Alhaji Buba Galadima, a former Presidential Campaign spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was a former National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC). In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he gave an assessment of the 2019 general elections and his expectations in 2020 under the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Excerpts:
What are your expectations from the Buhari administration in year 2020?
It is very bleak. I said it is bleak because we are being ruled by a group of people who do not know their left from their right. They are so clueless have no agenda or blueprint for the progress and development of Nigeria. If you are led by a blind man, only God knows where you are going to end. That is the Nigerian situation for now. We are sliding into dictatorship; In fact, I will say we are already in dictatorship regime. We are being taken back to the type of government we had in 1984 and it is very unfortunate.
One of the major highlights of the outgoing year is the 2019 presidential election, between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. What is your assessment of the election?
Of course, I was disappointed by the outcome of the election. General Buhari clearly lost that election handsomely but he used his position in authority to get himself elected by force. This fraud was organised by the security agencies and INEC and affirmed by the judiciary. Unfortunately for us, the judiciary is fast losing public confidenc. The security agencies have taken sides over their activities. They never believed that their role and allegiance is to the Nigerian nation and not an individual. We have a crop of security people whose allegiance is to the present ruler. We are all in trouble; unless we have a free and fair election where the votes of the people count, Nigeria will never see development. Because people don’t owe anybody anything and that is the exact behaviour of those in power today.
How will you assess the performance of the judiciary which is regarded as the last hope of the common man in the election?
I find the judiciary working below expectations. Everybody in Nigeria know that election in this part of the country fell short of known standards and the judiciary wasn’t able to remove just one governor. I was shocked that despite all that happened in Kano during the governorship election, the judiciary affirmed the result declared by INEC. Did you see what happened during the rerun election in Kano? Look at what happened in Kogi and Bayelsa. In Kogi and Bayelsa, the winners won in virtually only three local governments in the state. In Bayelsa, the entire state was blocked out. Nobody was hearing anything from Bayelsa; all the airwaves were closed and we didn’t know what was happening in the state until when results were only announced. In fact, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP ) confirmed to the whole world that the gunship helicopter that were shooting at people and the police that were seizing ballot boxes were fake police. The question we should ask is that the same IGP told us that he deployed 35,000 strongmen to do justice to the electoral system in Kogi, yet they could not arrest the fake policemen. I can bet my life that the judiciary can affirm that election. Daily, people are losing confidence in the judiciary. I call on retired justices of the Supreme Court; people who have the interest of justice in their hearts to sit down and constitute a committee to look at some of the pronouncements of the judiciary that were recently done. I will call on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) that their efforts and knowledge alone no more matters because in electoral laws, there is always a predetermined winner and you go into election with that winner in mind and INEC must justify that the fact and the security agencies contrived the results, INEC announces and the court affirms it. Is that how we will run a civilised country in the 21st century? I feel very disgusted and in fact, I am losing hopw whether in my life, I will ever see a free and fair election in this country.
Having criticised INEC’s role, what do you think can be done to make it better?
We don’t need government to fund INEC at all because we can request donor agencies that will bring materials and pay election officials so that we can have an independent election. If they can’t do that, let them appoint me chairman of INEC, I will get funding for INEC. I don’t need one kobo from the federal government of Nigeria. We don’t need any security person; either police or military to look after our elections.
The President recently said that he will ensure a free, fair election in 2023, do you see that as an indication of hope in future elections?
Do they think Nigerians are gullible people who can differentiate their left from their right? Can you tell me anything that anybody in this government has ever said that comes to pass? As far as I am concerned, Buhari is not sincere. He is just going to use the security forces to ensure that he installs a person of his choice as President of Nigeria. From the look of things, I don’t think he is going to install anybody except himself.
By saying he will install himself in 2023, are you saying he is nursing a Third term agenda?
The signs are there. Look at the House of Representatives and bill seeking single term of six years for current political office holders. Some gullible Nigerians are saying the bill was thrown out but that is not true. Even though the Bill was thrown out by majority of the lawmakers, the Deputy Speaker in his ruling said this issue has been set aside. What that means is that it can be re-presented. That is what many people don’t understand. But according to the rules of the House, that issue is dead and cannot be brought up again. This people are serious about perpetuating themselves in power and unless we speak up and fight for our rights, we are finished as a country.
What is your grudge with the bill ?
My grudge is that if the bill is passed, those in authority today will benefit from it. I attended the 1987 Constituent Assembly, 1994 Constitutional conference and I also attended the 2014 national conference during the Goodluck Jonathan administration. I have always stood against a single term for any elected public officer, be it local government, governor or President. My belief is that the electorate must be given the opportunity to throw out bad governments at every stage after four years. I still stand by that and I am ready to debate with anybody on this issue anytime.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) believes that the US government was rightly justified to have included Nigeria on a special watchlist for religious persecution but the Presidency disagreed with it. What is your perspective on that?
