Culled from The Sun Newspaper of 26th August 2017
By Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Adamu Maina Waziri is a former Minister of Police Affairs and member of the Board of Trustees of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is currently the chairman of PDP’s screening committee for Anambra governorship aspirants. In this interview with IHEANACHO NWOSU, he spoke on a wide range of issues including various narratives on the need to restructure the country.
Are we missing any point on the issue of restructuring?
We are not missing any point. Who provides leadership in the country? Is it people who are agents of treason, or elected leaders of the country? The question is very clear, the true representatives of Nigerians are those elected into executive and legislative offices. That is what democracy is all about, are you going to listen to the governor of the home state of Ayo Adebanjo, or you are going to listen to Ayo Adebanjo? A man who is almost 90, who doesn’t believe in the unity of this country! How is he saying that this country should go back to regions that we abolished in 1966, is that sensible? Is going back to regions a sign of good governance? Ayo Adebanjo was one of those who advocated the breakup of Nigeria, purposely to break up the northern region, because it was so big. Part of the restructuring is to allow people who want to dissolve their states to go back to their regions to do so; this was the resolution of the confab of which myself, Ayo Adebanjo and Odumakin were members.
What we expect is that people who believe in restructuring should go back to their constituency, offer themselves to be agents of the restructuring they do desire and come back to the National Assembly and pass the law. You have institutions of democracy that are legitimate, now you have some unelected people who see themselves as leaders, sitting in one corner and threatening fire across the country. For this country to move forward, we must recognize treason and deal with treason. There are people who are committing treasonable felony in this country, but our institutions are so weak, so they don’t deal with them. We must go back to law and order, our law and order do not allow you to say anything as you like. I am very happy for the president to have said that the indivisibility of Nigeria is settled, you cannot have a leader elected or sworn -in on the basis of the constitution of this country, and you now say that we will do something that will not keep the country together.
Are you happy with the way the report of the national conference which you were a part of has been brushed aside?
It was established under Goodluck Jonathan. The council concluded its report in a very hurried manner, to be able to submit it under President Jonathan. Now you have an administration which did not set up that confab, it came with its own agenda, but having said so, let me say that the report of the conference has three key elements. There are some of the recommendations that are policies; let’s take for example, the issue of reducing the cost of governance. Some ministries have to be merged in order to reduce the cost of governance, this administration decided to bundle up some ministries; it reduced the number of ministries from 24 to 18. There are some reports that are structural, they need laws of the National Assembly, and the National Assembly has passed a law that if the president of the country travels for a certain period of time, whether he transmits report to the National Assembly or not, the Vice President becomes acting president, it has been done. Some of these recommendations will be implemented through legislations. I am saying that the confab was set up when the National Assembly was in existence, and the membership of the confab was in the same consistency as those of elected members. I am a member of the confab and I never considered myself superior to the National Assembly from my constituency.
Some people are clamouring for another conference, since the outcome of the last one was rejected by this government, do you support such a position?
In Columbia, the leadership of the country decided to bypass the National Assembly, are you saying the same thing should happen to Nigeria? We have a golden opportunity in 2019, let people who insist in originality, let people who insist that each state must have its own constitution contest election and come to the National Assembly. We cannot have a structure established through democratic parties and then we have people seeking to undermine the democratic society. Nigeria must make choice, and the choice is democracy.
The argument again is that some people are not happy with the way the National Assembly is handling some of these issues, especially the defeat of devolution of power, are you happy yourself?
Yes I am, because I expect each Nigerian who is not happy with it to vote each member of the National Assembly out in 2019. That is democracy for you, we must make a choice, do we need democracy? Are we going to bypass the elected people? It is as simple as that? Our democracy allows for electing representatives of the National Assembly, let them do that instead. If we don’t have democracy in Nigeria, how can our leaders survive? Have we thought of another alternative to it? There is no member of the National Assembly from my state who will vote for dissolution of Yobe State, none of them can do that?
Are you happy with the current state of Nigeria?
I am not happy, it can be better.
How do we do it?
By electing people that are conscious, who believe in Nigeria, who believe we can improve, and the best way to improve is to elect fit and proper people to occupy democratic leadership positions in Nigeria.
Is Nigeria in lack of these?
Yes, we are. We cannot have a National Assembly where some people are there and are chasing charges in court. In some parts of the world, they will say unless the court pronounces me not guilty, I am going to forgo my seat, which is what is required in many parts of the world.
How true is it that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, are rejoining PDP?
