Donald Duke, a former Governor of Cross River State, is the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), one of Nigeria’s opposition party. He was in Kano recently to compare notes with his running mate, Dr Junaid Mohammed and to meet with the party stakeholders in the Northwest region. In the exclusive interview with Saturday Sun, he outlines reasons Nigerians should vote for him ahead of the candidates of the All Progressives Congress, Muhammadu Buhari and his counterpart in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. He spoke to Desmond Mgboh.
You are welcome to Kano State and I think that for a start, I should ask you why are you in Kano State? Certainly, this is not your base?
I will say that it is part of the states that I intend to win in the forthcoming 2019 elections but on a serious note, I am in Kano to meet with our party leadership, including my running mate, Dr. Junaid Mohammed and other stalwarts of my party. Kano is very pivotal in our strategy for the next elections.
The election is very close now, issues are coming up from different directions but basically, why do you think Nigerians should vote for you and not President Buhari or Atiku?
I don’t know how much you know about the pulse of Nigerians today- North, South East and West.There is a general disenchantment in our country today – the rich, the poor, the not-too rich , the not- too- poor- they all feel that we can do better than we have been doing. In the last 20 years or thereabout, we have experienced the PDP and it was roundly rejected in 2015 because it was squandering our national resources; so the people roundly rejected a party that had, at one time, almost 30 of the 36 governors, reducing that to about 20 governors and now, it is about 9 or so governors. And thereafter, a lot of hopes were placed on the APC and the reputation of President Muhammadu Buhari. Three years into his administration, we are back to the way we felt in 2015. The issues he ran on – corruption, security have not abated. The country is as corrupt , if not more corrupt. The security situation has not improved . If anything , we are all learning to live with it as part of our lives now. So, those two planks upon which he ran are not being fulfilled, but more than that, the poverty is exacerbating. Recently, it was reported that Nigeria has the largest concentration of poor people in the world. Even during the days of the PDP, it was not that bad. And it is only going to get worse. Our population today is 200 million and it is growing. There are no plans to get Nigeria working so that the teeming millions of unemployed would find jobs. So if you look at it, if you take all the indices, we are not doing well. We have tried the PDP and we have tried the APC and we have found out that they are just different sides of the same coin. The actors freely flow between both sides. If you look at the actors in APC today, at one time or the other, they were in PDP. And the actors in PDP today, at one time or the other, were in APC. But more importantly, there is no new entrants. If you don’t breed and nurture the next generation, whether you like it or not, they would take over but they would take over ill-prepared. So, we felt that we should have a platform that would change the narrative of Nigeria and that is all the SDP is all about.
In quite a number of states, your presence is very minimal compared to the other big parties. How do you intend to overcome this?
Very true, we are a new party than they are but the quality of people we are going to put forward, I think will work in our favor. Nigerians are beginning to understand that it is not the party that matters; it is the person that matters. We know that the failure of this administration is squarely on the statecraft of Muhammadu Buhari. And the same thing with PDP. So these parties, as you see them, are platforms. What is critical is that you put forth the right people or candidates who the people have confidence in. So, if I put someone forward in Kano, how is he perceived in Kano? Gone are the days when you put anybody and because he is carrying or flying a flag of a particular party, he will be voted for. Those days are gone now, people are wiser. We politicians always underrate the electorate or what we like to call the grassroots. But the grass is where we step on every time, so they know better where it hurts. They are wiser. And I am not being overtly optimistic here, but I think that if the party should position itself strongly as an organization that is ready to lead the country, we would make the difference. If I were holding the tape and should ask if you are happy with the APC, your likely answer is NO, If I ask you if you were happy with the PDP, your likely answer is No. if you are not happy with both parties, wouldn’t you seek an alternative.
The cost of the Presidential election in Nigeria is huge; it cost real money; how are you going to cope with the challenge of finance ahead of the polls?
If it was money, Jonathan would still be the President of Nigeria today. I think that for every one Naira APC spent, he spent N10. There is a certain amount of money, after which it becomes meaningless. We have exaggerated the amount of money that is required in an election because a lot of people also feed off it. You can run a prudent election and you wouldn’t spend that much. We are going to do that and we shall do that.
Have you thought about the fact that quite a lot of the people you have in the SDP today were in the APC or PDP. What new things are they bringing to the party? Are they just migrating because somebody has offended them? Or they are coming to you because they believe in your vision.
Well, you know that in our politics, you cannot stop anyone from joining any platform. What we can influence are those we put forward and in any case, you are not going to have a party of saints. It does not make sense. If it is a party, it connotes that everybody and anybody can be a member. But we would try and screen those we put forward. We are working on a mechanism where we would try and put our best forward, which is one of the things that is lacking in Nigeria.
What is your take on the security situation in the country?
The biggest challenge we have in Nigeria is poverty. Poverty is so endemic that it breeds insecurity. The North Eastern part of our nation, where you have Boko Haram holding sway is also the poorest part and that is why they can hold sway. But where people have hope , where people have something to live for, extremism never comes their way. People don’t burgle houses any more, they now kidnap because they feel that the returns from that is now more than burgling houses. If you look at all our problems, if you are able to create an economy that would employ the vast number of our people, engage them meaningfully, then all our problems would disappear. Our problems are not ethnic, our problems are not religious. But where there is inadequacy, we are going to use what we have to get what we don’s have . If we don’t have enough here, I will start discriminating against you to my advantage. No one is more religious than the other. But because we don’t have enough, we start playing Christianity against Islam. And if you are neither, they say you are an atheist or the other. When they talk zoning- which is an unconstitutional thing- you zone to the North and even in the North, they say oh! zone it to the North East or the Middle Belt. It is all trying to take advantage. So, you need to deal with poverty issue. It is a big, big problem. You cannot have a nation as large as Nigeria- 200 million of them and three quarter of them are so poor. It is a danger.
