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Zoning retarding Nigeria’s democracy – Buba Galadima

As the nation prepares for the 2023 general elections Nigerians have been advised to stop talking about zoning and where the next president will come from.

Giving the advice in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, a former ally of President Muhammadu Buhari and now chieftain of New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Alhaji Buba Galadima said Nigerians should rather focus on merit and not zoning or where the next president comes from. He also spoke on other national issues.

What is your reaction to the present state of security in the country?

It is very sad. It has become a big problem for the nation. The security issue is what we should be discussing mostly now, even more than politics. There is fear, tension and apprehension everywhere. Nobody is safe again. Whether you are travelling or within the confines of your home, nobody feels secure again, and I expect the media to give more coverage to this issue so that those in authority would be compelled to take more serious action on it.

There are some parts of the country like Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, and Kaduna where the security situation has been more terrible than what is being reported in the media. The situation across the country is awful, and, it is obvious that those in authority have been overwhelmed and we are now being left in the hands of God. The situation has degenerated to the extent that bandits are now threatening that they won’t release their victims unless they are paid in Nigeria’s newly designed currency notes, and nobody is saying anything, and we are behaving as if nothing is happening.

But this is not the way for our leaders to go about it. One person is killed in the United States, the President will issue a statement, five persons are killed, the President will visit, but here in Nigeria, 100 persons are killed just like chickens, it doesn’t matter. Unless we continue to speak about it, those in authority will not redress the situation. Of course, they may be trying their best but their best is not good enough for the victims and the nation.

It seemed those in authority are overwhelmed and that is why in our own blueprint in the NNPP, we have an idea of how to sort out the security challenge. Obviously, these people have no response not only to the security challenges but also to other woes confronting the nation. It will be a big disaster if Nigerians vote for APC in 2023. It will be a continuation of the status quo. Both PDP and APC have ruined Nigeria. The two party’s joint combination of 24 years in power has been a big disaster, and this is why Nigerians should reject the two parties in 2023. APC and PDP are rotten eggs, Nigerians should reject the two parties. One of the major solutions to the security challenges is for Nigerians to vote out APC in 2023. APC and its leaders have nothing to offer again. For almost eight years now, APC leaders have been there, and the situation has continued to get worse for Nigerians. Any vote for APC in 2023 is a vote for the continuation of suffering, and hardship. Nigerians should reject the party in 2023.

You formed R-APC after leaving APC and later dragged the party to court but have you now abandoned the case since you’ve now pitched your tent with Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso led NNPP?

My own philosophy is to look for what is best for Nigeria, and that is why I moved to NNPP. I initially thought that we could salvage APC, and that was why we formed R-APC, and even Atiku Abubakar was with us in R-APC. I was there together with Atiku, and we were working together but when I realised that the struggle was not worth it and that APC has gone beyond redemption, I have to join NNPP. Some people have hijacked APC, and these are people that are very powerful, they are the ones that are surrounding Buhari. It is a powerful cabal. These people were not there during the struggle to get Buhari into office but now they are in control. They are now the ones in charge, and we have to leave the party for them.

Why the choice of Kwankwaso because some people claim that he is only popular in the North, especially Kano?

At this point in time, Kwankwaso is the best candidate. He is the most experienced having been an Ambassador, a state governor, and also a former Minister. He has all the qualities of righting the wrongs in this country. Now for those saying that he is only popular in the North, and Kano, they should rethink because with 6.9 million registered voters in Kano, that will be a good starting point for him and if he is assured of that, he can make up for the balance in other parts of the country.

Even if somebody is popular in Northern Nigeria, and he wins the votes of Northern Nigeria, can’t he become President of Nigeria? He can, even without national spread. All Kwankwaso needs to do is to get majority votes in the North, and stop other candidates from getting majority votes in other regions, and then they would go for a round-off, and when they go for round-off, Kwankwaso has the national spread that will enable him to win any round-off. Anybody that has seen him campaigning in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, Imo, Rivers, Ebonyi, Delta, and other parts of the country will understand what I’m saying. The man is very popular across the country.

