An associate of President Muhammadu Buhari and member of the Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Congress, Buba Galadima, speaks with JOHN ALECHENU about the crisis in the party, the Buhari presidency, and political intrigues ahead of the 2023 general elections
2023 is still far away but the scheming for the top office seems to have begun. Some people believe the South should produce the next president but some northerners, like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, appear to be interested in the race, what do you make of their aspiration?
I’m a democrat. I don’t belong to the class of those who practice the politics of convenience and I have always believed that you must work to earn what you should get. Since the days of my youth, I have never believed in power rotation. That was clearly my position during the 1987 Constituent Assembly, 1994 Constitutional Conference and the 2014 National Conference. So, I’m not just going to change midway. Whoever wants to lead Nigeria must work for it, must reach out, must make friends, must have a plan, must have a vision, must have a fore-sight of how to make Nigeria work. If the Queen of England can colonise Nigeria and make it work today, let me assure you (I am the late Sam Mbakwe’s student) I will support her 100 per cent.
It is believed that the North is against restructuring, and even the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) has not hidden his opposition to it? Why is this so?
I don’t understand what restructuring is. If you define restructuring to me, I can give you an answer. Nobody was able to define what restructuring is all about in all the three constitutional conferences I attended. Whoever defines restructuring, defines it from his point of view; from his personal interest, group interest, regional interest; that should not be the case. There must be a universal definition of restructuring so that we can now agree either to work towards it or against it.
But, your party, the APC, set up the committee on true federalism which discussed the issue and made recommendations…? (cuts in)
Was there a referendum? It was only Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and a few other people that did it, they don’t matter as far as I’m concerned. Did the party sit down to agree on what is restructuring? What are they restructuring? Did they define what restructuring meant? If they did, they must have done so from their point of view. El-Rufai now supports the next President coming from the South because he thinks he can be Vice President; not because he believes in the emergence of a southern President. I can believe in a southern president who has a large heart, who can accommodate everybody and carry every Nigerian along, not because he is from the South, but because of those qualities I mentioned earlier.
What’s the update on your house which has been taken over by AMCON?
The matter will take 10-15 years to be sorted out. And it is subjudice, I don’t want to discuss it, we are in court. When we appear before the judge, the judge will get the facts and a decision will be taken. It is my belief that I will come out without a scratch and also win some money.
What do you make of the reappointment of Prof Mahmood Yakubu as INEC chairman?
You are bringing up this question at a very appropriate time. The problem with us is that we lack people who have character and who can stand their ground and do what is right. As far as the chairmanship of the INEC is concerned, it is supposed to be independent. It should be on the first line charge. The commission should never align with any person or any political party. For example, there is a professor who had been the chairman of Ghana Electoral Commission for 23 years and it was only once that he was called to their equivalent of Nigeria’s Presidential Villa and was asked a question whether he needed assistance because of a deadlock during the counting of votes in one of the counties in Ghana. And he said ‘you didn’t tell me why you were calling me; if you had told me, I would have come with all my commissioners; I am not ready to give you an answer, I will go and consult.’ He left and never went back to tell the Ghanaian President what he needed. That is what we need in Nigeria. We need people of character and integrity like that professor. Take an example now, President Donald Trump is the most powerful person on the face of the earth today. As the President of the United States of America, he is the one crying that they want to rig him out. Can Buhari do that in Nigeria? Before the 2019 elections, he was asked if he would congratulate the winner if he didn’t win the elections; he said no, that he had won the election. This means he had already known the outcome of the election.
I believe that what we need most is proper electoral reforms. This is essential for us to move forward as a country, develop and become truly independent. This is important for the people to matter in the eyes of the people they voted for, and in the eyes of the world. We need proper electoral reforms that will throw up one man, one vote. Once we achieve that, presidents, governors and chairmen of local councils will be our servants, we the people will be the masters. Americans have now shown Trump that they will not stand for him to be irresponsible and continue to lord it over them, they booted him out. That is what we need in Nigeria. Now is the time, the time is now. Buhari should know at the age of nearly 80 that what he needs, apart from leaving a correct legacy for Nigerians yet unborn, is for him to embark on proper electoral reforms such that even if his party loses elections, he will accept and do reforms that will extricate the National Assembly, the Judiciary and INEC from the aprons of the President.
You said sometime in July that Ibrahim Magu, the erstwhile chairman of the EFCC, has been used and dumped. Who actually used and dumped him?
The government! He was their errand boy, he is not my fan. If you go to him and mention my name, he will never answer you. Let me make a confession, I have evidence of people who mentioned my name to him, he stopped interacting with them again. I have a track record; I have always lived my life fighting for social justice and fair play, and I believe those accusing Magu of infractions are no better than him, that is one. Secondly, I said on the day he was arrested that nothing would happen to him; I said on that day that within two weeks, he was going to be released. He was not only released but they restored his security team. That goes to tell you that we are just wasting our time. Nothing can happen to Magu because if he spills the beans, this country will turn upside down and they know that. The highest they can do now is to send Magu to the National Institute for Police and Strategic Studies in Jos, or the War College; to go on Sabbatical for one year and promote him to an Assistant Inspector-General of Police and retire him from there. That is the only thing they can do, nothing more, I assure you they can’t charge Magu to court. Even those that were probing him, how do you think they are better? We know some of them, we know their history, we know their public service history, we have their records.
