From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Retired Brig-Gen Jafaru Isa served as Military Governor of Kaduna state between 1993 and 1996. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview he spoke on President Muhammad Buhari’s illness, political disagreements in APC and PDP and other happenings in the polity.
What do you make of calls by some that it is time the President told Nigerians the nature of his illness ?
Thank you very much for your question. I think there are certain basic things we really have to agree upon. First and foremost, this president is a human being like us all. And we also have to admit that human beings do fall sick from time to time and hopefully they get well after that.
And we also agree that once one is sick, we wish him or her quick recovery, flowers and cards are taken to the hospital and we visit the patient who is in bed. And also we have to agree that, sometimes voluntarily, we submit ourselves to our doctors to really re-evaluate our health status, for us to know where we stand so that if there is a likely ailment, it can be taken care of, before it takes care of us.
I got to know the president when I was posted to Kaduna in November 1993, that’s when I came close to him. Before then I only knew him from afar. Throughout this period, I’ve had several interactions with him and I know from time to time every year he had traveled to London in particular for medical checkup. I recall clearly, when he wrote to the senate that he was leaving for his annual leave and that he would also do his medical checkup, it was stated in the letter.
I also recall that after I left Kaduna and was posted to the UN, at least on two occasions, I entered the same aircraft from Amsterdam to Kano with the president, he was coming in from England and I was coming in from New York, we traveled together and Landed in Kano. So this leave is just a part of the check up. I’m also glad to say that some days ago ; I saw a clip of him taking a stroll in a street in London, smiling and quite himself.
Now talking about the country standing still, I do not see the country standing still at all. Whatever is to be done is being done. Of course we would like to have the number one to be on the seat but don’t forget, Nigeria is developing in democratization. What the president has been doing are been handled by his Vice President. This is not the first time. Before he traveled, he wrote to the senate and transferred power to his vice President. This is normal.
Everybody knows that President Buhari know is an institutional person. He is a person that observes the law, the provisions of the constitution and the laws of the land.
Are you satisfied with the way those around him have handled the demand that the president’s ailment should be in the public domain?
On the issue of handlers, some of them are here in Nigeria, some of them are there, but it is the communication between him and his doctors that is central. We all have done medical checks before, there is no way you can know exactly what your situation is until when your doctor comes back with the report and tells you to sit down let us discuss this. The doctors will tell you A is that; B is that, C is like this, and so on and so forth. That is the way I look at it. So I don’t think there is anything wrong in the handling of the issue by his aides. .
Perhaps, what we really have is part of the democratization. The zeal and agitation of some of us who wanted to have or hear what is not there are all part of democracy.
How do you rate the Vice President who is acting in his absence?
Of course, he has signed several bills, I think about ten bills. Others that were presented to him, which he didn’t sign he gave explanations for his actions. So everything is going on fine. He is doing his bit. And as usual the rest of the senators are doing their best in the interest of the country. At this time in Nigeria there is a lot of synergy, being on the same side or the same page that is, talking in terms of the legislators and the members of the executive. Every arm must do what it is expected to do in the interest of the country. So, I think there is nothing the acting president is not doing. He is up and doing and he is in full control.
Are you not disturbed that a lot of PDP members are defecting in droves to APC, given that some members of the ruling have openly expressed the fears that their party may be hijacked or destroyed by these PDP men?
Well, this is a question that is very subjective to me, because I don’t know what will happen first of all come 2019. Democracy is a game of number; it is an all inclusive thing. Constitutionally, nobody can stop you from joining any party. So even if there is apprehension, there is hardly anything APC would do. Maybe if you look at the constitution of the party, maybe there is a provision that If you want to contest for an office, if you’re coming into the party, you have to be in the party for a number of years. But I believe the APC will be happy to get more and more people. The party wants more people to come; this will make it more competitive and will make it possible for quality people to emerge. That is how I look at it.
The crack in the APC fold has continued to widen. PDP members who joined in 2014 are still kicking that they are yet to get what they deserve. Are you not afraid that the crisis will further worsen with more PDP defectors joining the party?
