Advocates of restructuring want different countries – Ex-ACF secretary

In this interview with GODWIN ISENYO, former Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani says the North is not afraid of restructuring of the country and admonishes politicians clamouring for it to articulate it in their party manifesto

The President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), recently conferred a national award on you. What’s your reaction to this?

My reaction is that of pleasure that the government and some Nigerians are appreciative of what I have been doing that adds value to the polity by way of inspiration to others. More so that the award has spoken loudly that education can limit physical disability which constitutes no barrier to a determined spirit. I think the award can encourage others in similar circumstances.

Many Nigerians are of the belief that the awards were not necessarily for a meritorious service to the nation but to loyalists and cronies of the president. What’s your take on this?

I do not share that view by those who do not see any good in this regime, or those who see the current exercise as reminiscent of what used to happen in the past. How does that Sheik in Gindi Akwati in Barkin Ladi who saved some Christians in Plateau State become crony of the regime? Or how can a security guard become a crony of the regime?

There are guidelines and criteria for awards of national honours which include receipt of nominations, screening and examinations against listed desired qualities by a committee which was chaired by a highly regarded retired Justice of Supreme Court and Emir.

We heard there were about 5,000 nominations out of which less than 10 per cent were recommended to the National Council of State which approved them. No complaints of any untoward practice of cash-for-peerage. And given the fact that I know more than one nomination of my humble self, I believe the process is credible and most of the awardees deserved it.

What’s your take on the recent terror alert on the Federal Capital Territory by the US, UK and others?

Terror alerts are normally given as warning for benefits of citizens to be security conscious but it should not be dramatized and create undue panic. America and those who issued the alerts also experience violent crimes in the countries. Just as America was issuing such alerts in Nigeria, Paul Pelosi, the husband of the speaker of the congress was being attacked in his house. I think because terrorism transcends national boundaries, nations should share intelligence with a view to nibbling any impending attack in the bud instead of giving such alerts that send undue panic some of which may be hyperbolic.

Leading presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the APC and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, have all said they would restructure the country if voted in the 2023 elections. What’s your take on this?

Because restructuring means different things to different people, any political party that wishes to restructure the country should be more specific by articulating it in the party manifesto and use it to canvass for the electoral mandate needed for execution. Mentioning restructuring glibly is not enough.

Why is the North afraid of restructuring?

The North is never afraid of restructuring. We only say the problems of the country may not be with its structure but collapse of national ideals and moral values. This is because Nigeria has been restructured several times, be it geopolitical, form of government and model of economic development. For example, we started with three regions and now have 36 states. We have tried all forms of government like parliamentary, military dictatorship and presidential system. We have tried state capitalism, mixed economy and have now privatized the economy.

More distressing is the narrative by some sections that the country be restructured to enable sections of the country develop at their own pace. Such people want Nigerians to live as if they are in different countries where some sections are on cutting edge and some others on knife edge of survival. And they do so in blithe disregard for the fact that inequality is not attribute of good governance by purposeful leadership. Balance development is hallmark of good governance.

All the political parties seem to  have zoned the presidency to the South with the exception of the PDP that zoned theirs to the north. What’s your view on this?

Zoning of presidential candidates is the political party’s winning game plan and no more. It is democracy in action.

Why do you think that the North finds it difficult to curb the menace of Almajiri in the region?

Almajirai is difficult to overcome because the challenges are two folds, namely sociocultural and religious tendencies, and the cost of western education which is over and above the reach of many families in the North. More so that the increase in population is far more than the growth of the economy. What needs to be done is for all parents to know the importance of education so that both government and the parents would come together and make consciously directed efforts to make desires possible. This is not a day’s job.

What’s your view on the current fuel scarcity across the country?

Because we import fuel for consumption, we have to confront the challenges associated with both importation and transportation especially amid flooding reported to have stymied transportation along Lokoja road. Now that the rains are ebbing, I believe the problems will be surmounted soon.

The people of Middle Belt, especially the Christians have been complaining of marginalization. Can you say the North has been fair to them?

How have the people of Middle Belt been marginalized; is it by projects or appointments? We know General Yakubu Gowon is northern Christian. There was time we had Langtang and Benue Mafia. We had Chiefs Solomon Lar, Gemade and Audu Ogbe as chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party. We had Senators Iyorchia  Ayu and David Mark as Senate Presidents.

We have had Hon Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives  and now Boss Mustapha as Secretary to the Government of the Federarion. We should be talking of accountability and not marginalization.

Christians must come to equity with clean hands, considering how the Idoma are not allowed to produce governor in Benue State and how Muslims are prevented from becoming governor, Deputy governor, Vice -Chancelor of University of Jos and Chief Medical Director of the Jos University Teaching Hospital in Plateau State.

With all sincerity and honesty, how would you assess the APC regime of President Buhari?

As far as I am concerned, if the media is fair and honest, their trend and cross analyses would make them to hardly avoid the conclusion that the regime of PMB has tried and performed well with the limited resources at its disposal. .Pass mark is a range and not a single mark.

A faction of pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere just endorsed the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Do you think it’s the right thing to do?

If we agree politics is a matter of group interest, group goal,group cohesion, group coherence and even group conspiracy,then one cannot blame Afenifere for endorsing one of their own who is vying to be the president.More so that our political parties are devoid of known ideology.

Some Nigerians considers this as regional endorsement even as Tinubu sees himself a pan-Nigerian.  Will it be right to say that the 2023 presidency takes a regional pattern being predicted by political pundits?

As long as some Nigerians promote politics of identity symbolised by rotation and  zoning of political offices in blithe disregard for the consequences which include promotion of cleavages of the nation along ethnic, religious and regional lines,we should expect what Afenifere has done,since politics is not individual enterprise but pursuit of collective mission. Consider the import of swing or battle ground states   in America which are often not more than ten states while the remaining states vote in their chosen one pattern without any change that are well known.

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