In this interview, the Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, speaks on a wide range of issues, from President Muhammadu Buhari's chances in the next poll to Governor Nasir El-Rufai's choice of Muslim running mate and the calls for state police
At the last general elections, the ACF supported then candidate Muhammadu Buhari and the APC. What is the position of the ACF regarding the 2019 elections? Between Buhari and Atiku Abubakar who is your candidate?
ACF supports the government but criticizes the shortcomings for the common good. I have said it is not the practice of ACF to endorse candidates.
This is because we are in a multiparty democracy and ACF comprises members from different political parties, which are expected to have their own distinct approaches to solving national problems as contained in the manifesto that each political party uses to canvass for electoral mandate.
That is why ACF adopts the approach of enlightening voters on the qualities needed in purposeful and effective leaders. These are contained in our pamphlet. Apart from the traits of content of character, party manifestos are also used to enlighten voters to make informed choices.
I am not sure if ACF intends to depart from this practice. As you are already aware, President Buhari and former VP Atiku are the major contenders of the the 76 presidential candidates. They are both northerners and Fulani Muslims.
As a result, politics of identity, be it region, religion or ethnicity, is not to the advantage of either of them. They will have to deal with real issues that have direct bearings on the lives of most Nigerians during their electioneering campaigns.
The President's anti-corruption war is targeted mainly at the opposition. Doesn't the ACF have a responsibility to demand for fairness and justice from the government?
As a socio-cultural organization and pressure group, ACF has the moral responsibility to pressure any government to be fair and to exercise power humanely. When you say the fight against corruption by this regime is selective, I am not confident of what you mean.
Is it by political parties, by region, by religion or by ethnicity? I say so because I know APC members who have been arraigned and convicted by this regime. In fact, the two convicted former governors are members of the ruling party.
The list of those banned from foreign trips cut across party lines, religion, region and ethnicity. So, I do not understand the basis of the allegations that the fight against corruption is skewed. I would prefer those arraigned to defend their innocence rather than say they are not alone.
This is because the fight against corruption is work in progress as it is not possible to investigate and arraign all corrupt people at the same time. It will outlive this regime.
Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje has been caught on video allegedly collecting bribe. Why isn't the EFCC investigating?
Does EFCC report to you its progress on all investigations? You do not know what the commission has been doing on the video saga. It is therefore preposterous of you to posit that EFCC is not investigating the reports. It may well be that EFCC has started to investigate the allegations.
Where does the ACF stand on calls to restructure the country?
ACF has said this country has been restructured several times from independence to date; be it political, economic or geographic. And that the thought of any further restructuring may be unhelpful. We believe prudent management of national resources is what matter most.
More so that the term restructuring means different things to different people. To some people it is “true federalism”; for some others, it is "fiscal federalism"; yet we have those who hanker for “resource control”.
If we must restructure the country, let the political parties who wish to restructure reflect the specifics in their manifesto and canvass for the electoral mandate needed for execution. The ensuing debates will enlighten voters for informed elections on restructuring.
That is how multiparty democracy works. It is not for a select few to convene in Ibadan and Enugu and force their idea of restructuring on the rest of Nigerians undemocratically.
The herdsmen and farmers crisis is affecting mostly the north. Why has the ACF remained largely silent?
What is ACF expected to do beyond calling on the intelligence community and security agents to brace up and apprehend perpetrators as deterrence?
ACF has warned against giving the whole shebang an ethnic coloration, lest we unwittingly provide platforms for criminals to hide and commit crimes because they know it is not possible to prosecute ethnicity and religion. Let the criminals be identified and be treated as such.
"I am not sure if ACF intends to depart from this practice. As you are already aware, President Buhari and former VP Atiku are the major contenders of the 76 presidential candidates. They are both northerners and Fulani Muslims. As a result, politics of identity, be it region, religion or ethnicity, is not to the advantage of either of them."
Do you think the president as a Fulani man has taken sides and is therefore unable to effectively address the crisis?
It is unthinking and most unfair of anybody to imagine that the President can take sides in a matter of national security under his watch. Is the President not the one who has given orders for Air Force to bomb such killers who are Fulanis in Zamfara and Sokoto states as well as Birni Gwari of Kaduna state?
Mr President has given orders that all those found with AK47 across the country be dealt with across the nation. In any case, the President is too intelligent not to know that taking sides on issue of national security does not further his political interest.
And that is why he is pained and depressed when such dastardly acts are reported. That he has not been able to bring the crises to an end completely does not mean he is doing nothing and stoking it.
Parts of Kaduna have disproportionately been affected by the crisis. Are political decisions being taken by Governor Nasir el Rufai aggravating the crisis? The most recent has been his choice of a Muslim as his running mate?
Crises in Kaduna, Benue and Plateau states predate the El Rufai regime. And I think it is most unfair of anybody to use the nomination of Muslim-Muslim ticket to accuse Gov El-Rufai of stoking the ethno-religious crises in Kaduna.
This is because such a nomination is his own winning game plan. Those aggrieved have a right not to vote the ticket and in favor of another ticket which they prefer. After all, there are about 91 political parties to choose from.
Have current security challenges in the country outgrown the capacity and existing structure of the Nigeria Police and do you agree with advocates of state police?
There is no aspect of our national life that is satisfactory, be it political, economic or even social like health and education. Insecurity is only one of the challenges facing the country.
It is only if the provision of adequate number of trained and equipped Nigerian police fail to deliver on the promise of their mandate that we can reasonably consider other alternative arrangements for the nation’s security outfits.
Adequate number of trained and equipped Nigerian Police is what Nigeria needs and not multiplication of effort centers by variegated security outfits.
"I know APC members who have been arraigned and convicted by this regime. In fact, the two convicted former governors are members of the ruling party. The list of those banned from foreign trips cut across party lines, religion, region and ethnicity. So, I do not understand the basis of the allegations that the fight against corruption is skewed."
Do you think the President deserves a second term?
Whether the President deserves a second term or not is left for voters who are aware of the President’s content of character and achievements recorded in the first tenure amid severely limited resources at his disposal.
It is not for me to decide for Nigerians but for voters to look at his record. The government has said it has improved the yield of the limited resources over and above past practices. This is for the electorate to judge and decide.
Are you confident that the elections will be free and fair?
With the legalisation of the card reader and electronic voting, there is hope that the elections will be free and fair.