Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a socio-cultural mouthpiece of the North, Mr Anthony Sani, has faulted allegation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria is being fulanised and Islamized based on the upsurge in insecurity and wanton killings in the country.
In this interview, Sani said that Obasanjo got it wrong on the allegation, and called on the elder statesman to prove his points. The ACF scribe also spoke about security challenges in the country, saying that the Federal Government is doing a good job to ensure security of lives and property of the citizens. This is even as he advised President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that competent brains make up his ministerial appointment. Excerpts:
How would rate President Muhammadu Buhari’s swearing in ceremony on May 29 without him making a speech?
You would recall President Buhari had said because of the shift of Democracy Day from 29th May 2019 to June 12, 2019 and the constitutional requirement that his tenure ended on the 29th May, 2019, the inauguration would be effected, but in low key without speech and ceremony which have been shifted to June 12, 2019. I, therefore, do not understand why the controversies about the inaugural speech and ceremony. I believe Mr President will deliver on his promise for a speech during the Democracy Day on 12th June, 2019. I, therefore, plead with Nigerians to exercise patience and wait for the inaugural speech and the ceremony on the Democracy Day.
Some Nigerians are saying that Buhari’s choice of ministers will either make or mar his second term in office, what is your advice to the president?
President Buhari is very much aware of the fact that purposeful leadership is determined by the quality of the subordinates.This is because a leader impels progress by multiplying his strength through others; and that motivation is the instrument while social skill is the requirement. Mr President also knows that no country has enough resources to satisfy all the citizens. And that is why there is governance which is an art of balancing competing demands among the constituent parts and among socio-economic sectors.It is against such backdrop that the president has pledged to run an inclusive governance in order to inspire sense of participation needed for national solidarity and unity. It is against that background that we expect the selection of his ministers to be people who are not only politically minded but also technocrats for the purpose of delivering on the promise of democracy.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has accused the Federal Government of fulanisation and islamisation of the country, what is your reaction to this?
Point of correction, the former president said ISWAP’s aim is fulanization of Nigeria and West Africa. Former President Obasanjo also accused the current regime of paying ransom for the release of Chibok girls and Dapchi girls as against nipping the abductions in the bud. But I am not sure if President Obasanjo has got his facts right.This is because Boko Haram which faction has joined IS to be ISWAP comprises mostly of Kanuri people of Borno Empire that has never been in any form of alliance with the Sokoto Caliphate that has been spawned by the Fulanis.It is, therefore, unthinking of anybody to imagine that the Kanuri people would toil day and night by risking their lives in order to bring about fulanization.Certainly not. Somehow, I am of the view that the upsurge in banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and even the clashes between herdsmen and farmers are inspired by economic consideration and by criminal elements than anything else. Moreso that Northwest which is predominantly Fulani Muslims cannot be expected to fulanize Fulanis. And that is why it is not apposite to give the insecurity across the country any ethnic or religious coloration lest we give criminals platform upon which to shield themselves and commit more crimes, knowing it is impossible to prosecute ethnicity and religion.Our statesmen and leaders should not allow their frustrations that come with inability to realize their aspirations to make them promote cleavages of the nation along ethnic and religious lines. Yes, it would have been a beautiful strategy to nib the abductions of Chibok girls and Dapchi girls from the bud instead of paying ransom in order to secure their releases,considering payment of ransom amounts to rewarding bad behaviours, Danegeld you might say. I do not know the facts as to whether the Federal Government paid the alleged ransoms or not.And if any ransoms were paid for the releases of the girls,I cannot see any cavil with the significance of such payments.This is because no nation can afford to ignore its abducted citizens and expect to command loyalty and patriotism among the citizenry. That may explain why Israelis government had to release about 1,000 Hamas in exchange for release of one Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas. That happened in 2006. In 2014, President Obama ordered for the release of five Taliban from Guantanamo in exchange for one American soldier held captive by the Taliban. Such actions by nations are to inspire sense of national solidarity that come with patriotism. As to the need to nib challenges from the bud, it may be necessary to remind the former President that when Governor Sani Yarima of Zamfara State introduced Sharia outside the manifesto of his APP and people cried foul, President Obasanjo did nothing, and instead was curt and dismissive of the hue and cry on grounds that the Sharia was “political Sharia” that would “fizzle out”. And instead of fizzling out ,the Sharia spread like wild fire among 12 of the northern states and served as launching pad for the emergence of Boko Haram.The rest they say is history. There is nothing exotic or quixotic about the charge of Islamization of Africa by the terrorists as espoused by Al Qaeda. You would recall when Osama Bin Laden was alive, he used jihad as strategy in order to recruit the gullible cannon fodders to fight his cause. He even boasted that he had the most decentralized organization, and if he died he would leave behind thousands of Osama Bin Laden to manage the outfits that we now know as Taliban in Afghanistan, Al-Shaban in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, ISIS in Iraq and Syria and ISWAP in West Africa. And when President Obama observed all these groups were not pious, but merely using Islam for strategic purposes in order to promote their political agenda-going by the level of desecration of Islam by the Islamic sects – he delivered a speech to Arabs in Egypt where he made a clear distinction between Islam and the terrorism that is cast in the mould of jihad.That speech earned President Obama Nobel Prize and enabled him to enlist the support of moderate Muslims in the fight against the terrorists as symbolized by the coalition of 66 countries of all faiths that saw to the evisceration of ISIS. If President Obama has given the activists of the so-called jihadis Islamic coloration, he would not be able to assemble the coalition against the ISIS. In the same way, I would advise former President Obasanjo not to give the sects Islamic coloration lest such posturing offend the sensitivity of moderate Muslims who are in the majority and opposed to the activities of the fanatics, if I can use such a word.The world needs the moderate Muslims who are the majority in the fight against the terrorists who attire themselves in the garb of jihads.Giving religious coloration to activities of the sects amounts to playing to the gallery. And that is what the terrorists want.
