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Tinubu, APC’ll have serious challenge without Muslim-Muslim ticket –Ex-Kano deputy gov, Abubakar

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Professor Hafiz Abubakar, a lecturer and the immediate past deputy governor of Kano State, shares his thoughts with CHUKWUDI AKASIKE about Nigeria’s democracy, his relationship with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and other issues

Ahead of the 2023 elections, anxiety is growing and people are switching parties. What are your expectations and fears for the elections?

What is happening now is a normal problem. Normally, after party primaries, there are movements, a lot of them, particularly from disappointed members. This realignment is a normal process. So, my expectation is that the 2023 election will go on, and it will be smooth. I think the most realistic threat is the level of insecurity in many parts of the country and quite a lot of areas will be inaccessible.

Do you think this security threat can worsen the issue of voter apathy in the general elections?

There has been a growing level of voter apathy in this country. We are only not mindful of the percentage. From 1999, we had about 59 per cent of voters, but throughout the elections, the percentage has been going down to the extent that in 2019, I think we had about only 35 per cent. So, voter apathy is going on. During the Electoral Act amendment, I think we should have pegged voters’ turnout to a percentage whereby the election will be accepted or not. To me 35 per cent is quite a low figure. If we go down from 35 per cent to 25 per cent, should we accept it? But as a people or as a country, nobody cares to look at the degree of voter apathy and the effect on the integrity of the election itself.

But some stakeholders have said voter apathy is a consequence of governance failure. How will you react to this?

I honestly agree. It (voter apathy) is largely due to the issue of failure of governance. Misgovernance is becoming the rule in this country. It is actually across all the political parties. If you look at it from the politics to the governance issue, the same ills appear in all the political parties, regrettably from the big ones to the smaller ones. The issue of lack of internal democracy is becoming so worrisome. That amounts to the production of leaders not being elected by the people but forced on the people. This leads to bad governance. What do you have? Even in computing, when you put in garbage, you get garbage.

In 2018, you resigned as the deputy governor of Kano State under Abdullahi Ganduje to contest the governorship seat. That resignation was tied to internal differences you had with the governor. Both of you were very close, what led to the disagreement between both of you?

First of all, let me correct a very wrong notion. You know that 2018 was not an election year. So, I couldn’t have resigned to contest the governorship position. In all honesty, I didn’t resign to contest. I resigned on the 4th of August, 2018, which is almost one good year away from election. By then, the Independent National Electoral Commission had not even authorised electioneering. So, my resignation had nothing to do with my contesting the governorship position. I stated this clearly in my letter of resignation that the main reason for my resignation was due to irreconcilable differences.

But some people felt you left because it was certain Governor Ganduje wouldn’t choose you as his running mate for the 2019 election. Was that one of the reasons you left?

That is highly speculative. I have the freedom to contest election. In Kano, I come from the Central Zone that controls the votes. I am from Kano Metropolitan. In fact, I come from the same ward and local government with the legend, Mallam Aminu Kano. Kano Central that I come from controls 54 per cent of the votes in the state. He (Ganduje) comes from the North which has the least votes. Obviously, if it is in terms of opportunities, I have greater opportunity than him, and only God knows what my partnership with him contributed to his election. I can recall in 2015 when we contested together, we had over one million votes, and we won to the extent that nobody even went to court to challenge the election. It was smooth, it was overwhelming. It is very clear that based on what happened in 2015 and 2019, my partnership with him contributed immensely to his winning of elections.

You left for the PDP and then the PRP but didn’t get to contest the election and you even had to return to the APC that same year, December precisely, do you regret any of those decisions?

No, I don’t regret any of those decisions. Coming from an academic background, anything that makes you learn is not regrettable; it is part of knowledge building. That is why I am talking about the lack of internal democracy from the big to the small political parties. I am saying it out of personal experience. We have some political parties that are in the handbags of some of their promoters. These parties are selling mandates and are not looking for competent people who should join the leadership cadre in order to bring about progress to the masses. That is why in the overall assessment, you can see that our country is retrogressing.

 Are you saying all the political parties are guilty of the absence of internal democracy?

All the political parties, including the APC which I am a member today, are retrogressing in terms of internal democracy. Unless we address the issue of the lack of internal democracy, we will not make progress in this country because that is the starting point in leadership recruitment. Internal democracy, voter education and voter apathy are major issues in the entire democratic process. You know that Nigerians have always expressed their disappointment, their anguish.

The governor anointed his deputy, Nasiru Gawuna, as his successor and he has secured the APC ticket. Looking back now, do you wish you stayed with Ganduje, maybe you would have been in a position to succeed him now?

