By DICKSON OKAFOR
The just concluded national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been described as a milestone in the political history of Nigeria. Senator Kanti Bello came to this conclusion after the opposition party appointed national leaders recently in Abuja. The maverick politician and three-term lawmaker, who represented Katsina North in the Senate said the national convention of his party serves as a quit notice to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He said the spate of insecurity in the country is a sign that the Jonathan administration is incompetent and must be voted out in 2015. On the enthronement of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as Emir of Kano, Bello said the peoples wish prevailed. He also commented on other national issues. Excerpts:
President Goodluck Jonathan cancelled a visit to Chibok over alleged security reasons and this was seen by many Nigerians as insensitive to the plight of the parents of the abducted schoolgirls. Is that a correct assessment?
I’m not surprised because the President is afraid of his shadow. It’s only the sycophants around the President who are not telling him the truth. He has failed the nation economically, on security and politically. This government has not been able to curb corruption yet, everyday, we hear of billions of Naira being stolen. The only people who are not telling him the truth are unpatriotic Nigerians and cabals who want to get something from the government. Other people who don’t see anything wrong with Jonathan’s government are a few tribal and sectional people because they are not patriotic. The truth is the government should be voted out in 2015. So, we should not be talking or lamenting about incompetent leadership because we have pased this stage in our national life. What we should be talking about is the way forward and how to enthrone good leadership through the ballot box. As a firm believer in democracy, the only way forward is for Nigerians to join hands with APC and dislodge PDP next year. The party is full of people who lack morals. I know there are some people in the ruling party that have the guts even though there are a few, who show some semblance of patriotism. If they are truly patriotic, they should leave PDP. No doubt, Jonathan will win his party’s primaries but he will lose the presidency. We need a true democrat with a progressive agenda to steer the ship of state. The battle is not about where the person comes from, but a matter of national survival and together we must join hands to get rid of PDP government in 2015. Of course, we are going to suffer for the next one year, but we just have to do something about the poor state of the nation.
Nigeria is rated the largest economy in Africa. Why do you say this government has failed economically?
That is a make-believe rating. My friend, I’m an engineer. I graduated over twenty years ago from Ahumadu Bello University, Zaria. I’m a competent engineer and a realistic politician. I’m also a realist because, I don’t believe in film tricks. The rebasing of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a political gimmick. Go to my village in Katsina State, you will see masses of unemployed youths and if you tell them Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, may be somebody may respond by slapping you. He’s starving and has not worked in the last three or four years since Jonathan administration came to power. This person is a graduate, and there are others with Phd. Do you know Phd holders are truck drivers in Dangote Group of Companies? And you are telling me that you are the largest economy in Africa above South Africa. What kind of economy is it where a lot of poor people cannot afford three meals a day? What kind of economy is it where 60 per cent of our population live below a dollar a day? It’s the same World Bank that said a per capita income of less than a dollar a day is under poverty line. I call it economy of hunger and poverty. It’s evil for few people to acquire a lot of money through corrupt means while majority of our people are poor. There must be social adjustment and that is what APC has to offer Nigerians next year.
Are you saying northern leaders have failed their people?
I’m not going to exonerate northern leaders. I’m a northerner and would not call myself a leader, but I’m part of the leadership because I have been elected senator four times. If you go to my constituency, no doubt, you will see that I attracted a lot of projects there and by the grace of God, I empowered so many of my constituents. So, I have done my best for Nigeria, not only for my people, northerners. The fact is that not only northern leaders have failed, but PDP has. There are a reasonable number of northern leaders who indeed, impacted positively not only lives of northerners but Nigerians. For instance, the Governor of Kano State, Rabiu KwanKwaso. Though I have not seen him in a couple of years and I don’t care anyway, in his second coming in Kano, you can see what he has done in terms of infrastructure. His government is transparent and decorous. People trust him. He has dealt with economic chaos by blocking all economic drain pipes, wastage and corruption. He is trying to ensure that Kano is economically and politically better than he met it. So, Nigeria’s problem is poor leadership and it worsened under the PDP government since 1999. It’s true that many northern governors behave like emperors. They believe once they become governor, they are above the law. They don’t like the truth. That’s what is happening in most northern states. It’s also happening in the southern part of the country. The difference is that the South gets more revenue. There are more enlightened people in the South than in the North. Even if southern governors steal public funds, some private individuals are busy investing in education but here in the North, virtually everybody depends on government revenue. If government is not investing in education, healthcare and infrastructure, of course it results in failures. Since these states could not create jobs or invest in agriculture which is the economic mainstay in the North, of course failure results. To sum it up, why are the northern governors behaving this way? It’s because majority of them are in PDP and the ruling party has been in power since 1999. They could not make good policies. They put incompetent people in power in the north to run the affairs of the states. They should allow people to elect their leaders. That’s why APC is a better alternative to PDP. We believe strongly that we must step in and change this tendency.
