Maverick politician and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Joseph Kennedy Waku takes a peep into a possible post-election Muhammadu Buhari Presidency and concludes that the septuagenarian ex-military general may contend with a tenuous party leadership that would most probably ground his regime to a screeching halt on arrival. Waku, blunt and combative as ever tells Sunday Sun of the massive albatross strewn around Buhari’s neck by some “drunken self styled leaders” who see APC as their “private farm,” advising him to first purge the party’s leadership, if he must succeed.
Waku, who unsuccessfully ran for the governorship ticket of his party in the last primary elections vows to battle the menace so as not to allow the party fall into the same cesspit of immorality and arrogance as the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He takes on President Goodluck Jonathan, describing him as ‘naïve , unintelligent’, and lacking in ‘finesse, personality and confidence’ He further speaks on the political situation of the Middle Belt in contemporary Nigerian politics, the role of ex president Olusegun Obasanjo in the nation’s political development, among other national issues. Excerpts:
Going through your journey in politics shows that you were in PDP before you left for APC. Why did you leave PDP?
It is a whole history. You want me to go through the years of history, several years back? I left PDP because it became a different thing altogether, not what we thought of from the dream of the founding fathers. When we talk about the founding fathers of PDP. I am one of them. All the offices that are being distributed today in the PDP were zoned by my committee. I headed that committee. So, the question on why I left PDP is a good question. If you go to the national secretariat of the PDP today, you might likely find out that the leadership there is drawn from various political parties with different ideologies with no knowledge about what the party’s concept is all about. So, the democratic mechanism that was introduced was completely different from what some old politicians like us believed in, who thought all along that democracy is about choice, about freedom, about allowing somebody to make a free choice, and not imposition and impunity; that was then the cardinal programme of PDP which ran against the grains of our beliefs. So, we thought we got to leave and go somewhere; that probably there might be a better deal. What was the deal we were looking for? We were looking for a free, fair, credible, internal democracy. That was what I thought, and that was why we moved out. That is not to say that we are regretting why we left. But I bet you that you will be astonished that we went into another base that is even worse that the PDP. In APC, some drunken, self-styled leaders wouldn’t want to destroy the fever they came with from the PDP. They have not recovered from such fever. So they want to transfer it into APC. And that is why we are resisting it, went to court, trying to find the solutions so as to stop this primitive, arrogant, drunken-power impunity. And that is why we are in court.
You are talking about APC? Is it not too early for APC to start getting into problems like litigations?
That is why we left PDP to go ahead to do what we did that became out of hand. This time around, we are not leaving any room for any dictator to continue in office in a mad manner. So, we want to tackle it, as soon as it starts. We need the best democratic form of government. I know we will fight a lot of battles to get it worked out, but we must fight it out. It is better, and the right time to start with APC. Those who felt that this party belongs to them, that they are in charge, they would do whatever they want to do with it, they now find out that it is not business as usual, especially now that the Electoral Act has also expanded its jurisdiction, and reduced the powers of the so-called political leaders, and subsequent Supreme Court judgments have also reduced the powers of the so called imposed leaders. So, I think democracy in Nigeria is heading somewhere, and I think it cannot get somewhere just like that. Somebody has to push it to somewhere, and that is why we are moving to getting it done through a legitimate means of litigations. And not only us who went to court on Monday, there were PDP versus PDP in Imo, PDP versus PDP in Niger State, APC versus APC in Benue State. So, we now know that there is a big hope for democracy to sail, most especially that the judiciary has taken a firm decision on stabilizing it.
Who actually are these power-drunk leaders in APC that want to derail a new party like APC?