Now the campaigns have started, are you satisfied with the way campaigns are going?

I’m not satisfied with certain things that are coming out of Kano, Borno, and Lagos where they are trying to intimidate members of the other political parties because they control the governance of the states, and they are being supported by the security agencies. This is not a good omen for our country and the nation’s democracy. Politics is supposed to be a game but because these people have not planned, they have no agenda, and this is why they are afraid and are now resorting to intimidation of supporters of other political parties. These desperate politicians have no blueprint and manifesto on how to make things work for the country, and this is why they are resorting to intimidation but surely they are going to fail.

Now, concerning the leading presidential candidates, what are your thoughts on them?

There is no doubt that Kwankwaso is the leader of the pack. He remains the best. This is why the 19 European Union Ambassadors invited him, and he met them. At that meeting, he outlined his plans and programmes of action for the country. The French and the American governments have also invited him, and we are travelling to honour those invitations. What this means is that these foreign governments know who can deliver the goods. It means they know who is experienced to do the job. It means they know who can secure the country, and this is why they are inviting Kwankwaso. They’ve not extended this kind of invitation to any other presidential candidate. We know other presidential candidates are paying millions of dollars to help them arrange appointments abroad. All these foreign governments that are inviting him must have however seen something exceptional in Kwankwaso. For other candidates, I don’t see any of them matching Kwankwaso. There should be no basis for comparing Kwankwaso with Atiku, Obi, or Tinubu. If Nigerians want to get out of the woods, they should kneel down and beg Kwankwaso to come and run the country.

Are the candidates addressing issues?

From what I’ve seen so far, it is only the NNPP and Kwankwaso that have been addressing issues. We have been discussing security, health, education, employment, and a host of others. But these other parties have only been discussing personality, saying it is their turn, that it is their last chance. They want to turn Nigeria to turn by turn Plc. But this is very unfortunate. What we expect the candidates to do is to talk about their plan of action instead of whipping up emotions. We expect them to talk about substance.

What’s your take on the ongoing debates as to whether Nigerians should vote for another Northerner after Buhari’s eight years in office?

This issue has been settled by the Supreme Court a few weeks ago when the apex court ruled that any Nigerian can aspire to run for the highest office in the land. Some aggrieved members of PDP had taken Atiku Abubakar to court over whether his candidacy is not a violation of the zoning principle of the party but the Supreme Court ruled that the Nigerian constitution doesn’t recognize zoning. I agree with the court ruling. Any Nigerian who is qualified should not be prevented from running for the Presidency on the basis of the so-called zoning.

What we want is the best for the country. We should allow anybody that is qualified to run but let the best candidate emerge. We should stop all this parochial thinking. What we want is the best for Nigeria, and as long as it is another capable Nigerian that can do it that we elect, that’s fine. It doesn’t matter where that Nigerian comes from. What we should bother ourselves with is getting the best material and the best candidate for the nation. Where that candidate comes from should be immaterial. I have never advocated zoning because I believe it will never enable us to get the best for the country. We should stop all these primordial sentiments; they will not get us anywhere. Zoning will retard the nation’s democracy. It will do us more harm than good. We should not have anything to do with Zoning. We should dump it. Buhari is from the North, but what benefit has his government been to the North? The North has even suffered more under Buhari, and this is one of the reasons the emphasis should always be on the best, and not on a particular individual or region, or zone. We want a new Nigeria where merit would come first.

How would you assess INEC? Are you confident they would perform creditably in 2023?

INEC is extremely under pressure now. The ruling APC leaders are threatening to remove INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu over Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). They are seriously threatening to remove him unless he reverses BVAS. They are on his neck but what these people don’t understand is that it will be difficult for them to remove him because you can’t change electoral rules six months before the election.

