Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Ukraine, Ibrahim Kasai, has charged the All Progressives Congress (APC) to zone the 2023 presidency to the South in the spirit of common sense, fairness, equity and justice. Kasai, a member of the Board of Trustees, Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation, also lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari has not rewarded many people who worked hard to actualise his emergence as president in 2015 and 2019. He spoke with GYANG BERE in Jos.
Are you satisfied with the way the president has been running the country?
Well, I am happy with the infrastructural development, but I am not satisfied with the security problems that we are having in the country. It is disturbing and part of it was when the president changed the service chiefs. We had some ray of hope that maybe the security architecture will change the style of their assignment. We are hoping that good results would be achieved. We know that there is a general economic problem, but many politicians, including myself are not too happy because of neglect. Compensation is an important embodiment of politics. There is no need to pretend about it. The Buhari administration should look for people that have been left out. The President needs to look for a way of reaching to certain people that have been neglected out of this government. You can’t give everybody job but there is much job to be done, some people are there telling the President that there is no money, but wealth is created using creativity. Even jobs for our youths. It is the brain that creates the jobs.
How much are other tiers of government doing to complement the Federal Government in terms of generating internal revenue? We don’t need to fold our arms and wait for allocation from the federation account. Look at the IGR of states for instance. How much do you think states should be generating? Everybody should hold his constituency and say, let me do my best in revenue generation. If that is done, we will move somewhere. But it looks as if since there is oil money, everybody is folding his arms to wait for it. We should know that the days of oil have gone. So the question of abandoning people for lack of money to pay allowances is not fair. There are some agencies that you can’t run them without board members. It is a crime to run an agency without a board. It is not in the architecture of government to run universities, polytechnics and some agencies without boards. Somebody must supervise. Why was Balarabe Musa removed as governor? He didn’t commit any crime, but that he used Permanent Secretaries to take decisions instead of appointing commissioners. So for that breach of the constitution, he was removed from office. Many people have been waiting since 2015 and they have not been appointed. I am one of them, I am not saying this because I am affected but so many people are out there waiting to be appointed.
None of the major political parties, the APC and the PDP have come out to say the presidential seat should be zoned to any zone. But based on the principles of common sense, where do you think the presidency should be zoned in 2023?
I do much believe in the theory of common sense and I saw on social media recently that the APC has zoned the presidential seat to the South, although I don’t know how authentic that is. But if that is true, it is a good development. That has been my advocacy. By common sense, presidency should go to the South. For PDP, they have an instrument that alternates the zones between the North and South. When we were in PDP, we know of that but if they are changing now, it is okay for them. It is my idea that such zoning arrangements should come to play. If it is true that APC has zoned the presidency to the South, it is a step in the right direction. It will be fair that presidency should go to the South in 2023.
But we have seen Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi, North Central moving round the country to solicit support for his presidential ambition?
If it is true that the presidency has been zoned to the South, then it will be wrong for him to come out because that will contradict that zoning arrangement. He is not a small member in the party. A governor is respected in the party and I think he should know better. Although I have not seen any document or heard a pronouncement from the leaders of the party that the presidency has been zoned to the South, but if what I saw on the social media is true, then it will not be right for anybody from the North to come out. Some jokers can come out, if they want to test their popularity. You cannot stop him. He can print posters and start campaigning, but I don’t think he can be screened to contest by the party.
Will you advise the APC constitution review committee to make zoning an official policy of the party?
That might be outside the constitution. I don’t think it should be a constitutional matter. Certain decisions are taken by the Board of Trustees, because their main function is to give directive to the party and to hold in trust the property of the party. That is usually done after exhaustive consultations so that the country will move in the right direction. I also don’t know if that is part of the scope of the assignment of the committee. And if that is part of it, fine, they can go ahead and incorporate zoning in the APC constitution.
What should be done to encourage internal democracy and fairness within the APC ahead of 2023?
