Sen Adamu Aliero represents Kebbi Central in Kebbi State and in this interview with LEADERSHIP RUTH CHOJI, the former minister of the FCT said direct primaries would deepen democracy and also spoke on some other issues.
Some have questioned the policy of direct primaries adopted by the APC. Are you in support of it?
Yes, the party has adopted the direct system, which means every card carrying member of the party will vote for a candidate of his choice, from the polling unit to the ward, local government, state and national level. It’s to deepen internal democracy and make it more participatory. People are now getting a sense of belonging. They can now decide on who will represent or govern them at all levels. Every card carrying member of the party has the right to vote for a candidate of his choice instead of using the indirect system where only delegates will vote and elect the person that will represent them. That is not to say that the direct primaries are the best because the logistics involved is quit enormous. I know for sure that candidates will have to be transporting card-carrying members of the party to the centre where the primaries will be conducted. Apart from Transportation, the aspirant will still have to find food for them because they will be staying for a whole day and it is quite tedious. That is the demerit of direct primaries. A lot of logistics and money will be spent. To me, it will amount to double jeopardy because after going through this huddle, you will still go for general elections, which will be the same process. Getting people from the polling unit to the ward level to the LG and then national level is not going to be easy. You end up conducting two elections in the cause of one elections. If you want to be a senator for example, you have to mobilise people to do primary with the direct system. It’s the same way you will go and do election with your opponent from the other party. It will be a waste of money because the main elections are still there for you to take your card-carrying members to again. But in the wisdom of the NWC of the party, they have decided that the direct system should be adopted. Though this is subject to rectification by the NEC. There are speculations that the NEC might not want to adopt the direct system, they will rather go for the indirect because it is easier, simpler and less expensive.
The APC is insisting that Saraki resigns the senate president seat for them. What is your take on this?
I wasn’t surprised when they defected because it took too long. It is something we expected to happen earlier than it did. There were lots of discontentment, ill feelings, a lot of squabbles and acrimony within the party. It doesn’t matter if you are referring to the National Assembly versus the presidency, the National assembly versus state governors or the National Assembly versus the party itself. All this wrangling was what made the defection obvious. Quite a number of people decamped because they felt they were being marginalised by the APC. They felt some forces were sidelining them. The congress that was done in their states was without their impute, without getting their own people involved in the whole process. Somewhat it was a pre-arranged thing. The governor decides to warehouse the entire delegates, those are some of the allegations being made in some of the states that have discontentment. They said there was no transparency in the way the congresses were conducted because some people were alienated. That made some people unhappy. However since Oshiomole assumed office, he has tried to reconcile the warring parties. He has had meetings with the National Assembly where they vented their own feelings, regarding the way the party is being run. They have suggested various ways of enumerating the situation. A lot of wrongs have been made, they suggested ways of undoing what has been done to make it right. He accepted most of the suggestions that were brought then. Some of them are even being implemented now. I don’t want to dabble in whether the senate president should resign or not because those calling for his resignation should recall the constitutional provision and the rules of the senate. You can only remove the senate president if you have two-third majority, which is 73 senators, nothing less than that. Bukola as the SP will not effect the performance of the senate or the relationship between the executive and senate. I don’t want us to waste much time and energy on things that a rent difficult. Rather, let’s concentrate on winning the election in 2019 and consolidate in the senate and House of Reps. To me, it is more important than his removal.
But most of those that defected have pointed accusing fingers at the leadership of the party; some see the chairman as being too authoritarian.
It will be unfair to call the new chairman of APC authoritarian because he has not started his work. He has adopted the consensus approach in resolving the crises of the party, which I believe, is the best way forward. I don’t think he has been combative; he has not been spiting fire like when he was in the labour sector. He knows that he is in a different terrain, so he has to adopt a lot of strategies to solve problems. In my view, the approach he has taken now is the right one. He is doing consultation, accommodation, trying to bring people together to resolve whatever crises is within the party. Even though defections have taken place, the leadership of the party is doing everything it can to ensure that it strengthens the party, and the party is prepared for the forth-coming 2019 elections. The leadership of the party is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that APC wins at all levels of the elections that will be conducted in 2019.
Earlier, you mentioned winning the elections. What are the chances of the APC seeing that the opposition has accused them of not delivering the dividends of democracy to Nigerians?
I don’t go by what prominent politicians say, I go by what I see as reality.
What is the reality?
The reality is that, the masses are totally behind President Buhari and they are totally committed in supporting him to win the 2019 elections. If you go to the rural areas and say anything bad about Buhari, the people will tell you that, you are one of those opposing the will of the masses in Nigeria because they see Buhari as a symbol of leadership for the masses. He has that charisma, appeal and wide spread support particularly in the three geo-political zones in the north and to some extent, the south now. We now have prominent politicians that have embraced his leadership and they are also passing it to various communities. I am happy that even in areas where APC didn’t perform well like the southeast, we now have prominent politicians, and even former senate president, former ministers, and former governors are now decamping to APC to support Buhari. I don’t want to mention names but in 2015, when presidential elections were conducted, we had no former senate president like Ken Nnamani, we didn’t have people like Jim Nwobodo, Emeka Offor, Arthur Eze, and Andy Uba. But all over the southeast now, we have important personalities and dignitaries that are now supporting the presidential ambition of Buhari. So, even if PDP fields a northerner, it will not affect our chances of winning the elections because we now have wide spread appeal. We have covered the whole country. These are some of the leaders in the southsouth and they are all supporting the candidacy of President Buhari. So, I am very confident that president Buhari will win the 2019 presidential election. It is just matter of time. Every parameter you use, Buhari will be on top.
The INEC budget has generated lots of tension between the executive and senate. What is happening to it now?
It’s a pity that the National Assembly went on recess abruptly. We were not expecting our recess to start when it started and what triggered that was the invitation of the senate president to go to SAS and explain himself. That was the reason the senate president defected immediately. They didn’t plan the defection on the day they did, it was the issue of the invitation of the SP and also the condoning of the house of the deputy senate president that made the senators to react the way they did. That day, 14 senators defected and they closed the National assembly when we had INEC budget to consider. However, it has been referred to the committee on INEC and electoral matters and I believe they are working on it. They will look at the details and make proper recommendations for the National Assembly to consider.
The FG has consistently stated that Nigeria has saved up to $22bn in its reserve, why won’t they take from that and fund INEC?
Our debt portfolio is not too bad going by our per capital income (GDP) and also our foreign reserve. We are still below our debt portfolio. The cumulative debt we have is justifiable and a country like Nigeria should borrow more money to expand on capital projects. The railway has been neglected for a long time. Even though we had oil boom during Jonathan’s tenure, no attempt was made to do rehabilitation and also upgrade our railway. Our roads are in bad shape. All the major high ways are in dilapidated condition and we need money to fix them. The power sector is still below the required capacity that we are supposed to have. We are now aiming to generate close to 20megawatts. A lot of money is required to do that. A lot of money is required to uplift education in Nigeria. The issue of poverty alleviation or empowerment of the people also needs funding. I think this is the only government that has budgeted close to five hundred billion (#500bn) to fight poverty. This is by no means commendable. People that are down and out are now smiling. Some are getting #10,000, #50,000, which is something to smile about. So, collecting more debts is nothing. I will even say let us collect more money to improve on infrastructure. Once you have your infrastructure right, it will be easy for you to set up industries all over the country. It will be easy to transport goods from every part of the country.
The leadership of the party is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that APC wins at all levels of the elections that will be conducted in 2019.