Former Speaker, House of Representatives, Ghali Na’ Abba has said that the governors are responsible for the insecurity situation in the country. He spoke to WILLY EYA in this interview and expressed his fears on the future of Nigeria. Spokesman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, has however, asked Na’Abba to provide concrete evidence to back his claim or shut up. “He should provide proof. I’m not in a position to comment on anything that hasn’t been discussed by governors at the forum level. It’s mere conjecture”, he stated.
The talking point in Nigeria today is the spate of violence, banditry, kidnapping and all sorts of criminal acts; in view of the general insecurity to lives and property in the country, how do you feel?
Honestly, I am feeling insecure like every other person. We are suffering from not just physical but also economic, social and political insecurity. It is very unfortunate that this is what some people have turned our democracy into. Democracy is supposed to liberate us. It is supposed to take us out of poverty and insecurity; it is supposed to make us live in security and have better lives. And I wonder if anybody can tell me that he is better off today than in 1999 when this democratic journey started. The insecurity situation exacerbated since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. It is true that the war on Boko Haram has succeeded to an extent but it is at the expense of the security we have in other parts of the country. There is definitely something common which has exacerbated this insecurity in all parts of the country. To me, it is the economic agenda of the present government. There is a serious flaw in the economic agenda of this administration and the casualties are Nigerians being kidnapped and decimated on a daily basis. This is a sad commentary on the current administration.
The upsurge in banditry and criminality became more pronounced after President Buhari won a second term in office with many insinuating that some power brokers want to sabotage him; would you agree with that narrative?
People should not be addressing Nigerians through innuendos. If there are such groups and considering the extent to which people are being decimated, I think they would do us a lot of good if they could mention the people organizing the banditry and criminality happening in the country. If the people making such innuendos cannot mention them, they are talking rubbish. They are just taking us to be fools and we are not fools. If they believe that is what is taking place, and they believe they know the people organizing these things, I think they would do Nigeria a lot of good so that such people can be arrested and prosecuted.
When the nation is still awaiting the inauguration of Buhari’s administration for a second term, the public domain is already awash with projections for 2023; don’t you think it is elevating politics above service to the people?
I think there are two groups of people talking about 2023. The first are those who are so hungry for power and do not care about what people are going through in the country. All their calculation is how to get power. The second group constitutes those who are suffering from the insecurity and the economic policies of this government. Those are the people who are yearning for 2023 to come so that this administration can be gotten rid of.
What is your view on the stand of some prominent Northerners that power should still remain in the North in 2023? In a heterogeneous nation like Nigeria, do you think it is a fair deal to other ethnic regions?
Power is currently located in the North even though I do not subscribe to this administration. Ask yourself, what has this administration contributed to the North? I do not think it has contributed anything to the North; I don’t see what you can say the North has benefitted because a Northerner is in power today. I do not care who becomes president in 2023. When you are talking about power, you also have to qualify it. This is because today, you have the presidency, legislature and judiciary. But power as people are talking about it, I think they are referring to the presidency. So, I do not think the presidency coming from the North is going to confer the North any advantage. The advantage is rather for the president and the cabal. So, what we pray for is that we get a president who can run the country in a batter way wherever he comes from. We want a president who can rid us of this insecurity and the economic malaise that we find ourselves in today. This is because people are really suffering.
When is Nigeria going to achieve national cohesion like Rwanda which is a reference point now in Africa even after witnessing the worst form of genocide? I ask this question because the different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria today are so preoccupied with the fault lines of others, rather than their potential to contribute to the development of the country.
I believe that Nigerians are already united. We cannot be united any better than we are today. What is wrong is that we have a leadership that is held prostrate, a leadership that is deficient and this leadership comes from a particular part of the country. Anybody who feels he is suffering from the poor management of the country, he will definitely begin to ask why he should allow himself to be managed by someone who is not from his own part of the country. These are the kinds of things that make people to always act as if they are not united when they are suffering from bad management. It is not that Nigerians are not united. The problem is from the elite and the manager comes from a particular part of the country and the system is deficient and ineffective. That is why people are feeling that it is better we go our separate ways because they feel these people have mismanaged the government. That is what is wrong but Nigerians are united.
Let us go to the economy. Nigeria once celebrated her freedom from a debt overhang in the Paris club. For many then, that was a major achievement. Today, it seems we are back to Egypt with a debt of over N24 trillion. What in your view happened and what does the ugly development portend for the nation?
I feel very bad because nobody knows what they are doing with the money. If you ask people, a lot keep complaining that they do not have money to execute their projects. Even today, one of the managers of one of the important parastatals told me that they are having difficulty getting money from the system because certain people in government for the reasons best known to them, do not want to release money to them. So, we do not know what they are doing with the money. It is sad to know that all the officers in the party and government that are supposed to know or be kept in the know about their finances are not even briefed on the activities of the government. The Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is never briefed on what is going on in government with regards to finances. The legislature is hardly informed. So, nobody knows what is going on and what they do with the money that they are borrowing. This is a very sad development in our country and it has grave implications for our future.
As President Buhari will be sworn in for another term on May 29, what do you think should be his priority and areas of concentration considering the type of challenges that Nigeria is facing today?
He should just prepare to be a more effective president. People suffering from the current insecurity in the land need to feel his presence. Concerning the economy and the way it has been run, it is not helping Nigerians. A lot of people I know have been driven out of their jobs and sadly, some people think and believe that the economy is doing well and whoever is leading them to accept that position, we do not know.
Do you envisage that President Buhari will introduce some radical changes to his incoming cabinet as a response to the perception that those he appointed in his first tenure performed below par?
I am not expecting any radical changes to his cabinet
But who are the kind of people you would like to see in his cabinet this time?
