By Wilfred Eya
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’Abba has decried the security situation in the country, saying there are plots by the Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters to take over the Federal Capital Territory. He spoke on various issues in this interview.
First of all, what is your take on the state of affairs in the country especially with regards to security of lives and property of Nigerians?
I feel very sad; it is very debilitating and frightening because of what is going on about security in this country. Every time, the president assured us of our security, the next day you would hear that a major insecurity arises to one, two, three or more persons. It is sad that Nigerians, everyday they wake up, they hear that 100 people were killed in one place; thirty people were killed in another place. It is very sad and it is not reassuring. Just few days ago, about 39 people were burnt to death by terrorists in Sokoto State. They were hijacked from their bus and burnt to death. It is sad that these kinds of things could happen and President Muhammadu Buhari did not do anything about it. Instead, he flew to Lagos; it is only when pressure mounted on him that he now despatched his national Security adviser and other security personnel to go and assess the situation and make recommendations. While the Chief Of Army Staff is busy praising himself and the military in their fight against insecurity, the Niger State Governor has cried out loudly that Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters have taken over Shiroro and Borgu forests.
No statement from the military is re-assuring these days.
Any insurgent group that has eyes on these forests of course has the Federal Capital as its ultimate objective. So nobody is safe. Not even the President.
How long would this kind of thing continue? It appears that the Federal Government is out of ideas and they do not know what to do. And they do not want to admit it. The major problem is that they are living in self denial.
Few days ago, the revered spiritual leader and Sultan of Sokoto said the North is now a killing field. How did that melancholic statement come to you? Has the situation come to stay or do you hope that when Buhari leaves in 2023, the situation may change?
The problem is nationwide but there is no guarantee that any change of government would contain the situation until the political leaders change the way they handle public affairs. This is because it is the mismanagement of governance and maladministration by political leaders that feed this insecurity. What is bad is that the current administration and the political party they belong to have not shown any readiness to change their methods. For example, you have a party that is managed by a Caretaker Committee for one and half years. And this is a party that has produced the president which means the president is condoning all the unpalatable things within the party. We know that the All Progressives Congress(APC) is characterized by many factions. In many states, there are two, three or even four factions. This has arisen on account of the way and manner the party is being mismanaged. They are mismanaging their political party. While they are battling to solve the problems of their party, how do they concentrate on governing the country? But whatever party in power is not a guarantee that this security situation would just stop. The polity which consists of political parties and all other institutions should organize to manage the country in a manner that people will enjoy security. What is worse is that they don’t even seem to understand the problem. And if they don’t understand the problem, how can they solve the problem? This is the saddest aspect of the situation we have found ourselves in.
The issue of the President declining assent to the electoral bill including the Direct primaries has dominated public discourse recently. What is your take on that in view of the fact that the majority of Nigerians were for Direct primaries?
Honestly, I am heart-broken that the president refused to assent to the bill and he does not have any valid reasons for refusing to assent it other than the fact that he has a vested interest in what happens in the parties and the country in the next general election. And this is what is before the president and the APC. They are preoccupied with how to continue to control people rather than securing the people. That informed the reasons he refused to assent to the bill, otherwise somebody who had confessed to be for the masses for over 16 years, how can he refuse to assent to an act that would now release the people from bondage and slavery? This is because Nigerians have been enslaved by their political parties and political operators because of the lack of doing Direct primaries. That is the only thing that would unlock the people from bondage. So, what is he running away from? Some people are alleging that it is because it is costly but isn’t it costlier not to have direct primaries which would lead to good governance. When you adopt direct primaries, people would now begin to elect candidate that they like unlike a situation where you only allow delegates to vote. I believe that no price is too much for having good leadership. And it is only when you allow people freedom to choose that you begin to see who are good and bad leaders. It is very disheartening that the president refused to assent to the bill. He did not have any excuse to have not signed it into law.
Today(Friday), your party inaugurated the Iyorcha Ayu-led team; what are Nigerians hoping to see from the PDP? With all the intra-party crisis in PDP, do you think the opposition party has what it takes to upstage the APC in 2023?
With the emergence of Dr Iyorcha Ayu as the National chairman of the PDP, I believe that a lot of things would be done to strengthen the party. And once the party is strengthened, and people become more aware of their responsibilities, and the operators respect internal democracy within the party, I believe that the party would have been reset to face the task facing the country.
What is your position on the North retaining power in 2023 especially against the backdrop of the overwhelming call by Southerners for power shift to the region(South)?
As far as I am concerned, any Nigerian who has the capacity and the ability irrespective of where he comes from, should aspire to be the president of this country. Neither the North nor the South has the monopoly of producing a good president. None of the regions has the monopoly of good leaders. We all have potentially good leaders and we all have potentially bad leaders in all parts of this country. I am not going to support any candidate based on where he comes from; I will support any candidate whom I feel has the capacity to lead this country. Nigerians are tired of divide and rule by politicians. What benefit is it going to be to elect a particular candidate because he is from a particular region or tribe? The system has never been of any benefit to Nigerians to vote for somebody from a particular tribe or region.
From your experience as a Speaker of the House of Representatives, what do you make of the rising debt profile of the nation? When are we going to pay this huge debt especially as the nation is literally operating a mono product economy?
I don’t know because nobody tells Nigerians the true situation. We only read the reports about the National Assembly approving loans being borrowed by the Federal Government. And unfortunately, the last time they approved such, they did not seem to care to look at under what conditions are we borrowing. So, in the absence of terms and conditions, we can hardly get what has been borrowed and when to pay and all that.
With the state of affairs in the country today, what do you project of the future of Nigeria? Do you see any hope based on where we are today as a nation?
As long as these leaders continue the way they are doing, we may not have a country for all Nigerians. Some of us are quite empirical and we analyse situations and predict. Nobody can predict that Nigeria would be Nigeria in the next few years because nothing is being done by this administration to reclaim the country and to get back to what it was during Independence. Things have broken down and because they are in self denial, they want to continue to operate the way they want. You cannot be united as a people just because people wish it. Let us work for it and they are not working for it.
From the grapevine, the Former Vice president, Atiku Abubakar, is again warming up to contest the presidential election but many are saying it is time for younger people to take over. Do you support his ambition this time again?
He has not convinced me up till now that he should be the president of this country. He has to convince people to believe in him or does he want to become the president because he wants to be the president? Or does he want to become the president because he has something to offer Nigerians; something that would hold Nigeria together. Atiku has to convince us that he has something to offer.
What is your advice to Nigerians ahead of the next general election?
My advice is that Nigerians should not wait for this administration to do anything because there is so much insecurity. People from all regions should gather together, sit down and discuss how they can defend themselves from what is going on because they cannot continue to live under circumstances where we have become prey to bandits and terrorists. All of us in this country should find a means to gather together, hold meetings and agree on what to do in the situation we have found ourselves. This is because these leaders have nothing to offer and they cannot secure us.
You have been so quiet; are you not getting ready to contest election in 2023?
I do not believe in making a noise. I want to continue to remain myself. If I want to contest for any election, I will do that as honestly as possible. I don’t believe in just making noise anyhow.
Some people believe that based on your experience, your type should join the presidential race or are you intimidated by the names being mentioned already?
Just wait and see.
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