Senator Sadiq Umar of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who represents Kwara North in the National Assembly, has charged the Federal Government to tackle insecurity by addressing some of the factors contributing to the challenge.
In an interview with Saturday Sun, Senator Sadiq noted: “There’s so much youth restlessness, unemployment, hunger, and hopelessness is so much. And if you don’t address these components of our national life, you will continue to face security challenges because these are some of the fuels that propel insecurity.”
He also insisted that his party, APC, and its presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu would win next year’s presidential election, even as he aired his views on the crisis in the APC, Kwara politics, chances of other presidential contenders and other issues. He spoke with KENNETH UDEH in Abuja
How would you react to the rise in insecurity in the country in which the nation’s capital has also witnessed major attacks?
At the National Assembly, we’ve done all we can do, be it resolution, bills, funding and appropriation. We are here because of several other reasons. The first major reason is that there’s so much youth restlessness, unemployment, hunger, and hopelessness is so much. And if you don’t address these components of our national life, you will continue to face security challenges because these are some of the fuels that propel insecurity. For number 2, the communities, the people themselves have to take security more seriously. They have to cooperate with the government. You see something you say. People must stop collaborating with the criminals. People must stop supporting people who are ready to harm our system. So the second component is that society will need to rise up and take this challenge as their problem and help the government.
And lastly the government, especially the executive, needs to sit up. They need to identify where the gaps are, where the weaknesses are. Whoever is not doing his job should be sacked and replaced immediately. Can we continue to monitor these people more? What are they doing? What’s their performance? Why are they not able to perform? You must monitor them for us at the National Assembly. Maybe we need to also step up our oversight over these security agencies and outfits because we’ve appropriated everything they’ve asked, but the result we are getting is not good enough. So maybe we need to look at them more. So to me, I think the challenge can be solved from three angles. One: solving economic challenges such as unemployment, hunger. Two: the communities, the societies and the citizens need to also take this responsibility more than shouting and crying and cursing and blaming. Then of course, the government needs to do better by being proactive, by being serious, by being decisive and by being bold by making sure we are monitoring those who give responsibility. Those who give our resources, we must monitor them closely. What are you using our resources for? Why couldn’t you achieve this? Who is responsible for this? If you find somebody wanting, then fire the person and if the person needs to be jailed for doing what he did or not doing what he was supposed to do, the person should be sanctioned and sit up and let everyone know that there’s a consequence for failure.
How will you describe the outcome of the APC governorship and legislative primary elections?
I think that the primaries that we just concluded in the state are relatively okay. But it is not without its own challenges, whereby those who lost their tickets or their bid to represent the people at whatever level are definitely disgruntled with the processes. But as you know, in any political system, whatever you do or you do not do will always come with complaints and rancour. Essentially in Kwara State, I think the leadership of the party and the state government tried as much as possible to respect the opinion and the interests of the majority of the people, stakeholders, party loyalists, traditional institutions and so on. But it didn’t go without its own challenges and problems, which we understand the leadership is trying to resolve before advancing into the general elections.
Since the conclusion of your party’s primaries, there have been major defections, especially among its National Assembly members. How are you addressing it?
It’s a sad occurrence, because no party wants to lose its members. But in a democracy you can’t satisfy everybody and in that process most people that are not satisfied will take some drastic decisions, though leaving your party as a result of dissatisfaction is not a solution. I do know the manner in which the primaries were conducted and the outcomes have been largely responsible for some of these defections that you are noticing. Most people felt they were unfairly treated, especially those who are serving senators there as they expect some level of respect to be given to them. Especially take for example in Kebbi State, a whole Senate leader, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya, who could not get his ticket to return to the Senate. That wasn’t good enough. We also have Senator Adamu Aliero from the same Kebbi who also left our party and so many others from other states. It was so bad and naturally the backlash is that people want to leave the party. Yes, there have been attempts to try to calm people’s nerves, however such a process cannot be achieved in a single day so it’s still ongoing. I do know that whatever it is, in the final analysis, the leadership of the party will still find a way around it to try to save as many members that they can save so that our party can be victorious in the 2023 general elections.
How you would address this issue if you were in the shoes of President Buhari and your party chairman, Adamu to pacify members from leaving?
Look, it’s very simple. The leadership of the party and the government, especially the president and the party chairman, need to invite all those who are affected and those who are not happy to a round table to have frank and open discussions. Allow people to vent their anger and dissatisfaction and let the party apologise to these members and let them know there is hope. We are hoping to win the next general election and we are going to be forming a government, but before then they need to carry them along. Get them involved in the process from being part of the campaign council formulation, up to the general elections. There have to be strong promises made to these people because there are thousands of opportunities out there. I’m talking of very huge opportunities for these people to serve the people.
Who says that somebody who tries to be a senator but couldn’t become a senator cannot be a minister? There are wonderful strong boards that being the board chairman you’ll be happy to serve both your people and even the government of the country. So the opportunities are enormous, however, it is time to really engage frankly and come with open hands for the people to have confidence in our government and our party and for them to have hope, to forget their grievances and then they can now work very hard for our victory in 2023.
Do you think the Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act passed by the National Assembly pitted the lawmakers against their state governors, which made most of them lose their return tickets?
