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Yabagi Sani is the national chairman and presidential candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). Sani is also incidentally the national chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), an umbrella body for registered political parties in the country. He peaks, in this interview by TAIWO AMODU, on his party’s readiness for the 2023 general election and the issues attending the build-up to the exercise.
How prepared is the ADP for the coming general election?
We have been preparing for 2023 since 2019. Our party is not only here for elections, we are here for total engagement in the politics of the country with a view to strengthening the synergy between economic development and political development. Once the two are separated, you have a problem and that is what is happening to us in this country. We have not been able to bring that close affinity between politics and economy. People look for power for the sake of power. It is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself. Power is supposed to be an instrument to achieve economic progress, unity, peace and, of course, the essence of government itself – good governance that will provide welfare and security for the people. In essence, what I am saying is that government is supposed to be responsible for shelter, food and other basic needs. Government should create an enabling environment for you to be able to achieve those things or give them to you where it is discovered that you don’t have the capacity to do it.
Number two is the issue of security, which must be provided by government. Number three is the fact that people should be able to coexist peacefully. Government should create a situation where Nigerians will be able to love one another, not hate one another. You also have the issue of self-esteem and the freedom to aspire to be who you want to be. So, if all those things are there, the essence of politics will be achieved and 2023, by the grace of God, when our party wins and I become the president of this country, with the ‘rule of law’ as our mantra, we are going to govern by the rule of law and Nigerians will be treated fairly and equally. When we take over power, we will make sure that everyone is treated as equally as possible because we are equal in the eyes of the law. These are things that we will use as foundation to implement our policy thrust which are in three plans. What are these three plans? Energy transition, climate change and information technology. I am talking about our manifestos now. Why are we choosing those plans as the platform for implementing those programmes, that is, our agenda: the issue of education, how to advance health, how to ensure that we have security, how to operate optimally in key sectors of the economy like oil and gas, agriculture sector, how do we develop key infrastructure for this economy? To be able to grow, you must key into the global narrative on how to relate, how the global setting, the ecosystem, operate. The narrative globally is about climate change, energy transition and information development. So, we are using that as our policy thrust, which means that we are able to key into some of the available intervention funds that by the virtue of our status as a developing country.
Two weeks ago, there was a summit in Egypt where the issue of global warming, climate change and how the industrial nations, the so-called developed economies, should now be able to give some kind of interventions by way of ameliorating the degradation which has been visited on the weak nations by global warming. About 80 per cent of global warming is coming from the industrial world. We contribute less than three per cent of the global warming but such conference was to see how, one, they can begin to embark on mitigation programmes and how they can begin to embark on what we call adaptation programmes. These programmes are ways by which funds from the industralised world can flow into developing countries like Nigeria. What I am saying is that Nigeria is a very strategic nation in the sense that you have young, dynamic nation, you are number six among the top nations exporting crude oil; you are in fact number three or four when it comes to gas. As regards the energy transition I talked about, today, gas is the bridge between where we are today and where we want to be in terms of the renewable energy. So, if the government is able to key into these narratives, we will be able to take full advantage of what is available globally. Today, we are at a disadvantage in the sense that we export our crude oil and the value addition that we should have got is not there. We should be refining the oil here and eliminate the issues of fuel subsidy and fuel scarcity that we are battling with.
Nigerians are concerned about the seeming lack of difference between the dominant parties and the new parties like yours fundamentally in terms of ideology. You all seem to be promising the electorate the same things. What is your take on this?
There is a big difference. Talk to the so-called big parties, they know little or nothing about how to key our economy into the global narratives. I have not heard any one of them say that we are going to use climate change, energy transition and information technology as their policy thrust in order to be in tune with the world and what is available to you. So, the point I am trying to make is that if you look at the background of our party and the backgrounds of their parties, if you look at the direction we are going today regarding the 2023 elections, the way the so-called three leading candidates are going is the wrong way to grow or run the country. Ethnicity, regionalism and religion are the factors that determine who governs this country. It is the wrong way and that is why we are in this vicious circle. We don’t think of anything in terms of merit. What you think about is, ‘oh, is this person wearing the same clothe I am?’, ‘is this person speaking my language?’, ‘is he from the same region as me?’ These things don’t matter in terms of good governance. That is what today has been thrown up as the yardstick for the next president. The election is on the basis of whether the Igbos are able to outsmart the Yorubas or the Yorubas are able to outsmart the Hausas or Hausas are able to outsmart the Igbos or the Yorubas. That is the contest we are seeing. It is not the contest of ideas, credibility or ability to deliver the promise of this country, which is greatness. That is the danger we are in.
Our party does not represent those dichotomies. What we pride ourselves in is the fact that we have the intellectual capacity, the knowledge of how the most important sectors of the economy operate and we know the problems we are battling with. One of them is corruption. It is the manner in which our oil and gas sector is being run. None of those candidates have any idea how those industries or sectors of the economy operate. The only thing they know is moving file from one place to another. They just come up with statistics and deceive the people. The most dangerous thing you can do is to give power to someone who has no knowledge of how to use that power. It is a disaster, a calamity, and you can see the evidence of this in what has been happening since the advent of this administration. So, the point we are making to Nigerians is that look away from what has not yielded results for you. They don’t have the knowledge and they cannot give what they don’t have. We cannot be doing one thing the same way and expect a different result, so the saying goes. We are sensible human beings. Take Buhari for instance, his state, Katsina, is today one of the epicenters of insecurity, poverty and backwardness in terms of education and even potable water in the country. Shouldn’t we wake up and realise that this is not the way to go if we really mean to be fair to ourselves and have a country that works for all of us?
