Senator Abdullahi Adamu is former Nasarawa State governor and senator representing Nasarawa West senatorial zone. In this interview with LEADERSHIP, he bares his mind on issues in the polity, including the executive-legislature feud, the just concluded APC national convention and herders/farmers clashes.
What is going on at the Senate, there are factions here and there and some people say this Senate is a failure. What is your take on that?
Well, I will say yes, unfortunately. This 8th Senate has failed to work in harmony with the executive and I’m sorry to say that before we got there, the leadershipwas on trial for felony and other issues. The Senate is grandstanding; unfortunately, I’m a member. And I have tried to have a voice on these issues, but you are rather labelled as a rebel, like somebody who hates the leadership of the house. I don’t believe in strengthening an institution to the extent of making it work for only one person or an occupant of or beneficiary of that institution; that is not strengthening an institution.
I believe in separation of powers, but how absolute is separation of powers? See what the President said about the 2018 budget the other day. Yes, we passed the budget, but the devil in the budget is the legislative and that is what the executive was complaining. What stopped us from getting some of these additional programmes that we included or the ones that the executive suggested when they brought the draft? It took us 200 days to return the budget; why? When the President was signing, it was already seven months and we all kept quiet.
There is a fight between the executive and the legislature and it is okay with you people. It is wrong; this country belongs to all of us. And I think that the Mnistry of Budget and National Planning should investigate how the budget was padded. They should investigate how some projects were injected into the budget; where constituencies they are sited and who are the lawmakers representing these areas.
The President has been an exceptional democrat; Obasanjo would not have tolerated this kind of thing, not because he has any better ability than Buhari but he doesn’t have the democratic tolerance. Look at the burden that Buhari has been carrying, and the more he is tolerant, the more they peck him. Sometimes you need to sit with us in the chambers to hear what people say. The APC government is ours and we want to work for it.
With the issues around Senate, and most of these issues are coming from the same APC members, what would you say to that?
It is a betrayal. It is a betrayal because everyone of us has a right to disagree with Mr President, but as a fellow party man or woman, you owe the President a duty to reach out to him. Since we got to the Senate, how many times did we get the APC caucus to meet? We are now entering our fourth year and I challenge anybody who will tell you that we have sat two to three times as caucus of APC. The problem is going on; the summoning of the Senate caucus is the responsibility of the leadership of the Senate.
The leadership is supposed to be composed by the party with majority members in the Senate. But through personal ambition, we have abused that and so the caucus is not meeting. The leadership has betrayed its mandate, so as a party, we have this problem. It happened the very day he went into accord with the PDP. If he had consulted with the party, the President would have said, “Okay, I want to have a stable administration and the party would have said yes go ahead, let’s see the outcome. And you cannot remove him until you have two third of the House. Even if all the APC members say they don’t want him now, we will still don’t have the two third requirement and the PDP, the beneficiary of that accord, will not let you succeed. In fact the President is now a prisoner of that accord.
There is this general view that there will be an implosion within the APC, as the fallout of the National Convention may not be favourable to the party. What is your take on this?
Implosion is the wish of our adversaries; it is the wish of PDP and their likes. I don’t foresee implosion tomorrow and I believe strongly that by the grace of God the APC will have a successful convention. There is nothing we are doing in the convention that is new to Nigerians, we are only giving people an opportunity to constitute new executive committee; the ward, local government, states have done the same thing through congresses.
The exercise is a human endeavor and in every human endeavor you cannot talk of achieving hundred per cent, one or two little things may happen no matter how thorough you are. But in politics in a developing country like Nigeria, I won’t be surprised at all if there are hitches here and there. But by what I know have been put on ground by the organising committee, I believe we will come out smiling. The issue of whether some aggrieved members will leave the party, well, there is nothing that they will do that is new. If anybody decides to walk out of the race it’s not new to us; it has happened before.
As for the nPDP members, I am happy that President Muhammadu Buhari is not the kind of person who will be intimidated. He has made it clear that nobody is going to neither sit with them nor talk with them; so we all know that some of them are just there to cause maximal damage. We also know that they don’t have anywhere to go. If there is any place for them in PDP or SDP, I don’t think they will feel better; they won’t have the positions they have and enjoy today.
When you talk about implosion, first there was this question of unity list which people describe as undemocratic and those who fail to get access to the unity list may consider other choices?
Every party I know in the world, including the United State of America of today, works to ensure that there is a good spread of opportunities in leadership of the party to maximize the feeling of belonging to the party at the national level, and the APC is no exception. The unity list, let me explain, last year, there was a PDP convention and there was a unity list and nobody fought against it. Those who felt disadvantaged by that list showed their anger, but in the end, they went back to the fold.
In our own scenario, the unity list is taking every factor into consideration. The objective is to spread the opportunities of the party leadership as much as we can, because this is a national party and a ruling party. We are just about four years old; we were barely one year old when we faced the national election and we won. There must be some corrections here and there to ensure that the party leadership is felt in every nook and cranny of the country.
Oshiomhole has just emerged as a consensus candidate, is that democratic enough?
Yes, it is democratic enough because what we did is try to minimise the work. In America it is done, the only difference is that in America, they do elections in the state and go only for the ceremony. It works there but when you do it here, people will scream that you are being undemocratic. You know Oshiomhole coming as the chairman of the party has a pedigree that none of the other aspirants have. You can trace him to the last 30 years of his life organising men and women, and we need such an active man and a very understanding person who has the understanding of the Nigerian polity. The space is open, those who desired to contest indicated interest but one by one they withdrew, themselves. They were not forced to withdraw, they willingly did so.
