• Monday, February 26, 2024
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Buhari has failed in the fight against corruption – Yakassai

Buhari has failed in the fight against corruption – Yakassai

Chairman of Northern Leaders and Stakeholders Assembly, Tanko Yakassai, has said that the much-touted anti-corruption fight of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has failed as the President has demonstrated lack of integrity and capacity to fight corruption. In this interview with INNOCENT ODOH, the 93-year-old  former chairman of the defunct Northern Elders Council (NEC) also said that the current gale of defections of politicians from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is nothing to cheer about as both parties are birds of a feather. Excerpts:

What is your take on the gale of defections in the National Assembly and what does it portend for Nigerian democracy?

It is history that is repeating itself in the sense that it was defection that brought about APC. So what goes around comes around.  APC benefited from the defection from the PDP and that enabled it to form government and to get majority in a number of states. But unfortunately politics in Nigeria is largely about self-interest rather than national interest.

The APC and the PDP are birds of a feather, they understand each other better. That explains that we are far away from ideal politics in Nigeria. They (APC) promised to address the security challenges  and when they came to power initially it was Boko Haram, now the security challenges have multiplied as armed robbery, car theft, kidnapping and so on are now rife. The security problem previously was located in the north east with the problem of Boko Haram, now it has spread. Even the Boko Haram that we thought we have reduced their power only recently kidnapped large number of school girls. The government has failed to put food on the table of the common man, unemployment, poverty and hunger are pervasive. Even those who form government at the state level under the APC did not address the need of the ordinary in Nigeria.

I cannot see why a government in Nigeria cannot introduce a programme for irrigation in Nigeria when there are so many dams all over the country. About 40 years ago, former governor of Kano state, Audu Bako, built so many dams but today no body is using those dams that Audu Bako constructed. Nobody is addressing how to modernize agriculture so that Nigeria can grow enough food. The quickest way to empower citizens is to develop agriculture. With agriculture, you will empower millions of people because it will improve their income.

The gale of defection is attributed to the alleged division President Buhari introduced in his party the APC and the country. What is your take on this?

President Buhari came to power on his own personality, not on any programme. People who voted for Buhari voted for him as an individual.  The only thing I can say is that when he was military head of state, he set up military tribunal and jailed people for 500 years and the ordinary man was happy with him for that not because he brought any development. That was why people voted for him in 2015 and that is why he has embarked on the same trajectory of arresting people and putting them in jail. He is not bothered about any programme that will change the lives of the common people; job creation is not his priority.

I said few years ago that from my own observation that Buhari is lacking in capacity to change things for the better, he and his party are lacking in competence. They are all lacking in vision to change the narrative of the country. I said that they have no plan and they have no integrity even as they promised a lot of things. But when I said it people started abusing me and I kept quiet. But now everybody is speaking about it. So the people who defected from PDP to APC are now disappointed and they are going back to the PDP.

We keep having this recurring crisis in leadership. Is it that we don’t have the right leadership model or that those recruited to lead don’t know how to form a vision? If people could easily defect back to a party they felt was bad and in just three years return to the same party. Are they to be trusted?

The problem is that people use politics in order to get to position of authority and use that position to make money.  How many people are in politics today with a programme on how to change the situation in Nigeria? Most of those in political parties see political office as instrument to get to political power to make money. Tell me how many people are elected into political office in Nigeria and are not rich at the end? Some pretend that they have no money but they have.

Read also: Lack of access to credit has stifled economic growth – Trade minister

Some said that Nigeria needs restructuring. Do agree with that notion?

There is a belief in Nigeria that the fault of Nigeria is not that of the system, not that of the constitution but with the people. Restructuring whatever anybody will say needs changing the constitution of Nigeria. Those who are advocating for restructuring are yet to produce their own blueprint. When you restructure the country how will the county look like? In whatever a human being does there is the fear of the unknown, if a man does not know how the country will look like if it is restructured, he will not support you. I told them to come out with a blueprint, let them tell Nigerians how they are going to change lives for the better. In fact most of them you hear them shout restructuring but at the end of the day you find them looking for positions and they want to contest election to various positions without programmes.

Afenifere are the arrowhead of the restructuring mantra. They said they wanted the 1963 constitution to be reintroduced in the country and yet they wanted the six geopolitical zones to be retained. In 1963 we only had four regions, if you are bringing back to the 1963 constitution, how do you bring in the six geopolitical zones which are not there? So let them take the trouble to work out the details of what restructuring is and bring about the blueprint and how to change the country back to the era of politicians of the likes of Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo and Tafawa Balewa. Each one these former leaders made a mark. Unfortunately we don’t have this type of leaders now.

I am wondering if those agitating for restructuring are really serious about it because restructuring Nigeria or any other country entails constitutional changes. In Nigeria, to change our constitution in tandem with our current realities we have to engage members of the national legislature. You need 2/3 support of the National Assembly and 2/3 support of the States houses of assembly to change the constitution.  They have never taken any step along that line. And there are only two ways to change the Nigerian constitution either to follow the provisions of the constitution or to go for a coup d’état.  I don’t think that coup d’état is an option.

What is your reaction to what appears to be a partisan involvement of the police in the blockade of the President of the Senate and his Deputy because they wanted to stop the mass defection in the National Assembly? And do you think that judging by the disaffection, hunger and poverty in the country; President Buhari has any chance of being reelected in 2019?

When President Buhari came to power, he made slogan that he is going to fight corruption. I think that corruption is a big issue.  However, fighting corruption will not end poverty, fighting corruption will not develop agriculture, and fighting corruption will not bring power all over the place.  He said he is going to fight corruption and he started by arresting people. But unfortunately most of the people he arrested were members of the opposition parties. In fact even people in the opposition who were arrested for corruption, once they declared for the ruling party they are let go.  Some of them are at the forefront of campaigning for the Buhari and the ruling party. Even the issue of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who was accused by the Senate committee on IDPs of embezzling money for the IDPs with which he was said to have used to cleared grass, was found to be true but nothing was done to the former SGF. He has never been arraigned. If Buhari and his team are genuinely fighting corruption at least he should be arraigned to show integrity in the fight against corruption.

My regret is that there was tremendous enthusiasm   for APC and Buhari that they will fight corruption in Nigeria. People genuinely believed in them. There was a tremendous good will for them on account of that. Today that goodwill has been squandered. I am not convinced that Buhari is fighting corruption and there are millions of Nigerians who are disappointed.

The problem now in Nigeria both now and in the future is that when somebody comes again to say that he is going to fight corruption how many Nigerians will believe him? They will think that he is only playing to the gallery.  Fortunately or unfortunately I am 93 years old now. The best I hope for is to live another 5 to 10 years. I am becoming weaker. So the challenge is on you the young people who should try and change the narrative. There are countries that have experienced some worst situations like Indonesia, Brazil, Singapore and Korea and in the course of time, they got better leadership and their nations changed for the better, so let’s be hopeful.