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APC will pay the price for bad congresses — Babachir Lawal

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David Babachir Lawal


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Former Secretary to the government of the Federation, Mr. David Babachir Lawal, opened up on the criteria President Muhammadu Buhari adopted in making appointments, APC crisis in Adamawa State and Buhari’s 2019 re-election bid. EMMANUEL ANDE reports.

What effects are the APC crises likely to have on the 2019 general elections?
There are no two ways about it, those states where congresses were not conducted in a free and fair manner by some powerful stakeholders and governors, will certainly pay the price of undemocratic activities. In democracy, people have different aspirations with the hope to achieve them on the platform of a particular political party. But once you are denied the opportunity to participate democratically, naturally, you must feel aggrieved and the temptation may be for you to seek your ambition on another platform.

The immediate past congresses cannot stand the test of time from what I read in newspapers. What aggrieved members are saying is a sad development, because the governors decided in their offices to write the names of their secretaries and their family members. Adamawa State appears to be unique in this negative regard. So, you are not wrong to say these undemocratic activities may affect APC’s performances in some states.

Even if the presidential election is secured, the lower elections will still be affected negatively. Houses of Assembly elections, where local issues are at stake will suffer losses and other elections up to the Senate and probably the governorship elections. So, for democracy to survive and thrive, there must be justice in the electoral process. But when injustice takes the centre stage, the majority of democratic lovers will be disillusioned and the tendency is to migrate to other parties.

The APC itself gained heavily from this kind of undemocratic practices by PDP, where some key stakeholders were aggrieved and made their way to APC. In Adamawa State, for example, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) and his group moved to APC and quite a lot of them that called themselves nPDP. So, as a senior stakeholder, I am worried about the trend playing out in APC, and if serious actions are not taken to address these grievances, many people will certainly abandon the party to realise their ambitions on other political platforms.

In Adamawa State, two parallel congresses were conducted. How will this crisis be resolved before 2019?
The issue of fractionalisation of APC in Adamawa State did not start with the congress. It started before the congress during the launching of President Buhari’s re-election project, where the state governor and his group boycotted and organised a parallel meeting on the same day of the event. The governor’s meeting, which held at Government House was not a stakeholders’ meeting, but a briefing by the governor to his commissioners and other political appointees. Before then, the Buhari project group, realising it was excluded from the governor’s meeting, decided to organise the group in such a manner that will properly align Buhari’s supporters in the state.

The Adamawa APC crisis started long ago, when this government came into power. Evidence shows that majority of legacy party members that is the CPC, ACN and ANPP members that fused into APC did not get reasonable appointments in Adamawa State under the governor’s leadership. The appointments made by this government then and even now are mainly nPDP members, from where the governor came. So, there has been serious dissatisfaction towards government by the ranks and file of party members right from the inception of this administration. And this is what culminated and matured into two different groups at the congresses.

There are allegations that the outgoing National APC chairman, Mr. John Oyegun, formulated the crisis to hit back at the president for denying him second term…
I did not know Oyegun and his national working committee (NWC) members thinking as a group. I was the national vice chairman, northeast, and have a good working relationship with Oyegun. There are decent men in the NWC, who have good intention towards the country, the party and the president. Some of them are still there, and I think there is no such intention. It is Oyegun and his group that will answer for their actions.

However, knowing the workings of NWC, l am at a loss on how the NWC sends out committees with specific instructions to deal only with governors that are interested members of the congresses, because some of them will be contesting, some of them will sponsor other people to take over from those that have finished their tenure. It is, therefore, important that the congress committee send out men of integrity. I believe some of them are such and cannot be compromised, but I find it difficult to believe that has been the case.

We have a very unique experience in the case of Adamawa, when the Buhari group sensed there was hostility towards them. So, we contributed money to obtain forms for our candidates for all positions in the state. Sensing that state APC executives would not sell forms to Buhari group, the group sent someone to Abuja to buy the forms from the National Headquarters, having paid the required amount to the bank.

