“Look at Osun State’s gubernatorial election. Look at the kind of gangsterism used, subduing the electorate to make sure that they win.”
Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
The National Chairman of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Alhaji Yabagi Sani, has rated the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari low.
In this interview, he claimed that the incumbent administration has little to boast of. He also declared that the fallouts from the primaries of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would rub off positively on the ADP.
According to him, the later will open its doors to receive aggrieved members of APC and PDP. He looked at other national issues.
Last Monday Nigeria celebrated 58 years of independence, what do you make of the celebration?
I think as a nation we have something to celebrate. But as a government I don’t think there is anything to celebrate. The two are different. The nation is different from the government. As Nigerians, we have been able to keep the nation one. In relative terms, we are not at war. In spite of all the shortcomings we can still call ourselves one country. But when you come to the issue of the government, I don’t think there is anything to celebrate because we have a government, but there is no governance. When you look at the indices – economic, political, etc – everything has nosedived. If you look at our potential compared to what the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is, it is abysmal.
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When you also look at maternal child mortality, people are just dying when they go to give birth. When you look at the educational sector, people are educated, but they are not in anyway equipped. Most of them just passed through the university without the university passing through them. We have a ballooning unemployed youths and you have a country that is retarding in terms of all the indices that you want to look at. All the promises made to Nigeria in terms of changing our situation for the better is no way near what Nigerians are experiencing at the moment.
Are you saying there is nothing positive to remember this government for in the last three years?
When you are assessing the government you have to do that on the promises they made. When this government came on board, they said they were going to make the issue of insecurity a thing of the past, insisting that there will be no fear of insurgency. The issue of insecurity is not yet solved, because Boko Haram still kill people. The attack is still there. You can say that maybe, they have been able to restrict them to the Northeast, but the Northeast is also part of this country. It doesn’t mean that the lives of people in the Northeast are less important compared to us here in Abuja or those in Lagos. The issue of kidnapping has gone up tremendously in such an uncomfortable level.
Then you look at the issue of the economy; people are out of jobs than before. So many are pauperised. To cap it all, we have taken over from India and Bangladesh in terms of poverty; we have become the world poverty capital. So, from the economic point of view you can say this government has nothing to celebrate or has performed below expectation. When you look at the issue of corruption, the dimension corruption has taken now is even more embarrassing and alarming. If you look at what is happening in the presidency itself, very recently, the First Lady said her money amounting to N2.2 billion was stolen. When you look at the oil and gas sector, I do not see anything that has changed. If anything the problem is getting bigger and more endemic. Unfortunately, we hear less about it. For corruption, I don’t know what the government has to tell us because it has gone up. Yes, there are few individuals being chased without anybody being prosecuted in the manner Nigerians would have expected. Then, you hear of cases being indefinitely adjourned. Even repatriation of funds they claimed, there is nothing to show for as government is yet to tell us what they have been able to do with it. Those who know the happenings in government will tell you that this is the worse case scenario in terms of government that is corrupt. What we hear today in terms of corruption is at the highest level of government. When you look at the ministries, it is like nobody is in charge. In fact, I heard of a ministry that before they went on one-week national warning strike, staff went on strike that the minister should leave because the man is doing nothing. So, this is a government that is not governing. Because the ministers are not, as far as we can see, not monitored.
If you say the government is not governing because of the gloomy picture you painted, are you saying the government has not done anything good since it came to power?
Exactly. It is what I am saying. And the government is aware of that and that is why it is desperate by crook or hook to win the elections. They want to do everything to win.
What informed your allegation, does the atmosphere suggest so?
Yes. Look at Osun State’s gubernatorial election, imagine what happened there. Look at the kind of gangsterism used, subduing the electorate to make sure that they win. It is an embarrassment to this country.
But most observers commended the conduct of the election?
The conduct of the first election was okay, that is why you had a winner. But because even INEC itself was cowed and things changed. Look at the situation in Osun today and compare that with the peace of the country. Before, they were saying that 300 and something votes between the winner because INEC didn’t want the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win, it came up with another thing. In the same country, you weigh the benefits of what is going to happen if you now say because of 300 and something votes, when the constitution says simple majority, which law has INEC relied upon. INEC bylaws and Act cannot take pre-eminence over the constitution. If INEC was there for the nation, it would have done it differently. What I am saying is that it is not worth doing what they did that we should go through another election and end up killing people. Nobody knows what will happen next. PDP has rejected the result and APC is celebrating that they have won. Even the international community is saying that the election was not up to the standard they expected it in a country like Nigeria. What I am saying is that this government is desperate because they know that they have very poor performance record and Nigerians are fed up.
With this kind of perception, do you still have confidence in INEC conducting free and fair election?
