Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State insists a plan to extend the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan through the outcome of the National Conference is in the offing, but says it will not see the light of day. He also speaks, in this interview, on the plans of his party, the APC, for Nigeria in 2015.
What is your view on the problem in the National Conference over endorsement of a new Constitution?
In my last chat with you, when I mentioned the issue of a new Constitution and the confab, many people thought it was a joke; but this is a very bitter reality. Today (Wednesday), immediately after Council meeting, I received calls from northern delegates attending the National Conference in Abuja that the issue of new Constitution 2014 is now a reality in the confab. Of course, all people who love this country and really understand the situation we are today, and the consequencies, of a brand new Constitution which Aso Rock Villa wants to use to start eight years, begining from 2015, certainly, it is a very dangerous development.
Let me take this opportunity to thank all those who have rejected the issue of new Constitution; let me also take the opportunity to thank the National Assembly because they were the ones who have received earlier plan by those at the Villa to have one single term of six years beginning from 2015, which they rejected. Now to succeed, they are smuggling it into the confab. I believe that the delegates, whether from the North or South; Christians or Muslims; Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or any other tribe should help in rejecting that Constitution, because that will not help this country.
That is why we told our delegates very clearly that they owe this country a duty by rejecting that new Constitution. We have seen some of the contents of the new Constitution, the issue of six-year single term resurfaced after it was kicked out like polio and Ebola by the National Assembly. We also have the issue of 50 per cent derivation, the scrapping of 774 local governments, listing of additional 18 states, and limiting of Ministers to 18. The only good thing that I saw here is the limiting of Ministers to 18.
Now, we hope that those pretending to be representing us there in Abuja will have no place when they come back. They have to remain there in Abuja or we will send them to the Almajiri schools being built by Jonathan. I believe that all of us should join hands and save this country. It is difficult to know their thinking in Abuja; I think they are too high in the air, they don’t know what is happening on the ground. The story of the higher it goes, the cooler it becomes, maybe, applies to the situation in Abuja today. Those who are very high are in cool atmosphere, while the masses are very much suffering from poverty. Illiteracy is killing this part of the country; and, of course, the issue of insecurity. Everyday, people are being killed and maimed, everyday, properties are being destroyed.
As we sit here, displaced Nigerians in Borno are taking refuge in the forest, many of them in Cameroon, many in Chad, and also thousands in Niger Republic; and what we are talking about is to extend the tenure of Jonathan to life presidency! It is very sad that this thing is happening. I am one of those who have travelled across the world or have the opportunity to read; Nigeria’s history, geography and, of course, political situations across the world. What is happening today in Nigeria, if 10 per cent of it happens anywhere, that leadership cannot stand. We are very happy here with what we are doing for the people of the state; but we are very angry because we have read the minds of our people and know they are not happy with what Aso Rock Villa is doing. They seem not to care, they seem not to understand, they are very busy in the air, working for themselves and helping themselves to steal forever.
I always remind people that when the insurgency happened in the North-east, little did many people know that one day, it will come to this part of the country. We have it here, it is also in the North-central, and now it is crossing over to the South. I am sure that you are aware that some parts of this country now have flags other than the green-white-green. This is unprecedented. Any Constitution other than the 1999 Constitution should be rejected because any thing less than that is an instrument designed by those who think it will help them, but it will not.
As a major player in the opposition, what steps are you likely to take to ensure that the new Constitution does not see the light of the day?
One of the steps is what we are doing here. We want to make our position very clear to them and the entire world, especially our friends across the world, that we believe that what is happening now is very dangerous not only to Nigeria, but also to our neighbours; and I believe the consequences will cut across the continent. That is why I want to take this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to shun the division that we are seeing in Abuja. There is division on the basis of North and South, Christians and Muslims, tribe. The keyword is divide-and-rule, and I don’t think that will help.
And the information I have which is not correct—that many people are saying those who are not supporting the new Constitution are the minorities and that whether we like it or not, tomorrow, they will push it to Nigerians; and the next thing is to start a kangaroo referendum. They will cook the figures like they did in Ekiti and force themselves on us. I don’t think that is good enough. I appreciate the elasticity of Nigerians, but I think that elasticity has a limit. When you keep on pulling and pulling, there will come a time when it will not take anymore. That is why I think the good people of this country should speak because the consequences, as many people are now seeing, will affect everybody.
Your party, the APC, just won the Osun governorship election. What do you think your victory is signalling ahead of the 2015 general elections?
Well, my party has won the election. My opinion and the opinion of my party is that we won the Ekiti governorship election; and that is why the party is in court. The experience we had in Ekiti worked for us in Osun because people came enmasse and defended their votes and that is exactly what is going to happen in 2015. People will vote, and not only vote, they will also stay and defend their votes. Let me thank the social media. Those who have cooperated with us and those who have supported us as a party and that made it very very difficult for anybody to change the real figures. If they had done that in Ekiti, I am sure they wouldn’t have had the chance to rig us out. But, to us, the Ekiti experience is a lesson; and also that of Osun, we have learnt from our mistakes. INEC is improving and I hope the security agencies should also improve.
