A Professor of political science, University of Ilorin, Professor Hassan A. Saliu, in this interview with ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has not failed, instead thinks there are many areas that he needs cover.
Considering the number of political parties and their performance in our country today, will you say Nigeria democracy is growing?
In theory, the number of political parties cannot be too many, because the more the space is liberalized, the more the opportunity that are given to politicians, the better for the political system. It is as people will say, the more the merrier. At the level of practice, you have some operational issues, how would the name be arranged on the ballot paper?
Carrying 91 political parties on ballot paper, will it allow for proper management by the electoral commission? Will it not confuse our electorate given the fact that most of our electorate are illiterate? Will it be difficult for them to know who to vote for? And at the level of party the fewer the numbers, the easier in the area of choice making.
But when you have 91, looking at the name and logo of party will be a cumbersome work to do. Like I have side, we political scientists want more opportunity for people. But the constitution gives people that opportunity. Otherwise, what impact are you making that you have 91 parties that maybe only 20 or 15 will be active?
Further, why can’t INEC come up with effective number of political parties that will be on the ballot for proper process? Our democracy is evolving, the INEC itself is evolving, and maybe as we go along there will be creative ideas of how to manage the high number of our political parties.
What is your assessment of direct primary and indirect primary, as seen from the recently held primaries of the PDP and APC?
Yes people say, if you are going to have peaceful Saturday, sign of it will appear on Friday. Judging by the two characters of the two parties that we witnessed at the level of the PDP and APC, there are serious grounds for concern because a lot of issues were actually swept under the carpet.
At the level of APC, what happened to other people who had wanted to test their popularity along with the president? It appears the APC repeated what the PDP did in 2014, by printing only one form for the former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. This time around, it seems the APC also printed only one form for the president, thereby shutting out others from contesting.
APC didn’t manage that well. They should have allowed others to come to the scene. But by shutting them out, if you put it on the value scale, the measurement of the value will not be very high. They would have allowed them to contest. At the end of the day President Buhari would still have emerged through a process people will described as democratic.
On the side of the PDP, lot of things happened, but the dominant thing that people still remember is the fact that some foreign currency exchanged hands. Money was allegedly used to buy delegates, from the report we got about three or four aspirants were deeply involved in it. One started before another people drove him out of the market. The result was that, the man who gave the highest amount of money ended up winning the primaries. So that will have implication on the 2019 general elections.
How will you rate President Buhari’s administration?
Comparatively, the President has tried in some areas, while in other areas there are many grounds to be covered. You can talk about sanitizing the environment, where money is not a key issue to governance as we experienced under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. There is this element of consciousness, element of our President will not take this. That is not to say all of them are saints, but I think the awareness is there and that to me has reduced the scope of corruption that we have been used to under this administration. And that is the major achievement we cannot denied the administration.
If you also look at the effort, in terms of recovery of looted funds, the government has also tried. On economy, is not bad, but certainly it can be better than what it is now. In other words the government needs to double its effort if he wants to win the second term on the area of economy.
And on security, virtually all our roads are been taken over, Abuja to Lokoja is assiduous, Abuja to Kaduna is a no go area, Abuja to Jos is also problematic. The focus used to be on Boko Haram when the government was voted in, but over three years now there have been other security challenge that the government will have to double its effort in managing.
Why has government not recorded more achievements beyond what we have seen?
The government is not a failure, but given the circumstances that propelled the government, the achievement level ought to have been higher than what we have had. Some of the issues that have retarded the highest level of development include: failure of the President to be the leader of the party and it created a lot of avoidable problems and distractions for the government and the party.
Though the president is very sincere, but ‘am not too sure if he has sincere and honest people around him. I’m not one of those who will condemn everybody around the President, but ‘am sure there are people around him who are not pulling their weight. Unfortunately, they enjoy the trust of the President and that represents the major leaking point that has retarded his achievement level.
Do you think he deserves second term?
Nigerians are to decide that. Personally, considering who the President is, considering who is challengers are, considering the motive and antecedent of people concerned, I think Buhari is certainly not a bad President, but certain areas need to be paid attention to. And these are areas where people think the government is not doing enough, are so critical to those who will vote in 2019 elections. Since he is still in charge, it is left for the President to appreciate some of these criticisms and then take certain steps that can win back some of his supporters.
With the level of experience, knowledge and understanding of governance, don’t you think the candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, will perform better if given the opportunity?
Let me say this as a political scientist, I want the best for Nigeria and I definitely reckoned the fact that Atiku Abubakar is going to give a biggest challenge to Buhari come 2019. So it was a good decision that PDP picked Atiku. Atiku has his strength in some areas, is a man who is always ready to listen and learn and given the complexity involved in modern governance, any President must be on his toes to understand new dynamics.
Atiku Abubakar seems to be a better student in terms of understanding social and economic sources around him. He is somebody that is at home with the best materials: intellectuals and high flying individuals are never a threat to Atiku. He is someone who knows how to hunt for talent. In terms of building bridges, Atiku also have an edge, he has friends all over.
He has friends all over Nigeria and he also has the ability to verify information. Some individuals don’t know how to verify information, so whatever you tell them they believe, so with friends all over Atiku can easily crosscheck whatever information he gets.
On Nigeria scale, he is a typical Nigerian politician who understands the dynamics. Will all these factors be enough for him to perform well? ‘Am not too sure! One thing I am certain of is that Atiku is making the necessary waves. Like I always tell people, what happens three months to an election, may not necessary determine what will happen on the Election Day.