That is why I will ask this next question. Some people will say Nigeria is not moving forward because the political processes in Nigeria are still being controlled by the very leadership that failed us in the past…
(Cuts in) And they are still failing. I agree that we must find ways and means of re-engineering our political process. We must find ways and means of instilling a new leadership in this country. We must find ways and means of making sure that our political parties are based on clear principles and ideology.
As at today the process of moving from one political party to the other is seamless because there is no ideological barrier and difference between the political parties. So if you are in PDP and PDP loses power you simply move on to the APC like it is happening now. I am finding it extremely difficult to understand the difference between the PDP and the current government because the ease with which elements in the PDP that said that the APC was evil, the ease with which they are moving to the APC is scary and makes nonsense of the trust the Nigerian people repose on the current leadership. It is true that our constitution has said that nobody should be rejected from being member of any political party, but I think that every political party should set up criteria and mechanism on who belongs to it and who does not.
I do not believe that the elements that are now moving to APC in droves share whatever passion and the ideological disposition of the APC. So I think that the APC should not just open its hands and welcome every Tom, Dick and Harry into its fold. Even people with questionable and corrupt past and people we know do not believe in the doctrine of equity and social justice which APC has made as its cardinal point. Unless the Nigerian people really revolt against this, we will still be moving in circles and there won’t be any end to the type of electoral impunity that we have in Nigeria today.
Would you say Buhari has come close to an effective leader since he came to power?
No. I believe General Buhari means well for the people of this country. I believe that he is a very effective leader. I believe that he is a very principled leader. Unfortunately, health challenges may not allow him to provide the type of effective leadership that this country needs and its very, very unfortunate. Nigeria would have also had an effective leader in Yar’Adua, but he suffered from health challenges that did not allow Nigerians to realize what they ought to have realized from his presidency. For me, our prayer is with the president that God should restore his health so that he can come back and lead this country and lead it effectively. On the other hand, if he comes back and he believes genuinely that health challenges will not allow him to provide effective leadership for this country I am sure he has the energy, will power and principled stand to make the right decision that will be to the benefit of Nigeria and international community. But as at today his health has not allowed him to provide the type of effective leadership which I know he has the capacity to provide. To that particular extent I will say we are still far from where we ought to be. It is possible that we will get to that particular destination if God restores his health and he comes back stronger and more effective.
There are those saying they can forgive President Buhari for making wrong choices in the appointments of ministers and aides, but that they will not tolerate the continuation of a team that has created near universal consensus as performing well below one that should actualize Buhari’s vision. What do you think about that?
I think that in a diverse society like Nigeria you will never have a consensus of opinion relating to the appointment of ministers. What I believe the president should do in the next cabinet reshuffle is to appoint 50 percent of persons he believes will be effective in realizing his vision and then 50 percent of politicians into his cabinet because you also need politicians to cover your back. But for you to be effective and move governance forward you also need people who are not politicians to do that. So you must at all times balance this things, cover your back and be effective as a politician.
In view of what people say is the dwindling rating of President Buhari and his health challenge, would you advise he grooms a potential successor for the 2019 election? Or would you advise him to run in view of this disadvantage?
I think it will be disingenuous and irresponsible for anybody to talk about whether President Buhari will run for the 2019 elections or not as at now. Buhari was elected for a four-year period and we are barely two years into office. Our attention and focus should be on governance. Our attention should be on how we can realize the dream which the ordinary people have of a Buhari presidency. I think it is disingenuous to talk about successor at this point in time. Having said that I also believe that the issue of grooming a successor does not even arise. Our electoral processes are anchored around political parties. It is political parties that sponsor candidates for elections.
So, it is the responsibility of the APC as a political party to groom candidates for elections. It is not the responsibility of the president to groom candidates for elections. The responsibility of a president is to lead the country and lead the country well. But the APC is not short of successors to the president in case anything happens. There are over 500 potential presidents that I can off the cuff mention in APC at any point in time. I believe that what we need as at today is that a government that has been elected for a four-year tenure should deliver. The ordinary people want this government to deliver. The ordinary people supported this particular government.
That dream that they had has not been realized. The economy is still not out of recession. The prices of commodities are still very high. The ordinary people are still finding it difficult to send their children to school and go to the hospital. So many of our people are still living from hand to mouth.
