Prominent Igbo lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has sued the federal government for discriminating against the South-East geopolitical zone in its July 5, appointment into the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Agbakoba, in the suit filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, said the federal government, on July 5, 2017, appointed nine…
Former National Chairman of the defunct Alliance for Democracy, AD, Alhaji Usman Adamu Song is singing a political tune that would alter the regional balancing adopted by most political parties in Nigeria.
According to Song who was also the deputy national chairman of the Progressives Peoples Alliance, PPA, President Muhammadu Buhari should endorse Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo if he would not continue in office beyond 2019. “Should Buhari through his freewill decide that he is not interested in continuing, I hope and pray he endorses Vice President Osinbajo to take his place because I have not seen anybody inside and outside government who believes in the ideals Buhari stands for, who has shown clearly that he would continue from where Buhari started other than Osinbajo. Asked if it would be fair to deny the North the turn of a second term, Song quipped: “There shouldn’t be…there is not supposed to be turns. It is not supposed to be turn-by-turn. There is nowhere in Nigeria’s constitution that says Nigeria’s presidency is turn-by-turn.
This issue of turn-by-turn is the creation of political parties. Why are we imposing that on the country? Why?”
He added: “See, this clamour for North, North, North, North, I don’t see any sense in that. There are several northerners who have been at the helm of affairs in this country, what has the North got to show for it?.” He spoke on other issues in this interview conducted by KENNY ASHAKA.
During the Yar’Adua administration you sounded a note of caution to the government over the handling of alleged scam involving his predecessor, President Olusegun Obasanjo. Would you also say the same thing now that the revelations about alleged corruption of the previous government are mind-boggling?
It is unfortunate that we do not seem to realize and act at the appropriate time. We do not also act decisively. It is obvious now that this country has been milked to the point of disintegration. I want to believe and strongly too, that all these threatening agitations are the by-products of corruption cases that have not been handled adequately. How do you justify somebody who has been a leader given a position of trust for betraying this trust beyond human imagination.
This is not a case of stealing N20 million or N50 million. It is a case of stealing N100 billion to N200 billion. Is that person sane at all? So, in the case of scam, Nigerians should mobilize and support any of our leaders who is prepared to deal with scam, not just Buhari.
There is an opportunity now for Buhari to prove one point. His Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, has been indicted. Nigerians are watching, and all the international communities who see Buhari as one of the most transparent leaders Nigeria has produced are watching. The position and action of government as it affects the SGF will determine his integrity and future respect as one of the leaders of African nation that sincerely abhors corruption. It should not be cosmetic approach because granted a lot of former Ministers have been alleged to have stolen money as in the example of the former minister of petroleum, but the way he would treat the case of the SGF will go a long way to remove any doubt that the Buhari anti-corruption crusade is one-sided or not. So, Buhari’s integrity rests on how he handles this case of the SGF. He has seen that despite the sufferings Nigerians have gone through they are still supporting him. It is not because the actions of the government has translated into anything on the ground for the poor man in Nigeria; it would eventually come but for now, there is nothing on the ground for the poor masses but they are still hopeful that by the time all his policies, actions and plans start bearing fruits, it would reach them. But it is very significant and critical for him to know that not only Nigerians but the world is watching.
Critics are saying there have been no convictions to justify the fight against corruption?
Buhari has said one thing from the beginning that his challenge in the fight against corruption is the Judiciary. We can clearly see how the Judiciary is a stumbling block and we all can see how they keep on playing on technicalities. And if you look at it critically, you will discover that there are many forces working against this government.
Where are the forces coming from?
For example the National Assembly; to be specific, the Senate. The Senate is just a clumsy liability to this country. I cannot pin-point one useful thing that the Senate has done to this country other than holding us back. I have not seen a Senate where every popular idea dropped there has been killed. I have never seen an institution that is democratic; that is anti-people like the Nigerian Senate, otherwise I cannot see why the Senate is working against the wishes of Nigerians. Take for example, universally, retired Col. Hameed Ali of the Customs is somebody regarded as doing good. Why did the Senate take pleasure in ridiculing him? Why is the Nigerian Senate sabotaging Magu, the EFCC Chairman when he is being acknowledged universally as a good person?
The Senate worked on the report…
The report from DSS
You are coming back to what I am saying. There are too many forces working against this guy. What has the DSS identified in him? Why is he not being prosecuted? If the president appoints Emeka for instance and the Senate says no, they are indirectly working against the president. And the president has confidence in this man and Nigerians have agreed that from his antecedent he is doing fine. If the report of any government agency indicted Magu why has he not been taken to court? Is the report only meant to stop him from being the Chairman of EFCC? I suppose it is a criminal offence. Why would he not be investigated and taken to court?
It’s like Buhari is alone in this fight against corruption because most of the agencies…
(Cuts in) That is the point and that is the problem. That is not too far away from the truth because most of the critical agencies do not believe in fighting corruption, principally the Senate that has come out clearly to work against anything aimed at fighting corruption. We have seen how they attempted to amend laws. We have seen how they tried to give members immunity. So, the Senate of Nigeria is just a glorified self serving Senate that is not adding value to the system.
What would you say about APC, the party on which back the president rode to power?
The party is not an institution of government. It is just a vehicle for you to enter into government. Because of the disrespect by our politicians to the institutions and laws of this country, the party cannot function; the party cannot discipline her members. It is now the tail wagging the dog instead of the dog, wagging the tail. Most of the politicians are bigger than the party.
Let’s go back to the scam under late President Yar’Adua when you had to sound a note of caution on the way the alleged scam was being handled. I asked you if you will say the same thing to this government. What would you want the government to do in view of the startling revelations?
