Head of Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Abuja, Prof. Sadeeque Abba speaks with IBRAHIM MOHAMMED and AKIN ORIMOLADE on topical national issues. Excerpts:
The House of Representatives invited Mr. President to come and address it on security lapses in the country. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice said they were wrong in doing so. The President also declined the invitation which he had earlier accepted to honour. Is it ideal in a democracy for the President to decline invitation from the Parliament?
It is a situation where the ideal and the reality is clashing. Ideally, the National Assembly as an arm of government has the responsibility of checkmating the Executive. Those are the conventional aspects of the ideal nature of Nigeria’s federalism.
But, the reality of the Nigerian federalism as defined by the constitutional provisions does not wholeheartedly or absolutely empowers the National Assembly to invite Mr. President arbitrarily but on the issue of national importance, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have within their own constituted powers to invite the president not to order him.
It is to invite Mr. President to come and address or to come and share his ideas on how he intends to solve this national complex or crisis. The gap that created this confusion in Nigeria is that the president has allowed the situation to linger and he kept not only the National Assembly members who are the constituted authority of the Nigerian man but also he has kept an average Nigerian man on the street in the limbo of what the government is doing to address these security issues.
So, is the House of Representatives in order or right to invite the president do they have the right to order him to come and address them? No. So it all depends on the language that is being used in asking Mr. President to come and address them and that is what the Attorney-General of the federation addressed yesterday because they don’t have the power to order the president to come and address them. They have the authority to invite any President in Nigeria to come and share ideas on how to move the country forward.
The Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives said the President should be impeached over alleged offences. What is your reaction to this?
It is within the purview of the National Assembly to impeach the President if he happens to commit impeachable offences. The fundamental question is this – did Mr. President commit impeachable offenses?
As a Nigerian, yes. Can the National Assembly impeach him? No. Then the question is why if the President has committed certain impeachable offences what is stopping them from impeaching him. There are various situation that warrants President Muhammadu Buhari being impeached if we are living in an ideal democratic society and almost all these impeachable offences committed by Buhari had a rubber stamp of the National Assembly behind it including the PDP senators.
If we talk about security, the first point of security is the citizen, the second point is the family, the third is the community, the fourth is the opinion leaders within the community before it goes to the state. So basically everybody in Nigeria has committed an offence contributing to the failure of security in the community.
I am in support of Buhari being impeached but it should start from the local government council, the local government chairman, the state governors they should all go including the national assembly members because they have failed this country, not Mr. President alone because democracy is not an activity it is a process. There are a lot of centers of power within that particular process so virtually the only person who can impeach Buhari without any fear or favour are those Nigerians who are on the receiving end of this insecurity but not the national assembly because they lost that ground already.
Ideally, Buhari ought to have resigned not to be impeached. If the president is not doing the right thing he should resign. If he has exhibited some incapacity to lead, he should resign.
Do we have examples of that in Africa?
We don’t have. It is an exercise in futility. Nobody resigns in Africa. Nobody resigns in an underdeveloped society, everybody clings to power. So, instead of wasting their time to impeach Buhari, they should use that particular time and energy, and resources to see how they can make him sit up, make the government sit up.
How can they make him sit up?
If they refuse to pass the budget. He has shown times without number that he cannot solve these security issues and look, by stopping the budget of the service chiefs who Buhari has refused to sack, he will sit up.
What is an ideal democracy?
In a democracy, power lies with the people. So since the people are the owners of power, they should be able to exercise this power not the people that are being asked to represent them. In an ideal democracy, if you want to impeach Buhari you should equally impeach yourself because the common man could impeach you.
For the past three years, we have seen that Nigeria is not moving forward. We are stagnated. The senate’s duty is to defend. The honour lies in the national assembly to make them sit up. All over the world, it’s the parliament that makes the executive sit up but here, the reverse is the case. I remember a few months back, the senate president said we are going to give whatever the president present in the budget 100 percent.
It is an undemocratic setting. Are you saying that there is no mistake from the executive? Are you saying there are no limitations from the executive? Their duty is to checkmate them, but they are telling the entire world that they are out to pass whatever the president presents to them. That day, the Senate President ought not to have utter that statement more than 24 hours before he would resign.
