Buba Galadima: ‘Democracy’s Major Problem in Nigeria now is Judiciary’
POLITICS DIGEST – Chairman of Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC) Buba Galadima in this interview with The Guardian says there is no empirical evidence to buttress President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term, saying that Nigerians should rise up and reject the fascist encroachment on their liberty and democracy.
Shortly after the 2019 Presidential election, you were harassed and arrested, did you find out exactly why?
Well, I have addressed that matter sufficiently and have told the world several times over that I did not want to divulge what had happened, but I will say a bit. I was tipped off by a friend. I did not take his advice until when physically I saw people come for me and they had one mission. The mission was to take me out of circulation for the elections to be held, they did that without harm and I do not want to say much, because saying much will also betray them.
But as an old friend of Buhari, you found yourself on the other side, supporting the rival candidate. All the time you were with the President, especially in 2011, when he said he would do one term, was there anything suggesting that he would not keep to his words?
In the first place, I would not want to accept that I was his old friend. I am still the best friend he has on earth. My parents told me that whoever cannot look you in the eyes and tell you the truth should be avoided because he is not your friend. I kept to that as I look at him straight in the face and tell him what I think is right. It may not even be right, but I am convinced that what I am telling him is the correct situation.
So, he cannot find a better friend than me, who will tell him exactly one’s frame of mind. Of course, sycophants and bootlickers would say I was once his friend and now his enemy. Secondly, I cannot say whether President Buhari categorically said he will do only one term in office. But he told the world press conference in 2011 that that would be the last time he would ever contest election and everybody in Nigeria and the world saw him weeping, in hot tears. He tested God’s will and God made him lose the election, yet he came back to re-contest the election.
If I were him, under any situation, once I say ‘no’, It will be my no, because my integrity will be called to question and my integrity is worth more than anything in the world, including the presidency of Nigeria.
All through the North, the President was known as mai gaskia, (one who adheres to truth), looking at controversies over his age, certificate, politics and electioneering campaigns, people see a lot of gaps; do you think he is under any pressure beyond his power?
A lot of people have said many things in that regard, but I want to disagree. Here is a man that is about 80 years old and he had been but everything that a human being could ever want to become in this country.
Just to mention a few, he was the chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund. He was a governor, minister, head of state and now a president, meaning that he was not only at the corridors of power throughout his life, but he had the power himself.
Therefore if anybody influences him to do what is wrong, then I would call his own capacity to question. Hence, he is not under any spell or pressure from anybody. As such, anything that happens will be by his wish.
If it were not by his wish, all those individuals surrounding him, within a twinkling of an eye; in five minutes, they will melt out. The mere fact that he allows them to be that close to dictating the tune, it means they are doing his bidding; they are doing what he likes and if allowed, he would have done the same things personally.
Weeks back, one of the founding fathers of APC disclosed that at its formative stages, at a point a former Lagos State Governor started working towards eliminating some influential Northern leaders in order to control the party, but now he is being pushed aside. Was this a deliberate plot?
In the first place, if what the former APC chieftain said is true, and this is what is happening to the former Lagos State governor, then it means nemesis is catching up with him because you do unto others as you want others to do unto you. It does not matter how high and mighty you are.
Once you do not treat other people right, that same fate will befall you or your children. They worked hard to edge some of us out because they thought we were a group of impossible people around Buhari that could never be manipulated. So, they looked for a soft spot they could use, which is Buhari himself as the story was told, and pushed us out. We have no regrets whatsoever.
Before President Buhari contested for a second term, some people argued that since the general opinion was that power should remain in the North, it would be fair and just for a person from the North-East to be supported for the presidency?
Let me tell you something, this is a province, where auspiciously I was a member 1978 Constituent Assembly and constitutional conference in 1994; I was a member of the National Political Conference convoked by President Jonathan in 2014. And this issue has always been a thorn in the flesh of Nigerians in the north, but I am a democrat first and foremost.
