Hon Aminu Masari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, is a stalwart of the party in Katsina. In this interview, he declares that APC has all it takes to dislodge the party from power. He also bares his mind on other issues engaging stakeholders in the polity such as the Petroleum industry bill, corruption in the NNPC and amnesty for Boko Haram insurgents.
There is now a new political party-All Progressives Congress (APC). How are you handling the intrigues over the registration of the party?
To start with, I don’t think there is much difficulty as such because the address given by those who submitted application for registration of African Political Congress (APC) to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cannot be ascertained, the people who submitted the application cannot be identified. So, it is an application of mischief to thwart the effort of the merger arrangement and it will fail. Although there is a lot in a name, we are going to merge under whatever name.
Already, we have submitted our application for registration to INEC in compliance with the provision of Electoral Act. I think the claim by people who could not be identified and their address could not be found should not be entertained by the INEC unless they are in collusion with the PDP to deprive our merger plan in the name of APC. But they cannot because in the first place we went to the public with that name and everybody has taken public notice of that name, every Nigerian has started to identify opposition with that name. So, for anybody to come out now to claim it that person is out to commit mischief. And however they are, they wouldn’t succeed.
There are insinuations in some quarters that APC is another gathering of strange bedfellows. How would you react to this?
When PDP was formed in 1998, it was also an amalgamation of so many political parties. So, why should anybody say that the merger of ACN, CPC, ANPP and some section of APGA is a gathering of strange bedfellows? All these are in the opposition; they are only coming together to defeat the PDP in the same way PDP was formed with a large association of people to make sure that military rule was over.
Also, we are merging to make sure that we remove PDP from federal to the local government level because we have not seen anywhere where there is positive impact of PDP’s rule. PDP has misruled the country for a long period of time. So, it is now time to get PDP out of office for a better future of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Will it be right to say that this coming together is part of the desperation by the North to get back power from the South as some people are insinuating?
Are the parties in alliance all northern parties? Is ACN a northern party? Is APGA a northern party? If you say CPC and ANPP are predominately in the North, can you say the same thing of other political parties? We are forming a national party to win election. Can you say that the presidential candidate of the party will come from the North?
Even as some are already looking in the direction of General Buhari?
It is their constitutional right to look in the direction of Buhari as their candidate. There is nothing wrong in that. May be if you go to Lagos, somebody is looking at a different person. If you go to the East, it may also be a different person entirely. In the North, it is the same. But the issue is who has the clout and credibility to win election for you. That will be our guiding principle when it comes to electing our candidate.
The principle of power shift was one controversial issue that generated a lot of heat in the PDP in the last general election. Is your party also considering including the principle of rotation of presidency in your constitution?
I think the problem in PDP is not about rotation; it is about people who are not honourabe enough to honour an agreement that is signed. It was reported in the papers when the meeting was held, who were there and who signed? So, it is not about rotation; it is about being ungentlemanly when you entered into an agreement and you go back on it. The manifesto and constitution sub-committee of the merger has written their constitution. But what I know about the APC is that the principle of justice and fairness will be held in all decisions of APC.
Although it has been dismissed as a rumour, but it is also true that some PDP governors are planning to join APC?
Everybody is free to join APC. Even Jonathan is free to join APC. What I am saying is that there is no barrier for people to join APC. So, if some governors are planning to dump the PDP and join APC, what is so special about it? The governors in ANPP are prepared to leave the ANPP and join APC. The governors in ACN are prepared to leave ACN for APC. The governor in CPC is also prepared to leave CPC and join APC. So, what is news in governors in PDP leaving PDP to join APC? It is no news.
But are they making overtures?
I don’t know but I believe those who say some governors are planning to join APC wouldn’t be lying.
Some Nigerians have expressed reservations about the PIB bill which is now before the National Assembly, insisting that it may not serve the general interest of the people if it is passed into law. As a former lawmaker, what is your view about this?
From what I read in the papers and contributions of some members of legislature, there are certain areas that need amendment, especially those areas that are talking about taking oil revenue direct to the oil producing communities. Besides that, there are some other areas which the lawmakers have to address. Since the bill has passed second reading, it means it is going to committee level. At committee level, there will be public hearing and people will come and hear their views.