The young man spent two days in Abuja. He was dribbled all round and didn’t succeed in obtaining the forms. In the end, the chairman informed him that chairman of the congress committee would be arriving Yola on Friday with the forms before the congress.However, we got to know that the committee arrived Yola two days earlier, but they were cocooned in Government House or somewhere inaccessible to anybody, but only the governor’s team. So, we were at a loss as to how to get the forms. Eventually, they came out of their hiding place and we got information that they were at the party secretariat, holding a press conference. We got there around 5pm at the tail end of their press conference. We sought to participate and we had a meeting. The position of the committee was that they needed approval from Abuja before they could sell the forms to us, because they had specific instruction not to sell in bulk to anybody.

Finally, the chairman of the committee, whom I must confess is a gentleman, got approval from Abuja and sold the forms to us. But by then, it was around 7pm, so we went into a meeting with the committee and the congress was shifted to Sunday at 2pm to enable us distribute the forms to our candidates, who resided in remote areas.Shifting the congress to Sunday posed another serious problem to us, because the majority of people in Adamawa State are Christians, who would be in church that day. The Christians already perceived that the action was aimed at excluding them from the congress. The committee also refused to collect the forms. In a nutshell, the governor wrote the result of the congress in Government House and submitted it.

This is the background of the congresses. It was clear that the governor had no intention of conducting the congress. It was clear that the governor had no intention of discussing how the congress would be conducted in a free and fair manner to avoid crisis, more especially to get a religious balance and harmony in the party, which is a very key issue to establish harmony in Adamawa APC. This is because politics in Adamawa State is played along religious and ethnic lines, and apparently, the governor is not interested in accommodating other religious groups.

Can President Buhari scale through, together with all APC governors, senators and other serving elected APC members in 2019?
I wish it happens, but not everybody merits it. I think 2015 elections were predicated on hope. We wanted to give Buhari a team to work with. Unfortunately, some of the team members are spoilers. So, this time, I hope Nigerians will be selective in their choices.

With all these imbalances you listed, can you still work for the party to win elections in the state?
I want to make one thing clear. In the past, Adamawa people had played religious and ethnic politics. As an ethnic man from a small tribe Kilba and as a Christian, I am privileged to have the knowledge of ethnicity Christian thinking, visa-viz this present government. There is a pervasive feeling that this government has marginalised Christians in its appointments. I am aware also that there is anger and bitterness towards government over ethnic clashes, farmers attacked by nomadic herdsmen, whereby Christians see government’s inactions in terms of compensation and working towards addressing the matter.If care is not taken, the bitterness and anger will affect votes in one way or another.

My understanding is that when such happens, our duty as stakeholders from these areas is to resolve the crisis. This is because we are the only ones that can explain to our people the truth; otherwise they will decide to go the other way. We worked to bring this present government to power, but now the government arrogantly feels that our efforts are not worth it. This means they are ready to bear the ugly consequences, when general elections come.

On a personal level, the only reason I joined politics was to ensure that the present president got elected and I repeated severally that my own disposition is that anytime the president decides to contest elections, I will support him. So, whether or not Adamawa government decides it doesn’t need Christians’ votes, I know that the president wants Christians and Muslims votes in all the states, including Adamawa. The Buhari project group was specifically set up to establish an environment that would make citizens vote for the president for second term.

So, this cannot change because we have a government in the state that has a different idea of how it will get votes to win election. Our major concern is president Buhari and not any other person.

Mr. President has been accused of lopsided appointments and killings by herdsmen. Don’t you think this may affect his chances in his second term bid?
There are two different issues in your question, so I will address them one after the other. On the issue of appointments, I was Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and appointment issues were within my purview. I spent over two years in that office, so I am speaking as an authority on appointments made by Mr. President during my tenure as SGF. The SGF is one of the persons that recommend people to the president for appointments. Few of the appointments may come from other sources and the president may accept or reject it. But majority of the appointments before I left were recommended by me.

The president’s first requirement for appointment is that the person qualifies for the job. When you recommended someone, he goes through the person’s CV, after which he will ask what the person has done to qualify for being in government. The president has never listed religion as a qualification for appointments or as a qualification for anything. He is a man that is amendable to corrections, but sometimes when the president approves appointments, maybe sources from different places raised valid issues; I go back to him and point out those issues. He would graciously say, ‘Okay, thank you very much. Go and look for another person.’ He never told me that this appointment is because the person is a Christian, Muslim or he is from Katsina or Borno State. So, the accusation that the president’s appointments are based on nepotism is not true. It is true that as the president, everything stops on his table, but the recommendations have no religious colours.