No. You cannot change destiny and fortune. I have been a member of the APC, but he (Ganduje) has been discriminating against me and seriously working against me. Today, Ganduje has not paid me my legal entitlements as a former deputy governor, though I have been staying with him as a member of the APC. That is part of the issue. This lack of internal democracy, the personal ownership of the political parties by particularly the governors is contributing immensely to the retrogression of the democratic space. So, nothing will change whether I am still with him or not. He said he was not going to work with me, he was not going to give me my right and he was not going to respect me. Even while I was there, I was the first deputy governor in Kano State that never stayed in the official residence of a deputy governor.

Why was it so?

He demolished my house in the pretence that he was going to rebuild it for me, and up till now that we are speaking, the house of the deputy governor has been demolished while the official residence has not been renovated. So, even the current deputy governor never stayed in his official residence. He (Gawuna) is staying in his house like I stayed in my house. The way things happen in this country, I can always say there nothing anyone can do. When a governor maltreats you, tramples on your right, whatever the governor does, there is nowhere in this country, there is no system in this country that you can go for redress.

How will you rate Ganduje’s performance as governor, now that he has less than a year to leave office?

Objectively, Ganduje has done very well in terms of infrastructural development in Kano State. Outside that infrastructure, almost all other sectors have been extremely poor. He has tried to do well at the tertiary level of the health sector, but because the primary and secondary levels of the health sectors are in shambles, the other one could not be seen. Outside that, I can tell you that not much has been done, especially in his relationship with the people. He is not working to meeting the expectations of his people. So, he has become increasingly unpopular.

Do you still hope to become the governor someday?

If it is God’s wish! But I am not working towards that at all. I am more interested in working with groups that will bring genuine reforms that will entrench internal democracy in politics and engender good governance at the level of government. This is one of my primary interests now, not at the level of NGOs, but as a participant. That is why I disagree with those that think you can bring reforms from outside. I am one of those who believe we can bring reforms from inside no matter how herculean it may be. For those who want to enjoy material things in politics, they don’t think the way I do. If you want to benefit materially from these godfathers, you don’t talk of reforms, you don’t talk of the future of this country. You follow and get your reward. But everybody knows that we are deteriorating in every indices of life. We are degenerating in human development and others as a country and as a people.

You were the National Coordinator of the Osinbajo Support Group. How would you describe the APC presidential primary that produced Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the party’s candidate?

For the two major political parties, it was time for the power blocs to exploit their control of the parties, particularly the governors and other stakeholders of the party. It was a very good convention that produced the candidate of the party. He was picked in every other manner other parties have produced their flag bearers. There is no difference. If you want to be objective, you will see that as a people, as politicians and as Nigerians, we are gyrating within the same circle.

In your view, why did Osinbajo, your candidate, lose the primary? Some people felt he didn’t share enough dollars to the delegates while some felt he didn’t have the political spread.

I leave that to Nigerians. I am sure Nigerians have made their own judgment. I cannot be the judge here. But I think our power blocs are not interested in those god-fearing, competent people that are interested in bringing genuine reforms to our political lives and to our governance. So, whoever holds that competence is seen as a threat, and my principal is one of them. Our prayer is that time will come when people will take charge and then give opportunities to those who can bring genuine reforms. Every Nigerian is talking about the appalling state of the nation and yearning to see reforms that will engender development. Yet when it comes to action, we are nowhere. But I am sure we are on the road to that reformation.

Many people still believe Osinbajo betrayed Asiwaju for contesting against him. What do you think?

I never believed in that because in a democracy, there is no issue of betrayal when it comes to going to the people and asking them for a choice. Again, my strong belief is that our country is greater than any individual and his or her ambition. Also, I believe as a Nigerian, who God has also prepared by giving him the opportunity to hold the country as the Vice President for seven good years, you cannot say he is not qualified to aspire to the next level. He knows the challenges of the country better than everybody by holding forth as the Vice President. How can that be betrayal? If you have a son today and you train him very well in school. Tomorrow, he gets an excellent job, will that be said to be a betrayal? After all, was it not healthy that he contested? We are all going to support the winner 100 per cent.

There have been heated debates over the Muslim-Muslim ticket the APC and Tinubu are presenting to Nigerians ahead of the 2023 presidential elections. What is your take on it; is that a good move?

