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By Kenny Ashaka
Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, the Chairman of the North West Zone of the All Progressives Congress, APC was former Minister of Youth Development during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. He was one time secretary of the Sokoto Emirate Council before moving to become the Secretary of the Northern socio-cultural group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF for a long period. Politically, Inuwa who holds the title of Magatakada Baba of Sokoto was the Vice-Presidential candidate of the Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA during the 2003 election.
In this interview, the APC North West Zone Chairman said in 2019 the vacancy that exists in Aso Rock is that whether you like Buhari or not, whether he wants to run or not, there will be a contest. He emphatically said there will be no automatic ticket for Buhari and asked other office seekers on the platform of the APC to be ready for their electorates, saying the era of riding on the popularity of Buhari was over. He spoke on other burning issues such as restructuring and the quit notice to Igbo by the Arewa Youths.
Recent developments across the country tend to suggest that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder with agitations and palpable anxiety. You have heightened demand by IPOB wanting a Biafra Republic; same with Niger-Delta Avengers talking about resource control. The South Easterners are also demanding for a South-east Development Commission and the Arewa Youths have given ultimatum to the Igbo to leave the North. Added to this is the Afenifere saying it is either restructuring or no Nigeria. What, in your opinion is responsible for these agitations that have made Nigeria to be on the boil?
Let me start by saying that Nigeria is not on the boil. What exactly is happening with all these agitations; whatever qualifies them to be agitations, are just manifestations of something wrong somewhere and the leadership of the country. When I say leadership of the country it cuts across all strata within the three tiers of government. That is at the governmental level. We also have parties, religious organizations, leaderships in communities, civil society groups and so on. I say this because we are heading towards a situation where each one of us is on its own. All the citizens of this country feel the air of freedom and air of not accountable or answerable to anybody or anything. Those other communities we always refer to have their value systems which they appreciate, respect and abide by. This is the ideal concept of any community in a social context. In aggregation this is what they develop to call their system in modern context which they call a federal and unitary system in terms of nations or country or you call it a presidential or parliamentary system of government. In our situation we have found ourselves in these problems because of the deficit. We have leadership deficit in all strata like I have said earlier because if you don’t have leadership it seems everybody is on his or her own and can do what he or she likes. So that is why there are these agitations if you call them agitations. And these agitations are by who? Is it by me or by members of the press? I am being realistic and I don’t want to play politics with this issue. Let us address it properly. The Igbo, if you like, for the purpose of description, this MASSOB and other allied organizations do they really represent the Igbo as an ethnic group or as a larger group? There are so many ethnic groups in the east. Do they really as a group or sub group agree on what Kanu is doing? There are so many groups in the Niger Delta. Do the Avengers or whatever names they are called, Ijaw Youth Congress, is what they are doing a reflection of the feelings of the people from that region or living in that region? You may not be indigenous to that place but all your life you might have been there for decades like the case of the Igbo all over the country and in particular in the North because there are little presence of Igbo in the South-west apart from Lagos. Is that the reflection of these people living outside Igbo land? No. But these are signals that will indicate that there is something wrong in our leadership. This leadership is all over as far as I am concerned because this is not how we have been living before the civil war and even after.
Does that not suggest to you that something is wrong somewhere?
Something is wrong everywhere not somewhere.
What you are saying in effect is that Nigerians should blame these agitations on the failure of leadership?
I said there is deficit, not failure.
What could the leadership have done to head off these problems?
The leaders don’t appreciate their roles, themselves and responsibilities to the citizens. Take the most recent happening in Lagos for instance when somebody was declared wanted by the Nigerian security agencies for seven years and this man is not staying in a remote area but in a low density area of Lagos. He was living his normal life, enjoying the booties of his crime and the security agencies cannot get intelligence report. Nobody cares about what is going on. And there are so many of such things going on. And there are so many crimes being perpetrated, not necessarily kidnappings and armed robbery but other notorious people affecting the country. If you have a good leadership and the institutions are working some of these things will be minimized. I am not saying they would be eliminated because you can never have a perfect system but it can be minimized to a level that they occur not too frequently. That is why I will not accept the word failure but deficit. This is a two-way traffic.
The second leg of it is for the citizens themselves. Nobody pays tax in this country as at when due apart from workers and this is also because these taxes are deducted from their salaries before they are paid. So the citizens have no obligation to the nation so also for the leadership. So we are afloat. The only thing is that we are great because of our population and what God has endowed us with in terms of material and human resources that abound all over the country. God loves this country, but it is defeatist to rely on that.
