From Agaju Madugba, Katsina
Since President Muhammadu Buhari left the shores of Nigeria for medical leave abroad, Nigerians have continued to express their thoughts on the state of his health. But Senator Ibrahim Tsauri, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who represented Katsina Central Senatorial district between 2003 and 2007 says Buhari should return to his job, so that he will personally witness his defeat at the polls in 2019.
Do you agree with the way in which the presidency is handling the issue of Buhari’s health?
The presidency has no reasons to hide the true nature of Buhari’s ailment because falling sick is part of human nature. Anybody can fall sick and there is no reason why people should not tell Nigerians the nature of the President’s illness. Buhari is a human being and he can fall sick. If the Presidency is trying to hide the extent or position of the sickness, that is left for them.
If they are hiding the nature of the sickness, that is their problem but all we know is that Buhari is sick and we pray for him to get better and come back to continue his job. Any right thinking person will not pray for the incapacitation of the President.
When Yar’Adua was sick we saw it, when he became incapacitated and we saw what happened next that led us to the doctrine of necessity. If today, Buhari is declared incapacitated, there will be nothing ceremonious about it. We pray for him to get better and come back, but the presidency should be up and doing by giving the people the true picture of the president’s illness.
How long is the President constitutionally allowed to remain outside the country on medical grounds?
The constitution is there and it clarifies it. If the President leaves the country for anything, he transmits power to the Vice President and Buhari did that and met all the conditions. The President is out of the country on sick leave and he did what the constitution says he should do. We do not need to bother ourselves about how long the President stays outside the country as long as he transmitted power to the next in command. That is why you do not even call him Vice President now, you call him Acting President. The constitution says that if the President is certified incapacitated, he can be impeached whether he decides to resign or not.
But the certification of that incapacitation has to be done by his executive council. If the executive council certifies that the President can no longer perform the functions of a president, which means he is incapacitated.
Supporters of the president say that Buhari did well for the north while he was chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), do you agree with this assessment?
Buhari was Head of State and in 2015 he became president, but these are two different things altogether. When he came on board in 1984, he was a soldier and he did everything using decrees. There was no legislature and even the judiciary was muzzled. He did whatever he did based on the decision of the military junta. But this time around he cannot do anything outside confines of the legislature and the judiciary. Everything he does has to be guided by the constitution. I would not want to discuss what he did for the north or Katsina State when he was Head of State or currently as President. But I think he did more for the north when he was head of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
During his chairmanship of the PTF, we saw improvement in Katsina State, but now he is the President of Nigeria and not for Katsina State. For his presidency so far, I have not seen anything good. I am not saying he has not done anything but I have not seen anything. The exchange rate has skyrocketed and the dollar has gone as far as N520 . Prices of goods and services have skyrocketed.
The economy of the country has gone from bad to worse. I would not know what he may do in the future but for now, the situation is bad.
There may be some level of achievement in the fight against Boko Haram, but besides that, I do not see anything good in this government and even the anti-corruption fight has been one-sided. I do not need to tell you that if the PDP were in power the situation will certainly not be as it is today because everybody is feeling the effect of this economic crunch in the country.
He said he is fighting corruption, but when the anti-corruption war is one-sided, what do you call it? All those being detained or probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission are all PDP members. Some who were in the PDP and were afraid of being probed have since defected to the APC and nobody touches them. I am not telling you something new, it is what you know.
Are you telling me that these people, who are being arrested and prosecuted, are they the only people who looted this country?
Who are the people who looted the country? 90 per cent of those who are in the APC today were in the PDP before and they were the people who made the economy what it is today. The solution is that if you are afraid of being probed, then defect to the APC, you will be saved.
Let me give you an example with Katsina State. Right from the councillor to the governor, only three people were not PDP; that is, the deputy governor, the member of House of Representatives for Katsina Central and then the Commissioner for Finance. All other persons from the governor down to the councillor in the wards were in the PDP.
The governor was a member of the House Representatives for four years; he was speaker of the House of Representatives for four years and defected to the APC when he lost his election.
Take a look at those surrounding the president at the federal level, they were in PDP. So, if Buhari intends to do proper probing then he should not spare anybody.
How does your party intend to resolve its crisis, and are you not worried that it has lingered for too much?
Some people refuse to understand one thing, in democracy, you can say whatever you want to say and do whatever you want to do and you go and sleep well. There is crisis in the PDP just like there is crisis in the APC. Some people say we have a problem because of the ruling of the Appeal Court in Port-Harcourt, but mind you, it is not the last court in the land. Those in the Makarfi faction have gone to the Supreme Court seeking redress. If tomorrow the Supreme Court says the Makarfi faction is not legitimate, then the PDP will remain intact. If the Supreme Court says Sheriff is the authentic Chairman, the PDP still remains. The crisis as you term it is good for democracy.
In democracy people have the freedom to express themselves. If it were during the military rule you cannot talk like this. You talk today and tomorrow you will not be seen again.
Do you think your party has the capacity to reclaim power in 2019?
We want Buhari to come back in good health because of 2019 when we are going to take over power from him. We do not want to take power from any other person; we want to take power from Buhari himself that is why we do not want him to be sick. We do not want him to die. We will beat him at the polls in 2019 just as he beat us in 2015. I am so sure of this because the APC is already campaigning for us. If you voted for APC in 2015, I am so sure you will not make that mistake of voting for them again in 2019.
In the case of Edo and Ondo, we all witnessed what happened. In Ondo, our candidate was declared the authentic governorship candidate on Thursday while the election took place on Saturday, so we did not have sufficient time to campaign.
If they were not afraid of the PDP, why did they not give us the one week we asked, for campaigns? If we were given one week, we would have defeated the APC. In Edo, you saw what happened that there was no level playing field. When we were allowed to campaign in Rivers State, what happened? When we were given time to campaign in Bayelsa, what happened? So, we have that confidence that the PDP is bouncing back to reclaim the mandate and make Nigeria a better place to live.
So, we are praying to Almighty God to heal and let him come back to Nigeria and continue his job, because between now and 2019 when we are going to take over.