Already, the present day government is probing the Jonathan government invariably because all the institutions and the individuals that are being probed were the core members of Jonathan’s government. The only person who has not been indicted and brought under investigation is Jonathan himself. Take for example his National Security Adviser., since this government came into power, it is one big scam from the NSA that they are still working on.
After spending more than two years piloting the affairs of this country, would you say this administration is free of corruption?
There is no way you can give a blanket verdict that this government is free of corruption because it is only the political leadership that has changed. All the other apparatuses of government as inherited from even the days of Obasanjo are the same. Whoever tells you that a particular government is free of corruption is not saying the truth. It will be very difficult for Buhari to fight corruption the way it is now. The only way is for Buhari to just thread softly and tactfully until he reaches there because the institutions as created by the constitution are the ones fighting him. Take for example the Senate. The Senate is beyond Buhari. It is the same law that created the office of the president that created the Senate. So Buhari does not have the powers to scrap the Senate and one of the stumbling blocks on the way of the president in fighting corruption is the Senate. But I can assure you that in 2019, the Senate will change drastically because a lot of them will not have the opportunity of getting back to the Senate again.
Those who voted them are now wiser and are able to reveal their true identities and the interests of the Senators are at variance with the instincts of those who voted them into the Senate. We have seen and heard of Senators who cannot go back to their senatorial districts because they will be humiliated and embarrassed as they are humiliating and embarrassing those who voted them. How can somebody justify a Nigerian Senator’s legitimate salary of N36 million in a country where the minimum wage is N18,000? How? Is that not a self serving Senate? You sit down and appropriate that kind of money for yourselves when the country’s toiling masses are asking for a review of N18,000 and you cannot do it and you are doing next to nothing?
We are inching towards 2018 when the contest for the presidency would heat up. Looking at all the variables and options open, would you advise that Buhari go for a second term?
I am not the one to decide for Buhari whether to contest or not. If Buhari feels that he is strong enough to continue as president in 2019, I will still vote for him. Should Buhari, through his freewill decide that he is not interested in continuing I hope and pray he endorses Vice President Osinbajo to take his place because I have not seen anybody who believes in the ideals Buhari stands for; who has shown clearly that he would continue from where Buhari has started other than Osinbajo, both inside and outside government. I will support Osinbajo 100 percent without looking twice and in any party he stands to contest. I will not only vote for him, I will campaign for him because I have not seen any Nigerian whom we have seen his antecedent clearly. Osinbajo has proved five things to Nigerians. One, he has shown
Nigerians that he can never betray. Secondly, he has shown Nigerians that he has integrity. Three, he has shown Nigerians that his interest is Nigeria and nothing else. Four, he has shown Nigerians that he is frugal and prudent. Fifth, Osinbajo has shown Nigerians that he is fearless. And these are the good traits in a good leader. Since Osinbajo acted as the president I did not see him exhibit sentiments that are anti-Nigeria, unlike other politicians who pretend. Yes he can make mistakes because he is human. Yes he can also commit errors. But they are errors of the head and not of the heart.
What then would happen to the clamour by the North to have their eight years completed?
See, this clamour for North, North, North, North, I don’t see any sense in that. There are several northerners who have been at the top of affairs in this country, what has the North got to show for it?
You are a Southerner but you know the North more than northerners.
What is special in the North that is not found in other regions? Or what does the North have? Is it because we have the advantage of producing more presidents than other regions? So, this talk of it is the turn of the North is a clamour of parochial minds.
What Nigeria needs is a leader who can unite us; who can provide services to the people without looking at religion and region.
I asked this question because the northern elders have always…
(Cuts in) I don’t know who the northern elders are. I am more than 60 years old I cannot be a northern child now. But I do not belong to the group of those who are clamouring that it is the turn of the North now.
Would it not be fair for the North to have its turn of eight years?
There shouldn’t be…there is not supposed to be turn. It is not supposed to be turn-by-turn. There is nowhere in Nigeria’s constitution that says Nigeria’s presidency is turn-by-turn.This issue of turn-by- turn is the creation of political parties. Why are we imposing it on the country? Why? It is the creation of the PDP and that is for their convenience. But people keep talking about it as if it is in the constitution of Nigeria. The party I want to belong is the one that has no turn-by- turn in its constitution, the party that will look at Nigeria as a constituency and look at the best material for election. I don’t believe it should be turn-by-turn because I am not PDP and I do not believe in the ideology of PDP.
What would you say to those likely to oppose your choice of Osinbajo with the reasoning that the South West as represented by former president Obasanjo had had its turn and therefore, it should go to the South East if it is not to the North?
What I am saying here and what I stand for is against this thing you are talking about. This turn-by-turn thing you are talking about, where has it taken us to? It has always ended up in the picking of mediocre as our leaders. As I said, from where did you get this policy? People will talk and agitate and their agitation is based on the fact that they have not seen a credible leadership. The simple thing to do is for us to jettison zoning and enthrone merit. Until a time that is done, we will not move.
Is that possible in Nigeria of today?
It must happen whether it is possible or not. A journey of a thousand kilometres starts with a step. And the view that I am expressing there are uncountable Nigerians from all the divides who believe in it.
Some northerners believe the region is the power bloc that can determine who becomes Nigeria’s president and…
Who are these northerners?
These northerners say they have the population to so do
That is true. But it is not everybody in the North that believes in what you are saying. For example, someone like me and I have followership. We will very soon float a body that will work against this sentiment. If we cannot get registered as a political party we will float an NGO. Already, our papers are with INEC and that is the philosophy of the party we want to register. We don’t want turn-by-turn. We want to present a true Nigerian candidate; a true Nigerian political party. The party will present any credible person.
If we are registered as a political party and Buhari says he will not contest, we will support Osinbajo because I see Buhari and Osinbajo as two sides of a single coin. Buhari and Osinbajo is the best thing that has ever happened to Nigeria since independence.