Within the circumstances, Tinubu and the APC have no choice. I don’t want to describe it as good or bad. If I say it is good, my Christian brothers, especially those from the North, will think it is a negative position. What I am saying is that as a people, we should make progress. Based on the circumstance of the ticket itself and the reality that is on the ground in terms of the electoral fortunes, I want to believe that Asiwaju (Tinubu) is a person that cannot discriminate between Muslim and Christian because when in your household, your wife is a Christian, your children are Christians, how on earth can you discriminate against Christians? Based on the reality of the electoral challenges, they are working to win the election. The reality is that without this (Muslim-Muslim) ticket, there will be serious challenges. The fact is that when we try some of the things we are scared of trying, we open a new chapter. So, we are making progress towards the placement of competence and eligibility and the ability to deliver better than the religious consideration, which will be a plus for the country.

If we have a Muslim-Muslim ticket today, we can have a Christian-Christian ticket tomorrow. By that, we will be making progress as a people and as a country. In the developed part of the world, these two cards are not on the table; the issues of religion and ethnicity are not on the table when it comes to leadership recruitment.

But not a few are saying Muslim-Muslim ticket is not good for the APC because of the division along ethnic and religious lines across the country?

What I am saying is this; should we continue to promote these religious and ethnic cards? Do you think these divisions are healthy? Why should we continue to promote such divisions? I have said if we try this, what stops us from trying Christian-Christian ticket tomorrow? That will bring progress to the country.

But, some people feel the desire to win an election should not override national unity and inclusion?

I agree with them entirely. What I am saying is when a presidential candidate is a Muslim, his wife is a Christian. In fact, she is a pastor in a church, and he has other Christians in his household. To me, I cannot call such a person a discriminating person. I believe Ahmed Bola Tinubu is an excellent representation of Islam and Christianity. In a civilised society, nobody can talk of him as a candidate without thinking of his wife. The number one priority of life will be his family. His running mate is not from a majority tribe of the North. He is from the minority; he is a Kanuri.

Some northern governors have expressed support for Tinubu to succeed Buhari but many people are asking if their support will last, because some are not disposed to this Muslim-Muslim ticket?

I cannot confirm or deny this because I don’t have the individual information from such governors. My view is about us making deliberate progress as a people and as a country. We cannot allow ourselves to be pulled down by this sentiment. This is because they are sentimental. Religion should not be a driving force of your political space in a country that has multiple religions. So, the issue is that it is a matter of personal choice. I cannot say they are right or wrong because it is their own right. So, I cannot force them.

Gradually, people are leaving the party on account of principle. Do you fear that this will affect the party’s fortune in the coming elections?

I don’t have the fact that people are leaving the party on principle. We have said it abinitio that normally, after party primaries, the selection of running mates etc, you will find out that there are movements. But it is normal and this is not one-sided. We have it in the ruling party and in, the opposition party as well. So, overall, it will balance itself. Even in small political parties, some persons have left out of being dissatisfied with the selection process. Between now and September when electioneering will commence, there will be some balance based on the political party the people think is more accepted.

Do you think a Muslim-Muslim ticket can win a presidential election in present day Nigeria?

It can win convincingly. It (Muslim-Muslim ticket) has won in Kaduna State in 2019. It won convincingly.

The APC under Buhari promised to grow the economy, tackle insecurity and fight corruption, how would you rate his regime’s performance on those three metrics?

The performance has been extremely poor. That is my honest view as a Nigerian. The indices on every aspect of security; will you say we are more secured than 2015? The answer is no. In economy, take every indices, every aspect, including our exchange rate, our living standard, our earnings, even as a university lecturer. In a 2015, I earned an equivalent of between $1,700 and $2,000 per month. Today, I am earning less than $400 per month. The most senior professor is not earning $1,000 per month. Today, in Benin Republic, Togo, a university lecturer there earns better than his counterpart in Nigerian university. That is why institutions are set up in places like Ghana and even Cameroon and attract Nigerian lecturers there where they earn better than what they earn in Nigeria. This is the reality in the country.

What about the fight against corruption? How has the President fared?

The fight against corruption unfortunately has been extremely selective, and it has not yielded a positive result because the officials of government that are in cardinal positions are deeply involved. So, the fight against corruption is one that just cannot be fought by government alone.

Why did you say so?

Today, corruption is zero in developed countries because the people believe it is an evil that should be fought. Therefore, government should create the enabling environment and the structure to fight corruption. The people of Nigeria must believe that corruption is evil and they must give every support to fighting it. Today, if you go to a developed country, if you offer a bribe to somebody, he may just report you and ensure that the law deals with you. But that does not happen in Nigeria. We, as a people, do not believe in it. None of all the organs of government is in full compliance. Corruption still exists in these three major arms of government. When it comes to justice, it is selective. So, how do you want Nigerians to believe that this is a course worth fighting?

The activities of terrorists and bandits, including the recent attack on Kuje Prison, appear to have made a mess of the country’s security architecture. Do you think the current administration has done enough to stop the killing and kidnapping of innocent Nigerians by terrorists and even petty criminals?

