28th October, 2013
Alhaji Isa Lawal Kaita, a Second Republic governor of Kaduna State and founding member of the People’s Democratic Forum, gives his views on the proposed National Dialogue, President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the country’s affairs and the what the North is planning for 2015. He speaks with MADUABUCH MMERIBEH
What would be the North’s proposal to the proposed National Conference?
I don’t think the North will participate. The North has never requested for National Conference; the North shall not ask for anything in the conference, so the North is out of it. National Conference or whatever you may call it has never been a request from the North. So, we are out of it.
Does that mean you personally do not believe that a National Conference can fix the socio-political problems of Nigeria?
I don’t believe so and I don’t feel a National Conference is necessary.
What are your reasons for not believing in National Conference?
What is it for? What is the National Conference for, because we (the North) never asked for it. Some people asked for it. Let us know what is wrong with Nigeria that they want a National Conference.
Many people from the North who never believed in National Conference appear to be changing their minds. Why wouldn’t you have a rethink?
I don’t believe in it. The North as a region does not believe in National Conference. So, I am not changing my mind. That is all.
The North believes that 2015 northern presidency is non-negotiable. Nigeria, like other front-pew countries in Africa, is looking for a president that can perform. Do you think the argument for a northern presidency which carries a sectional coloration is still valid, given the fact that what Nigeria needs now is a President by merit?
Are you telling me that Goodluck Jonathan is seeking to continue beyond 2015 on merit? Why are some people so shameless? They will deceive themselves and try to deceive others. How can any responsible person tell me that Jonathan is fit to be the president of Nigeria?
From all indications, President Jonathan has made up his mind to run for a second term. How can the North stop him?
The North will surely stop him. This time, we will ensure that we beat him. We are strategising. He may win the primaries in the Peoples Democratic Party, but when it comes to the general elections, there is absolutely no more room for Goodluck Jonathan. Yes, we will beat Goodluck Jonathan.
Some pundits argue that when the North held on to power for several years, Nigeria did not fare better. What is your view on this?
That argument is invalid. Who made Nigeria what it is in terms of economic and political development? It is the North. It was the North that brought Nigeria to what it is now. Do you want to tell me that it is only this period of four years that Goodluck Jonathan was in charge that Nigeria became a success? Who brought Nigeria to what it was before Jonathan? It is the North.
How did the North achieve that?
What a question! You asked me a question indicating that during the period that the North was in charge of the country, nothing happened. Now I am asking you if it were not the North when it was in charge, that brought Nigeria to what it is now? You see, we should not distort history because the facts are there to tell the story.
Do you think the North has fared well under President Jonathan’s government?
I cannot see any meaningful development in the North under the Jonathan administration. I have not seen anything substantial. Take the federal roads in Katsina and Kano. You will see that Jonathan has not done anything tangible for the North. Most of the things we hear in favour of the North under Goodluck Jonathan are only in newspapers. The North has fared very badly under Jonathan.
For instance, these ceaseless killings of the Boko Haram started during his time. The killings, kidnapping and other acts of lawlessness in the country are products of Jonathan’s government and most of their effects are in the North. So, who will like to continue with this kind of situation under Jonathan?
Why do you think the Jonathan government has brought so much misfortune to the North, as you have alleged?
It is not that I think, rather it is a fact. It is a fact. You remember that before the election of Jonathan, the North was fine. There was law and order and everything was going on smoothly, but once he assumed office, the whole country was torn into pieces. So, it’s not all about what is my reason or why I think so—it is a fact. You know it and I know it, everybody knows it. The beginning of Jonathan’s rule saw the beginning of this Boko Haram. There is total insecurity in the country, not only in the North. If you go to the South, there is insecurity in different forms. The North is dissatisfied. And what we are saying is that it is the turn of the North to produce the president. We are not agitating; it was an agreement. It is our turn, our right and our time to produce the president of this country. It was this same agreement that made Olusegun Obasanjo rule for eight years. Obasanjo brought in Umaru Yar’Adua. Yar’Adua was supposed to rule for eight years, but because he was sick, he ruled for two years and eventually died. And his deputy, Jonathan, assumed office. He completed the two years and we left him for another four years. Now, he still wants to continue for another four years after 2015. That means Jonathan wants to be president for 10 years, which is against the Constitution of Nigeria.
I was in the caucus when this gentleman’s agreement was reached between the North and the South. We moved a motion that North should have eight years and South eight years. Obasanjo did his eight years. Yar’Adua did half of one term and he died. Jonathan completed the two years of Yar’Adua, did another four years—and shamelessly, wants to continue. Now, even Obasanjo and some southerners are saying that Jonathan is shameless because none of them has been able to elongate their tenure.
