Looking at President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance in the last 100 days. Though you campaigned against him the last election, can you say you are comfortable with his achievements so far?
I must say that President Buhari’s performance in his first 100 days is a bit worrisome. But I will not condemn him yet. But if the morning will show the day, I am not comfortable with his achievements, particularly in respect of his appointments. Why have we been talking about restructuring in this country? The question of imbalance of the constitution has been the issue since pre-independence. And this was what led to the constitutional conference of 1954 whereby we now had a truly federal constitution. And the six regions had their constitution written separately. It was as a result of that conference that the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe declared at the airport that federalism should perish.
That was how we carried on till independence. The states were autonomous and I also gave the example that at that time, even with the wonders that the late Awolowo performed in the western region, he had no cause to go cap in hand to Tafawa Balewa for support because the way they distributed the revenue was equitable and they carried it on even until oil was discovered in the Rivers. But things changed after the coup of 1966. It was the army that destructured Nigeria. It was after that coup that they turned the country into one line government. And in fact, in reaction to that, was what led to the coup of July 1966 because the regime of Ironsi gave a one-line government which was irritable to the North. And the Gowon coup came in. Under the Gowon coup, the agitation for creation of more states was intensified. And it was in an attempt to rectify that that made Gowon create more states.
But since that 1966 problem, the one line government had been on. That is why during the NADECO days under Abacha regime, Afenifere with other progressives in the country were emphatic , resolute and passionate about the restructuring of the country because of the lopsidedness of the constitution which had been rectified but damaged in 1966. That is what is happening now again under Buhari. When we are talking about going back under that constitution, the recommendations of that confab sent us back to where we are and we saw a lot of imbalance in the constitution. And it was the main thing that made Afenifere to support Jonathan. Buhari is emphasizing that he wants to rid the country of corruption, no question about that. And I still insist his wiping out of corruption must be consistent with the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 confab, if he is really sincere about it.
I accuse him then and I am still saying it now that it will be difficult for him to implement the confab recommendations because the defects in that constitution and the advantages of that defect are in the North. And because his people in the North are the major beneficiaries of the lopsidedness of the federation, he is unwilling to implement it.
And take note, it was this lopsidedness that the recommendation rectified and that is why we are insisting on the implementation of the confab report. And I said that it will be difficult for Buhari to implement it because all the injustices in the country were rectified under the recommendations. And the beneficiaries of the injustice are people of the North. To implement the constitution is to deprive his people of the unfair advantage they have over the rest of the country. Because it was in the North that military governments created local governments arbitrarily, created states arbitrarily and based revenue allocations on number of states that were created. And this has been rectified under the recommendations of the constitution. One of Buhari’s supporters was telling me that the confab report was full of Jonathan’s nominees .This country can never get the personalities of that confab again. People like Atedo Peterside, Dokpesi, Tunde Bakare, Agbakoba. Odumakin, Olanihun Ajayi , Tanko Yakassai including my humble self. These are people who really know about this country. He said in an interview that Buhari will not probe Obasanjo because of Obasanjo’s interest that will be involved. Those are northerners of our own thinking of the first republic. We know our friends in the North. Yakassai is of the Mallam Aminu Kano stock, same with Balarabe Musa. These later day progressives in the country, both in the North and South who are in APC, they don’t know history.
Some ex-ministers who served under former president Goodluck Jonathan recently addressed the media where they asked Buhari to stop taking credits for Jonathan’s achievements. Do you agree with them?
I agree with the ex-ministers. Are the APC going to tell me that the change in electricity is due to three months operation of Buhari? Those saying it is due to the fear of Buhari are just talking nonsense. Jonathan had said before leaving office that the programmes he has done will be improving gradually. And that is what is happening now. I am not saying Jonathan is perfect but for God’s sake, give the devil his due.
The president has said he will only limit his probe top the Jonathan administration alone. What is your take on this?
Again, talking about corruption, I agree with Buhari. The root of the constitution is the abundant excess money in the central government. Because they have too much money without sense, it was the seat of corruption. But the confab has reduced the amount of money at the centre. And the powers of the centre were reduced. All areas of conflicts were addressed at the confab. If Buhari is sincere about implementing the report in compliance with his corruption eradication crusade, I am okay with that. So, I agree with every step he takes in fighting corruption with the qualification that such a probe must not be selective. It must cut across the board. Buhari should be careful because people are watching that being a military man, he is trying to cover all the military heads of state including himself. I have refrained from saying that all this while. How can he say he will probe Jonathan alone’? Buhari came into office with a lot of goodwill. I will not like him to spoil that goodwill by giving the impression that he is covering up his colleagues. There were lot of suspicions about Babangida, Abdulsalami and Obasanjo. And Buhari is now saying he will put all that behind him and will only probe the civilian administration who inherited the mess they left behind. You are eager about probing Jonathan because he allegedly mismanaged NNPC but Obasanjo who held the ministry of Petroleum for eight years is not to be probed. That to me is ridiculous
But some Nigerians have argued that extending it beyond the Jonathan administration will amount to waste of time. They argued that Jonathan should have probed the regime before him. Don’t you agree with this?
