By Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai is not mincing words that the incumbent administration has a huge problem fixing the country’s problem. His argument is that the All Progressives Congress (APC) government did not prepare itself adequately for governance. In this interview, the former presidential aide spoke on other touchy issues including the reason behind his support for former President Goodluck Jonathan, his alleged involvement in the Dasukigate and how Nigeria can be reinvented.
What do you make of the lingering fuel crisis in the country?
I have said it before that the APC did not plan for this victory. It is believed that what they are doing now should have been done before the election. For instance, the issue of who governs the senate is something that should have been done long before the election. They should have turned to the manifesto from the party so that the moment they get elected, they would be busy implementing the programme. You can’t draw up a programme after winning the election. This is not the way to serve. Make your programme and conduct your research on the major problems confronting the nation. Then, when you get to power, the nation will help you implement it.
The government and the leadership of APC have attributed the hardship in the country to the rot left behind by the PDP government. Is the excuse not convincing to you?
The fraud in Nigeria has started long time ago. I have said it before and I don’t mind repeating it; the looting in Nigeria started way back as from 1975 when millions of naira was stolen with little or no trace. And ever since the stealing started, it has been the issue of who will steal more than the other. So, it has been there all along. It is not something new. There is looting and impunity which started since 1975, and it has been on till this moment. I don’t believe it just happened now nor did it just start. The APC government was elected to fix problems holding Nigeria down and not to make excuses.
You were said to have vowed not to return the controversial money given to you from the office of the former National Security Adviser’s office during last year’s campaign; how true is the claim?
No money was given to us for campaign. It was money given to us to go and interface with opinion leaders, traditional rulers, religious leaders, legal practitioners and appeal to them to intervene towards the hardship in the country before it breaks down.
Are you daring the government by insisting on your group not returning the said money?
Why would anybody go after me. For what? I have explained that the money given to us was for a committee to help ensure peace. The money did not come from Dasuki, it came from Chief Tony Anenih. Nobody will run after me on account of that; if they were to do that, they would have done that long time ago.
The sum of N63m being touted in the media that Chief Anenih was reported to have said he gave me was not given to me personally for my benefit. It was given to a group of prominent northern elders which I led to tour the North and which we did as mentioned earlier. The truth of the matter is that the money was only N53m not N63m and I have rendered full account of the money used for the tour. Chief Anenih has actually told me that he has since written to the EFCC to correct the error.
This is the summary of how the money was expended on the tour. A sum of N42m was paid to the eight members of the team; N2.250m for returned air tickets for the visit from Abuja to Sokoto, Kano, Ilorin, Yola/Jalingo and Bauchi/Gombe. N1.555m for fuel and drivers hotel accommodation and feeding; N620,000 for our errand; and N3m for three-day preparatory meeting of the group. I have the full details of the entire expenses on how the money was utilized and the list of members of my team and the states visited. At present, I have 19 children all of them have acquired tertiary education. They are taking good care of me. I also have 57 grandchildren alive. I therefore have no need of any patronage from government or any other person.
Would you say the problem of the Buhari administration has to do with the People in his cabinet or with the President’s style?
It has nothing to do with the cabinet. What I am talking about is that they did not plan for this. You don’t begin to plan after getting into power. You plan long before you get into power. The party had no plan on how to face the problem the country is experiencing. The problem now is that you are trying to lead and you can’t do it and time is against them. Now, one year is gone and we are going into the second year. They have finished the election and nobody borders about implementing the programmes. So, if you have the plan, when voted into power, then you implement your plan but if you don’t have a plan, there is no magic that you will wake up over night to make a plan, because you need to carry out a lot of research. If there is a problem in the country, you would like to know what you would do to fix it, how much it will cost, how long it will take and who and who are the experts that will help you to do that. So, by the time you are picking your ministers, you are picking them with regard to the plan in mind and therefore you are taking someone who is relevant to the programme of your party.
Are you invariably advising Nigerians to be prepared for harder days ahead ?
I don’t pray for that but I have not seen a solution to the problem. I have not seen any way out yet. The most the government and economists can do is to generate ideas a year before getting into power because time waits for nobody.
Do you support those who are recommending that the solution to Nigeria’s problems rests on implementing Jonathan’s National conference report?
The conference report dealt with some issues about the constitution. The question then is what about the governance? The conference report consisted of three main categories of recommendations: One that requires amendment to the constitution; another one requires legislation while the other requires policies’ implementation. It has nothing to do with what is happening today because the conference was held before Buhari was elected.
I was a delegate at the conference and we did not discuss how to govern but we discussed structural issues. Those of us that attended the conference would like the government to implement most of the recommendation of the conference, particularly in view of the fact that most of the recommendations were unanimously adopted. But that will not say that the implementation of the resolution of the conference will solve the problem that is facing the country today. What will solve the challenges Nigeria is facing is effective and efficient governance.
As a Northerner, why did you decide to support Jonathan instead of Buhari?
I have nothing personal against President Buhari although I never supported his election bid. I am not a big businessman nor am I a contractor. Jonathan has never given me contract and I have never asked him for anything. I supported him as a matter of principle.
Initially, I was opposed to his bid for the presidency in 2011. But having contested and won the election, I felt his zone should be allowed to rule for two terms as Obasanjo from the South West. That can institutionalize the system of zoning and power rotation, which as a member of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), we believe will bring political stability in the country.
Now that President Buhari has won the election, as I said some time ago, he is the President of Nigeria and whether or not I voted for him, he is the president for all Nigerians including myself. As a citizen I shall benefit if he succeeds and I shall be among the losers if he did not succeed.
As for your statement that the President is ready to overlook my past endorsement, I can assure you that I have no problem with that. I play politics as a matter of principle not for personal gains. I can assure you that I did not take a Kobo from the office of the National Security Adviser. Chief Tony Anenih requested me to give a list of respected northern elders to visit the 19 northern states and also to meet with the traditional rulers and opinion leaders to appeal to them to assist in doing whatever they can to reduce high political tension pervading the region’s political temperature, which I accepted to do with great pleasure in keeping to my long established tradition of rendering patriotic service to this country.