The President has come out to say that he never promised anyone to do only one term. Also, his handlers are saying that the agreement was not documented and hence it is invalid.
We want him out because we are honourable people. The North does not believe in the style of Jonathan’s government. The North detests the bad rule of the Jonathan administration and we believe that if he knows God and loves this country, he should keep to that agreement. In Jonathan’s government, the North is in trouble. How would any sane person want this kind of thing to continue?
What are those things President Jonathan is not doing right?
I don’t know whether he is doing anything right or wrong. The country is in tatters. Whatever you may think he is doing right or wrong, the whole world knows that Nigeria is getting destroyed. Go to the United States of America, go to any part of the world, they will tell you that Nigeria is in trouble. When the militants in Jonathan’s South-south started trouble during the time of the late President Yar’Adua, he resolved the problem. Now, in this Boko Haram insurgency, has Jonathan done anything tangible to stop it? It is only to send soldiers to kill people.
In this light, can you generally appraise the Federal Government’s approach to tackling the Boko Haram issue?
Well, I can’t answer that question. I will not answer you that question. Go ahead. You cannot have a country like Nigeria where there is no peace. Right now, the country is virtually broke. You can imagine such situation. As I am talking to you now, his own people (the South-south) are stealing Nigeria blind. They brag that all the money is their own and they are proud, saying: ‘We have oil, we have oil’. They are stealing the money. How can you leave such a person to continue to be president?
You said Nigeria is broke. But the Presidency has continued to say that the nation’s economy remains stable. How would you balance this?
They should stop deceiving themselves. You know these things as a journalist, that Nigeria’s economy is in trouble. Some of these things you hear are paper work. If the economy is stable, how has it affected the common man? How much have the masses benefited from this so-called stable economy? The economy is not doing well at all. Even the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said so. How well is the economy doing when the Federal Government cannot get enough money to share to the state and local councils? In what way is the economy doing well? All the money you are talking about is being stolen by those who said they own the oil.
Here in the North, there are many resources if well harnessed that can even yield more money than oil. For instance, we have the leather sector which has been rated second to oil in terms of export earnings. The North is also known in the production of other agricultural products. What have the northern governors and stakeholders done to ensure serious boost in agriculture?
I agree with you. We cannot say we have done so well to boost agriculture here in the North. Our state governments have not done their best in the field of agriculture. I believe if the northern governors had put in their best to boost agriculture in this region, the North would have been better than it is now. That is true. We own agriculture, it is our own oil, but we have not cared for it adequately.
Why is it so?
I don’t know. I cannot say because I am not in power. I am not a governor. I was a governor 30 years ago.
During your own time, what did you do to encourage agriculture?
Look, my friend, I think you know the politics of this country. I am no longer a governor. When I was a governor, I did all I could to encourage agriculture. In the old Kaduna State, agriculture was supreme. This is over 30 years now. We put things in place then and our people benefited a lot through agriculture. It was a legacy we inherited and we left the candle burning.
You are aware of the challenges the country’s education system is currently facing. What do you think should be done to ensure that our children have qualitative education?
I am very well versed in the politics of the ASUU strike. I feel so sad for this country. I feel so sad that millions of our children have been forced to remain at home for unexplainable reasons. I feel so sad that the government has refused to put the right things in place so that children of school age can have access to education at the right time. As I am speaking to you, we have over 12 million children who do not have access to education. The situation is not funny and it boils down to bad leadership. If the government is sincere, I see no reason university students would remain at home for four months running. This kind of situation gives opportunities to social vices. I know it is bad on both sides of ASUU and the Federal Government to have allowed the strike to take so long, but what I feel is that there is a need to pump in more money to revitalise the education system. There is also the need to get the right people to man the education system.
There are efforts by the Jonathan administration to tackle the country’s power problem. Are you hopeful that these efforts will yield the desired results?
The Federal Government cannot give electricity to all Nigerians. Some of the state governments are doing their best. There is some improvement in the power sector due to the effort of some state governments. If you take Katsina for instance, Governor Ibrahim Shema is going to enter agreement with German companies and they are here working in Tunturi. When that work is completed, power supply in Katsina will improve. So it is in other serious states.
The Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, and All Progressives Congress, APC, are dissatisfied with PDP. Analysts are suggesting that the PDM and APC should come together to be able to wrest power from the PDP. What is your view?
Yes, you are right and the analysts are right. We are working very hard to ensure an alliance between the PDM and the APC. I assure that soonest, it will materialise. We are working very hard, even by tomorrow (Monday, 14 October), I will be going for a meeting for that purpose. The talks are in progress and already, we are getting good results.
