A leading northern leader, Alhaji Shuaibu Ado Dansudu has called on Nigerians to be more objective when making decision on who to lead the nation in future to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Dansudu, who is the national chairman, Arewa United Consultative Forum, noted that merit rather than ethnic considerations or any other sentiment should be the major yardstick in determining the next president in the country.
He also spoke on other major national issues, including the intractable security challenge, rotational presidency, and APC’s defeat in Edo.
There have been persistent calls from some quarters on the need for Nigeria to sustain the idea of rotational presidency. What is your take on this issue?
I am of the opinion that we should be more concerned about getting the right person who can move Nigeria forward regardless of the person’s tribe, sex, background or religious affiliation. The issue of competence and the love of the nation and the citizens should be our utmost consideration in electing our leaders not where they hail from. For some time now, whether by arrangement or coincidence we have been practicing rotational presidency, but nothing spectacular has come out of it. First of all, the idea of rotational presidency does not give room for the enthronement of merit because we seem to be more concerned with where the person comes from rather than what the person is capable of doing. In order words, we will be sacrificing competence and allow sentiments to dictate who will lead us. So, it is high time we jettisoned the idea of rotational presidency and search for capable and patriotic Nigerians to lead us regardless of their political zones. Rotational presidency is anti-democracy.
How then do we address the issue of marginalization which is the root cause of the agitations by some ethnic groups in the country?
Rotation of power as it were, is between the North and the South. Anybody coming out from the South should be seen as a representative of all the geo-political zones in the South and not as a Yoruba man or an Igbo man or a South-south person. Similarly, anybody coming from the North should be seen as a representative of the three geo-political zones in the North. The agitation and the bad blood which the idea of rotational presidency is generating is because people fail to see themselves as members of one of the two larger geographical divides, that is talking about the North and the South. Instead, they want to see themselves as one of the sub-divides of these two divisions. So, within these two divisions we should look for people with track records; those that can be trusted with power and people who have the capacity to move the nation forward regardless of their ethnic or tribal group. It is only when will give our search a broader viewing that we will be able to get capable hands to rule us. For me, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu remains one the best candidates we can get from the South. Also if the eastern people come out with somebody who they believe has the capacity to rule the country that is also fine. But it will be wrong to expect the North to dictate that the next president should come from a particular zone or state of the country just as the South cannot dictate to the North. But above all, Nigerians should be motivated by the need for competence rather than any other consideration when making decisions about who should lead the country next.
There is apprehension that the breakaway of a group from the Arewa Consultative Forum will impact negatively on the North because it might be difficult for the zone to speak with one voice again. What is your take on this?
We are in democracy where everybody is at liberty to join or leave any group if he or she feels that his aspiration is not met by the group. Democracy gives us that freedom that is why in our group, the Arewa United, we allow our members the freedom to join political parties of their choice. It is wrong to expect the entire North to toe this same path or speak with one voice on different issues. The North can never speak with one voice; it will be very difficult. First among the reasons why the North cannot speak with one voice is that there are so many differences among the people of the North. Secondly, is because of the selfishness of some people from the zone. Also the myriad of problems bedeviling the North particularly the problem of poverty and other issues will never allow the people to view issue in the same light. Most of the leaders we have in the North, compared to those in the South, don’t have the interest of their people at heart. Look at the way the southerners would sit together and come up with common solutions to their problems; in the North there is nothing like that. So, it is very difficult for the North to toe a common path. If you can recall, there is a group which called itself Coalition of Northern Youths, the leader of that group started by criticizing and lampooning the elders in the North. Is that how the North will move forward? This shows lack of focus. When the idea of Amotekun was mooted, they came up with the idea of setting up Shege Kafasa, what is the motive behind such move? That is why a lot of us rose in condemnation of the idea. And for Amotekun, as laudable as the initiative is, those behind it are very biased because they refused to carry the northerners along.
What do you mean by not carrying the northerners along? Do you mean northerners residing in the Southwest?
Yes! When you talk of security, it is the responsibility of every resident, including foreigners living in an area. We are supposed to be part of the entire arrangement for the purpose of peace and justice. Northerners in the zone ought to have been made to be part of the group because there are some northerners who are only northerners by virtue of their parents or grandparents being northerners. If you ask them to go back to the North they do not know where to go because they were born and have lived their entire life in the Southwest. Promoters of the initiative ought to have factored this into their arrangements, but instead of that they took their bias to the extreme by recruiting only Yoruba into the outfit.
Don’t forget that one of the major reasons that brought about the idea was because of the activities of some criminal elements among the Fulani herdsmen operating in the zone. Do you think it is advisable to still include them in the set up?
Are Fulani herdsmen the only northerners in the zone? There are other northerners who have higher stakes than the Fulani herdsmen in the zone. The northerners in the Southwest can form a state in the zone. Most of us are more southerner than even most people who hail from the zone because their forefathers settled in the region several decades before they were born and have lived all their entire life in the zone. Even in the US, there are foreigners who are enlisted in the army. For instance, there are Nigerians in the US Army, navy, air force. Even in Britain, in Saudi-Arabia. If that is possible, there is nothing wrong in incorporating northerners resident in the Southwest in Amotekun.
Some commentators have attributed the defeat of APC in Edo State to widespread anger against the party at the centre considering some of the recent policies of the government, which they claim are anti-people. Do you share this sentiment?
The truth of the matter is that APC shot itself in the foot when it appointed Abdullahi Ganduje as the head of the campaign train of the party in Edo State. It was a big blunder. Remember Ganduje is from the far North; a Hausa-Fulani who is so much detached from Edo State in every respect. He is just a governor. He was never a senator neither has he ever held any ministerial position where he would have had the privilege of working with some people from Edo State. These are some of the considerations that would have given him some leverage to make contacts with people from the state for the purpose of helping the party during the election. So, tell me how would Ganduje, who does not know anybody in the state neither does he understand their culture nor speak their language have been able to help the party? Why not appoint Akpabio or Ameachi or even Keyamo who are from the zone. Even Sanwo-Olu who is from Lagos would have added more value to APC efforts during the election.
Does it mean that you don’t believe that some of the recent decisions of the APC-led government which people view as anti-people policies like the hike in price of petroleum, electricity tariff among other played a part in the outcome of the election?
Definitely the ill-feeling arising from those decisions could be additional factors, but I don’t think we can compare the effect of these to the grave mistake the party made by appointing Ganduje as the head of the party’s campaign organisation in Edo State.
Nigeria is still contending with insecurity. What do you think the government is getting wrong as far security challenge is concerned in the country?
When you decide to extend the tenure of the Service Chiefs unduly after attaining the mandatory retirement age you should not expect those affected by the decision to take it in good faith. There is disquiet in the service because some people who believe they have been short-changed by the extension of the tenure of office of some senior officers who ought to have retired are working against the service. So, you don’t expect those who feel cheated to be encouraged and motivated in this situation. The government must, therefore, do the needful if it is desirous of overcoming the insecurity in the country. When you extend the tenure of somebody you block another person’s opportunity and you don’t expect those who feel cheated to be happy. They will definitely sabotage your effort. The issue of military headship should not be treated like traditional titles. Also the government must encourage the military by way of incentive. The gesture by Borno State governor who gave the family of a slain military commander house and money is worthy of commendation and emulation. Such gesture will go a long way to encourage those in the service to put in their best knowing full well that their families will be adequately catered for in the event that they lose their lives or get maimed in the course of the service.