President Not Constitutionally Bound To Declare Assets Publicly – Sani | Independent Newspapers Limited
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President Not Constitutionally Bound To Declare Assets Publicly – Sani

Posted: Sep 9, 2015 at 12:32 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Anthony Z. Sani, the Immediate Past National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and spokesman of the Northern delegates during the last National Conference in this interview with Juliet Oyoyo, sheds light on some national issues. Excerpts…

Many Nigerians have described the APC government as being deceitful and likened it to the popular “One Chance phenomenon”. What is your take?

I am not sure if there exist any basis for depicting the APC government as a ‘one chance phenomenon’ due to perceived deception. To use performance in 100 days out of 1,460 days and draw such conclusion may not be correct. While I may understand the anxiety that comes with high expectations, Nigerians may need to note that Mr. President needs time to understand what the regime has actually met on the ground as a precondition for informed governance for performance.

President Buhari was a product of forces beyond his own control due largely to the reckless performance of the last regime. He knows that he inherited a nation already polarised along ethnic, religious and regional lines. It is within his purview to bring all Nigerians together and enable them to unleash their synergistic potential against collective challenges for the good of all and for the purpose of making Nigeria to feel young again with the promise of glory days ahead.

To this end, he has no choice than to regard governance as an art of balancing competing demands among not only constituent parts, but also, among socio-economic sectors.

As to the hue and cry about skewed appointments, it is because some people do not know there are so many dividing lines. For example, last set of appointments ignored the three main ethnic nationalities of Hausa Fulani in North West, Yoruba in South West and Igbo in North East, and in favour of minorities in both North and in the South. Yet, we heard the Igbo in South East and women crying foul.

So, if you go by ethnicity, you will see that the Igbo have been accommodated in NNPC. But, if you go by geopolitical zone, you will say South East has been short changed. And if you go by gender, you will say women have been excluded. So, it depends on how one looks at it because the dividing lines are many. But, I believe Mr. President will lead Nigerians to work hard and erase the thin lines that divide Nigerians.

As to the insecurity, the government could not hit the ground running because the ground was muddy and so, he had to sort out the terrain by mobilising the Armed Forces by way of material and human resources as well as other countries towards effective and efficient confrontation with the insurgence.

From what we hear and read, the insurgents are being weakened and may be subdued in no distant future. There are improvements in energy and power supply across the nation which engenders hope that this government may bring about order, justice, peace and prosperity by the time it uses up its mandate of four years. In which case, it will be its performance and not mere declaration that will make Nigerians re-elect it, come 2019.

The Assets Declaration by the President and the Vice President is the topic of discuss in the country today. While some Nigerians see it as a welcome development, others say it is not detailed enough. What is your position on this?

I don’t see why the public declaration by Mr. President and the Vice President should become an issue. They are not constitutionally bound to make the declaration public. They did so to symbolise their seriousness about transparency and accountability as part of their campaigns against corruption. I think it is a good development.

As to any allegations that the declarations lack details, I wish to submit that given the public posts Buhari has held in this country like Minister of Petroleum, Chairman of NNPC, Governor, Head of State and Chairman of PTF, the declared worth of President Buhari underscores the fact that he is not a corrupt man and so, he is the right person to fight corruption.

Those people who say the sources of funds for his campaigns are not honest, I wish to say that President Buhari should be credited for giving Nigerians confidence in themselves that they can make and unmake governments. This is because, there was a time Nigerians believed incumbency could not be unseated and so started talking of single tenure. That is no more.

Also, Buhari used mere integrity and credibility to make money bags not to sponsor themselves, but chose to sponsor him, thereby making acquisition of money at the expense of public good no more attractive. That has the possibility of killing Plutocracy for good. All these are healthy developments and not small feats.

True Federal Character and equal representation is said to be absent in the appointments being made by President Muhammadu Buhari. Some allege the appointments made so far are his personal aides while others say that they exclude other ethnic groups, making it lopsided and biased. What is your view on this?

We have a constitution, which makes it mandatory for every state to have at least one minister in the government, which is yet to be constituted. Even though many of us had preferred Chief Ogbonnaya Onu from South East to be SGF, the point must be made that it is unthinkable to imagine the post of SGF can be over and above Executive Council of Ministers. *****I also refuse to accept the allegations that President Buhari has a northern agenda on the basis of headships of the three arms of the government*****. This is because President Buhari did not elect himself; but Nigerians elected him. He did not cause the emergence of Senate President Saraki. He was not responsible for emergence of Speaker Dogara and he could not manipulate the process for emergence of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

So, while the motives for the allegations against President Buhari on the appointments may be understood, the reasons given do not add up. It is therefore too early to make a fair and realistic assessment until most of the appointments have been made.

