Politics

APC will remain the peoples’ choice come 2023 and beyond – Musa

 

 

Senator Sani Musa, who represents Niger East Senatorial District of Niger State at the National Assembly, is the Chairman, Senate Services Committee. In this interview with FELIX NWANERI, he speaks on the state of the nation and recent developments in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), among other issues

 

Whatisyourassessmentofthestateof thenation, withparticularreferencestothe anti-graftwar, economyandnationalunity thatappearstobeebbingaway?

If you take a closer look at Nigeria of today, we can agree that things are not the way it used to be anymore.

 

Speaking with every sense of responsibility as a nationalist and a great lover of Nigeria, our country in the last few years has passed through a very challenging period.

 

Within this period, we have recorded some major gains and at the same time we’ve had to endure a plethora of issues that have constantly put the leadership of this countryontheirtoes– to change policies where necessary and come up with a problem-solving approach in handling these challenges.

 

Corruption is a global phenomenon and it is not limited to NigeriaorAfrica. Nodoubt, anyserious nation that hopes to grow its economy and develop every facet of its country must give priorities to its anti-graft war.

 

In 2015, when President MuhammaduBuhariwaselectedasthe 4th democratic president of Nigeria, he pledgedtofightcorruptionandempower the anti-graft agencies to function effectively without interferences from any quarter.

 

We are all a living witness to the pervasive corruption and impunity that was the hallmark of the last two administrations presided over by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the All Progressives Congress (APC) came on board in 2015.

 

President Buhari’s anti-graft war was endorsed byworldleadersattheWorldEconomic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and ever since then, this administration has successfully carried out high profile prosecutions, convicted criminals withinandoutsideof the politicalspace and secured assets forfeiture.

 

For the first time, we witnessed the prosecution of judges, government agencies, top military officers and expatriates who are in the business of bribinggovernmentofficialsinNigeria.

 

Today, the anti-graft agencies under the present administration has recovered funds in excess of N800 billion and secured more than 1,400 convictions.

 

These recoveries in cash, local and foreign currencies as well as assets, I believewillhelpstimulateoureconomic growth. You can also see what the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is doing. Before now, drug pushershadafilledday traffickingillicit drugs and tarnishing the country’s image abroad.

 

Today, that institution has recorded numerous successes in smoking out these bad eggs and this has drastically improved our image globally.

So, whenyoulookattherecords so far and compare it to what obtained before, you will agree with my opening statement that things are not the way it used to be.

 

The era of lawlessness, impunity, highhandedness and lack of political will to tackle corruption head-on is behind us.

 

The government also deserves some commendations on how it is handling state aggressors, who are hell bent on breaching public peace, destroying public and private property and threatening our sovereignty.

 

We must continue to support the government in fostering national unity and eschew every divisive tendency capable of heating the polity and a breakdown of law and order.

 

How do you think the leadership crisis rocking the ruling APC can be resolved?

 

Every political party has its own challengesandtheAPCisnotexempted. We have had our share of this crisis before, during and after the 2019 general election and we have been able to manage it in our own way.

 

President Buhari is the leader of our party, and he has done the right thing by dissolving the National Working Committee (NWC) and appointing a caretaker committee for the party.

 

Since then, our party has witnessed tremendous growth and the efforts of the caretaker committee are yielding positive results across the states.

 

So, when you talk about leadership crisis, maybe you’re referring to the major opposition party because, despite our internalchallenges, the APC remains the most disciplined, inclusive and friendly party trusted by majority of Nigerians.

 

We have witnessed the defection of serving governors, lawmakers and political heavyweights’ to our party alongside their supporters. Someof theaggrievedmembers thatleft the party are coming back; court cases instigated against the party have been dropped.

 

So, what happened after the 2015 and 2019electionswhenwelostEdoStateand some of the state House of Assembly, federal and senatorial elections due to these issues I mentioned above could have been better managed but we are trying to address all that now.

 

The APC recorded overwhelming victory at the polls in 2015 and in 2019 respectively, and with the right leadership and structure, we can replicate these feats in subsequent elections.

 

As a loyal party man, I have a strong confidence in the leadership of our great party to do the rightthing andsettheAPCon the right path to continue these innovative reformsthatourpartyneedssobadlyto break new territories and secure more electoral victories.

