Former Minister of special duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, in a recent interaction with editors, explained why he is in the presidential race and what needs to be done to pull Nigeria from the brinks. Catherine Agbo was there for DAILY ASSET.
Why are you in the presidential race?There are a lot of other aspirants within my party fold that have come out to express the desire of taking the ticket of the party for the purpose of contesting on the platform of the party in the 2019 presidential election. These are men and women that are eminently qualified, both those that have come out and those that are warming up to also express their interest and I have every confidence in my mind that each one of these individuals, these leaders, once given the opportunity will be able not only to lead this country out of the situation we have found ourselves, but do so fairly, equitably and eminently. And so I consider myself as one among equals, one who providence has given the opportunity to also rise to the occassion and then offer my services with the active collaboration and support of all the people who are on this side of the divide for the purpose of making our own modest contribution to the growth and progress of our fatherland.
Why do you think you are the best man for the job?
You will agree with me that since 2015, the equation has changed in Nigeria political landscape. Today, it is not about the party that is sponsoring you, today it is not about the platform that you are standing upon in aspiring for whatever office, today as far as Nigerians are concerned, it is about who you are as an individual, it is about your pedigree, your education, your credibility, your integrity and what you have to offer. Nigerians will now look at every individual closely under the microscope and then see whether or not that person is one that is worthy of being entrusted with their trust. As I discuss with you this afternoon, I feel that we have over the years been able to display character, earn a name and a reputation and show capacity in the assignments and opportunities I’ve had to serve both in the public and private sector. In 2015, I had the privilege of serving as the deputy director general of the presidential campaign organisation of PDP and as most of you will recall, the issues that were formulated by the APC as an opposition party were three – surrounding on the issue of security, corruption and economy. On the issue of security, arguments were made then that the PDP-led federal government that was in power, under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, lacked the courage to take decisive decisions that will bring to an end, the insecurity and insurgency that was taking place especially in the northern part of Nigeria, especially again in the key frontline states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa. Number two, the picture was painted then that Nigeria under PDP was being run in a very corrupt manner and that indeed, all those of us that were in PDP were fantastically corrupt. And then thirdly, they searched and toyed with the economy but unfortunately, because the economy was doing very well under PDP, they had to abandon that issueand concentrated on the issue of security and corruption. You also have seen and on most occasions, you are at the centre of activities when and where allegations have been made against people that were in the PDP either as members of the federal executive council, heads of ministries, departments and agencies and indeed, even within the administration of the PDP. For us in PDP, we have long realised that indeed, there were gaps in government and in the way the affairs of government were being run then and so we sat down to say drastic steps must be taken to curb corrupt tendencies both within the public and private sector and that was why successive PDP governments not only took the decisive action of establishing critical agencies that were endowed with the responsibility of fighting both official and unofficial corruption, but indeed, we strengthened and enabled them, and made them capable of fighting the war. The way we fought the war against corruption when we were in government was to say we must look inwards because if at that point in time, we started hounding people who were in the opposition, arresting and arraigning them before the courts, people will say we were harassing and trying to cow the opposition. So what we did was to start from within and I am proud as a member of the PDP to say that the only two cases of corruption in this country that have been brought to conviction were initiated by the PDP-led federal government and these were the cases of Dariye and Nyame. These were PDP governors and were investigated by the PDP-led federal government because there were allegations of impropriety against them and these were people that were arraigned in court by the PDP-led federal government and today, the justification that indeed the PDP is a fair minded party has been established beyond reasonable doubt. You are all living witnesses and indeed the ones who get the news first hand about happenings in this APC-led government. Day by day, allegations are made about improprieties and corrupt practices within the government, some of them are even in the public space, some of them are established beyond doubt but nothing has been done, not even something as little as making a feeble attempt to investigate them. Conversely, we see