Why Buhari Is Yet To Form Cabinet – Zailani | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Why Buhari Is Yet To Form Cabinet – Zailani

Posted: Jul 13, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Hon. Ibrahim Zailani was a member of the House of Representatives in the 4th Republic and former Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to late president, Umar Yar’Adua. In this interview with DAVID ODAMA, the former Bauchi State Attorney General blamed the ongoing crisis in the National Assembly on APC‘s failure to resolve its zoning policy before the election of the principal officers. Excerpts …



One month has elapsed since Buhari’s administration came on board and Nigerians are saying the APC government seems not ready for governance, would you subscribe to that?

I don’t. Firstly, l am a believer of ‘speed kills’. If one embarks on supersonic speed the consequence is obvious. I don’t believe that the APC government is slow, rather the APC government has been very cautious because there are so many booby-traps set by the former government. You had a transition committee that was to look at what the former government had done and to make recommendations to the new government. It discovered that the APC government has inherited an empty treasury; it also discovered so many bobby-traps set by the former government. The PDP government was very lackadaisical in responding to the inquiries from the transition committee. In fact, the PDP government only responded to the committee two or three days to the handing over of government. The damage caused this country by the PDP government requires that the APC government headed by Muhammadu Buhari exercise extreme caution, otherwise the change we are envisaging could be change for the worse. I don’t subscribe to the view that the APC government is slow or that we were not prepared for governance; no, the APC government is fully prepared and l am telling Nigerians that by the time we start to roll out all we know that real change has come to Nigeria.

Instead of blaming the previous administration, many would have thought that the APC government would begin in earnest to implement its blueprint, if it had one? Besides, if you slow the baby it might die of hunger eventually.

Well, if you give food to a baby based on the prescription of a dietician definitely the baby will not die, but if you go on your own volition and feed it however way you choose it will die. In essence, the APC is looking at the handing over or situation of Nigeria through the goggles of experts. I could recall that in 1999 from the day (Olusegun) Obasanjo took over all the Service Chiefs dropped their uniforms. But with the current situation, Boko Haram insurgency, you need somebody to tell you what is happening, why it is happening, and the likely solution. So that calls for caution.

The APC government has not hit the ground running because it is being cautious according to the party, would also attribute the delay in the appointments of key officers one month after coming into power to the same need to be cautious?

In exercising caution you need to take in so many factors: one, Nigeria has gone so much under, that almost everyone is looked at as being corrupt; so we need to be cautious as regards who and who should be brought in to form this government. President Buhari is carefully examining and x-raying the backgrounds of the persons likely to join his government. I am telling you with the current situation, if you were to subject many Nigerians to corruption test they may not likely pass, so since Nigerians are clamouring for change and the APC is for change, l am sure the president is being cautious and will come out with the list of persons that can stand the test of time, not persons that are baggage. Again, if you consider what has happened in regard to the election of principal officers of the National Assembly, had there been rush in the appointment of key officers into the government, how then would you have done the balancing? If Buhari had a month ago decided to appoint Mr. Tolani from Kwara state the Secretary to the Federal Government, what would have happened today? Of course, there would have been the Senate President from Kwara state and the SGF from the state and geo-political divide so this is one of the processes of our democracy maturing. Like l said earlier, in the USA, Bush can nominate his brother Secretary of State and his wife Secretary of Finance and nobody will give a hoot about it. But in Nigeria everybody needs to be carried along because our nation is evolving: there must be spread and in fact l give kudos to those that introduced the federal character commission because it stabilizes the polity, gives everybody a sense of belonging and makes all to feel that they are part of the Nigerian project.

Would you subscribe to the fact that lack of understanding is equally responsible for the friction between the parties and members of the assembly in view of the current conflict between the APC and elected principal officers of the national assembly?

I can attribute it to a certain extent to lack of understanding but there should have been – in terms of the party I would say it has to do with communication. If l stand election on the platform of the APC which brought me to the national assembly, l know l am there by virtue of the party. However, before coming to the assembly, the APC should tell me what they are expecting from me. So once there is good communication between the political parties and its elected members the fewer conflicts there would be.

Should we understand that the APC did not set agenda regarding who become leaders of the NASS?