Howcanseparatistagitationsbestemmed inNigeria?

 

People and groups have always agitated for one thing or the other. Since 1914, Nigeria’sstabilityandresolvehave been tested by separatist movements.

 

 

 

Foreign observers have at one point or the other predicted that Nigeria will not stand together as one nation. Look  atusnow, we’remanagingour diversity to ensure we live as one indivisible nation.

 

We saw what the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) did in Niger Delta, while demanding for resource control and how that was resolved.

Similarly, we now have direct or indirect separatist agitations in virtually every area of the country.

 

More recently, in the South, we have seen calls for Oduduwa Republic and now to Yoruba Nation and then the Biafranseparatistgroup, theIndigenous Peoplesof Biafra(IPOB). Itisimportant to ask pertinent questions based on what you and I have seen so far.

 

Are the leaders of these separatist groups reflecting the wishes of the majority of their people or are these agitations a mere mask for pursuing other sinister agenda, while using innocent people as cover to achieve their aim?

 

How many of the leaders from these regions have you seen coming out openly to support these groups? I want you to think deeply as well because we have been here before.

 

See howpeopleare now taking advantage of these agitations to perpetrate criminal activities and when the security agencies move in to restore peace; what do you think will happen?

 

There will be casualties. Oduduwanationcouldn’tbe achieved even when all the conditions were favourable back in the 70s and Biafra was also not achieved in 1967, when perhaps that was the best time to have it.

 

So, why do you think it can be achieved now? Which region is not marginalized? They don’t necessarily have to go to war and if its tending to war, then you should know that you cannot even win it. What we need is dialogue.

 

What we need is to look at our books and see where we can amend the constitution in the interest of our people.

 

Already, we have gone closer to the people to collect memoranda and concluded the  public hearings on the constitution amendments in all the geopolitical zones, and at the moment, we are considering the harmonized version of the bills at Constitutional Review Committee level. All this is done in line with the yearnings and aspirations of all Nigerians.

 

What is the assurance that your party will remain in power beyond 2023?

Just like I said earlier, APC came into power in 2015, and Nigerians rewarded us again in 2019 by voting overwhelmingly fortheparty.

 

We know why Nigerians don’t want to go back to the era, when political office holders captured state institutions, and when state resources were used to enrich the political class and their cronies.

 

We are gradually departing from the vicious politics of patronage, and clearly, the people have called for a paradigm shift bothfromthepoliticalpartiesandtothe system of governance.

 

So, you see, I have no doubt that the APC will remain the peoples’ choice come 2023 and beyond.

 

As we transition further, all the party needs to do is to ensure that we get it at right in producing our next set of leaders, who will pilot the affairs of our party.

 

Thepartyhassuccessfullyhelditsward congresses across the federation, the state and national congresses will hold soon. Thenewleadershipmustoperate on a platform of conviction politics envisioned by the founding members of the APC.

 

So far, the atmosphere is peaceful and you can see the calibre of people coming to join our party almost on a daily basis from the opposition parties.

 

We will go into the coming and future elections with the same mindset of serving our people and this is why we remain the most acceptable party for serious politicians to actualize their dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

What is your position on the electronic transmission of election results?

 

My position on this has not changed, I am fully in support of electronic transmission of election results. I have remained consistent in my legislative work in the overriding interest of my people.

 

Theconfusiononthisparticular section of the INEC amendment was fueled by a section of the media to paint the APC senators in bad light. Majority of us were in support of Section 52(3) of the proposed Electoral Act, which seeks to give the Independent National ElectoralCommission(INEC) thepower totransmitelectionresultselectronically.

 

During the clause-by-clause consideration of this amendment, senators have the right to propose further amendments where possible andthisisastandardlegislativepractice worldwide.

 

My colleague from Niger State, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi brought to the attention of the Senate that the words ‘electronic transmission of results where practicable’ as used in the report of the INEC committee were rather ambiguous and this could lead to arbitrary interpretations from different quarters.

 

He further stated that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), being the regulatory institution in charge of communication infrastructure across thecountrybemadetoworkwithINEC in determining the ‘where and when practicable’ in the report to ensure that voters in rural communities without access to communication network are not disenfranchised.

 

So, you see, the disagreement we had on the floor of the plenary was on which version of these two drafts on electronic transmission of results do we adopt and not that we totally expunged electronic transfer of results as widely claimed by some of your colleagues in the media.

