In this interview with Dr. Umar Ardo he spoke about the recent deposition of Emir Kano, Sanusi Lamido, his chances of becoming president in 2023, how he is a big assets to the PDP. The Excerpts
The recent dethronement of Mohammad Sanusi II as the Emir of Kano has been generating debates amongst Nigerians. How would you react to the development?
Well, I can intuitively say that the deposition of Emir Sanusi within the context of our politics is a big political blunder by the APC Administration. The government first balkanized the strong united Kano Emirate, thereby weakening the institution, and then later depositing the Emir. This is actually stabbing the Caliphate establishment. No caliphate member should be happy with these unfortunate turns of events except perhaps the direct beneficiaries, or the Caliphate’s enemies. Such a big blow at a time when the caliphate is under concerted vicious attacks from all over the place is proof that the APC government does not even understand the issues.
But on the other hand, the deposition could also well turn out to be God’s solution to North’s leadership problem. We all know that there has been leadership vacuum in the North for a long time now. Yes, it’s a northerner that is now president, but his failure to address the basic needs of the country and especially of the North’s, such as security, corruption, poverty, critical infrastructure, along with his weak leadership style, left virtually the entire North disappointed. Within so a short time, poverty increased, security collapsed with no existence of governance in virtually all rural communities. Anywhere one goes there is only one narrative on the regime, and it’s negative. Everybody is concerned, longing for a purposeful leader around whom people would rally. Almost spontaneously, the deposition seems to prod up Emir Sanusi for that purpose. The general condemnation of the deposition, the appointments, local and international that followed it, are points to note. May be it is in this sense that President Obasanjo described the deposition as “both bad and good”.
In the wake of the dethronement, some Nigerians are now urging the deposed Emir to come out for presidency in 2023. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it is a bit too early to start this debate. Maybe Nigerians should allow him gather himself about and collect his bit and pieces of what has become of his life now. Let him settle himself and his family down first then look forward to what he will make of life out of the palace. But having said that, let me put it on record that I am against the deposition and sympathetic to the ex-Emir. I think he’s a very intelligent, patriotic and courageous man. I personally like him and I believe he can be a great president if ever given the chance. The fact that people are already calling on him to contest tells that he is not without credence. If he ultimately heeds to these calls and contests, that will be good and I believe he will win. I see him to be the most viable candidate in the race, no matter those contesting on the other fronts. I don’t know what they maybe planning with his friend, the Kaduna State Governor, but whatever it is the chances of him successfully contesting are under PDP’s platform and not APC’s. I don’t think the governor would also be able to turn the APC tables to favour the ex-Emir. Besides, the frontal embracing of the ex-Emir by the governor after his deposition is indicative that there exist irreconcilable differences in the APC’s high command. One camp despised, deposed and banished the Emir, the other gave him appointments, ran to his rescue, embraced and bowed to him. Or maybe the governor is simply being good-hearted reciprocating the good gesture of the ex-Emir at his birthday ceremony. Whatever it is there is certainly a big crack within the APC. To me the governor’s act is an indication of loyalty shift. The intervention of the president leading to the survival of Adam Oshiomhole whom the governor is said to wanting him removed as APC chairman is also indicative of a direct response of the APC against the governor’s interest. We should therefore expect a break in the APC soon. The governor may either move into the PDP with his cycle, which move will help PDP bolster its electoral chances. Or they may move into another party. In my opinion this option will be unviable and will lead to the return of APC to power in 2023. So their best bet is the PDP thereby also giving the party its best chance to return to power in 2023.
So you believe Sanusi is an asset to PDP?
Yes, I believe he is. If PDP can build a consensus on his candidature, things will be easier for the party in 2023.
Why do you say so, sir?
