Nigeria not a failed state – Abdullahi Adamu

Ahead of the 61st Independence Anniversary of Nigeria, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West), fielded questions from journalists and declared that the country may not be where it ought to be but certainly not a failed state. TAIYE ODEWALE reports.

Distinguished, in few days to come, Nigeria will clock 61 years as an independent nation. How would you assess the nationhood journey of the country so far in terms of genuine development and a nation driven by unity and faith, peace and progress?

To me, for Nigeria, it has been so far so good, from 1914 when the entity was pronounced through amalgamation till date. Yes, going by the motto you cited, much may not have been achieved, but when you talk of progress and by extension, development, a lot has been achieved . How many Airports (International and Domestic) did Nigeria have in 1960 when it became an independent Nation? How many trunk A roads? How many universities? How many general, teaching or specialists hospitals? How many primary and secondary schools? what was even the population of Nigerians then and what is it today etc,?

The lists of such infrastructural progressions at both the federal and state levels, are endless, meaning that in terms of progress, growth and development, the country is very much on course. Yes, there are a lot of challenges or problems bedevilling the nation today, from the rising wave of insecurity, arising from insurgency of different shapes, armed banditry, kidnapping, high rate of unemployment for the employable ones, poverty level etc. What we should bear in mind as far as these problems are concerned, is that they are not created by the present government or deliberately created by any previous government but arose at different times as part of the challenges of nationhood for a diversified entity called Nigeria which requires the cooperation of all, to solve and not just the government in power.

Nigeria is not Ghana, is not Guinea or Sierra Leone or even Britain or United States of America but Nigeria. Nigeria is Nigeria that must grow, progress and develop at its own pace in view of its peculiarities. So, when assessing Nigeria, the negative aspect should not be over-emphasised because hardly will you see any other country in the world that is as diversified as Nigeria is, with very sharp cleavages or fault lines. The media need to help in amplifying the positive side of the nationhood journey story than the negative side often promoted by the international media. Nigeria in a nutshell as somebody who has seen, experienced and actively participated in the journey from 1960 till date, is not a failed state but a developing one, requiring compatriots nationwide, to increase her speed along that direction.

But do you think the narrative of slow movement for the country in terms of development can change, considering the division between northern and southern politicians?

It is a pity that there is such conflict, such division but the division line did not start with generation of politicians. It started from amalgamation, there had been discontent, there had been disagreement between our politicians. Right through to independence period, there had been disagreement between northern and southern leaders. This is not new. So every part of this country, there are some characteristics that are unique. But in spite of that, when it comes to national level, we have a way of aggregating our differences. When there was talks for independence, people in Lagos threw stones at northerners. Why were they not ready? People didn’t bother to ask. It was because they were lagging behind educationally. But people didn’t bother to ask. It is an historical fact that we can’t wish away. There must be give and take. Not from roof top! You have a right to say you can’t do it; I have a right to say, quietly, I can do it. But there must be better understanding. It is my hope that there will be better understanding, it is my hope that between the northern and southern politicians, there will be better understanding and that is why the media is having a very unique role to play .

Perhaps, the ongoing agitation for power shift from the north to the south in 2023, may help in addressing the problem of division. What is your take on the clamour and where does your party (APC) stand?

Those nursing the idea of zoning or rotational presidency should jettison it since it is not provided for by the 1999 Constitution. No part of Nigerian constitution provides for zoning or rotation of political offices, meaning that for anybody to become President, he or she must be ready to go through the ballot box. You can’t just whisk away a position that is fundamental to the life of a country. You can’t talk of merit and talk of zoning. The issue of rotation, let’s just go by merit. Let every party find a way of selling itself in a manner as to garner the kind of votes to deliver the presidential results. It is as simple as that.

Is there zoning in the US Constitution? Are we more democratic than they? Any zoning in UK with all the problem with Ireland? Did our colonial masters do it? The Constitution says you can only become the president through the ballot? Has anybody said no southerner or northerner can be president? The political party has the last card. As far as I know, the right to field a candidate rests squarely with the political parties. We can only preach for fairness. That is how far we can go within our various political parties. What we are practising is democracy which is government of the people, by the people and for the people. It, therefore, amounts to wishful thinking for anybody to be thinking of zoning to get to office.

In July this year after the Southern Governors meeting in Asaba, you kicked against their decision to promulgate laws against open grazing of cows by herders, which is being embraced by some governors in the north. How will you react to the development?

The governors embracing such unconstitutional policy in the North, got it wrong. In as much as it is not allowed for any herder to use his cattle to destroy farms, it is unconstitutional for anybody to restrict his movement or criminalise cattle rearing business going by provisions of free movement and legitimate business in the 1999 Constitution. The fact that a governor or two is doing that doesn’t take away the right of herders. Nature abhors vacuum. The duty to protect the right of farmers rest squarely on the governors. The question to ask is: Have the governors done the right thing? The answer is no. The stance of some northern governors doesn’t change my position against the law which as far as the provisions of the 1999 Constitution are concerned, is nullity.

Yes, we have to distinguish between government and individual modernisation efforts. For God’s sake, is it the fault of the herder that he must move his cattle through the bush while in the modern day, there are tracks. Do we have that? The fact remains that you can’t punish any means of economic pursuits because the government has a duty but somehow we have misdirected our political thinking and refused to identify genuine problems and fault them collectively. Rather, we are looking for fault lines instead of facing national problems. If you can protect a spare parts dealer, why can’t you protect a herder? If government can save private banks with public money, why can’t we do that with herders? I am for modernisation but the government must address the problem genuinely.