Arc. Waziri Bulama is a former National Secretary and National Caucus member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). He is also the Chairman of Forum of Polytechnics Governing Council Chairmen. Bulama, who was a governorship candidate in Borno State spoke to some journalists on governance, herders/farmers clashes, restructuring and many others, and submitted that inclusiveness in governance would reduce the present crisis as being witnessed in the country. Group Politics Editor, EZEOCHA NZEH, was there for The AUTHORITY
You have followed President Muhammadu Buhari throughout his political sojourn, from his years in opposition till this time that he is in power, in your own words, how would you describe the President?
Nigerians know and history will record, President Muhammadu Buhari as a Nigerian statesman, a very humble, decent and disciplined man. He is a selfless public servant who is tenacious and determined to impact positively on the fortunes of our great nation. He has served Nigeria with distinction as an institutional leader rising to the position of a General in the Nigerian Army. He has served with distinction and admiration in all assignments given to him by our nation as Minister, Governor and Head of state and Nigerians also invited him again and voted him twice to manage the country as civilian President in 2015 and 2019. That is a record in the life of any man by any measure. He is a father, a very kind and shy person who is not given to boasting of what he does, allowing actions to speak for themselves. He leads through the force of personal example. That is why President Buhari continues to enjoy the trust of all Nigerians. I characterize President Muhammadu Buhari as champion of ‘Leadership without bitterness’
You have been a key factor in the Buhari political story, even as former National Secretary of the APC. Would you say he has made this nation better than he met it or the other way round?
I can say with all sense of seriousness that President Muhammadu Buhari has made Nigeria today better than he met it in 2015. The fundamental responsibility of government is to ensure stability and continuity, and to prevent chaos and break down of law and order. That is the number one responsibility of any government. What President Buhari met in 2015 and why Nigerians rejected the PDP administration and voted him in was, number one, because of massive insecurity in the Niger Delta and in the North East. Many territories were, that time, out of the control of the government. Secondly, Nigerian economy was literally not working because the government was broke. It was not even paying salaries and procurements. Both federal and state workers were not being paid. Nigerians lost hope in that government and they voted in President Muhammadu Buhari because he is known as a man of integrity; because of his reputation for prudence and frugality in the management of national resources.
He got down to work and ensured that peace and security was restored in the Niger Delta where the production of oil and other economic activities were restored. In the North East, through his effort, the Nigerian security forces were able to liberate and recover territories controlled by Boko Haram and as at today, all organized crime under Boko Haram and ISWAP have been neutralized and they are surrendering in their thousands everyday. Peace has been restored and people are returning to their farms and business transactions.
Thirdly, President Muhammadu Buhari has succeeded in pulling back the Nigerian economy twice from recession. He has been able to ensure that there is sufficient government funds to pay salaries at the National, State and Local Governments. There is reasonable economic stability. For instance other things he has been able to stabilize are the energy and fuel supply; petrol, gas and other fuel oils that were in scarce supply before he came to power. People were buying in gallons all over the country and in our urban centres queues were common where you spend four, five, six to ten hours to fuel your car. Today fuel is readily available at reasonable price all over Nigeria, saving time and ensuring smooth operation of business and transport activities. Because of these things Nigeria was really almost in chaos and witnessing stagnation as at 2014, 2015. Today he has been able to fund reflationary budget for the past four, five years, introduced many iconic policies like the Economic Recovery and Growth Programmes and massive investment in infrastructure all over the country.
The country is relatively more peaceful, the economy is relatively stable. People are going about their businesses. Internationally, the image of Nigeria has witnessed a boost immensely. President Muhammadu Buhari is highly respected in West Africa and throughout the African continent. He is also highly respected globally. He has become a big voice in international decision-making circles. He has influenced the emergence of the leadership of OPEC, Dr. Barkindo. He has been able to influence the emergence of Dr. Adesina in the African Development (AfDB), Amina Mohammed as Deputy Director General of the United Nations; Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation. He has been able to influence very many others across the world so the image of Nigeria as a global citizen has immensely got a big stimulus under President Muhammadu Buhari. Our relationships with all the major global players i.e. Europe, America, Asia, China and so on, have soared. Investments and collaboration with all these international bodies and countries have become stronger under President Muhammadu Buhari. So, in all fairness Nigeria is today far better than how President Muhammadu Buhari met it in 2015.
