Former Vice-President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and chairman of the Ikeja branch of the body, Dr Monday Ubani, speaks to DARE ADEKANMBI on the threat to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari by opposition lawmakers, what Nigerians must do in 2023 elections to bring about change, Muslim-Muslim ticket, among others.
Did it come to you as a surprise or a joke when you read or heard the news that some lawmakers staged a walkout in the Senate over the deteriorating insecurity in the country and even threatened to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari?
There was no surprise or any shock over the development. What is the surprise there? The current National Assembly is very docile and its members have not done much for the country. So, I can’t be surprised. I also know that the threat to impeach is just a mere uttering of words because they cannot muster the courage to do it. This is not the first time they have threatened to so do, only for them to later chicken out. In fact, by giving the president six weeks notice, they have already chickened out because that is not how to do it. The six weeks is more than a month. It does not show they are serious about impeaching the president. Impeaching the president means they need to have the requisite number required by the constitution to do so. Do they have it? Can they muster it? But I understand also that some APC lawmakers are resigning and joining PDP. So, let us believe that may probably get them the requisite number. But even at that, do they have the courage to do it, especially in National Assembly presided over by Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila? I doubt it, my brother.
But it is important that they have brought the attention of the president to the state of insecurity and the economic paralysis that has bedevilled the country. It seems that there is no governance going on currently in the country. You see what is happening in the forex market in terms of the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira? From N500 about two months ago, it has jumped to N700 plus. Our foreign reserves is also virtually empty. The country can’t service its debts or even pay contractors. The economic outlook is very dim. I think everyone should actually be worried at this point.
It is good that the lawmakers are able to threaten the president, but I doubt whether they can muster, firstly the requisite number to impeach him and secondly the requisite courage to hold the government accountable, which we lack in the country. We always bow down to our rulers as kabiyesis who can do no wrong and can’t be questioned. I doubt whether they can question the authority of the president which they have not done for the last seven years. Come to think of it, were the lawmakers not the ones who approved all the loans the man was requesting? The problem in which we are now, where we can’t even service our debts, was it not created by the same lawmakers? Did they ask questions what Buhari used the loans for? The argument was that every country borrows to fund development projects. What has Buhari developed? What are the advantages we are deriving from those borrowings that Buhari has plunged the country into? Buhari came to destroy Nigeria just the way he did in 1984. We didn’t know when they were marketing their slogan of ‘change’ that this man would take us 30 or 40 years back.
The National Assembly is supposed to act as a check on the Executive and they are deemed to be equal partners in the task of providing good governance. Are you saying the lawmakers have failed in this regard?
Why do you think Buhari and others were interested in who emerged as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019? The first four years, you remember what happened the way Dr Bukola Saraki emerged. Saraki was never their candidate and that was why Saraki maintained a very resilient and very robust position in the Senate in checkmating the excesses of the president and the Executive generally because he was not their choice. It was God who changed the plans of Ahithophel and Saraki became Senate President and he was able to manage the excesses of the Executive at that time. But in 2019, Buhari and others were very careful in choosing Lawan and Gbajabiamila who are their stooges and who have said that the president can’t be questioned. So, those two individuals can’t allow the National Assembly to be progressive, despite some of the progressive members that are there. The leadership is key because they are the ones controlling proceedings and it is whenever they give their colleagues opportunity to speak that they will speak and can be overruled. Knowing the kind of leadership they will enthrone, that it is going to be the worst, they were careful in picking Lawan and Gbajabiamila. They didn’t want anyone who will challenge them or checkmate them. So, they have ended up now giving us the worst kind of leadership ever in the history of the country, because the checkmating of the Executive, which you spoke about as ideal in a democracy, has never been allowed in the current National Assembly since 2019. That is unfortunate.
You said the aggrieved lawmakers have succeeded in drawing the attention of the president to the precarious security situations in the country. Are you sure the president is even aware of their threat, given Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s statement that even Buhari was not aware of the threat to kidnap him as issued by terrorists until he told him?
I don’t think that the president is aware of anything and that is a problem. It is good that the statement came from a member of his kitchen cabinet. El-Rufai is supposed to be part of the kitchen cabinet of Buhari. He is part of the people who decide what is done in the country, especially on the issue of insecurity in the country. He was part of the people who brought Buhari on us as president in 2015. After they won the election, they did know how to handle the country and insecurity. Things have snowballed and have become problems in their hands. They can’t even control anything. So, the issue is that if El-Rufai made that statement in order for us to probably praise or eulogise him, he has succeeded in painting the government of Buhari in the worst light. It means the president is not really aware of the killings, kidnappings and other criminal activities in the country. So, it means people have not been giving him that information. They kept the information away from him and as long as the information is kept away from him, it then means the country has been on autopilot, that it is only God who has been guiding us so far. If the president is not aware that there was a personal threat against him and it took a governor from Kaduna to tell him, when the threat was issued over a month ago, it means there has not been governance and there is nobody in charge of Nigeria except God.
Given the current parlous state of things, do you think Nigerians will be fired up to elect credible leaders with the capacity to address the challenges the country and the yearnings of the citizens?