It depends on which state you are coming from. In my own state, I am talking about George Akume. I am talking about a concentrated area now. It might be in another state, but I am talking about my state and I have challenged the matter in court. For instance, I ran for the governorship of Benue State. I was an aspirant in the primaries that did not take place. And suddenly, somebody who lost in the PDP primaries, who participated there, and from no consultations with anybody, some acclaimed powerful persons catapulted the young man, over and above five of us, and landed him into the national secretariat as the candidate of the party. And the secretariat too, seemed to believe him, but we said no. It is not done that way. And it cannot be done that way. So, we rushed to court. On the day before yesterday, (Friday, February 14) the PDP also went to court against the so-called candidate of the APC that is still a member of their party. Having participated, having resigned as a minister, up till now there has not been a single letter of his resignation from the party, or hints of membership of our party. I think, when this impunity is being checkmated, those who want democracy to fail, may have a second thought and allow the people do the wish of the people, and not ‘my choice” and “my wish”. You can only advise “your wish” to the majority, try and convince them. If they buy into your conviction, then you have the majority. You cannot come over and above everybody and claim that the party belongs to you, your wife, your children; that you finance the party, so you do whatever you want to do with it. It is not a private farm of an individual, and we are saying no. And we will remain resolute in saying no. Look at the case of Plateau. It is PDP versus PDP. Jonah Jang got up one morning and brought his niece to become the governor of the state. So, you privatize even the consciences of the people. The people are now saying no. So, gradually we will be there. And those power-drunk people will see the reasons that power belongs to the people, not to a person.
Is there no conflict mechanism in the APC to address some of these anomalies and cases of impunity?
You see, we made a lot of efforts at the National Secretariat, but George Akume has sufficiently corrupted the national secretariat in believing that what he says is final. And he was bold enough to tell us off, that he is in charge of the national secretariat. So, whatever he chooses to do, they will back him. There are some arrogant national officers of the party. One of them was bold enough to say that whatever George Akume decides in Benue State should be final. I looked at him, shook my head, and said well, I wish you good luck. So what happened? He corrupted them and it is a shame. But through what we are going through, things will stabilize. There are certain people at the national secretariat that are not too happy about what s going on. We talk with them, we share some views, but the leadership of the national secretariat is being highly compromised. This is what Buhari will have a big struggle to do when he becomes President. He first has to purge his immediate environment in order to carry out at least a good example of governance.
Are you saying that without purging his immediate environment, he might find it difficult to perform?
There are certain things he must do. They should separate the secretariat from interfering with the running of the administration, and let the party keep to their offices. Otherwise, he will find it difficult to rule. This is most especially now that everything has to do with due process, and no longer a military dictatorship where you can shout on somebody and decree, and then it works. No, this time there is due process. So, he has to really stand firm and look at the laws and then first do the purging in his immediate environment in order for him to do the good job that Nigerians want him to do.
You met a brickwall at the national secretariat of APC, and decided to go to court for redress. What if you fail at the court, what is your next step?
We cannot fail in court because it is the law. The APC national secretariat knows that what happened in Benue State is wrong. So, the court will justify our cause and let them know that they are wrong.
But sometimes the law is an ass, as they say?
This is just the beginning. We have several angles to go. If we lose at the lower court, there are several windows. There are the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. We are going to fight it; not for me, or personal gains. We are fighting to stabilize the system. I thank God it is a pre-election matter. So, there is no time limit.
You are not thinking of going back to PDP?
I should be thinking of retirement from active partisan politics if I find out that the APC is not the vehicle that I can continue with. I think, I am old enough to step aside and watch. Not necessarily going back to PDP, because PDP has no morals, it has questions to answer to Nigerians. Any decent Nigerian that is in PDP has become an epidemic. So, no decent man with some level of credibility in him will want to go back to PDP, because it has been marked as a corrupt home. It has been marked as a lawless organization. It has been marked as a place that if you commit crime somewhere and you run into PDP, you are safe. There is no longer a burden of morality. So, if it becomes necessary that I have to remain in partisan politics, I will float a political party that will give Nigerians a sense of democratization. If I can found one, if I can form one, then I must remain in partisan politics, with people that can talk actual democracy. Democracy is not all about winning. It is about conscience. It reflects on your beliefs. It is only in Nigeria that they form a political party today; tomorrow they want to be in power. If they lose power, they jump and run over to the winning party; because that is where it is happening. No principles. They converted parties into supermarkets, and economic base, not rendering services. We were not brought up that way. We were brought up to render services to our communities in any capacity we find ourselves. The good is that if you make a good name, it lasts and that is what keeps human beings in the lime-light. It is a good name. So, obviously, it is the least I can do. I can find a candidate in PDP and work for him. But I cannot be a card carrying member. There are few good ones there. There is no doubt about that. If I can find a better candidate from PDP than APC, I will vote for that person. I am voting for human beings, I am voting for APC. I am not voting for partisanship. I am too old to work for partisanship.
