By Bilesanmi Olalekan
Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri is the Minister of Police Affairs and Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Yobe State. In this interview, Adamu saysÂ about N1.6 trillion has been earmarked for the training, employment, rehabilitation, social support, image rebranding of the Nigerian Police over a six year period.Â He is also in support of the partyâ€™sÂ zoning system to enable President Goodluck Jonathan contest in 2011.
Your people recently organized a reception for you and a rally for the party.Â What do these translate into as far as your political ambition is concerned?
Well, I am a politician coming to my home town and it is my duty to formally welcome decampees from the ANPP into the PDP. This is a carefully and deliberately planned programme, per zone to welcome decampees and mobilize PDP members for a grand finale rally before the end of June in Damaturu. This is a precursor to mobilizing the party for the 2011 elections. I donâ€™tâ€™ see anything different from what will happen whenever I lead an organization of PDP in Potiskum, Damaturu and Yobe as a whole.
Let me say that the PDP has always maintained an electoral strength in Yobe, that has not been reflected in general elections for reasons that are difficult to explain. But we hope that this time around weâ€™ll get our acts together and be able to achieve an electoral victory that is commensurate with the strength of the PDP as youâ€™re beginning to see, come 2011.
Your party is currently embroiled in a controversy over zoning ahead of next yearâ€™s election.Â In your opinion, is it right for the President to contest where there is an agreement in place that the presidency is reserved for the North until 2015?
This question should have been directed to the South East, because the push for rotational presidency, based on geo-political zone, was put forth by the South East during the Abacha Constituent Assembly, when my uncle, Dr. Alex Ekwueme initiated and propagated geo-political zones, which has turned out to be a calculus in the political configuration in Nigeria.
The North has always believed that the best person should rule Nigeria, that the votes of the electorate should determine who the president of Nigeria should be. When you really begin to zone and exclude those not favoured by a zone, you are excluding the totality of the talent from that zone. If the president must come from a zone, one is only one-sixth of the total zones in Nigeria, but the other five of six are excluded by acts of commission, self-infliction, yet we are talking of democracy and expect to reap the best of the benefits of democracy.
The best benefit of democracy has been exhibited in the United States of America, where Barack Obama overcame all the inhibitions before the ordinary American to contest and win. It is funny that here in Nigeria we applaud that demonstration of democracy, but when it behooves on us to replicate this in our country, we say â€˜zoningâ€™ or â€˜no zoningâ€™.Â I have refused to be intimidated by the â€˜minorityâ€™ status of my ethnic group in Yobe. If I had allowed my ethnic group determine my electoral fortune, I would only win election in six out of 174 wards. That is how I have become relevant in the politics of Yobe State.
Now to your question: Nigeria has suffered bouts ofÂ bad rulership, but we have also agreed that the best leadership will be able to lead us, deliver in terms of our expectations and requirements exclusive to a country like Nigeria. Therefore, I will like us to overcome this issue. It has served its purpose, seeing that the South has served its eight years and the so-called monopoly of the North has been broken.
People should now agree and say, â€˜let us leave it open, let the best emergeâ€™. Let Nigerians say this is what is best for us, so that the basic tenets of democracy will be upheld and the very best we expect from Nigeria can come from the best to materialize out of a fair process. The truth of the matter is that in the current dispensation, there is no iota of democracy. In a democracy, everyone should be allowed to present himself, so that the people can decide whether he is a good councillor, chairman, senator, governor or not.
Are you invariably supporting the president to contest the forthcoming elections?
Iâ€™m talking about a situation in which the constitutional rights ofÂ President Goodluck Jonathan are guaranteed, as well as the constitutional rights of people like Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida, Donald Duke andÂ others. I want a situation in which, if I, Adamu Maina Waziri decides to contest for the presidency, I will have no privileged influence on the decision of the electoral body, and everyone should feel free, because I want the best leader for the country to emerge.
The president has promised free and fair elections in 2011. Currently, there is an electoral reform process going on. As the minister of Police Affairs, what special preparation are the people making for the elections?
Hand in hand with the electoral reforms is the police reform, which was conceived and recommended to be implemented by this government. It is therefore important to note that the implementation of the six year reform program which is going to cost N1.6 trillion commenced during my advent as Minister of Police Affairs. The programme entails employment, training, rehabilitation, social support, image rebranding, etc. It is expected that if the police are well capacitated (for example, transportation, efficient communication system, anti-riot control, excellent welfare, etc) and the average Nigerian is enlightened about his role as regards maintenance of law and order, if the media recognizes its duties to avoid creating media-induced impasse, between the average Nigerian and the police man, the police will come to savour their role and discharge their duties responsibly, without fear or favour. When the files are released this month, we will commence a vast, aggressive implementation of the reform program, which will mature in six years. I had a talk with the management of the police and we have agreed that the person who would create and re-create an image for the policeman is himself. For me, I can only show the way and will soon leave and another person will continue. The reform is a six year program. But if we have a robust implementation in 2010, then the subsequent financial endowment will be a problem we can handle.