You may wish to note that Nasarawa State does not believe that the appointment of Mr. Martins as Controller General (CG) of Immigration is political, but professional. He was the Second-in-Command to the immediate past CG. So, Nasarawa State or North Central  zone could not reasonably be said to have benefited from the last appointments, but believes no sections of the country, including women, will be ignored and forgotten. So, let us be more patient.

The fight against corruption has become the slogan of the APC and its supporters. But some concerned Nigerians, especially the opposition party, PDP, has accused the Buhari’s government of having benefited from looted funds by looters of states and national treasuries. What is your take on this?

I have stated earlier that for President Buhari to use his integrity and credibility to make money bags not to sponsor themselves and instead chose to sponsor integrity and honesty is a disincentive for corruption and presages the death of using government money to buy political power.

The charges by the DISCO’s in the power sector is a matter that has generated concerns by stakeholders over the persistence by NERC and the DISCO’s to stand their grounds over the fixed charge of N800 on consumers under the guise of Meter Maintenance Charge. Some Nigerians believe it is on the high side. How do you see this issue?

Somehow, I believe market forces should prevail in cases of deregulation. But knowing the mindset of this government, if the charges are on the high side that comes with monopoly, the government would be on the side of the people.

What would you say are the visible achievements recorded by the Buhari/APC government in its first 100 days, considering their electoral promises in such areas as the Boko Haram insurgency and N5,000 monthly stipends to unemployed youths among others?

I agree that the electorates should hold government to account for their electoral promises. But, I am not sure the APC made those promises being bandied about. This is because many of them are too good to be true. Would you believe campaign promise of building air-conditioned roads or promise to construct rivers across which bridges would be built?

What is more, promises are expected to be in the form of party manifestos. Are all the promises being bandied about in the APC manifesto? I have my doubt because I cannot see how the government can promise to pay N5,000 monthly to each unemployed youth in an economy that is going down.

In Kaduna State, some political opinion leaders are accusing the state governor of chasing shadows. One of such instance is the “Workers Verification Exercise” being conducted in the state’s civil service, which has “saved the state government, about N120million whereas the consultants were allegedly paid N300million leaving the state short with about N180million. The question being asked is: Who were the ghost workers or sponsors/backers and why have they not been identified?

The issue of ghost workers in the civil service is common across the states, including the Federal Government. It is due to corruption.

So, we must go as far as possible to stop this unsavory situation. To that extent, I agree with Governor El-Rufai for striving hard and stop it. What is disagreeable is the use of consultants at high cost which presupposes government cannot work.

I believe government can work and must be made to work. We know government worked in the past in Railways, public schools, hospitals, NNPC, production of fertilizers, Airways, etc. We must not allow our managerial imperfections, which should be corrected, to determine our public policies.

The demolition exercise embarked upon by the Governor el-Rufai administration is being viewed differently. What is your position on this issue?

If the government is demolishing illegal structures, so be it. We cannot afford a lawless society for too long. But, if he is demolishing legal structures for public interest, then the owners of the demolished structures must be compensated accordingly.

The ACF seems to have suddenly become silent on the issue of insecurity. In the days of former President Goodluck Jonathan, there were strident calls for amnesty for the insurgents. But with the APC in power, headed by one of their own, a Northerner, the agitation and strident calls have all died down. As a leading voice in the ACF, what is now responsible for this change of attitude?

The issue of ACF being reticent has more to do with management styles and approaches by the new leadership which does not issue press releases frequently, and not because the past strident criticisms of the Jonathan’s administration by the Forum was for securing power. Not at all.

To the best of my knowledge, the call for amnesty for Boko Haram is still relevant, especially if amnesty will help put an end to insurgence. This is because we are yet to see where hard power of military might alone has been able to completely subdue insurgency anywhere. Yet, we must agree that amnesty cannot be granted without dialogue with genuine leaders of Boko Haram, considering the mistakes by the past regime, which dialogued with leaders of the sect who turned out to be fakes.

I want to say that when the world invites warring parties to Geneva for peace talks, it is not because the world likes the killing in wars, but, to put an end to further killings. So, if dialogue with genuine leaders of Boko Haram will bring about amnesty that will stop further killing of innocent people, I have no doubt that the government and ACF will support it.

Armed banditry and cattle rustling around the Kumuku Forest have become rife, causing apprehension and fears among the herdsmen and farmers. The states around this forest are said to be meeting periodically over this new trend of criminality. Do you think the move by the governments is adequate?      

The issue of cattle rustlers and Fulani herdsmen as well as clashes between Fulani gunmen and farmers goes beyond Kumuku forest to include almost every state in North Central and North West. As long as the neighbouring states have not put an end to that of Kumuku, it means they have not done enough and need to do more.

It appears the habits of Fulani in terms of grazing paths have changed. Armed robberies in the villages are now in form of cattle rustling. Given the nature of Fulani toward their cattle with unforgiving attitudes against those who steal or kill their livestock, there are bound to be circle of revenges until the governments make consciously directed efforts to address the various concerns of the parties.