We could have today (Feb 14) been voting, but the elections were postponed. What are your views on the postponement? Does it have any repercussions on our polity?
You see, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, and this is going into the book of records, that for the first time, a government in power, which claimed that it is going to rule this country for 60 years, having managed to get to 16 years, is scared of elections because it has failed woefully (laughs). It has not performed. No records to show; very poor performance indeed. And that is why it is scared of facing the electorate. They are not afraid of Buhari. They are afraid of the electorate. They are afraid that the electorate will reject them, not Buhari. Buhari has only one vote just like you and I. But the electorate has voted them out before they knew of it; because of deceitfulness, government by propaganda, government by national television of Nigeria, the NTA. And Nigerians are wiser now than before. Do you hear anyone talking about religion in this electioneering campaign again? Nigerians are fed up. Nigerians are looking for somebody who would bring hope to them. So, delaying this election, you are just delaying the evil day. It will certainly come. And again, whatever happens … when I was a young person, some 30 or 40 years back, whenever they said disappointment is a blessing, I just got angry with whoever said it. I thought they were just comforted. But I discovered that as you grow older you gain more experience. With increased wisdom, you begin to see reasons with this philosophy that disappointment is a blessing. During these few days of this postponement, Buhari, has made more impact. Those who matter, who have been sitting on the fence, who had not made up their minds before, have now made up their minds. And it has created more awareness to Nigerians. It has corrected so many misgivings about him. It has also exposed the insincerity of government. Look at what happened in Ekiti with the recent review of recorded mechanism of rigging by military officers. Now you say, the military should be involved in elections.
He is an educated person, at least he says he is a Phd holder..
Who is that?
Mr President. He says, he is a Phd holder.
He is not saying he is a Phd holder, the story is that he earned it from the University of Port Harcourt.
Well, that is the story. But, this man, Prof Tam David West has said he went through the records of Phd holders in Nigeria, his name is not there. He said he looked at the whole history of Phd holders in Nigeria, his name is not there. And he said that probably one of the Jonathans died and he inherited it. That is a probability. Be that as it may, he is a Phd holder. He said so. I maintain he said so. I didn’t teach him, I didn’t go to school with him, so I can only say what he said. Now go to the USA, go to the U.K, go to Germany, go to France, go to other countries in Europe and America, my brother, nobody knows when election is taking place. It is a private thing. You need not be educated to go and vote. Nobody knows where the polling booth is. You don’t know that activities are going on, except you’re lucky to find some three to five people queuing up. So, it is not a big deal. I voted in England. My party in the UK is the Labour Party. When Margaret Thatcher was running, a polling booth was directly opposite my house. You just walk down quietly and cast your vote. Even at that time, there was no scientific or technological method of voting. Now you can vote through the internet. You had to go physically and cast your vote and yet nobody knew that elections were going on, let alone seeing the police or military moving around.
Is it not a symptom of under development to see military presence everywhere during elections?
It’s not just a symptom of underdevelopment; it is a symptom of corrupt practices, of somebody, wanting to intimidate others. There’s nothing to do with the military during elections. What do you do if you have external aggression? So, if you deploy the military during elections, in times of external aggression, who then do you deploy? And you say, you do not have enough security or military to fight insecurity, yet you have enough security to barricade Tinubu’s house in Lagos, and the Government House in Imo. What kind of system is that? And the president will sit down and say oh, he didn’t know that there was a postponement of elections. That’s a president.
The North Central Zone appears to be a battle field for so many contesting groups. While some Middle Belt leaders align with the core North, others want autonomy, while a third force prefers alliance with the South. What is your view on this?