Would you say the APC has really fared well under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Yes, the indices by which you measure whether a party has fared well or not can be seen in unity within the party. For now the party is united. All members appreciate and respect President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader. First, the fact that we have remained united, in a diverse nation like Nigeria, is a major achievement. Second, the fact that under our government we have been able to achieve all these deliverables as presented in our Party’s Manifesto, that impact on the lives of Nigerians is another achievement. Thirdly, the fact that many Nigerians from other political parties, big players like Governors, Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, former Governors and other top political players are taking membership of our party is a huge achievement. Indeed, in our effort at new membership registration, which we carried out recently, the number of our registered members has risen from around sixteen million to about forty million so this all shows that the party, APC, under President Muhammadu Buhari, is doing well. We are united. We are strong and we are growing.
What about these insinuations concerning your forthcoming National Convention, that it might be the end of the party due to divergent interest of top politicians in the pool? You said you are united.
Yes, we are. Of course, at the moment, we are united; we are strong; we are growing. Clearly, yes, there are internal interests and contestations for people wishing to run for positions or wishing to run for various posts within the party. But we have not seen any sign that these contestations or ambitions would create crisis for this party. Let me tell you, all the members of the party are united. We all answer the name, APC. We all respect the leadership of our party leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is a rallying figure in the party and who has a lot of influence on the party and the decisions in the party. So, we have no fear whatsoever that we would witness any serious crises going forward just because of convention or divergent interests.
Is it true there was a zoning agreement in APC whether written or just a gentlemanly agreement as was the norm in PDP?
Well, if there was a zoning agreement it would have been known. One thing that is obvious is that this party is a party built on trust. A party where leaders from all parts of the country came together, consciously to dissolve their own parties to fuse into one party. APC emerged as a broad-based national, progressive political party. All these different parties and leaders decided to dissolve identity-based politics – parties that are aligned to region, religion and ethnicity. This is a huge and historic achievement in Nigerian political evolution. So, in the APC we are all one. We do not see ourselves as people from this region or that region. From this religion or that religion. We are all a family of progressives and we came together as equals to form this party to serve Nigeria and our records show that we have worked to serve the entire country – all the regions, religions and zones of the nation. So decisions in the APC are family decisions. The leaders of the APC are men of honour, men who are known for sacrifice. Going forward every decision we take in the APC as to how to zone positions of course will be based on our history of sacrifice for the nation to ensure that we treat one another in trust, as brothers, as friends, as family to continue to implement the APC manifesto. For me, this is my response to the idea of whether there was zoning or not but clearly we have a history because without the formation of this party as a broad-based national platform we would not have got votes from all the parts of the country to reflect the desired constitutional spread to win the presidency. We would always be conscious of the history of the APC and how national unity led us to win power in the centre.
As a former National Secretary, what was your own personal contribution in all that the party and this administration have achieved?
My personal contributions are many. At every turn and junction where important decisions were taken in the last couple of years, I was involved. I was the Director of Strategy of the defunct CPC, where we managed the Presidential Elections and after the elections, I became a member of the National Executive Committee of the defunct CPC. In the CPC we wrote a proposal (Way Forward for the CPC), a blueprint for the CPC to chart going forward politically and in it we suggested formation of a broad-based national platform in collaboration with like-minded patriotic Nigerians from all parts of the country. That was how, based on that blueprint which we produced along with our colleagues, intellectuals, scholars, technocrats and experienced politicians in the CPC, we approached the ACN, ANPP and other parties to embark on this process for a merger. I participated in generating the idea for this merger. During the course of the merger we participated in writing the manifesto and the new constitution for the APC. I was part of that. I was part of the 2015 Presidential Campaign as a member of the Strategy Committee, and the Policy Support Group of the APC.
In 2018 I ran for National Secretary of the party but conceded to Hon. Mai Mala Buni, the present governor of Yobe State who was an aspirant for the same position. Coming forward, in 2019, I was appointed the Deputy Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation in charge of Co-ordination. We co-ordinated and executed successfully 2019 campaign where we won twenty states, majority in both chambers of the National Assembly, the Presidency with the largest spread ever in the history of Nigerian elections scoring twenty five percent and above of the votes cast in thirty five states and a huge margin of four million against our opponent.
After the general elections, I decided to renew my interest in the National Secretariat of the APC with the position having become vacant.
Eventually I stepped in to the APC Secretariat as the National Secretary and my ambition was to carry out the admonition of President Buhari that party members should try and “institutionalize” the party. I understood that meant consolidating the gains of the party by developing systems, procedures, processes and bureaucracy to strengthen internal democracy. Within the short time I was at the National Secretariat I was able to spread the thinking that the party should work for all the members of the party; the party bureaucracy should not be partisan and autonomous; the party should work to consolidate the legacy of president Muhammadu Buhari; work to ensure that all the members are happy and treated fairly and justly and so on. At various points in the course of the political journey of President Mohammadu Buhari I had played such important strategic roles. We were like civil servants of the party. We were strategists under President Muhammadu Buhari and I am happy and fulfilled that I was given all these assignments and we carried out all these assignments with distinction. I am happy that we have succeeded both in forming and sustaining the party as well as ensuring that the party is victorious. I am happy and fulfilled honestly with our modest accomplishments.