Nobody is questioning Buhari’s decision to probe, what we are saying is that in doing that, you must probe across the board. Don’t confuse the issue. Nigeria is an heterogeneous society. And the sentiment of the people must be taken into consideration. The present constitution made the president of Nigeria the most powerful president in the world. And all that has been reduced with the implementation of the confab report. That is another reason why Buhari is unwilling to implement it. That is one of the reason I quarreled with Obasanjo. He has the best chance to do all these things. He knew about it. But everybody gets to power to make use of the document they have been criticizing to their advantage. Afterall, all these parties who are now opposed to the recommendations, have we not all agreed that the constitution was defective? We all did and we have been shouting on the need for a new constitution for the country. And the clamour in the country was that the National Assembly that claimed to be amending constitution is not set up to do that. The National Assembly itself is a product of the constitution. The constitution needs a surgical operation and not an amendment. That was exactly what we did at the confab. So, if anybody is sincere about keeping the country together peaceably, the confab is the answer. Anybody running away from the implementation of the confab is not sincere. With all my criticism of Buhari before the election, I said if today, he implements that recommendation, he is my candidate. I have no problem with Buhari. In fact, after he won the election and said he is now a converted democrat, I sent him a congratulatory message. Anything he does for the progress of the country, he will enjoy my support.
How will you rate him on the fight against insurgency in the last 100 days especially as regards rescuing the abducted Chibok girls?
That is what everybody is wondering about. The impression given when he was campaigning was that he has the magic wand. They even told us he was the one who brought down the Maitatsine sect. Today, is the magic wand not there again? We are watching to see how he is going to do it but as the morning shows the day, I am not happy about his performance so far in the area of insecurity. Since he came into office, Boko Haram has become more audacious. It appears all the successes Jonathan achieved before he left office has been reversed. All we keep hearing is ‘we shall do this, we shall do that’.
Looking at the appointments made so far by the president in the last 100 days, some Nigerians have described it as lopsided but the ruling parties have claimed that they are personal appointments, competent people whom the president can trust. What is your take on that?
That is nonsense. APC can’t tell us that. When has it happened now that the North has more competent people than the South? When did that begin? In the past, when they are doing federal character, it was the Southern people in the North that are being used to satisfy federal character. That is the position. How come the position has now been reversed, that the South no longer has enough competent people? That is bunkum from the APC and they should say it to the marines. Anyway, we know when the advancement of the North started. Up till today, how many secondary schools are in the North? They started nomadic schools and it was an avenue for corruption. You can’t locate where the schools are. Some people are saying the imbalance will be rectified with the appointment of ministers.
I don’t see how that is going to rectify it. Is he now going to deprive the North of the ministers they are entitled to under the constitution? How will the rectification take place? The mistakes they have made with the appointments so far to me, is irredeemable and I want to be proved wrong. There are so many things to quarrel with over the appointments in the number and the position the appointees occupied. In the Customs, he brought a retired Colonel to head the outfit. Someone even said majority of the officers are above 70 years. I am now hesitant to say that he is implementing a script because all these things I have warned against it but his supporters said though it happened under the military era, it cannot happen in a democratic era.
Moments after making his recent appointments, there were reports some APC leaders complained that President Buhari is becoming too high-handed and did not consult them before making key decisions. What is your take on this?
What did I call him before the elections? I said the man is a dictator and I gave instances. But the APC people said it was hate campaign. We gave instances that Buhari does not obey the rule of law by implement a retroactive law and how he convicted a man for murder for an offence that does not carry death penalty at the time he committed the crime. We said all this but they labeled it as hate campaign. I have said in my interviews that I will like him to prove me wrong on all I said about him and I still maintain it. The APC leaders have entered one-chance bus. There is nothing they can say again. They are already in the soup. If they should say anything now it will appear as if they are not loyal to the party leadership. They are talking about change and that is the change they got. For him to say the appointments so far based on those he trust, it implies that he is in a party with people he doesn’t trust, yet he used their mistrust to get to power.
There is no basis for that. The leaders of APC who were formerly in ACN only cut their nose to spite their face. All I know is that Buhari doesn’t trust Tinubu and Tinubu too don’t trust Buhari. Each of them wanted to use each other to get into power thinking that by the time they get there, they will do something. And I said earlier that all these people who are opposed to Jonathan all agreed on Jonathan going, but what they will do after Jonathan’s exit, they never agreed on that. And that is what is happening now. If they agreed on other things, there won’t be a crisis in the National Assembly. All the problems that arose at the national assembly could have been solved after the elections.
What should we expect in the country the days ahead?
The APC say things will change. Nigerians are waiting to see the change. I don’t want to be pessimistic. I only hope they will take the criticisms they have been receiving from Nigerians in good faith and do the right thing. Let Buhari prove me wrong by being less dictatorial. When I said he was a dictator, they said he is now a converted democrat. Now his party men are complaining that he doesn’t consult them before taking decisions. Have I not been proven right?