You’re talking to the right person over this issue of the Middle Belt. In the course of the Middle Belt struggle, we never dissociated ourselves from the North. What we said then was that the North was large for one person to manage. So, we needed a Middle Belt Forum to give us opportunities and we gave examples: Nigeria is North and South. In the south, there are two regions- the Western and Eastern regions. Let the North too, have two regions. We never dissociated ourselves as having not come from the North. It was J.S. Tarka who led the struggle along with Aku. They never dissociated themselves as having not come from the North. What we said was that the North was large for one person to manage and the result, the facilities were not reaching out enough to other segments of the North. Then, in 1967, Gen Gowon came out and gave us Benue/ Plateau State. Subsequently that state expanded to a point that Benue State has a state of its own, Plateau has a state of its own, Nasarawa has a state of its own, Niger has a state of its own, Kwara has a state of its own, Kogi has a state of its own, over and above what we were asking for in the past.
The governor of Plateau is not Hausa/ Fulani. The governor of Niger, maybe for one reason or the other is Hausa Fulani. That is their system. The governor of Kogi is not Hausa/Fulani. The governor of Benue is not Hausa/ Fulani. The governor of Nasarawa is not Hausa/Fulani. The issue of marginalization by Hausa/Fulani became a thing of the past. That matter died a natural death. Now coming back to what you are saying, we have disgruntled, disabled politicians who would always use a platform. Even if it doesn’t exist, they want to create it, so that they can also carry the platform for negotiating for positions. That is why you hear something like Middle Belt region. There is nothing like that.
How do you see the man Jonathan? He has been at the helm of affairs for close to six years?
I am biased already. I knew him as a deputy governor. I was privileged to sit in a committee when he had crises with his governor. And since that time till date, I have my impressions about him, that he is a conceited human being. I still maintain that. He has not changed. For the first time, Nigeria has a president that has no finesse, no personality. Some of the governors have no regard for him. Personality is not by the sight, not by height. The president is not confident. This is the first time in Nigeria that we have a leader that is not strong, a leader that is dishonest, a leader that is unreliable. This is my problem with Jonathan. I like him as a young man, very likeable, but for performance I cannot take him for anything; because he has no control of governance. He has no knowledge of governance, it is not his fault. He is not cut out for it.
As he has no control of governance, who is in charge? Somebody somewhere described him as a tool in God’s hands, suited for these times. What do you say?
I don’t know from which angle the man is coming from. That at this particular time, God has brought somebody who is naïve, who is not intelligent enough, who does not know his left from his right, and therefore he left his lieutenants to control and do whatever they want to do, but for the good name of the office, he keeps quiet? Therefore, God has brought such a person at this particular time to do what he is doing? Different people have different types of knowledge. My knowledge is different from that kind of thing. That is why he is afraid of conducting free, fair, credible and peaceful elections? Because it is the same people that are using him now, that’s why he has no decision of his own? Obasanjo has described him, as running in a country of about four or five presidents, and he is the weakest. Obasanjo named those who are presidents. He said Nigeria has five presidents – Patience, his wife, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Diezani, and among them, he is the weakest. This is what I am saying. You talked about insurgency, and you want to tell us that within six weeks, you can hold election in those areas? It means that you know them, you control them, and you will order them not to operate. You cannot control them if you don’t know them. If you cannot eliminate them in four years, how can you eliminate them in six weeks?
But the multinational force is supportive…
That should have been done long before now. We advised. He shouldn’t have allowed his citizens that he is governing to be slaughtered. He shouldn’t have allowed the losses in human lives. It should have been managed better if he was a sharp person, who knows what he wants and who seeks advice. I sympathize with him. But honestly speaking, when I watched my president, Jonathan in Lagos campaigning, I could see a visibly angry man, angry with himself, angry with the society. And a president will ask his citizens, “do you want someone who will send your people to jail? If my father commits an offence, and he is found guilty, will there be no punishment? Is the president encouraging Nigerians to go ahead and commit crimes, because nothing will happen to them? And that is why they are rushing to PDP, because it is a home.
