FORMER factional national chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Adamu Song has said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the 2019 presidential election would be determined by the people of southern Nigeria.
Adamu, currently the interim national chairman of the yet to be registered National Congress for New Nigeria, (NCNN), a party, he says was founded by some bigwig progressives spread across the political parties in Nigeria opines that Buhari can only win the forthcoming presidential election if he gets support from other regions of the country, as he would be unable to get the support he got from the North during the 2015 presidential poll.
“The kind of support he mustered in the North in 2015 election, he will not be able to garner the same support in 2019; but he will have enough to see him through. That is if he can get similar support in other regions. I know of the North. Up till now in the North, majority are still with Buhari despite the fact that he has lost quite a number of others.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun in Kaduna, Adamu who was also the National Vice-Chairman (North-East) of the National Democratic Party (NDP), a party, which wanted former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, to contest the 2003 presidential election has some words for APC governors, those posing to be speaking for northerners. He took the Northern Elders Forum, (NEF) and Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF) to the cleaners, saying they are unfit to speak for the North because they have all compromised since they now pursue parochial interests that are different from those of the people.
Assessment of political parties in Nigeria
“It is not going to be easy for one within this period of time and the limited opportunity to be able to assess all the political parties. Be it as it may, first, let me start with the ruling party. The All Progressives Congress (APC), everybody knows is a convergence of people with divergent political inclinations. It is a sort of contraption forced by the situation then. Now, the diversity is showing very obviously that they do not belong to the same ideological camp. They do not even believe in the philosophy that the pointman of the party is spreading.” Adamu points to the signs. “The discordant tunes from the party are the signs. The governors are harassing and intimidating the president. Some stalwarts of the party are making inflammatory statements about the situation in the country.” Clearly, Adamu says the party has lost cohesion and that party members are on different pages. “Some of them outrightly do not support the president in his war against corruption and they openly show it. Some have gone to the press. The most obvious is the one by the president’s wife, Aisha. These are signs that the APC is not a solid whole.”
Adamu was particular about the challenge of the APC governors to some decisions of the president. “The governors have started questioning the president over his actions and inactions, which is abnormal. They are kicking against the appointments by the president, forgetting that the president is the one elected to pilot the affairs of the nation. Those he has appointed and is appointing are those he is sure would deliver on his behalf. So the governors have no say. Meanwhile, Buhari has no say in those to appoint in their various state cabinets. This is unfair. Why do they now want to dictate to Buhari who to appoint as ambassador or minister? They can make an input or provide advice on some of the appointments he has pencilled down. And that may be in form of the character and abilities of those pencilled down. They can do that in form of an advice, but going to the extent of protesting is wrong. Over what are they protesting? It is the fundamental right of the president to make these appointments and the president has made the appointments. If you have any quarrel with those appointed from your state, you can approach the president and in a civilised manner make your case. But to say you are protesting is outrightly uncalled for. But the advice I have for Buhari now is that he should know that Nigerians are suffering, but that majority of Nigerians are determined to weather the suffering if it would take them to the promise land. He should remain focused and remember that he was principally voted into office because of his integrity and the belief of Nigerians that he has the capacity to save this country from capsizing, especially in his fight against corruption. He should not spare anybody, including his very close confidants if there is any reason to do that.”
Is there any pointer that we are heading for the same showdown the governors had with President Goodluck Jonathan, going by the APC’s governors’ opposition to Buhari’s appointments? Adamu disagrees, noting that “for one reason, I do not want what happened to Jonathan to happen to Buhari because Jonathan and Buhari are two different persons and in two different situations,” and adds that “Jonathan was too liberal with the governors.” He went further: “The governors then saw themselves as those who made Jonathan while in the case of Buhari, it is the reverse. It is Buhari who made 95 percent of the governors of the APC. Among them, only a negligible percentage of them can win election on their own. The remaining all rode on the back of Buhari to become governors. So, they have limitations. And Buhari as someone from a military background and stubborn with his own beliefs will not be easy to sway. Jonathan was too soft. Jonathan, truly and sincerely, meant well for this country. He only found himself as an orphan in the midst of wolves. He didn’t have his own network. So, the governors were tossing him the way they liked. These governors cannot dare him. Some of the governors and legislators who tried it were attacked by the electorate in the North. Some were pelted with satchet waters. The mere fact that a governor will go to a function and they will boo him is enough signal to him that he is losing the people. But it is not out of place for governors to come as a team and consult with their president and put their observation in a polite and civilised manner so that they can together reason out. I do not believe that Buhari can be stubborn when things can be done different from the ways he is doing it.”