For many reasons taking into account the complexity of our politics. First, Emir Sanusi by birth represents the Northern elites and aristocracy, while by inclination and disposition he seems progressive. Sanusi therefore can be supported by both the northern conservatives and the progressives, both of which have the ability to mobilize the northern masses. He is an intersection between the two divides. Second, as an economist and high level operator in the establishment, Sanusi understands the issues. Third, Sanusi is a Lagosian, so to speak; meaning he is both cosmopolitan and nationalistic. He can therefore be easily accepted across the south. Fourth, his appointment as Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations illustrates the intrinsic confidence reposed in him by the world body, and therefore the international community. Fifth, being a professional banker, both in private banking and Governor of Central Bank, his support in the business community at home and abroad is simply given.
Sixth, with the poor state of the economy against mindless debts being heaped on the nation, Nigeria needs a practical economist who understands the international monetary system well to pull her out of the quandary. Seventh, with a known and noble parental background and a progressive inclination Sanusi can be a major agent of change for the north and the nation, culturally, socio-economically and politically, and can easily drive a complete change of the nation’s political-economy. Eight, the North has realized that Nigeria is ripe for real change one way or the other. Given the conservative nature of the North in resisting changes, it will take only a person of Sanusi’s background and courage to successfully drive the modernization process with least resistance. Then there’s the age age advantage; Sanusi is 59 years which is a junction between the young and the old. Sanusi would thus be more valuable to the North and the country as President than as Emir of Kano.
There has been clamour for zoning of the presidency slot to the south in 2023. As a stalwart of the PDP, is this your position not opposed to the zoning principle of your party?
To tell you the truth I don’t know. All I know is that the Northern candidate we filled in the last election did not win the contest. I think until a candidate wins election and the party forms a government before the zoning formula becomes operational, not just nominating candidates. In the context of power contest between PDP and APC by 2023, I suppose political expediency of how to win should take precedence over other considerations. In its present state as a main opposition party, the primary consideration of the PDP is to regain power. What is politically expedient to attain this important goal must strategically be paramount to the party. To this end, PDP can do well in nominating a northerner, since the APC must nominate a Southwesterner if it would have any hope in the contest at all. With power in its hands, PDP can then work out a fair zoning formula with high degree of success in transferring power to south. This is also the most practical way to actualize the recurring drum beats of Igbo presidency.
What in your view are the major problems with Buhari presidency?
Judging by the apparent inability of his administration to resolve the core problems of the country, it is clear that there are certain underpinning leadership failings on the part of the president himself personally. And, until these failings of the man are resolved, his government will be unable to achieve anything meaningful throughout its tenure, and the country will continue to live in poverty, crimes and insecurity. These failings are mainly six.
First, there is his failure to provide strong personal leadership. Maybe this is because of his poor health. Whatever the real reason, there is lack of firm leadership from the president. After nearly five years on the saddle, the president can be termed as a passive leader – one who allows problems to solve themselves and intervenes only when compelled to!
Second, over the years, it became clear that there is lack of harmony and coordination among the various appointees of government agencies that poorly affect the regime’s general output. In all these the president remains aloof with minimum or no intervention from him. The latest rancour between the president’s Chief of Staff and the National Security Adviser is a point of note. Third, the president places little value to ideas and innovations. The essence of collective decision-making in a government is to aggregate various ideas from cabinet members and the general public with a view to evolving best policy options to problems at hand. As we all know, there are plenty of good ideas out there if only they can be harnessed, listened to and put to use by the leadership. But it seems Buhari after becoming president turns out to be a non-listening leader. I should know that much having interacted directly with him in laying the very foundations of his fourth presidential attempt and victory in 2015. This failure explains the misplaced directive to all appointees, including Cabinet Ministers, to pass through his Chief of Staff in dealing with the president. This is a needless bureaucratic process that will deliver nothing but mediocrity. A serious leader must evaluate and guide firsthand the initiatives of his appointees. But in a situation where another appointee becomes responsible for evaluating and deciding on policy initiatives of other appointees, it diminishes the zeal, confidence and energy of the appointee concerned, which ultimately hinders the general policy outputs of government. The result is that nothing useful will be achieved. His fourth leadership failing is temporization. The president hardly takes decision on virtually every issue. In fact, it seems as though the president hates taking decisions until compelled to do so. We have seen that in him time and time again on even the most serious issues. Not that long period of procrastination necessarily gives cause to taking right decisions, or decisiveness leads to taking bad decisions, but temporization is hardly a virtue in the books of leadership. In fact, as the saying goes, the more easy it is for a leader to do nothing, the harder it is for him to achieve anything. Fifth, is his failure to reward good with good and to punish bad. His decisions on this important principle is dependent on which side of his whims one belongs. Sixth, arising from all the above, there is lack of strategic imagination on the need to and ways of breaking out of this stalemate. These latter failings are directly related to the first – poor leadership of the president. Without a drastic change in the president’s leadership style, I can tell you as an historian that this regime will simply pass on like a baby’s alimentary canal, with happy appetite for power’s vast perquisites and privileges at one end, and with no sense of responsibility and commitment to its fundamental duties at the other. At the end, it will be for Nigeria just another eight wasted years.
