• Former Foreign Affairs minister advises tribunal cases be concluded before swearing in president, governors, others
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, believes that President Bola Tinubu has made a number of mistakes since he assumed office in May, mistakes largely caused by his inexperience at the national and international level of governance.
He also believes that election timetable should be reorganized to ensure that all tribunal cases are concluded before swearing in the presidents, governors and others so as to provide for a level playing ground for winners and petitioners at the tribunals.
According to the octogenarian, also the National Assembly must rise up, study the last elections and make the necessary changes to address the challenges witnessed during the exercise.
He also spoke on the new government in Kano State, their enthusiasm to demolish, saying that the demolition exercise was a mistake. Excerpt:
Sir, let’s flag off the interview with your assessment of the just concluded 2023 general elections – looking at the promises made by INEC, the realities that happened during the elections and the way forward.
Well, the 2023 general elections have attracted a lot of comments. So many people have already commented on that elections and unfortunately, their views tallied with my impression because for one, we are moving towards a direction where there would be no more elections in the way it should be. The electoral process in this country is more and more being monetized and we will soon get to a point where, if you don’t have the resources, no matter how good you are as a candidate, you will not make it because you don’t have what it takes to give out to the people and also to buy your way through the process. And the fault is not only on the electoral body, it is also with us, the political class. The way some of us were brought up politically, my generation is almost over. I am already 80, the way we were brought up politically, money or material gain was never a consideration. If you are a good candidate and reach out to the people, people would believe in you and take you for your word. And they would give you their mandate as a candidate because they know you are coming to serve them and not to feather your nest as it is today. Politics has been really made to be like something that only potential thieves can do, that’s what it looks like now. We are all classified as potential thieves – all of us regardless of the good ones and the bad ones – because this impression has already taken over the minds and psyche of our people that every politician wants to feather his nest.
At last, we are done with the Supreme Court’s judgment a few days ago. What is your reaction to the judgment that affirmed theTinubu presidency? How do you also see the various judgments from the various courts? How do you see the performance of the judiciary in all of them?
Well, you cannot condemn all the members of the judiciary. You cannot also say that they are all good. There are bad eggs within the judiciary and It is now left for the Judicial Service Commission to wake up and do its work to make sure that judges are above board.
Looking at the Supreme Court’s judgment, despite the sundry issues raised by the PDP and the LP, how would you say the judgment went? Did it get anywhere close to your expectations?
No, it has not, because you see, I ‘m not going to blame all the judges in the Supreme Court or any other court. But on the other hand, our lawyers also have got a role to play to make sure that we get a good judgment, because they are the major players in that case, they are the ones that present the evidence, rightly or wrongly. Sometimes also judgments are based on pure technicality. That aspect, the judicial system would have to take a second look at those technicalities if they are opposed to national public interest. Technicality should not be the priority. No! The priority should be justice to the people. One way or the other, you say the candidate is this or that based on technicality, and then you leave the substance of the issue. That is not good enough.
If you are asked to recommend reforms in the Electoral Act, in brief what are one, two, three areas you will want to see changes?
If everything that was said was done the way we had been informed, then we would have no problem. But every single thing the electoral empire told us was going to happen did not happen. It did not happen. I am not the best person to comment on that. But Prof Jega (Attahiru) has spoken recently on a number of these issues and made recommendations. At least, he is an authority in that area. What he said is that there is a lot of reforms to be made. Number one, he raised one issue fundamentally, that the electoral umpire should not be appointed by the president or anybody in that system. That is something that is constitutional. I am not a constitutional expert in that area and I can’t go into that area, but at least, there is a recognition nationally and internationally that a lot of things were wrong with the 2023 general elections. I am not condemning anybody, but….
But there is also this suggestion that elections and results and tribunal/Supreme Court judgments should be concluded before the swearing-in of the new president and the new officers. How do you see this suggestion?
Well, that suggestion is cogent and very reasonable. It will now make it easier for the judges to do their work without any tension or any pressure. And too, that also will make sure that litigants, those who have lost the elections, would not have the feelings that the incumbent had used the resources of their incumbency to shift the judgment in their favour. We are human beings. If you are holding power and I am not, virtually I expect, particularly with the current situation that we are faced in this country, I expect that you will use all the necessary powers that you have to make sure you get what you want. And I, who is an opponent, would not have any recourse to counter you.
