November 27, 2015
Anthony Sani, one of the prominent Northern leaders and the Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), is a man of many parts. The social commentator cum analyst was one time the National Publicity Secretary of ACF and the Spokesman for Northern Delegates to the last National Conference. In this interview with the Editor, Ajibola Abayomi, he shares his thoughts on some salient issues affecting the nation.
What would you say was actually responsible for glaring mistrust among a class of people in Nigeria that believe the nation should be divided now?
The mistrust among groups in Nigeria has been inspired by the elite for self serving purposes in a clime where there is dearth of politics of issues, hence, the politics of identity for self serving purposes. You would recall politics of identity was actively espoused by Dr Alex Ekwueme who used annulment of election of June 12.1993 and morally blackmailed the North into accepting the concept of geopolitical zones and politics of zoning. Also recall Zik’s National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC) won in Western Region but politics of identity did not allow NCNC to rule. And when Zik’s went to the East to use politics of tribalism and snatch the victory from a minority in the Eastern Region. The political elite have used politics of identity to make communities come to believe that unless one of their own is in government, they cannot have ingress to government patronages.
How did the northern leaders handled the ultimatum to Igbo people after the October 1 deadline, have you people done enough to prevent future recurrence of such?
We in the ACF had said while we appreciated the frustrations of the coalition of northern youths with activities of Independent People of Biafra (IPOD), we did not support the ultimatum because it was unconstitutional and that two wrongs do not make a right. The Northern Governors Forum, The Peace Committee led by General Abubakar Salami and some of us went as far as effort could go and persuaded the youths to withdraw the ultimatum. And the desired result came to pass. Please note that the North does not hanker for republic of cloistered communities with strong historical ties to places. The North believes in republic of national ideals and moral values that come with relative pluralism that come about through urbanization and inter ethnic marriages.
So why is the North opposed to restructuring and true federalism?
For God’s sake and in good conscience, it is very unkind of you to say the North is opposed to restructuring. I say this because you cannot count the number of restructuring exercises which have taken place since independence. We started from four regions and parliamentary system of government but now have 36 states and a presidential system. What about Local Government Reforms of 1976? Count the number of revenue sharing formula. Are all these not restructuring? What the North has said is that because restructuring means different things to different people, the North cannot take a position until the Region is clear of what restructuring means. You would note there are those who talk of “ True Federalism”, “Fiscal Federalism”,” Devolution of Power”, ”Resource Control” and “Resource Ownership”. That may explain why the northern states Governors Forum has embark on consultations among stakeholders with a view to making the position majority of northerners share known.
In as much as some believe that President Buhari’s regime is stabilising the nation and the economy others are of the view that he is just playing to the gallery, what is your take?
You talk as if we are not in multiparty democracy which must have opposition. Else, it would be a sham. The role of opposition is to provide viable alternative platform. But toiling day and night in order to find fault is not part of the roles of opposition political parties.
For those who think the President might be too old to continue in office in 2019 because of his health among other things, is time not ripe to give a younger element opportunity by then?
I am not a medical doctor or President Buhari. So, I cannot give an informed opinion. But note the fact of history that Mr R Reagan spent twelve years courting America, and at 70 he was given the electoral mandate which he used and made America feel young again with promise of glory days ahead. President Buhari can do the same.
How best do you think this government can succeed fighting corruption?
As far as I am concerned, this regime is trying. It has driven the danger posed by corruption into popular consciousness. There is whistle blowing policy which is helping. But because all good things do not come easy, there are challenges which the government must appreciate and confront. State governors should join the fray. Nigerians should note that the fight against corruption is work in progress.
The Buhari regime had been linked to some powerful corrupt persons like the for Secretary to the Federal Government and AbdulRaheed Maina, the former Pension Board Chairman, wont that affect the political fortune of the president in 2019?
At no time has President Buhari claims he needs only angels and saints to fight corruption. You would note even an angel once went astray and was sent packing by God from heaven. What is important is when corrupt people are caught, they should be sanctioned. And I think that is what the president has done.