…Says Nigeria should modify the Presidential system
…Igbo leaders do not want secession,IPOB just blowing hot air for recognition
Alhaji Yusuf Garba Ali is many things to many people. He was the chairman of the Nigerian Football Association, a one Managing Director of Unipetrol and later the chairman of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party.
He was part of the team that formed the All Progressive Congress that eventually won the 2015 presidential election.
In this interview with Ben Agande, he speaks on the challenges facing the APC and its chances in 2019 elections.
As a one time chairman of a leading opposition party, the All Nigeria People’s Party, what is your assessment of the party politics since you left office?
I think we have not progressed. I think there is no serious opposition since we left. When we were there, we organized the first Economic Summit. We did that because we knew then and it is still same now, that the problem of the country is the economy.
We organized economic summit and we invited people from all parts of the world to talk on how to run the economy. We did a lot for this country and we drew the attention of the government then on what they were supposed to do to run the economy and the country.
Presently, I have not seen any concrete opposition based on facts and figures. We have opposition now that criticizes individuals, not government policies, not giving alternative on how government should improve the well being of Nigerians. As far as I am concerned, I do not think that we have achieved much.
The argument is that the All Progressive Congress which you participated actively in forming still carries on as if it is still a party in opposition and not a government in power. How do you react to this?
The APC has not sat down to organize and follow strictly, our programmes or manifestos. We have not followed it strictly. It is unfortunate because the president, Muhammad’s Buhari is sick. This is why we are not very active. Again, we do not have opposition. The People’s Democratic Party has been in limbo. We do not have any serious challenge. No body is criticizing or putting he APC on guard.. this is my sincere belief.
Less than two years in office, Nigerians are generally disenchanted with the APC Government. Does this worry you?
The APC is very unfortunate. We came into power after the mess done by the PDP and secondly, the economic situation in the world has not given us the finances to be able to do a lot for the ordinary people. Thirdly, we had the problem of the south south. The gas situation was so bad that Nigeria was not able to generate enough electricity to enable the ordinary man live a decent life. This is where the APC found itself. We are very unlucky but I think things are improving.
Your party has majority members in both chambers of the National Assembly yet the relationship between the executive and the legislature has been frosty from the very beginning. Is that not a sign of failure on the part of the party?
I think there is hope. From the beginning, we allowed the National Assembly to be on its own. As the chairman of the ANPP, we usually carried members of the National Assembly along in all the decisions that we took. We were in opposition but the National Assembly members were involved in all the decisions that the party took.
Maybe because of the numerical strength that the APC has and the lack of serious opposition may be responsible for this. We left a gap. The National Assembly and the party do not have a relationship. Because there is no strong opposition from the PDP, the party relaxed.
What is your reaction to the renewed agitation for the creation of Biafra and the quit notice issued to Igbos in the north by some youth group?
I think even the people in the south east are no longer saying that they want to secede. The Arewa youths also reacted based on what they thought was the decision of majority of the people of the south east. Kanu is still talking of Biafra but leaders from the region have told him that what they need is restructuring and not secession. The question of secession simply does not arise.
And what is your opinion about the call for restructuring?
Personally speaking, I believe that we the older people have to forget our past. We have to come out and face the reality of life. We have to come out and find out what is the best solution that will bring peace and development to our children and grand children. We enjoyed in the past. We had regions. Our leaders before did their best for us based on the regional government. But Nigeria has changed since then. We have developed. Our children and grand children have come of age. Their thinking is not the same as what we were brought up with .
Quite a lot of people are talking about restructuring although they have not come out with the type of restructuring they want. A lot of people agree that there is need for restructuring but how do we go about it and why? The best thing, in my opinion is we should come out and debate about it. Those advocating for restructuring should come and say this is what we want. The opponents should also come up with their position. After that, we can take a decision.
But to me, I think we need to restructure Nigeria based on the twelve state structure. We had a twelve state structure before this present arrangement. I think we should go back to the twelve state structure and let those state structures have one Assembly each. I believe this will give us peace.
I think we need another national conference . We can go for a plebiscite if majority of the people agree on the type of restructuring they want. I think it is the best and easiest way to achieve it without acrimony. We have come a long way as a country.
Do you have confidence in the continuous existence of the country as one indivisible nation?
Absolutely. I am so certain about that. Maybe a lot of people have not travelled in this country. I love football. I was once the National chairman of Nigeria Football Association. Before then, I was attending lots of football matches at the Onikan Stadium in Lagos. I met a 65 year old Hausa man who had never been to the north.
He did not know how Guinea corn is grown. He had never seen it. He only knew the grain. His parents and everybody lived in Lagos and I am sure he died in Lagos. He was supporting Stationery Stores, a club I think should not have gone on relegation or become defunct. If I were still chairman of the FA at the time Stores went under I would not have allowed that. Stores meant so much to many people. They provided jobs, entertainment and they had such great followership that had become movement of the people.
If you go to Kano, there is an area that is predominantly Yorubas. There is an area in Kano that is predominantly made up of people from Taraba, the Jukuns. It is called Tudun Jukun.
Despite the Boko Haram crisis in the north east, there are still Igbos living there. There is no part of this country you go to that you do not find another tribe settling there. How do you want to break up the country? I do not believe that Nigeria is going to break. What we have is people blowing hot air. Some are using it for their economic interest. They want recognition. There are lots of people blowing hot air just because they want to be recognized.
Looking back, do you think we would have been better off with the parliamentary system of government?
I do not think that the presidential system has helped us. With our economic base, it is too expensive. If we can modify it, maybe it will be better. We copied the American system without examining the effect on our economic base. We can modify it to suit the Nigerian system.
With the nationwide disenchantment with your party, do you think it will still enjoy wide support as it did in 2015?
It depends on the opposition. The opposition is simply not there. It also depends on if we are able to explain to Nigerians what happened to us, what we inherited. We have not really itemized issues that we found on the ground. We have to itemize them and tell the Nigerian people what is happening. We have to do that. If we are able to do that, I believe Nigerians will accept us.
The resolution of the leadership crisis is no threat. They are still divided. They are not a threat to us.