By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Senator Rufai Hanga is a prominent Kano politician and founding national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progress Change (CPC). In this interview, he challenged those clamouring for a restructuring of the country to lay their facts on the table, saying it is better for the constituent parts to separate in peace than going into a crisis.
From your personal assessment, how has the 8th National Assembly fared in terms of its responsibilities and functions as a lawmaking organ of the country?
I am not happy with what is happing because there is a lot of rumbling between the executive and members of the National Assembly, which is affecting the country. I am not too impressed with the performance of these lawmakers. I don’t know whether their failure is as a result of the circumstance in which they found themselves, but what they have done so far is nothing to write home about. I can’t point at any significant thing they have done this time around. Rather, they are more concerned with protecting their personal interests.
On the side of the executive, how would you assess the support base for the Buhari administration since he assumed power vis-a vis his popularity before the election?
Certainly, it is diminishing by the day. That is the home truth. I like Buhari, I support him, but unfortunately, the support base for his government is dwindling by the day. I think this has to do with ill-advice by those people around him. I don’t know whose advice he is listening to, but there are so many things that are wrong. There are so many things that are done wrongly. There are so many things that need to be addressed. Presumably, may be those around him are not advising him well. Some of the people around him are analogue; they have no proper understanding of the present reality. Therefore, he needs to broaden his reach so that things can move on well. People like him, he means well, but then, there is a need for him to open up. I believe he is sincere and he is doing what he is doing in good fate, but like people say, ‘a single tree can never make a forest.’ There are certain things you may feel are not good for him to do, but as a leader, he must take a risk.
The renewed violence in the oil producing region by the Niger Delta Avengers is part of the problems the government has had to grapple with, especially its crippling effects on the economy.
I won’t attribute what I have just said to the Niger Delta crisis. There is a great degree of sabotage in that part of the country. I think some people who are under the watch of the anti-corruption agency are trying to cover up their asses. That is why they are trying to divert attention. Right now, President Buhari is dealing more with Northerners in his anti-corruption war than any other group. More northerners are affected by his anti-corruption war. And as we all know, more of these atrocities were committed in the Niger Delta region. That is where bunkering activities involving several millions of dollars were done. President Buhari is yet to reach out to these people; so, they are doing this to divert the attention of government or sabotage him to make sure he fails. And they are succeeding. They are succeeding because the oil revenue is down so much that confession was made recently by Secretary to the Government of the Federal (SGF) that government cannot implement the 2016 budget because of the dwindling revenue accruing to the federation account. By all economic analyses, if we continue like this, Nigeria will be in a serious recession. And the major cause is the Niger Delta violence activities.
In the light of this, would you support government’s dialogue with the militants?
I think the government has already decided on dialoguing with them from what I read in newspapers. Another story I read is that they are being dealt with. So, I don’t know how you can blow hot and cold, and at the same time expect to get the same result. I read that the military is determined to deal with them. And I also read another version saying that the government is dialoguing with them. So, I don’t know which is which. But if it is true that government is dialoguing with them, the government must be careful not to be blackmailed. Whichever of the group rises up, the government can sit and dialogue with it, but there is a tendency for some people to confuse the government because there are several other groups which may also emerge after reaching an agreement with them. If I were in government, I will say, ‘sit down, we are not going to discuss anything with you because you’ve already negotiated with the previous government. This is a new government and you know government is dynamic, let us maintain the agreement you had with the previous government and then we will give you moratorium for so and so months. When everything is calm, then we can come back and continue further negotiation. But if you continue doing what you are doing, then there is nothing for you” This is one of the measures I would have taken if were in government.
You must have also read different opinions on the issue of restructuring which is now on the front burner of national discourse. What is your take on this agitation?
People are not telling the truth. When you are talking about a restructuring, let them lay it on the table. What kind of restructuring do they want? Restructuring can mean a lot of things. Most of the people clamouring for restructuring are just saying so without breaking it down. Let them break it down so that we can know the kind of restructuring they want. Let them come out. For me, I don’t know what they mean and I cannot give an opinion on something I am not conversant with. Let them define it and then I will give my own opinion. Right now, when I see some people talking of restructuring, I look at them as non-conformists, I see them as hypocrites who want cheap popularity among the people that are disgruntled. I see some of them as just merely following the train of bandwagon because they hear people saying restructuring.
Let whosoever want the country restructured come out and put it in black and white the way they want the country restructured. I have once given my opinion on this. Even if they want the country divided, I welcome it. True to God, I welcome it because I will rather prefer we separate peacefully to fighting ourselves. One thing I will never support is fighting ourselves, especially over religious division. Religious crisis is the most dangerous thing in all aspects of life because when it comes to religion, nobody reasons. Whether educated, illiterates, semi-illiterates, big, young or old, nobody reasons when it comes to religion. I don’t want any problem with the country. Rather than having an internal crisis like religious or ethnic, I will prefer everybody goes his way. It will be better for everybody to go and start afresh. There are lots of countries that have separated and they are doing fine. If that is what they mean by restructuring, then it is welcome. I personally welcome it than fighting ourselves. I don’t want any crisis. People who are agitating and instigating people don’t know the implication of what they are doing. We should not let such people drag us into a crisis because it is dangerous.
What would you like to say about the arms purchase scandal involving some top military brass?
It is an unfortunate situation. If what is being said is true, then I shed tears for Nigeria. If people who are responsible for security, responsible for making sure we have peace could go to that extent of looting, then we should all shed tears for this country. I am always proud to be a Nigerian anywhere in the world but this is very unfortunate.
What is your take on the viability or otherwise of states that can no longer meet their obligations of paying salaries of their workers?
If a state is unable to survive, then it is not viable. There are two ways to it. It is either the leaders are misfits, incompetent, can’t sit down and think about how they can generate internal revenue to sustain themselves or the states are not viable.
I will suggest a situation where some states are merged with the viable ones. If they cannot sustain themselves, how can we allow them to remain as parasites? It is too ways. One, it is either the leaders are incompetent to keep the states afloat or the states are not viable.