Well, it might be, but whatever I think is just what I’m thinking and everybody can say anything and we can assume anything but in politics it is what it is. But there must be winners, and there must be losers. Whichever side you find yourself is what makes the difference to every individual. With regards to the Electoral Act, yes, there have been so many hues and cries about it, but I do think yes, it might have contributed to the tensions created, but I do not think that is all about what would have led to people losing election or winning election. There are a whole lot of factors that would have been responsible for the outcome that we are seeing.
Looking at your state, Kwara, the APC has been in crisis and some members have accused the governor of being responsible. How does the party plan to win the 2023 election?
For the records, let me state it clearly, APC is going to win the 2023 general election, Presidential, National Assembly, gubernatorial and House of Assembly. It might not be a clean sweep like the last time, but the APC is going to come off victorious in flying colours. However, like you said, the way we worked in 2019, which was more like a revolution called the ‘Otoge’ movement. That movement was of a resolve moved by the people – ordinary people, stakeholders, women, youths and every other well meaning person to say “enough is enough” and it was like a wind which everybody joined.
However, whatever you see happening after that is not surprising to anybody, because after the ‘Otoge’ revolution, there will be a need for redesigned reformations. Everybody’s interest will start emerging; every person involved will also want to pursue his or her own interest because this is politics.
I must say that it’s sad that as a family we are not able to keep ourselves together and still take the victory the way we did in 2019, but it will be foolhardy to expect that to happen. So right now I think that so many people are angry, some have left for other parties, some are still within the party. They are disgruntled, but I think we still have to reconcile. All those who are ready to work together, we have to keep on, you know, reconciling people, trying to bring our members back to the fore as much as we can because we need it so as to make our victory in the general election easier. But for the records, let me state again that APC is going to win cleanly. Forget about the noise in the media because the people that are going to vote , I mean real voters at the grassroots are going to be looking at other factors beyond the crisis.
More than half of the voters don’t believe in any political party. More than half of the voters don’t belong to any political party and don’t believe in any political party. What they believe in is the candidate or what you have been able to do for them. And I assure you that the APC government in Kwara State have not failed the people. The people are really happy with what we’ve been able to deliver to them. But of course we did not manage ourselves well – I am talking about the politicians and the stakeholders. That’s where much of the noise is, and it’s not good for us because it makes the work more difficult for us. But aside from the deciders of the election, the real voter, the ordinary people who are not really party people will still bet and pitch their tent with the APC.
How do you think your party’s presidential candidate is going to fare in the presidential elections, looking at questions raised about his age, Muslim running mate and others?
Like I said before, our party the APC is going to form the next government in 2023. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will win this general election. The parameters and indices are clear for those who want to look at it deeply and scientifically. It is all of those mathematics that still made him take the risk of taking an unpopular opinion of taking his vice president, a Muslim. It is because of the calculation; he’s already looking at his strategy, where he’s going to harvest his vote. Because before anything, you must win the election first.
Now talking about Tinubu being an old man, well that is funny and undemocratic, you can’t tell that to anybody anyway. Bola Tinubu’s major opponent by the way is also an old man. You go around the world, you find very young men as presidents and you also find very old men as presidents. So to be President is not much about your age, it’s all about your passion, your will, your commitment, your capacity and your ability to form a team that is going to deliver the results for your people. I don’t think the age of ‘Jagaban’ is an issue and I know that those who know, know this very well
The young men are clamouring for a young man. Well, I’m a young man too and I’ll be happy to have a young man to be president, but what I’m happy to have is the most competent President that is made available for election to win an election as far as I’m concerned. I believe he’s going to deliver if he’s elected in terms of security and economy. I have confidence that Ahmed Bola Tinubu will raise the bar of governance from where President Muhammadu Buhari has stopped, and the good news again is that all the errors of the APC government in the last eight years and the weaknesses are natural.
Tinubu is a smart and educated man. He is an experienced man and he is taking note and the errors of this government will be corrected in his own government naturally.
With the benefit of hindsight with his experience and so on, Jagaban, by the grace of God when he becomes the president is going to tackle both the economy and the security challenges. But before Tinubu even assumes office, I’m sure our government, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, will still be able to curb this insecurity to a significant level. But Jagaban will take the baton and do even better and take it to the next level.
Would you describe Labour Party’s Peter Obi as a threat, judging by his huge support on social media and among youths?
I’m happy you also mentioned his monumental support base online, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. He has a massive support, but I don’t think it’s going to translate to the actual votes. I do not think so. I think that Mr Peter Obi is going to make a fantastic statement and the young men who believes in him and they are right. They are free to ask for an alternative candidate. They have reasons they believe in. They are going to come out in their massively to support Peter Obi but I don’t see them going anywhere because as a politician I know how politics is played.
Now the South-East has lost its bid to produce the presidential flag-bearers of the two major political parties, how do you think the region should be pacified?
Honestly, this has always happened. This is not the first time. Ever since 1999, you will see that commonly the South always leads the National Assembly, especially at the Senate level. So if the South East are not going to be on the presidential ticket, vice presidential ticket as a third major ethnic group in this country, I think it’s fair enough for them to be supported to lead the National Assembly. So I hope that, especially our party the APC, if APC wins the Presidency, if the President is a Yoruba from the South West and the Vice from the North, I believe that naturally, the Senate Presidency should go to the South East.