Senator Abdullahi Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa state, is a seating Senator and chairman National Reconciliation Committee of APC. In this interview with select journalists, he speaks on the task of reconciling aggrieved members of his party, among sundry issues. BODE OLAGOKE, reports.
How far have you gone with the reonciliatory task given to your committee ahead of the APC national convention?
I want to start by appreciating God for directing the leadership of the caretaker committee to see us as fit and proper persons that they believe will do the job of reconciliation. It is their conviction that the nine of us understand the extent of the problem that brought about the need to establish the committee. I thank the leadership of our party for the confidence bestowed upon us.Now it is a notorious fact like any other party in Nigeria, including the APC, to have its share of squabbles within the party ranks and file and as you very well know, we are heading for the 2023 general elections. No party in the wildest of imagination, if it is worth its name, would want to go into an election year with identifiable problems. So the party said ‘yes we have some problems here and there, we want to take deliberate steps openly to see how best we can resolve the identifiable problems this far. That is what gave birth to this committee on national reconciliation. It’s our hope that God would give us the wisdom necessary and required to help and resolve conflicting interests within our party.
What about the controversy surrounding the adoption of consensus arrangements?
The whole thing about consensus is well intended. Sometimes in the application of a well intended objective, some people may run foul of the entire philosophy of the concept of the consensus choice. Instead of the voting that accompany the voting process, if the party leadership, stakeholders come to agree to persuade those who want to hold particular offices to the need to do away with what will bring about acrimony among them and accept an approach aimed at preserving our strength, goodwill and coming up with a choice based on compromises, that is what consensus is all about and it is better for all of us. But sometimes, in the course of wanting to go on that path, you have some hiccups here and there and there is no political system or regime where you don’t have such friction here and there. Of course, in some cases the friction is more than in some other cases. So ours is not an exception.
What would you say on the uproar over alleged attempt by the APC governors to hijack the entire structures of the party?
Well, I have to be very careful on what I say because I am the chairman of the reconciliation committee. I don’t want to go into that issue for now. We are just starting now. I would rather get first hand information along with my colleagues as to what has happened and what has not happened and who is complaining about what. Until I am able to assess that, I don’t want to comment on whether any governor is overbearing or not.
Don’t you think the absence of the Board of Trustees (BOT) is responsible for the crisis in the APC?
I believe that it is wrong to say it is absence of Board of Trustees. There are parties with BOT, are they doing any better than us? We take every issue on its merit. Without BOT, how many elections have we won? It is not because it doesn’t matter to have one but you don’t start querreling over what you dont have. My early teacher said to me, in any situation that I have, I should always start with what I know and go looking for what I don’t know. Yes the party constitution provides for BOT, there is even another organ called caucus. We as a party know best which part of the organ that we have that is itching us, where are we having the crisis. And when we look at areas of the conflicts, we find out what is causing those conflicts. I do know that every state has a committee of elders. The matter is whether it is settling those conflicts. So there is no fixation or rule, of course, we have a constitution which is the grundnorm of the party. We try as much as possible, anybody not operating within the confines of the laws of the party, we raise posers and see how to approach him. We blame where we need to blame and see where we need to advise him to bring amicable resolution to whichever dispute that arises.
What is your take on the decision to adopt electronic transfer of results in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill?
Well, you see, we have one problem as a people and I say this without prejudices to the assignment I have as chairman of the reconciliation committee of the party, once you have a mind that is prejudiced, the chances of pursuing any goal reasonably is polluted. So in good faith and in believing that our ability, no matter what anybody will tell me, I know as a Nigerian and I know the exposure I have had this far in my life not every part of this country can boast of energy 24 hours of the day. I know this as a fact, any Nigerian who uses electronic equipment knows that you need energy to power these system.
And if we are honest to ourselves, we must ask the questions how many part of Nigeria have the kind of facilities that Abuja, Sokoto, Portharcoirt , Ilorin or Enugu has? If your answer is yes, then I will say you are not being honest with Nigerians. As I speak to you today, there are parts of Nigeria that have not had energy or electricity for months or probably for years. If you go to Borno state you will see that without asking questions. There are other parts of the country, indeed the Southern part of the country that cannot boast of energy 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week. Now we are talking about transmission of reaults electronically, nobody is querrelling with that. The issue is we have tested electronic voting and where there is no energyy as in national grid, they used generators.
They take the voting equipment and charge them and when they go low you have to recharge them. Sometimes they may have to go somewhere to charge the batteries. It is as bad as that in Nigeria of 21st century. There is nothing wrong if we want to modernize, I see nothing wrong with it. But for heavens sake let’s be honest with ourselve. Knowing our politicians, because I am a politician myself and I have been in this business for God knows when, I am 75 years this year. And I can say on authority that some people deliberately want to have that leeway where they could go and start problem with transmission of results. But if we agree there is no energy and we agree on alternative way of transmission of results which people are familiar with the better. This will not be forever. As we improve, we introduce transmission of results through electronic means. All these talks about electronic transmission of results was not there before but today we are there.