There is no better time for us as a country to come to a definite position than now for us to think and reason that if we allow bad leadership in 2023, there will be no Nigeria in a few years time. If we allow those who have no idea of what governance entails and what responsibilities are for going into governance to take over in 2023, in two or three years time, Nigeria will collapse. So, all of us now must awake from our slumber and get to the point where we will say enough of bad leadership, enough of inept leadership. We put away all the primordial sentiments of someone being from our place or they speak the same language with us or someone is of the same religion as us. This is the time for us to look at the crop of leaders that have been arrayed and I am not going to go with this man because he is from my place or we worship in the same church or mosque. But I am going to go with this person because I feel he has a better solution to our myriad of problems. He may not be able to have perfect solution, but he must be somebody that can probably stop the drift. There is even no question of drift again. We have drifted already. We are at the bottom. Buhari himself during his campaign promised to take Nigeria from top to bottom. We need to get somebody who can lift Nigeria up from the bottom that Buhari has put us. So, if Nigerians miss the opportunity to reverse the trend in 2023, then there will be no Nigeria in two years time. We know how much these people have piled up in terms of foreign loans. We know how much they now use in servicing the loans and how much is required to build the basic infrastructure that the country is deficient in. In fact, I understand that in almost all the roads they are doing, they have abandoned them because there is no money to pay the contractors. So, if we allow such situations to continue in two or three years time, Nigeria will just cease to exist and some of us that have decided to live in Nigeria will be totally disadvantaged, because some young men who had seen these things over 10 or 15 years ago had relocated to Canada, US or the UK. Some of us who believe in the country and who cannot stay outside Nigeria for more than two weeks will be the ones that will actually suffer the consequences. It is something that all of us who believe in this country must get up and say we can’t allow this to continue because we don’t have any other place we call home than this country. That is for me the correct assessment of the situation. It is dangerous for us to allow bad leadership to emerge in 2023. When we look at the antecedents of those offering themselves and we allow someone who does not have the capacity and who has even shown it during the campaign and does not have the health and we now just say because he is our own, then we make him president, God will punish this country. If we do this thing on that basis, God will punish Nigerians if, after seeing all the clear signs and we now say it is this person we are going to choose to come and lead Nigeria, then God will have no choice but to say Nigeria should be under punishment. There is no other better way I can say it.
Politicians are getting craftier at their trade of entrapping the citizens and have been devising new methods. For instance, vote merchandising is seen as the biggest threat to the emergence of credible leaders. Do we blame the electorate? They are poor and hungry and fall for financial inducement to vote. Poverty seems to have become a weapon in the hands of the political class.
Oga, if they give money to any Nigerian to buy their vote and the person who has the brain and God has given them the wherewithal to reason like a human and not like an animal and the person goes into the polling booth and votes for a wrong person because [he has] collected money, then woe betide that person and his family. The money they offer is people’s money in the first place. They have only stolen it out of the system. Nigerians should get the money from them and make up their minds to vote right and vote for the right person. It has happened in many countries, even in Africa, where somebody won a presidential election recently. One man, who is an economist and whom people gave no chance, won. When the people they consider as politicians, the veterans who have messed up the country, ran with the man, people chose the economist who made promises to recover the country. So, Nigerians should make up their minds. Yes, these people have impoverished them and have given them money which they stole from the system, they should take the money and still vote for the right person who can take the country out of the doldrums. As you rightly pointed out, the politicians have used poverty as a weapon and they know Nigerians are hungry and penniless, which is brought about by bad governance. They will now deploy this money during election in order to get their hearts. Nigerians are advised to take the money, but vote the right candidates.
The dominant topic in political discourse in the build up to 2023 elections had been the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC. Do you see any danger in it?
I don’t see any danger in it in terms of saying that a political party has chosen a Muslim-Muslim ticket, then we should now be crying and be killing ourselves over it. The electorate will decide whether it is the right choice the party has made. We don’t need to kill ourselves over it. If somebody chooses not to be sensitive to balance choices in the country, if somebody has decided to disregard even what our forefathers in the face of strong pressure refused to toe that line because of our differences and they tried to strike a balance, and somebody now says he won’t be sensitive or balance anything, don’t the electorate have the right to decide whether it is a good or bad choice that the party has made? It will be reflected in our votes. If we don’t like the choices that a political party has made, is there only one political party that will be on the ballot? Is it only APC that people will vote for? APC in on the ballot and there is PDP there too, as well as Labour Party and others which have presidential candidates. Why don’t we now say we are using our votes to teach that political party a lesson? I don’t believe in crying wolf where there is none. It does not make sense doing so. If a political party that is supposed to be a national political party and the party in power decided that this is the way it wants to present [its] candidates which is their choice and internal matter, who are we to [challenge] them other than to query them through our votes?
Are you confident that INEC will do a good job in conducting credible elections in 2023? The electoral umpire has been deploying a lot of technology to sanitise election conduct in the country.
Whether vote will count in 2023 does not depend on INEC. It is dependent on Nigerians. The people must ensure that they troop out en mass to vote, insist on being allowed to vote, insist that the votes are counted and results are transmitted to the INEC server as provided now by the Electoral Act and then ensure INEC does the right thing by counting the votes and declaring the right results. The people must come out. It takes the people to determine their destiny. Nigerians must not sit in their homes and think that INEC will do the right thing. They must be part and parcel of the partnership to ensure transparency and ensure that election results count in 2023. The people must troop out in large numbers. We must take our destinies in our own hands. If Nigerians do not take their destinies in their own hands and think that the politicians will change positively one day, then they will be deceiving themselves. The people are always in the majority and those in the minority, that is, the politicians will always listen when they see the force of the people. Power belongs to the people and they INEC will have no choice but to do the right thing. That is the way to go about it. (Sunday Tribune)