So many Nigerians have expressed the feeling that we are descending towards turmoil and that is disturbing because we have had two constitutional conferences, one in 2005 and the last one in 2014 with good recommendations on how to restructure the country in such a way that we won’t have these agitations. But successive governments, including the present APC administration have continued to play the ostrich when it comes to implementing the recommendations on restructuring and true federalism. That they say is the bane of the problem. What do you make of such conclusions?
In a way I agree that Nigeria requires restructuring. But if I say restructuring it depends on the person reading or listening to me and the interpretation he or she may have about restructuring and true federalism. In Nigeria we cage ourselves with semantics instead of facing the reality. If you use the word restructuring in its ordinary meaning to commentators of public affairs and some Nigerians it would mean to him that you want to redesign, refigure the country into easier regions or a bloc of six regions. For instance, as it was in the past, meaning that some states will be put together and called Arewa, Middle Belt, Niger-Delta and so on. But my understanding of restructuring and the kind of restructuring this country needs… We should not pretend that we are a federation. Federation has no two meanings. It is either you are federating together or you are not. The political scientist will tell you that there is no distinguishing factor of unitary and federalism; that it is neither here nor there.
On the whole, Nigeria is a confederation of so many states not just the constitutional federating states that form the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Even in the context of the states themselves there are so many configurations in terms of ethnicity and tribe. So in this century we should not be saying I am Igbo, Ijaw or Kanuri. We should come to terms with the reality that this federation has come to stay. What we then need to do is to redefine the mode of operation of the federalism that you need and do it in a manner that would be beneficial to all the federating units.
Would you say what we have now is beneficial to all the federating units?
What I am saying is that we should consider it an enterprise. So, in this enterprise you need to know your position not just because somebody is appointed as a managing director or chairman of that enterprise that you will exhibit a discretion that will be adverse to one unit or the other. If in that enterprise you hold a hundred unit and I hold a hundred unit there is no reason why we should not have the same kind of dividend at the end of the day. And there are certain things that are for the shareholders and not for the chairman of that enterprise. Of course there is delegation of powers to the Board of Directors and that Board is proportionate to my share holding. So what I am saying here is that the word restructuring is not a comfortable word that would address these issues. The restructuring we need is to restructure the mode of governing this country in a way that the states and local governments as constituted now should be given their dues and not concentrating everything at the centre. Almost everything that is in the states is duplicated at the centre. Now the federal government is funding secondary schools, one for girls, one for boys.
In other words, you are advocating for a proper devolution of powers to the various tiers of government as a major component of restructuring
Yes. If we do that nobody will shout on the federal government that they have potholes on their roads, that their primary school is depleted. This UBEC is supposed to be an intervention. But why should the state government provide the counterpart funding? Why don’t you give your own part to the states and let them kill themselves there. If the government of my state is not doing anything about education and roads, we will agitate there. So the business of the federal government should be on certain areas that are very key areas like foreign, diplomatic services, security agencies limited to military for instance and the state security. But policing is so cumbersome that the federal government would want to police Nigeria from Abuja. It’s not possible. If you go to other countries like where we had recent attacks and bombings, Manchester, it was the Transport Police that made the arrest. If you go there they are not even visible. Policing is a local issue. Intelligence work could be national because it must have a kind of synergy all over.
Would this mean you are in support of State Police?
No, not state policing. I don’t like that word. What I am saying is that policing should be local. Any policing that is not community based is doomed to fail.
That is why I have asked if you are in support of State Police. That may be a major component of the devolution of powers that you are advocating.
I do not want to enslave or colonize myself with this long agitation for state police. Even in the states there are some components of state policing that have no business with the Police as a force or an organization. University campuses are big enough to have state police.
If you go to the Universities of Ibadan and Ife, the campuses are big enough because they have a population of people living in one place that they require their own special police. Of course, there should be synergy, but in terms of control and operations, recruitment and whatever, they require their own police. If you go to the USA where we are copying all these things from most of the universities have their separate police. You do not have this bogus figure of wanting to attain 300,000 or one million members of the police force which will consume so much money that you cannot even appreciate.
Now let us look at the relationship between your party, the APC and the president. Some people would say Buhari has abandoned the party. How would this affect the party in the 2019 elections especially as the party is struggling to fund its activities?
APC is a wonderful thing that has happened to this country because it has saved the nation a lot from imminent catastrophe that we saw in 2013, 2014. I was in government before APC was formed. I was a Minister of the Federal Republic under former President Jonathan and member of the PDP. There were many things that happened. There was loss of control and this provided a veritable ground for the opposition, those who felt something has to be done for the legacy parties to merge and become APC. Meanwhile in the PDP there was a lot of turmoil. Nobody was in charge. It was a period that witnessed arbitrariness in terms of decision making both in government and PDP as a party without due consideration to the feelings of the people.
