Jonathan owes the nation credible polls in 2011, says Ali

Former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Military Administrator of Kaduna State, retired Colonel Hamid Ali spoke to SAXONE AKHAINE in Kaduna on the challenges before President Goodluck Jonathan following the death of President Musa Umaru Yar’Adua. He harped on the need to conduct a credible election in 2011, the crisis in PDP, and the emerging opposition to the PDP. Excerpts:

AFTER all the rumours and speculations, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua finally passed away…

In Islam we believe that from God we come and unto Him we shall return. The news of his death really came as a shock to some of us, even though we knew he had been sick and he was undergoing medical treatment. We still did not know that it was going to come so sudden. I think what is left for us as a people is to pray for the repose of his soul and also to pray for the family to have the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. And we should also pray for Nigeria to have a direction. His death must serve as a lesson to all of us so that we can for once get back to the path of steadfastness and to begin to put the nation in order. We must have a yearning for development of the nation.

If you have the opportunity to advise President Goodluck Jonathan now, what would you tell him?

I think he should be magnanimous; be up and doing because he has very short period to put this country together on the path of growth. I would advise him to concentrate on the things that can be delivered to Nigerians and for which Nigerians are yearning. I think they are yearning for a credible electoral reform that will guarantee transparency, fair and credible elections. With what has happened now, the demand by Nigerians that Jonathan should settle down and deliver the electoral reform and chart a pathway for economic development would continue. He has the opportunity to walk into the pages of history, the kind that Nigerians will fondly remember him.

How much do you realistically expect him to achieve in the short period?

I expect him to achieve much. The short period is not what matters. He can make a difference within the period in the lives of Nigerians. But that will be possible only if the President takes issues seriously and addresses the situation the proper way. There are those important things he could handle and if he executes the issues creditably, he will leave an indelible mark in the history of Nigeria. That is why I said that he should take the issue of the 2011 election seriously. I think whoever can conduct free, fair and credible election would forever be remembered in the history of this country. So, what is now left for us, as Nigerians is to watch how committed Jonathan really is in delivering this country from the rots of the past.

The zoning arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has come under strong scrutiny in the past six months. As the nation gets set for the 2011 elections, do you think zoning will play any role in the emergence of the president?

I do not believe in the zoning arrangement. This zoning and rotation of power is purely a PDP arrangement. It is not a constitutional issue for the country. The All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and other parties did not zone their positions, so where does this zoning arrangement come in as a national policy. Are we saying then that Nigerians have now confined themselves to the PDP arrangement alone, and therefore, whatever the PDP says is binding on all Nigerians irrespective of the multiparty democracy we are practicing? Unless we agree on this, then it means we have a one party system in Nigeria. And of course if that is the case the issue now becomes a national policy.

Also the question of whether President Jonathan should contest the 2011 Presidency has become a national discourse. Do you think he should run?

That is speculative. Does anyone have any evidence that the man wants to contest the 2011 presidential race? Right now, it is hypothetical for people to be talking of Jonathan wanting to contest the Presidency. If Jonathan comes out to say he wants to contest, then I will think about it and say what I think. But for now, let him concentrate on the urgent needs of the nation and let us begin to see results. As far as he has not come out to say he wants to contest, let us not be speculative. The most important thing to Nigerians now is to get the main issue of electioneering process on the ground and sanitised and also to get some major projects like electricity supply working well.

Comment on recent events in the PDP especially with the situation the National Leader of the PDP is arraigned for corruption?