Now that the North is no longer speaking with one voice, how can APC dislodge PDP in the region next year?
Who says the North is no longer speaking with one voice? Wait till next year. That’s the creation of Jonathan and PDP. People being murdered daily in this country are more than those killed during the Nigerian civil war. The reason is that if, President Jonathan wants to make economic and political statements, he does it in the church. It’s a deliberate attempt by government to create religious disharmony in the country which is very dangerous. So, are you saying that because the North is divided religiously, the North can no longer speak with one voice or cannot win the presidency next year? That’s not true, because every Muslim and Christian in the North understands the problem. They cannot be deceived. It’s not true that the North is divided because of religion. I have a lot of Christian friends and we will remain friends and have been talking. There are so many reasonable Christians in the North and there are unreasonable ones being paid by government to fan the embers of religious disharmony but majority of Christians and Muslims are going towards one direction in 2015. That you attend church or mosque cannot make you less hungry. So, if your stomach is empty, can you shout Halleluyah?. In fact, the North has started to play politics of the stomach. This means that you have to eat first. If you have no job, being a Christian or Muslim is irrelevant. It has become a matter of necessity, the North will speak with one voice in 2015 and say “Jonathan must go”.
How do we rescue the Chibok girls?
It’s not my duty to rescue the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, it’s Jonathan’s job. Do you know that we are being re-colonized by the United States, Britain and France and Australia is angry that Nigeria doesn’t want them to partake in the re-colonization jamboree? I pray they find the girls. Why can’t the Nigerian Air force locate these girls from the air? What’s the use of the satellites we launched in this country? With all the money pumped into satellites, the equipment could not locate where these girls are being held. Why did Nigerian Army wait for American troops to storm Sambisa forest? Why couldn’t Nigeria Air Force attack Boko Haram from the air? Are these terrorists spirits? Funds meant for security is being stolen and the Federal Government is looking the other way. Nigerian military is not well-equipped to confront Boko Haram. Governor Kashim Shetima of Borno State stated it but he was threatened by the Presidency. He said Nigerian Army is ill-quipped and he was right, but government shouted him down. It’s a pity that other countries are now seeing our dilemma. They have known now that the government is incompetent and they have come to help us but you must bear in mind that for anything given to you by somebody, there must be a price you must pay. So, we are paying the price with our integrity, we paying the price with our pride. The price for lack of patriotism. My friend, every Nigerian including you and people from the Niger Delta who are making empty threats, must join hands to save Nigeria by removing PDP from power next year.
Don’t you support international collaboration to contain Boko Haram?
The question every Nigerian must answer is, haven’t we as a nation got any pride? Haven’t we a sense of nationalism? That after 50 years of independence and over 100years of being together as a country, after claiming to be the giant of Africa and the biggest economy on the continent we could not manage a simple insurgence. We should be ashamed of ourselves that few disgruntled elements called Boko Haram are holding the nation hostage. What a shame.
General Muhmmadu Buhari has demanded apology from the PDP for linking him with Boko Haram. He’s yet to get it. Does he deserve it?
If I were Buhari, I will take PDP to court, because somebody went on the radio and called me a thief and I took him to an Islamic court. He was given some lashes for tarnishing my image. Of course, the Katsina State government allegedly tried to stop the case at the end of the day, but I have not withdrawn the suit. When the time is ripe, I’m going to demand my right. The man denied that he never said it. If I were Buhari, I would have taken the Federal Government to court, but he is too gentle. It’s not because of money but for his integrity. This is somebody who fought the civil war to keep Nigeria one, this is once a General Officer Commanding (GOC) in the Nigerian Army and a former head of state and they are associating him with this type of thing. I think he should go to court.
Minster of Petroleum Resources, Diezanni Allison Madueke was accused of corruption as $20billion is missing in the ministry. Many have called for her removal. What’s your view?
Who has not been accused?
Allegedly she hired a private jet for her personal use with government funds.Is this not corruption?
I know the woman. I knew her when she was Minister of Works. She was and remains one of the best ministers as far as I’m concerned. I have not spoken to or seen her since I left the Senate, but an allegation of that nature must be well grounded. Some say she hired a jet and others said $200 billion is missing under her. Who has not been hiring a jet? Most executives in government have been doing it. Even a director can hire a jet. So, as far as I’m concerned, there are more serious issues. We should not be taken for a ride. Remember a female minister decided to buy one BMW at an exorbitant price, that’s immoral. I’m concerned about the $20billion because with such amount, we can have a functional rail system, re-evaluate and re-direct our education system, and have a better health care system. So, government should stop chasing shadows. They should tell us where the money is. Jonathan should tell us what happened to the petroleum subsidy? Nobody is talking about it anymore. The Farouk Lawan bribery saga has been swept under the carpet. We need leaders that can tell us the truth and do what is right.