Let’s concentrate on the allegation that the president abandoned the party
I am coming. I am just laying the foundation. We realized that the president and officials of the party were not listening. So, naturally they were the captains of the ship. When we then saw that the boat was going to be rocked we decided to be part of history by joining the APC to save the country. Luckily there was a common ground in APC and overwhelmingly the party won the election. We control substantial number of the states. Of course we do not have comfortable majority especially in the Senate. That shows some level of difficulty politically especially as the South East and South South, particularly the South-east are totally not with the APC. They are the lowest in terms of support to the APC. It is a big problem in the configuration of the polity and the politics of Nigeria. When the president took over he really asserted the supremacy of the party but there was a fundamental error made by all of us. When the president said that he was going to form his cabinet not in consultation with the governors he didn’t mention the party. But you and I know that when you exclude governors who are important and essential stakeholders across the state then there is a problem because politics is local. Connect it with my comment on the issue of federation. Once the president has been elected he becomes the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria even though he did not get the support of some states. That is why the constitution says compellingly that every state must have a minister. So how do you get your minister from the states without consulting with stakeholders? Now put that within the context of party politics. It is people in the wards and local government that make this contribution and worked hard for the APC to win the election and they have leadership. You cannot then exclude the governor as part of this leadership. The governor himself was a product of some efforts by some local people. So it is wrong to say you will appoint members of your cabinet without consultation with the governors. You could have preference for some experts; that is allowed. It was because of the belief and the confidence that the party had on the president that he was allowed. Ordinarily, that position could have been challenged and it is not nice for all of us to challenge that position because we are just starting and we came as a team. In our own thinking the president will make a good judgement in this regard because at times you can make certain comments that are political but in practice you may do otherwise when dealing with human beings. This cannot be a nice statement in politics because if a leader speaks many people are bound to give it different interpretations. So because of that confidence that things will go right our adversaries made the comment that this amounts to undermining the party. Ordinarily he shouldn’t have said that and that is my opinion.
Would that not affect the party in 2019 in view of the fact that funding is now a problem to the APC
Did Buhari have a kobo when he became president in 2015? No. He is not a rich man by any standard. Nobody can say that he is in business as far as I know. He doesn’t even have the kind of pedigree that people will want to borrow him money because how do you get it back. The 2015 elections and that of 2019 are two different things. The forces that led to the emergence of Buhari in 2015 were several. Many had a burning desire that there must be a change. They were fed up with all the rubbish PDP did in the last 16 years. Then the president was not in charge and there were many powerful people who were doing things with impunity, occasionally against the wish of Jonathan in fairness to him and people felt that if nothing was done this country will drift, not just in economy but also in politics because the agitations were becoming so rife and nobody was doing anything. This factor really stimulated support for the APC in 2015 among many other factors. But essentially we were lucky that the credibility of Buhari as a person also counted in APC winning elections. In 2019 it is going to be a different ball game altogether. We have 24 governors of APC who will be judged according to their performance which as far as the party is concerned they have done quite well especially given the situation they find themselves in terms of economic recession. Secondly, the terrain is changing like I said earlier. Nigerians are more exposed now and they are more involved in political thinking and judgement. So they will be able to at every level assess those candidates that they will vote for and I believe that APC candidates who are in charge of affairs today are doing good. But that doesn’t mean that the reality will not prevail. Everybody now will be judged according to his or her performance and conduct, whether you are APC or PDP. Even in APC you will have to face challenges in the primaries. The idea of running on the popularity of Buhari will no longer hold water because like they say everybody will answer his or her father’s name.
The politics of Nigeria is changing. I envisage a situation where people will be begged to come and serve. If you think that when you come to Abuja you will be making money, that is no longer the case. Or if you think you can invest money anyhow to get elected or get somebody elected so that you will share the treasury is no longer tenable now. Nigerians are now in a better position to assess you without parochial or other sentiments. It is the APC that set the precedence by defeating an incumbent president. So your performance, your amenability to the thinking of your people will determine your success. APC is not a party that thinks like PDP that it must always get a landslide. This lack of money you are talking about is not that negative. We have 45 parties in this country and people subscribe to these parties. How many are paying subscription fees. Anybody who tells you that they are collecting subscription fee is telling a lie. Even we in APC, PDP are not collecting it. People are not paying membership dues. That’s why we don’t have money. We don’t have money because we can’t go to Buhari, governors and ministers to give us government money to run the party. Many of us who are leaders of this party fend for ourselves.
In that case how are you going to fund the 2019 elections?
