COMING together all the way from the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as its pioneer national secretary, Alhaji Buba Galadima is an unrepentant supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari. He believed in his vision and unrelentlessly supported the struggles that culminated in his victory in the 2015 presidential election. In this interview, he reveals why Buhari suddenly made a U-turn, abandoned his old political base and embraced new found technocrats to run his administration. He also bares his mind on the vexed issues of restructuring, separatist agitations and perceived marginalization of the people of South-east extraction. According to him, the entire economy of Nigeria is in the hands of South- south and South-east.
The country is said to be more divided now than ever before under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Why do you think it is so?
If there is division, it must be due to several factors, among which, is the fact that the government is not communicating at all with the people. Even their good intention is being misinterpreted because they do not have the people who will talk to the populace to make them understand. Two, Buhari has abandoned his political base completely and brought in new people that he does not know their background or their politics. Three, he is trying to distance himself from the elite, including political juggernauts that contributed to bringing him to power. Four, he has alienated his supporters who had been with him since 2002. None of those people is visible in his government. And these are tested hands that were offered whatever position you can think of in life but rejected because they wanted to promote him. Today, he doesn’t know them again because he says he doesn’t want to associate with politicians, forgetting the fact that it was politics and politicians that brought him to the chair which he is occupying.
He has now found new friends in civil servants and technocrats through whom he wishes to perform. This group has neither political base nor committed to his cause. Once he is out of power, they will be the first group to expose the activities of his government, especially when they are not getting what they used to get before. A combination of all these will definitely destroy any goodwill that somebody has gathered in the process of getting into power. There has never being any government that received the goodwill and support of the people of Nigeria from colonial time to date like this government. But all this goodwill is fading away like quicksand. No government in Nigeria has ever increased fuel money above two folds and got away with it. No government has ever devalued currency by about 200 percent and got away with it. No government has ever stopped importation of Nigerians’ basic needs; no government has ever witnessed tripling of food prices and survived without public outcry or outright removal except this government. It is only good for the government to do a self examination of itself before it pushes the people further to the wall.
The current wave of separatist agitations across different ethnic nationalities has also been blamed on the lopsidedness in distribution of political appointments in favour of the North by the present administration. Do you agree or not?
Tell me which people are agitating so that I will answer you.
There is agitation for Biafra in the South-east, and also in the South-south causing bombing of oil installations in the Niger Delta. Do you now agree?
I don’t agree. Let’s start by saying that appointment is the prerogative of Mr. President. He appoints those who he thinks can deliver and take his, government to the Promised Land. All the things I have said is not because I didn’t get government’s appointment.
It is because the government is not performing. In America, the president can appoint his two brothers or sisters to any ministerial position and there will be no complaints, if they are qualified and can deliver. Why should it not be so in Nigeria? When it favours us, we quote America, Britian or France. If it does not favour us, we complain.
But there is no federal character in the American constitution. Not so?
You mean there is no federal minister from Ebonyi, Enugu, Cross River or Delta State?
Of course, political appointment is not limited to ministerial nomination alone. There are several other political offices that the government can spread across to reflect federal character. Isn’t it?
The South-east, the South-south and to a certain extent the South-west are the most favoured people in this government in terms of appointments. Nigeria’s problem is divided into two or three for now security, corruption and economy. The one that touches you and me is the economy. Security is the one that touches only me and not you to a certain extent. The entire economy of Nigeria is in the hands of the South-south and people of Igbo extraction. The entire oil industry is in the hands of the Igbo of South-east extraction. He decides who gets what, who does what.
Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups are agitating because they claim that majority of oil blocs in their region is in the hands of the people of Northern extraction. Isn’t it so?
Who manages the oil?
Federal Government manages the oil.
Who manages the process of getting oil blocs?
Federal Government manages the process.
(Cuts in)…. The entire oil industry is in the hands of the people of the South-east and South-south plus a few Northerners and Southwest people. 75 percent of those who own oil wells and don’t make noise about it are from the South- South and South-east. There is Free of Information Bill; tell Ibe Kachikwu to give you the list of oil well owners. You will be shocked. You people just write anything out of spite, out of jealousy, out of hate. Can lie ever become truth? The entire economy and financial system of Nigeria is in the hands of South- South and people of Igbo extraction. The Governor of Central Bank makes financial policy, and determines who gets what. I am I right or wrong?
Babatunde Fowler is from Sokoto? Babatunde Fashola who is in charge of the energy, housing and road network is from Maiduguri? The man in charge of the entire maritime sector from which Nigeria gets highest revenue, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is from Kano? And above all, the chairman of the National Economic Council, Prof Yemi Osinbajo as well as Political Adviser to the President, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, is from Plateau? I am asking you now.
I am listening.
You believe it is the only people from South-east, South-south and South- west that have rights to complain? We Northerners should be the one complaining about Buhari’s government, not the South-south, South-east and the South-west. And my reason is simple. There are about 557 agencies of government and parastatals and Buhari has not reconstituted 30 of these parastatals. 85 percent of the remaining 540 or thereabout are being headed by the people of the South-south, South- east and to a certain extent South-west because they were Jonathan’s appointees and Buhari did not remove them. As I speak to you, nobody from Yobe, Jigawa, Taraba, Gombe, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kogi, and Benue has been appointed as head of any federal parastatal apart from the statutory ministerial appointments.
Can you mention one person that has contributed what I had done for Buhari becoming president from 2002 to date? Can you mention one person who had suffered arrest and intimidation like me? Did I ever complain that I wasn’t given appointment? Why should somebody else complain? There has never been a Nigerian that loves the Igbo more than Gen Buhari.