It is indeed shameful. But, you also have to look at the society holistically. In Nigeria, is not also shameful for leaders in different strata of the society to be arraigned before the courts of law on cases of corruption? As far as I am concerned or I can see, they do not have any moral obligation. In decent societies, when it is said that a public figure is accused of having embezzled a huge amount of money and he is not even charged to court yet, the first thing for him to do is to resign. That is where people are thinking. And then he goes to the court and fights it out. But now, we have gone to the an extent where the same government, which your party constitutes and is in power, has taken you to court for allegedly stealing public funds and you say you are not resigning. And some people are even supporting you not to resign because our laws say you are innocent until a court proves you guilty. Of course I strongly believe that these people have forgotten about shame, morals and principles and what is happening at the level of the leadership of the country is appalling. The truth of the matter is that when it comes to issues of morals our politicians are definitely found wanting. But, what then is leadership all about? It is all about morals. You must be morally upright to be able to lead a nation or be entrusted with a public office. Because you are a leader does not meant that you are there to collect money on behalf of the people. The leader is supposed to be a role model. His conduct should serve as a model for the people and society. That is what we expect from these politicians, and not how they spend public money. Leadership connotes a lot of things because the younger ones are looking up to them. Nobody who is morally upright would want to take after any corrupt and morally bankrupt leader. As a matter of fact, the truth is that no matter what laws they put together, the first law should be their conscience. Any leader should ask himself some soul searching questions. For example: is it right to embezzle public money that is put under my trust? But sadly, the corrupt politicians do not care about such moral questions. According to my father, when one goes to toilet and closes the door, one does not need to look back before one undresses? He said that it is unnecessary I because it is the right place for one to ease oneself. Again, he used to say that if you go to the fence of someone’s house and you want to ease yourself, the first thing that you are likely to do is to start looking behind you to see if anybody is likely to accost you. He said the moment you do that, you know that what you are doing is wrong. And we have learnt that. Your first policeman is your conscience.

How do you rate the chances of the PDP in the 2011 polls?

I think if this confusion in PDP continues, the disintegration of the party will amount to the wellbeing of Nigerians. As long as PDP subsists, Nigerians will never get to the dreamland. And as long as PDP remains one and solid, Nigeria will never see progress. So, for some of us, myself in particular, we are praying fervently that PDP disintegrates. Because that is the surest way we can have a political direction in Nigeria, that is the surest way we can begin to address the problems of this country and get back to the right path of democratic success. The PDP will never lead this country right. We all have seen what happened recently. What was so offensive with what the Ken Nnamani is saying? They are saying that the way they have been doing things in the party is wrong. The group is calling for the members to retrace their steps saying that the PDP must have internal democracy. The group wants the PDP to provide a true democracy to Nigerians. But instead of listening or assessing what the group is saying, what happened? The next thing was that the people were kicked out of the party. So, do you think there is democracy in that party and Nigeria at large? If they do not allow internal democracy in their party, do you think that they would allow democracy to flourish in Nigeria? It is impossible; they will never allow it. What happened within the PDP Reform Forum and the main PDP is an eye opener to all of us in the larger society. These people are not ready to correct things and conduct the affairs of this nation democratically. Our best bet is to pray for the disintegration of the PDP, and I hope a lot of people will join me in this prayer. I am convinced that a complete disintegration of the PDP is the only surest way we can have credible democratic processes in the country. But the saddest aspect is that even the opposition is not coming together or trying to use this opportunity to strengthen itself and provide an alternative for Nigerians. That is the saddest aspect of it. I expect that with the confusion raging in the PDP, and by God’s grace as they are heading to disintegration, the opposition should now use the opportunity to strengthen itself and emerge as alternative for Nigeria. I have not seen yet. And that is very sad. And that is why the PDP is so arrogant and can afford to ignore or take the rest of us for granted because they can say that even if they are fighting, there is no alternative. And at the end of the day they will say that they are the ones to beat.

Do you think President Jonathan can conduct a free and fair election in the country in 2011, just as he pledged before the international community recently?

I will take him by his words and on his honour. This is because he has never given such a pledge before. Nigerians should as a people hold him to the pledge. He should be able to deliver. The choice is his. When he made that pledge he knew the house he belongs to. He knows the types of neighbours he has, he knows the circle he belongs to. So, for him to make that pledge, if he is a man of honour I think he knows what he is doing.



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