I have a measured confidence in INEC because of what transpired. I expected that INEC should have come out with something that reflects the interest of this country. If the people of Osun State spoke that this is what they wanted, I think for the sake of this country and because we don’t know, with what happened in Osun, it is still not certain. Is it worth the lives of people lost, property destroyed, tension created in the country just because you want a particular candidate to win? Going forward, we can’t have the kind of confidence expected that they would rise above politics and do the needful. Because of politics, countries do not risk peace because they want a particular candidate to win. Government and INEC seem to be inter-hooked as to the outcome of the election in 2019 because the body language of INEC is not giving us that kind of confidence. The by-laws is not in the constitution. They brought up that regulations in order to effectively administer their act in order to have peace in the country. But when you see a situation where it is not in line with the constitution, as a regulator, you are charged with the responsibility to do the needful to maintain peace which is more important than making sure that a particular candidate wins. So, we don’t know what is going to happen.
Political parties have concluded the sales of their forms and they are going into primaries. From what you have seen are you satisfied with the level of acceptance of your party or is it what you set out to achieve?
It has exceeded our expectation in terms of performance, acceptance and response by Nigerians because the turnout is really impressive in terms of people that have come out to pick our forms to contest elections. Again, we are not done yet because the fallout of the primaries of APC and PDP will also bring out a lot of movements from those parties to our party. So, we believe that there will be movement of people to our party. In few days time we will be able to take stock. Believe me, we are satisfied with the turnout with the response that we have gotten in all states of the federation.
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At the moment one cannot say where ADP has a stronghold in Nigeria. Why is it so?
No, we have. Go to Niger, Imo states, we are very popular. We are the party to beat. The challenge we have now is that we have a desperate government in place, otherwise even Osun, we were the party to beat in terms of popularity and followership. It was a huge movement we had there. But what happened was still the politics of money. And this is why we are saying that INEC is yet to rise to the occasion to really prove that it is for Nigerians and not for the party in government called APC.
President Buhari in his recent foreign outings promised a free and fair election, are you not convinced?
Yes, this government has not deepened democracy and good governance. Look at even how the government came to be. We know that it was the likes of Obasanjo, Danjuma, Abdulsalami and some of those elder statesmen that came together and facilitated the emergence of Buhari as president. Today, you now have a scenario were these people have told Buhari not run for a second term. Even the international community is saying that President Buhari should not contest for obvious reasons. If it is for performance it is zero, state of health, zero. He is an old man. All these posturing do not tally with the age of the president. Nigeria is such a country that needs an energetic, and somebody who can think out of the box, somebody who is in tune with the trend of happenings all over the world. So, whether you like it or not, Buhari belongs to the past. We need a president that thinks about the future. It is not his fault that certain things are the way they are, he is old. Those people that made it happened, forced the other party to accept him. If elections are held and the results do not favour them, who knows he might not go. Because from the perspective of somebody who came on the goodwill of these people and all of them have come out openly to say that he should not run again and if he is insisting on running then you can see the statesmanship in former President Jonathan who came out to accept defeat which this man may not have the capacity to do. In 2019, we have to pray so that it doesn’t become an albatross.
The United Nations recently gave you an award. Will you sincerely say the award tallies with what you have achieved as a person?
If you look at my background in terms of my in community development both from my local community, Lupe. The celebration of Lupe Day was my idea to bring chiefs together. Before there is no organization that brings the man from Plateau, Niger, Benue and Kogi to sit together and discuss the North Central issue. What you hear is Middle Belt which is an amorphous kind of organisation for a different kind of thing. Today, we have what is called the Unity Bridge which I set up. Even if our governors find it difficult to discuss our unique problems we should come together and do that. Also, when you look at what I have done in the economic development of the North, I formed what is called Association of Petroleum Inland Basins of the North when I was appointed the Special Adviser to the governor of Niger State on Sustainable Development Goals. Because I went to the governor and complained to him that Bida Basin, which is one of the eight basins we have in this country, should be producing because we have petroleum and gas deposit in commercial quantity. Luckily, he accepted it and from that position I invited all the northern governors’ commissioners to see how we can fast track the Inland Basin in the North. When you come to the political aspect, I have been able to put up a party in place that is the credible alternative to rescue this country from the precipices and it formed part of the things that earned the recognition of the UN. Then if you look at what we have done within the one year we came on board, it’s huge. It is unimaginable. You can see in all the elections we have participated we made lots of impact. If you go round today, by the time you mention other party the number three is ADP because we are strong. We have effective leadership. We are consistent in what we are doing and we attract the acceptance of the generality of Nigerians because they are looking for what they will be calling third force. I think that third force is ADP because we represent that. PDP has been rejected because of corruption. APC cannot perform. It has disappointed Nigerians. It is even more corrupt than PDP. Perhaps that is why the UN decided to recognise my little efforts, and by so doing encourage others to do in their immediate communities and zones. It is an award that I treasure and I thank God for giving me the honour through the UN. It has energised me the more to do more in terms of how one can impact on humanity.