From March 26, a Thursday, and some 48 hours before the 2015 presidential election, Sunday Vanguard, working in close collaboration with the Publicity Directorate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Organisation, and specifically the Director, Mallam Garba Shehu, we kept tab on the activities of the President and Commander-in-Chief (as President-elect). Yes, there have been one or two interviews with President Muhammadu Buhari, but when you compile the random thoughts of a President-in-waiting, it goes with the Biblical saying that “from the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks”, and it presents a broader perspective because, unlike the structured strictures of an interview setting, these random thoughts were devoid of the sometimes stifling interview setting which makes an individual more guided and guarded in response.
From Buhari’s pre-election expectations, to the sound bites from his residence and his views immediately after the election, Sunday Vanguard has packaged the views of Nigeria’s fifth executive President for your reading pleasure.
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
My belief in the Nigerian Constitution
According to the Nigerian Constitution, when you lose an election, you may go to court. I was there three times and ended up in the Supreme Court. Sometimes, people wonder why I tried so hard. I tried so hard because it is a system I believe in. I believe that multi- party democratic system is the best form of governance with a big caveat that election must be free and fair.
Really, this is why I am in it. I was in APP. I joined partisan politics in April 2002 and, on that date, at my ward, I said that those who knew me, and myself, following my career and antecedents in the military, if I tell people that I will participate in partisan politics, people would not believe it and I will not also believe it. But I found myself in it and I never turned back.
Within one year, APP gave me the ticket. There were governors, senators and much older people than me, but all the same, I got the ticket. I lost; I was in court for 30 months. In 2007, we tried to have a limited merger and became ANPP and again, I participated and was told I lost.
I went to court for 20 months up to the Supreme Court and I felt that my party was not fair to me. While I was in court, the leadership of the party proceeded and took two marginal ministries in the late Yar’Adua’s cabinet and an Adviser. For that disgraceful behavior by the party leadership, I left the party and we floated the CPC.
Again, I attempted in 2011 and lost and, again, I was in court for about eight months and I contested now for the fourth time on APC’s platform having successfully gone through with the merger of the three legacy parties.
Why I love the Smart Card Reader
I think that 2015 will go down in Nigeria’s political history as a glorious year. Nigerians have deliberately understood what multi-party democracy is. But we thank God for technology – PVC and Card Reader. If not, this luck we had with technology and the insistence of constituencies to make sure they are used, in the two geopolitical zones where they were subverted, the people wanted to vote, but they were not allowed to vote.
They continued with what they used to do in their party offices or their sitting rooms, write the result, go to the radio house and television house and announce the result and say whoever does not want the result should go to court.
How many people can go to court when they are struggling to get the next day’s meal? Where will they get the millions to give to those Senior Advocates of Nigeria? I was able to do it because of the goodwill of Nigeria which again demonstrated itself this year.
People agreed that I am not a very rich man, but I was lucky that Nigerians believed in me and they put their strength together, voted and made sure that their votes counted. I say thanks to the technology.
How I became a born-again democrat
I will tell you what made me a multi-party democrat. In 1991, after coming out of detention, I was sitting at home and the Soviet Union collapsed. They were the world power fighting the western world. They had more sophisticated weapons, but something happened.
There was confusion and everybody went away. Today, there’re 18 countries in the former Soviet Union. That was when I believed that multi-party democratic system is a superior form of governance and that is why I joined democracy.
I am in politics to fight corruption, insecurity and unemployment
Now the records are very clear. Anybody who wants to study the political development of Nigeria cannot do without getting the Supreme Court’s judgments of those years, 2003, 2007 and 2011. If you could recall, in 2007, the Supreme Court was split into two. A panel of six justices was divided. One group, led by Justice Oguntade, a Christian, a Yoruba man, including Justice Aloma Mukthar, I think she’s a Muslin but a Yoruba woman and another justice from Delta State, said that election of 2007 was null and void because it was not conducted according to law.
But the former Chief Justice, Mustapha, a Fulani man from Jigawa and another justice from Taraba, also a Fulani man, said the election was not flawless but, all the same, PDP won and then the Chief Justice cancelled the votes with them; so it was four against three. The point I want to make here is that the problem of Nigeria is not ethnic or religious. You know what it is.
Corruption is number three on my campaign list. The first one is security. In the North-East and the Niger Delta, people are kidnapped and ransom is demanded. This is unacceptable. The second one is unemployment. 60 percent of Nigerians are youths; most of them, whether they went to school or not, are unemployed and that is dangerous.
We have to get the issue of the economy right to make sure jobs are made available and we should try to kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria. Let us practice what we preach as well. Whoever wins as a governor too has a lot of work to do because corruption is fast becoming a culture.
My biggest message
The biggest message is to try and persuade the people that it is not possible to change the state of affairs now. It took 16 years to get to that state of affairs. Nigeria earned more revenue during that period than what it earned from 1914 to 1999.