In a democracy, the operating word is majority of voice. If Nigerians decide that Mr. A, as bad as he is, should be president, I have no issues, but I do not believe in zoning and I have made that clear all my life and will stand by it. Today, if there are any three most mentioned politicians in Nigeria, I am qualified to be one of them. Yet I am neither Hausa nor Fulani, neither Yoruba nor Ibo.
It is my own character that sells me to the Nigerian people, so anybody that wants to be the president of Nigeria should be a large-hearted person that will accommodate all of us with the vision to develop our country and take it out of the woods.
Coming back to your main question, I supported Atiku in the 2019 election not because Atiku is from the North-East, but I supported him because I believe that when he forms a government, it would be better than what I have seen in Buhari’s government in the previous four years.
I am still with Atiku and If tomorrow there is somebody from Awka, Abonema, Owo, or Abeokuta, who will be better than Atiku, I, Buba Galadima, will support that person. For me, we should build a nation, not nationalities or sections. We are not developed for this same reason.
Look at Buhari, everybody knows that he is not doing well. Why should I say he is doing well simply because he comes from the North or simply because he is a Muslim. Why should I? Does it impact my life? It does not.
So if it does not, I should look for somebody who would do better and make every Nigerian feel at home. And the life, liberty, and freedom of any Nigerian anywhere in the world should be the priority of our own country.
Talking about the majority, a lawmaker from Bauchi State said if he goes to the National Assembly, they will work to see how they amend the constitution to make sure Buhari comes back for a third term. How do you see that petty boast?
He showed his true colour that he is an opportunist. Maybe he rode on Buhari’s back to become a legislator, so he feels that if he amends the constitution to make Buhari another candidate, he would still come back, not knowing that even in 2019, Buhari did not win any election.
He did not win any election. If he had won, what stops the court from ordering a recount or access to the server for a re-evaluation of documents submitted before them for the election? If Buhari is that popular to be what he is, what stops him from signing all the Electoral Act, which would have cured all the ills of the electoral processes in Nigeria?
Why did he sack the Chief Justice of the Federation at the eve of elections, because they felt uncomfortable with him; because that was the guy that defied Obasanjo in 2007 and gave judgment to Buhari therefore, the reason they could not bend him. If they were sure that the man was popular and would win the election, why did they postpone the election, six hours to voting just to over-stretch the opposition, which had distributed their resources, so that they would stretch them and take over the following week?
This is the problem with us Nigerians. Where is the empirical evidence to suggest that Buhari even deserves a second term let alone a third term? I just laugh when I hear such things. They are only talking about their interests and where their bread is buttered.
Sources say that before the current cabinet, as much as three lists were drawn up and that in most cases, the President was not sure of who was for what, but the final list was a compromise because of the presidential election petition. What is your take on that?
I think I better correct you. There was a list drawn, which I saw on the social media of three people per state. Nearly 90 per cent of the people who were nominated ministers came from the list.
What I do not know is who drew up that list. The remaining states, where he brought people outside that list were only Zamfara, Sokoto and one other state. I saw that he used his biro to pick and include people from outside. If you are saying that a list was made for him, from what had happened, I will accept that except for the people he nominated.
It is the prerogative of the president and government to help him deliver the dividends of democracy. But not forgetting one fact: That he should not do that based on his personal interest or hatred for certain groups, but based on moving Nigeria forward.
Of course, the whole list will look like there was no single technocrat that was brought because of his specialty or knowledge or expertise in any field. All the appointments were based on political considerations, including blood relationships or sectional relationship; that is the way I look at it, I may be wrong.
Some observers say the President sustained the 97 to 5 per cent ratio in appointments, where the southeast geopolitical zone, for instance, has continued to get the short end of the stick culminating in the abrupt closure of the only international airport…?
No, I want you to ask the exact question. We should separate the government from business. If airlines believe that they make enough money in a place, I do not think you need to cultivate them.
Of course, there are political considerations that give authority for them to fly in or out of a particular place, but the end of it is the business consideration. I would not know which airport you are talking about because I know Port Harcourt airport is still operational, I want to assume that Enugu airport operates from Enugu unless they themselves withdrew or if you say for repairs, these are the kind of things that when the government wants to get at you, they create certain falsehood to claim security or to claim this or that.