You will recall that in our previous engagement, I have always talked about the constitution of the party. A constitution is a working document that guides likeminded individuals. And as a political party like the ruling APC, it needs a solid and enduring constitution because a political party in Nigeria that has produced a president is not a small group. When I heard that a committee has been set up to review the party’s constitution, I was the happiest person because that is what I have been talking on. If you look at the existing document, you will laugh and wonder whether the party has been serious at all because there are so many flaws and definitely the construction needs a review. We are getting to another election and you can’t face the national convention of the party without a fresh, reviewed party constitution for the people to be approved. A national convention is a gathering of party members where critical and very important decisions are taken for the party. I was impressed when I heard of the composition of the committee, which is made up of very important legal luminaries and I believe they will do justice to the assignment and to Nigerians. I believe they will come up with a very solid party constitution.
What sections of the constitution will you advise them to review to ensure fairness in the party?
Firstly, in membership, and secondly on sustainability of the party on power. There are so many other aspects, but majorly the methodology of handling critical aspects of the party, that is the congress and engaging candidates on contesting election. A selection process is very critical to a political party. If you don’t have a very good selection process, you will spend the whole of your time on litigation. The party will be taking its members to court and the members also taking the party to court. The leaders with be dishing out sanctions against misdeeds if the party is not firm on a matter. For instance, when it comes to the selection of the president or a governor of a state, the primaries that will produce a presidential candidate, governorship candidate or senatorial candidate, if the decision is not firm, there will be problem. The present constitution says candidates can be selected through direct or indirect primaries and that is too ambiguous. Some people can explore that and do what they want. A state chapter can decide to influence a decision to go the way of those who have money in the party. If you say indirect primaries, if you don’t have money, you can’t win that type of election. But if you say direct primaries, it means the entire congress and every party member can participate in the selection of who represent them as president, governor or in other elective positions and that promotes internal democracy. If you don’t promote internal democracy, there is no way democracy will grow in Nigeria and that is what many members of the APC are saying.
Are you saying that APC should produce the 2023 presidential candidate of the party through internal democracy by allowing Nigerians to participate in the primaries?
Of course, that is what I am advocating. Let the people participate in the selection of who will represent them as president, governor, senators and so on. That makes the system participatory and that will show that democracy is at work. That is what we call political engineering. You say indirect primaries, those who are going in are nominated by somebody sitting down somewhere. Either he is in a position of influence, or because he is rich or for other reasons, they will give directives that, go to that local government, get five persons. You move to another and get the same and you will have a gathering of handpicked individuals and they will select who they want. And that will produce corruption, nepotism and all sorts of things and you will come up with a candidate not representing the people. Indirect election is better done when selecting the leadership of the National Assembly. The people don’t go there to do it for them. The 360 of them are already elected by the people and the members can select who lead them and if they hold election and whoever becomes speaker, deputy speaker and so on, that is their business. They understand the language better. Nobody will be there to guide them on what to do. But for a common man to be excluded from the selection of the president he wants from the grassroots is not fair. And the body language of people in the party is towards direct primaries. If you consult any APC member who knows what he is doing, he will tell you that direct primaries are the best for the party.
But some would say they prefer indirect primaries?
That process is fading out. Indirect primaries are becoming archaic. People are disenchanted with that. Nigerians can attest to it that either in APC or PDP, wherever they say indirect primaries, you will see people going with bags of money to buy delegates. There is no point hiding it. The issue of buying delegates is what corrupts our political system.
Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami, who reportedly made certain provocative statements in the past, is still serving in Buhari’s cabinet. What is your take?
I also read that in the social media. But sometimes, if you are not sure of the source of information, for you to just comment on it might not be good. But let me say generally that anybody who is linked with such groups should be investigated. No information of such nature should be covered up for any reason.
How will you advise the president as regards banditry, negotiating with bandits, and so on?
I do know that Mr. President is doing his best in terms of eliminating this banditry and the security agencies are there and they are being attacked and killed. But there are stories of insiders. Sometimes, if you keep things in your house and you discover they are being stolen, if you check well, you will discover that some of the thieves are in your house. What you need to do is to search your house and fish out those bad elements. I am of the view that the various forest reserves that we have should be cut down and new trees planted to replace them. Let’s see where those criminals will be hiding. The Sambisa Forest is large. Let’s see how government will begin to bring down the trees for security reasons.