That is not good for our democracy. Few of the states are working in terms of effective leadership, in terms of blueprint. The governor of Sokoto State, for instance, came in with a blueprint. That is why if you go to Sokoto State you will see roads being constructed and that free education has been declared and backed up with law. You will see schools being renovated. He believes that part of the challenges which his state is facing is education. He is also working in the area of mainstreaming the state into the mainstream of national politics. He is attracting investors into Sokoto State. He came with a plan. I also believe that the governor of Kaduna State has a blueprint on how to move the state forward.
You can see that he is constructing roads, renovating schools and doing some other things. You may not like his politics, brashness, tactics and strategies, but the truth of the matter is that he has a blueprint on the direction he wants to go. The governor of Rivers State has a blueprint on what he wants to do and he is working and improving on what he met on ground. So there are some of the governors that have a blueprint and there are some of the governors who do not understand what they are doing. What APC should be doing is to make sure that the models in the states that are working are transferred to the states that are not working, peer review, peer learning; you learn from each other. The same thing should happen to the PDP. So let us concentrate on governance. The moment the political process is open, just one year to 2019 then we can begin to talk about succession in the political parties; whether the president is going to run, whether the PDP will put its house in order and so on. But as at today, we must focus on governance and political process and I believe that APC has over 100 to 500 potential presidents that can stand on their own at any point in time.
Would you agree with me that even though the PDP is unlikely to benefit from the disputes in the APC its members in the National Assembly are vital assets they can use to exploit intra APC disputes to damage the current administration’s plans and programmes?
Let me put it this way. You are elected into the National Assembly; you become part of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The moment you are elected into the National Assembly, you are no longer a representative of the PDP neither are you a representative of the APC. You become a representative of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a representative of every individual from your senatorial zone…
Is that what obtains now in the National Assembly?
I am coming. That is what it is supposed to be. A presidential system of government has its own ups and downs. The government in power even if all the members in the National Assembly are from one political party it does not mean that they must approve everything that comes from their political party. No. That is not the principle. Since the PDP and the APC have near equal representation in the Senate, what this means is that both the Executive and members of the APC in the National Assembly must lobby their colleagues in order to get some of the things they want. That is what is called lobbying and politics. It does not mean that because the PDP are opposing one thing or the other that they are sabotaging the plans of government. I don’t believe in that. The government must convince the people of the National Assembly that what it is doing is in the interest of the people.
Is that exactly what is playing out now between the present Senate and the Executive?
I do not think there is any issue of rancor. What I see is that the framers of our constitution believe that there is a possibility that the Executive can make mistakes in the choice of appointees. That is why in some of them they have said if you want to appoint, do your nominations, send it to the National Assembly, let them be the confirming authority so that the National Assembly members that are representing the senatorial districts can go back to their people and ask for the pedigree of those to be screened.
Have they been doing that?
They have been doing that. So the fact that the National Assembly has not confirmed or refuse to confirm one or two appointments does not mean that they are sabotaging the activities of the government. It is democracy at work and they should be allowed to do their work.
Don’t you think the APC is likely to have serious opposition, much of it coming from the people who labored with Buhari to create the APC, going by what is happening now?
By the time we get to 2018 this political process will be very fluid because there does not seem to be any ideological clarity. Secondly, the political elite in all the political parties do not have any problem moving from one party to the other. So to that extent the process of moving from PDP to APC, for instance, is seamless. So if there is no basic ideological and personality difference it means that as we get towards 2019 the political process might be very fluid. There will be people who have serious disagreement relating to how APC is being run and may likely decide on their own to move out and find a new political platform. And there are also people in the PDP who will be looking towards the 2019 election and decide to move into the APC or into another political party.
What is likely going to happen is that the judgement of the Supreme Court in relation to the challenges and crisis in the PDP will have a fundamental effect on the political process, whichever way the Supreme Court goes. If the Supreme Court affirms Sheriff as the authentic chairman of the PDP, you are going to have at least three or four governors of the PDP moving to a new political platform. I do not know which new political platform that may likely be. If on the other hand the Supreme Court affirms the Makarfi faction the people from Sheriff’s camp will have to go and find a new platform. So there is going to be a serious problem in relation to that. In relation to the APC the legacy parties that came together to form APC refused to dissolve their structures. The ACN, CPC, ANPP and the New PDP faction and their structures are still there. These parties still retain their structures and loyalty. So if those legacy parties believe that they have not been treated well they are likely going to pull out from the fold. The only thing that will keep APC intact is that if God in His infinite mercy gives the president good health and he comes back and welds the legacy parties together.
If by 2019 and for any reason the president is not in the ballot in 2019 there may likely be an implosion in the APC and a new political configuration will emerge and we may have a situation where no political party will be sure whether it will triumph during the 2019 election.