I will be the most unfair Nigerian if I say they (government) have done enough. They have not done enough. Well, they claim they have done their best, which I believe they have because when you reflect, in 2015, the spectre of raging insecurity was largely in the North-East, and one has to be honest that the government as at that time did well in addressing it. Government recovered those lands that were occupied by terrorists. At that time, they were just planting bombs anywhere in Abuja, in Kano, many of our cities, if you can recall. So, to that extent, they have done well in actually reducing the capacity of terrorists to the lowest level.

Given the performance of this government, do you think Nigerians will trust the APC again in 2023?

The APC is a name of a party and the players are individuals, and we know there are differences in individuals in terms of capacity and vision. If you don’t trust the APC, the next big party is the PDP. Was there no issue of insecurity under the PDP? Was there no corruption during the era of the PDP? Was there no economic degeneration under the PDP? So, who do we believe; the untested or the unknown? I think sooner or later, we will come to realise that our leadership recruitment process is faulty. A lot of the problems have to do with us because a corruption-laden mindset has pushed us to ignore positive factors in selecting our leadership candidates and therefore, we have faced the crisis. As we move on, letters and titles will not matter anymore, but individuals.

Many people believe the North is opposed to restructuring. What is your view on that clamour for it?

The North is not against restructuring in the country. Go and see all the committees in the National Assembly. How people from the North are involved in the last three constitutional amendment processes? We are not against restructuring. Many people give different interpretations to restructuring. Some think it will dismember the country. Is that the meaning of restructuring? When you dismember, why do you then restructure?

How has your experience as a university lecturer helped your political career?

It has helped immensely. My university career is about developing the people’s mind to be positive, to acquire knowledge for self and societal development. I think it is significant to any form of political participation. The key issue is about human development. So, my career in the university has greatly helped me to be on the objective side, which I tell you, is not rewarding in Nigeria. If you are objective, you will not benefit materially. I am being seen as a threat for not being a clown or a stooge and for holding a view.

As a lecturer, what do you make of the lingering disagreement between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities?

Unseriousness!

On whose part?

On the two sides, but more on the government side. Why should you agree with something you do not believe? Abinitio, government never believed in what it was signing. It never believed that it would implement what it was signing. It was all about ‘let us sign it so that the lecturers would go back to the classroom’. Why should a serious government do that? I am a member of ASUU, but I still believe ASUU needs reforms, they need to change their tactics, and they need to drop this issue of strike.

Buhari has appealed to them to reconsider because of the students who have been at home, but the government is in the same breath implementing its no-work-no-pay policy. Is that plea sincere?

To me, I think he is not appealing to them to reconsider. When you say enough is enough, I think it is a threat. Somebody is having a dispute with you, and he has been there without salary since February and went through the two Eids without salary. I know my colleagues who have sold their vehicles in order to feed. So, when you say enough is enough, when everything is in your hand, and you say enough is enough, is that a plea or a threat? Why should you threaten somebody that you are not paying, and you are not making any progress on the issues? Remember, I told you that I do not support the two sides. My belief is that ASUU itself should change its tactics and we must not allow the students to be the grass (that suffers when two giants fight).

Politicians earn jumbo pay while university lecturers continue to complain about poor salaries and unattractive working conditions. What can be done to change the situation?

We have to work very hard; every positive Nigerian should work to change our leadership recruitment process and bring in God-fearing, competent and patriotic Nigerians to the positions of leadership. The process now is largely open to inappropriate, incompetent people to occupy the positions of leadership. I said earlier that in Computer, when you put in garbage, you take out garbage. This is what is happening to us as a people. God-fearing, character and competence; these three qualities have to be there for Nigerians to experience change. But you now see people with all sorts of criminal records occupying positions of leadership. Tell me what you want to get out of this situation. Nobody can be greater than his character or competence.

Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party is a strong politician from your state and he’s confident of winning the presidential election, do you think he stands a chance in the election?

He is not likely to win. Kwankwaso is my boss politically and I believe he is a robust politician. He will do very well as a presidential candidate. But on the issue of winning the presidency, I doubt it very much; it is not yet time. I can project that maybe in the future. I think his main interest in this election is to put up a show for the nation to officially appreciate him. I want to believe he will do very well, particularly in the North-West, Kano and Jigawa states. He will put up a good performance in some states where he has good governorship candidates. He may be a spoiler for the two major political parties, particularly the PDP. But it is a ‘no’ on the issue of winning the election. But take it, Kwankwaso is the next northern politician to reckon with, whether you like him or otherwise.


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