We used to have Nigeria Airways, Nigerian National Shipping Line, Nigeria Railway. Where are they now? Where is the infrastructure that is commensurate with what we earned in-between, what is on ground? That is how efficiently the PDP managed Nigeria in the last 16 years.
We have inherited all the problems
Now we have invariably inherited all the problems, especially in the North-East. I am sure that you have heard or seen the children recovered from Sambisa forest. Only the children and women are remaining while all the able-bodied have been gotten rid of somehow. Some have been taken to Adamawa State to be resettled. A generation has been denied education and health care. Infrastructure is gone.
You can imagine what is happening on the high seas where up to 400,000 barrels of crude oil is stolen everyday with cooperation from those who are supposed to protect it. Meanwhile oil price has gone down and 90 percent of foreign exchange we rely on comes from that.
Nigerians must temper their expectations
Nigerians must know that we have virtually arrived at the wrong time and that they have to temper their expectation with some justice towards the leadership. I think whatever has to be deployed, especially in the churches and mosques, this is the quickest way to communicate this to the ordinary people. The people must be reminded of all the things I said in all the states I visited..
Obama’s phone call gave me relief
One of the reliefs I got was the telephone call I got from the President of the United States. I could feel the relief in his voice because Americans are people of conscience. Forget about religion, colour and development, they are people of conscience because they have reached a stage where they have stabilized their society and they are relatively secured materially, physically and in virtually every aspect of life. They know we were in danger. Everybody was saying Nigeria was going to the dogs in 2015, but even beyond our expectations, we have managed to sail through and we say thanks to technology for the PVC and the Card Reader because the whole exercise of writing the result, announcing them and asking losers to go to court does not make any difference. Those who defended the PVC and Card Reader made this change possible
On defection: There will be justice in APC
In a multi-party democratic system, fundamentally, it is the number that matters to the people. But to the party, what matters is the ability to manage the number so that the majority will have its way and there will be justice. No matter what remains of the PDP on May 29, there will be justice in APC.
For those coming into the APC, I have no fear because we have structure. The fact that you were a party Chairman or minister before you joined the APC, we appreciate that you remain relevant in your immediate locality. With majority of members of the National Assembly and Houses of Assembly in the states coming from our party, it means that it is with the agreement of their constituencies that the Federal Government has the power that it has. If the Federal Government is insisting on accountability and being responsible, even if they go back to their constituencies, there is nothing they can do about the decision of the government. We are banking on that. I will give you an example of my state, Katsina. In 2011, the CPC won all the senatorial and 13 out of the 15 House of Representatives seats but lost the governorship. Who did the elections?
Did people from space come for the elections? That is the bad thing about lack of cohesion in a party. Leadership at all levels must work in concert. Otherwise, what Katsina suffered, any state or the centre can suffer same. Those who were chief executives from local governments and states will be encouraged to work together. So, those that are coming in, I hope they will accept that they are coming to join those already on ground and cooperate with them. They can’t come and say that because they were once ministers under PDP, they will join APC and become ministers the following month or so. I don’t think that will be acceptable even by their constituencies.
Things must just change
It is a difficult time for Nigerians as you all know. I have said that in the last 16 years, Nigeria has never realised the amount of revenue it received. A barrel of crude oil rose to about 140 dollars and then crashed to about 50 dollars. During the 16 years, we know some big organisations that employed a lot of Nigerians and gave them training like the Nigeria Airways, Nigeria National Shipping Line. Even Nigeria Railway is managing to be on paper with some refurbished engines moving from Lagos to Ibadan and a few other places. If you go to their stations all over the country, you will realise that it is in a terrible shape.
The important thing in a country with a huge population, with youths, more than 60 percent of them under the age of 30, who are unemployed, you need these institutions to give jobs and training to Nigerians. It is very disappointing that the PDP government virtually failed to use those resources to make sure that the economy continued to grow in a sustainable way. I think the worst thing is the lack of accountability and the terrible budgetary system. Imagine that over 90 percent of the Nigerian budget is on recurrent. How can you sustain development in a developing country like Nigeria with only 10 percent of your income? Things just have to change. There must be more money available for infrastructure, for investment in getting the factories back, employment and getting goods and services for the population. I think the sins of PDP will be coming out for several years to come.
People must not benefit from being lawless
I will like to work within the system because we believe in it. I have spoken about three governors and the battle they had with the law enforcement agents in their states. We discussed and I advised them to try and document these things so that they can be taken before the court, and we will make sure that we get cooperation from the judiciary so that people who worked against the law are prosecuted, especially those who have lost their immunity, even those who think they have immunity because this is the best way to stabilize the system. People must not benefit from being lawless. You can’t be in a position by virtue of the Constitution, subvert the Constitution and continue to enjoy the privileges offered by the Constitution. I don’t think that will be acceptable by the APC. So, whether you are in the opposition or the government, you have to behave.I think that is the way we can make progress.