From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Elder statesman and the immediate past Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani has said that those calling for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari over incessant insecurity in Nigeria should take note that presidential system of government does not permit the president to vacate office in that manner, and as such nobody can force him to resign from office.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Mr. Sani, who was among the Northern delegates to the 2014 national confab, pointed out that a call for the resignation of a democratic leader is only possible under parliamentary system of government, adding that under presidential system, the president can only be impeached if he violated constitutional matter.
The former ACF scribe, therefore, advised those calling for the resignation of President Buhari to wait for next presidential election and vote into office the candidate of their choice.
He also spoke on the Constitution review embarked upon by the National Assembly, saying that Nigerians lack moral standard to effectively operate even the best constitution for the country. Excerpts:
It is exactly 22 years since Nigeria returned to democracy, but everywhere there is lamentation over hunger and insecurity. When will the nation be at peace?
When you say “everywhere there is lamentations” under the nascent democracy, you at once convey an impression that the governments have not delivered on the promise of democracy. Please note that from 1960 to date, there has been no governments without challenges. Recall, the First Republic was toppled on charges of poor governance, however, defined. We also had so many coups which accused the governments toppled of charges of leadership that were not good enough and feckless governance-which suggested challenges.Those were the reasons that informed austerity measures and Structural Adjustment Programmes for the expressed purpose of navigating through the labyrinth of socio-economic challenges by some of the governments. Our multi-party democracy has come with freedom to choose our leaders at defined intervals. Such freedom is what Nigeria needs. And if the management by a particular regime is not satisfactory for most Nigerians, the constitution allows Nigerians to exercise their freedom at the defined time to make judicious use of their democratic right and make their votes to count so that the ensuing leaders would be accountable. So, the challenges are natural concomitant of mechanism of community living that should bring about national grandeur, purposeful leadership and the best in every one in order to overcome the challenges, and certainly not mere jeremiads.The situation calls for making the most of our God-given diversity by working hard to overcome what divide our people. It is not for lamentations that are not solution.
What is your advice to those calling for tye resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari over incessant killings, kidnapping and insecurity generally in the country?
As a journalist, you are expected to know that presidents do not resign on the basis of calls by the opposition. More so that Nigeria operates a presidential system and not parliamentary system that can pass vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister to resign. Presidential system has specified periods when citizens are called to elect their leaders. Until such time, it is rare for presidents to resign in presidential system.What is more, all governments encounter challenges, some inherited and some others arise in the course of governance or due to vicissitude of life. And since pass mark is a range and not a single mark, it is difficult to pass such judgement without facts checking of trend analysis.
What is your take on devolution of powers as called for by some Nigerians during the Constitution review zonal committees across the country? Other issues like state police, state creation and local government autonomy also came up?
There can be no cavil with the significance of calls for devolution of powers as long as it is to enable each tier of government to deliver of its best, and not to render the central government too weak as not to be able to hold the nation that is diverse and fissiparous together. I, therefore, support tinkering with the Exclusive List with a view to making government at all levels to be governed for performance. I have made it clear several times that I do not think the problems of insecurity has to do with lack of state police, but due to the fact that the Nigerian police is too thin in personnel, too inadequate in training and equipment and very much lacking in motivation needed for the Nigerian police to secure the nation. If state police are not enough in number of well trained and equipped personnel reminiscent of what obtains in Nigerian Police Force, we cannot expect different results. Also, state police could be abused by state governments in the manner they abuse State Electoral Commissions that have killed multi-party democracy at local government level. What is more, state police can become part of the problems instead of solution in states that are diverse by taking sides in the events of conflicts. Recall that President Ibrahim Babangida tried it by asking the police authorities to retain certain levels of police personnel to their state of origin only for such officers to become part of the problems instead of solution in states that were diverse. Creation of additional states is a moot point because some people think as effort centres, the current number of states are more than enough.This is because too many effort centres are signs of managerial imperfections or failure of leadership. More so that some of the states are not viable. But if it is absolutely necessary to add some states, certain criteria like population and land mass should be met. With the abrogation of Joint Account, I think the local government are already autonomous. What seems lacking is the lack of will by state governments to implement the last amendment.
What other areas of the constitution do you want it to be amended for performance?