You are the national chairman of your party and also its presidential candidate. How have you been able to combine the chairmanship and candidacy?
If you look at the history of political development in this country, you will see that this is the best situation you can have. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Malam Aminu Kano and Waziri Ibrahim, almost all of them were the national chairmen and presidential candidates of their parties and that is why you had stability at that time. Look at what is happening in political parties today, there is no love lost between the national chairmen and the presidential candidates. What has torn the PDP apart is what I just told you. Look at what is happening between Senator Abdullahi Adamu and [Bola] Tinubu. You can go on and on like that. Some of them have even sacked their candidates after they had given them tickets. Look at the ADC. The suitable model of political party operation in Nigeria and other African countries is where you have whoever emerges as the presidential candidate of the party as the leader and national chairman of the party. If you look back, the only one that had the semblance of working was that of Shehu Shagari where you had [Adisa] Akinloye and Shagari. But look at the situation we have today. Look at the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister is also the leader of the party. In China, the Secretary General is the leader of the party. With that kind of model, people say ‘what are you doing?’ But it is what works.
The majority of the political parties have defended INEC’s deployment of technology, particularly on BVAS and electronic transmission of result, having been backed by law. As the chairman of IPAC, how do you view the reservations expressed recently by the APC concerning the technology?
Are you surprised? They say a drowning man looks for anything to hold. Even if you give him a knife, he will hold it because he is drowning. The APC is a drowning party and everybody knows it. That is why you are hearing all those incoherent things from them. The train (of BVAS) left the station long ago and almost at the destination, you are here shouting that no. Nigerians must be alive to the fact that we are practising constitutional democracy and we have an electoral law. Our government is governed by the rule of law and there should be no arbitrariness. What the APC is asking for is arbitrariness so that they can determine the outcome of the election.
INEC, just penultimate week, released guidelines for the 2023 elections. Among the items mentioned were limits of what individuals can give to the party and the mandatory requirement that parties should submit audited reports of their expenditures after the election. The commission also spoke against incendiary remarks by candidates and campaigns at worship centres. But the people are saying INEC can only bark; that it cannot bite.
Take it from the campaign, as regards where you could and should not have your campaigns. You will remember that the campaign committee of the women wing of the APC was launched in the Villa. Why did INEC not talk? How can you launch a campaign committee of a party at the government house that belongs to the people and all the parties? You can see how economical they are with what they are saying. Talking about contribution by individuals, yes, N50 million is the limit but if you look at that law critically, the section says the limit is N50 million for an individual and a presidential candidate cannot have more than N5 billion and governorship candidate, N1 billion.
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The point I am making is that there is no limit to how much a party can put together for an election. You can spend a trillion naira if you have it. Nothing in the law says you cannot spend trillions. Once you become the candidate of a party, you are a property of that party and that party can spend as much as possible on you. So, that law is a bit watery. I believe that it is a good law but we still have a long way to go.
INEC has arrested and is prosecuting some people for being in possession of multiple voters cards. People are curious to know how the cards fall into wrong hands despite the commission’s assurances to the contrary.
It is not that the cards are falling into wrong hands. What happened is that the cards were acquired by bona fide voters but unscrupulous elements bought those cards. What they want to use the cards for I don’t know because with the BVAS, they are useless to you. Perhaps one of the reasons may be that if you are popular in an area, it means nobody will come out to vote for you because the cards are already taken away. So, they will ensure that your supporters are handicapped and cannot vote for you. Otherwise, it is not possible to use the cards at the polling units.
Attacks on INEC facilities are a big threat to the next elections but the commission has also been accused of not taking adequate measures to fortify its facilities. What is your take on the matter?
There are so many conspiracy theories. There those who are saying there are some people who are very strong who don’t want the coming elections to be successful and there are those who are saying miscreants are just taking advantage of that, otherwise money is not there to take. It must be an act of sabotage. When we had interactions with the Inspector General of Police, we insisted that, number one, he must ensure that adequate security is given to INEC facilities; number two, that people who have come out to campaign either as presidential, governorship, senatorial and House of Representatives candidates must be protected adequately, otherwise it will be our undoing if we allow these things to continue. The IGP assured us that the police would not leave any stone unturned to ensure that security is provided and the environment is made safe.
Eighteen political parties are to field candidates in the forthcoming elections but Nigerians are seeing only the big three. You have said you are in the presidential race to win but some people have expressed conviction that some of the opposition parties will ultimately adopt the presidential candidate of the ruling party. Could you be a party to that?
One thing you must understand is this: even in business, there is what we call collaboration. It would not be out of place to have some parties coming together and saying, ‘We have realised that we cannot go it alone. We will sit down together and work out power sharing in the interest of the country’. It happens even in other climes. As IPAC, we are trying to promote that kind of scenario where we will have parties coming together on the basis of the interest of this country, on the basis of the knowledge that individually they scannot make much impact. If they want to come together, there is nothing wrong with that.
Is the ADP thinking of adopting Tinubu as its presidential candidate?
No. We are not averse to collaboration provided we are not going to lose our identity because we stand for something which is the credible alternative. When we say credible alternative, I don’t know how you can bring us together with the ones we are trying to make sure no longer exist. But if, in their own thinking, they believe they can come under our canopy, fine.
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