People are skeptical about the survival of the APC; can the APC survive this crisis?
The APC has seen nothing yet. The country has seen nothing yet about the APC. They are already in factions. At least I know of about seven presidential aspirants and Buhari has not anointed his own candidate.
Who would you want to see as Nigeria’s next President?
The man with the largest of hearts, the man that can carry the whole of Nigeria along. Somebody who believes in our plurality and who believes that the faces of everybody have to be seen in the governance of Nigeria, not only his relatives, his in-laws or his friends or where he comes from. That is the kind of President I would want to see for Nigeria. It is now left for Nigerians to take a cue from me, forget about sectional, tribal or ethnic affiliations, who is the best, who has the largest heart, who has a vision to take Nigeria to the next level? Malaysia now has five prime ministers. First, Tunku Abdulrahman, Tunku Abdulrazaq, Mahatra Mohammed, then Habib, who is now the sixth person coming. You don’t go to any village in Malaysia to tell them “I will give you light and water” to campaign. They have a type of ethnic and religious composition. They have Muslims, Buddhists and other types of religions. There are essentially three ethnic groups in the country. They are ethnic Malays, ethnic Chinese and Indians. You don’t go to any part of that country and say you want to contest an election because you want to bring water, electricity and roads. This is because they sat down as a country and decided where they wanted to see Malaysia after 20 or 30 years; they enumerated how they wanted their roads to be and all that. So, everybody that was elected after then was only coming to ensure that the plan which was accepted by the forefathers of Malaysia is still on course. Alternatively, they also make laws for the good of the people; that is the only thing they do. No Malaysian parliamentarian takes more salary than that of a director in any ministry; is that the position here? Now, has this government ever heard about the allegation that during a common recruitment into any security agency or even into the civil service, you have to pay a humongous amount of money? Do they know? When one of my friend’s sons wanted to join the Nigeria Police Force, he was asked by these faceless people to pay an amount of money for him to be recruited. My friend told his son, “Even if I had the money, I would not pay, besides I don’t even have the money, because once you are recruited because I paid money, you are also going in there to help yourself regain the money.” Do you know that promotion in the civil service now is cash-and-carry? You have to pay for examination-nobody marks the papers. And the allegation is that when you want to move from deputy director to the position of a director, the price tag is N5m? When you want to move from an assistant director to deputy director, it is N2m? When you are to move from Level 15 to 16, you pay between N500,000 and N1m? These things are happening and do you know that parastatals have vacancies they take to the National Assembly as slots? So, when you don’t know anybody in the National Assembly, you don’t get anything. Now, I have about seven children with Master’s degrees. I have medical doctors but none of them can be employed because I don’t have the money to bribe anyone. Even my friends in government are running away from me because they wouldn’t want to be seen with me, let alone for me to ask for a favour. I can’t ask for a favour from a government formed by Buhari whom I worked for more than any human being including Buhari himself, to bring into office? That I can’t bring even a son or a daughter for employment? Or my daughter could work in the Villa for four years without salary? Not one penny. If they claim they don’t know, they will read it in PUNCH now, let’s see whether they can pay her. When #EndSARS protest started, they didn’t know that the sons and daughters of Mr Nobody who could not get food to eat could make them lose sleep and they have just seen a tip of the iceberg. They are leading this country into a revolution that they don’t want to accept.
Do you believe those who feel Prof Yemi Osinbajo has been grossly sidelined in this government?
You’re just asking a question about what I have been trying to explain all along. If people don’t see their own in the scheme of things, their conclusion is that they have been marginalised, they have been excluded. Let alone somebody that is in a prominent position like the Vice President of Nigeria, the number two citizen and he is not seen to be in the scheme of things, a lot of speculations, a lot of rumours, a lot of this and that will definitely trail the position. You know the Vice President is not in a position to speak, I can speak but he cannot for obvious reasons.
It is believed that the North always wants to be in power, given that they have held the highest office more than other sections of the country. How come the region remains the least developed and this doesn’t seem to bother the elite there?
Well, the elite feed on the ignorance of the populace. They want to keep them ignorant and that is why I’m trying to establish a Non-Government Organisation that will promote electoral reform and social justice. Unfortunately, our votes don’t matter. If our votes do matter, our ruling elite must be careful about those who put them there, but the votes don’t matter. We must come out and fight for one man, one vote or else we won’t matter in the scheme of things. But now the elite are paying for it, Boko Haram, kidnapping and banditry are direct products of the exclusion of a certain class of people from governance and access to the national economy.
By the time Buhari leaves in 2023, where do you see Nigeria?
