“We do not need them to speak for us. We have people who speak for the North from time immemorial. We have our traditional rulers and elected representatives.”
Former factional National Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Alhaji Adamu Song, has tackled the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) over its opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid.
The Northern Elders Forum leader, Prof Ango Abdullahi, had in one of his interviews said that the North was shopping for a candidate to replace President Buhari in 2019, saying that the president has disappointed the elders from the North who fought for his victory at the 2015 poll.
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However, Song in this interview took on the forum and the northern socio-cultural group, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), describing them as phantom groups with mistaken beliefs and ideas.
Song who is the convener of “Adamawa 2019: Organize, don’t Agonize”, a group of professionals of Adamawa State extraction, who want to identify with success and people who have the capacity to lead the state, also spoke on the executive/legislative face-off and his rating of Adams Oshiomhole’s leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), among other issues.
The Northern Elders said that they are disappointed at Buhari’s performance and are shopping for a replacement. You are also an elder in the North, does that idea resonate with you?
First and foremost, every group of people can give themselves whatever name they want. They can claim whatever they want to be. But as far as I am concerned, at the level of Adamu Song, I don’t recognize anything like Northern Elders Forum because as I am now in whichever way you look at it, I am no longer a small boy. In terms of age, I am over 60 years old. In terms of status, I am a title holder, a member of the Emirate Council of Adamawa State. So, I am not a small boy; so I don’t recognize anything like Northern Elders Forum. That is their own opinion, just like any other person who is a voter and a Nigerian is free to hold an opinion for or against Buhari. They can be right and may not be wrong. It is their view. But for you to ascribe a view to a phantom group that is non-existent as far as I am concerned it’s a fallacy. But Buhari is not infallible. He is a human being; he can make mistakes and Buhari has made mistakes; but as far as I am concerned as an individual his achievements that I have seen are much more than the mistakes he has committed. So, I will say I have not seen among those politicians who are aspiring to lead this country who is better than Buhari. That does not mean that there are no people better than Buhari in Nigeria. What I am, therefore, saying is that among those who have come out to aspire to be president I have not seen the one that is better than Buhari. Therefore, I totally reject the opinion of the Northern Elders Forum.
But the Northern Elders Forum is supposed to be a meeting point for all elders of northern extraction, one would expect that issues of the magnitude you are rejecting would have been tabled, dissected and diffused with the aim of agreeing, but be that as it may, are you also not a member of the ACF, the umbrella body of all the socio-cultural groups in the North?
No, I am not because I am not convinced of the genuineness of the bodies, how democratic they are. I, therefore, tend to see them as groups made up of colleagues and friends or groups trying to crave relevance in a period when they are fading away. We do not need them to speak for us. We have people who speak for the North from time immemorial. We have our traditional rulers and elected representatives. These are the people who will speak for us. Therefore, the Northern Elders Forum or ACF cannot speak for the North. Their opinion is irrelevant to me. It remains an opinion, which cannot change anything. Take, for instance, when a traditional ruler speaks you will know that the people have spoken. In the area of politics, the traditional rulers may not be able to speak for us, but we have elected representatives who will speak for us.
I want you to assess Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the APC, you being a former labour leader and a former leader of a national party. Currently, the state chairmen of the party and governors are at daggers drawn with Oshiomhole over which primary system to adopt. In fact, they claimed he is carrying on like a cabal. What do you have to say as a former leader of a political party based on what you have observed of what is going on in the party?
You can assess Oshiomhole on a number of ways. Just as you have said I have worked with Oshiomhole on a number of occasions because I was one time trained in the same union with him at the Textile Labour House and I am also aware and a participant when Oshiomhole was the president of the NLC. So, as far as I am concerned Oshiomhole is a proactive leader. He is a vibrant person. In fact, he has brought into politics the vibrancy of activism, which will in no small way help in instilling discipline in party politics. If you look closely into our political clime here in Nigeria what we are lacking is party discipline. I see Oshiomhole bringing that party and union discipline and loyalty into party politics. However, politicians who are used to doing things in their own ways as business as usual may not be happy with him for bringing that orderliness into party politics. Oshiomhole will have problems with politicians who always want to cut corners in whatever they do. They will certainly not be happy with Oshiomhole. But at the end of the day and with time you will discover that Oshiomhole would have brought a more positive effect on party politics. Next year’s election is just gathering momentum because you will not be able to know the direction until all the candidates have emerged. It is only then that you can assess them; but you cannot do that on just parties mentioning their names. Like now, I am made to understand that Buhari has someone to contend with in APC and in PDP there are numerous aspirants. We do not know who among them will emerge as candidate. It is only when they emerge that we can now assess, based on the integrity of the candidates, not based on the party they are representing. So, virtually the parties are populated by the same group of people who migrate from here to there.
