It is now about 17 months since the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration came into being, looking at the journey so far, how would you assess the government?
Well, I sincerely hope you are not expecting me to be sycophantic. You have known me over the years; I don’t pay lip service to mediocrity, when in fact, it is a mediocrity. Addressing directly, the questions you just posed to me. I think anybody who has been living in this country since the 29th of May 2015, till this date, knows that the lot of persons in this country has been very, very, very bad. It is also very clear that this government has not lived up to expectations of Nigerians. Bribery and corruption are and have always been existential threat to the survival of this country, its progress and prosperity. So, as for the re-energised fight against corruption, the government has gotten it right. But beyond that, other aspects for which the ruling party and government in power, made definite promises and commitment to Nigerians, have not come to pass. So as far as I am concerned, it is a record that I am not impressed about.
The picture you have painted now appears to be at variance with the position of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, which said recently that the North would back Buhari again, should he present himself again in 2019. You were at the summit in Kaduna, are you now dissociating yourself from that position?
I was invited to attend the meeting in Kaduna. I was not invited as a member because I have never been and will never be a member of the Northern Elders Forum, and same applies to the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF. But where a situation arises, that I am given an invitation to attend a meeting or conference, to discuss issues, in which I believe matters that we have mutual concerns or interest in, can be discussed, I will attend. Let me say it loud and clear that I am not a party to those who believe, for whatever reason that, Buhari is entitled to a second term, especially when that wishful thinking, has refused to take into cognizance his performance in office. He has not performed, in my view, well enough, to be given a second term. This is being said, not only by me, but by also his own wife. And he cannot be closer to anybody, than his own wife.
Also, let me also say here that there was something fraudulent in the manner the NEF summit in Kaduna, was convened. After I left, a day or so after, a kind of communiqué was issued, in which it was stated that we will support him, as a northerner. That is not my understanding of how politics is played. Forget about what they say, even if they said so. I attended because Prof. Ango Abdullahi invited me. But if the proceedings of the summit are anything to go by, I doubt if anyone can tell me, the aim was to support Buhari. You cannot gather personalities, and use them to legitimize your endorsement of Buhari, for a second term. That is not my understanding of politics and that is not the way I play politics. I have never claimed to speak for the North, so I don’t know what the decision of the North will be. And nobody can claim the arrogance to speak for the North, to the extent that if he said the North should vote for Buhari, they will listen to him. I doubt, if the North will listen. The North has never been a monolithic one. There have always been divergent views on issues. Check the history. So it has been, so it is today, and so it will always be, till the end of time.
Should Buhari decide to run, will you support him?
I will not vote for him, and I will not campaign for him.
Earlier, you said, you will never be a member of either the ACF or NEF, our readers would want to know the reason or reasons for this position, as they would have thought that you are a leading member of either of the groups?
If you listened to what I said earlier, I said that the North is not a monolithic one. So it will be fraudulent for anyone to claim the arrogance of speaking for it. Now, the point I want to make has to do with NEF. It is not wrong to use some kinds of people, like a pressure group, within the context of a noble cause, to pressurize the government of the day, to think in some certain direction, or implement certain policies. However, how can a group, that is not democratic, be discussing about democratic ideals? How can you talk about democracy, when you don’t have elections? It is just a one man or two man show. I find that very ridiculous. And these people claim to be representing us. Who are they, to represent us? So, I don’t talk democracy with people who are undemocratic. Since NEF was established, has there been any election? How can you talk of democracy with people who are non-democratic? As for ACF, they do have some semblance of elections, but some of the claims they make on behalf of the North are totally untenable and there is no internal cohesion in the group.
Away from the North, in less than two years, the ruling party appears to be enmeshed in crisis, are you in any way surprised?
I wasn’t surprise at all, because the party was formed for the purpose of winning elections, and only that. It has no internal democracy, it lacks democratic ideals. All they were after was win elections, form government and abuse their stay in government, to abuse public trust. So I am not surprised at all. They are bankrupt morally and ideologically. Everything they have done so far, were not different from what the PDP did in the last 16 years. Therefore, the APC government as it is today has no moral superiority over the PDP. The chairman of the party is at war with the Publicity Secretary of the party. The party has no role in the government and Buhari does what he likes. Some people are important because they are close to Buhari and have access to him, while others don’t matter. A party that claims to be a party of the left, cannot do without rigorous debates, every issue must be discussed and subjected to a rigorous debate before decisions are taken. But that is not happening with the APC, as a government and as a party, which promised us change.