The aggregate opinion is what the committee will report back to the House for consideration line by line. This bill seeks to empower the oil producing areas more after the debate of the onshore/off shore dichotomy. So, obviously, it is going to involve members knocking on some aspects of the provisions of the bill. But I hope that members of the National Assembly will come to a compromise so that the better part of the bill can be made into law for the benefits of communities, Nigerians and the industry.
The House of Representatives recently came up with a revelation that the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) has not been remitting its Internally Generated Revenue to the Federal Government since the advent of the present democratic government. According to them, the arrears of IGR expected to be remitted to the government coffers is amounting to about six trillion naira.
Why has the National Assembly refused to beam its search light on the activities of the corporation all these years?
I think NNPC is the biggest culprit. The National Assembly has no resources to audit completely the affairs of NNPC. Today you get information on one aspect and you discover a huge sum missing. Tomorrow, it will be another sector. If you talk to DPI, talk to the office of Accountant General, talk to revenue mobilization, what you get is conflicting figures in terms of crude oil export, revenue earnings, what NNPC is refining locally and so many other issues.
Look at what happened to fuel subsidy running into trillions. So, really, if there is anything we can do to completely abandon NNPC and do away with it, I think we must do. The Norwegian company started with NNPC on the same footing and look at where that company is and where NNPC is today. All over the world, it is only in Nigeria you have this monumental corruption entrenched within the affairs of NNPC and it is almost impossible to clear the mess in the NNPC. They even tell you they don’t have to present their budget. All institutions of government are supposed to be open and transparent so that Nigeria can know how much we are voting for this parastatal.
There are so many undeclared revenue earnings in Nigeria. I think over time, the National Assembly will be able to develop its capacity as they get more financially independent so that they can appoint a consultant who will be able to do justice to the books of NNPC. It is doable but it is a Herculean task. Human and material resources are required but for now, I don’t think the National Assembly has enough resources to scrutinize the affairs of NNPC.
President Goodluck Jonathan declined giving amnesty members of Boko Haram. In your own opinion, does the group desire amnesty?
Are the thousands of people detained in the name of Boko Haram ghosts? If they are ghosts, release them. If you don’t know any member of Boko Haram, then release them. It is a contradictory statement. You arrest thousands of people as suspects and you are saying they are ghosts. If they are ghosts, then why are you holding these people? In the last two years since the Federal Government said they are investigating Boko Haram, they have been unable to unravel those behind the indulgence. In any case, what made the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua declare amnesty for the Niger Delta militants who laid down their arms? Why can’t you declare amnesty for those who lay down their arms so that they can disclaim being members of Boko Haram? But he went to Borno to insult the people in their homes. So, it would have been better Jonathan never visited Borno and Yobe.
When you spent two trillion naira in South-South and you spent only 19 billion naira in the whole of North East, where is justice? In terms of population, in terms of landmass, in terms of ecological challenges, North East has more serious problem than South-South. Yet, they will say there is justice and fairness. The bane of indulgency or militancy of Boko Haram in the country is lack of justice by our leaders. There is no justice in distribution of resources. When there is no justice, there is no fairness. Peace is a product of justice.
People must see justice being done not by mere mentioning. There must be justice physically on ground. But how can you have justice when people who haven’t won any election are giving position of responsibility. Certainly, they will have no regard to the people because they know that at the end of the day, it is INEC and security agencies that will write results for them. There is no responsible and accountable leadership. So, how can you get justice? If Jonathan believes that it is the vote of the people that will take him there, he cannot go to Borno and Yobe and tell them this. Even if he had no intention of giving them amnesty, he should do it the way he did it. You can’t come to my house and insult me. It will not tolerate it.
If it is true that injustice is the bane of the indulgency, why is it that it is the ordinary people that are the victims of this violence?
It has always been like that. In an effort to reach their target, there must be causalities. There must be unintended consequences. In the circumstance, everybody becomes a victim. You and I are victims because I can no longer travel the way I used to. If I am travelling, I have to think of how I can secure myself. It takes between seven to nine hours to travel from Abuja to Kano because of road blocks by security operatives. So, everybody is suffering the indulgency. If you look at the history of crisis in this country, these uprisings have come in different forms because of injustice.
