Sunday, 7 June 2015

Why the North Backed and Shall Continue to Back President Buhari

Image result for pictures of  Professor Ango Abdullahi

Former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University and Secretary of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi has explained why the North is fully backing President Muhammadu Buhari and the region’s expectation from the new administration.
Read details of this interview below:

What are the lessons to be learnt from the last general elections, considering the voting pattern of the electorate?
The lessons, in this case, are there for everyone to see. Nigerian leaders are expected to respect their promises and their responsibility is to be accountable to the people. All these were not there. If the people had risen the way they did in 2015 — throughout the country — it was evident that the people were tired of the style of leadership that was given to them over the years; from 2003 to date.
If you look at the composition of the All Progressives Congress and people that are around President Muhammadu Buhari, do you think he can go far in bringing the desired change to the country?
If you look at the All Progressives Congress — the way it was put together and parties and persons that formed it — it was very clear at that point in time that there were so many strange bedfellows in that arrangement. But given the desperation of Nigerians that they wanted a change from the ruling party called the Peoples Democratic Party, they were rushing into this new formation called the APC. One can understand that. One sympathises with Nigerians because they did not have a choice but to move away from the PDP and go for the APC. It is quite correct to say that the APC itself is not a puritan party. Perhaps, Buhari would have preferred — given his antecedents — to cope and work with people that he could not work with before. Many of the people who played a major role in the APC ‘success’ are people that had been opposing Buhari’s election in the previous years.
I worry that if care is not taken, it might not be as easy for Buhari’s philosophy and integrity and his desire to bring about major changes in this country. It might not be as easy as many people would think because of the composition of the party; the antecedents of the major players in the party and the history of Nigerian politics. It is not going to be easy at all. One will hope that Buhari’s stature, record and determination to show leadership at the highest level might make things a little easier for him to handle. Otherwise, there are a lot of challenges, particularly from the party. Many of the so-called players in the APC have their deep roots in the party that has torn Nigeria from 1999.
What is the expectation of the North from the new administration, especially now that the President is from the region?
I have worked within the Northern Elders’ Forum in the last few years and we had worked very hard to help Jonathan in areas Nigerians were very worried about. The two areas we addressed in our first meeting with the (former) president, during which we presented a very comprehensive document to him in 2012, were security and the emerging politics of bitterness — sectional politics – and the way he was running his government. We saw some problems, particularly Boko Haram. We were the first to insist that some dialogue should start between the Federal Government and Boko Haram. Unfortunately, the people who did not think that it was worth the while for Jonathan’s government to engage Boko Haram in any dialogue had their way and scuttled the little effort that had started.
Our expectation now: President Buhari has stated in many of his major speeches the priorities he had set for himself and his government, which coincided with some of the issues that are of concern to the NEF – not just for the North but for the entire country. These are peace and good economy. These are the major areas President Buhari said he would exert himself to in the early part of his administration. Obviously, President Buhari cannot be alone in tackling these gigantic tasks. We are expecting that he is going to put up a team that will help him. He really needs people of similar interests, if not the same, but, as much as possible, similar character, attitude and integrity to help him as teammates and tackle the various issues that are important to us. It will not be difficult for him to find from a population of about 170 million highly competent people that can help him to do his work.
One can also expect that he will have problems with the politics of selecting his team. There are people who insist that there must be political considerations. What roles did an individual play in the politics? What contributions has he made, whether financial, material or otherwise, that will qualify him to be engaged in one responsibility or the other? I think Buhari appears determined that we will go out to search for the team that he requires; that will help him turn around the country.
What does the North expect Buhari to do on the report of the 2014 National Conference, when the region was initially reluctant to be part of the exercise?
Let us go back to the basics. That conference –what I call Jonathan’s conference – was not a National Conference. A national conference or a conference that is expected to alter the constitution cannot be the kind of conference that we saw. The conference that we had was a conference that was put together by the president and his friends, and those who perhaps believe in one agenda or the other. When they sat down to decide who would attend the conference, the conference was not representative. I had attended three constitutional conferences before; in each one, I was elected to represent my constituency. This time, there was no election. Even the committee that was set up to go round and find out the modalities on how to proceed with that conference came back with a report to say that the delegates to that conference must be elected; about 70 to 80 per cent of them should be elected. That recommendation was rejected by Jonathan. He went ahead and appointed his yes-men, whether in the North or wherever, and put them in the conference for them to pursue the agenda that had been predetermined at some point in our history.
I did not see that conference as one that represented my interest or the interest of so many Nigerians because the delegates that were there were not elected by us. There might have been so many ideas (at the confab) and people can pick from the ideas if they are good ones, but it cannot be mandatory – statutorily mandatory or legally mandatory – for anybody to take the outcome of that conference seriously. I do not take it seriously and I do not expect Buhari to take it seriously.
There are fears in some quarters that the North is so much inclined to power that those from the southern part of the country might be eased out in the scheme of things under the Buhari-led administration. Can you deny this?
What about our fears? Are you telling me that the South has no interest in power? If they have no interest in power, why were they fighting to keep power – to keep Jonathan in power? We were hoping that Jonathan was going to be a Nigerian president but he was not a Nigerian president; he was a sectional, religious president; from all indications, from all his actions, from all his appointments, everywhere. We did not just say we were asking for power to return to the North, we said, ‘Yes, a president of northern extraction, but a Nigerian president.’ Thank God Buhari made it very clear that he belonged to no one, he belonged to everybody and that he was going to treat Nigerians across the board fairly and justly. This is not what happened in the Jonathan period. If you have been keeping records, 90 per cent of all the appointments to key positions in the Nigerian economy were made against northern interests.
We are not going to say some kind of retaliatory actions should be taken. We can assure Nigerians that Buhari will be president for all Nigerians. Therefore, nobody should worry. Keep yourself within the law and you are okay. This is the way he is going. We do not expect that Buhari is going to be vindictive. What we are saying is this: From what we have seen, who are the ones who started this idea of sharing power? I participated in the conference that came out with the recommendation that power should be shared between the North and the South. The group from the North was the first to suffer from open-mindedness.
How?
We surrendered power voluntarily. We supported Obasanjo and he won his first election. We supported him again, he won the second term. It was the turn of the North; Umaru Yar’Adua spent three years, he died. One would have expected that common sense would dictate to the PDP and say, ‘Under this zoning arrangement, the North should take power in 2011, regardless of the one year Jonathan spent to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure’. But this did not happen. There were vindictive and smear campaigns and blackmail that the North should not have power in 2011. What we saw in the transition during Yar’Adua’s sickness had the tone that Jonathan, through the connivance of some northerners, I would say, took power again in 2011. It was very clear that there was an agenda that the North should be kept out of power for as long as possible. This is what we saw in the plot that unravelled. I think the issue of sharing power based on a modified democratic system should be thrown overboard. In the future, ‘one man, one vote’ will be the basis for Nigerian leadership demand.
Are you saying zoning should be scrapped and the floor thrown open after Buhari’s tenure?
It has always been. This particular one (2015) was thrown open. Buhari did not get his ticket on the basis of power sharing with anybody.
But the North moved from the PDP to the APC to actualise the Buhari presidency dream.
This is politics. It was not Buhari’s dream but to actualise the wishes of the majority of the people.


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