Dr. Abdul Ahmed Isiaq is the deputy national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In this interview with select journalists, he speaks on the state of the nation with regards to COVID-19 pandemic, politics in Kaduna State, among other issues. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH was there for LEADERSHIP Friday.
What is your reaction to the present worrisome state of the nation vis-a-vis economy and security as well as the global COVID-19 pandemic?
In as much as I wouldn’t want to be an alarmist or a prophet of doom, I must confess that indeed, the situation today in the nation is worrisome.
Worrisome, due to the sudden collapse in oil prices coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and the projection of the new reality that may lead to the Nigerian economy sliding into a severe recession, the worst since the 1980s. Available indices said so, the reports from the World Bank also corroborate it.
The macroeconomic negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may be significant, on an economy that gets 80per cent of its revenue from the crude oil exports. Thus, with the drop-in oil prices, government revenues will no doubt fall from an already low eight per cent of GDP in 2019 to a lower projection in 2020.
The pandemic has negatively impacted the investment flow into the nation, thus reducing amount of money that was hitherto available for household usage, so that is why I said the situation is scary. Nonetheless, government, in its own wisdom and prompt policy initiative, has thus responded commendably.
This explains the present economic hardship in the nation. The government palliative will go a long way to mitigate these negative impacts. So, we as a party, will continue to work with any government that has the wellbeing of the people at heart. We will also not relent until we win the government at the centre.
That is when we can truly implement policies that will positively turn around the fortune of our nation. The state of the nation will be further impacted by the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy and the upward adjustment in the price of electricity.
In these, government needs to ensure that it put the interest of the people first, so that they do not suffer untold and unwarranted hardships.
What do you think is the way out?
I am an incurable optimist; therefore ,I have no doubt in my mind that the future of our nation is indeed bright and great, despite the present challenges.
It will be great because all hope is not lost. It will be great because Nigerians are intelligent and resilient people. It will be great because of the renewed vision and policy interventions to turn things around.
The determination to turn things around for good, informed the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s recent inauguration of the steering committee for the 2021-2025 National Development Plan.
I have no doubt in my mind that the committee will work to develop a new medium-term national plan, that will go a long way to make the needed input to turn around our present state for good.
What can government do presently to alleviate the pains and poverty of Nigerians?
Since coming to office, President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing all he can to ameliorate the pains of Nigerian. This is visibly so, in the light of the numerous policies and programs put in place and still ongoing. The palliatives and the numerous interventions of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as other relevant government agencies are instructive.
Are you not bothered by the increasing insecurity in Kaduna State?
I am truly bothered and concerned and I am sure every patriotic Nigerian will also be bothered, about the needless bloodletting and its devastating effects on the development and investment drive to the state. The state could have been better than its present status if it were peaceful and stable.
The crisis has only gone to complicate governance in the state. It takes a leader with courage and strong character to be able to hold the state in the face of the current challenges like the ongoing killings in some parts of the state.
The Kaduna conflict is age-long and complicated. You will not understand yet what I mean until you fully appreciate all the internal and external intricacies of ethnicity, religion, poverty and politics bedeviling the stability or otherwise of the state.
For your information, I am a civil society person, just like Senator Uba Sani and we for more than three decades, we have been fully involved in trying to contribute our quota to finding lasting solution to the Kaduna security challenges.
I am thus pleased with the renewed attempts to find lasting solutions to the lingering problem. I must commend everyone who is desirous of being part of the solution, particularly, Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i. I also commend all the traditional rulers, the clergy, private citizens, security agents and the presidency for the efforts being put in place to address the issues.
Do you think stakeholders like Senator Uba Sani have provided enough support for the state governor to find solution to the multifarious challenges facing the state?
Yes, he has been very supportive of the government of Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i . This much I know and I can vouch for.
Senator Uba Sani was my schoolmate and friend. He has been a kindred spirit in terms of using the platform of the civil society organisation to address and solve challenges facing the nation. This, he started at a youthful stage of his life, and transformed to when he became an active and fulltime politician.
So, I laugh when people who don’t know anything about him jump into wrong conclusion to criticise him. I can authoritatively tell you that despite his younger age, he can be confidently regarded as one of the fathers of our present democratic dispensation, along with the likes of Gani Fawenhinmi, Beko RansomeKuti, Femi Falana and several others. Many of them paid dearly that we may enjoy freedom thus, we salute him.
Despite his present position as a serving senator and the unique senator in charge of the constituency of Mr President, the governor of the state and my humble self, he has not been adequately rewarded. Not even a national honour, not even naming roads or institutions, or universities after him. This is sad. We must change our values and reward systems in Nigeria. The labours of our heroes past must never be allowed to go in vain, unrewarded.
He went into politics after the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, and supported the People’s Democratic Party presidential candidate, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. After winning the presidential election, Sani was appointed senior special advisor on public communications to the president.
Before then, he served as political adviser to the minister of the FCT, holding the same portfolio with addition of inter-government affairs liaison for the governor of Kaduna State before his ascent to the distinguished position of a senator representing Kaduna Central in the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Although 2023 is still far away, what is your party doing to win the presidency?
The clear fact here is that it is not only corruption that has plagued our democracy over the years, but also poor leadership, which has made and continues to make recruitments into top government positions to be on the crest of cronyism, nepotism and other manifestations of godfatherism.
We will evolve leadership that will address it. We will work to address other challenges such as high rate of unemployment. We will work to also address the increasing cases of insecurity in the nation, we have the capacity to do so and we will not fail Nigerians, as other political parties have done and are still doing.
We would work with all stakeholders in our party so as to deeply overhaul and rebrand our party and move to the next phase of growth and institutional stability, as well as repositioning the party as a veritable vehicle for the actualisation of political aspirations of patriotic and people-oriented Nigerians dedicated to national service.
The leadership of president Muhamadu Buhari must be more proactive to be able to sincerely address the corruption monster that threatens our nation on all fronts; there is urgent need for the enactment of Whistle Blowing Act; the Proceeds of Crime Bill should be assented to and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission need to be merged, among others, to make the country’s anti-corruption fight more effective.