Or he should have been removed either by his colleagues or by the Nigerian common man on the streets that is the ideal thing to do. But unfortunately, in Nigeria, the ideal doesn’t happen it is only the realities that we keep on celebrating. We did not miss it. Nations progress progressively based on planned and well-executed plans. From 1999, show me one single national plan of action that the Nigerian government executed and sustained and concluded, none! So are you surprised?
The only antidote to our current crises economically was supposed to be the Sovereign Wealth Fund that President Yar’adua created but what happened, the same people ruling Nigeria now – the governors and senators today, took the FG to the court that the content of the Fund belongs to the three tiers of government, not the FG alone. And they destroyed that Sovereign Wealth Fund and now are you surprised that this is happening? It is normal.
Fundamentally, we miss it because we refuse to save for the rainy day. As of then, we were selling crude oil for 100 dollars per barrel now the most you can sell it is 48 dollars per barrel. So what do you expect? If you remove all the royalties and commission, how much is coming to Federal Government? Less than 20 dollars. Nigerians refuse to save and invest from their savings and we are running a capitalistic economy and capitalism builds on resource mobilization and resource generations and regenerations. And we are not doing it in Nigeria, we consume and consume and consume. As a Professor of Political Science, I am not supporting the ASUU strike.
It doesn’t make sense. You cannot determine how the government pays you it is not your responsibility, you determine how much you’re paid not how you’re paid. The process of paying you is not your responsibility. If this IPPIS is to serve the average Nigerian on the street, ASUU man is not the only Nigerians in this country, there are other Nigerians. If there are problems the essence of being an academician is to solve them not to create further problems.
The way out is for ASUU to accept the IPPIS and go back to the classroom and if there are challenges let ASUU tell the government these are the challenges and they solve them.
Why are you keeping quiet?
Where do you want me to go and shout?
No, within ASUU?
I was suspended for five years because I stood my ground in the ASUU meeting, five solid years. So, that is the problem, they are not sincere, they know what they are trying to protect.
What are they trying to protect?
They slush cash that is within the university system, that is what they are trying to protect which IPPIS is going to take away. Which TSA removes, almost 70 percent or 80 percent of the remaining 20 percent of IPPIS wanted to remove it from their hands they are fighting tooth and nail, it’s a lie. Look, Nigeria changed because Nigeria did not plan to sustain progress. And you cannot develop a nation accidentally or incidentally. It doesn’t happen you have to plan assiduously and concretely and pursue those plans as a religion.
Of recent, the rate at which our politicians are cross carpeting, is it good for democracy?
The answer is no. But does democracy allows that? Yes. But it is very wrong, absolutely wrong for politicians to turn cross carpeting into the political culture. It is not good that is why we are not moving is like everybody is looking for political greener pasture. You’re only a politician. We have politicians, we don’t have democrats in Nigeria. A democrat will stand firm where he or she is until such principles are fulfilled or until such a person dies in the process.
Even a dog can be a politician. Just train it. An intelligent monkey can become a politician, train it. It is not rocket science to be a politician but it is rocket science to be a democrat. In Nigeria from Buhari down, we don’t have democrats, they are all politicians. They are fair-weather politicians, ready, willing, and able to change platforms at will as if they are changing their babanriga. So, it is not good for democracy but Nigerian democracy allows it and celebrates it. For democracy to begin to work in Nigeria we must domesticate democracy within the context of Nigerian history, culture, and belief systems otherwise it will never work for you. We are seeing democracy working for those in New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
It works for China. China domesticated democracy into the Chinese system. 1979, it was called democracy with a character, capitalism with a character. We have to domesticate democracy.
How do we do that?
By forcing democracy to conform to the norms and value of Nigerian culture and Nigerian belief system.
Do we need to organize a national conference?
We don’t need it. It’s just like a mass movement. An average Nigerian from every village will just rise up, we are tired of this movement. And we are not even looking for integrity now because we are looking for people who are capable.
If they are ruthless and bloodthirsty if they have the capacity to do it; vote them into power. We have to domesticate democracy, nationalize it and Nigerianize it. This democracy we are talking about even Americans abandoned it in 1826.
They created an American dream. And that is how Trump came to power; I’ll give back America to you. He was able to Americanize democracy in 2016 and he spoke the language of an average American on the street and he got voted to power. If you want to establish and allow democracy to work in Nigeria we must give it the Nigerian face, that is the only way out.