From your understanding of Nigerian politics, do you think it would come to a time a Nigerian court would sack an incumbent president, is this a possibility as people think it is just a waste of time and money going to unseat a president through the court?
Yes, it is possible. If you have got good judges. And also, if you got solid lawyers that can present their case and the country will buy it, then the Supreme Court must act. The Supreme Court is not just a political body, but it also has a responsibility in terms of the political stability of this country. So that is why it is a lot difficult for a sitting president… that is why the amendment would have to be made in the constitution. Don’t go and swear in anybody until after all the litigations are over.
So you are recommending it?
Absolutely, absolutely! This is something that should have been thought of. But things like this do not come along until things of this nature had happened and it has happened. Rightly or wrongly, the people are accusing the Supreme Court of doing the wrong thing because a majority of the electorate, the majority of people that went for that election, do not believe in what came out of their decision. When we were talking, no candidate got 51 per cent of the votes, which means that if you go along those technicalities, you are disenfranchising a majority of Nigerian electorate. Really, we have to take a very, very close look at the constitution in respect of our electoral laws. The National Assembly should wake up and start working! Because even the National Assembly itself, a lot of people are questioning whether they are capable of doing that. The gauntlet is now thrown on the National Assembly to do the right thing.
But when we have the leadership of the National Assembly that is unpretentiously loyal to the Presidency and the executive, do you think that they would have the courage to look at this sort of thing and give Nigerians what they want?
Well, you see the people of this country are not sleeping. Either you do the right thing at the right time. Don’t allow a situation where you cannot control the situation to come. Now is the time for every sensible Nigerian, be it a legislator or a governor or whoever happens to be in authority to start thinking that this is the right time to do the right thing.
Some people are of the opinion that Atiku Abubakar lost the election because he parted ways with his former running mate, Peter Obi. That if they had worked together, the election would have been a walk over. Do agree?
I am not very sure whether that is the only factor. We have just spoken about the lapses in the electoral system. Regardless of whether Peter Obi and Atiku were together, whether Bola Tinubu is the winner or not, it would not have changed much. Everything points to the electoral umpire. Everything as far as majority of Nigerians is concerned. The National Assembly, like I said, has a responsibility to take a second look at the constitution. And these problems that we have with the electoral laws have got to do with the constitution. They have to revisit the constitution and do what is right.
Are you looking at any possibility of an alliance or the reunion or merger of the LP and the PDP in the nearest future?
Well, in politics, nothing is impossible, particularly at this point in time. If the people of this country feel that they are not getting what they asked for and all that, then the political leadership would have to think twice and put their own personal interests aside and come and say, what can we do to make things better for the people of this country?
Thinking twice would include what options?
The options would include that some of these parties that have collapsed would have to come and join the alliance which would now wake up the people in government to make sure that they do the right thing. A strong opposition is one of the panaceas for good governance. If you have a weak opposition, they can get away with anything. If you have a strong opposition, then they would always be on their check. They would now do the right thing.
As a Nigerian, what is your assessment of the Tinubu administration? They have been around for about five months, how will you assess their performance?
They made a lot of mistakes. Sure. I don’t have to tell you. You know. Now, Tinubu came in under so many trying circumstances. There were litigations, allegations and all these and all that. That alone was enough to unsettle him and I believe that it did unsettle him, he came in under so many shady circumstances, and the first thing he did was to remove the fuel subsidy. Obviously, I don’t think that he consulted well enough before making that statement of removal . He was just new, he was never at the national and at the international level. This is his first time he is being at the national level. You see there are a lot of things that were done that somebody who had been exposed to that level of leadership would not have done it. For example, the seven day ultimatum issued to Niger. There is no way you have a long border with a country and the excellent relationship is there for centuries and you respond that way. He ought to have made consultations with the stakeholders in the country. That is a mistake simply because he had not been there for long. And like I said before, that all those ECOWAS countries that are clamouring to go to war, everything would depend on the Nigerian resources and we need them more at home than to spend our resources elsewhere for war. Our people are dying of hunger. Would you rather go to war when we have the kind of circumstances we have at home as we have today? Will you?
