Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr Anthony Sani, has tasked former Minister of Defence, General T.Y Danjuma (Rtd), to speak up if he is patriotic enough about issues bothering Nigeria.
General Danjuma had at a public lecture recently said that if he was to speak about the state of the nation, the people would no longer sleep.
In this exclusive interview, Sani said that it is better for the retired General to speak up than to keep entire Nigerians in suspense.
The ACF scribe also spoke on other national issues. Excerpts:
Some people have been accusing you of being a friend of the government, which makes you not to be critical on actions of government. What do you have to say?
I do not think I am not critical of the government. This is because I have offered constructive criticisms of the government in many areas. I prefer people to concentrate on the issues I raise as to whether they make sense and not on who raised them. It is important to note that ACF endorsed President Buhari for the last election based on his performance and pedigree by asking people to vote for the regime. Having won the elections, ACF cannot reasonably be expected to deny the government the needed support for performance. And support of the government does not mean absence of constructive criticisms where necessary.
General T.Y Danjuma (Rtd) said recently that if he should speak about Nigeria, the people will no longer sleep. What is your advice to him, should he speak out his mind or keep silent forever?
General T.Y Danjuma is a statesman and patriot who is versatile enough to know when to speak and when to be silent. He also knows what to say and what not to say. His place in the order of things is not to keep the nation in suspense, but to help in overcoming any challenge facing the country.
How has ACF faired in the outgoing year in terms of uniting the nation and North in particular?
You tend to be pedestrian sometime by your questions. I say this because you forgot the fact that ACF is a consultative and more or less a pressure group, which seeks to give voice to what most northerners share in the context of one united Nigeria. ACF’s performance is not what you can easily measure, since they are intangible. More so that the federal and state governments are the prime movers while NGOs like ACF can only complement by nudging the prime movers to make conscious and direct efforts to make desires possible and then actual. Now, direct to your question, ACF has been fairing very well by promoting what unites the nation and not divisive factors. For example, the forum is against the tendency of some people to give ethnic and religious colouration and political profiling to everything under the sun, and in blithe disregard to the fact that such tendencies unwittingly provide platforms upon which criminal elements can hide and perpetrate crimes. ACF is against ethnic nationalism and religious bigotry promoted by elbow-throwing grievance groups clamouring for government preferment. But whether the relative improvement in peaceful coexistence in the North and thus, the nation can partly be attributed to the efforts of ACF and other civil societies is for Nigerians to judge.
The year 2020 is just by the corner, what message do you have for your counterpart like Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Niger Delta Forum and Middle Belt Forum regarding the unity of the country?
My message to sister organizations like Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Niger Delta Forum, and Middle Belt Forum is for them to help promote a republic of national ideals and core values of humanity as against a republic of cloistered communities with strong historical ties to places. Insular and primordial sentiments should give way to promotion of relative pluralism that comes with inter-ethnic marriages and urbanization in favour of national solidarity. This is because we can make the most of the God-given diversity by working hard to overcome what divides the people.
Aisha Buhari is worried that people around her husband, particularly Mamman Daura are giving out presidential order without her husband’s knowledge, and even went ahead to register her bitterness with Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu. What is your reaction?
I have said it over and over again that my guess on the aim of what has happened in the first family is in furtherance of the adage that all work without play makes Jack a dull boy.
Northern elders have appointed former Head of State, General Abubakar Abdulsalami to reconcile Kano State governor, Umar Ganduje and Emir Lamido Sanusi over the split of the Kano Emirate. Do you think there will be truce at the end of the day, considering executive power of the governor?
Yes, some northern elders have initiated some form of reconciliation between the warring factions. To me, that is a healthy development because it can bring about peaceful resolution of the whole shebang. It is not matter of power, but desire by the northern leaders to bring about peaceful resolution by putting an end to the festering duel.
You have been saying that it is too early for politicians to discuss 2023 presidential election, but politicians are already scheming for the race. What is your advice to them?
My advice is still the same, that it is too early to embark on politics of 2023, considering such early politics can undermine the significance of performance of government in our body politics in favour of politics of identity of rotation and zoning that is more or less tacit admission of failure of leadership. But the fault of early politics of 2023 lies with the media, which promote it and the politicians. If media can set national agenda and deny the politicians any space for early politics of 2023, the politicians will not continue.
What is your reaction to inclusion of Nigeria on the watchlist of religious intolerance by America?
I do not believe there is religious intolerance that is deliberately promoted by this government, considering there are churches for Christians in states of Northeast that is the hub of the Boko Haram. These churches are made possible by existence of security personnel in those areas. Similarly, there are many mosques in predominantly Christian states in Southeast and South-south zones where Muslims are free to worship. The mention of fate of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria as example of religious intolerance does not add up. This is because IMN is a registered movement that has been proscribed on its activities, which the government considers inimical to public good. The members of IMN are not prevented from worshipping their Shiite Sect. They are free to worship their Shiite. I share the view expressed by President Buhari that America should do more in their effort to have a feel of realistic appreciation of the country through balanced consultations instead of concentrating on only one side opposed to the regime.