The problem is that some people have a mindset, and no matter our explanation, they will still stick to their personal opinion and refuse to accept the truth.
On the issue of farmers/herdsmen clashes, again based on my position in government, I had another advantage of understanding the problems deeply. I am from Adamawa State and right from my childhood, farmers/herdsmen clashes have existed for decades. During the colonial era, cattle routes were demarcated, knowing fully that herdsmen must migrate. When the season changes, they migrate where they can get water for their cattle. But you see, land does not grow, while the human population does. So, the demand for land use increased, and cattle routes were taken over by farmers and other land users. So, it became very difficult for nomadic cattle rearers to migrate. So, when they are desperately looking for space to move their cattle, farm crops are destroyed, because cows are not human beings, when it is hungry and sees anything green, it eats it, be it corn, grass or any other crop, and this brings conflict between them and farmers.

Presently, the only routes for cattle are roads built for vehicles, but God did not design cows to walk on tarred road. In the olden days, there were game reserves for herdsmen, with small clinic for treating their cattle and water channels, but all those things are no longer there, houses or businesses have taken over. So, if you were a herdsman, you would face a serious challenge concerning migration.

The government has a duty to find a permanent solution to the problem. When the president was chairman of PTF, he had plans to re-activate the cattle routes.When this issue first arose, he directed the Ministry of Agriculture to look for those document. When it was located, the president directed that it should be implemented. The issue also came up at the Security Council’s meeting and the same directive was given. But because of our division along ethnic and political lines, all the good intentions were maligned, with some people saying the president was trying to seize land from farmers for herdsmen.

I am a cattle rearer and I have a ranch where I rear my cattle. There is a small river beside my ranch. So, every dry season, that small river plays host to thousands of cattle colonies because of the water. Later, I discovered that cattle route passed through the centre of my farm, and after due consultations with the Fulani herdsmen and their Ardos, we all agreed to relocate the route and a new route was carved out. Now, they know their route and no herdsman passes through my farm again. So, such approach can easily solve the problem.

Again, Nigerians are not always sympathetic about the situation other people find themselves. The cattle Fulani man enjoys practically no government amenities: They don’t go to school, they don’t have hospitals, they don’t have electricity and other social amenities that all of us enjoy. They don’t know that if they settle in one place, their lifestyle will drastically change for their own good.

Past governments started nomadic schools, which I don’t understand. If you are a nomadic in Yola and there is a school and you attended for three months, but when you migrate to Numan, the school will not follow you. So, why call it nomadic, when the teachers are not nomadic and the school cannot move along with the nomads? We must show empathy for their lifestyle. In trying to solve this problem, we must look at the other side also.If government wants to create grazing reserves, it must ensure that all the facilities other Nigerians are enjoying are provided in those reserves. I strongly believe that those proposing or opposing grazing reserves are not thinking along this line. These are very complicated issues that Nigerians should try to understand that it couldn’t be resolved in one day, as expected by some people.

The president is a man that believes in justice. He cannot be happy over the killings going on in the country under his leadership. But some mischief-makers are trying to drag his image into the mindless killings.

What is Mr. President’s major selling point to convince Nigerians to support his second term bid?
First of all, the government has done excellently. In the area of infrastructure development, government has invested heavily in railways, road construction and electricity. This is evident. Government has also invested heavily in education. These are key points in development. In Adamawa State, Yola-Mubi Road is under construction, the Numan-Cham Road is also under construction, as well as Numan-Jalingo Road. These are roads that were totally neglected by the past government.

Also, transmission has been upgraded, and people can see an improvement in electricity supply in Adamawa State now. Even if Mr. President has done nothing, those of us in the Northeast should applaud this administration for the return of peace to the region captured by Boko Haram. We can now sleep in our houses and go to church and mosque without fear of attack.

There is nobody to succeed Buhari now. Those whispering that they will unseat him in 2019 are jokers. There are ambitious people, but for now there is nobody that has the qualities to unseat Buhari in 2019. Some of them look in the mirror and their wives have the ambition to be the First Lady. Most of them were governors that abused and mismanaged their states and they are thinking that the next stepping-stone is to be the president. I don’t know how that can be possible. For me, there is no substitute for President Buhari in 2019.


In this article:
David Babachir Lawal
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