Former Kaduna State governor and leader of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) Alhaji Balarabe Musa, speaks on the general election.
What is your reaction to the postponement of the presidential election?
It has happened before. This is not the first time. The only difference is that this one is abrupt. Secondly, the first thing we should do, however we feel about the negative state of the nation, whatever we feel about the confusion and poor performance of the government, is to avoid catastrophe, confusion and violence leading to loss of lives and property, we should give the government the benefit of the doubt. I know this was done before. Let us exercise caution and think about the greater interest of the nation. Any move that is geared towards anarchy will not pay anyone. We don’t want that to happen. It will never mitigate our grievances. It will only set the nation backwards. Those responsible for bringing about these things i.e. election postponement are the INEC, the government, security agencies and the political parties. Let us cooperate with them and save the nation any form of embarrassment and turmoil. I know the reasons for the postponement may be genuine. Whatever the reasons for the act, let us accept it and move on. You know the Nigerian situation. Small things like this can snowball into uncontrollable dimension.
But in your own mind, the reasons for the postponement given by INEC are they genuine?
Those responsible for the postponement are the INEC, the government, security agencies and the political parties. You cannot absolve these four of culpability in the postponement. So, whatever each one of them says should be taken with a pinch of salt. In the case of INEC, security services and government, they are not doing their work. If they are alive to their responsibilities we will not be in this situation. In the case of the political parties, they are irrelevant; completely irrelevant. You can talk of the power game; you can talk of the APC and PDP, but what of the other political parties? They are completely irrelevant and that is where the problem lies. I say they are irrelevant because they are disoriented. If they can unite, they can function effectively and be counted in every situation. The government and the security services will not do what they are doing now.
Don’t you think that INEC was overwhelmed by the sheer large number of political parties?
Let me tell you the history first. So listen to me. I talked about the political parties being irrelevant. It is annoying to hear from me who is a leader of a political party saying that political parties are irrelevant. So listen to me. In 2000, what happened? Government and INEC wanted to have a one party system, but there was the problem of Kaduna mafia which wanted to have its own party, a second party from the north. When they agreed, those calling for one party and two party systems agreed, INEC called a meeting between the political parties and INEC to consider guidelines and plans for the formation and registration of political parties. They made a terrible mistake, by thinking they will fool the political parties but fortunately, at that time the political parties were relevant simply because people like the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi were allowed to be part of the system. He moved round the political parties canvassing for resistant of the plot and that was how we saved the situation. He moved round the parties seeking for registration of more political parties. So it was clear to them that INEC cannot foist one -party or two- party system on the nation. There were about six parties that registered then including AD, APGA, ANPP and others. The plan to limit the parties failed.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi called a meeting. All of us were there. The parties were relevant. This time, no one bothers about the parties even in matters that concern them. INEC presented their paper on the guidelines for the formation and registration of political parties and we clearly saw the game. After about two or three hours at the meeting at INEC office ,we went out and consulted ourselves there and then and took a stand and Gani Fawehinmi moved a motion rejecting the guidelines produced by INEC for the formation and registration of political parties as unconstitutional and rejecting the unconstitutionality. The ruling PDP at that time represented by the late Adamu Ciroma backed the move rejecting the guidelines as unconstitutional. We all agreed, myself and this man from Enugu (I have forgotten his name) to reject the guidelines in its entirety. INEC refused. INEC stood by its own guidelines. There was a stalemate. No one was willing to shift ground. The parties because of their unity could not be persuaded or bullied into submission. We agreed together to fight the unconstitutionality politically and in court. We marched back to INEC office and informed them of our decision and even went ahead to form a task force to handle it. And we went to court to stop it. It was a watershed in the history of political development in the country. We went straight to court and even up to the Supreme Court. It is as a result of this that we have today a liberal standard for the formation and registration of political parties which has withstood every negative attempt to stall , and today we have 93 registered political parties. That is why I am talking about the relevance of political parties. Now, do we have a liberal framework to operate? The answer is no. Which one of the political parties has the capacity to push for vital issues concerning 93 political parties and carry along 93 political parties in a meeting? The government and INEC now take decisions without involving the 93 political parties and it will not be disobeyed. This is why the government, INEC and the security services would take decisions rescheduling elections and the parties are complaining because ab-initio they were not consulted. This is one of the defects of the party system and by extension our democracy and that is why most of them are not prepared for the elections. It is deliberate.