That’s what I am telling you. The credibility of the 2019 elections will be higher than that of 2015. Let me explain to you about the funding. Like me as the North West Zonal Chairman I have seven governors under me. I have never gone to them to collect money to run the party or the zone. I don’t do that because that is not the system now. I have to travel to Abuja for the meeting of the National Working Committee and would be paid stipend as allowances which will not even pay me. It cannot defray my expenses if I am coming from Sokoto. What I am getting as sitting allowance cannot pay my fare, talk more of accommodation. What I am saying in effect is that we are developing a system where the issue of party would be a voluntary issue. We had elections in Edo and Ondo States and we won. But you cannot run election without money, just as I am telling you that there is a paradigm shift.
Here is a fundamental question for which I need your sincere answer. Is there vacancy in Aso Rock in 2019?
Are we in 2019 now? In 2017 that we are in now there is no vacancy. There could be vacancy any moment, anytime either in 2019, 2020. In 2019 the vacancy that exists is that whether you like Buhari or not, whether he wants to run or not, there will be a contest. What I mean is that the APC as a party is not a draconian party. We will allow the due process to take its course in terms of whoever wants to contest for the presidency. That’s what you are trying to say, that whether Buhari will be running or not. I am not a soothe sayer, but I know that the rules and laws of the APC is that every member would be given chance. If you want to run for the presidency, you are welcome. When you say there is a vacancy it means there is nobody there. But for now in 2017 Buhari is the president of this country and by the present circumstances that we are Professor Yemi Osinbajo is the Acting President and APC does not have inhibitions, this issue of giving automatic ticket to anybody. It is a party that allows democratic principles and norms to take its full course.
No automatic tickets?
Yes. How can you have automatic ticket? In any case the constitution of Nigeria and electoral act do not allow automatic ticket. The APC constitution does not allow that. You cannot have automatic ticket. There will be primary between you, Buhari and anybody that wants to. There will be primary even if Osinbajo wants to run with Buhari. He is free to; he is entitled to; It is legitimate. If I want to run for the presidency I am qualified. I am a member of the APC. I will buy a form and contest with anybody that wants to aspire. It is legitimate and this is applicable to any office whether that of the governorship or Senatorial election. Anybody who is holding office on the platform of the APC knows that when it comes 2019 general elections he should expect that other people will contest along with him or her. It could be me. It could be you if you are a member of the APC. Let me be very clear that at time as far as I know and I should know where there is a provision in the APC constitution or any decision that either the president or any other person will be given automatic ticket. It is not allowed in APC. APC is a democratic party of the progressives. So you shouldn’t even think in that direction. On the issue of vacancy, I think we are not being sincere in this country about all these things because the president is sick. It is not me or you who make the president sick to go to the hospital. The Nigerian constitution envisages this and made provision for it. That’s why Osinbajo is the Acting President now. So we wish the president quick recovery and to be in strong form to run the affairs of this country because he has unfinished tenure. He has up to 2019. If in 2019 the president is strong enough to contest so be it. If he is not strong enough it is not something that will be hidden. If I am sick you will know that I am sick. As a good Muslim I don’t even want to think of what I will be in 2019 or even in 2018. All I know is that I am the Chairman of APC North-west Zone today. Tomorrow or next tomorrow I might not be. If people are dissipating their energies talking about 2019 I think we are not being fair to ourselves.
Northerners are divided on the quit order given to the Igbo by the Arewa Youths to leave their territory. But the summary of it all is that the position of the youths seems to represent the thinking of the Northern political establishment. What’s your position on that?
Your thinking is wrong. The Arewa youths have so many organizations and I think the media is lumping them together. I read their statement and what they did was an expression of anger and disgust about what is happening if you look at the context. What they are saying is that if people want self determination so be it. These are young people talking. They have their exuberance. They have feelings and are entitled to their opinion. In some parts of the world some people came and asked to be allowed to have gay marriages and heavens did not fall. This is an expression of opinion rightly or wrongly. Now let’s go back to the genesis. What prompted them to do this? What I am saying is that it is a deficit of leadership because if there is leadership like I took time to explain all these will not arise. There could be some agitation but not this kind of agitation where everybody is calling for war as if we are fighting for a treasure. What is that treasure. All what we are fighting for is because everybody wants to control Nigeria as constituted now. Anybody supporting MASSOB is because they know there is something in Nigeria. Go to some other countries that are poor is there any agitation for self determination? Have you heard of agitation in Benin or Niger Republic? There are several ethnic groups in those places. If you go to Niger Republic, for instance, which is almost twice the land mass of this country they have major ethnic groups not even minorities. Some of them are on equal basis. You have the Tuaregs, Fulani and others; but is there any agitation for self determination? No. This is because there is no treasure and they are all trying to survive. But because Nigeria is a rich country and people are realizing that if any part of this country have its God endowed resources both human and material. And this issue of oil is beginning to be demystified all over the world not only in Nigeria. It is no longer a big issue because the various alternatives to energy now is depleting the mystery of oil and the discovery of oil in some Northern part of the country is making the whole thing a rubbish. So now people have to cry wolf even where it doesn’t exist so that you can be heard. Some of these agitations are like empty vessels.