how members of the opposition are hounded and tried on the pages of newspapers on matters where even lawyers within government circles have opined that a prima facie case could not be established against those individuals. On the issue of security, you are living witnesses to the decisive and bold steps that were taken by the last administration to ensure that the insurgents even in the keyfrontline states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa were pushed to the barest minimum space of Nigerian territory and that was what enabled the 2015 election to be held in virtually each of the 774 local governments in this country. Today, not only is the APC-led federal government incapable of containing the insurgents at the level we left them, there has been a lot of retrogression as far as peace is concerned in those states and the most worrying thing is that government functionaries will look at Nigerians in the face and lie to them that Boko Haram has been degraded and defeated and then people living in these frontline states will be off guard and relax, only for them to be taken as soft targets by the insurgents. Yes, we admit when PDP was in government, there was the challenge of insurgency but our approach then was in line with international best practices and that was the twin approach of carrot and stick and I had the privilege of heading the presidential committee on dialogue which was the other aspect of the fight against insurgency and a lot of people then keyed into the dialogue process of the federal government, very robust recommendations were made which have been jettisoned just like every other workable document that has been produced under the past government, including the report of the national conference which if it had been looked at, this government would have seen that there are a lot of recommendations that can solve most of the problems that are now bedeviling our polity. Today, Nigerians are not safe anywhere in the country, not in their homes, in their places of work and on the roads. Yes, we left the problem of insurgency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states but the security challenges that are bedeviling this country are what has never been seen before. Indeed, more people have been killed than were even killed during Nigeria’s civil war. Today, we have the problem of herders and farmers taking place not only in the north central part of this country, but has spread to the north east and is being done in such a way and manner that well respected leaders in the country are saying that the war is being fought in a very lopsided manner. Again, we are all living witnesses to the issue of banditry that is largely affecting substantial parts of the north west – Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara and now permeating into southern parts of Kebbi state. Bandits every day kill hundreds of people and government agencies know or have cause to know where they are and these are people that will video record themselves and send out these clips on WhatsApp saying “this is who we are” without shielding their faces yet nothing has been done. I don’t even want to make reference to the restiveness in the Niger Delta and all of us are witnesses to the efforts that were made by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in collaboration with the host communities that brought solutions to the issue. Most of the programmes initiated then, which included skills and vocational training, education and others that brought peace in the Niger Delta have been jettisoned by this government and the consequence is the return of restiveness. We’ve witnessed vandalism and explosion of pipelines which have multiplier effects on the economy. There are other issues of kidnapping, armed robbery, and normal theft that because of poverty, have quadrupled in this country today. We have also seen how this government has deliberately refused to respect court orders and is trying to undermine the principles of separation of power which are aspects of any civilised society. We’ve also seen how in a commando manner, in the middle of the night, justices of superior courts of record have been assaulted, their peace destroyed, their houses broken into and they were accused of high profile corruption and what happened in the end, a justice of the supreme court that was treated in that shabby manner and accused of high profile corruption at the end of the day, after being maligned in the media, could only be arraigned and accused of having dual passports, which may be an offence under the Immigration Act, but certainly not a financial crime demanding such invasion. Another judge forced to go through gruesome trial was at the end of the day, even at the stage of no case submission, found not to have a case to answer and was discharged and acquitted. Therefore, because of these myriad problems of despotism, nepotism, injustice, unfairness, lack of transparency, breach of federal character principles, insecurity, the economy which was number one and the fastest growing in Africa, which was handed over to this APC government has now turned out to be something else; Nigeria used to be the third most sought after investor’s haven but today, nobody wants to come to Nigeria, instead, investors both local and foreign are divesting because if you don’t divest your capital, it becomes diluted. These and several other problems are some of the reasons why I feel that the call on me to partake in