Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba believes that President Muhammadu Buhari does not have what it takes to lead Nigeria. In this interview, he wondered what encouraged the president to declare intention to run for a second term in 2019.
In the estimation of many, events in Nigeria of late have been very unpleasant, as somebody who should know, what are your feelings about the ugly development especially ahead of the 2019 general elections?
My feeling is that more than any other time in the history of this country, Nigeria is so divided and the situation is so devastating. It is to the extent that many people have lost their businesses and capital, and many people have lost their humanity. It is a very trying time in the history of this country. I believe that this incompetent leadership cannot solve the problems of this country.
Particularly, the most worrisome development is the issue of killings which have become a daily occurrence in various parts of the country. It has never been this bad; what has suddenly gone wrong in Nigeria that the people have lost every sense of tolerance with one another?
I think it is nothing but also the failure of leadership. For many years, we have been saying to successive governments in this country that the type of poverty we have in this country is not such that you can solve through conventional means. They have never heeded that advice. We also know that our democracy and the way our governments are operated has marginalised so many people to the extent that majority of Nigerians feel marginalised. Many people feel they do not have a stake in the country and some of them resort to crime. That is why we are having insurgency in the country because the system is not giving hope particularly to the youth. You will agree with me that most of the people being arrested for various crimes are the youth and they are resorting to crimes because they are hopeless. They are not confident that Nigeria would absolve them. So, they resort to self-help.
The talking point in Nigeria today is President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration for a second term in office. How did that come to you. Do you think he deserves another term?
I really do not know what encouraged him to say he would re-contest for the 2019 general elections. I do not see any quality of leadership in him that qualifies him to continue to govern this country. So, my advice is that he should have a rethink even though we are not surprised with his declaration but we feel that he cannot deliver.
But don’t you think that as the incumbent president that his chances are brighter now than in 2015 when he won the presidential election against former President Goodluck Jonathan. Why I ask this question is that his supporters believe that he has done fairly well.
Of course, it is very easy for him as the incumbent to use the levers of power to catapult to the presidential office again but the parameters on ground will not support someone like him to be the president of Nigeria.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has come out clearly to say that neither the APC nor the PDP has what it takes to reposition Nigeria. Do you agree with him that Nigeria needs a new set of leaders?
Yes, I support his position? But looking at the architecture of politics in the country, do you think that the new leaders you are talking about have what it takes to take power from the conservative political elite who are very powerful and not ready to let go?
Nigerians are very conservative but this is a very challenging time for Nigerians. I am sure this time, Nigerians would be adventurous enough to bring forth a kind of leadership that would help them realise their goals and dreams. I have an open mind that anything is possible in 2019.
With the situation of things in the country today, what are your greatest fears?
My fear of course is getting the kind of leadership that would be divisive. Already Nigeria is divided enough and I think that we cannot afford any more division. It is at its worst now. We want a healer; somebody who would heal the country.
Ahead of next year’s general elections, the people of the North do not seem to be speaking with one voice; is it possible for the North to be unanimous in choosing an ideal presidential candidate that would have national appeal?
We are operating a democracy and of course it is difficult for any region of this country to speak with one voice. We have our party system and each wants its candidate to win. What I want to say to you here is that candidates no longer represent their region. Candidates should represent the people across board whether they are from the North or from the South. People have the same aspiration to develop economically and politically. So whether they are from the North or from the South, it does not matter. We are all human beings.
Descriptively, what kind of leader do you have in mind that would be a round peg in a round hole?
I am talking about somebody who can unite the country, somebody who has the wherewithal, intellect and passion to bring people together. We want a leader who would lead in the common humanity of Nigerians.
What is your take on the approval of the $1 million by President Buhari for the fight against insurgency in the country. Do you agree with those who argue that the money to prosecute the election of President Buhari in 2019?
I am not sure the approval of the National Assembly was sought and honestly, I would not like to be presumptuous about the purpose for which the money was approved. It is possible it is for the election and it is possible it is going to be used to fight insurgency but I doubt if the current government would like to put us through the kind of things that took place when the money budgeted to fight insurgency was used to prosecute the 2015 elections.
Do you support those who are advocating that there should be restructuring before next year’s general elections and generally, what is your view on the need to restructure the country?
I believe that every system needs to be looked at from time to time with the intention of improving on it. So, I think we should look at restructuring of the country more positively and not negatively. When people live together and certain people voice out that they are not very comfortable, I believe that the discomfort of such people should be looked at. This is what I believe should happen when people of various persuasions are living together so that everybody should be made to feel comfortable in the arrangement.
The belief in many quarters is that the North is reluctant to support restructuring because the present structure favours them. Do you agree with this line of thought?
No, I do not think it is true. I think that those who are advocating restructuring do not normally invite reasonable Northerners into their fold to partner with them on the advocacy together. They just stay in Lagos or Ogun and begin to say things that would have effect on the rest of the country. I feel that they should be more engaging of the people of Nigeria so that misunderstanding should be avoided.
Nigeria has been moving back and forth for a very long time, what is the problem with us, why are we not getting our acts right in order to move forward like other nations?
It is a question of leadership. Our leadership recruitment system is very faulty. It is only when you have an effective democracy that people of competence, capabilities and abilities would start to come up.
What is your assessment of the leaders in the North against the backdrop of the impression that they have failed their people even though they have enjoyed a greater chunk of the nation’s power equation since independence?
What is happening in the North is like what I told you before that the type of democracy that we have today has not succeeded in giving us good leaders. People are running around democracy. We are not practising democracy. So, the recruitment process is faulty. We should always have bad leaders as long as we run this kind of faulty democracy.
For a long time you have been so quite, what are your plans for 2019?
I am making consultations and at the right time, you would definitely know my plans.
What is your advice to Nigerians ahead of 2019 general elections?
Nigerians should look up to leaders who have the vision to lead this country, the vision to unite and integrate Nigerians.