The new progressive party unveiled
Adamu’s entry into Nigeria’s political waters was in 1999 when a relatively unknown comrade in the petroleum union launched from an obscure background to be one of the notable personalities in the North, along with Ambassador Yusuf Mamman to organise the Alliance for Democracy. His role in the organisation of an almost pariah party in the North into a force earned him the respect of other members with whom he worked. Before long, Adamu was elected the state chairman for Kaduna.
Realising his potentials for organising and motivating followers, Adamu was pushed to take over the leadership of the AD, which was zoned to the North. He took over from Mamman who was accused of jettisoning the agenda of the party to northerners where the party was not doing well. Now, Adamu has unveiled a new progressive party, which though is yet to be registered, he says boasts of some of the bigwig progressives in the big parties in the country.
First, this reporter attempted to unveil Adamu’s inner workings and the reason for the establishment of a new progressive party. A point blank question was, therefore, put to him. Has he quit politics? This question elicited the answer that unveiled plans for the new party. Hear Adamu: “I will never quit politics until I die,” he quips. But in which party is he? The reporter tries to assess the comrade who is now one of the high ranking officers of NUPENG. “Right now, I have approached INEC to register a new political party and that new political party will be a convergence for all progressives in Nigeria because if you look at it now, the progressives are in disarray. They do not have a home. So, soon we are going to have a political party known, for now, as National Congress for New Nigeria, (NCNC). We are at the level of approaching INEC now and also reaching out and approaching people with integrity who we believe should be part and parcel of this new movement.” Who are those working with him? “There are those still in other parties who do not want their names mentioned yet because they say it will amount to anti-party activity. For a start, we will still keep it secret. But a lot of my political associates have interest. At most, in the next couple of four to five months, the party will come on stream. “
Are we not likely to have a mixture of conservatives with the targeted progressives? “In the situation, if the framework of the party is progressivism, conservatives will come. We will re-orient them because if the frame is there, you cannot change it. You can be a socialist, capitalist, conservative, progressive and so on, you will still not be able to change the perception of the party. APC didn’t do their own based on ideology.” How? This reporter sought to know. “They only approached those they thought are progressives. For example, how can PDP be progressive? How? They have never pretended not to be progressive. The PDP is conservative capitalist. How can PDP be progressive? The only progressive parties that joined to form the APC are AD and ACN. Even the APC as represented by Buhari is not progressive. So, there is a crisis of identity. You find Senators Dino Melaye and Bukola Saraki and many like them in APC. What kind of progressives are these? People like Goje are also progressives,” he explains. As to the guarantee that NCNN will not go the path of APC, Adamu remarks that the entrants would “come and make the frame which we will put the fixtures,” adding, “it will be solidly progressive.” But how can this be achieved? “I can achieve this by the foundation. If the foundation is progressive, you cannot in the middle of the way change it again because you either fall in line or fall out. We are not in a hurry to control Federal Government or state. We will take our time and build the structures that will outlive us.”
From all indications, Adamu appears to be the rallying point of the new party, those directing from behind notwithstanding. “Of course, I am the rallying point. I am not shying away from it. This is because all of them trust me that I will not betray the progressive ideal. What progressive means for those of us in the NCNN is people who want to serve their fellow human for good, in a nutshell. You wish your fellow human what you wish for yourself. This ideology is not totally absent in the APC, but they are confused because of the type of congregation they have there. Take, for example, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the national chairman. Everybody knows that he is a progressive. But what of the secretary of the party? Can you say the same thing about him? Ahmed Bola Tinubu has not for one week strayed into conservatism. He is a progressive. Ninety-five percent of those in APC today who are progressive minded are from AC and AD.
APC and popularity of Buhari
To many watchers of the APC, the party is docile and incapable of wielding the influence expected of a group of politicians, what does Adamu think is wrong with the party? “That’s what I have alluded to. The entire machinery of APC revolves around the popularity of Buhari. Somebody who, by his grace, you have become what you are, how can you question him?” But should that be the case that a party revolves around one person? the reporter queries. “In the case of APC, that is the case. We have agreed from the onset of this interview that APC is a convergence of diverse minds.” Why is the party not revolving around the national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu? “The APC in the whole of the South is revolving around Tinubu.” But does that reflect the status of Tinubu as the national leader? “That loyalty he has in the South, he doesn’t have in the North. As for Tinubu’s status as the national leader, that is why when the legacy parties realised their strength, Buhari’s CPC had the North. Who has the South? They discovered that Tinubu has the South-west. And who will come from the South-east, Okorocha. That was the thinking before the party came into being. They realised that Buhari has run the election several times and have seen the votes he can garner from the North and have also seen how the South-west has been moving since the advent of politics in Nigeria. They discovered that if two of them team up, it would give them the national spread and presidency. That is what they used. Now, instead of them to work on the integration of the party to achieve cohesion, they didn’t do it. They were busy managing victory. They didn’t spare time to work on the party’s cohesion.
