By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
MD Yusuf,Â former Inspector General of Police and one time Chairman of LNG Board is a member ofÂ Presidential Advisory Council, PAC,Â set up to advise the President on policy matters.
In this interview, he spoke on the relationship between President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo,Â accusingÂ him of interfering too much in Jonathanâ€™s government in a manner that could spell calamity for Nigeria if he is not stopped.
You were recently quoted to have said that former President Obasanjo is a threat to Nigeria. How?
The story you read was an editorial of a national newspaper which I equally reacted to. I want to make it clear that former President Obasanjo is really out to ruin this country. He doesnâ€™t seem to be satisfied with being out of office. He is out to destroy whoever succeeds him.
IfÂ you noticed, he came out against Yarâ€™Adua when he was not well, asking him to resign. Before Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s sickness, he tried to do the same thing but could not. When Yarâ€™ Adua became very ill, he started talking, going on VOA and saying all manner of things. President Yarâ€™ Adua is dead.Â Now, he has started disturbing the person who took over from Yarâ€™Adua as President. He is not satisfied with anybody taking over the running of this country and that is dangerous. Nigerians should watch out.
Are you saying he is trying to rule the country through Jonathan?
No. What he has started doing was the same thing he did when Yarâ€™Adua was ill, he began making some comments against him and now, he wants to start makingÂ comments against Jonathan and against the country. He should leave Jonathan alone to do his own thing. He should stop talking to Jonathan or trying to impress his ideas on him.
Let him leave Jonathan to run Nigeria. If Jonathan should listen to good advice, let him do his thing and stop listening to Obasanjo.
It was said from the onset that Obasanjo planned things to be this way. He knew that Yarâ€™Adua was ill before selecting him as presidential candidate. That means its possible the recent development is not a surprise.
I agree with the analysis. Itâ€™s possible he knew things would eventually turn out this way. So, my advice to Jonathan is to stop talking to Obasanjo or taking advice on issues pertaining the running of the country. It is clear that if Jonathan keeps listening to him, things will go wrong and that could destroy Nigeria. Jonathan should not listen to Obasanjo because his ideas could destroy Jonathanâ€™s administration.
It wasÂ a tug war selecting the Vice President. There seems to be inputs from several angles.
I donâ€™t see the choice of the Vice President as a problem. Jonathan is the one to choose and he has the right to choose whoever he likes. He doesnâ€™t have to choose someone nominated by another person.
He is the President now and knows who could work with him satisfactorily. Obasanjo has been trying to influence the choice ofÂ the Vice President by suggesting all types of funny names to Jonathan. But Jonathan didnâ€™t have to bow to pressure from any group. The powersÂ have been arrogated to him.
But the zoning formula should be followed or would you rather the President upturns it?
I am not a member ofÂ PDP and I donâ€™t contribute to whatever they do. My own is to advise that forces trying to destroy Nigeria be avoided. Zoning or no zoning, what Nigeria needs is the best. The only way the country could succeed in getting credible leaders was through a democratic process where those interested in holding public offices were allowed to do so irrespective of their geo-political zone.
Zoning mayÂ not give Nigerians the best leaders we need and we should know that many countries do not emphasize zoning because it is not the best for them.
PDP is the party in power but donâ€™t forget, the man in-charge isÂ Jonathan. He is the leader of his party now and whatever happens now, Jonathan should ensure his party does the right thing because Nigeria is in his hands now and he is accountable should anything go wrong.
You are a member of the Presidential Advisory Council. Shouldnâ€™t the body advise him to watch out for unwantedÂ advice?
No. It is not our job. We are not members of his cabinet. We are not members of the PDP either. Our role is different. Because of our individual track-records, he brought us together to give him good advice on specified areas.
During our inauguration on March 4, he specified that our role is to provide alternative advice on policy formulations, good governance and anti-corruption and when we submitted our interim report, he said the policy framework of his administration would be based on the report.
He made it clear that our advisory services would include areas of power, economy, security, infrastructure, electoral process and fight against corruption. We have less than 12 months to the next election and so much has to be done but our job is just to advise and make recommendations. We are not members of his cabinet and we are not PDP members.
So, with the perceived interference of former President Obasanjo, what is your advice?
We know that Obasanjo will not stop interfering. Both of them meet in the nights to talk. Either Jonathan goes to Otta Farm or now, Obasanjo has started visiting Aso Rock but they talk. We are not concerned with their night meetings and talks.
All we are concerned with is that Obasanjo should not be one telling Jonathan what to do and Jonathan should not be taking his advice.
That is saying that Jonathan could be the realisation of OBJâ€™s third term agenda.
He is certainly trying to use everything possible to misdirect Jonathan and put this country into problem. Since Yarâ€™Adua became ill, OBJ started talking and I believe he has an agenda to destroy this country. The way he has been carrying on is a pointer to this and that is why Jonathan should not listen to him. The issue of third term is dead and gone.
This is a new administration and Obasanjo has nothing to contribute to it. He has served his tenure and therefore should give way. Jonathan is a man of intelligence and has his own ideas. He should not be a puppet in the hands of Obasanjo. He should be left alone to do his job and their night meetings should stop.
So, there is nothing the Presidential Advisory Council can do if it perceives that things are not going well?
It is not the PAC that will advise Jonathan on an issue like the one we are discussing. We are not chosen for that. If you go back to what I said about our mandate at inauguration, you will see that matters such as this is not included.