Do you think there is a political undertone to June 12 Democracy Day and awards conferred on the Late MKO Abiola and others?
We are in a political dispensation and the problem itself is political. So what is wrong with applying a political solution to a political problem? The president is just being proactive, there is an issue and the issue has been wished away; the issue has been following our democratic dispensation. We need to stand up to it and solve it once and for all.
To be honest, Abiola ordinarily ought to have been declared the winner of June 12, but the fact that election was annulled offended the psyche of Nigerians and his party. By President Buhari’s action, the dignity of the franchise that Nigerians wanted this guy as the President has been restored. He was denied his right and this government deemed it necessary in the interest of the nation, in the interest of integrating ourselves to recognise that election and honour him, posthumously.
Don’t you think that the crisis in the APC can affect the fortunes of the party in the 2019 elections?
As a politician, every vote counts. But when you lose one vote, you plan to have two to four. There are those who didn’t vote for APC in 2015, but are coming in their numbers to vote now. It is a fair game; you lose some and gain some. In an event that the loss is forced on you, you don’t just cry but rather take appropriate measures to ensure that you win elections.
If you stand on a podium today, face to face with the electorate, what are you going to tell them on behalf of the APC?
Wow! I will have a lot to say to them. First, as a positivist and as a participant, I have been involved, those who are honest to know when we came as APC government in 2015, who knew where we were ,what the Nigerian state was, will appreciate how much ground we have covered. On security, if you take away the issue of herdsmen and focus on Boko Haram, the issue of insecurity has been substantially taken care of.
Yes in the North West, there is issue of cattle rustling and armed banditry, not like the herdsmen/farmers clash. They just come into a community and kill, and this is being addressed squarely. In terms of security, the country is better secured now under the APC.
We were in recession and we came out of recession, there could be no better news than that. On the issue of corruption, we are working at it, though the opposition is busy saying it is one-sided; that the APC members are not being arrested but they should go and see how many APC members are on trial. You don’t expect somebody who is in APC to be brought on to be tried on the offences of the PDP unless he is an accomplice. So much is being done in that direction; you can see how much money is being recovered. And you can see to what extent even foreigners, the international community, are responding. It shows that this government is, indeed, fighting corruption.
However, this is not to say that we have solved all the problems we met on the ground, nor are we saying we should not be held responsible. Yes, we didn’t create these problems, but the whole idea is to see how we can solve them. People are failing to know that it takes longer to repair damage than to create the damage. People must appreciate this and it is on that I say people should assess this government in taking care of the problems that we inherited.
Could you give us a background to the herders/farmers clashes in the country?
As for the background of herders and farmers clashes, we will only be repeating ourselves; it is an issue of herdsmen straying into farmlands and their cattle destroying crops. What we knew as we were growing up is that, each time it happened, there was an amicable way of settling whatever dispute that came up, the damage were assessed and compensation paid to the victims. A system existed through our traditional rulership where these things are identified and solutions are found.
The situation has become more pronounced, partly, because of population increase; partly because the land or routes that the herdsmen used in the past which were properly gazetted; the forest reserves and what have you, are almost non-existent today. The conflict has been there from time immemorial. In the past we had institutions that took care of these things, but these institutions are comatose now because no traditional ruler, no matter his ranking, has a legal status to do the intervention. They have been removed from the constitution, the authority they had has been taken away from them and so they can’t impose any sanctions on anybody. As a result of these the problem has been growing unabated, but what has made it worse is the fact that the issue has now been politicised.
From the year 2015, when this government came into power, those adversaries of APC and President Muhammad Buhari have conspired to blow the problem out of proportion, so much so that even issues of terrorism and criminality have now crept into the problem of herdsmen. There is no way anybody is going to convince me that going into a community wiping out killing 70 or 80 persons is an act of the herdsmen. We all know that doesn’t make sense! There is terrorism in the land, and until we pin it down, we will continue to apply the wrong remedy and therefore not get the desired result. There some state governors that are taking pleasure in demonising this government.
So, I believe that we need to settle down, take a look at the problem properly and diagnose the real cause. Yes, I believe that the old method of grazing should be changed for a more modern method of grazing and moving cattle aroud, but you don’t do that overnight. Some people don’t want the government to do anything because they feel that a cattle rearing is a calling. But is trading in Nigeria also not a calling? The Yoruba, Igbo, Itsekiri, Ijaw,Hausa, Kanuri, who trade in Kaduna market, Kano market, Lagos market, Onitsha are all cared for by government; government takes care of availability of electricity and water and sanitation.
Recently we had a problem in Apapa and Dangote is volunteering to build the road there, otherwise government has to do it. What do we do for the herdsmen in Nigeria, is the herdsman not a Nigerian? Hasn’t he got a right? Has the government no duty to take care of his calling also, to ensure that the infrastructure for his calling is also available? So we must have a wholesome approach to determine the cause of this problem and find a solution. It is only when we do this that we can hope to see light at the end of the tunnel.
What would you consider to be the appropriate role of the traditional institution?
We have destroyed the fabric of traditional institution. We have taken away authority from the traditional institution; we have just left them as symbols of our past, no more, no less. And I have no apology for saying this, I believe strongly and I have been working on it, we must give traditional rulers some constitutional roles to play in this country. They may not have to have executive roles to play, but their advisory roles must be enhanced, their roles as community leaders. A typical traditional ruler, who knows his onions in the North, has better means of gathering information than a state governor.
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