How do you mean?
In 2003, Buhari picked a prominent and illustrious son of Igbo extraction, a number three citizen of the country, the late Senator Chuba Okadigbo, as a running mate. Was that not a big consideration? How many votes did they give Buhari? Zero. In 2007, Buhari picked another illustrious and distinguished son of the Igbo extraction, Chief Edwin Ume- Ezeoke, as his running mate. In the whole of his village, Buhari scored only three votes. If I don’t like you, why should I like anything that comes from your hands? If Buhari doesn’t like them, don’t you think he should flush those heads of parastatals and agencies of Federal Government who are from those zones and give those who supported him? He got the highest votes from Yobe State. Yet, he appointed nobody from Yobe to head any parastatal. What do you expect the Yobe people to say? Should they go and jump into the Atlantic Ocean?
They also have the right to agitate.
That is because of democracy. In Zamfara State, Buhari scored 94 percent of total vote cast. He didn’t appoint one person apart from the minister allowed by the constitution.
If we want to build a country, we should throw away primordial sentiments, hate
and spite and begin to look at every Nigerian as one of us or else we will never move forward. We should build a country where we will be our brothers’ keepers.
Would you then agree with those who are agitating for a restructuring of the country as a way of addressing the recurring issue of marginalization?
Nobody has defined restructuring for me to understand. I was in the constituent assembly of 1988 and the constitutional conference of 1994 and 2015, there is no Nigerian who has defined the word restructuring. Everybody is only talking of restructuring in line with his own interest. Nobody has convinced me of the need for a restructuring of the country. If there is anybody who believes in restructuring, please call a national debate and promote that debate nationally and internationally for me and him to challenge each other. Whether the man is a professor or student of history, I am ready to face him.
The restructuring people are actually talking about is such that will make the constituent part more independent and more functional. Don’t you think there is a need to reconfigure the present system?
Let me tell you, most of those clamouring for restructuring are looking for attention. They want to be noticed by Nigerians and by government. They have no point. And if there is anyone who has a point, write it boldly that Buba Galadima is challenging him to a television debate.
With the present configuration, are you saying that the local government, for instance, is performing its statutory functions to your satisfaction? Or you think the states are viable enough to promote competitive development the way it existed when Nigeria was operating regional arrangement?
Of all those who are talking of restructuring, nobody wants regional arrangement.
The most contiguous part of Nigeria is South-east. They are one people with small differences. Francis Akanu Ibiam, was one of the most prominent sons of the Igboland.
He was a governor of former eastern region. For him, restructuring means the downtrodden people of Ebonyi State must be given a state of their own. He lived all his life fighting for the creation of Ebonyi State.
And I want to tell you that as I speak to you now, no Ebonyi man or Abia man will want to come back under the weight of the Anambra people. If you ask them to become one region, they will never agree to that. Let alone you go and ask an Ibibio man or Efik man or Kalabari man, or Edo man, to be part of former Eastern region. If you start to do that, you are looking for trouble.
No indigenous Lagos man that will agree to go back to the former western region. If there is plebiscite tomorrow on whether the whole of western region should become one, I want to tell you that Lagos will say no. Edo State will say no to coming back to the former western region.
The issue of local government is the issue of overbearing of the governors. Everybody wants local government to be independent of the states and be given their allocation to manage their affairs. But up till tomorrow, people are agitating for new states; people are agitating for new local governments. So, the issue of restructuring and regionalism are elite phenomenon.
When people are not under consideration, they want to make noise to be heard. They have no means of livelihood except to make noise to be noticed or given appointment.
So, those agitating for restructuring are political jobbers? Yes, they are. They have no means of livelihood. That is the only means
by which they can be noticed.
How would you also describe those agitating for Biafra or the Niger Delta people clamouring for self determination?
There is nobody who wants Biafra. My best friends are Igbo people. They even give me means of livelihood.
Nobody is asking for Biafra; they are being used by political jobbers who want to be called to negotiate so that they make money.
If there is plebiscite, 90 percent of them will vote to remain in Nigeria. Igbo need Nigeria more than any other group.
But you know, in Nigeria, you agitate so that you get more than your fair share. That is what they are doing.
What about the South- south people who want self determination for their region?
They are only talking about resource control. They are not agitating for self independence.
How can they live together? The militants agitating for self determination are miscreants, criminals. They don’t speak for the people. Many of those making noise have no job and they don’t want to sweat.
Fulani Herdsmen are today seen in some part of Nigeria as a threat to national unity. Yet there is this feeling that Buhari is soft on them. What’s your take on this?
There is no evidence that Buhari is soft on the Fulani herdsmen because they are his tribesmen. The press just wanted to destroy him and he has nobody to speak on his behalf to convince you guys. When he ordered a crackdown on the so- called miscreants that you people in the media tagged herdsmen, I don’t believe there was any Fulani man that was caught. How many thousands of people were killed in the last five years in Zamfara who are 70 to 80 percent of people of Fulani extraction?
By the so-called miscreants?
Of course. So, you don’t know that thousands of people were killed by miscreants in the last five years? You don’t know how they sacked villages and abducted their women and their children? They sacked a whole local government and carried away their cattle.
Are you referring to cattle rustlers?
What do you call those who attacked villages in Aniocha, Enugu or Benue and killed their children? Or you believe they were Fulani?
Of course, as much as they rear cattle.
Did you see any cattle near the community they attacked? Do you believe a Fulani man can abandon 200 or 300 cows after sacking a community? Do you know how much a cow costs?