This is why when we were talking about being president or governor; I was talking about people with large hearts that should be able to accommodate everybody, every section because Nigeria is a plural society. Therefore, any action that you take as a leader is being interpreted and re-evaluated based on primordial sentiments because once groups create views on your actions then, you can never be allowed to really function smoothly and that affects the running of the government. That is the way I look at it.
The president has submitted the first budget of his second term.
Do you think that the budget wherein 7.5 per cent VAT was included without recourse to the National Assembly exposes possible dictatorial tendencies as being suggested in some quarters?
You might not be an ardent listener of the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Deutsche Welle, Radio France International, and several Hausa International Radio Stations. I was on those wavelengths across the world talking about several things, one of which was that Nigerians have never seen anything yet from this government. We told you not to ever support these people’s come-back to power. You dared us; that we should pay for the consequences of your actions.
This budget is a budget of taxation further inflicting hardship on ordinary Nigerians. Have you seen in the budget where the common man can benefit from anything? Go and check your records from Lord Luggard to Jonathan, all the loans collected by Nigeria government of this space of time is not half of what the government of Buhari has collected in four years and there is nothing on the ground to show correspondingly for the loans collected. So, we are only paying for the ineptitude of certain groups of people in government.
They will tax us now; they will borrow on our behalf and share the money. There has never been a corrupt government like this one and every Nigerian keeps quiet. We are going into the German situation, where when the fascist started, they went for who? They went for the Jews and everybody said I am not a Jew; then they went for the socialists and the communists, everybody said I am not a socialist or a communist; they went for the unionist, everybody said I do not work for the government and I am not member of any union so it does not concern me.
When they started going for the clergy, there was nobody left to fight on their behalf. Gradually, they are taking the rights of all Nigerians in all facets of our national life, economy, security, employment and whatnot, we are not talking. Oh Buba Galadima is a talkative; Oh! Buba Galadima is the enemy of Buhari, this and that. Each and every one of us will have them at our doorsteps and there would be nobody to talk on your behalf. It is now time for us to stand up to them and reject in entirety the fascist encroachment on our liberty and democracy.
The National Assembly or the legislature ought to be the stabilising factor or a restraining force on likely excesses of the executive, but given the way the present leadership emerged, do you think that Nigerians would be protected?
Well, that is if you believe that we have a robust National Assembly. All voices of dissent are systematically being suppressed, but replaced by the judiciary. So our major problem is now the judiciary, which is busy preparing Nigerians for a revolution. You have just seen that Dino (Senator Melaye) was removed completely from the Senate because he had the guts to stand up in the hallow chambers to say his mind.
So, if any other person behaves in a Dino manner, there will be a collaboration between the APC and the judiciary to kick that person out. How many people have infracted including the President himself, on the electoral system, were they removed? Why should it be only Dino; because he speaks so openly?
When I said the judiciary would be our major problem, it was because the common saying is that judiciary is the last hope of the common man. It is the common man and the weak that always go to the judiciary to seek for justice. If he does not find justice, what do you expect to happen? It means he will resort to self-help and when he resorts to self-help, are we safe?
You should ask me what I mean by self-help and I will give you one typical example. Nigerians are forgetful people. When they started rustling cattle from the Fulani people, some of us shouted to the rooftops that the government should come in quickly and address the situation. They started abducting and raping their children and their wives and then they started killing them. It was just like a joke.
When they dispossessed the Fulani people of their cattle, they (Fulani) picked up AK47; none of us is at peace any longer. From Calabar to Sokoto, Lagos to Maiduguri you cannot travel the roads. You cannot sleep with your eyes closed. This is a result of something that we could have nipped in the bud. Now the whole country is in serious crisis.