They are putting pressure on the man over BVAS because they know that with BVAS, it will be difficult for them to rig the elections. Even the Senate Chairman of INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, an APC member while calling for a reversal of BVAS said that they have a mobile network issue in his village and therefore should reverse BVAS, but all these are a ruse to rig the elections because you don’t need many networks for BVAS to work. What BVAS needs for it to work efficiently are well charged batteries that can even work non-stop for three consecutive days before you recharge them. So these APC leaders should not take Nigerians for fools. They don’t rely on any network. Any attempt to remove INEC Chairman will have unpalatable consequences for Nigeria. They should not try it. It will backfire. I will also advise Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to resist these people.

What’s your reaction to the calls for the setting up of an Interim National Government by some prominent Nigerians in view of the security challenges facing the country?

Those making such calls are enemies of Nigeria. They are enemies of democracy. They want to plunge Nigeria into a serious crisis. People making such calls are being sponsored by APC leaders because they know they will not win the elections in 2023. The APC people are behind the plot. It is also part of the reasons why they want to stop the use of BVAS for the elections at all cost, and if they have their way, it will be a recipe for disaster. But they are going to be resisted. They can’t change the law again because the President himself assented to the Electoral Act. My advice to APC leaders is that they should be very careful because you only know the beginning of an action, you don’t know where it will end. They should not plunge Nigeria into crisis as a result of their own selfish plans.

APC leaders are afraid of losing the 2023 general elections, and this is why they have been calling for a reversal of BVAS for the polls, and also using some well placed Nigerians, including their own members, to call for Interim National Government. It is better for them to hold elections for Nigerians to make their choice instead of causing crisis in the country. If they are sure that they’ve performed very well, why are they afraid? The simple truth is that the eight years of APC in power have been nothing but years of turbulence and hardship for Nigerians. It has been years of waste.

What’s your take on the redesigning of naira notes by the CBN?

This government is always doing what will harm ordinary citizens. Why the change now? Somebody was, however, trying to explain to me that what the government was trying to do is to stop those who have amassed or keep millions of naira at home with the aim of using the cash for the coming elections. But even at that, it will not work. But what I want to say is that if they are targeting Atiku or Tinubu or Obi, these are people who have got access to banks, they have their own banks. They would come and carry billions of naira from their houses and change it for them. So what will happen at the end of the day is that it is the common people and ordinary Nigerians that will suffer because of the pains and hardship they will go through while trying to change their paltry sums of money. The people they are targeting can never be hurt by this CBN policy. Atiku, Tinubu, and Obi can never be affected by this policy. The banks will come with bullion vans to their homes, and they will take away their money to go and change it for them.

Forget all the propaganda that they are making that the government is targeting these people or other politicians so that they won’t use money to buy votes. It will not work. They can never get at politicians they claim they are targeting, rather it is the common man that will suffer. For over seven years APC government led by Buhari didn’t consider doing anything like this, so why now? Are they just waking up, why can’t they wait and allow the government that will come in 2023 to do it? This government derives pleasure in foisting hardship on ordinary Nigerians.

Is it profitable or sustainable to have two different exchange rates in a single country? Why can’t Nigerians eliminate the parallel market?

The exchange of dollar to naira is getting higher because there are people who steal money and can buy dollar at any amount. But once we stop stealing, the exchange rate of dollar to naira will stabilise. Those who get free money without labouring for it can afford to buy dollar at any rate. Imagine somebody stealing billions of naira. Can’t such an individual afford to buy dollar at any rate? This is part of the reason why you can’t eliminate the parallel market.

Some Nigerians have expressed concerns over the 2023 general elections as a result of the present security challenges in the country. Do you harbour any fear that insecurity may threaten the polls?

There was also insurgency during Goodluck Jonathan’s time but he ensured that he brought the situation under control, and there was no polling booth where election didn’t take place. Yet here was a man who didn’t attend any military academy like Buhari. The ball is in Buhari’s court. If the government does the needful, I don’t see the current security challenges posing a threat to the elections. If Jonathan can do it, what stops Buhari, a retired General from doing it better? Those in authority should not give us excuses. ¬Elections must hold in 2023 whether they like it or not.

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