Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a socio-cultural mouthpiece of the north, Mr. Anthony Sani has said that it is too early for the region to say it will produce candidate for the 2023 presidential election or not. In this interview with our correspondent, NOAH EBIJE, in Kaduna, Sani said it is better to promote good governance for now than to release precious time discussing 2023 election.
The ACF Scribe also spoke about security challenges in the country. This is even as he advised President Buhari to ensure that minority party does not take the leadership of the National Assembly as it was the case in the outgoing 8th Assembly.
Former Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing, Lateef Femi Okunnu said recently in an interview that the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere have no business in politics. What is your reaction to this?
I am not sure the man is right in the sense that there are many political issues which most people in each of the regions share that may be political and not necessarily partisan. They may not be partisan, but there is no way they cannot be political. That is why I do not share the views of those who posit that the three listed organizations be banned for reasons that they are more divisive than being ecumenical. To me, their overlapping interests and countervailing forces tend to reinforce the unity of the country instead, especially if their leaderships emphazize what divide the nation more than what divide the people.
In what ways has ACF contributed to the socio-political stability of the country and the north in particular?
ACF is a pressure group, which seeks to unite the people of the North in furtherance of peaceful coexistence needed for socioeconomic development. It does this by promotion of what most northerners share through inspiring them to make the most of their God given diversity and work hard to overcome what divide the people. The job of ACF is in the realm of advocacy reminiscent of what civil societies do. One cannot measure the achievements of civil societies precisely because their products are not tangible but intangible. For example, ACF and other civil societies may put pressure on governments to cause good policies or prevent bad policies from happening, which is a contribution but intangible. Also, ACF intervenes and brings about peace between feuding communities. This is no mean contribution, but which is intangible. That is why one may say the contributions of ACF and, indeed, any civil society that is public spirited may be said to be invaluable. You may wish to know that ACF exchanges visits with sister organizations in the South for purpose of promoting healthy polity. ACF has visited Ohanaeze in Enugu and Yoruba Unity Forum when Mama was alive in Awolowo’s house in Ogun state. Whether such interactions have contributed to reducing the problems in the polity, one cannot tell. Yet, they are efforts directed at bringing order, justice, liberty and prosperity for all.
Northern Elders Forum had last week slammed President Buhari over increasing insecurity in the country. Do you agree with them?
As long as there are still security challenges in the polity, most Nigerians are bound to conclude that the government of President Buhari and state governments across the country have not done enough. In that sense, there can be no qualm with what the Northern Leaders Forum has said. But that is not to suggest the government has done nothing. If one undertakes facts check on the number of people killed before the emergence of this regime through Boko Haram and clashes between herdsmen and farmers, and compare with those being killed now by same causes, one would hardly avoid the conclusion that this regime has reduced the killings by Boko Haram and the herdsmen phenomenon substantially. I say this because, the security challenges posed by Boko Haram and herdsmen saga used to be so overwhelming that it was predicted the nation would reach the tipping point by 2015. Thank God the emergence of the current regime never allowed the prediction to come unto its own. Of course, banditry and kidnapping have surged after recent elections but I believe because the dastardly acts have attracted the attention of Mr President who has said he is very sad, I am sanguine that the president will give them the same treatment meted to Boko Haram which has limited their activities to the fringes of North East. I also believe Nigerians will soon experience sea change from the unwholesome activities of banditry and kidnapping in North West.
Some politically concerned northerners have started agitating for northern presidential candidate in 2023 election. Do you think north will field a candidate from the region?
I still maintain that it is morally preposterous and undemocratic of anyone to start promotion of discussions on the politics of 2023 when those who have emerged victors in the recent elections have not been inaugurated. I expect the media not to promote politics of identity symbolized by ethnicity, religion and region but of issues. Somehow, I share the sentiments by President Abraham Lincoln that while multiparty democracy allows political parties and citizens to canvass for what they consider the best for the country, it is expected that when the elections have taken place, the people are expected to become one until next elections when they will return to the trenches. I therefore expect the media, the people and the political parties to concentrate on promotion of good governance until next rounds of elections.