In pieces! That is the imagination of everybody! We are already in pieces; it is just that we have not disintegrated. It is difficult to divide Nigeria, not because it cannot be divided, but because of our own internal contradictions. If you say the South-West should form a country, of their own, I want to assure you that Lagos will object, Ekiti people will object. They will never go back to Ibadan. If you say let those who were part of the old Eastern Region go back, I want to assure you that the ordinary Efik man, the Oron, Ibibio, Anang, Kalabari, Ekwere, Ijaw man will never accept to go back as citizens of Biafra, the ordinary Ebonyi man will never agree to be part of an Eastern Region that will take them back to Enugu. These are our internal contradictions. How do you now define the North-Central?
If you say we should form a country of the North-East, I will not go, I will take my people of Bade out, because we don’t belong. These are internal contradictions we can’t sort out. That is why we are better off remaining as Nigerians to make this country work. Let’s look for leaders who can do the job.
Why do you think Buhari is unable to lead both his party and the country?
Your guess is as good as mine. I am personally shocked that the General has failed woefully below my expectations. I had expected him to do better than this even though on a second thought what had happened will always happen because he started this project with people who made sacrifices, defied exclusion, defied deprivation, defied all worldly things given to them to be with him because they believed that when he got there he would have something to offer Nigeria. All those people were sidelined. He cut the umbilical cord and brought in his enemies. Ninety per cent of those that are with him today are people who had worked against us, locked us up; people who did all the bad things in life against us including putting us on trial for treason. Now, they are the same people calling the shots. They have no idea about why Buhari is in government or should be in government. So, they had no plan, no vision. All those who had the vision and had the capacity to drive it were cut off, they went with the vision, he was left blank. Don’t ever betray trust in your life. There are always consequences. You can never get things right when you betray trust.
People thought that because of his WAI programme when he was the Head of State in 1983, he would be able to lead.
Was he the one who drove WAI? I hope you remember the late General Tunde Idiagbon? Buhari succeeded in the Petroleum Trust Fund, was he the one who succeeded? Do you remember the Sali Hidjjo of Afri-Projects? Even his political structure, did you know why he succeeded? The Buhari Organisation? Did you hear about people like Sule Hamma? So, any place that you thought that Buhari succeeded just look below, there are people who called the shots, who knew why he was there. In this case, he brought in his enemies and they tell him lies and the issue is that he can never succeed in this government, unless he does one thing- monitoring and evaluation of any assignment he has given any human being; even if it is his wife, he must monitor and evaluate her performance. It is not enough to say you know what to do because you are a Professor of History, go and write history. No, you have to follow him. Have you done this? Why haven’t you done this?
When you hear about his wife crying out about her not being able to access her husband and that a cabal had taken over the villa, what runs in your mind?
I’ve known about the frosty relationship between her and some of his relatives and friends for long. That is personal to him and his wife, I don’t want to get into his personal affair.
Can Buhari change for the better and run the country better?
No, because he is already about 80 years old and no man can change at that age.
How many factions are in the APC and can you identify them?
At least, I am one. That tells you that there could be as many as you can think. Others can and will speak for themselves.
Which faction is in charge of the party now and what are the signs that made you think so?
You tell me.
But I’m not a member of your party, it’s your party.
Do we have a recognisable leadership now or not? It was not like the time Adams Oshiomhole was running the party.
What roles do you think the likes of Governors Kayode Fayemi and El-Rufai would play in resolving the crisis in the party?
The two of them are interested parties building enough war chest to get what they want.
What of Rotimi Amaechi?
They are the same.
Why do you say so?
Isn’t it glaring?
Can the current caretaker committee lead the party out of the woods?
At least they have reached out to so many people, that is to their credit. When Adams Oshiomhole was elected, I said from that day that he would destroy the party. I said he would be an undertaker for the party. Go back to my television interview after the convention, you will see it there. I’m surprised that President Buhari who says he is fighting corruption has allowed Oshiomhole to roam the streets of Nigeria.
What do you think Oshiomhole ought to have done?
He could have at least been humble. Some of us are angry with Buhari because people who actively worked against us are the ones calling the shots today. It is just that Buhari doesn’t know what is happening around him. If he knew, there are people who should not even enter the Villa, let alone be given appointments. Was it not (Godswill) Akpabio as Akwa Ibom State Governor, who was giving us 1,000 votes and writing two million for PDP? Don’t you remember what Rotimi Amaechi did to us as governor of Rivers State? They are the ones who are Buharists today.
Why do you think the APC is in an unending crisis?
I told you earlier in this interview that once you betray anybody, God will not allow you to rest. It is the betrayal that is haunting them and God will never allow them to succeed. All of them will go to jail if the truth is revealed.
Is PDP an alternative to the APC?
If they get their acts together but if they continue as they used to, I’m sorry, they will see the APC bouncing back. So, they have to be fair and just to themselves and do what is right.
If you have your way now, who are the people you think should be considered for the office of the President of Nigeria?
I gave you the quality of the person who should lead Nigeria, he has to be a Nigerian with a large heart to accommodate Nigerians from all over the country.