Abdullahi Bello is a former speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the former acting governor of the state speaks on some national issues and the recently held primaries of the APC.
Nigerians were surprised when APC made president Buhari their sole candidate. What is your view?
It is the right thing for our democracy in order to ensure continuity and smooth running of government. In the executive arm of government, the constitution permits two terms, and so if you have somebody that has the right to seek for a second term, you have to encourage him except if he refuses to contest, for whatever reason.
Some Nigerians are of the opinion that the president does not qualify for a second term citing age and health issues as reasons. What is your take on this?
In order to ensure continuity and the growth of our democracy, the president deserves a second term. On his performance, there is nothing a human being will do that is ever enough. So, there is nobody that people will not criticize. To assess the president, you have to do a comparative analysis of the things he has done since he came in. If it’s the security, we have to say that he has really tried. Boko Haram has now been dislodged.
But what do have to say to the issue of the herdsmen menace that is threatening the peace of the nation?
Yes, it’s a strange occurrence that has taken over our nation. We need to really look into it while trying to solve the Boko Haram issue. We have to enact a policy that will be used to identify our herdsmen and foreigners that sneak into the country in the guise of herdsmen. Foreigners should be discouraged from coming through our borders in the name of herdsmen to maim and kill our people. No Nigerian Fulani will carry AK47.
But any herdsman that carries arms is a foreigner, not a local one. Security agents must be diligent in flushing them out.
Some Nigerians think the president is using kid gloves in handling the killer herdsmen issue. What do you have to say?
We must understand that the herdsmen have mastered the art of living in the forest more than any soldier. Soldiers cannot track them except they use modern technology, which is inserting chips on the herds. If you notice, whenever they hit, they cover their tracks before they disappear after every attack. So, it is not easy to arrest them. If it were to be in the civilised world, when everything is in order, there is no how you will move cattle from one point to another that you won’t be traced. We need to discourage the idea of open grazing and encourage them to create ranches. Alternatively, let the government declare ceasefire between the herdsmen and farmers, then use technology to track the herdsmen.
Going back to the APC primaries, some APC states had crises during the primaries. Don’t you think this would affect the chances of the party?
People that are aggrieved in APC can be categorised into many segments. Take the case of Kogi, people were aggrieved in Kogi over the governor’s action when he came in newly. But lately, the governor has started reaching out to aggrieved persons in the state and some of us were invited by the governor and issues were discussed and resolved. As a result of that, some of us have decided to sacrifice our ambition and work for the growth and development of the state. If you look at the history of democracy in Kogi, this is the first time our zone is producing a governor and APC gave us room to do that.
So, it is only right that we shelve some of our grievances. It is not the same for people who are not happy over election matters or those who are shortchanged. It would be good if the leadership of the party puts in place mechanisms that would ensure that those issues are addressed.
But the APC has not fulfilled most of its promises to Nigerians, and this is making them wonder what the party is going to campaign with.
We have one Nigeria. Nigerians forget that people thought this country would break during the time Mr President was sick because of the activities of IPOB, but as soon as he returned, everything died down. That we have one Nigeria is enough reason to campaign. There is no nation that has been at the brink of war and yet will not celebrate it.
The issue of insecurity discouraged investors from coming to Nigeria. This was made worse by some persons who travelled to the states and on a radio station, over there, told the world negative things about Nigeria. The president has been able to unite the country and keep us as one. Even on the issue of herdsmen killings, no herdsman can come and stand in the middle of the road to kill people; they do it in the thick of darkness and from the forest. Boko Haram cannot come openly and kill people any longer, and say they are Boko Haram; neither can IPOB come out and cripple the economy openly like they used to do. These are great achievements made possible by this government.
APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has been blam ed for some of the problems of party. What is your take on this?
I think Adams should be given credit for his efforts, not this condemnation. The issue that made the senate president and speaker to defect were already there before he took over the leadership of the party. It’s just that it was late as at the time he came in. If anybody should take the blame, it should be the previous chairman of the party who allowed the issues to fester.
Adams tried to resolve the issue but he couldn’t. He even reached out to the aggrieved parties. He also introduced a policy of rewarding our senators who have stood by the party through thick and thin. Take for instance, people like Shehu Sani in Kaduna, who against all odds stayed with the party but simply because he resisted the governor’s request to be granted approval for a loan, the governor vowed to stop him from coming back to the senate. Is that enough for him to be denied the ticket? The governor should have tried to convince his lawmakers to support his actions. That he is the governor does not mean he should force his way through.
Shehu Sani is not a lawmaker that should be removed just like that considering his contribution to activities in the senate and nation at large. Parliamentarians must be allowed to return to the national assembly because of their experience, else the government will continue to train people for nothing every four years. The judicial arm of government has judges that have been on the bench for 30 years, acquiring experience, if you were to change judges every year, Nigerian judiciary would have collapsed by now.
So, for our legislature to be strong and better, we need to allow them stay longer at parliament. I will not support the idea of new legislators every session.
The APC has vowed to remove the speaker because he crossed over to the PDP. What is your take on this?
APC has not made any official statement; it’s only some of its members that have voiced their opinions. We are a nation that operates under a constitution and it has been stated clearly how we can remove or elect our leaders. In the case of the senate president and the speaker, there is nowhere in the constitution where it is stated that the senate president or speaker must come from the majority party.
So, if people are angry that the situation we find ourselves in is not acceptable, they should amend the constitution so it can state clearly that the senate president must come from a majority party. I disagree with those saying the SP should not be the president because he is from the minority party. If they can’t have two-third majority and yet insist that he resigns, they can go to court. We are running a constitutional democracy, not an authoritarian democracy.
Some see the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the PDP flag bearer as a major force that will remove the APC from power. What do you think?
APC will win elections, by God’s grace. Atiku has been a vice president some years ago and has made a name for himself over the years. But it is not enough to destabilise the APC. I have faith that my party will emerge victorious at the end of the day for the purpose of stability that we have gathered in government, also for international respect that we have attained over the past three years and the fact that people cannot afford to celebrate corruption like it used to be done.
It’s unfortunate that this government does not have strong information dissemination mechanism in place, else Nigerians would know the good things the president and his government are doing. They have fixed some rail lines, roads are being constructed and so many other projects are being carried out by this government.
Some Nigerians have lost confidence in INEC after it conducted some staggered elections. Do you think they can deliver free, fair and credible elections in 2019?
I think INEC has tried in some of the elections that took place recently. When Mr A or when PDP wins elections under INEC, it is honest. When APC wins under INEC, it becomes partisan. We forget that when we make comparative analysis of INEC under Buhari, there were some elections that were conducted and some other parties won. Take for instance, Anambra State where APGA won. The PDP won in Bayelsa and they say, INEC did well but in Ekiti and Osun, INEC didn’t do well because APC won. I think we should guide our utterances and speak with decorum.