 

All senators were in support of transmission of election results electronically. What Senator Albert Akpan, representing Akwa Ibom Central Senatorial District proposed was for the Senate to stick with the earlier recommendations by the committee against the amendment suggested by Senator Sabi Abdullahi.

 

There was disagreement on that and we went into voting. Some voted YES to electronic transmission of results ‘where and when practicable’ and others voted NO due to the ambiguity that the phrase will work to the disadvantage of those in rural communities with little to zero network infrastructure and we did this to ensure that INEC was guided by data and scientific realities to prevent future problems.

 

So, it is mischievous foranyone to report that the voting was a choice between supporting or rejecting the transfer of election results electronically. IhavebeenapassionateICToriented person.

 

I am fully knowledgeable of the processes that INEC adopted in Edo State and other bye elections in sending results what INEC did was publishing by means of JPEG images and transferring same to its back-end storage sever and that is a seamless result transmission, which a lot of you don’tactuallyknoworwanttoknowthe difference.

 

If youcheckmyantecedents, you will see how I promoted electronic voting for the first time in Nigeria through the introduction of Card Reader and Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and these revolutionary steps have transformed our elections.

 

So, if Ididn’tcompromisethenonmy stance not to disclose the security code of the card readers despite pressure from many quarters, why would I now vote against an innovation as basic as electronic transfer of election results?

 

HowwillyoudescribeNigeria’spracticeof democracy, especiallyinthepast10years?

 

Since the return of Nigeria to civilian rule in 1999, we have recorded some relative stability after a prolonged military rule. In less than two months from now, wewill be celebratingour61st independent anniversary as a nation.

 

This means that we have been ruled by the military for 32 of our 61 years since gaining independence in 1960.

 

So, we have enjoyed 22 years of interrupted democracy since 1999. Of course, a lot of sacrifice went into this and Nigeria’s complex and multi-faced problems are almost proportional to our diversity.

 

Yet, we’ve found strength in our population andeverythinginbetweenthatbindsus together. If you look at the size of our economy, we are the biggest economy in Africa and this is dependent on our population, diversity, the uncommon zeal of our hardworking people and our resources.

 

Some of these problems that we see today were there before and they have been further exacerbated by successive leaders and bad policies that continue to affect our collective well-being as a people.

 

 

We have gained a lot by being a democratic nation.

 

In fact, restoration of democracy has put us among the committee of nations that values freedom, equityandjusticeof ourpeople. While the dividends of democracy are yet to be fully attained, the indices are there and we are well on course to achieve the Nigeria of our dream.

 

 

To achievethis, wemustbewillingtoassist the government by playing our role as citizens to tackle the problems that hinder our progress and development such as rural and highway banditry, inter-ethnic conflicts, herdsmen and farmers’ conflicts, cattle rustling, kidnapping and all other forms of criminality in the country.

 

These social problems require social solution. It is only in a peaceful atmosphere that we can enjoy government efforts in driving massive infrastructural changes, improving our electoral systems, stimulating our economy and providing the necessary amenitiestoimprovetheliving standard of every Nigerian.

 

Will you blame or commend the country’s political parties for the state of the nation’s politics?

 

I am an advocate for strong political institutions rather strong or powerful politicians.

 

And for us to be among the best democracies in the world, we must build a strong multi-party system that will increase the confidence of the electorate and improve our electoral system.

 

If you look at the way our political parties are structured now, you can trace that to our political history that dates back to the era of the oldest parties that we had then; the Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP) and the Nigeria Youth Movement (NYM).

 

These parties were formed by the nationalist movements during the colonial era.

 

Before the end of the military rule, most of the political parties formed under the 1945 constitution that separated Nigeria into the Northern, Western and Eastern regions were on the basis of ethno-regional-based party systems.

 

And this deepened ethnic politics and conflicts along tribal andregional lines. So, when you look at the dominant politicalpartiestoday, there’sapattern; an historical pattern that defines who we are today.

 

You can see in 2013, that it took the APC, to have an honest conversations about these ethnoregionalconcernstopersuadepolitical parties from different regions to come together as one entity to form a party with a national outlook.

 

You can see it was not by accident; this had to be done to link citizens from all tribes to government and act as a platform for the people to be a part of the decision making and influence government. In the past, most political parties were organized along ethnic and religion lines and sometimes even along geographical zones.