the process of leading this country in 2019 is so irresistible. We are where we are because I feel that Nigerians today have never been so divided in our destiny. Since our amalgamation, divisions along ethnic, religious, regional and many other fronts have existed but only at this time are Nigerians beginning to doubt the workability and survival of our country. Nigerians now lack confidence in themselves and in their government and because of this, if care is not taken, I doubt like many people doubt that the Nigerian project can survive and God forbid that Nigeria fails because if Nigeria fails, the whole of Africa fails and it will create problems that will be so monumental that the world may not be able to handle. We feel and this is part of the reason I’m in the race, that it is important that we must get a person that will build strong bridges of friendship across the various divides, a person that willl treat people fairly and equally without regards to any other consideration of religion, ethnicity or tribe. We want a government that will give Nigerians equal opportunities to access to opportunities that are created by government. We need a government that will rekindle the can do spirit of Nigerians, resuscitate our patriotism and nationalism to make us once again believe in ourselves and our country and take positive steps towards rebuilding our country, reuniting ourselves. We need a government that will respect human rights, not a government that will choose which court orders to obey and those not to obey and I’ve said it before and I’m repeating it that if I get the ticket of my party and become the president of Nigeria, from Eagle Square, I will give a directive that every single court order must be obeyed and all those detained illegally and unlawfully would be released immediately. We believe that it is important for us to begin to rebuild our critical institutions most of which are either decayed or are decaying now. We need to reconnect Nigerians with their leaders, we need a government that will be frank, be honest, that will not be telling lies, we need more than all these, a government that fears God and I think with a lot of respect that I can provide the kind of people that will form that kind of government and I will lead that government as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The PDP is in disarray, with a lot of aspirants vying for the presidency. How do you hope to unite the various aspirants to get them endorse your candidature?
When we were leaving office after we lost election, some of us who knew the principal actors in the APC that were likely to form the government, knew that they were not going to allow the PDP to get away with all its legacies and the credit we earned in the minds of the people, especially when President Goodluck Jonathan said his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he lived by his words. And so, among other things, we set up the former ministers’ forum because we knew that among other things, there needed to be a front, a vanguard that would protect not only the legacies of the 16 years of PDP being in government but indeed, the concomitant harassment that will follow and I will tell you, at that time, we never knew that PDP was going to have problems, which again, was orchestrated from outside. As chairman of the former ministers’ forum of PDP, a body which played a pivotal role in solving our in-house issues, I can confirm authoritatively that there is no disarray in PDP now. Yes, when you quarrel, you may forgive and forget but there could be some scars that may take a little longer to heal but I want to assure you that we are now going through healing process as far as the PDP crisis is concerned. I started by saying we have a lot of aspirants and we are expecting more but that is vintage PDP, the more the better. In spite of these gladiators that are planning to pick the PDP ticket along with me, I assure you that at the end of the day, we will be examined on merit, and this PDP leadership will conduct a fair, honest and transparent primary election to select the right candidate just as we did recently in Ekiti State. And for me, I feel my chances are very bright because I am a bridge builder, I have a lot of integrity and credibility and I do not have any excess baggage. I am not fighting anyone and I am not aware that anyone is fighting me within or outside PDP and when you look at the experience I have both within the private and public sector, I have been a director of a bank, I have been a member of the council of legal education, I have been the chairman of Nigerian Copyright Commission and while I was minister of special duties, I was managing the relationship both of the executive and government, I was mediating and coordinating the three arms of government and I was supervisory minister of labour and these are facts that are verifiable. When I was appointed supervisory minister of labour, there were 19 subsisting strikes and industrial tension in Nigeria and while I was there, several more came up but before I handed over, I was able to resolve every single dispute both in the private and public sector. These are my strengths and I’m sure at the end of the day, these are going to enable me have an edge, not to talk of my youthfulness and the dynamism that comes with it.
Nigeria has spent so much on power yet we are still in darkness with only 7,000 MW to boast of. What will you do differently to solve the power problem?
