Former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara is the acting Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party. In this interview, he shares his thoughts on some touchy issues in Nigeria. He is of the opinion that the recent letter by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari in which he advised the latter not to seek re-election in next year’s general election was not self serving.
He however picked hole in the stand taken by Obasanjo on PDP. He predicted that the next presidential election will be won by PDP as the main opposition party. He spoke with IHEANACHO NWOSU in Abuja.
What do you make of the letter by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari?
I was impressed with his courage to speak loud to the conscience of our political leaders when the need arises. If we had one or two more of people of his kind that could speak the way he does and monitor what is happening in the country, I think Nigeria would have better, politically, economically and have total development. If he had taken keen interest in the choice of his successors in office, we would have obviously gone farther than where we are now.
Yes it is true, the situation is very clear that Nigerians are suffering. When the populace speaks, of course, you know that it is serious. I don’t know if it was because of the health situation of President Buhari or it was in his character to turn deaf ear to the yearnings of the people. I choose to believe that his bad health situation affected his capacity to perform. So, the observation of President Obasanjo to some extent was correct. Even the reactions of APC and people in power show that they were hit below the belt and I expected a punchy response to those accusations on their way of running the country. But they accepted virtually everything the ex-President said. Maybe they were afraid of him or they don’t want to join issues with him. They were even thanking him for such observations. That might, perhaps, force them to sit up and deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. When I was listening to the interview by Prof. Oyebode, he stated that Obasanjo was not the first person to highlight these failures. Bishops John Onaiyekan, Mathew Kukah, former Speaker Ghali Na’Abba and others have previously reminded the President of these things. But then when you hear such a thing coming from such a colossus like Obasanjo, then it was true.
What actually one does not understand was that while the former President accused President Buhari of performing below average, the AU heads of state adopted him as the symbol of anti-corruption war. They unanimously endorsed him as one who has made Africa proud in the way he has fought corruption. The AU assessment of Buhari might be right or wrong. One thing we must know is that corruption is not fought by an individual but by institution. But Buhari is the only one that is fighting corruption in this country and that might be the reason for the level of success we have made in that regard.
What do you mean by ‘he is the only one fighting corruption’?
He is the only one fighting corruption. I don’t want to be too explicit. The fight against corruption should be systemic and not individualistic. The system has not accepted the fight against corruption.
But he has allowed EFCC to do its job.
Yes, they have enjoyed a level of freedom in their operations but many Nigerians see them as being selective in the fight. Recent arrest of the former SGF, Babachir Lawal, after Obasanjo letter was seen by Nigerians as smokescreen. You don’t fight corruption by placing your cronies at the head of critical government agencies and control them your own way. The EFCC is obviously not independent. The EFCC is still being controlled by the Fulani oligarchy in this country today. I don’t want to talk about what they are doing with my party. That is the selective nature of that fight. But when it comes to individuals, it takes a lot of pressure on Mr. President, a lot of pressure on EFCC before they will do something outside their game plan. Their game plan indicates they are selective, and are determined to deal with PDP and their members who are perceived to be corrupt. The Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, should have been sent packing because it was brought to our notice that he has houses in Dubai but he was neither invited nor questioned by the EFCC. The fight against corruption ought to be systemic, no matter whose ox is gored. Look at what is happening in America, Muller’s investigation is still going on and they would talk to President Trump. They will invite him and talk to him. Forget about what he is saying about no obstruction, no collusion and what have you. They are doing their job. They are independent. He cannot fire Muller. He can hire him but he cannot fire him. But here, the system has not even accepted Magu. Magu probably could be the best man for the job. But he is still in acting capacity and that is unconstitutional. You cannot be acting on a position for infinity. That is unconstitutional. The system has not accepted the fight against corruption. Corruption is not only looking for dollars and oil money. Even government policies could be corrupt and as far as Buhari policies are concerned, he is corrupt. How do you explain three security chiefs coming from his own state? That is corruption in a diverse society like ours that ought to promote equity. It is not only when you say you caught Wabara with $3 billion or something. It’s not all about money. Your policies should also be looked into.
The former President accused PDP and APC of being ideology deficient. He advocated a creation of a coalition of movement that would operate separately from APC and PDP. How realistic is this arrangement?