Kidnapping has worsened insecurity in the country. What is the way out?
Kidnapping and banditry have surged after elections.The way out is for the government to declare war against such insecurity by developing common and national narratives against them. A situation where some sections gloat during bad moments of the military and police should be discouraged lest our security be demoralized. Also, there is need for sufficient number of trained police and the soldiers who should also be adequately equipped for such camapaigns.Which means fight against such insecurity must be priority because without security, there can be no socio-economic development.
The other time you said it was too early to discuss 2023 presidential election. But some sections of the country, particularly the eastern zone, said it must be their turn. Do you agree with them?
I still maintain that it is too early for anybody to discuss politics of 2023.This is because we are in democracy which is a contest of ideas and reasons. President Abraham Lincoln once said politicians use their judgment and campaign for what they consider as the best for the country, and when the outcomes of their elections are announced, the people come together and support the government until after the next rounds of elections when they go back to the trenches. Furthermore, we are in a multi-party democracy which allows political parties to develop their own independent winning game plans. When the time comes, it will be the prerogative of the political parties to decide whether fielding a person from the Southeast can be the party’s winning game plan.
The ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC), appears to be deep in intra-party crisis over its chairmanship leadership. Don’t you think this will affect Buhari’s performance, and perhaps, disintegration of the party?
No,no.The party cannot be in deep crisis simply because some members are calling for his resignation. Such challenges are natural concomitant of political parties and by themselves do not constitute deep crisis.I believe the ruling part should have its mechanism for resolving its internal crises.
Will North ever allow political power to slip off its hands, putting 2023 general election into consideration?
When you ask if the North will ever allow power to shift, it at once convey an impression that we are no more in a democracy.This is very wrong and should not be fanned by the media which are expected to promote democracy based on real issues of real concerns to real ordinary Nigerians. And if you remember Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan were southerners, then one begins to wonder the basis of such questions aimed at promotion of politics of identity.
What is your take on the controversies trailing the judgement by the Supreme Court that voided the victory by APC in Zamfara state?
I am not a lawyer, but I know democracy is majority rule and sovereignty lies with the people.The electoral mandate was given to the APC by majority of the people in Zamfara State as a result of an earlier judgement by lower court that the APC could present candidates. And if we recall the Supreme Court has ever given a judgement in the case of Amaechi vs Omehia that electoral mandates are given to the political parties and not to individual candidates who merely hold the mandate in trust – which accounted for Amaechi being sworn in without standing for the elections, it follows that the mandate in Zamfara State was given to APC. And if the party primaries were judged to be irregular due to some poor management by some APC officials, the party primaries should be voided and fresh ones ordered in order for the correct party flag bearers to emerge.That way, internal democracy in political parties would still be promoted without having to punish the majority of people of Zamfara State by voiding their preference.
There are controversies surrounding the practices where ex-governors who are either in the Senate or in the cabinet, collect double salaries and allowances for the two offices.What do you have to say about that?
This issue has been on for quite some time now but no political will to address it. One of my professional colleagues by name Hajiya Fatima Aliyu Kyari called me recently and said the issue goes beyond ex-governors who are senators or ministers, but includes the jumbo pay and allowances paid all the political officers. I share her view that in Nigeria of today, politics seems to be the only industry in town precisely because no group of Nigerians is more cocooned from the hostile economic environment, is more protected from the consequences of its own actions and is more compensated for its inadequacies than the public officers. It is morally preposterous for public officers to enjoy standard of life much over and above those enjoyed by the people they represent and profess to serve.There is, therefore, the need for the governments to locate the courage of their conviction and do the needful by ensuring that the citizens pay for only services which the public officers render.This is because the current jumbo pay and allowances, including the double ones to ex-governors who are senators and ministers are creating unbridled inequality that can engender instability besides the fact that such money of low utility can drive away money of high utility in the economy.