What would you say to those who are saying that what is happening now is because this present government has not given us a road map to sign up to and there is the feeling that policies are not coherent and well digested. They say that the result is that the present predicament of the APC and of the leader suggests that our problems in this country are huge. Do you agree with them?
The thing is not to situate all the problems or part of it to the administration of the APC as a party. All these things are hang over which can be predicated on what was met. I do not want to limit it to the most current or blame the Jonathan’s administration, which is the last administration. Every government that preceded this government has its share of blame. I am talking of all governments from 60s to date. If we want to tell ourselves the truth all these problems are cumulatively acquired. We are all still suffering what the military did to this nation because it is the military intervention that put us in this kind of quagmire that we have become unable to move beyond where we are. We could have been better than this.
But we started a full blown democracy 18 years ago
Is this full blown? We are in military democracy. That is what we are still in. Obasanjo took over from Abdulsalam in a well orchestrated, structured transition that ensured that Obasanjo emerged to serve military interest. I must say it is not the military as an institution but the same group of people that were involved from 1966. They are the same people up to Buhari now in the context of leadership of this country. After the five Majors struck in 1966 it was the same military’s conflicts of interest that necessitated the July counter coup. And that is how it is being described in history. I am talking of the counter coup of July 1966 when Ironsi was killed. The emergence of Gowon was part of it because he was not the most senior at that moment. The person who was to take over if by necessity was Ogundipe who declined because he said it was a result of conflict. So those northerners who did the counter coup felt bad because their leaders were killed both military officers and civilians who were in authority. So this became an issue between the North and South and Ironsi was killed because he was from the South. He sees himself as Igbo and Nzeogwu and Okafor who killed Tafawa Balewa and Sardauna were Igbo even if by coincidence and Ironsi’s take over meant an Igbo agenda. The need to restore normalcy in the overall interest of the military and the nation was why Gowon took over. After Gowon took over it was the Igbo led by Ojukwu that dissented which resulted into civil war. In some quarters they will say it was Igbo-Biafra military issue between Igbo and the other parts of the country. It was the same group that did the counter coup of July 1966 that toppled Gowon led by Murtala going by the narratives that exists. It was strictly military conflict that led to the assassination of Murtala and Obasanjo emerged. The military then started realizing that the civil society and indeed Nigerians are becoming worried about continued military regime. That’s why they did what they did.
So they handed over to President Shehu Shagari through that transition designed by Obasanjo. Of course it only lasted only one term. There were lots of corruption that were outlined that time. But we could have survived it if not for the intervention of Buhari at that time. That was as far as the narratives go. But those concerned have refused to say anything. But if you read what other people wrote and what was visible to everybody it was the same military group that came together to topple Shagari. Was there any riot before then? Was there any clamour for self determination by Igbo, Hausa or Fulani before the overthrow or issue of marginalization? Nobody was talking about marginalization despite the hardship. There was economic recession between 1981 and 83. All these things are even about management. When Buhari was toppled, it was only him, General Magoro and Bako that were out of government.
Most of the military Governors remained and there was just a minor reshufflement and redeployment took place. Even the Supreme Military Council was merely renamed Armed Forces Military Council under Gen. Babangida who spent long years. All the intriques were within the military. No civilian agitation and it was only the military politics they were playing to the point where Babangida had to step aside because according to narratives he was threatened by the same group that he must do a transition because after eight years there were people who supported him and wanted to be leaders. That was why Babangida had to step aside and Abacha took over after the Interim Government led by Shonekan. It was an impasse.
After Abacha emerged, Abdulsalam who at all material time was involved took over. And you only need to tell the marines what happened at that time, how PDP was formed through efforts singularly made by Babangida and Gen. Aliyu Gusau. They were the ones who coordinated all the things for the emergence of the PDP. Gen. Gusau went round for the formation of the PDP and also for the emergence of Obasanjo. We were living witnesses to the drama up to the time Obasanjo was living Gen. Aliyu Gusau and Babangida wanted to contest which confirms that they put Obasanjo there after which they will take over from him. So Obasanjo did what he did and even attempted to rubbish them by coming out clearly asking Babangida to perish the thought of contesting.