Former president of Inter-Party Advisory Council and incumbent National Chairman of the National Conscience Party, Alhaji Yunusa Tanko, in this interview with ADELEKE ADESANYA, advises President Muhammadu Buhari to once again hand over the reins of governance to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to enable him seek adequate medical treatment for his ailing health. Tanko also speaks on other sundry national issues. Excerpts:
Some politicians have been criticising President Mohammau Buhari over his health status, which has greatly made it impossible for him to function in office as he should. They say he should hand over to the Vice President rather than running the Presidency on a parttime basis. Do share their view?
Well it’s not a hidden fact that Mr. President is ill; everyone knows this. If the option provided is for him to administer the country through his vice president, well one will not say anything, but it would have been good for everybody to know the health status of Mr. President and there is the need for him (Buhari) to delegate power at this point in time. His health is very important to him and to us as a nation.
Are you saying the Vice President should be given power to once again act as the president?
Well, it would have been better for him to take adequate care of his health. Although there are some duties the President should handle himself, which I may say he may be considering as well, as far as I am concerned, I will rather advise him to consider his health before any other thing.
Nigerians are currently anxious about Continued ON page 20 what will be the outcome of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led panel that is currently investigating the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Oke. What is your disposition to this issue?
For me and the National Conscience Party, our expectations are that Osinbajo should do justice to the cases as expected. We hold him in high esteem as a man of integrity. We don’t want to sound like we are deciding the fate of an individual when the investigation is being conducted. Investigation is being conducted; let them come out with good findings and let the public know what is happening so that they’ll be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that there is no cover up or probably indictment of an innocent person.
Do you see the SGF returning to office after the investigation?
I wouldn’t want to speculate, but I have made my position clear that it is better for the government to find a replacement so that it would clear itself from certain things. This man has been accused of so many things and I doubt if he can be cleared of them. So, this government should just forget about him and look for a better replacement.
On his replacement, from which zone do you think this should come from?
As far as I am concerned, already, the appointments made by this administration are lopsided and this is an opportunity for this government to balance up. For this reason, I will advise that the new SGF should come from the South East, in particular. I feel that the Igbo-speaking part would make a very good situational alignment so that the country will be better united.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu reportedly said recently that Senate President Bukola Saraki and others opposed Buhari’s decision to appoint him as his running mate during the last presidential election. What’s your comment on this?
These are issues that are trivial at this point in time. We all knew that before the election we were just trying to rescue this country and if a Muslim-Muslim sentiment was being sold, of course, it will send a wrong signal and a lot of argument have been placed on the then candidate. Moreover, there were criticisms that Muhammadu Buhari had an Islamic agenda. So, with this, how will you produce a Muslim-Muslim ticket, though we once did that during MKO Abiola and Kingigbe’s time in 1993? Then there was no clamouring, no division. But now, we have agitations and divisions. So, it is a big issue on ground that needs to have been taken care of. So, having a Muslim-Muslim ticket that time would have been very devastating and they wouldn’t have won election at that time. I don’t think it is an issue. Bola Tinubu earned his respect from Nigerians then for sacrificing his own personal ambition for the interest of the nation and that was what has been in the mind of the people. But with this coming out now, if it was truly coming from him, that means he has been nursing resentment against the candidacy of the vice president, who we thought was his anointed candidate. And if I will advise him, I will say he should just respect the respect he is being given nationally, instead of going back to the past.
Governor Fayose of Ekiti State seems to have aligned with the Indigenous People of Biafra. He even appeared in court the day the IPOB leader was granted bail. What does this portend for Nigeria’s unity?
The issue is that they are just playing politics. The truth is that a lot of our people in the South East feel they are being punished for the civil war and they have been sidelined in all government activities, though the last administration of Jonathan was more close to the South Easterners. Still, it is expected that this is advanced and everybody would have been carried along so that no one would feel as if he has been alienated, and that is the feeling as of the moment and those who would want to look up to opportunities to join differences would like to look into that area and always continue to create problems.
But I think the truth of the matter is that Nigerians ought not feel marginalised because of their tribe, religion and region. It is very clear at the moment that our people in the South East feel marginalised and we should find a way to make sure that everyone is inclusively carried along in all the activities of the government. This is very important. For me, it is not all about differences. It’s all about inclusiveness. We should make sure everyone is carried along, irrespective of tribe and religion.
Recently, former president Jonathan and the Buhari administration traded words when the former president alleged that his family members were being haunted by this government. What is your take on this?
The issue is that when a person in power is being mentioned in the issue of corruption, it is expected that he responds. So, in this issue being linked to the former President, it is expected that he clears his name because, unfortunately, majority of the people being named in one case of corruption or the other are linked to his family. For instance, his wife and cousin were involved in one money laundering case or the other. So, these are the truths coming out. And with this, he too should summon courage to come out and clear himself of all the corruption allegations. If he clears his name, nobody will find him wanting in any of the dealings.
People are saying the fight against corruption is one-sided. Is this true?
That’s what people have been shouting and they said some people have been selected for punishment while some are being left to go scotfree. The issue is this, when you truly intend to fight corruption, you don’t need to spare a side while focusing on the other. When you consider most of the recent arrests and others made over allegations of corruption, you will see that they all look like haunting a particular set of people, which was not supposed to be.
In those cases, you will see how other people are being arrested while those belonging to the ruling party are spared. This sends wrong signals to people that government is being selective in the anti-corruption fight, and this is why I said that the government needs to clear the air on this and justify its position.
Come July 27, there will be local government election in Lagos State and for some time now, the APC has been the only party clearing the LGs polls in the state. How do you see this as the national chairman of NCP?
This is a clear manifestation of the rigging process in the system. Individuals are not allowed to contest with money influence and all of those things. We are calling on the people to shun money politics and go for candidates who have the conscience and the interest of the people at heart. If we continue to allow this, what we will have is no more election, but selection of people; people who have the money and are selected, and that is no longer a democratic government.
Do you see local government councils in Nigeria attaining the much-talked about autonomy?
We support that and we have been clamouring for the autonomy of the local government councils in this country because they have a lot to do for the people. If they are all taken over by the state government, then they will be rendered useless. It is very important that the autonomy of the local government is fully returned to them so that they can perform accordingly.
How will you rate the current administration in the country?
Well, for me, they have had so many problems right from take-off and it has not allowed them to perform their duties accordingly and next year many people will start campaigning and that will be very difficult for them because they have not delivered what they promised.
As for NCP, what are the plans for 2019?
We are currently doing state congresses nationwide. We just finished that of Lagos and the South East. Apart from this, we are targeting the Nigerian youths who by implication are about 200 million Nigerians; they represent up to 25 per cent of the country’s population. We are asking all of them to come in and contest for elections and our platform is free. All you need to pay is just N600 in a year for the membership, which is done for N60 in a month. You don’t need to go to political parties, where you will be asked for a fortune before you can be allowed to contest elections.