Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC-Niger North), Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs in this interview with IGNATIUS OKOROCHA, described the recent demolition of a factional All Progressive Congress (APC) party secretariat in Kaduna State, by Governor Nasir El’Rufia as counterproductive to the party’s reconciliation move. Senator Sabi also speaks on intra-party crisis in APC, as well as the Electoral Act amendment.
President Muhammadu Buhari has asked one of the leaders of the APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, to effect reconciliation of aggrieved members of the party, obviously to fortify the party for the 2019 general elections. How fruitful do you think this mandate will be?
Well, first let me say that, as a Muslim, I am told that anything that is reconciliatory is goodness. When you say you want to carry out reconciliation, it is a good intention, it is a good action. So, I want to commend Mr. President for deeming it necessary to have somebody to go round and mend fences and my prayer and hope is that everybody involved will be as sincere as the intention the President had in putting that mechanism in place. And I am saying so because I am a little bit troubled that in some of the hot spots, the situation is escalating, for example in Kaduna State. That is my worry but my prayer is, no matter how hot it is it will cool down. My hope is that all parties involved will be sincere, transparent, honest and open in the process of this reconciliation because, a situation where somebody say let’s tie a rope and on the same structure that the rope is being tied, you see somebody putting scissors and weapon to cut the same thing we are trying to build, I think it is worrisome like in the case of Kaduna State where Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi ( APC-Kaduna North) house was demolished by governor Nasir El’Rufia).For me, that is a destructive tendency; I feel very bad about it, I feel very sad. No matter what the situation is, to have gone down to the level of demolition at this period when our economy is in turmoil is not a good thing. I feel very sad.
The APC has demonstrated itself as a ruling party with the highest level of internal opposition from 2015 to date. With internal crisis rocking the party, what is the hope of the party to win elections next year?
I don’t think that dissenting voice is only in the APC; all parties have always witnessed dissent among their ranks. In fact, there are those whose problems surpassed what we are witnessing today because to date, APC is still having some elements of stability; it is just for the needful to be done. If there is sincerity of purpose in this reconciliation, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that before May, all issues surrounding various dissenting voices can be amended because I am aware that the bulk of the people, if there is a sincere engagement and assurances are given here and there, these issues can be easily resolved because politics is about permanent interest.
The public opinion is that the current controversies in the Senate over the Amendment of the Electoral Act, and the insertion of Section 25(1), which has become contentious are all geared towards 2019 general elections. Don’t you think that these may diminish the fortunes of the party at elections?
Well, the beauty of democracy is that everybody has a space to ventilate his/ her opinion and say whatever they feel. For me as an individual and as a citizen of the country, I know I must be responsible in whatever I do. Therefore, as responsible citizens, the Constitution from where we derive our powers has also charged us to be citizens who respect constituted authority. So, it is not in my character to come out and cast aspersions on anybody.
When you say that everything is geared towards 2019, of course everybody knows about election circles; politics is politics. Whatever you do from day one you are elected or appointed will have a bearing to the fact that you want a re-election or re-appointment because it is a journey that you start from one point and get to another and then return to the basis, which is the electorate and give them account of your stewardship. So, whatever you are seeing is normal in politics. And responding to your comment on controversy, of course there must be controversy in politics just as in other human engagements. . We can nver all agree on the same subject matter. But I also respect the fact that majority will always carry the day while minority will have their say. If I don’t get it today, I get it tomorrow. That’s how it is. I believe people know why they are worried about what is playing out here, and it is an individual thing. So, as the Spokesman of the Senate, you can see that sometimes I find it difficult to express what is my personal views so that people may not differentiate between what I as Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi says and what the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says.
Some Nigerians are still asking the question, why should the National Assembly want its elections to be held first before the rest instead of the reverse order?
Well, I think if you look at the evidence that has been given of electioneering all through Nigeria, there is no known pattern; it has shown that in all of it but one, the National Assembly has always been the first from 1979. For me, many people are of the opinion that doing so will enable Nigerians to truly select people that they believe are their true representatives. The essence is for you to have a representative that can stand a test of time and defend the legislative functions in a manner that deepens democracy. These are all opinions being expressed. Personally, I have never sat down to look at the merits or demerits of whichever one but one thing I know is that it is the same Nigerians that will vote whether it is first, second or third. We didn’t debate this in the Senate but there is one thing you should know, by practice and convention, if the House of Representatives debates an issue and brings it to the Senate, we reduce the level of debate because they are also parliamentarians and we give them that respect that as parliamentarians they must have done a thorough job. And if you look at their number, you can’t jettison their number.