That is the area where I differ with the former President Obasanjo. Any time we have a problem in this country, we always refer to America because they are running a presidential system of government. I will expect former President Obasanjo to know that in America, that cannot happen. What happens in America is that they have a two party more or less system where if one party does not perform, the people will vote out that party and go back to the other party. Here in Nigeria, talking about coalition, Nigerians cannot be fooled again. We had what he suggested now in APC. Who are those going to form the third force? Are they not the same disgruntled faces from PDP and APC? What I expected Obasanjo to say was that he has tasted the two parties. When a man tastes two different foods, he will know which one was better and not to start cooking another one. There is no time for his suggestion to come to fruition. The implication is that we will go back to square one. My suggestion is for Nigerians to look at PDP and see whether they have rebranded with a concrete evidence to justify their claims. This will inform their decision in 2019 elections. Obasanjo is, undoubtedly, an elder statesman that is expected to put his ears on the ground and listen to the cry and complaints of Nigerians. Nigerians are now asking questions. They are tired of APC. They are tired of Buhari. They said they will want to go back to where they are coming from.
But nothing seems to have changed in the PDP.
That is unfair judgement of PDP. The party has obviously undergone transformation. What most of Nigerians were expecting after the convention that took place last year was that PDP would scatter by now, court cases all over the place. But that did not happen. There is no convention that does not end up in one form of disagreement or the other and we have been able to cage that within the PDP. Even those who were aggrieved are coming back. They have accepted the fact that PDP has a future and the party is bigger than any individual. The outcome of the convention really shocked Nigerians that the party is still intact.
But some believe that the PDP is fast losing its ground especially in the South East and even South South with prominent members of the party leaving its fold. Are you not worried?
There is no place for APC in the south east and the south south. They might have strong structures in south west and northern states but not in south east and south south. Those prominent people who are moving out of PDP might be doing so for reasons best known to them. Nigerian politicians don’t like to suffer. But there are rugged politicians who are determined to stand the storm. Politicians always set a standard for themselves. In America, how many people have you heard moved from the democratic party to the republican because the party lost power in 2016? No, you stay there and fight and correct the ills within. You cannot correct from outside. This is what we should strive to get at and not just our own personal interest. The party will outlive all of us. We are all growing and we will exit one day. But your legacy is the contributions you have made to the party and not what the party will give to you because the party has won an election. All those people who have left PDP in the South South and the South East are obviously looking for political positions and unfortunately, Buhari might not even be looking at their direction. Look at all those he made board members. How many south south people or Doutheasterners are there? Look at the promotion going on in a little place like the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), there is obviously no Igbo man who is a state commander. All of them are northerners. So, why will you waste your time joining the party that does not take care of your interest?
We also have a situation where even some governors in the South East publicly endorse the President, campaigning for him . Are these not enough signal?
That is not correct. There is no southeast governor that is openly campaigning for Buhari. The only governor of the southeast that was expected to do that is Rochas Okorocha who is from Imo state. You must always respect your President, whether he is of your party or not. It does not mean that you are a member of that party or you intend to go to that party. I don’t see and I’m speaking authoritatively that there is no PDP governor of southeast that is thinking of defecting to APC. No way. APGA is even stronger in the southeast than APC. They are bigger threat to PDP than APC. Governors are expected to respect and support the President and not open criticism and castigation. No wonder they dole out $1 billion to him –all the governors. The President is their boss more or less. They now sacrifice a billion dollars of their money more or less to fight Boko Haram. That does not mean that they want to move to APC for one reason or the other. They gain nothing so far from Buhari. The Igbo are big losers in this administration. Even Imo that is APC state never benefitted anything and we are going to reclaim Imo in 2019.
Many Nigerians doubt your strength to reclaim power at the federal level
I am not sure you are listening to the right people. I am a true representative of the people, even though I am no longer in the National Assembly. I listen to the people and you will be shocked at the outcome of the election. If the card reader machine works well as expected and INEC does not compromise the system, you will be amazed at the outcome of the exercise. I even disagree somehow with my oga, Obasanjo that APC should not field Buhari. Nigerians did not vote for APC in 2015, Nigerians voted for Buhari and voted out Jonathan, not PDP. They didn’t want Jonathan for whatever reason and they wanted Buhari as a person. If Buhari was an independent candidate, Nigerians would have voted for him. Now, the same Nigerians are saying we don’t want him anymore and they believe in the two party system. They don’t know any other party other than APC and PDP. Now, they will be asking for the umbrella. It will be to our advantage that APC re-present Buhari for 2019 election. It will be very clear to them that Nigerians would speak using their Permanent Voters Card (PVC). Nigerians will vote for any northerner who definitely will come from PDP.
Are you saying any northerner that PDP fields will defeat Buhari?