I don’t think so, firstly I am a member of the board of trustees of the APC, and I want you to understand that, we don’t discriminate against incoming members from PDP or from other parties. Secondly, if you recall, it was in APC of that time that all incoming governors from PDP were given 60percent of leadership positions in their states. That was what happened. I’ll also like to remind you that in my state, Kano for instance; I led CPC members to welcome the then governor who came into APC. We went to the government house to welcome him, and we did that so that they could feel at home, so if they tell me they’ve been isolated, I don’t think it is correct.
If there is anywhere that they are crying, it is from the legacy party members. That is the ANPP members, ACN members, and the CPC members that are not in the center of activities right now, and that is what is happening. What we’re hoping is that before the next election, by the next mini convention, this will be corrected so that everybody will feel at home, the new comers and those that they met inside will see each other as one. In my own opinion, there is no way you can have any political party or political movement where there won’t be joggling of positions and cries here and there, because it is all about interest, and people will try to protect their interest. That is part of human nature, and that is what democracy is all about. Like I said before, we are actually, deepening democracy in our great country”.
Is it not strange that political leaders are decamping to APC when majority of Nigerians are wailing and crying of hard times , accusing APC government of doing little to address economic challenges facing Nigeria?
You see, what we need to understand is, in every political setting, we have to make sure that we remove sentiments from realities. What you hear in social media and read about, concerning the difficulties of living in the country have some truth in them. There is no doubt about that. But if you really look at what is happening deeply, in your sober moments, you will understand that what APC is doing, is laying foundation of the future for Nigeria. This foundation is what will make Nigeria a greater country in years to come. So those who are joining the party actually have the capacity to look into the future in terms of projections of what is happening. They have realized that this is the correct party to be. It is painful to introduce changes in everything in life, it is painful to say we have to be responsible; it is painful to say now we have to conserve our resources, and it is painful to say we need to understand that public trust means public trust. It does not mean that there should be no demarcation between your pocket and the treasury of the public. So when you see people coming in, they have read the handwriting on the wall, they have seen that the future is excellent. They have seen that the future is good and bright and that APC through the president is moving the country forward. He is laying the foundation for the future of Nigeria.
What is the status of your case with the EFCC, especially the one that has to do with Dasuki gate?
The case has been cleared; in fact I was cleared two days after I went to them. There was no case, I’ve been cleared formally. What they did was that every transaction in that office was investigated. So, if there is any interaction between you and that office, they call you. The case with me had nothing to do with arms deal.
What would be your reaction if some persons link your clearance to your membership of APC?
If that is the way you look at it, then I shouldn’t have been invited in the first instance. The way my case was advertised was shocking. Look at the amount, it was nothing to write home about, even the money wasn’t with me, it was with the lawyer who was handling the purchase of the property. About two weeks before I was invited, we were still looking for the property, went to inspect the property. I voluntary gave them the money because we couldn’t buy the property.
Your party is accused of contributing to the crisis within the PDP. What do you make of such claim?
Here you go again; I’ve tried to make you understand that what is causing the crisis in PDP is internal rift. Before now, you had asked me question about the internal rift within the APC. Why would APC be blamed for crisis in PDP? Why is APC not blaming PDP for its own rift? It has been like that since I ventured into politics, CPC for example in 2011, we were hoping to have about 12 states in the north, we ended up with one state. We didn’t even contemplate it. It was because of crisis. I’ve never been to police station for anything in my life, but because of politics we even went to court with someone who came from PDP. I wouldn’t say it was PDP that did that. Senator Sheriff is a very experienced politician, he has been a two term governor, he was in APC, and he left and went to PDP. They welcomed him; he went there with a lot of money and they welcomed him. So, now they are having problems with him why would they now start pointing fingers at APC, he left long time ago? I don’t think it is about APC causing problems in PDP or vice versa, I think it has to do with people trying to actualize their interest and capitalize on it. It is human nature, I’ve said it before.