Some people think that Buhari wants to Islamize and Fulanize Nigeria. What is your take on that?
These are the views of ignorant Nigerians or extremists. You know the main problem of Nigeria is the existence of two extremists elements – religious extremists in the North and ethnic extremists in the South. The views and actions of both are actually the key problems of the country. While the former often raise armed revolts against the country in the name of religion, the latter propagate jaundiced diabolical ethnic narratives. It has been like this for long; it didn’t start with President Buhari and it won’t end with him. But consider these points. There’s no way Governor Ganduje would balkanize Kano emirate and depose the Emir without the tacit approval of the presidency. Kano is the largest, wealthiest and most influential emirate within the Sokoto Caliphate, itself the symbol of Islam and Fulbe identity. How could one aim to ‘islamize and fulanize’ Nigeria by destroying these very foundations? It doesn’t add up. Also, when we organized the bicentenary of the Sokoto Caliphate in 2004, which turned out to be the largest mobilization of people and dignitaries in the history of this country, except probably FESTAC ‘77, Mohammadu Buhari is the only former Nigerian leader I did not see attend any of the ceremonies even though he was duly invited. That doesn’t look like a man who is kin on islamizing anyone! Furthermore, as a young military Head of State, it would have been easier for him then to push forth his agenda if he really had any than now as an old man presiding over a constitutional democracy. If he did not do it then, how could he do it now? Any critical evaluation of the man and his leadership style, would conclude that he does not have any agenda of any sort; not the so-called islamizing, fulanizing, nor even democratizing, nationalizing, etc. Nigeria. Whoever ascribes to him any such agenda either fails to read him well or is simply being mischievous. The truth is that the Islamization and Fulanization narrative is a propaganda stunt of religious and ethnic extremists. These extremists situate all the problems of the country on ethnicity. Overtime, they singled out the Fulanis as the major culprits just like the Hutus then did against the Tutsis in Rwanda. And until this false narrative is halted, Nigeria will never know peace. These extremists consciously, deliberately and systematically distort historical facts in order to respond to a perceived danger as a means of protecting and advancing certain unmerited acquired self-interests. This is usually driven by fear and/or inferiority complex. They set in motion a process in their minds leading their hearts to be diseased against the truth; programming their hearts and hearts of others to see no good in certain people; and taking it upon themselves to propagate jaundiced beliefs that the Fulanis are naturally evil and lazy. Like all propagandists, they feed the unsuspecting members of the public with lies that will make society boil with hatred against the people they are programming it to hate! The earlier these extremists cleanse their hearts of this vice the better for them and the society. While it is only truth that can set hearts free of such malady, it is also for the extremists to reconcile themselves to the fact that Nigeria will not be destroyed by extremists, whosoever they may be.
What is your own political ambition ahead of the 2023 election?
I have always wanted to be governor of my state to prove the point that things can actually be made to work properly in our society with clear, purposeful and good leadership, anchored by example, action and sacrifice. But right now I’m less concerned with my personal ambition. My main concern is how the country would reach 2023 given the serious state of insecurity where governance is virtually absent in all rural communities of Northern Nigeria, most especially in my state of Adamawa. I am concerned if we would be able to conduct transitional elections in 2023. Without us succeeding in transiting the country neither mine nor anyone’s else’s ambitions would be attained.