Like I said, Nigerians wanted Buhari as a person. So, there was no way Jonathan could have won that election. They wanted Jonathan out completely and now that Jonathan is not in the reckoning and he is out, anybody that PDP fields in 2019 with very strong campaign strategy and message, will definitely win the election. Nigerians must Know that PDP has been rebranded, we have learnt our lessons, we were there for 16 years. We made mistakes but we have learnt our lessons.
PDP talks so much about many prominent Nigerians defecting to the party but that is yet to take place months to the general election. What is happening?
It is not time yet. People come and go. They have not done their convention. As we speak, I am not sure APC has held two or three BOT meetings since they came into power. They have not met as we speak. So, there is enormous problem in there and at the fullness of time, it would boomerang. Once the convention is done, then you will see the mass exodus from APC to PDP. Not that we are inviting them. They would come because that is where the people now want to concentrate. So, forming a third force would not work. There is no time. People would not be conversant or comfortable with such a new party. They might believe that it was formed to deceive them the same way APC was formed few months to election and deceived Nigerians. We have learnt our lessons and we are going to do it right this time so that we could get it right always. So, as soon as the convention is done, aggrieved party members would dump the APC. Jerry Gana committee is putting finishing touches to the restructuring package and other things that would excite the electorate. We are hopeful that INEC and all its systems would work well this time. It will guarantee our success in the polls. The international community will be very much interested in the election and they know that Nigerians are suffering. Just that they respect our sovereignty as a country. If not, they would have intervened in different ways to save Nigerians from the untold hardship.
What is your reaction to accusation by supporters of President Buhari that criticisms against the President on herdsmen and some killings were politically induced ?
Buhari has turned Nigeria into a colony of cattle with Fulani as the President of the cattle colony. And neither him nor his interior minister has reacted to the unending killing of people in local communities. But they were quick to deploy soldiers to execute operation python dance. But nothing has happened to any Fulani herdsman; not even a statement of condemnation from the government because the man at the helm of affairs is Fulani. So, he has virtually turned Nigeria into a colony of cattle ranch, headed by a Fulani. We are uncomfortable with the approach used thus far by Buhari to pilot the affairs of Nigeria.
But he also has said he was investigating some of those killings.
At what point? Because of the pressure? I know he had health challenges but he has practically recovered. But his Interior Minister who is also a Fulani ought to have taken this thing upon himself to tell Nigerians that the herdsmen don’t have the support of the government. But nobody today, could tell me or any Nigerian that the herdsmen don’t enjoy the support of the Federal government. Otherwise, look at what happened in Benue. Those they arrested were the vigilante. If government cannot protect you, you protect yourself. The vigilante that they displayed on television, you could see them in uniform. You know that these are vigilante with locally made guns. You were quick in arresting them and displaying them on the television, but you are yet to arrest one Fulani herdsmen with AK 47 rifle. That was because our security system has been hijacked by the Fulani and that was why I said that Buhari has succeeded in creating a cattle colony headed by a Fulani herdsman.
Do you believe INEC will deliver free and fair election in 2019?
I have confidence in the ability of INEC to deliver. Their chairman has a reputation and integrity to protect. President Buhari, so far, in my view has not interfered with any elections unlike in the past where there were all kinds of interference here and there, to ensure that a particular party wins. He has not interferred. We have had so many elections where the opposition party won elections. To that extent, I think I have the confidence that he will allow for a free and fair election, given the Fulani spirit in him where they just take things as they are. I thank the National Assembly for their support and confidence in the use of the electronic voting machines. I hope and pray they will work that time. To that extent, INEC will just do its job.
The government says it was because of the 2016 economic recession that caused hardship for Nigerians
Nobody wants to know that. You can borrow money to do that.
But he has also taken Nigeria out of recession.
Who created the recession? It was his poor handling of the economy that led to the economic recession. I don’t want to be too personal. Within a year, there was a recession, which was not a global recession. In Ghana, Benin Republic, there was nothing like recession there. It has to do with governance. When he came in without any economic policy, he increased tariffs and other bad economic policies resulted in the recession. I don’t want to say whether his cabinet members are competent enough to handle the economy. But he came in with a preconceived vendetta. In America or in England, if you want to increase the price of bread, it’s in cents and pennies and yet people will go against it. But here, you can imagine that a vehicle that you could go to Elizade and pick for N19 million some three, four years ago now goes for over N70 million. Is that not corruption? Why won’t there be recession? So, it is his uninformed policies that had no economic basis that led to the recession.