A Kaduna-based All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and founder of a group called Disciples of Jagaban (DOJ), Abdulhakeem Adegoke Alawuje has asked his party to avoid repeating what he tagged the People’s Democratic Party’s “costly mistake” on the issue of political zoning in 2011. The retired military officer who spoke on many burning issues including insecurity, proffered some solutions, which he believed would help to stem the rising tides of evil in the nation on many fronts if implemented. In this interview with NOAH EBIJE, he said it would amount to committing political suicide if APC fails to zone the 2023 presidency to South West.
As a retired military officer, and now a political chieftain, how have you been coping with the transition from the army barracks’ mentality of ‘obedience-before-complaint’ to following due processes in politics or democracy?
The military command-and-control mentality that you talked about will always be part of me. I am learning to be democratic but, at the same time, firm in all affairs. Actually, military training and democracy have many things in common. For instance, the military discipline requires one to be 100 per cent loyal to the rules of the Army and one’s superior officers. It is the same thing in politics. You need to obey your political leader and be loyal to him 100, not 99.9 per cent. It is better you don’t have a leader than to have one and disobey him or her. Your leader sees and knows better than you do.
How would you assess our journey into democracy so far?
When we talk about democracy, the present administration has done excellently well with the system of democracy. Although they have not been able to satisfy Nigerians’ wants 100 per cent, Nigerians do acknowledge the impact of democracy in this dispensation than they did with previous governments. The achievements of this government are evident, especially in the areas of infrastructure, social intervention programmes, agricultural revolution and economic diversification. For instance, we have seen financial autonomy of local governments, the judiciary and the legislature, both at the national and state levels. Of course, it is still struggling to fix the security problem but the security situation, particularly with regards to Boko Haram insurgency has improved compared to what it was in 2015 when it took over power. We all know that the government is trying to reset the structures of the system of the country, but in doing so, we must necessarily experience some difficulties to get things done.
As a former military officer, what would you recommend as solution to the banditry, kidnapping activities, and general insecurity going on in Nigeria?
There should be economic stability and social transformation. If we succeed in these areas, criminality will be gradually reduced to the barest minimum. In most parts of the world, once there is hardship, criminality grows with it.
There are several agitations for power shift to the South, but the North is insisting on retaining power in 2023. In your own opinion, where should the presidency go?
Don’t forget that there are other political parties in the North. Just like other socio-cultural or socio-political groups, whenever any group of people claim to be representing the North, the first thing to find out is: are they really representing the interest of the entire North? Nonetheless, I can only speak for APC. Within APC, we know that power is shifting to the South. Then comes the next question: which part of the South? Undoubtedly, everybody knows that South West is the zone with the strongest political support for APC in the South. It’s now left to the party to either take the right decision or commit political suicide, or engage in political gambling.
Other political camps noted that since 1999 when Nigeria went back to democracy, the North has ruled for only 10 years, that is, Umar Musa Yar’Adua ruled for two years, and Muhammadu Buhari would have ruled for eight by May 29, 2023. But the South has ruled for 14 years, that is, from Obasanjo who ruled for eight to Jonathan who did for six. Do you think that this is good enough reason for the North to want to hold on to power?
Before we consider the ethnicity aspect of the Issue, it’s better to first consider its political aspect. First, APC took over the rein of power from PDP because of their impunity and mismanagement of the zoning system. So APC cannot afford to make the same mistake or commit the same error. The North has had eight years, so it is only logical, egalitarian and just to let power shift to the South. Secondly, considering or favouring South-West is beyond zoning; it is about combining zoning with competence as well as the capacity to deliver and consolidate on the humble achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari. Again, we should remember APC just started the arrangement of North and South; other parties are just trying to display their political reengineering regarding zoning arrangement. We are less concerned about PDP. As far as APC is concerned, the North will finish its eight years by 2023 and the South will take over.
What is your reaction on the zoning of PDP national chairmanship to the South?
I don’t have the time to think of PDP zoning. I don’t have much to say about that. To me, PDP is merely engaging in a child’s play. That is why they are throwing open their presidency: they want to prove to Nigerians that they are democratic, but they already know where their president will come from. For, instance, during their National Convention, how many Southerners signified their intentions to contest?
Former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, spoke in Kaduna recently, saying Nigerians are trapped in a net of bad governance and insecurity. Is he far from the truth?
Atiku knows what he is saying. I love that language, that Nigeria is trapped. Trapped by whom? Will any government in power decide to entrap itself? We already know the game of the opposition. They know they have nothing with which to convince Nigerians to vote for them and return them to power, what with all the past mis-governance and corruption? They simply believe the best way to send the ruling party out is to do everything to discredit it. That is why they are politicising insecurity. We all know how much fight this government is giving to insecurity. Secondly, on the issue of bad governance, if I may ask, who is the initiator of bad governance, by which regime? You know it’s easy to destroy things, but it takes time to begin to see the impact of the destruction. Today, Nigerians have just started seeing the impact of the atrocities initiated by the past government.
Do you believe that by 2023 elections results should be transmitted electronically?
Of course! Why not? That is what our representatives eventually agreed upon after series consultations. I believe that every Nigerian has a representative at the National Assembly. As a Nigerian citizen, I believe in whatever the lawmakers eventually agreed upon.
How do you see the crop of Nigerian political leaders of today, and that of the past?
Nigerians should stop unnecessary comparison between past and current leaders. It is high time we encouraged our present leaders, and stop making unparalleled comparisons between them and our past leaders. The previous ones have gone with their glorious time. Leaders like Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Ladoke Akintola, Alhaji Aminu Kano, etc, must all be commended. They were all great leaders. But we should rebuild our hope of having a leader of our time that shall attain great achievements more than their predecessors. Inasmuch as we need to appreciate our past leaders, we must also acknowledge the present ones. Every generation has its leaders. For instance, in the South-West, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Chief Ladoke Akintola were the leaders in the First Republic, Chief Awolowo was the indisputable leader in the Second Republic. Chief MKO Abiola was the rallying point in the Third Republic. Indomitable Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu remains Nigeria’s political leader and the rallying point in the Fourth Republic. Let’s therefore join hands to politically elevate him beyond the attainment of our past leaders. When we eventually do, we would have successfully liberated our land and our race for good.
What is your advice to Nigerians on the need for peaceful co-existence?
I plead with all Nigerians to start seeing themselves as a single nation, without discriminating against one another. Love, unity, peace and harmony should be our watchwords. In peace, we will achieve many things. Patience does it all. We can only make progress when there is peace. Everybody cannot be leaders at the same time, just like every region cannot produce the president at the same time, but with patience and peace-building, what we perceive as insufficient will eventually go round.