The presidential election came and there were problems necessitating a shift. How do you want the rescheduled election to pan out with the irrelevance of the political parties in the equation?
I hope the four are ready. If they are not ready and the election is postponed again, that is another matter. We have to be more critical and take the matter very serious in the interest of our democracy. We have to observe our attitudes more critically and be ready to make sacrifices. All the parties involved must demonstrate a deep commitment to allow the system work, and I mean that none of them should be a clog in the wheel of the election. We should shun the attitude of blaming any of the parties involved in the election. All the four are to be blamed for whatever happens. This blame game must stop so that we achieve the desired results of a credible election that will be accepted by everybody including the international community. In the case of APC and PDP, I know they are not relevant because they are fighting each other to the finish. The tension in the country today is from them. Do you realise that (hesitates), I am speaking from experience because we have been in this thing for long. We know that the way the whole thing is going, none of the two parties, PDP and APC will have even a simple majority in the National Assembly after the election. I doubt it.
Why do you believe so? Anything can happen in politics or are you foreclosing surprises?
I say so because I should know. With my long and vast experience in this game, it is not difficult to decipher. The contest between the two is very close. It is so close that even the opposition as irrelevant as it is, can even pull an upset. You know that in 1979, even when the political parties were relevant, the NPN had to go into alliance with the NPP to be able to form a government. Then, we had responsible political leaders and political parties. Now we don’t have them. The process of going into alliance is impossible. And that is the dilemma we are facing. Any discerning political leader with good experience should be able to read this. A good number of the current political players are rigid and reckless. Concessions which are allowed as part of political expediency are observed only in the breach. This is why some of us are worried. What stops the other political parties apart from the APC and PDP from coming together for the purpose of forming a coalition that will pull the chestnut out of the fire and forge a common front to salvage the situation? Why can’t they forge a credible alternative to the APC and PDP? What stops them? What we are seeing is some of them coming out to either support the APC or the PDP. That compounds the situation because I believe that they have what it takes to form a common programme for the good of the country. What will solve the problem is demonstrating the initiative of becoming a viable alternative to the PDP and APC for the purpose of growth and development of the country. How can they be relevant when they can’t solve the problem of the country? And when you talk about ideology and performance what is the difference between the APC and the PDP or even among the other political parties. They are all formations without ideology and vision beyond capturing power. No distinction among them. There is immense fraud in them because without ideology they are defrauding the people. We have tried the two parties and we know they have nothing to offer the people. Unfortunately, they are the ones with funds to woo and cajole the people even as the people know that they have nothing to offer them. We are different from all them. The PRP is different. You can’t dismiss the PRP because we have a robust programme for the people and a vision for the country. We have been in government before and we proved our mettle. None of the parties has what it takes to build a virile, progressive nation. None has the capacity to provide a working framework for the betterment of the economy.
How do you see a post 2019 election Nigeria?
I see a country run by mindless fellows. I see continuity of the problems that confront us with the worst possibility of their escalation. I see an ineffective and inefficient government run by the same class of politicians that are self – serving and the people mean nothing to them. I do not see any fundamental change or shift from what we have seen in the last 20 years. It may even be worse. If the elections lead to confusion causing violence and bloodshed it would be a trying time because America, UK and others may be involved. And Nigeria may turn out like countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya and other troubled spots in the country. The conditions for violence are there. Even if there is no violence among the political parties, there is seething apprehension. Even when you look around, you see violence already from Boko haram and other groups pressing for one point or the other without let up.