I am not enthused by constitutional amendments by every National Assembly precisely because I do not believe the challenges of the nation lie on the constitution and the laws, but due to collapse of our national ideals and moral values which have affected the ways we do things, including our sense of what is right and what is evil, as well as our sacred core of inviolability of the individuals. You would recall J. P Morgan once said, however, good the law, its usefulness to society depends on the judgment of the practitioners. I, therefore, prefer more premium be placed on cultural renaissance that can reorder our values and the way we do things. However, because no system is ever perfect and the society is always in a state of flux, I suggest some amendments in the definition of indigeneship to include all those born in a state and who do not want to be indigenes of state of origin of their parents.That is to say, no dual indigene of two states, the term settler be exclusive preserve of those who settle outside their state of origin, and should not applied to those born in the state. Since State Electoral Commissions have been abused by state governors to kill democracy at local government level, we suggest the state electoral commissions be expunged from the constitution so that Independent National Electoral Commission be allowed to conduct all elections. Also, all the five elections of the president, governor, senators, House of Reps and state assembly should be conducted on the same day in order to save cost and prevent band wagon effect. If Kenya can conduct all their elections on the same day, Nigeria can as well do so. More so that ICT has helped humanity overcome time and distance. Because single tenure does not differentiate between the performing presidents and the non-performing ones because it is without reward for performance, single tenure is counter-productive. And if we truly believe power of incumbency is being abused, we can allow the two tenures which are not consecutive.That is to say, no elections should be conducted under the watch of a president who is himself a candidate.Towards that end, we can mimic Chile and Uruguay which operate multiple tenures which are not consecutive.That way, there would be motivation for performance. The office of the Attorney General should be separated from that of minister of justice for obvious reasons of making it possible for the attorney general to prosecute serving government functionaries without any political hindrance. While Mr President reserves the right to appoint functionaries of sensitive agencies like CBN and INEC, their removal should be done by the National Assembly.That way, such institutions would be secured by not pandering to the whims and caprices of the executive. No governors and deputy governors who happen to be senators or ministers should collect pensions in their states and also salaries and allowances as senators and ministers.This is because it is legal corruption for state legislature to make laws for governors to collect pension after serving not more than eight years.
Some Nigerians have kicked against zoning of 2023 presidency to the Southeast in view of attacks and killings in the area, saying that Igbo cannot be trusted with the country’s presidency. What is your reaction?
I have said it several times that there is no national consensus on politics of zoning that is binding on the political parties. As a result, zoning is at the level of political parties which use it as part of their winning game plans. That may be part of the challenges for those who hanker for zoning of the president to the South.Though the killings, jail breaks and torching of INEC offices may contribute to the fear of president of Igbo ethnic extraction in 2023, I think the challenges include lack of national consensus on politics of zoning that are binding on the political parties.Hence the controversies about politics of zoning within the two major political parties.
But Middle Belt leaders are insisting that Igbo should be given the opportunity to produce the president for Nigeria. What do you think?
Which Middle Belt is insisting that Igbo should produce the president? I hope you do not confuse few people in the Middle Belt Forum with the people. As far as I am concerned, the creation of states has since made any agitations by the Middle Belt Forum to be rooted in what no longer exists. Diverse states of Northern minorities now govern themselves without any interferences by the majority. What is more, I do not believe Middle Belt Forum as currently constituted has the electoral value needed to cause what they hanker to be possible and then actual. For example, the Middle Belt Forum did not campaign for President Buhari in both 2015 and 2019, yet Buhari won most of the states of northern minorities. But this is not to persuade the Middle Belt Forum from judicious use of their democratic right and influence the direction of our democracy.The forum is at liberty to join forces with those for president of Igbo extraction in 2023 by designing winning game plans for effect.That is their democratic right which nobody can take away from them.
The northern governors have backed southern governors on the ban of open grazing. Don’t you think that southern governors were unjustly criticized by some Nigerians when they banned open grazing?
I am not aware Northern Governors have banned open grazing outrightly. I say this because if the northern governors did so, it would not take the ban by southern governors for the Federal Government to depict ban of open grazing without any viable and practicable alternative course of action to be banned without solution. To be sure, most Nigerians are averse to open grazing for not only security reasons, but also for improvement of both quality and volume of lifestock. We all pray and hope open grazing be replaced by modern ranches. But outright ban on open grazing at a time the landless herders are without the wherewithal of expertise and finances without any viable alternative that is feasible and practicable at this point in time is counter productive.Counter productive in the sense that such outright ban can be likened to banning subsistent farming with hoes and cutlasses without any viable alternative at a time the subsistent farmers do not have the wherewithal for modern farming and fence their farms.That is why any policies and programmes designed to supplant open gracing should be gradual for effect and performance.
Now that the ban on open grazing is nationwide, what do you think as an elderstatesman should be the alternative?
I am not aware the outright ban on open grazing is nationwide. But this is an odd thing to say, considering such course of action is counter productive precisely because it is not implementable in the absence of any alternative that is practicable in place. Any alternative to open grazing requires consciously directed efforts to make what we all desire possible and then actual. It cannot be mere declaratory.
In recent times about three military aircraft have crashed, killings all top military brass on board. Some people are saying military pilots need regular retraining on the aircraft. Do you think in the same direction?
This is a specialized area which only professionals can use the outcomes of the investigations of the crashes of the aircraft to inform their comments and suggest solution.