Senator Umaru Tsauri, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the party’s former deputy national auditor was in the Senate from 1999-2003. In this interview with Ruth Choji, he discusses frankly, issues in his party and the rescheduled elections and says it is time some party chieftains quit the stage.
Your party seems to be facing alots of challenges. Are you happy with the state of things in the PDP?
Since I am not part of the administrative hierarchy, I cannot say what is really happening in the party. So what I might talk about will be what I might have heard or seen on the pages of the newspaper and television. So, for me to say I am happy or not is not an option because as a loyal party man, I am supposed to be happy with whatever is happening in the party.
Most people thought the coming of Mu’azu as chairman would have checked some issues like defections. Where did issues go wrong in the party?
If it were when I was still part of the NWC, I would have made comments on that. When Bamanga was there, I was part and parcel of the executive, and so whatever was happening, I was seeing it and I can talk about it, but for now, I am not part of the system, I am only a card carrying member of the party and I will like my party to win the elections. Mu’azu is a young man compared to Bamanga. So we expect that he will come up with something different from Bamanga, which is why we call him the game changer.Has Mu’azu lived up to the ‘game changer ‘ role?
Yes he has changed the game in some aspects because there are some changes I can see in the party but comparatively, there is still much to be desired. We need and yearn for more of these changes.
Let us talk about former President Obasanjo’s tearing of his PDP membership card. What does this portend for the party?
It is really sad but you have to look at why he did it. I am sure he did not tear his membership card because of the party, it is possible he tore it because of the government or president. I am not surprised because right from when Obasanjo left government as a military president, there was no government that came that Obasanjo did not criticise except his government. So if Obasanjo is criticising Jonathan and the PDP, I would not be surprised, but to go to the extent of tearing his membership card is really sad. A party that brought you to hold the biggest office for eight years, you dump it and after that, you tear the membership card, it is really sad.
Does it not imply crisis?
Nothing except that somebody that is big has done something that is unbecoming, but it will not affect the fortunes of the party to me.
Not in any way for the party?
Only God knows because this is a close call. We have never had it so tight
Some people have accused the president of being behind the postponement of the elections. Are they wrong in their speculations?
People say different things and the beauty of democracy is that, you can sit down in your house and whatever comes to your mind, you come out and say it whether wrong or right and go back and sleep but in my religion, there is what we call ‘Bahari’ and ‘Zahari’. Now Bahari means something that is within you, nobody knows it, while Zahari is something that people see. But why the elections was cancelled, we cannot talk about something we don’t know. The deferring of elections is in the hands of INEC, and the chairman of INEC whom people have the highest regard for in the country, because we know that he would rather resign than compromise, came out and told the people that if the security agencies cannot guarantee security, the voters and those people that carry out this task, then he cannot go ahead. He wanted guarantee of the security of the workers and voters and since they couldn’t give that guarantee, why should he go ahead? I think we should look at that reason from the outside. If there is anything apart from that, then I don’t know. We have to rely on what Jega said, not to hear anything from the PDP or opposition.
But your fellow party chieftains like Chief Edwin Clark have called on Prof Jega to resign, do you align with them?
We should look at the people talking and assess them based on what they are. Edwin Clark is an elder statesman, so you have to look at his position and then his age. If it were a young man that said it, I would have been surprised, but if it is Edwin Clark, then he has his reason. But that is why the white man said, if you reach a particular age, you retire because right now, if you get persons like me, at the age of 65 years and ask that we go work with the computer, what will you expect to get? But my granddaughter now teaches me how to operate the computer and even my phone sometimes because during my time, it was something we weren’t using. We are in the computer age and this is not my time. So I should not be bringing something that happened about 50 years ago and think it can still happen today, that is the situation of Edwin Clark, Obasanjo and the rest. That is why the white man said you can’t eat your cake and have it again. You don’t bring archaic things and expect them to work now. What I know is that whether PDP or APC wins, Jega will declare the results. So I don’t see any reason why Jega should resign.
With the tension we had on ground, do you think the elections should still proceed?
Yes I am optimistic about it because if elections don’t hold, there will still be a government. If you don’t hold elections on March 28, it means you cannot hold it 30 days before the handover date. We don’t pray for anything that will stop the elections, but I have told you security first and since they insisted on six weeks in putting the country on balance, we have to give them that.
Are you satisfied with the distribution of PVCs by INEC?
I don’t think there is any state that got the required number of PVCs, but the number gotten can be enough to conduct the elections. If you get 90% of the voter’s card, it will not affect the result of the elections.
But the south-south are saying the distribution of the voter’s card is lopsided and that it favours the north. What is your take on this?
Our problem is lack of confidence in constituted authorities. Somebody swore when he took the oath of office. In the whole world, there is no country that has commitment on believes in religion like Nigeria, whether right or wrong because there are countries where some don’t believe in God. So if you swear, we believe you. So, for anybody to tell me that the distribution of the PVCs is lopsided, I will say that person is not being fair with our situation because I think the commission has done it to a level that we must commend it, and if you want to comment as opposition, then don’t condemn it.
Are you optimistic that this administration is capable of ending insurgency in Nigeria?
From the way we are seeing it now, I will say yes because before, the government was treating insurgency with kid’s gloves but now, they are serious from what we hear and see on TV.
Do you blame the President for allowing insurgency to linger this long?
No government and no president no matter how wicked will put its people in such situation. The president has been doing all he can but Mr President is only a man, he is first among equals. He cannot do everything alone. I don’t believe the president allowed terrorism to get to this stage for personal reasons. If it is Mr President, then who is doing that of Libya, Darfur, ISIS, Iraq and the rest of the world? I don’t believe Mr President has any hand in this.
The problem of youth restiveness is one that we must address because if you go to public schools after school hours and see the number of youths coming out, you will be scared. It becomes worst because after school, they don’t have anything to fall back to. In my state, for the past eight years, schools have been free and so many children enrolled, and if they finish, where will they go? We have three universities, two colleges of education and other higher institutions and yet, they cannot accommodate one over five of the children coming out of secondary school today. Even for those who manage to finish the universities, they come out and there are no jobs, so at the slightest provocation, they pick up arms and unleash their frustration. So if you want to end insurgency, then government must create jobs and enabling atmospheres. I travelled with somebody form the east to my state and when he saw vast land, he was devastated, he asked me that ‘do you mean we have this type of land in this country and yet our youths are jobless? We have a Dam that can accommodate almost one million hectares of land but since Shagari commissioned it, nothing has been done with that Dam. If it is to be utilized, there will not be a poor man in Katisna State. If you go to an area in any village where the young men play football in the evenings, by the time they come back home in the evening, they are tired and they sleep off, you don’t see such young people participating in violence. But when one is idle and have nothing to eat, they are easily influenced. Government must be up and doing because if the prices of oil continues at the rate it is going, in the next six months, there will be serious problem because most states won’t be able to pay salaries. We have to engage our youths in farming. When katsina government took over the Jibia Dam and was providing the power and machines to power the Dam, farmers sprang up immediately and if you see what is happening now in that local government, even farmers from neighboring Niger are benefiting from the irrigation farming taking place there.