Against the background of fears in some quarters that if the Northern Region of Nigeria dares to produce another president for the country in 2023 after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, there would be anarchy and chaos, the immediate past Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and a former National Publicity Secretary of the Forum, Mr Anthony  Sani said that such fear is untenable just as it is unfounded.

In this interview with Sunday Sun, Sani, who was also the spokesman for Northern delegates in the  2014 confab, noted that as long as it is not constitutionally mandatory for power rotation, any zone of the country is entitled to produce the president in 2023.

He also took a critical look at the politics playing out on Edo State against the forthcoming governorship election in the state, and submitted that politicians are playing selfish politics.

The former ACF scribe also spoke on other national issues. Excerpts:

Let’s take a look at the forthcoming Edo State gubernatorial election, and the politics playing out there. What is your comment on it?

For the APC and PDP governorship candidates in 2016 Edo State election to change places in 2020 election, it underscores the fact that our politicians join political parties not on the basis of what the parties can deliver, but on the basis of which parties can help them realize their individual aspirations or ambitions.This kind of attitudes play down on the significance of place of political parties in our democracy. In multi-party democracy, political parties are expected to represent distinct methods of addressing national concerns as contained in the manifestos, which the political parties use and canvass for electoral mandate needed for execution.

Ahead of 2023 general elections, some Nigerians are saying that if North retains power again, there will be anarchy and chaos in the country. How do you feel about this?

Those saying it is either the presidency goes to the South or there would be anarchy are people who are not democrats.I have said it over and over again that there is no national consensus that is binding on political parties which are the only platforms to field candidates for election.That was why Buhari from the North contested with President Obasanjo from the South.That may also explain why President Jonathan contested with Buhari in 2011 and 2015; and in 2019, of the over 70 presidential candidates, less than 10 were northerners.The rest were Southern. Were there national consensus on rotation and zoning that are binding on the political parties, such scenarios would not play out. I, therefore, wish to emphasize the fact that threats and intimidation do not secure power in multi-party democracy. Democracy is never a bull fight, but contest of ideas and reasons.To this end, groups who hanker to produce the president should do so democratically by designing their winning game plans and canvass among Nigerians across the country.That is how democracy is played.

Insecurity in Nigeria, particularly in the North, came under serious condemnation by the leadership of Jamatu  Nasir Islam (JNI) led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Coalition of Northern Group (CNG), amongst others. But the presidency felt embarrassed over these outbursts. What is your candid advice about the seemingly unending heinous security challenges in the country?

I am not aware of any complaints by northern leaders and groups you have mentioned that are more serious than those made any time there are such security challenges not only in the North, but also across the nation.This is because Nigeria can be likened to a big river being fed by tributaries. And when one or more of the tributaries is poisoned,the whole river is contaminated. I am also not aware that the presidency expressed any embarrassment, considering the fact that as long as there are feeling of insecurity, the people affected would naturally cry out to government to come to their aids. So, if some people cry out against the insecurity and ask governments for protection, given the roles of government in the order of things, I do not think the government would be embarrassed. And if the government has expressed any embarrassment at all, it may well be that it has to do with the language or semantics used by those who cried out. The security challenges have been part of the challenges in nation building.We have had armed robbery which attracted capital punishment.We have had security challenges among communities like Ife-Modakeke, Andoni/Igoni, ethno religious crises in Kaduna and Plateau states.There have been those of Jukuns of Taraba and Benue states.There have been Bassa/Igbira conflicts in Nasarawa State. Then there have been the Boko Haram which transcended the whole North at one time, but which activities have now been consigned to the fringes of Northeast. Insecurity posed by clashes between herders and farmers, as well as kidnappings, banditry, armed robbery and cattle rustling have been around way back before the advent of this regime, but surged immediately after the regime was inaugurated for the second term. The government has tried to contain the level of insecurity posed by the surges, and has actually reduced the number of deaths compared to the past. But as long as the government has not been able to put permanent stop to the insecurity across the country, people are bound to cry out for protection.That is a natural concomitant of mechanism of community living.

It was against the background of this insecurity that President Buhari summoned Service Chiefs recently to brace up to end the security challenges, saying that their best was not good enough in the fight against insecurity. However, some Nigerians said the Service Chiefs should be kicked out of office, and allow fresh brains to handle the battered situation. Do you also believe that sacking them will bring solution to the insecurity?

The summoning of the Service Chiefs by Mr President for meeting and giving them marching order to end the insecurity is what is expected. It is a routine expected of any the president. Such action encourages and inspires citizens to have confidence, faith and hope in the government. It is hoped that the Service Chiefs would brace up and live up to the presidential marching order and tame the security challenges across the nation as soon as possible. As to whether new Service Chiefs should replace the current ones as the panacea is difficult to say. This is because a vintage President Buhari in vantage position knows the challenges of the security apparatus by way of enough trained and equipped personnel needed. And if the president does not believe change in Service Chiefs would cut the Gordian knot, I think we should trust his judgment by not demoralizing the Service Chiefs and the troops.

Also, against the backdrop of increasing rate of insecurity in the country, the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the nation be restructured into regions for effective governance. Do you agreed with him?

