All Progressives Congress (APC) National Secretary Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, in this interview with JOEL DUKU in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, speaks on the insecurity in the Northeast, President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade and the imperative of good governance.
What is your assessment of the fight against insurgency by the Buhari administration?
The North eastern states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and lately, Gombe have suffered gross security challenges arising from insurgency since 2009 to date. Many lives were lost, hundreds of thousands of private and public properties were destroyed and, like you said including mine. Many, many families were forced to flee their communities and becoming Internally displaced persons.
The number one change in strategy by the Buhari administration in the fight against insecurity in the North east was the directive by the president in his inaugural speech, directing the military authorities to relocate the army command center from Abuja to Maiduguri for effective coordination of the fight against insurgency which has already been complied with massive deployment of troops and equipment.
The appointment of new service chiefs and the National Security Adviser has also opened a new chapter, approach and strategy in the war against security challenges in Nigeria and, especially in the North east. It may interest you to note that the very day the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Tukur Buratai, took over office, he flew to Yobe state, one of the frontline states bedeviled with the problem of insecurity. He spent four days with soldiers in the state during the Sallah period.
This action motivated the officers and men of the military with a new strength and vigor in the war against insurgency. He personally visited some of the dangerous areas and drove through Damaturu to Biu road. He was also at Maiduguri, Konduga and Damboa.
The army chief said the visit was to afford him with a first hand opportunity on the state of equipment, mental and physical preparedness of soldiers at the war front, with a view to plan and restrategise the fight against insecurity in the affected areas.
Thirdly, the regional and international approach of the Buhari administration in the fight against insecurity, has promoted and strengthened unity among Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin Republic to collectively fight insecurity in the region.
Let me also remind you that shortly after his inauguration, President. Buhari was invited to the G-7 summit in Germany and the African Union meeting in South Africa. The problem of Nigeria’s security challenges was extensively discussed at these meetings.
Again, President Obama invitated President Buhari to the United States of America and security was a key issue of discussion between the two leaders.
All these were achieved in just about two months since Buhari assumed office as the president of the federal Republic of Nigeria. These have therefore given a new approach to the fight against insurgency with positive results. I wish to assure you, now more than ever, Borno and Yobe communities have a new sense of security in the fight against insurgency. There is a new hope that Nigeria is fast approaching towards the end of the security challenge posed by insurgency.
The 2015 election was adjudged credible, transparent and acceptable. Do you think Nigeria can sustain this in subsequent elections?
Well, the success of the 2015 election can be attributed to some factors among which includes, the electoral body INEC, the political parties, the security, media , civil society organizations, opinion, community and religious leaders and, the amazing determination of the Nigerian electorates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) departed from the ‘business as usual’ posture of the past to a more committed electoral process to conduct a credible election. It introduced the use of Permanent Voter Card (PVC) and Card reading machines to produce the incontestable results.
Security is a key factor in the conduct of elections everywhere in the world. The security organizations prepare peaceful and conducive atmosphere that guarantees the security of the environment, the electoral officers, election materials and indeed the well being of the electorates to cast their votes peacefully and, for the results to be declared fairly, justly and accurately.
However, our experience in the 2014 Ekiti governorship election in which heavily armed security operatives were deployed and a lot of people were arrested, harrassed and intimidated thereby creating bias and unequal opportunities for contesting parties and candidates, made the APC to launch the campaign against massive deployment of heavily armed security operatives at polling units to pave way for unnecessary advantage to one party.
As a party, the APC also cultivated and promoted the principle and practice of internal democracy within the party. For the past 16 years of our democratic experience, this vital aspect of democracy was missing. We upheld transparency in our primary elections with popular aspirants elected as candidates of the party. I am proud to say that the National Working Committee of the party never tampered with the list of those elected to fly the party flag and, we presented competent, credible and acceptable candidates to the electorates. This, made it much easier for APC candidates to win the elections with incontestable margins forcing the incumbent president, governors, state and national assembly legislators to concede defeat. Our party’s principle of internal democracy has now become a role model for other parties.
In other words, what I am saying is that, if the electoral body remains upright to conduct elections without fear or favour, when security operatives maintain a neutral position and, treat every political party equally, when political parties field competent candidates, when the media remain objective, when religious and community leaders preach tolerance and when the electorates insist on competence and capability against primordial sentiments, subsequent elections in Nigeria will remain credible and transparent with a target of good governance and service delivery
What is your response to arguments that party supremacy and loyalty were aimed at controlling public officers?
Mai Mala: I think it is important for us to remember that, political parties were formed with clear, defined missions and visions. In every democracy political parties have manifesto which are fashioned to promote participation in governance, service delivery to improve the lives of the electorates and good governance generally.
The APC came with a defined mission to save Nigeria after 16 years of gross maladministration by the PDP administrations. Therefore, we attach a lot of importance to our defined goals and to pursue same with passion and commitment to change the lives of Nigerians.
Now, for those who contested on the platform of the party, it is expected that, there is a working synergy and cooperation between such public officers and the party to effectively achieve our set targets as defined in the manifesto. I do not see the party doing anything different from public officers nor, the public officers contradicting the position of the party.
The party serves as the rallying point and the engine room that spurs us individually and collectively to provide service delivery and good governance to Nigerians.
Therefore, the party which served as a ladder and, on whose platform the public officers were elected will always remain the bedrock and rallying point for all members so as to achieve our campaign promises to the people of Nigeria through a well articulated structure.
Let me mention here that President Buhari himself has always declared his unequivocal support and loyalty to the party. He has supported party supremacy and loyalty as a definite measure to achieving party manifesto and set targets for good governance and service delivery to the electorates.
I wish to use this opportunity to once more appeal to all stakeholders, members and supporters of the party that we should remain focused to support President Buhari on this rescue mission, to re-establish peace and security, revamp the economy, fight corruption and provide job opportunity to Nigerians. This is our collective resolve and commitment to Nigerians that we must strive to achieve.
There are moves by the APC government to recover stolen funds from former public officers, but the PDP is accusing the government of selective recovery. How do you see this?
I am happy the PDP is not saying that funds were not looted. Neither did they argue that innocent people were pursued to return the looted funds. I also wish to remind them that the EFCC is conducting its operations with very free hands.
If you look at the figures flying which were said to have been diverted into private pockets, no responsible government will close it’s eyes against these brazen abuse of public trust. I believe government is obliged by national interest to recover public funds that were established to have been taken away by private individuals.
BY JOEL DUKU, NATION