Successive Inspectors-General of Police have tried rebranding the police but you still find policemen collecting N20 at check points, mounting illegal road blocks and getting involved in extra judicial killings, etc.
True, this N20 collection at the road-blocks still persists, but I want to remind the ordinary Nigerian that at these same check-points criminals, car-snatchers, ritualists and their likes have been apprehended, but all these have been under-reported. Is it because these arrests are not done in such a way that the arrested suspects do not surpass those offering N20? I am saying that in conjunction with members of the Fourth Estate. Nigerians can think again about their misconceptions about the police, and not see every policeman as a criminal, who does not do his job.
How can the police avoid getting caught in elections cross-fire?
Let me say that there are about 377,000 police men, the first being the IG of police, who has got about eight DIGs under him, about 15 or so AIGs, about50 CoPs and so on. Generally, there are about half-a-million polling booths in Nigeria. Half a million in one election day, there will be about 250,000 polling booths without police men. In this light, it might not be very accurate to blame polling booth-misfortunes on police men, because their strength is insufficient to cover all polling booths. Politicians are those who use the policemen to rig the elections and are therefore more guilty than the police men, because there are politicians in each polling booth.
So, the perpetrators are politicians. The first remedy therefore, to rigging (or otherwise) is to start a re-orientation of the politician. Why do I say so? There are also situations in which the police have found themselves in a situation of compromise, in terms of fairness, objectivity and impartiality, but in such situations, the courts are there to adjudicate if disputes arise. If Nigerians say an election is rigged, and decide to go to court maybe as far as the Supreme Court to contest the election, and the results are upheld, you should know where to lay your blame, not at the policeâ€™s because the court has the ultimate power to determine the results of any election in Nigeria.
You talked about the PDP putting its acts together to be able to win the forthcoming elections, based on its membership strength. Is it really possible for the PDP here in Yobe State to do this considering the number of decampees, especially the gubernatorial election?
Some other parties have won elections in more precarious circumstances, so why canâ€™t we?
With the likes ofÂ yourself, Al-Bishir, Hassan Saleh and other contenders, how can the party pull it off?
At the end of the day, thereâ€™ll just be one governor and a senator. It has happened before, and we can do it again, in absolute terms. In 2007, the PDP lost the elections with 14,200 votes. As of today, we have received more than 14,200 decampees, so in absolute terms, we should win the elections.
How correct can one be to say youâ€™ll contest the 2011 gubernatorial election in your state?
I have a constitutional right to contest. The party also does have the right. But I have contested elections and lost, and I have not had any rest or leisure, since losing them. My first desire is to mobilize the party and weld it, so that elections can be won in 2011, as far as the state is concerned. There are many elections slated for 2011. We have the House of Assembly, the House of Representatives, the Senate and gubernatorial. I want to win all of them. I was close to winning those positions, but Iâ€™ll get it right this time.
Isnâ€™t that ambitious?
No, itâ€™s not. That is what electoral contest is all about. We are going to contest everything and we are contesting to win. Thatâ€™s the duty of a thorough bred politician. I am not denying the knowledge that as much as it is possible to win, it is possible to lose all these seats, but which ever comes I will take it. Thatâ€™s why I have been in this all my life.
Letâ€™s talk about the leadership of the PDP. Do you think the current situation of disarray in the party wonâ€™t affect the party in the next general election?
Thereâ€™s a leadership of the PDP, elected in a national congress, some people have come out to say they want electoral reforms. But let us get it clear: what is the content of their desires for electoral reforms? I understand that they want a reform where there will be internal democracy in the PDP. They want an internal democracy thatâ€™ll translate into free elections for all elective posts (within the party) before the elections in 2011. They want a leadership that has got integrity to win the acceptability of Nigerians, such that the candidates of the party will be credible and can win elections. That is what the Reform Group is trying to propagate.
The need for internal democracy in the PDP should be the concern of every Nigerian. Why? Out of the 36 states in the Republic, the PDP controls 28, including the Federal Government. That means the PDP is in control of 29 governments, out of the 37 governments in the federation. Tell me if there is no internal democracy in the PDP, will there be democracy in the country?
If the primary elections in the PDP in 28 states are not free and fair, how are you going to have free and fair secondary elections? So, for every Nigerian whether he is PDP or not, the existence of internal democracy in the PDP is the guarantee of democracy in Nigeria. I am not advocating the overhaul of the leadership of the PDP. No, I am the one advocating that the leadership of the PDP, like that of Nigeria must guarantee a free and fair primaries, such that the best candidates are selected and put forward for election by the Nigerian electorate for 2011.
We must join other well-meaning Nigerians in demanding that the PDP that has got overwhelming, almost near-monopoly of political leadership in Nigeria is geared towards a cause whereby democracy is deepened in this country. If the PDP is allowed to depart from democratic fundamentals to refuse and nourish democracy internally, then the Nigerian democracy is threatened and the future of the country will be at stake.