One of the things they were saying in the EndSARS protest was that the majority of those holding political power are old people. What can we do to solve this government of old people by old people for old people?
There is nothing you can do because they are not ready as youths to take over. Nobody gives power on a platter of gold, you capture power even under democracy. Nigerians are the laziest youths politically and economically. An average Nigerian youth is lazy and unproductive they want everything free. It can’t work and these people who voted them into power are they not the same youths? In 2011, voters registration was 72 million. Nigerians registered. 69 million were youths both male and female. They have the capacity to put the president, senators everybody in Nigeria in power. What did they do? They are not serious. They are pretending, Nigerian youths are pretenders. If it is another country, EndSARS they would have taken over power.
So it was a missed opportunity?
It is not a missed opportunity. They don’t have the opportunity because they don’t have the destination. What is the target of the EndSARS? You think it is because few criminals gave you money because SARS have been on their neck? In my village we celebrate SARS. For three years, I couldn’t go to my village. It’s SARS that made me go to my village.
Where is that?
Adamawa. A village in Jada local government area. The EndSARS is not even an opportunity, it is a disaster in the making because it is criminals that sponsored them. If the Nigerian youths on their own rise to fight for justice on their own, I will support them because I have children in my house. How can you have a movement without a leader? who was the national leader of the EndSARS? Who was the coordinator of EndSARS in your village? It is like when you talk about revolution under Sowore. How can Sowore lead you into a revolution? Who supported Tinubu. And you said he is a revolutionist and that I should follow him? Whatever happened to people like Gani Fawehinmi? What about Arthur Nwankwo? Why didn’t they lead the revolution? But then you want me to follow Sowore and all these bunches of idiots in EndSARS? It doesn’t make sense. If you want to change the government, the old men have failed this country, the youths are snoring and sleeping and dreaming. They are not ready to take over power. Nigeria is in a complete political quagmire so anything can happen.
2023 is around the corner, some people have started showing interest to take over the presidency in 2023? Who should we watch out for? Already, we have Tinubu, Fayemi, Orji Uzor Kalu, Wike, Kwankwaso and Atiku are interested
Among all these people in the last 20 to 30 years of your life, how have they impacted positively your life as a Nigerian? I will support Tinubu based on principles because first and foremost, as a moslem, if I betray you, Allah will deal with me first before you deal with me. If Buhari betrays Tinubu, Allah will first deal with him because Allah doesn’t like betrayals. Tinubu has sacrificed.
Tinubu did not bring Buhari to power, he brought 3 million and Buhari added his 12 million which he has kept for years. So Tinubu is a pillar to Buhari coming in 2016. Tinubu should be the first person to be given the right of refusal. But somebody like Fayemi, what has he contributed to Ekiti life that we want to expand it to national? What has El Rufai and the rest contributed to their own states that they want to expand to national? Because if I want to give you a garment look at the one I am wearing first.
What have they done in the last twenty-thirty years at their own level so that you’ll be able to say if they go to national as president or vice president they’d be able to do ABCD. This will be the gloomiest situation politically in the history of Nigeria in 2023. Everybody is confused politically and everybody is comatose politically. He doesn’t know who to trust and who not to trust and the most confused person among them all is Buhari. He doesn’t know who to support. And this 2023, it will come whether we plan for it or not. And it will come and before you know it, wrong hands will hijack it and we begin to lament like this and you’ll come back for another interview and ask what has gone wrong? What has gone wrong is me and you that have gone wrong.
Most of you don’t vote, an average Nigerian don’t vote. How many academics vote? They will say they don’t trust this politician. They don’t trust them but they will use professors to read fake results. I have a colleague of mine who was given N200 million, which he accepted while another colleague was given N1 billion by a governor which he rejected. Nothing is wrong, we are the problem. This 2023, the way I see it, APC is in a disaster, PDP is not even ready and no other small party has the capacity to do the needful, to easily take away power from the hands of these two giant parties. So, all the permutations will not work. Like the one going on between Elrufai and Fayemi, Osibanjo and Boss Mustapha or they say Lalong. Or the Minister of Transport Minister, Rotimi Ameachi and Ganduje of Kano.