I have told you of many security challenges in the past. And if the nation were to be restructured each time there are security problems, one wonders how many restructuring the country would under go. Consider America is 243 years old, and still confronts security challenges posed by gun men. Consider last campaigns in Israel between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and General B. Gantz featured insecurity as the major challenges in the Jewish state. All these underscore the fact that no nation is without challenges on its path of nation building. And all that is required is for the governments and the people to come together and ceaselessly sublimate their energies of brain and brawn against collective challenges for larger interest or common good.

But some Nigerians are quick to point out that when the country was in regional arrangement, there was no oil as the national cake, but groundnut production in the North, cocoa in the West and palm oil in the East, and, therefore, it is not possible for regional governments now that every part of the country depends on oil. What is your view here?

It is true that the advent of oil has converted Nigeria into a Trust fund state funded by oil wealth that is never result of hard work. But this is an odd thing to say, especially when regard is paid to the fact of life that money of low utility drives away money of high utility. But now that Coronavirus has laid bare our vulnerability and there is no more low hanging fruits, especially when the elite are no more free to travel out of the country and use their wealth, however, obtained anyhow, there is no option, but for Nigerians to come to terms with the reality of what General Buhari said in 1984 that Nigerians have no any country, but Nigeria in which they must stay and salvage it together.

In fact, even before Obasanjo’s outburst, the former governor of Kaduna State and northern elderstatesman, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said that the country should be split into six regional governments. He is a northerner like you, won’t you rather go with him on this?

We have restructured this country several times, be it geopolitical form of government and model of economic development, to the extent of making some people to posit that any further restructuring may not serve any purpose.This is because confederal arrangement with weak centre, unitary system with strong centre, federalism as compromise between confederation and unitary system, parliamentary system, presidential system and combination of the two, as well as military dictatorship and command economy/state capitalism and mixed economy already practiced in Nigeria have been found to work successfully in other climes. But since nation building is dynamic processes, one cannot rule out situations that may require tempering with existing structure of the country. And if we must restructure at all, then it must be done democratically. It is not for some elite to foist their preferences on the rest of the country.

Following the creation of 774,000 jobs across the country, there appears to be power of supremacy between the Executive and the Legislative arms of government, as to who controls or take charge of recruitment for the job. Don’t you think it is an unhealthy debate for the good image of our nation?

Each arm of government has its roles and functions spelt out in the constitution. As a result, any contest of supremacy between arms of government should not arise. Let each arm do what is assigned by the constitution.

In the midst of easing the COVID-19 lockdown, some prominent Nigerians, like the governors of Ondo State, Akeredolu and Delta State, Okowa have tested positive for the Coronavirus. Would you advise for another round of lockdown?

Given the fact that governments have yielded to relaxation of social distancing measures amid increase in confirmed cases of the pandemic at the high risk of crises arising from increase in activities and interactions, as well as absence of cure and vaccine and the fact that the transmission of the virus is through breathing and talking – and experiences from other climes – the only option left to break the chain of community transmission is for everybody to wear facemasks in crowded places such as markets, garages, worship places, meetings, ceremonies and in vehicles which carry more than one persons. One way of compelling compliance is for Mr President, all the governors and all traditional rulers to wear face masks in crowded places.That way, they would morally blackmail the citizens into abiding faith in the importance of what the president said in his first address to the nation on Coronavirus that COVID-19 is no joke, but matter of life and death.

What is your take about the alleged genocide against Christians in Nigeria?

I never took the allegations seriously because most of the countries have their embassies in Nigeria.They are expected to report what happens in Nigeria to their home countries.These embassies know that Northwest comprises mostly Hausa/Fulanis Muslims some of whom engage in banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling by killing themselves.They also know that not only Fulani Muslims are herders. Some other ethnic groups keep herds as well. That is to say, farming and herding are never exclusive preserve of any ethnic or religious groups.The embassies know that the clashes between herders and farmers and activities of banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling are driven more by economic considerations than anything else. Even the Boko Haram which claims to be jihadists desecrates Islam the most by killing not only unbelievers and Christians, but also killing Muslims. Some accounts even say Boko Haram has killed more Muslims than Christians and unbelievers combined. The embassies are, therefore, in better position to report to their home countries that giving religious profiling to the insecurity posed by insurgency, banditory, kidnapping, cattle rustling, clashes between herders and farmers, as well as armed robbery is never helpful, precisely because such narration unwittingly provides platforms to criminals to stand and perpetrate crimes, knowing it is difficult for the authorities to prosecute ethnicity and religion. More so that inflaming our worst instinct of religion and ethnicity can bring about conflagration. It is better to know the criminals who kill and treat them as such.

The opposition parties are saying that it was not proper for the president to have conducted APC NEC meeting in the Villa. Was it proper for the president to  have conducted NEC meeting of his party in the presidency?

While I share the view that democracy without a viable opposition is a sham, I expect the opposition to be a viable alternative platform by concentrating on real issues of real concern to real ordinary Nigerians. I have never heard the opposition anywhere in the world condemning the president and the governors for using official vehicles to attend political parties’ meetings or rallies.This is because that is their privileges as incumbents. So, if because of Coronavirus, the president decides to limit the possibility of spread of COVID-19 by holding the meeting in one of chambers in the presidency, I do not see why any issue should be made of it by the main opposition party.

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