When you commit crime you run there and nothing happens to you. Can a president on a campaign tell young Nigerians, “would you want a president who will go and throw up? My goodness!. So, my president does not want discipline. No orderliness. That is the level of the president, and the kind of president that Nigeria has. I thank ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo for exonerating himself from the mess he committed by bringing this man. He came out and told the whole people that the man promised he was going to do only four years. He is a human being. If for four years or six years, you cannot do anything, give another four years he will do nothing.
But some people also accuse Obasanjo of doing nothing for eight years…
There is a difference. There are two things that Obasanjo did. You know, Obasanjo is not particularly my man. You know that. The entire political quagmire we are having today, Obasanjo is the creator. Obasanjo really destroyed democracy in this country. I am not giving him any pass mark. But one thing you cannot take away from Obasanjo, is that he was a powerful leader. You can’t take that away from him. He was primitively powerful, he was vindictively powerful, he was selfishly powerful; he was arrogantly powerful. But above all he was a powerful leader. He took decisions, rather than not taking at all. If Obasanjo was in power, this Boko Haram thing would have been eradicated a long time ago. Obasanjo would have dealt with it. I give it to him. How he would have done it, I do not know. But Obasanjo would have dealt with it. Let me tell you, the failure of the government was the very day that Boko Haram threatened to disrupt the Independence celebration at the Eagle Square and the president was scared and took the celebration to the villa. That was the day this government failed in terms of security – Obasanjo would have done it there, damned the consequences. Nothing would have happened.
That is the courage and bravery of a soldier
Yes, he is a soldier. But Yar’Adua would have done the same. Umaru Yar’Adua would have dared them. It is a matter of commitment. It is a matter of courage.
In a matter of weeks Nigerians will go and vote for their leaders. Can you forecast the shape of things to come?
I am afraid that we have a President, a leadership that is dishonest. Nigerians are living in fear. Let me be honest with you, that probably the president… you see he assured Nigerians, but he says one thing, and does another thing. Two days ago (Feb 12), he said if he loses the election, he is going home. We hope if he loses he will do just that. Nigeria belongs to all of us. Even if he doesn’t lose, one day he must go home, but Nigeria will remain. If you have a leader that believes in the concept of the country, and you gave your contributions but your country says you have done enough; don’t resist. So, I pray that our president will behave. I pray for him too. If Nigerians want him to remain as president with the kind of misdeeds and incompetence, but Nigerians still want a president like him, so be it. But if Nigerians say, hey, you have to go, we don’t want you, let’s try another person, he should take it in good faith. Let’s not plunge Nigeria into chaos. When I hear some young people talk about “we will fight”, I laugh because they have not seen a war before. Many Nigerians since after the civil war when they were born do not know what war is. They did not witness it. I participated, so I know what I am talking about.
The Igbos are great people.Those Nigerians are one of the greatest human beings in this world. If the devastation of that war happened in any part of Nigeria, there would have been scars of the war up till now. But go to Igboland, there is no trace of the civil war that really brought that region to the ground. But they picked up. I don’t think there is any Igboman today that would want that thing to re-occur . And I don’t think there is any Nigerian today, that would want his brother, south or north to be in that situation anymore. Our leaders should believe in the co-existence and the corporate existence of Nigeria, The Ghanaian president lost election. He was defeated by the opposition. He is a hero today. Mr. President, if you lose election you will not be jobless. A former president of Nigeria will not be jobless. A lot of the international community will engage him. But that depends on how he takes it. Don’t mind about small minded people thinking that if Jonathan loses election, there will be war; I laugh at them. War to where? There are two things in an election. You either win, or you lose. So, all you need to do is to work hard to win and not to lose. Convince Nigerians why they should give you a second term on whatever term. But when you begin to talk as if the world is after you, that is where my fears lie. And our military has been politicized too gravely. Our military became too greedy. And this is not going down well with the professionalism, and I think the commander-in-chief should stand firm to defend that constituency.
In what ways did the military get greedy?