What is your impression of the trouble in the Middle-East between Israel and Hamas in Gaza?
You see, it is unfortunate. This kind of thing that is happening today had happened in the past and the same Israeli, the same Jews were being prosecuted by the Germans. And the whole international community decided that enough is enough. They made a law. That they were going to give them a home, which I supported 100 per cent because they were being prosecuted. Now, today we wake up and Israel is there and it is supposed to be a democracy, but Israel is not practicing democracy, because there were demarcations of those areas that belong to the indigenous communities that were living in that land. It was a British colony. It was the British that created that area, but people were displaced to create their homeland, but then there is a border and it was agreed that was the solution. But it never happened. The state of Palestine they don’t have their land…. Therefore, I think we are being hypocritical. Like I said I sympathized with them when they were being prosecuted for no reason and likewise, I feel also sympathy for the Palestinians for this prosecution. Up till today, they never had a land of their own. They have all along been living under the control of Israel.
Coming back home, you are one of the fathers of politics in Kano State and beyond. How would you assess the new NNPP government that has taken over power in Kano?
I don’t know whether I will be able to really assess the new administration. One, they came with their own programmes of what they want to do. And any programme on paper is first class, any programme of any government on paper is first class, but the point is how to implement it. Now, unfortunately, so many mistakes have been made by the NNPP government.
I don’t have to really say much about that. You took over from a government which is legitimate and whatever they have done is legitimate because the people gave them the authority. Regardless of how they got the authority, they are legitimate. They did their duty and whatever they did they believe is the right thing that they did. What they did is legitimate. When you come in as a new government, don’t go and take actions that are outside the law because you are not above the law. There are so many ways to go about it. You set up a committee to study what you did not agree with and then you can have reasons to take certain decisions and even those decisions should be breaking the law. A decision of a government cannot be overturned because you don’t like it because it has become a law. No government does things without taking consideration of the law. But unfortunately, the enthusiasm of the new government, they set aside the legality of the former government. No! There is a system and there is governance and we all accepted their legitimacy after their elections… What happened in other places when they came in, demolishing property belonging to individuals, it is not government property. Any property that does not belong to the government has got some legal reasons the individual owns it. You can’t arbitrary go and demolish these property. You have to follow the law. I don’t know why know they were so enthusiastic about the demolition exercise.
Sir, are you aware of the few litigations that have been resolved? And there a number of them yet to be resolved? Do you think the state can afford to pay for all of these costs of debtor judgments?
I don’t know what , how and where we are going to get out of these. But It is my problem because I know that I am a Kano person and it hurts the welfare of the state. All of us are involved. You see, sometimes our politics is being polluted. Politics should not be bitterness. You see once the elections are over, the enmity and personal opposition should end. Then you come together to see how can we move the state forward. I will tell you something. I don’t know whether other states are doing it. There used to be something called protocol list of government. Whenever any important function of the state is going to happen you are going to invite certain dignitaries of the state, irrespective of political parties and persuasions. It doesn’t happen anymore. The last time I was invited was in 1999 to 2003. We can disagree on a particular issue, but we can sit down and sort it out. But nowadays, it is war. I am condemning the whole government; there are good people among them, there are people who can reason, but I think that there are certain persons within the system that would not allow them to do that.
I know that you don’t talk about personalities. But there is the assumption that the influence of former governor Kwankwaso is overwhelming on Governor Abba and that some of these things would have been avoided if not for his interference?
Well, this is mere speculation because he has never come out. I didn’t hear him come and say to the governor, go and demolish here or there. I didn’t hear him say that. I have no love lost with Kwankwaso politically, but at the same time, as a responsible politician, I cannot come and condemn everybody there. If there are any evidence or proof that Kwankwaso said this or that, then I will hold him responsible. But unfortunately, regardless of whatever, Abba is responsible for whatever action the government had taken.
Credit to Dailysun