Some even argued that democracy is about numerical strength, and the north has that strength, and therefore it won’t allow power to just slip off like that. Don’t you think so?
I have said it over and over again that when it comes to partisan politics, the North, it is never one. That is why we had NPC led by the premier of the North, the Sardauna of Sokoto, PRP led by Mallam Aminu Kano and UMBC led by Tarka, all of whom were from the North during the first republic despite the existence of Action Group led by Awolowo and NCNC by Zik, who were southerners. In the second Republic, there were Alhaji Shehu Shagari of NPN, Mallam Aminu Kano of PRP and Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri of GNPP, all of whom were from the North despite existence of UPN’s Awolowo and NPP’s Zik from the South.
In this dispensation, we experienced situations where General Buhari contested with Yar’Adua from the same Katsina state, both of whom were Fulani muslims. This was repeated when Atiku and Buhari are both northerners and Fulani muslims. And if you consider the fact that some governors won narrowly in some northern states where President Buhari won with wide margin, and APC lost a governor in one of the states, then you can hardly avoid the conclusion that Nigerians are becoming wiser in politics by the day. As a result, politics of issues will soon give way to politics of identity, which the media should help promote. So better talk of good governance and not politics of 2023.
The race for Senate Presidency is in top gear. Would you rather prefer north to produce the Senate President?
There are many factors that should govern who becomes the senate president. They include the unity and cohesion of the political party which has the majority among the senators, the politics of zoning in the political party with majority, the performance of the party in the zone, the experience and content of the character of the aspiring senators as well as the democratic attitude of the political party that is in the opposition.
We must note that democracy is majority rule and that the electoral mandate is to the party with majority which will be accountable to the electorate. That is why the government is said to be APC controlled government. APC must guide against any attempt by the opposition to share the government. To do that would be across the grain of multi party democracy. The place of PDP in this dispensation is to provide viable opposition as alternative platform. This is because democracy without viable opposition is a sham. And when you consider Professor Elliot preposition that even in Washington, politics goes beyond ideals to include about who gets what, why, where, how and when, then it is hard to make a credible case in favour of the South for the position of senate president under this dispensation. Southeast and South South are the hub of PDP who cannot be rewarded with senate president. To do so would amount to rewarding non electoral performance. They can make do with deputy senate president that is commensurate with their electoral value to the ruling party. And even though South West has tried electorally, albeit less than in 2015, it has the VP. It is either the zone takes the post of deputy speaker or deputy senate president. I say this because if North Central zone could be asked to hands off any desire for senate president on account of having held the position in the past, South West could also be asked to hands off any interest in the position of speaker which South West has held in the past. More so that North Central zone never held that post in the past and has performed creditably well in the recent elections by producing five governors and losing only one to the main opposition party. In that way, justice and equity as well as multiparty democracy will be seen as having played some roles.
I hear there are three aspirants for the post of the speaker from North Central geopolitical zone, namely, Hon Ahmed Idris Wase from Plateau state, Hon Umar Bago from Niger state and Hon. John Dyegh from Benue state among those that can be speaker.
What do you consider as the permanent solution to the security challenges across the nation?
The security challenges differ from one geopolitical zone to another zone. As a result, the strategies for overcoming the challenges would differ from zone to zone. For example, the underlying causes for banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, clashes between herdsmen and farmers, etc, may not be the same. So, the governments and our leaders, be they political, religious or communities must know the underlying causes of the variegated insecurity with a view to informing the best approaches of putting an end to each type of security challenges. I do not see the wisdom in the view that because the government has the hammer, then every security challenge must be a nail. That would be wrong strategies. It is for that reason that I see the clamour that state police will cut the Gorian knot as not more than stone groping. To establish that Nigerian police force has truly failed to perform, the nation must have adequate number of trained and equipped police personnel. At the moment, that is not the case. That is why any thought of multiplication of security agencies must be considered with lots of caution, since we have no guarantee that state governments will be able to have enough number of trained and equipped state police for performance. Furthermore, state police may not be helpful in states which are diverse. This is because the indigeneous policemen may exacerbate communal conflicts instead of solving them.