Ibrahim Kasai is a Northern elder, former Nigeria Ambassador to Ukraine and Board of Trustee member of President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation for the 2019 election. He described as unfair for anybody in the North to eye the presidency after President Buhari completes his full tenure of eight years by 2023. Kasai foreclosed the chances of South East in clinching the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), saying all eyes are now on former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu and the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo in the Southwest. He spoke further on this and more in this interview by GYANG BERE in Jos, Plateau state.
There have been talks on where the presidency will move to after the eight years of President Buhari. Do you think the North has the moral right to vie for same in 2023?
Well, there might be no straightjacket answer to this. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has in document that there is rotation of the presidency between the North and the South, I don’t think that document is available in the APC, or in another word, APC has not sat to give that direction but the issue of zoning is an issue of common sense. As long as we have federal character principle in our constitution, zoning has come to stay because if A has done it successful, it is the turn of B now. If APC doesn’t do so, people may not embrace the party. I think APC would have to toe that line as well, for that, I think the presidency will go to the South, I think South West.
But South West has produced a President, what happens to the South East?
In politics, you don’t zone a position where you are not welcome. I mean the performance of APC in the South East during the last election was very poor to produce the next President. A president is an individual but you need to have the support, you must have the base.
With your explanation, are you foreclosing chances the North will contest Presidency in 2023?
No, it will not be fair for the North to seek for the Presidency after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure. This country belongs to all of us, this sharing formula has come to stay, once the constitution says there should be federal character principle, meaning people should be carried along simply, you don’t need any political scientist to give you analysis of what is going on in the country, it is common sense, the theory of common sense must come to bear.
Will it be politically right for Buhari to hand over to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo?
It is not a question of handing over, it all boils down to members of the party. If members of the party strongly feel that the Vice President has got sufficient experience and he has done very well and he deserves this position, why not. He is a gentleman, he is a hard working person and he has the right to say he wants to contest but if he doesn’t want to contest nobody will say come and take this seat.
There are rumours that former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu is also consulting for the Presidency in 2023, is that right considering his age?
He has the constitutional right being a politician; every politician has the right to aspire to be something, there is nothing that stops Tinubu from saying I want to be President. It is all about consultation and I want to say that Tinubu has been a respected elder of the party and if he says ‘I want to be President, he will have the support of the people, after all he has been working for all these years and if he says ‘I want a younger person to be the President or another person from the South West should be the President’, this is what the party will discuss but by my permutation, I feel the Presidency should go to the South West.
The President has won his re-election and most Nigerians complained about the selection of Service Chiefs, that it was lopsided, how will you want him to make his next appointment?
Well, the issue of appointment is personal to the President, the constitution has given him so much powers, if he likes, he has the right to appoint the people he wants unless if the Senate says no. We are not going to approve this appointment, that will be the only stop. What I am saying in essence is that the President has enormous power, he can hire and fire as long as the person he is appointing has the capacity to do the job.
Which sector of the economy do you want the President to focus more in the next four years to better the lot of Nigerians?
Massive infrastructure which is ongoing, his efforts should be skewed in that direction because that is the sector that can reduce unemployment. The issue of insecurity, the government is succeeding in that area already; more efforts should be put in that direction. The issue of education should be taken more serious, that sector is still demanding for a lot to be done. What the President has done now by giving financial autonomy to the local government is a step in the right direction. I have said previously that it is important for the National Assembly to amend the constitution to allow for the devolution of powers and local government autonomy. Lack of local government autonomy is telling us that we are creating room for corrupt tendencies because if you grant them financial autonomy, professionals will be attracted to the local government, the next step will be that there is no need for Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs because what will the Ministry be supervising while they are autonomous. It also means that they need to get full legislature now, what the councilors are doing, the bye laws to give way, they should make full laws to administer the local government which means there should be High Courts in the local government areas so that you will have a full flesh government, just like it is obtainable in the US.
It has been predicted that the country is heading towards another recession and that some states might not be able to stand financially independent, what do you think the President must do to avoid the situation?
Do you know why that suggestion is coming out now, it is because of what is happening between America and China, the economic war that is going on between the two countries, after sometime, it will stabilize. As long as we focus on production, as long as we produce and export and if we increase the level of our export, then you can be sure that Nigeria will overcome the challenges. There is need for massive infrastructure, that is the secret, we just need to move out of where we are now, it is now that the present administration is doing its best to upgrade primary and secondary schools in the country.
Many Nigerians have been executed in some countries particularly South Africa due to xenophobia, how do you think this trend can be handled?
I see xenophobia as a global issue because it is happening in some countries of the world now. I see xenophobia as a dangerous international crime that has its historic perspective. Xenophobia comes from outright hatred but the driving force is fear. The fear of foreign domination, the fear that somebody has come from another country and that if care is not taken, he is coming to take over the economy of my country. I have told some people that if you look at the Bible history, xenophobia started from Egypt when Joseph was sold into slavery, he prospered and he brought in his brothers and after his demise, his people continued to do well in Egypt to the level that Pharaoh feared that these people will one day dominate them. Frist, they made them slaves to serve them, despite that they were still looking healthy, they were prospering, they were growing in their numbers and that triggers fear in the authorities that be at that time. He ended up by ordering the killing of male children so that there wouldn’t be Jews any longer in Egypt, that is as far as memory can take me. I refer to that as origin of xenophobia. If you look at nations today, some are weak and some are strong; some are so enterprising, some are docile. If you get a Nigerian anywhere, you will know that he is a Nigerian; a Nigerian is proud anywhere he goes. If you hear any black man arguing with a white man in Europe or anywhere, you just guess, he could be a Nigerian. We are proud of who we are, we are hard working, we take everything we do seriously. Recently, I was bothered with this South Africa problem which has been going on for about five years now, where Nigerians have been facing problems of xenophobia. I first visited South Africa in 1999 and the number of Nigerians I saw there was amazing, in Medical field alone, I was told that there were about 300 Professors in Johannesburg, that was just the capital city, you can imagine. Nigerians like moving outside the shores of Nigeria as a country. They are eager to make a difference for greener pasture and to live elsewhere is something they cherish.
We have heard reports where Nigerians also killed their fellow Nigerians in Libya, South Africa and other countries of the world, what do you think triggers these killings?
Well, what happened in our universities, we have cases of cultism, these cultists are everywhere, a criminal is a criminal anywhere, some people leave Nigeria not because they want to make it elsewhere but because they are criminals, they ran away from the country, some may sell their farmlands, some will sell their parents and disappear with the money and they can’t come back, they prefer to die outside the country. Not every person that is in Diaspora that is a correct citizen of Nigeria, no. I have heard a lot when I was Ambassador to Ukraine.