The issue of power is something that seems intractable but I think it’s important that Nigerians appreciate one thing, that investment in power, like investment in education, is not something that immediately yields dividends to be seen by everybody. In Nigeria, we have a problem not only of generation, but problem of transmission and distribution and unless government looks at the issue beyond thermal and hydro power and begins to explore other areas of power generation such as solar and nuclear in addition to several others, we will not be able to bridge that gap. When I get there by the special grace of God, we know that there are capabilities everywhere and so we will divert and liberalise the power sector in such a way that we will have several means of generation and we will also take bold steps to expand the transmission lines. I’m not so sure that has been done. Even when you are now able to generate power but have a problem of transmission, that power is not being evacuated and you evacuate it where you can and have problem of distribution and I think the problem of distribution also is with the fact that the power companies have not been able to do credible metering. It’s either the power companies say customers are not paying, or customers are accusing power distribution companies of charging them in very unwholesome manner but let me tell you, I am not going to say I’m going to generate so much, but certainly I understand the problem and I’ll certainly find solution to this intractable power problem.
How do you intend to tackle the issue of insecurity and terrorism if you are elected president?
We have to appreciate that Nigeria’s brand of terrorism is somewhat different from what we have in other places. It is one that is based on dogma where you have people that have become dogmatic and in the case of Boko Haram, in a very wrong manner and then you have a group of terrorists that are amoebic in shape and manner. Today, you see members of Boko Haram dressed in jean and T-shirt, tomorrow they are in agbada, the day after you see them in kaftan, with or without turban so it’s very difficult for security agencies to readily pinpoint them, even in the way and manner they dress and so the best form government has to employ is to ensure that you engage them in dialogue and when you succeed as the previous regime started doing, then you are faced with other problems. You have members of terrorist organisations that are willing to lay down arms, is that the end of the matter? Whether you get them through dialogue or in the battle field, that is one aspect of it, being that you have won the battle, after which you must win the war and you will win the war by initiating a holistic deradicalisation programme to take the boys’ minds off the issues and if you don’t do that, you are a non-starter. After you’ve done that, you now begin to look at entry points for reintegration into the communities and so it’s something that has to be done holistically. Let me add that there is nowhere in the world where terror war was won on the battle field and that is why we are saying that the approach that this government has taken is a wrong one and there’s need for it to be reviewed.
You said Nigeria needs a government that is godly and does nottell lies. Are you saying this present government is ungodly and tells lies?
I said that when eventually I become the flagbearer of my party and win election as the president of Nigeria, we are going to bring a government that will be godly. If you ask me whether this government lies, I will tell you yes. They lie and they lie almost everyday and almost on everything. A government that comes into office and says it is going to discriminate against Nigerians, is that not an ungodly act? This government has said that they recognise Nigerians on the basis of patronage, the 5 percenters and the 95 percenters but under our constitution, every Nigerian has a right not to be discriminated against for whatever consideration, whether you’re a politician or not, whether you voted for the party that won election or even refused to exercise your franchise, you should not be discriminated against but this government has said so. This government has come out to say even though orders have been made for the release of certain individuals that have been incarcerated, they will not release them. Is that not ungodly? A government that will treat two individuals who have committed the same crime differently, is that not ungodly? I can go on but I leave you to be the judge.
You were given a tough assignment by the last government to ensure you bring to an end, the issue of insurgency. From your findings, what are the outstanding things you discovered which the country can buy into, to prevent the rate of killings across the country?
On the issue of killings even outside Boko Haram, for as long as government does not try to ensure that there is justice according to law, there will be problems in the country. For me, once a crime is committed, I’m not looking at the ethnic group of the person involved. A murder carried out by a Fulani man is the same with one perpetrated by an Ijaw or Nupe man. There is a tendency with this government now, to want to look at crime from the perspective of those that are committing them and that is why there is a lot of disaffection. In the north central for instance, in Benue State for instance, recently, some people were arrested and charged in court for killing certain individuals but for goodness sake, what is happening to the other people that are daily being accused of killing farmers in their farmlands? For as long as you do not see them as mere criminals – and that is what they are – then there will be problem. When I get elected, whatever crime is committed by individuals will be taken on the basis of the crime. I will look at the act, yes a man has been killed, who killed him, this person, arrest him and deal with him according to the law. Whether he’s Hausa, Fulani or Kanuri, for me, it’s secondary and immaterial and I believe that if that is being done, even the victims of crime will say yes, we have confidence in this government because this government is dispensing justice without fear or favour, without illwill or affection. That is the problem and that is what this government is doing wrong. Crimes are committed, and they say oh it is a person from this ethnic group and so he gets shielded because somebody from his ethnic group is in position of authority. That will never happen under our government.