We always tell them that instead of militarizing Ekiti and Osun, they should go to southern Borno and do their job there so that we can have free and fair elections and also a peaceful country. So, we are happy that people of Osun and Ekiti came enmasse to vote for APC, and I am sure, given an opportunity again, especially in Adamawa, where they used the executive power from Abuja to force Nyako out of office because of his opinion, when the elections come, people will come out enmasse and support APC so that we can have a peaceful North-east, free from what we are seeing now as emergency in the region; so that people can continue their normal businesses, people can come down from the rocks and hills and forests to go to their towns and villages. In that part of the country, nobody is talking about education, nobody is talking about agriculture, nobody is talking about business, people are talking about survival—what to eat and how to see tomorrow. These are the things that, by the grace of God, APC will provide in 2015.
From what is happening, there are indications that 2015 may be violent. What is your prayer?
Our prayer is not only about 2015. We are also praying for this president to take the ship to the shores of 2015. I think we are more concerned about that because the way things are going now, the way people are dying, the way people are being kicked out of their homes; I believe it is not the best; and I believe that Nigerians are being taken for granted. And we hope that 2015 is going to be peaceful and we will do everything possible to ensure that it is peaceful from our own end because we believe that everybody wants a united Nigeria where an Igbo man will continue to stay in Kano. If you go close to the airport, you will see a whole area that we call New Enugu. It is looking like any part of Abuja. We are very happy that we have Igbo here; and we hope one day, we will have New Kano in Enugu, New Kano in Port Harcourt, New Sokoto in Adamawa, and so on and so fort.
Here we are working to integrate our people, we are together as Muslims and Christians, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba—we are one and the same. We are all Nigerians. That is what we want in this country and that is the best way we can have peace. Otherwise, by the time every party like they are doing begins to divide, I don’t think that will be good. During democracy, all these tendencies tend to go down; while unity of people based on political parties will come up and that is why I preach that we all should see ourselves as brothers irrespective of our religions or where we come from.
Fani Kayode is out of APC, now it is Nuhu Ribadu. What have you done to stop Ribadu and does it not worry you that people considered to be higly placed in the APC are defecting at this time?
Well, it doesn’t worry me. It is something that we should expect. I wasn’t in APC. I left PDP because I realized it was not a place I should be. And, of course, those who were in ACN, CPC, ANPP and APGA who are now in APC, they would have moved and don’t forget we are dealing with a government that has accumulated so much money to the extent that they see everybody and attach price tag on him. I believe that not everybody will be on this side and stay long including your humble self—and maybe, they don’t know you, otherwise, when they start dangling some dollars, you begin to wonder whether you stay or go. That is not the issue, the issue I believe is the people. Some of us are lucky in the sense that we have so many people behind us. So, we are so heavy that it is not an issue for us to be flying from one pole to another. And once we dcecide to do it, we do all the arithematic, we do all the calculations that are necessary so that we can go with almost 100 per cent and that is what we have done here in Kano.
So, there is limitation, but those who do it—it is very simple because they believe that there wives and children are behind them. It is very easy for them to change position. You see, in politics, you don’t sit down and start looking around and be chasing luck—where can I get it? Create it! Stay where you are and work hard. You don’t have to win elections all the time. I contested election 12 times (including primary and secondary elections), and I lost one—that is the general election of 2003. It was a big lesson for me. I learnt so much, I was humbled and I am very proud of that particular election—one out of 12; because I believe any politician who has never won election or never lost election is not a complete politician—you need to win, you need to lose election; with that, you have to know how to manage success, you have to know how to manage failure. That is the position under which I believe we will continue to work together as progressives so as to make this country better for all of us.
What is the APC doing to sustain political jibes from the ruling party via impeachment of APC governors using the states Houses of Assembly?
It is unfortunate that so many mistakes are being made by the leadership of our party in Adamawa State. They got it very easy there; and that is why they wanted to replicate the same thing using security agencies, using money, using all sorts of things—intimidation, blackmail. I am happy that it failed in Nasarawa State; and I want to congratulate the young men and women who have decided to chase away the state Assembly members. I am very happy that they chased them out and I hope they chased them far to where they belong—that is the Villa. That is good for them because I don’t believe they have the state in mind, I don’t believe they have the country in mind. What they want was what they saw in Adamawa.
Now, if you have to amend the Constitution of Nigeria, I think the people should check this area of the state Assembly impeaching governors for themselves. A Speaker is sacking a governor who was elected by over 20 local government areas, to give to himself the office of someone who was elected by only one local government area! I think these are the things that should be changed in the Constitution at the appropriate time—I mean these weaknesses that Abuja is exploiting. So, I hope this does not work anywhere amymore because people are begining to call the man (President Jonathan) Mr. Impeacher; and that is not a good name for somebody at that level.
There are many other issues in the polity. Look at what is happening in Edo State, look at what is happening in Rivers State. As long as you are an APC governor, you stand the risk of being attacked by the EFCC, security agent; but no matter how big a crook is in PDP, he is being sheltered, he is protected—everybody is behind him, he is ‘being clapped foe to continue, that he is doing well; and that is why many people, especially with those tendencies, cannot stand in any other place other than under them for protection. Vanguard