… Says defection may be a blessing in disguise for APC, PDP
Noah Ebije, Kaduna
ANTHONY Sani is the Secretary- General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). Before his present position, Sani was the immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the Forum. In this interview with Sunday Sun, the ACF scribe condemned security agents invasion of the National Assembly and houses of the Senate President, Bukola Sakari and his deputy, Chief Ike Ekweremadu.
He also spoke on recent defections by politicians from one party to the other, saying that it could be a blessing in disguise to either of the parties.
He also spoke on farmers/herdsmen killings and the call for ranching across the country, and called on the Federal Government to do the needful for all the parties concerned to stop the crisis. Excerpts:
Accept our condolence over the death of your chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie. However, when is the election to fill his position in the ACF coming up?
Thank you for the condolence. In fact, we also lost our financial secretary in the person of Alhaji Ahmed Bawa. Our electoral commission under the Chairmanship of General M. I. Wushishi is working on their replacement, which will be in no distant future.
In recent times, the National Assembly is in the news, from the siege to the house of the Senate President by the police to the blockade of the NASS by the DSS. The DG, DSS, Lawal Daura was sacked for this blockade. What is your reaction to this?
I really do not know the facts of what actually happened that resulted in the siege to the National Assembly. As a result, I cannot make informed comments on the siege. However, I wish to say the siege cannot be justified for whatever reasons, considering the principle of separation of power. I hope the DSS should know that we are running a democracy which mantra is due process of law. So, our security agents should slough off habit of military mentality and embrace tenets of democracy. And since the government has taken corrective actions, I think the challenges have not been beyond control.
Several politicians have defected from APC to PDP. This same scenario played out in 2014 when many politicians left the then ruling PDP for APC. What kind of politics is this in your opinion?
You would note that all governments lose friends and make new ones. At the end of the day, which side that is more and prevails is what really counts or matters during elections.
Yet I would say Nigerians should not make the mistake of imagining that it is always what one loses that constitutes loss. There are instances where one thinks he has lost, but it turns out to become gains.
For example, former President Mugabe defected from ZANU-PF, campaigned and voted for MDC’s Chamisa only to realize that he had only one vote. Consequently, his defection was not a loss, but a gain to ZANU-PF.
Even the white electorate voted for ZANU-PF against their MDC because Mugabe had left his party. So, in the same way one can say some of the defections may not be losses to their political parties, whether ruling or opposition parties.
I tend to believe the defections are manifestations of how the major political parties have been formed. Recall the PDP was formed by people of different political tendencies for the sole aim of edging out the military from power.
The PDP did not seem to have any agenda on good governance; hence the challenges of unity of purpose with clear thought and morality haunted the party through out its 16 years in power.
That was why President Obasanjo had to tell the members of the party that the only thing that kept the party as one was the fact that it was in power.
In the same way, APC was formed by coalition of people with different political persuasions for the express purpose of defeating the ruling PDP. And even though the ruling APC has in her manifesto three main campaign promises of fighting insecurity posed by insurgency and corruption in order to pave the way for diversification of the economy that is not a day’s job as her agenda, most of the gladiators have never keyed into the provisions in the party manifesto.
Hence the challenges of the ruling party, which has found herself where it has been at war with itself and the presidency in fissiparous tendencies. It is against such backdrop that one may not be totally wrong to assert that the gale of defections may turn out to be boon for the nascent democracy; after all, in which water is finding its level for the health of the democracy where like minds would come together into political parties of their choice with distinct features that represent methods of solving national problems.
It is the manifesto, which the political parties are expected to use and canvass for electoral mandate needed for execution of campaign promises. In well developed democracies, political parties are not ignored by the seminal members of the political parties the way we do in Nigeria where a member of the opposition would gladly want to serve as deputy to member of the ruling party in the legislature.
That is to say, they want to be in both government and opposition at the same time. This is across the grain of common decency. Also take the issue of agitations for restructuring the country by unelected people who profess to be jaunty face of democratic values, but are placing themselves in position of political parties which place in the order of things is to canvass for what they want to do as solution to myriad of problems facing the polity.
Those political parties, which want to restructure the country are expected to reflect their preferences in their manifestos, be it true federalism whatever that means, fiscal federalism, resources control, or resource ownership.
Those political parties opposed to restructuring the country would be at liberty to oppose it with reasons and disadvantages. The ensuing debates between political parties would help in no small measure in enlightening the electorate for well-informed voting.
Let the political parties that wish to restructure the country tell Nigerians how they want to restructure the country with all the benefits, and those opposed to restructuring oppose it with reasons and disadvantages. That is how democracy works.
It is not for select few elbow-throwing-grievance groups clamouring for government preferment to sit down in Ibadan, or Enugu or Makurdi and try to force their preferences on the rest of Nigerians undemocratically.