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Today, you are not a member of any political party because INEC did not register your party?
And you know the reason?
What are the reasons?
I do not have the money to bribe anybody.
Do they collect bribe before registering parties?
Well, the kind of registration fees and whatever they are asking for is more or less making all credible people not having the capacity to pay. I do not know what is wrong in even having a party per local government if they are going to be good and organized. But INEC is insisting it must be national. That is what brought about the corruption. Mark you I didn’t say INEC demanded bribe from me. They did not. What I have said is that I do not have the type of money they are asking for to enable me register the party. They are demanding for N1 million or thereabout and in addition you must establish two-third or at least 24 functional offices. If it can be made in a way that you can register in the locality you are from, fine; one person can stand on his own principle and register his party.
What is your take on the executive/legislative face-off and the resolve of the APC-led government to remove the Senate President, Bukola Saraki?
Well, impeachment is legal and is acceptable in the Nigerian constitution. So, if APC, which brought him in feels that they have enough strength to impeach him, so be it. Over all, the unhealthy relationship between the executive and legislature is not good for Nigeria. I do not think it is the issue of checks and balances that is responsible for the frosty relationship. It is the issue of self-interest because in all they are doing there is no issue of Nigeria. It is the issue about self. From all I have read in the newspapers and the little I can decipher I blame the legislature. Take for instance, why should anybody want to insist as a legislator that because the Customs Director did not wear uniform he is not there to address the legislature? What has wearing uniform got to do with the person? If they are performing their oversight function it is Buhari they would address why the Customs boss he appointed is not wearing uniform? They do not have to personalize it. That is one. Secondly, initially what brought about the issue of wearing uniform or not? It is because the Customs insisted that certain principal officers who imported vehicles into the country must pay import duty. That is why he was summoned. We have also seen a situation where they refused to confirm (Ibrahim) Magu. These are issues pointing to the fact that the legislature is overstepping their bounds. That does not mean that the executive too will not have one or two lapses.
With the experience in elections in the three states of Ekiti, Bauchi and Katsina states, what is your level of confidence in the process leading to the 2019 poll?
I have a lot of confidence and my confidence hinges on three things. One, the body language of the president and his disposition towards his desire to conduct free and fair elections. Secondly, under his watch elections have been conducted where the APC lost woefully. So, with this it has given me some confidence that the executive may not want to manipulate the elections. I have also seen the INEC leadership trying to do the best they could to ensure that to a large extent the election is transparent and an improvement on the one of 2015. Again, Nigerians are today more interested, in fact; all segments of the society are more concerned about the happenings in the political circle, the religious groups, name them are now interested in who leads them and they may not be prepared that anybody plays with their destiny. So, these give me confidence that the 2019 election will be successful and will be free and fair to a large extent.
As one of the leaders in your zone that supported Buhari in 2015 even though you were not in a political party, do you see the pattern of votes changing in 2019?
It may not to a large extent affect the election in the centre per se. But I can tell you that it will definitely affect the legislative and governorship elections. Take, for instance, in Adamawa State, though I do not belong to any political party, but I have interest in what happens in the state in the 2019 election. It is in that regard that we have floated a group of professionals to screen all the political contenders in Adamawa State and find somebody with the best programme, capacity, ability, machinery and wherewithal to drive Adamawa State to the Promised Land. So, this is a group that will identify from the governorship to councillorship levels those with capacity to move the state forward. We will willingly support such people we have identified. The name of the group is “Adamawa 2019: Organize, Don’t Agonize”. It is a group of professionals of Adamawa State extraction who want to identify with success and people who have the capacity to lead the state properly irrespective of political leanings. I am the convener and we have the Director-General and Coordinators in all the local governments. That I am non-partisan and non-political does not mean that I should not have interest in what happens in government. Every registered voter is already partisan because he or she would use that vote to identify who he or she will vote for. It is the same thing with everybody. The only person who can claim to be apolitical is the person who is not a registered voter because his or her view does not matter after all. But for those of us who are carrying voter’s card we need somebody on ground who can coordinate our activities into a political force.
Buhari came back from London and said he would send some thieves to jail. In view of his anti-corruption fight how did that come to you?
Everybody who knows Buhari should know that Buhari is a man who is determined to fight corruption by identifying people who are corrupt and punish them appropriately. So, to me, it is not something new. We all know that is one of the strong points that brought Buhari to government. Everybody knows that with Buhari at the centre it will not be business as usual. He would be fighting corruption sincerely because he has that integrity to fight corruption. So, he was only emphasizing what he desires to do. It goes to show how consistent and committed he is to the fight against corruption. In the circumstance, we find ourselves we have fair weather politicians. Every election time they will change parties if they think their ambition will not be realized in the party they are. We have them all over. So, it does not even bother me because in spite of what they said about their former parties they are still going back there. What does that tell you?
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