Iâ€™m just speaking from the point of view of a concerned Nigerian and that is why Jonathan should reject any advice, given to him by the man Obasanjo because he doesnâ€™t mean well for his administration.
Does the North have anything against Jonathan?
Why should we have anything against him? People have different views but I donâ€™t see why the North should be opposed to Jonathanâ€™s administration.
How do you feel about the possibility of Jonathan jettisoning the PDP zoning policy to contest the next Presidential election?
As far as I am concerned, anybody irrespective ofÂ where he comes from can contest elections in Nigeria. Nobody should stop anybody from exercising his constitutional rights to contest election. Zoning is a PDP affair, not the Nigerian affair. It is not in our constitution. What the people need is good leadership and a leader who will solve the problems afflicting the people.
We need solution to the power problem. We need regular power supply. We need security and good governance. We need a stable economic growth and perceived improvement in the war against corruption. We need improvement in infrastructure and employment for millions of youths who graduate from the university every year. That is what Nigeria needs, not whether a leader is from the North or the South. The North will support anybody who emerges candidate. Zoning is not the business of the North. It is the business of PDP.
Whatâ€™s your opinion on our democratic development, would you say we are doing well?
Well, maybe it will start working wellÂ when we get committed to conducting good elections. It is good elections that would breed good governance. Until then, I donâ€™t think we are getting it right yet.
Recently, the Federal Government sacked Maurice Iwu, the former INEC Chairman. Was Iwu the cause of the problem we were having in our electoral process?
No. There is the whole issue of the panel on electoral reforms which the government has set up and they made a recommendation and certainly, sacking Iwu is not part of this recommendation. Sacking Maurice Iwu is not the solution because the committee made a lot of recommendations on what to do in order to get things right and none of these has been done. Iwu definitely was not the problem. We should follow up on the recommendations made by the Uwais Committee.
The issue of electoral reforms is dragging. Do you foresee the recommendations being implemented before the next elections?
Whatever it is, we should try as much as possible to do what we can before the elections. We should not just fold our hands and say, we canâ€™t be able to do it before the elections. We may not be able to solve all the problems but we should do as much as we can.Â Besides electoral reforms, electricity problems is the biggest problem confronting Nigeria.
A solution to the electricity problemÂ would solve a lot of otherÂ problems. Industries will come back to life and that is turn will generate employment for the youths. Almost every business venture requires electricity and that is why the issue of power is so important.
There seems to be an improvement on power supply now.
We can get better. We can keep improving until we get it right.
It appears the National Assembly is slow in implementing the recommendations of the Uwais Committee, even also on the issue of Constitution review.
I think the National Assembly should intensify efforts on these issues you have raised especially on the issue of the Uwais Committee report and they should also be given time to do that.
It can give itself more time to resolve these.
Nigerians should exercise patience with the National Assembly on these issues even though the worry being expressed over the forthcoming elections is understandable.
We should exercise patience even as we urge the National Assembly to pay more attention to the implementation of the Uwais committee recommendation.
The return of former President Ibrahim Babangida has been generating a hot debate. What have you to say on this?
Every individual Nigerian has the right to contest whatever election. Nobody can stop him. In the same vein, the reaction of Nigerians is not out ofÂ order.
They have the right to complain about whoever they think is not supposed to be in the race but we have our rights under the constitution to contest elections if we meet the requirements stipulated in the constitution.
The issue of the choice of the Vice President is also generating a lot of heat in the polity. Whatâ€™s your view on that?
The President has the right to choose whoever he wants to work with. Itâ€™s up to him. Iâ€™m not a member of the PDP.
Anybody that the President chooses is okay. Thatâ€™s his right. And the issues are clear in the Constitution. That is why I said earlier that Jonathan should not be taking the advice of Obasanjo on any issue because he is a threat to his administration.
Jonathan constituted the Presidential Advisory Council when he was the Acting President. Now, he is the President, is the Advisory Council still necessary?
What is the difference between the time he was Acting President and now? Anyway, I am not in the position to answer that question. Perhaps, you should take the question to Jonathan. He was the one who brought us together. So, ask him if the Council is still necessary.
Whatâ€™s the way forward for Nigeria as 2011 elections approach?
Nigerians want free and fair elections. So, the government should make sure it is done. The confidence of Nigerians in the electoral process would be ensured if the forthcoming elections are conducted in a free and fair manner. Nigerians should be made to believe that their votes count and they have to see it in practice.
There should be transparent elections in a manner that nobody would question the emergence of winners and until that is done, the problems we have with our elections would continue.
Then, besides the elections, the 7-Point agenda of late President Yarâ€™Adua should be pursued. Once, there is improvement in power, part of the problems besieging Nigeria would be solved.
The issue of security is one of the reasons for which the PAC was constituted, would you say the security agencies are doing well in this regard?
I would say that the security agencies are doing their best and I would not say there are lapses in the system.
What do you have to say about Ribadu, and the fact that his sack by the Police authorities is converted to retirement and charges against him was dropped by government?
I donâ€™t want to talk about the issues of Ribadu. It is a police matter and if charges are dropped against him, it is the business of the police. I donâ€™t really want to talk on personalities. I spoke about Obasanjo because of the looming danger in his interference. Whatever the government deems fit on Ribadu is okay and nobody can question that.