Amid allegations that the 9th National Assembly is fast becoming a rubber stamp to the executive arm of government, Shuaibu Ado Dansudu, national president, Arewa United Consultative Forum, has cautioned the nation’s lawmakers to be more sympathetic to the people of the nation, saying doing otherwise is a sign of impending troubles for the country.
He dismissed rumour of the third agenda by the president, saying those behind the idea would not fare better than proponents of similar tenure elongation plot in the past.
In this interview, Dansudu speaks on other national issues, including the 2023 Presidency and border closure.
How did you receive the recent report about third term agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari and what is your view on it?
I believe it is a rumour and I am so confident that Buhari cannot attempt to stay beyond his second four-year tenure. But then we must not lose sight of the fact that some people because of their selfish interest, may attempt even the unthinkable and prop up the third term kite. Third term agenda will always remain a difficult task for anybody in Nigeria. It can never happen because Nigerians will resist it even with their last drop of blood. Any mischievous person who attempts it will only succeed in causing more troubles for himself. If Nigerians could stand against military government; if Nigerians could unite against former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he attempted to elongate his tenure, I don’t think there is any Nigerian who will ever succeed with third term agenda.
While many believe that the agenda is a rumour just like you have dismissed it, some are apprehensive that some in the corridor of power and the current National Assembly, which many are quick to tag as a rubber stamp, should be a source of worry to Nigerians as far as the rumour is concerned. Don’t you nurse such fear?
No cabal can be as strong as the military, which Nigerians pushed out. As strong as Babangida was touted to be, Nigerians succeeded in pushing him out of office. I am very confident that nobody can try it and succeed in this country. The cabal you are talking about, where were they when Buhari lost three times. Were it not for Jonathan’s mistake, would they have helped Buhari to win the election in 2015? Buhari won the 2015 presidential election due to Jonathan’s blunder. Jonathan shot himself on the foot because he was very selfish or should I say some people pushed him to be selfish. Had he vacated the seat after completing Yar’Adua’s first four years, and allowed another person from the North to contest in 2011, I assure you that every Nigerian will look at him as a complete gentleman. Northerners will route for him to rule Nigeria again. That was what worked in favour of Obasanjo in 1998. When Murtala took over power he promised to hand over power to the civilian after four years. But he died and Obasanjo succeeded him. Obansanjo did not renege on that promise; he kept to it and handed over to elected civilian. That was what made the northerners to support him in 1999. If Jonathan had replicated the same selflessness Obasanjo demonstrated then, the northerners would have queued behind him. It was Jonathan’s failure that Buhari benefitted from in 2015 not because of the people or any cabal around him. Nobody has the power to force anybody on Nigerians. So, Buhari cannot attempt to run for the presidency the third term.
President Buhari has just re-presented a request for $30 billion rejected by the 8th National Assembly and some analysts are interpreting the move as yet another indication that the current National Assembly is a rubber stamp to the executive. What is your take on this?
A situation where we have a National Assembly, which seems to be more sympathetic to the executive than the people does not bode well for the nation. The legislative arm is not supposed to be an appendage of the executive or turns itself to be a rubber stamp. If truly the National Assembly is playing a rubber stamp, then we are in trouble. A situation where the executive has no fear of the National Assembly, democracy will definitely be in trouble. If Mr President brings a request and nobody is talking about why the request failed to sail through when it was first presented in Eighth Assembly or they fail to consider the pros and cons of the request before granting such request, then it means we are in big trouble. So, my advice to the National Assembly is to subject the request to a thorough debate before taking any action on it.
What is your view on government’s decision to shut down the land borders?