In view of the foregoing, what will you advise Nigerians to do next, especially putting into consideration Obasanjo’s recent verdict, wherein he said APC was not a strong party in government and that the PDP was not a strong party in opposition?
I don’t know if I can prescribe an option immediately. A political party, is nothing but an organisation, driven by politics, but driven more so by the need to aggregate and articulate the intentions of people, who are forming that party. It is not committee of friends, it is not a place for people to come and become wealthy, it is not a place for people to glorify an individual and who in turn, turned himself, into a kind of personality cult. But in APC, what we have is a personality cult of Buhari, and it is dangerous for Buhari, it is dangerous for the government, it is dangerous for the country, as well as the party. And this type of party is not the best for the country. Someone needs to sit Buhari down, and talk sense into his head, face-to-face, if they really want to make success of this opportunity. No doubt, I have my disagreements with Obasanjo, but on the issue at stake, Obasanjo is absolutely spots on. He is right. Except those who formed these two parties go back to the drawing board, we are not likely to have the political room for maneuver, as we so desire now.
I know God alone can determine who lives till 2019, but being human, Nigerians are already talking about it. What should Nigerians expect?
I think those who are bothered about 2019, should please start getting alliances across, and start planning how to bring down the APC government, through constitutional means, and to also make sure they deny the PDP, a second chance of ruling the country again. APC is not doing well; I don’t think Buhari is going to do any better. The crowd around Buhari has nothing to offer. Apart from the fight against corruption and insurgency, they haven’t done any other thing. How the system rejigs itself and creates a two or three party system, I don’t know. But those who care about 2019 should start and demonstrate their care now, because we don’t want a situation whereby the crowd around Buhari, provide Nigeria with a dilemma. I don’t think Nigeria deserves that. Clearly, from what we have seen, APC has nothing to offer. And Buhari himself has nothing to offer. They have been lying through their teeth, and the more they lie, the more they become embarrassment to the international community.
Are you saying the PDP stands no chance of returning to power?
In life, as well as political life, you must be prepared to pay the price for your own political mistake, and the only way I know people are made to pay a political price in a democracy is to deny them the opportunity to return to power or get them out of power, if they are in power. As far as I am concerned, I don’t see the deliverables of this country, through the PDP.
Are you saying the PDP cannot bounce back?
The man on whose behalf the party was formed, for the purpose of taking over from the Military, left the party and tore his membership card. I believe the party is beyond redemption. Nobody can be more important than Obasanjo in the PDP, and he also said so recently, even though he has limited knowledge about party ideology and how an ideological party is run.
Finally, you are from the N‑‑‑orth; people from outside see you as being conservative, when it comes to your men dealing with their wives, would you say that the President’s wife was right to have upbraided the husband in the market place?
Well, the question to ask is, is the President right to have upbraided the wife publicly and putting her in certain situations? Well, I don’t believe a wife, should cease to be a wife simply because she has a different political view from her husband. We are living in the 21st century, if madam Buhari, had commented on issues that have affected her position as wife, vis-avis the General, it would have been improper for me to comment. But she commented as a Nigerian citizen who has all the constitutional right to comment. Whether the north is conservative or not, is a matter we can resolve another day, at another session. And you don’t look at a wife who has a Master’s degree and expect her to behave like a house girl. It doesn’t happen that way.
I have received calls from my friends from the Southern part of the country, telling me they don’t know our women can be bold to talk the way Madam Buhari did, and I just laugh. Are they saying the air we breathe in the north, is different from theirs or what? And we also have to look at the culture. There is nothing she did, which is wrong, because she is playing politics, the way her husband is playing it. And the truth is that the country has been badly shortchanged by the individuals she mentioned and who we know. What is wrong with that? If you have not elected somebody, why should you keep quiet when the person is exercising political power? This individual is not a government appointee, yet, he wields more powers than the President. We elected Buhari, but this individual, even uses the Presidential jets, more than the person we willingly elected to exercise political power. And if the President’s wife is now complaining, what is wrong with that?