You seem so passionate about the Nigeria project. What would you do if you do not get the party’s ticket at the end. Would you still exude this level of passion?
I said earlier that we have a lot of people, gladiators in PDP that are aspiring to get the ticket of the party and I said all of them are eminently qualified but let me tell you that I’ve gone beyond that. For me, I’ve said it’s not about me and I’ve also tried to talk to each one of these aspirants. I’ve visited all of them. I’ve visited former vice president Atiku, I’ve visited Sule Lamido, I’ve visited Makarfi, I’ve visited Shekarau, Bafarawa, Dankwambo. Even yesterday, I was with Senator Datti Baba Ahmed and in all these discussions, I try to tell them it’s not about us, it’s not even about our party PDP, but about the survival of this country that we have and all these interactions have been able to yield one basic understanding, that whosoever gets the ticket among us, the others will rally round him because it’s not about us but about ensuring that democracy survives in this country. So if I don’t get the ticket, I will support whoever emerges with all my resources, with all members of my campaign team because what we have before us is larger than any individual interest.
Can you give a sense of your economic blueprint?
On the issue of economy, let me say that we were coming from somewhere and we were at a point when we left. Times were in this country when Nigerians had no confidence in themselves and had no confidence in this country but something happened that led Nigerians who were checking out to want to come back home. They brought their hard earned money and invested in Nigeria. We saw foreigners who didn’t want to touch us even with a long spoon now running helterskelter to come into Nigeria and be a part of the action and invest their money in Nigeria. Something was responsible for that and it was that a good environment was created for businesses to grow. Our laws were amended, new regulations were brought in that gave confidence to investors to come to Nigeria, invest, make profit and anytime you want, take your money, take your profit, take your dividend out as you wish. But we’ve seen how when this government came, through one single policy somersault, a lot of problems were created that we are yet to recover from. We tried to create the middle class, this government has wiped away the middle class. It is important for people to be educated but not compulsory that government must give jobs to everyone so what the PDP did was to make sure that people were encouraged to start their businesses and not only to employ themselves but to employ others. All those programmes have been destroyed now and so we have a problem where you have a lot of skill gaps and so unless you work through training and retraining including vocational training, those skill gaps will continue to allow a lot of problems such that in areas where there are employment opportunities, people may not be employable. Then you have to liberalise the economy. We will have to look at solid minerals, agriculture and in looking at agriculture, science and technology today has made it possible for us to do precision agriculture so that you control the seed or seedling you’re going to plant, the amount of water that seed will get, including getting maximum yield per hectare of that seed. What I will do to give our economy a quick start in addition to these would be to bring the vibrancy of the private sector into the public sector. We must make sure that things are done properly and that the system is allowed to check itself. We must make sure that we stop the fleeting of the system. We will look at even such issues as the interest rate because an economy that continues to allow lenders, whether they are bankers or first lenders to charge double digit interest, certainly will not be good for the system. I assure you that we are going to carry out a multi-faceted approach to revamping and then giving serious attention to the economy, not only looking at economic policies themselves, not only recreating confidence of the people in their economy because a lot of people have divested their economy so even if you have good policies without these investments, and serious investors continue to take their money out and those people that could not even take their money outside have removed it and put it under their beds and every morning, they check and say ‘halleluia’. I want to assure you that whoever is elected as Nigeria’s president would have the responsibility of having to start everything from the scratch because the APC-led government has devastatingly destroyed the Nigerian economy and Nigeria’s political system.