Merger Talks: Buhari I Know, Who Are The Others? –– Bakare
Tunde Bakare, Pastor of Later Rain Assembly, convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) and former vice presidential candidate on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), is not too sure what the parties discussing mergers are up to. He told SEYE OLUMIDE that the situation at hand requires more than ganging up just to oust the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
DO you think the ongoing merger talks among frontline opposition parties – ACN, CPC, ANPP and APGA– would succeed to oust the ruling PDP?
I believe in one principle that no destructive means can bring about a constructive end. The issue is, if the thrust of the merger is just to wrest power from the PDP there is no reason for Nigerians to laugh and to rejoice, because we might end up getting rid of one set of treasury looters to be replaced by another set.
Remember that some of those people emerging are good and some are bad. I can vouch for the integrity of Maj Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, based on how he conducted himself while in public offices and that was one of the motivating factors for me to accept his invitation to run with him as the vice presidential candidate during the 2011 presidential election. I don’t have anything against the merger arrangement, otherwise, I would have spoken out loud and clear long ago and don’t forget that CPC is part of the arrangement.
The important thing is to bring out to the public what is the motive. Is it just to wrest PDP to the ground and take over power, or we have a better package in terms of welfare, in terms of development, infrastructure and others for the nation? If they claim to have other plans apart from the desire to oust PDP, then we can begin to judge a man by his deeds or by his words.
For instance, a proverb says, ‘beware of a naked man who promises you a shirt’. Lets go back to the states these people who are promising to perform wonders under a merger arrangement are running. What is their total receivable and what development have come into the states and councils under their control? It is then we can judge that there is a bright future for Nigeria under their arrangement. For now, we are waiting to see what would be the constitution of the new party, to see whether we are going to have true democracy or we are going to have- pardon my language, na me born am, na me give am bele. I can appoint anybody I like, this is my party I’m the one running it.
It was loud and clear on television during the birthday of former governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, when Governor Babatunde Fashola stood up and said to Tinubu, ‘I was sent by other members of the ACN to tell you to try and make ACN more democratic than it is’. Tinubu retorted: ‘If I have done that, you Fashola wouldn’t have become a governor, you cannot bend a dry fish; if I didn’t use my goodwill to impose you on the people of Lagos State you cannot be where you are today.’
Is that what we are going to continue to have under APC? If that is it, then we are most likely to find ourselves in a worse situation than we are now in the country. Merger would have been a good thing for us because it will deepen our democracy if the constitution and the manifesto of the new party are geared towards public service and not personal interest.
Why do you think we are yet to have an experience of successful mergers?
There is no mystery in anything. I have said earlier that a destructive means cannot bring about a constructive means. If people come together for a common purpose and for the interest of the nation and the people, merger will work, but a situation where every man has hidden agenda behind an agenda and when they couldn’t get what they want they destroy the arrangement is the problem of our politicians.
Going by the role you played as running mate to Buhari in 2011 elections, there is a feeling that you are not really forthcoming in this arrangement; why?
I have nothing against the arrangement. Remember that the merger committees were formed by the parties involved to engage one another, to fine-tune and finalise the future and every other thing relating to the merger; so why should I be holding another press interview? It is true many people felt I have been very quiet over the arrangement but Buhari himself has not been talking much on the issue since we have a committee in place already. I am not part of the committee.
But the South West zone of CPC is complaining, that it was sidelined by the party leadership in the selection of the committees, which is already factionalising the party?
I don’t know and I wouldn’t think so. But if there is such a thing, I feel it is an internal arrangement that must have been resolved by now. Such a strategic and important committee that will engage other intellectuals from other parties cannot be a free for all. The party sat down and worked within the purview of its constitution to decide who and who should be a member of the committee. Nobody would like to send his third best to such committee to engage others. If you look at the first eleven sent by the ACN, you will be careful whom to send to be part of the committee. I am not making any excuse for the leaders of the party but if you have followed the interactive session with those elected on the platform of the committee and the leader of the CPC, it was a successful meeting based on their report.
If eventually the merger works out, do you think it will be strong enough to dislodge PDP in 2015?
Nobody is sure of what will happen tomorrow. You never can tell whether PDP aggrieved members’ will not also join APC in order to unseat PDP. Nobody can tell the future of the merger, so let us wait and see the strength and influence of the party. I think it is too early to jump to conclusion now. There are too many factors in politics that determine who wins and who loses.
Do you think President Goodluck Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest again in 2015?
I personally don’t believe there would be 2015 from the way Nigeria is being run at present. If we continue this way there is no how there would be 2015. We must change the way we run the affairs of our nation. If the leadership becomes more sensible and sensitive and more responsible to the yearning of Nigerians whose interest they were supposed to protect, then this nation will move forward but the way it is going, there might not be any 2015. So there is no need wasting our time.
There is nowhere in the Constitution, which says President Jonathan cannot run a full term. At the time Jonathan became president he didn’t run for election, he got there by accident because the president in the office died. The first time he offered himself for any election was after the former president died. Is there a law that says a man cannot be sworn in three times or a man must not spend more than eight years of two terms? Are we going to say the period he spent, as president after Umaru Yar’Adua died would be counted as part of his term? Those are issues that legal minds would have to resolve in the Constitution. If the Constitution is against a man staying more than eight years in office or he cannot receive the oath of presidency more than two times, that is another issue.
On the issue whether Jonathan signed a pact that he would not spend more than one term, I don’t want to take any of the politicians serious because they don’t always mean whatever they say. It is only the Constitution that can determine whether Jonathan can contest again or not, not based on my analyses.
APC has promised to extend invitation to civil society organisations and other professional bodies as the merger becomes firmer, would you accept such if they extend it to Save Nigeria Group (SNG)?
The fact is, SNG is not a political party and it will never go into politics. Definitely, our Constitution and mode of operation is very clear; we are not going to be involved in partisan politics, we didn’t do that with CPC and we are not going to do it with APC.
What is you view on the marginalisation cry by Yoruba under the Jonathan administration?
I am a Yoruba man and if all my concern now is marginalization of the Yoruba under the present administration, then I can look back and say what benefit did the Yoruba get under the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo?
I don’t think that way at all. We are in a federation and we must try to do everything, so that there must be spirit of true federalism in our nation, such that each ethnic group within the federation will be protected in the larger federation. In this federal system, the right of all ethnic nationalities must be guaranteed. If that is what we are saying, my passion will burn for it. In those days when we practiced regional system of government, there was a healthy rivalry and there were never controversies about marginalisation. Those days the Yoruba did everything within their capacities to ensure that our people are educated, there was employment for the people and the future of the younger people was guaranteed. We also use our resources to ensure the development of commerce and industries. When we talk of marginalization, what we mean is that we are not given federal cabinet appointments and so on. The Yoruba that have occupied federal positions in the past, what have they done to the benefit of the South West? It is not peculiar to the Yoruba, the Ndigbo cried marginalisation. The question is those people that have been given federal appointment from the various parts of the country, what have they done for their people. What improvement would appointment into federal cabinet bring to our people?