The just concluded APC convention indicated that the governors had their way and that Buhari may not emerge the Presidential candidate of your party. What’s your take on this?
First of all, let me congratulate my party members for the way and manner they comported themselves during the convention. We have shamed our enemies, because what they thought was that there would be a walk-out, but that did not happen even though voting was done by consensus. So, the successful convention serves as a quit notice to PDP to start packing its luggage come 2015. My regret is that the party congress in Katsina State was inconclusive and I hope the new leadership of my party will do something about it. However with regard to our presidential candidate, we will cross the bridge when we get there. We have scaled the most difficult hurdle, which is electing party officers.Earlier, those who were running the party in my state interfered in the local congresses. They wanted their loyalists to be there and my people said no and that’s why it was inconclusive. What we did was that at every polling unit, representatives came from the wards and they reached a consensus on who will be their executives. They shared the exco. So, when some people from the national level who wanted their men to form the exco failed, they had to fight those who reached a consensus, hence, they did not have their way. I warned them and others to be very careful that they cannot enforce their will on the people. Luckily, Buhari agreed that there should be election and that nobody was going to do anything funny in Katsina State APC. Though they tried to cheat us, but we resisted it because if APC in other states don’t have internal democracy, in Katsina we must be democratic as the people’s right must be respected because that is what we have been fighting for. People’s votes should count. I believe in Buhari and I will always believe in him not because we are from the same state but all of us including Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are Yar’Adua boys since the defunct People’s Front (PF) days. The issue is how can we deliver? There are credentials for somebody who wants to be president. Number one, he or she must have the ability to do the job. The problem the nation is facing is corruption, a cancer that has eaten deep into our national life. We need somebody who can remove the canker worm. Who can do that surgical operation? To me, Buhari is the person who can do it. That is my opinion and it does mean it will be the same with somebody. I play politics based on principle. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with Atiku, but the ordinary people believe Buhari is the solution to Nigeria’s problems. They believe their money is being stolen. They believe Buhari can stop it. However, nobody will stop any other person from aspiring to be the presidential candidate of APC. If not because I have chosen to go and salvage Katsina, I can as well vie for the presidency because I’m qualified. Talk about Bola Tinubu who is my friend, he plays politics of the South-West while I play that of the North. He may have his shortcomings but he worked hard. I know he has shortcomings which will be corrected by us, his friends and I can look at him in the face and tell him about my feelings. There’s nobody in this country I cannot look in the face and tell my feelings. If people accuse Tinubu of imposing candidates, I don’t know about that and he is not going to impose anybody on the people of my state. Nobody is going to do so because the people’s right must be respected. Tinubu has worked hard to earn what he is today because whether we like it or not, he and Buhari worked hard to effect that merger. If they had not agreed initially, perhaps, there would be nothing like APC today and it is fair that where you sow, you should also reap.
Some think a Buhari-Tinubu ticket may be a ploy by APC to Islamize Nigeria. Are they correct?
Some people are funny. Nobody or group can Islamize or Christianize Nigeria. Nobody can make me and my family Christians and I cannot make a Christian family Muslims. God in His infinite mercies put us together and we will remain together. Unfortunately, the presidency had been trying to divide the people along religious lines. I don’t care about Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim ticket, once they have the quality and ability to lead and eliminate corruption, I don’t give a damn. I will support them. It’s the creation of PDP to intimidate Nigerians. Afterall, Tinubu’s wife is a Christian, can he make her become a Muslim? Why can’t Tinubu start to Islamize Nigeria from his home? Why must he wait until he becomes vice president? I will champion the Buhari-Tinubu ticket for the presidency in 2015. The purpose of politics is to win. The question is, can Tinubu deliver South-West to APC? The answer is yes. Can Buhari deliver the North? The truth is he can. So, if you combine both, we will chase Jonathan administration out.
The selection of Sanusi as the Emir of Kano was greeted with protests. Why did some people reject him especially those loyal to the son of the late Emir Ado Bayero?
First, let me seize this opportunity to congratulate the new Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Now to answer your question, the throne of the Emir is hereditary and if the kingmakers say he is the right person, who are you to say otherwise?. Nobody rejected Sanusi as Emir, rather, the protests were sponsored by the PDP because they were not comfortable with the new Emir, but at last, peace returned and the Emir has moved into the palace. Once again, the people of Kano State have shamed PDP.