It can’t work. Look at PDP, Tambuwal, and Wike. Wike wanted to come back to APC and be given Vice Presidency so can you imagine that and you’re supposed to be the herald of PDP now. So you will abandon Tambuwal and Wike’s ticket to come and get vice presidency in APC. Kwankwaso is confused about who to pair himself with as Vice President because who to pick from the south is a challenge to him. Atiku is still nursing the ambition. 2023 is coming gradually but Nigerians are not ready. Even the voters are not ready.
What are those principles?
Because he stuck his neck out for APC in 2015 and since then he told them he is interested in that presidency so why should he be denied? He was a governor for eight years, he was a senator and he has what he takes as a Nigerian to contest. He has money and connections. I am not expecting anything good from Tinubu as president.
Then why are you supporting him?
Because who else? If you remove Tinubu who else remains? Is it Fayemi? Look at the house he took N190 million as his campaign office at Maitama, Abuja. Look at the salary he is paying his staff. What does he know about politics? They paid me N150,000 to criticize them on what they are doing wrong? And I asked if you go to your village do you think you can spend N5 million in your village? And he said no. You can’t even give Fayemi ten votes and some of you are worse; deceiving him that you are his campaign team. So the problem is if you remove Tinubu who else among them?
So after that encounter what happened?
They called me specifically to come and tell them their weaknesses and how to improve on them. They called a journalist, they called a lawyer. It was a team they called. I told them, we have six geopolitical zones, all of you are coming from only two zones. Is it that Fayemi doesn’t like their votes or there are no competent hands there. That is the danger, making silly and avoidable mistakes. I am forced to settle for Tinubu not because I believe he can change Nigeria, he will never change Nigeria. Tinubu and Atiku if you give them 100 years they can never change Nigeria, I’m very sure and I can swear with my Quran.
Even Tambuwal, they don’t have any capacity to change Nigeria but Tinubu is because I don’t have another alternative. All of them are bad but at least he built people. There is no other Nigerian that built people like Tinubu politically. Almost all these people you see around are his boys, some are older than him but they followed him. Six of his commissioners are now governors. Some of them are House of Representatives members, some of them are ministers. So he built people. So maybe if he is building Nigerian the country will be good.
That is my own ignorance. None of them built anybody they only built themselves. I am not saying that Tinubu is a saint because he is not and it is going to be another wasted eight years but at least among the worse he is the bad one.
How will you describe Buhari?
Well, Buhari failed woefully in meeting the expectations of Nigerians. I don’t think Buhari has the team even to carry those expectations farther. If you look at the history of Nigeria, from independence to date, this administration’s cabinet is the worst in Nigeria, in terms of capacity and ability. But as far as Buhari as a person is concerned he still maintained his integrity after 2023 you won’t catch him for stealing. In Nigeria, we should be able to transfer from looking for integrity to looking for people with capacity. Buhari lacks capacity even his health. But he looks okay now. In leadership, if you miss one day, it is like missing a month. That is what happened to him. I respect him as an individual but as a leader, he has been able to show some of the limitations we never knew in him.
Finally, sir, what is your position on restructuring?
If I am the only person standing to share Nigeria, I will do it. I am 100 percent in support of restructuring. I wish I would be alive to see Nigeria dismembered. You can’t eat your cake and have it? We should have the courage to divide Nigeria. It is up to us to do that. We sit down with elders and ask how do we move and divide. It was a former governor of Benue State that birthed the six geopolitical zones so let’s go back. Whether it is going to be into 12 or 9 parts, let’s just divide Nigeria so we can move forward. And you think if they divide Nigeria by the six zones that anybody will vote for Buhari in the North-west? Nobody will vote for Buhari in the northwest. He can only be voted because there is Nigeria.
You think anybody will vote for Osinbajo in the south-west if it weren’t for Nigeria? They won’t. Or Ahmed Lawal will become my senate president from the north-east? He can’t even be a senator. They all have a say or right because there is Nigeria, Nigeria is a project for the few and they happen to be in the few. Restructuring for me is dividing Nigeria into pieces but everybody is afraid of dividing this country. Nigeria was not created by God so we can handle it and we can still move on. Why are we afraid of death? We need to restructure please, the earlier the better.