‘Parties can choose presidential candidates from any zone’

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Chief Anthony Sani is the Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). In this interview with ABDULGAFAR ALABELEWE, he speaks on the zoning controversy, expectations from the Buhari administration and the push for self-determination by some ethnic organisations.

Many people are already talking about 2023. Is this healthy for the nation’s democracy?

I have said it over and over again that it is too early for the nation to start talking about the politics of 2023 when the current regime has not spent hundred days in the office. This is because in multiparty democracy, people and political parties vote for what their judgement say is the best for the country. But, when the outcome of the elections are known, the people are expected to come together as one people until next rounds of the elections when they are expected to go back to the trenches where they would use the performance of the outgoing regime as well as their vision and programmes as basis and issues for the campaigns.

But, when this government has just inaugurated the cabinet and people are talking of politics of next tenure suggests our politicians are more concerned with politics of identity symbolised by ethnicity and religion at the expense of real issues of real concern to real ordinary Nigerians.

This talks of rotation, powershift and zoning is a tacit admission of failure of leadership. As a result, people do not believe any leadership is capable of regarding the whole country as its constituency. And consequently, it is becoming an ethos among Nigerians that access to national or state resources should be turn-by-turn. Yet, we know that there are about 371 ethnic nationalities that constitute Nigeria who are entitled to the national resources by way of appointments, projects and major contracts. This kind of politics of identity tries to vitiate the trite that it is possible for a leadership to inspire national solidarity for the purpose of making the most of our God-given diversity by overcoming what divide Nigerians.

I, therefore, plead with the politicians to come together and unleash their synergistic potential for the larger interest and common good, until the time for politics of 2023 when the political parties would come up with their winning game plans that will include where they will pick their presidential and other candidates. This is because politics of identity is not a constitutional matter, but of strategies by political parties to win elections.

What seems to be more disturbing is the recent calls by some northern governors for the abolition of zoning. Is this really position of the North?

As I have told you in the foregoings, it is too early to discuss politics of rotation, powershift and zoning, which is within the exclusive purview of political parties. This is precisely because only political parties are responsible for fielding flag bearers. No group can field candidate for the political parties. Therefore, no region or zone can take up the responsibility of fielding candidates for the political parties. Besides, such calls can distract the current regime from focusing on the tasks of delivering on the promise of its mandate.

That is why I appeal to politicians to concentrate on the real issues of real concerns to real Nigerians, considering the challenge posed by insecurity, poverty that comes with unemployment and the need for socio-economic development transcend regional, ethnic and regional boundaries.

The call for the abolition of zoning is stirring controversy, as the South now seems to be suspecting the North of a grand plan to retain power beyond 2023. What do you say about this?

There is no reason for the apprehension and controversy because even in the last elections, there were 76 candidates out of whom only six were from the North. This means there is no law which precludes political parties from fielding their candidates in any zone as the parties’ winning game plans. Political parties are at liberty to field their candidates from any part of the country, if in their judgement such would enhance their chances of winning.

But, should all these continue, considering that 2023 is four years away?

Because politics of identity is capable of detracting from good governance by way of distraction, politicians should stop talking about politics of 2023. This is because voters are expected to take into account in their judgement the performance of the ruling party, which government has just been inaugurated.

President Muhannadu Buhari has  sworn-in his ministers. Do you think he has a good team to deliver his mandate?

The President has picked what he considers as his first eleven through whom he hopes to impel progress by multiplying his strength through them. It is he who knows them. And whether I say they are a good team or not a good team, it does not matter anymore because they have been appointed and inaugurated. All one can say is that Nigerians re-elected the regime based on its performance in the first tenure, which gave the hope for a better second tenure. Both the president and the cabinet cannot afford to disappoint Nigerians. More so that the ruling party also has majority in the NASS expected to speedily pass the enabling law for performance. No more filibustering in the NASS, reminiscent of what happened in the first tenure when the ruling party was at war with itself and the president appeared to preside over a divided presidency.

What do you think of their assigned portfolios. Is there anything President Buhari could have done better?

As I told you, the president expectedly knows there are myriad of challenges posed by insecurity and the economy as well as in the fight against corruption. As a result, the expectations are very high by Nigerians on the government. He knows the government has to perform, not only for Nigerians to appreciate, but also in the interest of his own legacies, considering this is his last chance. I, therefore, believe he took these into account in his selection of the cabinet and assignment of portfolios to the ministers. More so that all the ministries and the MDAs have professional civil servants expected to advise the ministers, whose roles are to provide purposeful leadership. It is for him to deliver on the promise of his mandate without any hindrance.

What do you expect from the new ministers?

Nigerians expect them to help Mr President impel progress by sharing in his vision and aspiration and help to deliver on the promise of the electoral mandate. This is because the agenda was the promises made during the campaigns, which made the electorate to re-elect the regime to build on its performance in the first tenure.

What is your view on the failed RevolutionNow protests across Nigeria?

The RevolutionNow had no traction because it was insult to intelligence of Nigerians who have just re-elected the regime to consolidate on the performance of the first tenure. More distressing was the fact that the leader of the revolution was a presidential candidate who lost his deposit by garnering just about 30,000 votes. Nigerians got the impression that the leader of the said revolutionNow wanted to get what he failed to get from the ballot box through the revolution. This is not how multi-party democracy works.

Multi-party democracy provides for elections at fixed periods through which the electorate are given the chance to decide either to re-elect a regime or to reject it, based on its records of performance.

If the clime is ripe for any revolution, I believe nobody needs to tell Nigerians what to do. Nigerians did not believe the time was ripe for any revolution, and that was why it had no traction.

Former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was recently attacked by IPOB members in Germany. What lesson can be learned from it?

The attack on the former Deputy Senate President by IPOB in Germany and the threat to follow it up with attacks on elected governors and the leader of Ohanaeze has vindicated the position of those who had depicted the IPOB as a terrorist group. I say so because IPOB knows that since we are in a multiparty democracy, it should use the democratic process for its aspirations to find expression. IPOB gave directives to Igbos not to participate in the elections, but the directives were defied and the Southeast elected their governors and members of NASS. This should have made IPOB members to know they are very much in the minority.

Otherwise, IPOB would have used our multi-party democracy and elected their members as governors and members of NASS to cause the amendment of our constitution to provide for a referendum. That is how multi-party democracy works, and not for IPOB to resort to violent threats and intimidation of innocent people who have been given electoral mandate to be leaders of the Igbo ethnic extraction in the Southeast.

(The Nation)