NEF, ACF and support for Buhari
As an agenda, the Northern Elders Forum, (NEF), headed by Alhaji Maitama Sule appears confused. One time, it is opposed to Buhari’s style of governance, which they believe has brought hunger to the land and in another forum, the elders asked for support for Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. Within these swings, the masses are currently hamstrung by funds to manage their homes. The implication is that Buhari’s popularity in his area of influence, the North, is falling. But Adamu believes that the waning popularity notwithstanding, Buhari still has massive support in the North. “The kind of support he mustered in the North in 2015 election, he will not be able to garner the same support in 2019; but he will have enough to see him through. That is if he can get similar support in other regions. I know of the North. Up till now in the North, majority are still with Buhari despite the fact that he has lost quite a number of others.
“And for those in the Northern Elders Forum, I do not know what they mean by elders forum. I wonder the same for Afenifere, Oodua People’s Congress, MASSOB, IPOB and their likes. These are all contraptions of selfish interests because they are all undemocratic organisations. They called themselves together, appoint themselves into positions of leadership and declare that they are this and that. But that does not give them legitimacy. For example, I do not belong to any of the fora; but any forum pursuing something of national interest, I will support. However, that does not make me a member of that forum.”
To Adamu, the claim to the spokesperson or organ of the North still remains contestable. As far as Adamu is concerned, “we have traditional rulers and they are our spokespersons, not Northern Elders Forum or the Arewa Consultative Forum. Even within the Muslim fold, you cannot say so. To majority of Muslims, our spokesman is the Sultan of Sokoto in the North. Even at that, he does not command a hundred percent respect of the Muslims. If you are talking of Adamawa State, for instance, the Lamido of Adamawa is the spokesman. And that is to all Adamawa people, not only the Muslims. If you go to Sokoto, the Sultan speaks for everybody in Sokoto. But he is the leader of the North. That is the Muslim North. He is not the leader of all northerners, “ Adamu explains.
The argument that ACF is the rallying point for northerners was debunked by Adamu. He queries the foundation of the forum and says ACF was created by some northerners. “I do not know when they conducted elections. Where is their parliament? Who are members of the executive? How do they take decisions? Who are their representatives in states and local governments?” he asks.
Northern leaders have compromised
Those days when Sir. Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto spoke, it was taken that the North had spoken. Why has this stand eluded the North? This question was posed to Adamu. “Because we do not have a leader who believes in the people,” he answers. Why? The reporter followed up. “Because our leaders have all compromised. They are all pursuing parochial interests, not the interests of the people again. In fact, after Sardauna, if the late General Hassan Usman Katsina spoke, the North had spoken and everybody supported him because he purged himself of any sentiment. He presented himself as the leader of everybody in the North without discrimination whether you are a Muslim, Christian, traditional worshipper, Hausa, Fulani, from Katsina or any other ethnic group. So long as you are from the North, if you went to him, he listened to you. Whatever you asked him to do for you, he did.”
When told that the Northern Elders Forum had a semblance of the qualities described with the likes of Chief Paul Unongo, a Middle Belter and a Christian working with fellow northerners who are Muslims of Hausa-Fulani extraction, Adamu halts the reporter. “Wait. Paul Unongo, I do not know his level of acceptance among his people in Benue State. I do not know who Paul Unongo is. I only know him as a politician of note in the Second Republic during the Shagari days. That is the much I know about him.” Adamu also speaks of Ango Abdullahi, a professor who is currently the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum.
Can he also speak for the North? You ask Adamu. “I do not think so. He has his own antecedent. There are certain things I share with him, but they do not make him my leader as an elder from the North. He is not. What do we have from Ango to show for his being an elder in the North? I respect him as a person, but I cannot impose him on the North simply because I share some of his views. There are other people in the two fora that I share their views, but because I, Adamu Song, share their views does not give them the legitimacy to be leaders of the North, unless if you are saying that leadership is being imposed. In a nutshell, they are not representing the North. If they are leaders of the North, from where do they derive their authority? Can they take decisions on behalf of the North? The Northern Elders Forum and Arewa Consultative Forum are, at best, just arrangements of convenience created by people who want to continue to dominate us. Otherwise, tell me; which authority do they have?”