I am telling you in all conscience that these two gentlemen want to come to PDP, but I am aware that they both have presidential ambitions and for it to come to pass, they must have a political platform. Most of them today are in APC, and they can express their aspirations in the APC, but if you want to come to PDP, they are welcome.
The meaning is that they are romancing the PDP, though informally…..
I am not aware that they are romancing; the PDP has a constitution, which says if you want to join the PDP, you should go through your ward and register. If you also want to exit the party, you go through your ward. As of today, there is nothing that has come to my knowledge that those who left the party want to come back. If highly esteemed people left the party and want to come back, there must be certain negotiations that will go on. First, they left the party due to some reasons, they will need assurance that these same reasons will not be there. All these things will be discussed. Experience is the best teacher, both the party and the members have learnt some bitter lessons; there should be improvement in the quality of leadership in the party.
Just last week, the Nigeria Police Force was named the most corrupt institution in Nigeria followed by the judiciary, doesn’t this distress you?
Well, first as a Nigerian I am very distressed. This matter is judged by an international agency for that matter. I am more distressed having been a former minister of police affairs. I am more distressed that the Nigerian Police and the judiciary are the most critical arms of government charged with the maintenance and enforcement of laws. The first mandate of any government is the provision of law and order, provision of security of life and property to its citizens. These two institutions are the primary agents of the attainment of that duty. Some of these things are constitutional, we talk about the police, but we need to talk about policing Nigerians. If you talk about policing Nigerians, you will see that the space is so large, and certain aspects of the police can be undertaken by various organs in the chain of governance in Nigeria. There are certain aspects of policing Nigerians that can be handled well, more efficiently and effectively at the state and local levels.
By the time we do that, we are going to reduce incidences of corruption and lack of efficiency in the police. There is nowhere that it is humanly advisable to have 400,000 police officers to police a country as large as Nigeria, with a population of about 200 million, it is not possible. That is why we are having all sorts of bodies being created, the Peace Corps and the rest, all those things are not strengthening Nigeria, they are undermining policing Nigerians, because there is no coordination between them. You hear of incidences where police launch an attack and take into custody the officials of the Peace Corps. Because the peace corps is doing things that are unconstitutional as far as the current constitution is concerned. Some of the things they are doing are absolutely illegal, even if they are backed by the state law, the constitution must be amended to accommodate those mandates.
You were one of the chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who stuck out their necks against the Sheriff- led leadership, how fulfilled are you that the Supreme Court delivered judgment in your favour?
It is not fighting against an individual who is acclaimed nationwide to be an agent of distraction, but it is fighting for the sustenance of democracy in our country. The hallmark of democracy is the opportunity of choice for Nigerians to choose their leaders; who must be leaders that aspire on a political platform. And if you have some non-democratic elements coming into political platforms with the sole purpose of destabilizing the platforms, such that the vitality of the platform is diminished and the platform becomes unattractive for political contest, then you know that democracy is in danger of eradication. Nigeria from 1999 till date has shown a tendency of being a multiparty democracy, but with two strong parties; the PDP and then, at a time versus APP, ANPP and now APC.
We lost the election narrowly in 2015, but if PDP would provide the effective opposition that is needed for good governance in Nigeria, it also needs a leadership that has internalized loyalty to the party. Unfortunately from day one, certain leaders of the PDP felt that Ali Modu Sherrif was going to provide the leadership against some of us who come from the same environment, who know his antecedents, who have cautioned, argued very strongly against that risk. It has come to pass and I believe that even the democratic air in the political party is breathing a sigh of relief that this country is going to be better for it, with a PDP that has been wounded, but on the road to recovery, so that the two parties can provide the leadership that is expected of them.
The argument by the people who brought Sherrif at that time was that the party needed someone who could help fund the party and wrest power from APC in some states like Borno. Wasn’t this argument convincing?
From 1998 when PDP was conceived up till 2014 or 2016, we have never appointed the leadership of our party based on means. It has always been a person of good character, intellect, a democrat. A party coming from the part of the country whose turn it is to provide the leadership. So, the whole concept was faulty, it was a continuation of an incidence of having a rich person to be a leader in Nigeria. From 1960 till date, there has not been any leader who was elected based on his wealth, look at the history, it has never happened. Also, the leadership of the parties from 1960 till date, it has never been based on the weight of their pockets. So, the moment we derailed, we are going to pay a price; and God forbid, the day we elect a leader in Nigeria because he is a multimillionaire will be a disaster for this country. Sheriff almost got it, but he didn’t get it.
Already your party has been boasting of returning to power in 2019, is this not a rash hope?