What l am saying is that any sponsoring party has its manifestoes upon which it sold itself to the electorate for members to be elected. Before any member is sworn into office or inaugurated, he is still the property of the party, but the moment you are sworn-in you or you stepped into the national assembly, you are guided by the House rules and the senate rules, in essence the friction should have been minimized had the contemporary situation in Nigeria been taken into cognition. The APC should have, from the onset, say we are going to zone position A, B, C to this or that zone. If there was proper zoning even before the National Assembly was inaugurated, l think there would have been less tension, because by the election of Yakubu Dogara, had Muhammad Mongonu been elected Deputy Speaker both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker would have emerged from the same zone. If the APC had zoned offices there would have been less tension but because this was not done that is why there is tension and commotion. Further, if we are to take into cognisance what has transpired now in the National Assembly, you will find that certain zones like the South-East and South-South have legitimate complaint because they are without a single principal officer and this negates the principles of federal character.  Yes, if you go to the United States of America there is no such thing as zoning, they don’t care about zoning because they are already a developed democracy. Not so in Nigeria, so we must look at our circumstances as a multi-ethnic setting and be accommodating, for that was why the issue of federal character was brought in ab initio into the constitution. It was mainly that we should have balance: a sense of representation, or feeling that each ethnic group and geo-political zone belongs to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The rancour or the hullabaloo in the national assembly would have been properly addressed from the onset had the zoning structure been put in place.

Shouldn’t the issue of who become principal officers be looked into?

Well, the mistake had been done and to correct the mistake the right thing has to be done. You don’t correct the mistake with another mistake. I think the Aminu Waziri Tambuwal saga had set the precedence for what has happened now. Tambuwal tried it successfully (by defying the party) and other Nigerians feel they can also do it. Much as the supremacy of the party should be paramount to us but national interest should override every other interest including the party. Look at the clamour and agitation over the election of principal officers of the national assembly while the vast majority of Nigerians are languishing in poverty. The issue should be what the APC government would do to address poverty, insecurity and the frustration of Nigerians. My appeal to the leadership of the APC is please and please, we have more urgent issues to address rather than this rancour. As democrat we should subject ourselves to the process that brought the members to the national assembly, which is election. If you think you would garner the support of your colleagues, please submit yourself to election. *************One way to resolve the current situation in the National Assembly is allow members to submit themselves and let their colleagues elect whoever they want as presiding officers.

The main opposition party is saying that the APC is undergoing internal hemorrhage largely because of the diverse interest groups that came together to form the party, do you share this view?

I pity the PDP because they are weeping over loss of power and there is nothing they can do about that. Besides, the PDP is just new in the role of opposition and l will recommend that since we (APC) had been in the opposition for 16 years, that the PDP should come for tutorials on how to conduct fruitful, useful opposition, not irresponsible opposition. Opposition should entail the best for Nigeria and that was what we did in the APC. For now, l think the PDP is missing the point and urge them to come to terms with the fact that they have lost power forever

Why have there been conflicts between the legislature and the executive arm of government since 1999?

I think it all boils down to lack of understanding of the roles of the three arms of government. And I will lay the blame more on the side of the executive in the sense that people in the executive appear not to know the working of the parliament. Secondly they assume that the parliament is like the executive with close co-relation between the president and his ministers. But in the National Assembly, every elected lawmaker is on his own, everyone was voted to the assembly by his or her constituents and even if there are principal officers, they are just first among equals. In fact, everyone is equal and any member can be the Speaker of the House and any senator can be the Senate President and when you are coming from diverse backgrounds, you need to show more understanding of the parliament. Nobody brought you there and one single individual can remove you. To my mind, the executive must learn to understand the National Assembly whose operations are completely different from that of the executives; in fact, there are at variance. I could remember what happened by way of joke when a president told one of the senate presidents, ‘look I can discipline my ministers why don’t you go and discipline your senators and your members of the House of Representatives?’ Perhaps, not knowing that as a member of the senate or Reps the presiding officer is just first among equals and therefore does not have such powers, that he is enjoying the seat by the support of his colleagues who elected him, unlike the president who was voted in office by all Nigerians, so he is president for all. But in the national assembly members vote in somebody to preside over them and if they choose to remove him tomorrow so be it. I always recommend that the executive should take a step further to understand the psyche, the workings and the roles of the national assembly and that friction will be minimized.