At a time, you have the problem of Oodua Peoples Congress(OPC) in the South West. In the South East, we had so many militant organizations like MASSOP. If there is justice, government will be able to tackle them with less cost and casualties. We in the North are being invaded by the militants, they don’t allow us to have free elections, they don’t allow us to move freely, they don’t allow us to pursue our businesses freely.
The cost of doing businesses has doubled because of demands and time consumption on the roads. If you are driving from Abuja to Kano or Maiduguri, try and count how many military check points you will meet on the road and in each place, you can’t wait for less than 10 minutes. In some places, you wait for hours. We in this part of the country are under siege. On one hand, you have the menace of Boko Haram, on the other hand, you have the overzealousness of security agencies who are looking for opportunities.
To extort money or what?
To create more difficulties for people. Some are even outrightly biased. Sometimes, they harass and intimidate you so that if you talk they will say come and jump. We are under siege.
In Hausa/Fulani culture, institution of traditional rulers is still one of the most respected institutions in that part of the country. But surprisingly, the Emir of Kano was attacked and narrowly escaped being killed by the insurgency. What does this portend for the elusive search for peace in the region?
First, we all condemned the attack. But it goes to show that the institution of traditional rulers can only bark but not bite. We respect them because they are part of our heritage not because they are in the position to better the lives of our people. The Chairman of a local government who is in control of resources is much more in a better position to improve the lives of the people than the traditional rulers. So what happened to the Emir of Kano was very sad but significant in the sense that it shows that all these roadblocks are not the solution.
The solution lies in being just and fair to the people. May be these people thought that traditional rulers were in collusion with those in power to impoverish them. We hope government will be able to come up with those who attacked the Emir of Kano and then make public what is the reason for the attack. It clearly shows that nobody is safe; it clearly shows that with all the military checkpoints, these people can perpetrate their violence even in the daytime. Certainly, they are not after his position. We need to know who did it and why.
The House of Representatives is making a move to establish Nigeria National Commission to coordinate control of proliferation of small arms and weapons as a way to checking insecurity in the country. Are you saying this is an effort in futility?
No, it is not an effort in futility because if you stop the coming of small arms into the country, at least, you would have done something. But I think ab initio, our security agencies did not take enough proactive measures to minimize the flow of arms into the country. Libya shares common boundary with Niger Republic, Chad Republic and Nigeria. You should expect that during the revolution, firearms will flow along those routes into the country. But we did not take proactive measures to control it immediately the crisis started. Similarly, some military men who were displaced are going to find themselves in Nigeria with their professional training and large catchments of arms and ammunitions. Since our boarder is porous, we did not take enough measure to minimize the effect of all this. And we don’t have the capacity now to be able to effectively protect our borders.
Isn’t there a dangerous signal that there may not be peaceful election in this part of the country if this insurgency is not dealt with either by dialogue, amnesty or military action before the next general elections?
It may serve the interest of PDP government to have military in place during election so that they can use the military to manipulate the figures the way they did in 2011. It is not in our interest for military to remain in the states but it is their interest. So, they may not do anything that will foster dialogue. It is a deliberate action.
Do you then think that any politician will be free to campaign in this region during election?
Those who are in authority today are not interested in that. They want the situation to continue so that they can write figures in their favour. Again, the emergence of APC may be another reason they want military to remain in the region. APC is the answer for dislodging PDP out of power. No one party can do it and do it alone. If the merger is consolidated, the PDP should start parking because people have made up their mind for change and that change must come.
You are not leaving room for moles that might have been planted in your party.
There are moles everywhere. I hope we will detect them early enough. We know those people PDP can use. We know those PDP used to thwart the ambition of Gen Buhari and we are looking at them. But we are prepared to forgive those who have repented.
You think Buhari can sincerely forgive those in the ANPP who frustrated his ambition?
He has forgiven them.
Forgiving them is different from trusting them.
If I forgive you, it is up to you to prove yourself. If you say you have repented from eating Amala, we will look forward to see you not eating Amala again. It is up to you to prove that you have stopped eating Amala. It is up to you to build confidence of the people in you. Gen Buhari built confidence of Nigerians over the years.
Now that you have a more vibrant platform, are you still interested in taking another shot at Katsina State Government House?
I am not a desperate politician. I have held a position which by protocol was much higher than that of a governor. And I was lucky, God on my side, I completed my tenure safely..