Now, one thing is certain. I said it about two years ago, I said it last year—and I am saying it today: if by any chance the PDP fields Jonathan to contest 2015 presidential election, PDP will lose.
Must the president come from the North in 2015?
As far as I am concerned, it is a must. My own thinking is that the president must come from the North in 2015 because that is the agreement that allowed Obasanjo to rule for eight years.
If a better presidential material than Jonathan emerges from the South, won’t you support the person?
How do you know the person is a better candidate? A candidate remains a candidate until he wins election and performs. When he performs, we will now assess him and know whether he is better or not. You can bring anybody and say he is a better candidate, but you have to let that person perform first.
What qualities do you think a president should have?
People make a mistake. The North overwhelmingly voted for Obasanjo. We never said we didn’t want him. We gave him the votes and all the support he needed. It was not based on religion or ethnicity. Though Obasanjo may not have been perfect, he demonstrated that he is a true Nigerian. We loved him and we worked with him. But this man called Jonathan is not. This man is an Ijaw. Must everybody become an Ijaw or go to Bayelsa before he is accepted? This is ridiculous. Now, I know you want to ask why we don’t love Jonathan. It is because he never loved us. Remember during Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, days, the best alliance the North had was with the South-south.
What are the the sins of Jonathan?
I will not tell you now.
How far has the North gone in reaching out to the South-west and the South-east?
We have reached out and we are still reaching out. If you look at the APC, Muhammadu Buhari is there. And I have just told you that the PDM and the APC are working hard to have an alliance and I assure you that we will succeed. We have our contact men in those areas and they are very dependable.
General Buhari and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar are from the North. Two of them are highly ambitious. Don’t you think their personal ambitions may damage the dream of the North producing the president?
No. Even if there is a clash of interest, one of them must step down for the other. I can assure you that this time, the North is determined. We mean business. The campaign has gone so deep and our people are aware. They have been enlightened because nobody likes all these killings and spate of insecurity. The youths, the women, are all aware of what is happening and they are yearning for change. When it is time for election and Jonathan comes out to contest, there is no state in the North that will give him victory. They will not vote for Jonathan.
Some pundits have argued that the North no longer speaks with one voice. It is believed that owing to the domination of the Hausa-Fulani both in politics and business, other ethnic groups feel marginalised. What is your view?
Those pundits are deceiving themselves. We have one and indivisible North and we speak with one voice. From Benue to Taraba, from Taraba to Sokoto, Kaduana to Borno, we are one North, holding 19 out of the 36 states. We are not divided and nobody can divide us. We have one agenda—that Goodluck Jonathan should vacate Aso Rock in 2015 for a President from the North. Anybody who feels the North is divided is daydreaming. The North remains united and determined to take back what is ours.
Given the ongoing crisis in the PDP, do you see the G-7 Governors dumping the party?
I don’t see them leaving the party. What I see them doing is to stay in the party and frustrate Jonathan’s bid to get a second term. This is so because they know that if he eventually wins, they are finished. They will stay in the party and try as much as possible to make sure that Jonathan is defeated at the PDP primaries.
If by 2015, a northerner gets the presidency, will it solve the problem of Boko Haram and insecurity in the North?
Yes, I think it will solve a lot of problems.
It will be the end of Boko Haram?
Yes. Automatically, Boko Haram will disappear. I am sure.
If that happens, don’t you think it will kick-start another bloody agitation from the Niger-Delta, going by the threat by Alhaji Dokubo-Asari that the militants will renew their bloody campaign if President Jonathan is not returned in 2015?
I don’t think so. When the time comes Dokubo-Asari and his group will be taken care of. I think Nigeria will be stabilised as it used to be under a northern leadership. These killings have never been witnessed in Nigeria before now. You know it. Apart from the civil war, Nigeria had always been a peaceful country until four years ago. Nobody ever thought Nigeria would be as bad as this. You cannot move around in the night, you cannot move freely in the day time. You cannot sleep with your two eyes closed; people will come and kill you, steal your property and make your children orphans. It is a terrible situation.
The people from the South-east are also clamouring for presidency in 2015. Don’t you think they also deserve to be given a chance to produce the president?
The clamour of the South-east people to produce the president of Nigeria is quite justified. I agree with them. We would have given them that chance, but by accident, they allowed it to go to the South-south. However, I want to inform you that we are currently talking with the elite from the South-east. Though we have not reached any reasonable agreement, we are talking. In fact, one of the people I admire in this country, right from when I was a governor, is former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme. I like him, I respect him and he likes me, too. We will engage people like him and I believe whatever we are out to achieve will surely be achievable.