Honestly, my opinion is not important because you can advise but not when anybody who talks is regarded as an enemy. Nobody even wants to know what they want to do. Let them go on and do what they want to do, finish their tenure and leave us with people who can manage us well.
Do you think that the just concluded general election was an improvement to the 2015 poll?
The process leading to the 2019 elections was marred by irregularities. You can see that the courts are dealing with so many elections and that is because our political parties have not been honest. They did not conduct free and fair primary elections. Even before then, the congresses that took place in the parties, were dishonest and you can see how the parties have become comatose. It was under such situations that we went into the general elections. You can see that in many places, there were irregularities. What is happening is that the whole system is infirm, not only the electoral process but the political, economic and everything in this country. So, nothing is working.
The presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar is in court; the APC says it is a distraction but members of the PDP think otherwise, arguing that it would deepen democracy. Do you think Atiku has a genuine case and may likely get justice at the end of the day?
Atiku went to court alleging certain irregularities and these irregularities happened in many places. Some of them were particularly by the PDP and some by the APC. Therefore, under this kind of situation, it is very difficult to predict what is going to happen to the case he instituted at the court. So, I do not have any opinion on that.
As a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, how do you see the politics of choosing the leadership of the 9th National Assembly playing out? This question is derived from the obvious preference of the APC for some of its members aspiring for the leadership of the incoming legislature.
What is happening today is that our political parties have been taken over by private interests. A lot of times, the decisions of parties come out as private decisions of certain people. And in taking those decisions, stakeholders are not being carried along. This is where somebody who is a party leader whether in the PDP or APC, tells the chairman of a party what he wants and that would be taken or translated as the position of the party. That is why a lot of times, you find out that a party will take position on the leadership of the National assembly and there would be resistance. You do not dictate to a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. They are old and mature enough to decide who they want and they always frown at anything that border on dictatorship. So, these kinds of perfidy that our parties are engaged in, makes the whole process unstable and that is why you have this instability in the National assembly because of the tendency to impose. That tendency to impose is always exhibited by the political parties and once that mindset continues, it only leads to instability in the way the legislature decides to elect its presiding officers.
A major development happened in Kano where the governor, Ibrahim Ganduje split the emirate council into four. You would agree that it reduced the influence of the revered office of the Emir of Kano. Some say it is politics gone wrong while others say it is to take leadership nearer to the grassroots. What do you think?
I think it is diversionary. I believe that at this moment, that is not what Kano State needs. What Kano State needs is economic, social and political developments. The Kano State government is not performing and the development is diversionary. I do not see how balkanizing the Kano emirate can bring about economic, social and political development. The emirate system is not what it used to be; all the powers of the emirs have been whittled down by the local government reforms. So, I do not see how creating more emirates would bring development to the people who the new emirates were created for. It is just diversionary and I think the governor is suffering from political insecurity. But you do not demonstrate your power over an institution for nothing. You balkanize an institution just to show that you are powerful; it is the greatest weakness that should be exhibited by any leader.
Former President Obasanjo recently made allusions to the fact that the Boko Haram sect and herdsmen menace is part of the agenda by some powerful forces to ‘Fulanise and Islamise’ Nigeria. How do you see such a weighty allegation coming from a statesman like Obasanjo?
That is typical of Obasanjo any time he does not get his way with anything. Most people know that Obasanjo was against the emergence of Buhari for a second term in office. It is common knowledge and all the time that Obasanjo never got his way on anything, he tries to manipulate it. As somebody who is supposed to be well informed like Obasanjo, these kinds of allegations coming from him, must make us get worried. But this man should shut up because he had the opportunity to make Nigeria a better place but he did not do that. Since he left office, he has been writing letters and saying so many things about successive presidents. Even though I am not a fan of all these presidents, it is not fair what Obasanjo is doing and saying. Obasanjo knows that he is lying. He knows that what he is saying is not true and possible.
In view of the gloomy picture Nigeria portrays today, what do you think is her future in the comity of nations?
Honestly, I pray for a very good future for the country because Nigeria is a big nation endowed with vast resources –human and material. Nigeria is not just a repository of Nigerians but the whole continent of Africa. Anything that happens in Nigeria has implications for all African countries. Therefore, I pray for a better future for this country but we cannot have this better future unless we have good quality leadership which is lacking at the moment. We must realign our political institutions to be giving us leaders of quality; unless we do that, we are going to continue to suffer under the current conditions and experiences. If these conditions continue, I am afraid, we may lose Nigeria.
Do you agree with those who project that some sort of revolution has already started in the North? The argument is that what we see in the North in the form of kidnapping, banditry and all forms of criminalities are an expression of lack of confidence in the power elite in the region. Many think that the poor masses there are now gradually resorting to self-help owing to the failure of leadership.
I would like to believe that it is not that kind of revolution per se. What is happening in the first instance is a local problem between the herders and farmers, and also people who are rustling cows. And because this problem was not taken care of in the formative stages, it has convoluted and become criminality. But I believe that sections of the community that were marginalized and we have many of them joined in this criminality and that is why for a very long time, some of us have been advocating that there must be proper free and fair primary electoral system in our parties so that anybody who has aspirations, could become what he wants politically.
Honestly, our governors have refused to allow governance take place in the local governments. They are in the habits of taking away the money that belongs to the local governments and leave with them a very small amount. So, there has been no governance in the local governments, the bulk of which constitutes the rural areas. That is why most of the criminalities happen in the fringes of the cities.
It is a very serious situation and most of them (governors) have refused to recognize the folly of the stress they put on the political system. So, the governors have to wake up and stop being selfish and begin to practice inclusive governance. What they have been doing all the years is exclusive governance. Those who feel excluded would definitely exert revenge on the people. That is what is going on.