Anthony Sani is a former Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). In this interview with WALE ELEGBEDE, he speaks on the 2023 general election and insecurity in the country, among other issues
What is your view on the 18 candidates, who will be on the ballot for the 2023 presidential election?
Because there is never a national consensus on methods of addressing national concerns amid national consensus of challenges of the nation, multi-party democracy allows each political party to represent a distinct method of solving the problems as reflected in the party manifesto, which the political parties use to canvass for electoral mandate needed for implementation. I do not think that the 18 candidates represent 18 distinct methods of solving our national problems. Most of the candidates you talk about are not more than independent candidates. It is against that backdrop that I prefer a two-party system; one to the left and another to the right. The number of political parties is unwinding. At most, it should be five.
Do you think there will be an upset in the 2023 general election and what are your thoughts on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
I am not seeing any upset in the elections because the major players have not changed. Some of them have changed only platforms and not their content of characters and the way they do things. I am not sure if the surge in activities of social media is sturdy enough to cause any major upset. As for INEC, the legalization of part of the voting process may bring about some differences. But I am not sure such innovations would bring about a sea change.
Do you think that the defeat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the recent governorship election in Osun State is a signal of what lies ahead for the ruling party in 2023 general election?
I do not consider the defeat of the party in the state as a statement for the ruling party. This is precise because Osun State is one state out of 36 states. What is more, this is not the first time an incumbent governor has been unseated by an opposition party. We had governors Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Mahmud Shinkafi (Zamfara), Ikedia Ohakim (Imo) and Adebayo Alao- Akala (Oyo) as well as one or two others whose defeat did not result in the defeat of their parties at the national level. But the ruling party can learn some lessons from what has happened with a view to improving the practices of its internal democracy for the good of our multi-party democracy and development in Nigeria.
How do you think APC can pull itself together from the unexpected loss?
Every party faces challenges as fallout of party primary elections. As a matter of fact, every government loses some old friends and gains some new ones. It is the net effect that counts. Even opposition parties also experience such challenges. Consider that the main opposition party has lost Senator Kwankwaso, Mr. Peter Obi and Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe whose departures have reduced the fortunes of the main opposition. So, whatever challenges are being faced by the ruling party are also faced by the opposition parties. That is another way of saying our multi-party democracy is not at its best and needs improvement, especially, internal democracy of the political parties, which have not been fully appreciated by the political leaders.
Some people are of the view that the seemingly poor performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration may eventually rub off on the APC in the general election. Do you think so?
While I share the view that Buhari regime could do better than what has happened, I am not sure the government has done that poorly, considering the myriad of challenges the regime inherited amid paucity of funds. I believe if people do some trend analyses of its performance, using facts check as well as cross analyses of some peer countries, they will find out that this regime has tried by way of performance despite some of its shortcomings. After all, a pass mark is a range and not a single mark.
There have been reactions to the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC. Do you think it will fly?
My position against the Muslim- Muslim ticket is not so much about the electability as to the aftermath of managing the victory. This is because the ruling party can prevail with any combination of its ticket. Because politics of identity has supplanted politics of issues and has brought about mistrust and suspicion which tend to promote cleavages of the nation along ethnic, religious and regional lines, some notable Nigerians who do not wish the ruling party well have alleged Islamisation, which has made the party’s flag bearer promised to unite the nation.
The Muslim-Muslim ticket has provided such people with more amcanmunition against the party, which means the party has to work much harder with a Muslim-Muslim ticket to unite the nation than if it was with a Muslim-Christian ticket. But since it has happened, I believe the Muslim-Muslim ticket has noted the challenges and will hit the ground running by rewiring the politics, re-engineering our sense of justice, make mercy smarter, hope more strategic and dare the citizens to follow in order to make the politics of identity unnecessary.
How can we curb this current trend of ethnicity, religion and tribal sentiments in our leadership recruitment?
It was Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, who wrote that order, justice, liberty, common decency and prosperity for all are never natural order of things. These things are attained through ceaseless hard work by both leaders and the led. Nation building is a continuous process. You may wish to note that it is the failure of leadership which has brought mistrust and suspicion leading to cleavage of the nation along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
It is either we get a regime to bring about cultural renaissance or Nigerians decide to do so themselves by making judicious use of their democratic right and that ensure votes count, so that the ensuing leaders would be accountable by being just and fair in the distribution of access to national resources of appointments, employment, projects and major contracts.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said recently that Peter Obi and Labour Party don’t have the structure to win the presidency in 2023. Do you agree with that assumtion?
Both Peter Obi and the Labor Party are not new. They have been in politics. As a result, there is nothing that amcan inform one’s forecast.
What are your thoughts on the state of insecurity in the country?
Do you agree with Federal Government’s plan to ban motorcycles? The state of insecurity, especially those posed by bandits, gunmen, kidnappers, cultists and those involved ritual killings is disconcerting. These surged immediately after the elections of 2019.
I say this because the regime has managed to consign insurgents to the fringes of North-East. And as long as the regime has not put an end to insecurity, Nigerians are bound to say it has not done enough. So, the government should prioritize the fight against insecurity as number one, reduce some infrastructural programmes and free some money for enough, trained, equipped and motivated security personnel to enable them to take the fight to bandits and kidnappers in the forests, while efforts are being made to address the underlying causes through diversification of the economy away from oil.
In doing so, we must not lose sight of the trite that diversification of the economy and wiping out poverty that comes with ignorance are not a day’s job. If animals can hibernate to survive winter, and if shrubs can defoliate to withstand drought, Nigerians with native intelligence should be able to withstand any adversity which can be cathartic and constructive as well. Our situation is not beyond redemption.
It does appear that Nigeria’s economy is on the edge over huge debt servicing rate; where did we get it wrong that our revenue is now literally meant to service debts?
Our debt is never worse than even those of developed nation like America whose debt is $30 trillion and Japan whose debt is five times its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Brazil, third world country with a population of about the same as Nigeria has a budget of $900 billion this year. Mexico has a population of about 130 millionand its budget this year is $320 billion. Nigeria’s budget is not more than $40 billion this year.
I agree with Dr. Henry Kissinger, when he says the political elite of third-world countries do not make a clear distinction between the power of government and claims made on its behalf. That accounts for some unrealistic expectations. America lost over 12,000 people to mass shootings last year. There were shootings on the day of July 4 last and this year during the celebration of American independence. But we do not hear Americans say America is gone. Lamentations without work are of no use. I do not think our problem is debt but productivity which we must adopt in order to develop. Consumption without productivity cannot develop an economy.
What is your take on the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)?
I expect both ASUU and the Federal Government to come to terms with the reality that Nigeria needs functioning universities in an economy that cannot fund them. There is, therefore, a need for adjustments to demands and what the government can realistically provide. Both ASUU and labour are in a position to compute what government gets for governance, which is an art of balancing competing demands among constituents and socio-economic sectors. Forcing the government to sign an agreement that it does not have the capacity to implement does not make sense.