So, I think I should commend our major political parties today, because when you look at them closely, you cannot say they are for or belong to a particular ethnic group or religion.

 

I will also commend INECforderegistering about75political parties that failed to meet the criteria provided for by section 2 (25A) of the 1999 Constitution thereby leaving the system with 18 political parties.

 

The other issue in contention will be the issue of party ideology; this is based onactinginthebestinterestof theparty or out of a commitment to ideological principles. More often than not, we have witnessed many situations where incumbentsdump their politicalparties for another political party.

 

Whether this is hinged on personal interest or the interest of the general public, the fact that this process is accompanied by the law makes it legal.

 

Unless the law is amended to make cross-carpeting an offence, we will continue to witness the influx of people from one party to another. So, I believe that our political parties play a critical role in entrenching our democracy and stabilizing the polity.

 

Money has continued to be the main emphasis during elections, ranging from high nominations fees and inducement of voters. Do you think the situation will get better or worse?

 

Well, as more and more political players come into the fray, money will continue to be a key factor in our elections. Let’s be honest, vote buying is not only restricted to Nigeria or Africa. It is only more rampant in developing countries like ours and the reasons for that are not far-fetched.

 

But we will continue to enlighten our people on the dangers associated with selling their votes for a pot of soup. Voter’s inducement and bribery is a serious offence under section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010, and the penalty for such upon conviction is a maximum of N500,000 fine or 12 months imprisonment or both.

 

It will interest you to know that the 9th Senate undertheleadershipof SenatorAhmad Lawan recently passed the landmark bill establishing an Electoral Offences Commission. This amendment has given INEC the discretion and power to prosecute electoral offenders

 

As far as party nomination form is concerned, I cannot speak for other political parties, but the APC is setting a good example in this regard.

 

Our party announced a 50 per cent reduction in fees for all women and physically challenged aspirants contesting in the wards, local government and the state congresses across the country.

 

So, where aspirants for the position of ward chairmen are paying N10,000; the female aspirants will pay N5,000 only and I know this will soon be reflected in other nomination positions such as the governorship, presidential, states and national Assembly. From here, I think things will get better.

 

With the current security situation in the country, do you think campaigns and elections would hold in 2023?

 

Why not? Anambra will vote on November 6 to elect a new governor. So what is the issue?

 

At the Senate, we’ve also passed the supplementary budget to enhance the capacity of our military and para-military agencies to tackle the varioussecuritychallengesinthecountry and they will be involved in the election process to maintain law and order.

We have also done our due diligence by screening and approving INEC commissioners, who are qualified. If anyone is aggrieved on any issues, isn’t it best to go to the polls and use your voting power to effect the change that you will like to see?

 

So, I have no reason tothinkor feelthatelectionswillnottake place in 2023.

 

Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria stopped forex sales to Bureau de Change operators. What do you make of the policy visa-a-vis the economy under APC?

If we put emotions and sentiments aside, this is a good development. The advantages are numerous, but it also has some consequences, especially to the lower class of Nigerians, who can’t get forex from the banks.

 

We are also aware that some of them have become the conduit for graft, illicit funds and corruption. Why do you think most big firms bypass the banks to patronize the Bureau de Change operators?

 

Theeconomyhasbeenfacing serious distractions globally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Nigeria is not exempted. Yet the APC administration under President Buhari has been working so hard to grow the Nigerian economy in line with the expectations andforecastof having togrowby1.8per centin2021despitethehighuncertainty about the forecast.

 

The battle for the control of the APC seems to be between the governors. What is your take on their performances in APC controlled states?

 

I think we all have our individual opinions. Mine is that the governors have been the strongest pillars of the party today and the credit must be giventothem.

 

Intensehorse-tradingand politicking is going on at the moment not only among the governors but all strategic actors for the control of the party’s machinery ahead of the convention for the emergence of a national chairman and which will eventually herald the selection of a presidential flag bearer.

 

No doubt, the APC governors have performed very well in their various states in terms of service delivery and infrastructural development.

 

I can speak of my state; the governor has constructed over 400km of rural roads, reconstructed some urban roads and also expanded our state’s agricultural potentials.

 

And as we are all aware work is in progress and many more of such achieveme

 

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