The issue of border closure is two-sided. It is a good development because it has helped to checkmate the smuggling of illegal arms into the country. Besides, it has equally helped to check the influx of terrorists from neighbouring countries into Nigeria. So, I will say this is a positive aspect of the closure. But what I am not comfortable is the suddenness of the decision. It was so sudden that most Nigerians lost billions of naira because it took them unawares. Many Nigerians got stranded at the border with their goods. There should have been a prior notice. That will enable people who are doing legitimate business to tidy up whatever they were doing. Importantly, what the government should have done is to find a way of blocking all illegal entry points through which goods are being smuggled into the country and allow legitimate business to still take place at our borders. On the issue of rice, the Customs boss, Ahmed Alli, deserved to be sued. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, is the only agency saddled with the responsibility of determining which food or drug is good for human consumption. But Ahmed Alli came out to tell us that the rice being brought into the country has expired and not good for people’s health. How did he know and where is his laboratory? That is not his duty. Why did I say he should be sued? The reason is that since he believed this rice is not good for human consumption or they are expired rice, why are they taking the rice to the refugees in IDP camps? Does he want it to kill the refugees? Our people are too hypocritical. If you go to the rich people’s houses, it is the same foreign rice that you see them eat. The best way to discourage the importation of foreign rice is for our local farmers to demonstrate to Nigerians that they are capable of meeting the demand of Nigerians. If local farmers can flood the country with local rice and sell at cheaper rate, Nigerians will be discouraged from buying foreign rice. Let’s say, for instance, a bag of local rice is sold for N7,000 while the foreign one sells for N13,000, those bringing foreign rice into the country will be discouraged because nobody will be ready to patronise them.
With the current scheming for 2023 presidency among politicians of various ethnic nationalities, how best can Nigeria address this issue without any jeopardy to the national unity considering the fact that some Nigerians believe that the Southeast should be allowed to produce the next president of the country?
Rotating political offices or rotational presidency is undemocratic. Democracy advocates that the best candidate should be allowed to rule, democracy allows the majority to decide. What should be paramount on our minds should be how to get good leaders to steer the affairs of this country. Rotating political offices will not give us good governance because it will only promote sectionalism, tribalism and other primordial sentiments at the expense of good leadership. What we have now is that if the president is a Muslim, the vice president must be a Christian or if the president is a Christian, the vice president has to be Muslim. What this means is that in a situation, where we have two good candidates from the same religious or ethnic group for the two positions, we will rather sacrifice one of them for the purpose of trying to satisfy our sentiments. Nigerians should be interested in electing credible people even if they are both Christians or they are from the same ethnic groups, provided they can rule us well, we must give them the chance. I believe this issue is one of the factors militating against good governance in Nigeria. Rotational politics is one of the problems foisted on us by our colonial masters. The divide and rule sentiment they foisted on our political system. They succeeded in doing this by allowing Nigerians to form political parties along ethnic lines. They allow NCNC for the Igbo, AG for the Yoruba and allowed the North to have its own party. By allowing such division at the foundation of our political life, the British succeeded in sowing the seed of division in our political system because they knew that it is the only way to prevent us from coming together as one entity. If upon gaining our independence our leaders had thought it wise to be united politically by forming political parties with national outlook, Nigeria would have overcome this problem now. We would not be concerned about the ethnic nationality that will produce the next president. America, which will claim to be the model of our democracy does not practice the idea of rotational presidency. But we can still reverse this trend. One of the ways of doing this is to revert to two-party system. The current multi-party arrangement will not take us anywhere.
If we revert to two-party system how then do we address the fear of the minority being dominated by the majority?
The minority cannot be dominated by the majority. Is Jonathan not from the minority, didn’t he rule Nigeria as president?
But that might not have been possible if Yar’Adua was alive to complete his tenure?
If we agree to become one as a nation, we will be able to know who is good to lead us, but because we are still divided that is why we will not see anything good in anybody who is not from our ethnic nationality. If we want to talk about the majority in Nigeria we will mention Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. But the only typical Hausa man who has ever ruled this country was Murtala. Apart from Murtala, no other Hausa man has ever ruled this country, yet they are in the majority. It’s the Fulani, who are regarded as the minority that are ruling us. So, whether you are a Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo does not matter. What should be our concern is who will deliver.