Let me begin with a Hausa proverb. A blind man is walking and somebody on the sidewalk tells him be careful, there is a big pithole in front of you. Then the blind man turned to him and said ‘if there is no pithole, what brought about the issue of a pithole?’ Now, if we are being put on a watchlist for anything by the world, if we are not guilty, why does it bother us? If you accuse me of being a rogue, if I am not one, why will it bother me? That was why I used the Hausa proverb to justify my argument. If they put Nigeria on the list of corrupt people or religious bigot, this government is the architect of its own problem and distraction. They shocked the world through their nepotism and sectional appointments. These are things that are calling for the pressure from those who felt they were sidelined to cry for marginalisation on the basis of their ethnicity, on the basis of their religion or on the basis of where they come from. If the government has a large heart and believes that from every corner of this country, you can find competent people that reflects federal character, they will make Nigerians feel that this country belong to all of us. Then, there will be no problem. Nobody will call for putting Nigeria on watchlist on the basis of religion or ethnicity. That is the situation we find ourselves. In fact, we are yet to see what other foreign organisations will tag Nigeria by the time this tenure ends.
Some associates of former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar are asking him to contest again in 2023, alleging that he is the most popular politician in Nigeria after President Buhari. Given the fact that Buhari will not contest in 2023, will you advise Atiku to throw his hat into the ring?
Anybody can be asked to contest. People can ask me to contest. When the time comes and when we get to the river, we will know how to cross. Every Nigerian is eligible to contest but getting there is what matters.
What is your assessment of the leadership of the 9th national assembly?
Nigerians should lock up their heads in their toilets and start crying because we now have a unity of purpose between the National Assembly, the judiciary and the executive. The other two are under the armpit of the executive. There is complete deprivation of our freedom because all of them are now working for the executive. Do you believe we have a free judiciary or a rubber stamp national assembly whose leader says once anything is brought before him by Buhari, he will approve it and can even support Buhari for life presidency? Have you seen anything whether right or wrong that the executive has interest in and the judiciary decides otherwise? We are in trouble in this country but Nigerians are acting as if it doesn’t matter.
Some Nigerians also believe that PDP is not living up to its role as the major opposition political party. They are also worred about the rift between Governor Nyesom Wike and Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa. Are you also worried about that ?
Why should I be worried? That is democracy for you. Are we fighting for PDP? I am not fighting for the PDP; I am fighting for the betterment of Nigeria. So, the PDP is only one of the vehicles and if the actors have decided to ruin themselves, that is their business. But I believe that Nigeria is for all of us and the issue is not about party but who is contesting for election in Nigeria. Does he possess the blueprint and ideas needed to move this country forward? That is what we should be looking for.
There are rumours of Bola Tinubu nursing a presidential ambition to succeed Buhari in 2023. Do you think he has anything to offer the country?
The likes of Tinubu are only waiting for their final pay. Anybody who has helped Buhari should cry because he will experience what some of us have come across. Buhari has never rewarded loyalty or anything positive. Has Tinubu assisted Buhari one percent of what I have done? I sacrificed my life and blood for 16 years. I was arrested 38 times, tried for treason and thrown into prison. But what is my reward? Can’t Tinubu use the man in front to measure the depth of the river? Have you ever heard Buhari say ‘thank you’ to anyone? Has he ever separated a fight? So, anyone expecting a favour from Buhari in return is only wasting his time.
Do you see an implosion in APC before 2023?
They know what we don’t know. I know for a fact that APC is divided into three factions. There is the Tinubu group, the El-Rufai group and the Aso Villa group. The Aso Villa group itself is also divided into three. So, it is in our interest that they continue to disagree and fight. That is our freedom. We have nothing to lose except our chains.
What advice do you have for Nigerians?
The advice I have for Nigerians is that any other party is better than this government or any member of this government. Nigerians should know that the trial of one man today should also be their own trial because like the Germans did during the Fascist regime. When the Fascist came, every German said they are not Communist or Socialist, So, they were being killed and annihilated by the Fascist. When they came for the Union, Germans said they are not Union people and so they have nothing to do with them. they finished with the Union.
But when they came for the Church, every German left and there was nobody to fight for them. There was nobody to protect or to fight for them. So, this is what is happening. Yesterday, it was Dasuki and Sowore, today it is Sheikh El-Zakzaky, tomorrow is it Dadinyata, next tomorrow, it will be Agba Jalingo. This government will incarcerate and silence all of us one by one and then write results for themselves by using the military in 2023 and then bring the worst dictator ever to visit the shores of Nigeria.
What do you think we can do?
We can do is very simple. Let’s cry out to the outside world. There is nobody that this government fears on earth like the Whiteman. I made an appearance on television on Monday. On Tuesday, the American ambassador visited Buhari and he was forced to release Sowore and Dasuki, shivering and apologising to the Americans. That shows you the level of fear he has for the Whiteman more than God.