What is your take on the hues and cries for restructuring?
Personally I do not believe that the problems of underdevelopment that we see in Nigeria and the economic, social and political problems in Nigeria can be solved by restructuring. I am an advocate of good democracy and good governance. This structure that we are seeing today in Nigeria came out of many years of trial and error i.e. Federal, State and Local Government. My believe is that if we are able to make them work properly, they will address the major problems of Nigeria i.e. fairness, justice, prosperity and insecurity. All these can be properly addressed if we ensure that the institutions of democracy and government work very well as the APC is trying to promote. This would address the need of Nigerians who are calling for restructuring both in the North and other parts of the country. The problem today arises out of political and economic exclusion where people do not feel that they are part of decision making in the country.
For instance, we have to ensure with more policy measures, that votes count. We have to promote transparency and accountability in governance. Also promote economic and political inclusiveness. The feeling of alienation and hopelessness frustrates, depresses and triggers calls for some untried options. Such calls will minimize if people are politically and economically included. It makes no sense calling for restructuring or polarization to become small units to embark on experiments to solve the same problems we are assiduously striving to solve to overcome as a big nation.
Will you like to share your thoughts on the herder/farmer crises in Nigeria and probably proffer lasting solution.
I am not an authority in that subject but suffice it to say that it is important to know that the skirmishes between farmers and herders all of whom are carrying out productive economic activities with their points of friction have always been there and will always be there.
So, you think there is nothing Government can do to settle this dispute between them, to bring them together to make them agree and work together.
What I do not agree with is the politicization of the crisis. To raise it to a point where it requires some kind of national intervention or a situation where either farmers or herders are criminalized. I do not see herdsmen as criminals. They are people simply in search of pasture for their cattle and in the course of doing that sometime their animals stray into farms by mistake and even where such things happen the local authorities and communities are brought in to resolve this crisis, compensation is paid. I do not see this as a national crisis because at the moment quite a lot of propaganda has raised this matter to a point where herdsmen are seen as criminals, gun trotting bandits who kill people with farmers at the receiving end and people generally in the country made to live in fear of herdsmen. All this is really unfounded. I hail from Borno state and it is on record that Borno has the highest number of livestock in the country. In addition, the largest stock of livestock that enters this country from Cameroon, Chad, Niger comes through Borno state. A large segment of the populace in Borno State is herdsmen. They have lived side by side with farmers for centuries with minor skirmishes resolved locally.
Herders are not criminals. How can a herdsman, owning and controlling such large number of cows be termed criminal. Livestock is a huge economic asset. These days the herders themselves have been victims of bandits and criminals who rustle their cattle and sell them to make money. What we should be doing in the country is to comprehensively look at growing banditry, kidnapping, joblessness and criminality in rural areas. Tagging crime on herdsmen is brainless and unfair.
Kidnapping for ransom and banditry have become commonplace in the country, it seems to be a booming enterprise particularly in Northern Nigeria. How do we get out of this quagmire?
Nigerian government and leadership at all level must have zero tolerance for crime and violence of any type. Our ability to detect, prevent and punish crime should be raised. There should be collaboration between local leaders with both the police and the military to achieve this. We must have a climate of deterrence to make difficult for people to commit crime and if they commit crime they will not get away with it. All the agencies and the three tiers of government must collaborate to ensure that there is prevention of crime. Thirdly, political and economic inclusiveness must be seen to work here so as to ensure that hopeless, anger and frustration is minimized in the country.
Sir, do you have any reason to make yourself available for any elective position at the state or national level
You see, I do not mind where I am at the moment in the party because I am part of this system. My overall aim is to ensure that the APC survives and succeeds. I am also a team player and a family member of the Party. If within this party family my leaders, colleagues and stakeholders find me worthy of playing any specific role; if I can play that role, I would accept to play that role to enhance the party’s success. In the next convention I have no specific ambition for anything that I have thought of personally.
What about the state
At the level of the state, we are working very closely with the governor who is highly applauded and admired. The governor of Borno state, Professor Babagana Zulum is an outstanding intellectual and a very hardworking person so we are working closely with him to generate ideas to make our state better. You see, one does not have to necessarily be in a position to make his contribution. Of course there are political and governance positions. However, one does not have to be in any of these things to impact. The way I am now, I have relationship and access to everybody in this government, so I am always free to walk into any office and give advice