If we are patient to get to this point, why do we want to rush with e-voting. Let us get there first. You can’t provide electricity in a place, you can’t guarantee how your equipment are being charged to do it when you need to do it, so what do you do? That is what we are afraid of. During the debate on the issue at the National Assembly, people from particular part of this country gave evidence in persons as to the state of energy availability in the areas they come from. Who am I to deny that? They say he who wears the shoes knows best where it pinches him. So the principle is let us go for what we know and work on what we don’t know with time. But because some people have made up their minds, they say oh it’s because some people want to rig election and so they must have it.
You see, there is something we do here when I was growing up when you point at a person and say you are a bastard, one finger actually points at the person you are calling bastard. The other three fingers are pointing towards you. All those people who think that those of us who opposed it have got some ulterior motive, they also have motives that was why they did what they did. It’s as same as that.
Would you advise the President not to assent to the Bill?
No, no it has been passed. I will wait for presidential wisdom to assent or not to assent to it. It is not my bid. That is all I can do as a legislator. The Bill has passed through the National Assembly. The process is not complete until the President assents to it.
Is there power rotation aggreement between the North and South that you know of?
I have never been part of any formal and informal arrangement regarding power rotation. As a party member, I’m bound by the constitution of the party and I believe in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In fact, I’m under oath as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to uphold the Constitution and to the best of my knowledge, and as some people have articulated already, the reality on ground is that there is nothing like that in the country’s Constitution. You don’t talk of power shift in vacuum; there must be a middle ground and there is room for consultations. If you want power to shift, I’m in APC, come and talk to me. There must be an exchange of ideas between and amongst us as to what is best suited for the country and the party. There is no fixation on this. And the fact of the matter is anything that is outside the Constitution, I’m not party of it.
Are you saying that the contest for the presidency come 2023 should be thrown open to all eligible candidates?
That is your idea not mine.
There is an undercurrent over where the next chairman of the APC should come from, arising from the push and pull for 2023; what is your thought on this?
That is not my immediate concern; my concern now is that there are conflicts between and amongst my party members and I have been trusted to work towards reconciliation the best we can have. That is my immediate concern and not where the national chairman should come from.
What if in the cause of this reconciliation, issues of who gets what comes up? It won’t come up. The presidency is not within the mandate of my assignment.
Even the chairmanship?
The issue of political offices is not within the purview of my committee. I have the mandate to reconcile aggrieved party members and that’s all there is.
What is your thoughts on direct or indirect method of nomination?
Well, there has been debate in the National Assembly and it has been passed that there will be direct primaries and at the time if it assented to, it will become law. Just like the issue of electronic voting and transmission of results was debated and passed, we have also done this. It is now left for the President to endorse it. So it is not within our domain again except the president queried certain aspect which may require us taking another look at it.
How do you see our debt profile and penchant for borrowing?
Somehow, there seems to be a recurring decimal in our sense of judgment. What makes anybody think that the executive or presidency would go on borrowing if there is no need for such? How do you want budgets to be implemented when you have huge shortfalls in your financial requirements to meet the obligations that stare you in the face every day? We both know that there has been dwindling, downfall in our revenue; you and me know that responsibilities are increasing by the day; we know that the infrastructure that will drive the economy and social life of this country has been on the downward trend in terms of maintenance requirement and quality. There are also the challenges of meeting the health needs of the people, education, agriculture and others. The enormity, the size of the money you required to be pumped into meeting the needs of these sectors are huge and unavailable. What will you do in such circumstances; will fold your hand as a president and head of government and allow the situation to continue like that? What is important is the credit worthiness of Nigeria as a country and we are credit worthy; we have capacity to repay our debt, the World Bank said so. Why are we being so pessimistic? What I think should bother us about this borrowing which has become a necessity and important is the logic behind it. What are we borrowing for? Look at various projects that are going across the country, the infrastructural transformation which this administration has been embarking on and tell me whether the monies are being be put to good use or not. The government is borrowing because we don’t have enough to meet the needs on ground so if these monies are applied to good cause I’m for it. We have gotten the capacity to pay back and I support that. We don’t criticize for the sake of criticism. These roads didnt get bad during the APC’s administration but from the military through successive administrations. Is it a sin for the APC and the Buhari’s administration to try and fix them? I believe it is not. We are in fact trying to address failures of the past administrations and some of the criticisms were merely out of jealousy.
But your party is part of the problem because at the onset of Buhari’s administration, the idea of zero budgeting was muted only for the government to recourse for envelope system again and that was the problem?
That didn’t start from the APC or Buhari’s administration but Goodluck Jonathan’s and by extension, PDP who want to rule for 60 years. So we have to get our facts right.