The immediate past Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani has noted that as much as electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results are good initiatives, both will deprive millions of Nigerians of their votes in the 2023 general elections. The ACF leader also spoke on other pertinent issues in an interview with NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna.
What is your reaction to the recent quit order by the Emir of Muri to Fulani criminals in his Emirate?
When I read the reports that the Emir of Muri has asked the Fulani herders to fish out the criminal elements out of his emirate, I saw it more as an appeal to the Fulani herders, most of whom are law abiding citizens. I did not see it as a quit order, since the Emir does not know the criminal elements among the herders. I am pretty sure if the Emir could identify the criminal elements in his domain, he would report them to the appropriate authorities for sanctions. But there can be no cavil with the significance of what the Emir said in the sense that the Fulani herders are expected to know the criminal elements among themselves, treat them as such, and not to accommodate them. That is to say, securing our communities should not be left to the government alone. It’s the collective responsibility of all the citizens. More so that there are reports that the criminal elements among the herders are foreigners who have taken advantage of ECOWAS Protocol to find ingress into herders’ communities in Nigeria through which they hide and perpetrate crimes.
What’s your take on the demand for a power shift to the South in 2023?
I have said it over and over again that when it comes to partisan politics, northerners do not speak with one voice. Recall during the First Republic, NPC headed by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto contested with not only Action Group led by Awolowo from Western Nigeria and NCNC led by Zik from Eastern Nigeriain respectively but also with NEPU led by Mallam Aminu Kano in the North and UMBC led by Tarka of the Middle Belt. During the Second Republic, NPN presented Shagari who contested not only with Mallam Aminu Kano’s PRP and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim’s GNPP in the North but also with Awo’s UPN from the West and Zik’s NPP from the East. So when people say northern leaders are divided over where the next president should come from, there is nothing exotic and quixotic about that. It is democracy in action. Since there is no national consensus on the controversial issue of where the president should come from that is binding on the political parties which responsibility is to field candidates for elective posts, the best approach in the circumstance is for the political parties to develop their own winning game plans and use it to canvass for the electoral mandate. After all, there is no region that can produce the president with its own votes alone, however much. That is to say, no region can produce the majority votes and the spread of at least 25 per cent of votes in each of at least two thirds of 36 states. No region has 24 states that meet that requirement. I believe those who drafted the constitution had hoped such provisions would make political parties break barriers and build bridges across aisles needed to build a united nation.
Some political pundits have noted that power may remain in the North because of recent agitations for secession by some groups in the South-East and South-West?
I have pointed out that the issue of power shift is for majority of Nigerians to decide during voting. The voters are not in the North alone but are across the country. There is no way the votes in the North alone can produce the president. So the decision as to where the president comes from is not an exclusive preserve of the North but of the whole country.
What is your take on the fate of IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and Sunday Igboho who wants Oduduwa Republic?
When there were reports that both Kanu and Sunday Igboho were receiving sympathetic hearings in UN, America, Canada, Israel, EU and AU, we started to wonder why would the comity of nations want Nigeria to split? But now that despite their behemoth of intelligence communities, the developed nations and even African countries have still allowed Kanu and Igboho to be arrested by looking the other way, it has become clear the comity of nations is not interested in Nigeria’s split. That is a healthy development. So, let the law takes its course.
The Senate is divided over electronic transmission of election results in 2023. What do you think?
When some of you say Nigeria is due for electronic voting and electronic transmission of results and wonder why the division at the Senate, I begin to wonder the motive. I do not think any Nigerian is not favorably disposed to electronic voting and e-transmission of results. This is because e-voting and e-transmission of results would go a long way in enthroning credible elections through elimination of ghost voters, ballot box snatching, thumb-printing and alterations of results. But wishes are not horses. Since NCC which regulates ICT and network has said only 43 per cent of the country is covered by internet coverage, and of the 119,000 polling units, only about 50 per cent is covered by internet effectively, it would be morally preposterous for the National Assembly to make law for only 50 per cent of the polling units and disenfranchise 50 per cent.
If it is true that INEC, which does not control and regulate internet, has said the commission can effect e-voting and e-transmission of results, it should let the NASS know in the presence of NCC which is the regulatory authority of ICT. I therefore do not see how the senators can be divided on this simple matter of capacity of internet coverage. And if all the ICT companies combined have been able to provide only 43 per cent of internet coverage in a decade, which has been attested to by NCC, it is hard to believe INEC can provide the remaining 57 per cent internet coverage needed for effective e-voting and e-transmission of results before the next rounds of elections in 2023. It seems to me that Nigerians do not know that Nigeria is in the comity of third world nations not per choice but due to our limited capacity that cannot match those of the first world or developed world.
Rising insecurity, particularly kidnapping has pushed some prominent Nigerians like Bishop Kukah to speak truth to power, finding fault with the Federal Government’s seemingly inability to end insecurity. What is your reaction?
Surely, the rising cases of bandits, gunmen, cattle rustlers, armed robbers and kidnappers have overshadowed the achievements recorded by the regime in consigning activities of Boko Haram to the fringes of Borno State. But I do not share the views by Bishop Kukah that this regime does not want to put an end to insecurity across the country, considering that North West and President’s home town of Daura has not been spared the agonies of insecurity. I would rather say the challenges are overwhelming the capacity of the government’s limited resources needed to address not only the underlying causes but also to have enough number of trained security personnel who are equally equipped and well motivated to secure the nation. Happily enough now is the news that the Tucano fighter jets from America will arrive this month to help the armed forces take the war to the bandits, gunmen, kidnappers, insurgents and cattle rustlers in the forest. When I heard Bishop Kukah has made the allegations to the American congress that the insecurity was targeted at Christians and their schools, I wonder if the Bishop does any fact-check before he talks lest he become an ambassador of falsehood. Most of the schools where attacks have taken place in the North West are predominantly not Christian schools. North West and North East where there are more of these heinous activities taking place are predominantly Muslims. I hope the Bishop has not joined the elbow-throwing grievance groups clamoring for government preferment.
As a northerner, and a statesman for that matter, do you think the North is enjoying the dividends of democracy under President Buhari?
As president, he is expected to regard the whole country as his constituency. Northerners cannot expect any preferential treatment simply because President Buhari is a northerner. Similarly any challenges cannot exempt the North. We must not forget the fact that Nigeria is likened to a big river being fed by tributaries; and when one or more of the tributaries is poisoned, the whole river becomes contaminated. So, let Nigerians come together and unleash their synergistic potential against our collective challenges for the good of all. This is because it is quite possible to make the most of our God-given diversity by working hard to overcome what divide the possible. Surely, the certain benefits of one united big Nigeria are far more than the uncertain gains of splits.
Southern Governors are saying that 13 per cent derivation is not enough for the oil producing States. What is your reaction?
Even if all the money is given to the Niger Delta, it would never be enough. Recall the import of what Jesus Christ said to the disciples in Mathew 26:11 that “the poor would always be with you.”That is to say, there would always be challenges, and the place of purposeful leadership and the governed is to confront them as they arise. America’s independence is over 243 years old, yet they have challenges. For example, America has had over 300 mass shootings that cost over 8,000 deaths of Americans this year alone. During the July 4celebrations of this year, there were 150 Americans who died of mass shooting that very weekend. But you never hear Americans say America is a failed state. Rather, they are preoccupied on how best they can address the underlying causes.