No, you don’t form parties to contest election and lose, you form parties to contest election and win. It has been proven that a party can be formed, it can contest election and it can win in APC. A party that was formed barely 18 months before the election, it contested election against our party which had been in existence for 17 years and we lost. So, it is the quality of the leadership, it is the quality of our candidate; it is the marketability of the person and candidate of the party among the populace that will deliver victory to such a party. In 2015, our party missed these critical steps, and we also lost the election even before we contested. It was absolutely wrong for our party to have brought out a candidate from outside the north in 2015 against a new party fielding a candidate with antecedents of the person from the northern part of the country and expect to win, this is a true story. In 2011, I am a witness to an understanding that then president Jonathan was going to serve only one term, 2011-2015; he had committed himself to certain projects he wanted to finish and allow the north to conclude the tenure of the governance. Failure to abide by this fertilized the creation of the APC, fertilized the candidacy of President Muhammadu Buhari, and made him marketable and adorable to Nigerians and we lost the election. This is not rocket science.
But why didn’t some of the PDP elders and chieftains summon the courage to speak out against Jonathan’s ambition at that time?
It is not true that PDP people have not spoken about that unfortunate disaster. The truth of the matter is that we had a president who had committed himself to that understanding. Those things were not public platforms; they were platforms exclusive to certain members of PDP. Voices were raised, but in Nigeria, like in many parts of the world, the power of incumbency is overwhelming; I can show you an example, see what is happening in Turkey, Columbia, the United States, North Korea, the survival of president Assad of Syria. The difference is that from society to society, the power of incumbency is displayed either crudely or decently. So, in Nigeria, the country submitted to a very strong power of incumbency. But many PDP people knew that our chances of winning the 2015 elections were low against the chances of APC’s candidate nationwide.
But APC defeated your party while it was in power, how do you think that PDP can wrest power from it just four years after?
The PDP had power of incumbency, yet it lost the election, the APC has not gotten its acts together up till now. The PDP has been alleged to have committed all sorts of crimes against humanity in this country, but there has not been any form of remedy to those iniquities the PDP was alleged to have committed. There are certain aspects of life that unifies humanity, crisis unifies humanity, and economic adversities unify humanity across the divide. So, Nigeria today is riddled with crises in all corners of the country. The economic adversity is affecting 90 percent of Nigerians, if not 100 percent, the failure of governance is affecting all levels of government and leadership in Nigeria. The same Nigerians who voted out PDP in 2015 are also there to judge performances of elected people nationwide on the basis of these indicators. The victory of APC in 2015 has run out certain benchmarks that any party that aspires to win an election must be able to meet up. First and foremost, the candidate of any party that wants to contest the 2019 presidential election must be a person of integrity.
Do we have such people in PDP?
Of course, are you telling me that all of us are devils in the PDP and everyone in the APC is a saint? I don’t even know the candidate of PDP for the 2019 election, but I assure you that one of the characteristics of the candidate must be integrity, because we are going to contest either with absolute integrity or an antecedent of integrity. He must be a person who is committed to the indivisibility of this country, he must be alert on who will stir popular support, he must be a person who will emerge through democratic process of his party, not imposed, he must be a person who will be able to stretch hands of fellowship to all sections of this country; above all, he must be a person who is educated, experienced and who has popular appeal. These are some of the factors that will come into play, because the electorate in 2019 will be highly populated by young Nigerians of between 18 and 30 years, whose vision of our country is different from my own, who know no other country apart from Nigeria, who believe there is strength in Nigeria, who believe there should be unity in Nigeria. These are the Nigerians who will determine who becomes the president of Nigeria.
But, given the rousing reception given the president on his return from UK last week, does that not suggest he is still a beautiful bride?
Of course, let me confirm to you that it is not only APC people who came out alone, Nigerians came out and are coming out to welcome the president. Governor Wike was there, is he APC? I also was relieved that the Nigerian president is back, because there are certain medications that he will do to the Nigerian politics, which everyone has been experiencing since he came back. If you win an election, you consider yourself to be voted by everybody; if you lose an election, you should consider yourself to have been voted for by nobody. In democracy, having won an election, you must submit to the leadership of whoever is elected for four years. Irrespective of party affiliation, Nigerians prayed for the recovery of President Buhari, Nigerians welcomed his return and it will come a time in 2019 when we will go back and vote, based on performance of not only the president, but also the 36 governors, 469 members of National Assembly and countless number of people who are going to contest on other platforms.
Culled from The Sun Newspaper of 26th August 2017