Okwe Obi, Abuja
Yusuf Dantalle is the National Chairman of Allied People’s Movement (APM). He speaks on his expectations of President Muhammadu Buhari in his second term, just as he said his party will reclaim Ogun State at the tribunal and other issues of interest.
By June, President Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in for a second term. What are your expectations?
First of all, I believe in President Muhammadu Buhari. I know he is a nationalist who wants the country to grow. But that does not guarantee 100 percent team work. And, I know that he has learnt from his first administration that is about to wound down. I don’t think he is going to work along party line but on merit. My expectation is that the government will do better. I am very confident in the leadership of Buhari because he mentioned it to me. With the structure of the National Assembly, he will get it right. It is obvious that the 8th National Assembly was antagonistic of the executive.
Do you think the ministers should be replaced?
I will not say yes or no. He knows the country better. He was a former Head of State. He knows who is supposed to be replaced.
Do you think they are worthy of being retained given their level of performances?
When you say somebody has not done well it depends on the resources available to them. This same government complained that Nigeria is operating a mono-economic system; we depend only on crude oil if not now that the government is trying to diversify the economy. You know that the price of crude oil nosedived. Also, the moribund nature of our infrastructure and social amenities are also responsible for the decay or absence of power which is a major problem in the country. I don’t know what is happening there. The previous administration failed. I do not know what this government is doing differently. And without power the economy cannot grow.
Insecurity is another problem the country is confronted with. How can the government navigate through?
The problem we have is that we like addressing symptoms of problems against the real issues. Kidnappings and killings are symptoms which mean that something is wrong somewhere, and which is social inequality. There is too much hunger in the land. I don’t know how much of Robert Merton’s Theory of anomie you know. But he said people react to socioeconomic situations in so many ways: some conform, some rebel, some innovate, while some visualise. I believe that these people do not have faith in the system. Look at Abuja for instance, everyday you see Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) harassing hawkers. They confiscate their goods and collect their sales. They take these things and hand them over to their wives. These hawkers are doing legitimate business but do not have the means to rent shops. AEPB chase them like armed robbers, then what are you telling them to do if not to steal. The government has failed them. Yes, what they are doing might be wrong, but government owe them the responsibility of providing better welfare for them.
The educational system has been killed. None of the children of an average legislator attends a public school including me talking to you. My children are not in public schools because the schools are dead, and the private school are expensive. So, for you to get educated you have to pay. How many people have the money to pay? Those kidnappers are those who do not have the money to attend good schools. They believe that the system has failed them. The Imams are busy trying to get money to travel around why pastors are busy buying private jets. Until we are able to address these things, the problem will persists. Look at the kind of money paid to political office holders. On daily basis, we hear of electoral fraud and vote buying, no magic will change the system unless we reduce the remuneration that goes to political office holders. Politics in Nigeria is equivalent to riches. Whatever I spend during election, if I get elected, I know I will get it back and damn the consequences. We need to come together as a nation to identify what we want. With due respect to members of the National Assembly, 80 percent of them are not there because of Nigerians. They are contesting because of what they stand to gain.
Don’t you think that the long stay of the Service Chiefs calls for concern because most Nigerians think that they have not done enough to quell insurgency?
The Service Chiefs are not the real problems but part of it. They are working based on the rules set up for them. At times they are stories of people who supply substandard arms. If original ammunitions are provided he will not get his share. I cannot prove it but I have heard the stories. Was the late Alex Badeh not accused before his unfortunate death? The Service Chiefs are still operating within the same laws that brought those ones. My suggestion is that, we should have a national conference to build Nigeria. Not too long ago, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) chairman and his daughter were kidnapped on Abuja- Kaduna road. He is a big man but not safe. He is operating within the system. Not too long ago the in-law to the ADC of Mr. President was kidnapped. It is a vicious cycle; if it doesn’t affect you directly, it will affect you indirectly. We need to come together and work for the Nigeria that will serve all of us. If we have a good system, there won’t be any need for people to steal for their children because the system would be structured in a good way.
Talking about national conference, we had one in 2014. Shouldn’t we revisit the report, dust up certain issues and put them forth for discussion rather than organise another one?
If so we must go to the National Assembly and ask them to implement the report. The problem is that we are scared of death, kidnapping or imprisonment. If you say it you will die; and if you don’t say you will still die. If you kill, you will die even if you don’t kill you will still die. So let us do it. We must develop the uncommon spirit of nationalism and put Nigeria first.
Don’t you think it behoves on Mr, President to commence the implementation of parts of the report?
It is not Mr. President but the leadership of the National Assembly. The president is just the head of the executive. He cannot work on his own except within the law provided by the legislature.
What would be your advice for the newly elected legislators to justify the mandate given to them by the people?
My advice is for them to put Nigeria first even though some of them who came through the window put their families first. If they leave a good legacy posterity will remember them. Those who benefited from the system in the past are crying foul today. The same thing with those who are benefiting from the bad system today will cry tomorrow.
Earlier you talked about electoral fraud, if the presidential election was fraught with electoral malpractices, why didn’t you challenge the outcome?
I did not go to court because I was the first to support the president and also because I believe in his government. And he is doing well.
Your party complained about the new Ogun State Governorship Election Tribunal, what are your grievances?
You do not change the goal post in the middle of the game. A tribunal is doing its constitutional work fairly, suddenly the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) applied that members of the tribunal should be changed. The chairman of the new tribunal was a Chief Justice of a state under the present vice president when he was the Attorney General of Lagos State; and when Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is the National Leader of the APC was the governor of the state. We should be asking them why now?
If the panel is reconstituted, do you see yourself getting justice?
It depends on the people selected to man the panel. If for instance you have a case of homicide and you bring your biological brother or sister to be the Chief Justice, will you expect fairness? So many things call for questioning. Another question is why Justice Josephine Coker? You had all the time to constitute members of the panel which you have done and they have commenced work, and nobody is complaining. But because they know APM has a good case since we won the election from our situation room but we were rigged out, they are now changing members of the tribunal.
Members of the tribunal are expected to be neutral. But I don’t see neutrality because of the two questions I earlier asked. Why allow the tribunal to start sitting in the first place? Why are they removing other Justices for Justice Coker who has an affiliation with the vice president who is from the same place that the APC candidate is from?
Apart from this, do you have confidence in the country’s judicial system?
Of course I do. If I don’t have confidence in the judiciary, I will not write a letter to the president of the Appeal Court.
You are not just the chairman of APM, but you were the presidential candidate. If you have so much love for President Buhari and his party, why didn’t you support the APC governorship candidate in Ogun State?
It is a different ball game entirely. The fact that we believe in President Buhari does not mean that we should believe in everybody who is a member of APC. People build party. Like the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, is not part of those who build APC. I was in Labour Party, but I did not believe in the governorship candidate. Yahaya came in through the window. I don’t want his government too. He is an APC man but I don’t believe in his government.
Atiku has gone to the court to challenge the victory of President Buhari. What are his chances?
It is a no case situation to me. He will go and come back the same way he went. He said he won electronically. Does our constitution recognise that? The answer is no. What is in the server is an electronic devise.
What should Nigerians expect from APM?
We did well in last elections even though we are not in government. We came on board and we have moved this far. If we are given three or four years we will take over Nigeria. But we are sure of victory at least in Ogun State because we won the election legally. Abiodun was returned illegally we have facts.