Following the sack of the DSS boss, some Nigerians are also saying that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) should be sacked too for his alleged role on the siege to the Senate President’s house and killings in the country. Are you also of the same opinion?
I rather keep to what I know, considering the IG has distanced himself from what was reported in the media. The police have said what took place was a stage-managed Kabuki by the Senate president to cast aspersions on the police.
Which one do we believe to represent the truth? So, those who have taken side should back it up with credible evidence needed for informed decisions and actions.
What is your advice to northern presidential aspirants for the 2019 election, do you think they can arrive at consensus candidate to wrest power from President Buhari?
I hope you know PMB is also a northerner with constitutional right to vie for the post of president. The bright side is that all of them are Hausa/Fulani who are Muslims. Consequently, politics of identity like ethnicity and religion would confer no advantage to any of them. Only politics of issues would matter.
President Buhari will no more be rated on the basis of only hope, but on his performance in government and content of character as against those who will be rated on the basis of their content of character and performance only as governors or VP.
That is a healthy development in an era where politics of identity and sentiments have held sway at expense of issues of real concern to real ordinary Nigerians.
We learnt that ACF officials visited two former Heads of State, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as the Etsu Nupe. Has your visit any thing to do with the 2019 election and the state of the North?
No, the visit was in furtherance of consultations with stakeholders of patrons, northern governors and traditional rulers on how best ACF can help overcome the myriad of socio-economic challenges in the North as symbolized by insecurity that are stoked by cleavages of the region along religious and ethnic lines that come with suspicion and mistrust, as well as hate speeches. Nothing to do with politics of 2019.
The killings by herdsmen and bandits have brought about a bill in favor of state police as the panacea. What is your take?
I have read the reports that the incessant killings across the nation have brought about a bill in the National Assembly for state police. But I do not believe we have established enough why the Nigerian police appear to be feckless.
I believe if the number of state police, their training and their equipment are inadequate, reminiscent of what happens with Nigerian Police, the state police will still not perform. So, as we consider the state police as the viable alternative, account must be taken of the attitude of some state governors who have used the state electoral commissions and killed democracy at the grassroots level where opposition parties do not win even a councillorship seat in the states.
As a result, there have been agitations for the scrap of state electoral commissions to pave the way for INEC to conduct elections at all levels across the country. If the governors do with state police what they do with electoral commissions, then state police will be abused against perceived political opponents in the state, which will be counter-productive.
In addition, there are genuine fears that the state police may not augur well for unity and peace in states that are diverse in ethnicity and religion, since local police officers can take side with their ethnic extraction or religion in the event of any conflict.
That way, state police could also be counter-productive by helping to stoke divisions rather than help promote desired peaceful coexistence and harmony needed for socio-economic development. It is against such backdrop that one wishes to call for caution about the contemplation for state police. Rather, the emphasis should be on adequate number of Nigerian Police officers who are adequately trained and fully equipped. It is only when such is provided and the Nigerian Police still fails to deliver on the promise of her existence that Nigerians can consider an alternative arrangement. This is because some of us believe a police force whose number is adequate, fully trained and fully equipped is better than multiplication of security agencies that are not more than multiplication of effort centers at the expense of performance.
What is your view on establishment of ranches as solution to clashes between herdsmen and farmers?
The challenge of insecurity posed by the herdsmen saga is a very serious one, considering the socio-economic effects on rural farmers and the scaring away of foreign investors. Given such importance, taming insecurity should receive deserved attention by all well-meaning Nigerians and the government at all levels, especially when regard is paid to the fact that the attacks are in the manner of guerrilla war that makes arrest immediately after attacks nightmarish to the intelligence community.
Consequently, there have been calls for establishment of ranches as the panacea. The calls are apt because ranches will improve the volume and quality of not only agricultural produce, but also of livestock. In which case, both farmers and pastoralists will benefit from ranches. But establishment of ranches cannot be a day’s job.
This is because the herders know nothing about ranches by way of technology, skill and even funding. That means development of ranches has to be a gradual process. Happily enough, all the three tiers of government and stakeholders have agreed about the need for ranches. As a result, there are plans to establish about 94 ranches across the nation.
And our prayers have been that the plans should go beyond rhetoric and come unto its own in good time. But the drawbacks are reports that some states have said they will not make land available for ranches under the guile that ranches are private business, which governments should have nothing to do with them.
But this is carrying sentiments beyond fiducial mark, considering there have been subsidies for fertilizer, for tractors and other farm imports. Governments sometimes buy off surplus grains in order to encourage farmers to farm more. Herdsmen or pastoralists are also Nigerians who are entitled to some form of government support. This is because it would be unthinking if not inconsiderate to expect a herdsman with 20 cows to establish a viable ranch.
And when we are sentimental on the issue of ranches, we lose sight of the possibility that herdsmen can equally insist that farmers should also fence their farms. I say this in order to underscore the need for realistic appreciation of the situations the nation has found itself with a view to coming out with solution to a national malaise for common good.