So, coming to the judiciary, when you go to court against the injustice meted on you by the strong, the judicial system is not looking at the facts of the case or looking for the truth, but they are looking for the loopholes to protect the powerful against the weak. When these things start happening, you are sending the weak to revolt. And I want to predict that Nigeria will be in trouble with this kind of things from the judiciary. Rather than looking for the facts, they search for the technicalities. A word is enough for the wise.
One of the reasons President Buhari was elected in 2015 was that being a soldier, he can address the problem of insurgency. Did you see any evidence of that military expertise in the last five years in the fight against insecurity?
In fact, we have gone from bad to worse, even in the North East. News and facts are being suppressed; they are not in the public domain. You people in the media are also part of the collaborators in this respect. There is nobody in Maiduguri that does not know that out of the 27 Local Government Areas in Borno, normal life and business exist in only four or five. The rest are no-go areas and we have had Ahmadu Usman Jaha representing Gwoza lamenting on the floor of the National Assembly, but he did not even say much. Some of us know and if anybody says we are lying, let that person, whoever he is, take his car and drive to his village in Borno State outside the single line that goes from Damaturu to Maiduguri.
There is no way you can connect Maiduguri from any part of the state without going round and round, a journey of one and a half hours will take you 24 hours and you call it security. Can you drive your car to Kaduna from Abuja? People are being abducted even inside Abuja here. You see we are using old tactics. The truth of the matter is that the whole world has gone technological. It is beyond the comprehension of those who were military geniuses some even 10 years ago let alone 40 years ago.
So you can only use technology to prevent the present day insecurity and nobody is prepared to do that and no physical force has ever suppressed an idea. It can never! It is only dialogue. Anybody that does not believe in carrot and stick cannot solve the problem of this country.
I want to use this opportunity to advise Mr. President and I hope he opens his heart and sees it as a piece of advice coming from a friend. He must diversify his channels of getting information across the country. He should not depend only on official channels, because they deceive him and there is no way of knowing the truth for him. That is why he is having problems with how to run this country.
From what is happening in Katsina and Zamfara States, do you think a day will come when the government will dialogue with Boko Haram or ISWAP?
If they do not do that, they are doing the peril of their offices. I do not believe that if I am a governor or a chairman of a local government, I can call bandits and they come and disarm soldiers. They come with their guns when the soldiers are not allowed to carry sticks. But there are a lot of ways. That is why I talked about carrot and stick.
All these issues have a lot of nexus with the economy. Once a government has no plan for the economic development of the country, then there would always be insecurity. They must work out a plan of getting everybody engaged because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
People cannot even eat. Here in this house not less than 50 people eat at my house every day. I just told you that I receive calls from distraught citizens for assistance, I kept the telephone away. We are in trouble and our government does not give a damn. All they want is to collect tax, it is okay, let them collect the tax and let us see what they do with it.
How far with the reformed APC, what is the status now?
We are still in court. They are suppressing it, they do not want the case to be mentioned because they know that they did not come in through the front door, they came through the back door, I mean the APC people.
Is that part of the reason for the internal turmoil in the APC now?
It will implode. Do you think APC will survive? No, not by President Buhari’s third term, but maybe, by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s grace. They will write figures for them and announce the same as the result. And when you go to court, they say you did not present sufficient evidence to vitiate the election and then the police and the army and whatnot will be there to cane you into accepting the verdict.
What is your word and vision for Nigeria’s democracy in the next 10 years?
Democracy has got its meaning accepted worldwide. Nobody gives you power a la carte. You take it. The small infractions into our liberty and democracy, if we allow them to fester, then we go into full-blown dictatorship and fascism. The signs are already there for everybody to see.
It is not the duty of only one man or one woman to bring about those changes and chart a course and destiny for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. No government can rule without the consent of the people. We have seen that happen in Sudan. They have dared the military and they got what they wanted.
We have seen that happening in Peru and in Haiti. There is no place in the world where people are as corrupt as in Nigeria and we just keep quiet. Everybody thinks it is not his business. It is our business, we must collectively resist that. They borrow money on our behalf, they force us to pay taxes beyond our stretch limits and they sit down and share the money; that is not acceptable.
Source: The Guardian