his activities. But nobody is monitoring anybody. Nobody is evaluating the work of officials of government. Look at Kano-Abuja road which Babangida built in three years, now we were told it would take eight years just to service the road.
On Monday, November 23, Ahmadu Bello University was invaded by gunmen who abducted a lecturer, his wife and daughter. It took the intervention of security operatives with a serious gun battle to force them to release the wife and the daughter, but still they carried away the man. Is this not a worrisome dimension to the issue of insecurity in the country?
You don’t know what is happening all over the North. If you know, you will shed tears for us. This is where we found ourselves. Earlier before then, Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic on the outskirts of Zaria had been invaded and a lecturer and his family taken away. To crown it all, 12 police officers were kidnapped by the bandits. So, who else is there to fight for you? They will be kidnapping people and the police and soldiers will be looking. Nobody will come to your rescue. But they have enough security men and women to deploy to steal votes from the innocent Nigerians. I have said it time without number that we don’t need police for any election and I still maintain that. It is security forces that fuel electoral violence because they try to be high-handed in support of government. Unless we have electoral reform that allows the people to choose who they want, there will be no peace, there will be no democracy, there will be no progress and there will be no development in this country.
The issue of electoral reform is an evolving thing. And, of course, the National Assembly owes the nation the duty of enacting the necessary laws to achieve credible election. Isn’t it so?
If the National Assembly does not do it, can’t we as citizens come out and demand that the right thing must be done?
You mean by way of protest?
Is it an offence to protest?
As far as this government is concerned, it is an offence because you know what happened recently at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos during the EndSARS protest when unarmed protesters were allegedly shot?
(Cuts in) May God forgive Alhaji Balarabe Musa and Chief Gani Fawehinmi. I hope you know they took the Federal Government to court on this Public Order Act and obtained judgment up to the Court of Appeal and security forces never appealed that judgment. Therefore, there is no law that prevents any citizen from protesting against bad action of government.
You are also aware of the Lekki Tollgate saga in Lagos. Aren’t you?
Don’t worry; just let them leave public office, all those who had a hand in it will cry with tears. I hope the US and UK will make good their words to ban anybody who has a hand in the shooting from travelling into their countries. In addition to that, all their assets should also be frozen and their immediate and extended families denied entry visa. The law is that no soldier should fire any bullet without the express approval of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
What does the youth uprising portend for the nation?
Revolution is inevitable if the government continues in this way.
The Federal Government is negotiating for another loan of $750 million amidst the economic recession. What are your thoughts on this rising debt profile?
Only God will save us. These people have no idea of how to run a modern economy.
But the Minister of Finance has expressed confidence that Nigeria will exit recession by the first quarter of 2021.
(Cuts in) That is what Africans do when they face a situation that is beyond their comprehension. They tell you to pray. So, we are praying to God.
Even though this administration is still a bit far from its midterm, agitation for power shift has already begun. How do you see the quest for power rotation far ahead of the 2023?
Which one is power shift? From who to who?
You know of course that the Southeast is agitating for the position of presidency. Isn’t it important to concede it to them since other zones have had the opportunity to govern the country?
The power shift I am asking for is that somebody should be there after Buhari. It doesn’t matter where he comes from. Whoever he is, let the man be accepted by the whole country. Let it be somebody with large heart, somebody that will recognize the plurality of Nigeria, somebody who has the capacity to tackle the myriad of our problems, somebody who will accommodate the whole Nigerians as his own. That is the power shift I am preaching.
Even at that, will it be out of place to give opportunity to the people who have not had a shot at the highest office of the land?
Who was the head of government in January 1966?
That was the military era.
Who from the Northeast has had a shot? If there is none, then the power should go to the Northeast.
Are you also agitating for power shift to the Northeast?
I am only looking for the best and a situation where votes count.
Why did the PDP insert rotation clause in its constitution in the first place?
That is the PDP and I can’t speak for PDP. You should ask the National Chairman of the PDP or Kola Ologbondiyan.
In spite of the myriad of problems you have spoken about, what is the way to ensuring justice and equity without losing sight of good governance in this country?
The way out is for us to have electoral reform which will allow the votes of the people to count. That is the only panacea for good governance because if the people know that they can be thrown out if they don’t perform, they will sit up.
What is your expectation for the economy in the coming fiscal year?
I say we have not seen anything yet. This government will lead us to a situation where Nigerians will be eating from the dustbin because they have no clue of how to address the issues bordering the economy. This government is behaving as if we are a conquered people. Even slaves have better freedom than we do.
What words then do you have for President Muhammadu Buhari who coincidentally is your former political associate?
He should do well to restore his image before the sun sets. With the way he is going, he may go down in history as the worst president Nigeria has ever produced. There is still time for him to reclaim his image.