I told you they have been politicized. It shouldn’t be. Like the recent postponement of elections, the military played a key role that they have not enough security. It shouldn’t be the work of the military to be involved in elections. This election should be civil society based. The police, the para military, and not the military, full fledged military writing letters that they don’t have enough security to monitor. They don’t have to monitor elections. So, that is where the military credibility is in question, and more so, with this new discovery of the tape recorded conversations with the captain, the general and other politicians on the Ekiti election. It shouldn’t be. I only believe and I hope that let it be imagination. Let it not be the truth. The credibility of the system will be definitely jeopardized.
Are you satisfied with the democratic journey and elections so far?
I have absolute confidence in Jega. I have absolute confidence in Nigerians, the electorate. I have absolute confidence that the elections will take place and it will be credible. A winner will emerge, and a loser will have a handshake with whoever wins. It will be sad if the elections turn out to be a whole battle ground; because we need not go to that length; because whoever God gives power will rule and govern Nigeria and Nigerians. So, I think that one needs one another for this country to survive the peace today. Like Middle Belt region, it is the politically disabled politician who wants to use Middle Belt as a wheel chair for their political journey. Otherwise, Aliyu Babangida, from the Middle Belt, is he not the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum? Before Suswam of Benue resigned, he was the deputy chairman of Northern Governors Forum. What stops you from coming up with a political organization to enable you move into negotiations, that this is what I am putting on the table?. The South South, are they not saying they are from the south? The South West are they not saying they are from the south? Is the South East not saying it is from the south? We said we are from the North.
What part of the North? North Central.What part of the North? North East. What part of the North? North North? North East. What part of the North? North West. It is too elementary for anybody to be arguing this issue except like I said for disabled politicians. They want to use religion and the Middle Belt is a Christian base so that they can hold on. But there are also Muslims in the Middle Belt, in the North Central. And even if you look at the categorization of governance, out of 36 governors, in the North Central only 2 are Christians. Will you say they are not from the same zone? All these are as a result of people wanting to create artificial identity for themselves. That they can be heard through one organization or the other.
Otherwise, I served Arewa Consultative Forum as national vice chairman for six years. I served as a treasurer for three years. Stephen Lawani, the current deputy governor of Benue State served as a treasurer for three years. The current secretary general of the Arewa Cosultative Forum, ACF, John Paul Buba is from Benue State. The chairman of the Board of Trustees of ACF, who finished his tenure with me together last December, Gen Jeremiah Useni is from Plateau State. Sunday Awoniyi, may his soul rest in peace was the chairman, National Executive Council of the AC. He was from Kogi State. What are they talking about? We don’t stop anybody coming up with any name that will enable him go to the negotiating political table, but you cannot dissociate yourself from your people. We are Northerners; yes you can choose to go with your political party.
With the UMBC we aligned with the NCNC. Later we went to Action Group. Before J.S.Tarka died, he became the national vice chairman, North, NPN; that was before he went to the Senate and died. What did J.S. Tarka tell us on March 11 1976, in late Joe Umarku’s house in Oturkpo when we were trying to found a political association? J.S. Tarka told us that when he was coming up as a young politician, he made a mistake. He abandoned his Northern brothers, and went and aligned with his friends in the South, and as a result of that, his people were found in opposition.
This time around, he wanted to join his Northern brothers to form and found a formidable political party, capable of wielding power, so that his people will be sufficiently represented in the mainstream governance. We were young people then. We opposed him. We said, you were saying that Hausa Fulani were not good people, why are you bringing us back?. He said it was because, he didn’t know. Now if he knew then, what he knows today he wouldn’t have done that.
He brought us to NPN, and guess what? For the first time in the history of Nigeria, Benue had five ministers, and I don’t think that will ever happen again, until the Tivs of Nigeria become a republic of its own. That was J.S. Tarka with Muslim Hausa/Fulani led government – Shagari. The Tivs had three ministers under him, two full cabinet ministers, one minister of state.
During the reign of Jonathan, a Christian minority, he did not consider us worthy of a substantive minister. We became a deputy minister. What are we talking about? And that is why he is losing Benue so badly.