Can you trust INEC having recourse to a couple of elections lately in Ekiti, Osun?
INEC is a Nigerian organisation and is subject to the frailties of the Nigeria circumstance. But we have no other organization to work with. So, we need to encourage them, police them and ensure that they do the right thing because we politicians also are the problem. But if you have the mass of the people with you, those excesses that you find could be curbed. That is all we have to work with and we have to make it work to the overall advantage of every Nigerian.
How do you think that the coming polls would be better than the conduct of the 2015 elections?
Elections are all about national consciousness. When you have the citizens appropriately primed, knowing that it is a civic responsibility and that whoever you put in the office would determine the quality of the life you would lead, then people would take it more seriously. I have been advocating that we should have a system of government where we have elections every two years, so that we stagger it – so every two years the people go to the polls. Two things would happen. Every two years, the electorate get wiser and better and the system of election would also get better because we are learning. This four year thing where every four years, we all go and the whole country stands on a standstill is not really for me the best. Even if it means an amendment that allows the National Assembly an extra two years, so that it dovetails… so we have election more frequently, so be it. Because right now, it is like an event and the nation comes to a standstill; it is not the best. Maybe, we should have one where the legislative house have theirs in between so that you can constantly monitor the mood of the public vis a vis governance. You know in the United States, they have what they call the mid-term elections and the midterm elections is really a referendum on how well the executive has been doing for that period. Every two years, Americans go for the polls.They are smarter for it because each time you go to the polls… INEC is getting better. The INEC you have today is better than what we had in 1999 but it is not there yet. We also need to ensure that both sides, the electorate and the referees at INEC, are getting better. We should also introduce technology into it because that forestalls manipulation.
Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.
President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.
Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.
At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.
He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.
He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.
“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’
“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.
“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.
“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.
“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.
“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”
However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.
He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.
“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”
CAMA: Bishop blasts Christian lawmakers
The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Most Rev. Godfrey Onah, has blamed Christians in the National Assembly (NASS), for the passage of the 2020 Companies and Allied Matters Bill (CAMA), signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari recently.
Bishop Onah, said in a remark during the Sunday Mass that if Christians in NASS had opposed the bill, it would not have been passed into law.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Aug. 7, signed the CAMA bill into law, giving provision for religious bodies and charity organizations to be regulated by the registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and a supervising minister.
“The question many Christians have been asking is, where were Christian legislators during the debate of this bill and its passage in the National Assembly?
“Because, if they had opposed this bill on the floor of the house, it would not have been passed and sent to the president for assent.
“I blame Christian legislators for doing nothing and allowing the passage of the 2020 CAMA Act,” he said.
“When I say that Christians are too divided and too selfish, don’t forget that the second in command in this country is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a professor of Law and a pastor.”
Onah, however, wondered what the Federal Government wanted to achieve in monitoring how the finances of churches in the country are managed when it contributed no dime to the church, NAN reports.
“Government should focus and monitor its ministries, agencies and other government institutions where it budgets billions of Naira annually and not church offerings.
“Had it been that the government gave allocations to churches and decided to monitor its usage, nobody will question the government,” he said.
Nigerians spit fire over fuel, electricity prices hike
Anger and condemnations, across the country, have continued to trail last week’s take off, of new increases in pump price of petroleum products and electricity tariffs, as directed by Federal Government.
Recall that the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) official, D.O. Abalaka announced on Wednesday September 3, on behalf of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that the new price of petroleum is now N151.56k per litre instead of N149 – N150 per litre which it was previously.
The new electricity tariff which the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) tagged “Service Reflective Tariff” has also come into effect. It requires consumers to pay N53.87 – N66.422 per kwh of electricity.
Outraged consumers of fuel and electricity have therefore warned government to get ready for collision with the masses if it fails to rescind these new prices.
Those who have expressed outrage over the new prices regimes include, the Organized Labour, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Nigerian main opposition political party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).
Others are: Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce (NACCIMA).
The NLC said, “The frequent fuel price increase will no longer be accepted. We will not allow Nigerians fall victim of government ineptitude and negligence to make the country self-sufficient in terms of refining petroleum products at home.”
On its part, the PDP has described the price hike as “callous, cruel and punishing” and demanded an immediate reversal to avert a national crisis.
The All Industrial Global sees the incessant increase as a confirmation that deregulation means just price increase.
“This is unacceptable! Under a pandemic, we should put money in the pockets of citizens to revive collapsed livelihoods and preserve lives.” In its reaction, NECA said it has always urged Federal Government to adopt deregulation policy in the oil and gas downstream sector.
The MOMAN in its statement insists that monthly price variation of fuel was no longer sustainable. It urged PPRA to adopt quarterly price mechanism which would save the market the hassles of price volatility. The statements by IPMAN and NACCIMA also followed along the same line that the hike “…serves only to increase the severity and duration of the looming economic recession.”
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