General Ibrahim Haruna, the Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, in this encounter says that the search for consensus presidential candidate of the PDP from the North and the alliance of presidential aspirants like Buhari, Ribadu and Shekarau should not be treated as a Northern issue or be used to heat up the North. Rather, he dismisses them as internal democracies within political parties and not a northern agenda.
The argument over amendment of the electoral act by the National Assembly and whether the president should assent the amended constitution or not is gathering momentum and may affect elections. What do you think of these argument?
First and foremost, whatever needs to be added to the electoral act to promote internal democracy in the political parties must be founded on the legitimacy of the constitution. So, if constitution amendment is not legitimate, any law made following it remains null and void.
The issue of whether the constitution has to be assented to by the president is very clear. the constitution made it clear that any bill emanating from the national assembly must be assented to by the president. The United States Constitution enables them to deposit two-third states support for constitution amendment to be conclusive but our law is different. The president must assent.
Opposition parties made up of ANPP, ACN, CPC are trying to form an alliance to produce a single presidential candidate to counter what the PDP consensus candidate will achieve. Who will the North support?
We are in a democracy. Parties are doing their own thing and the constitution allows freedom of association. Some political parties that are registered are free within their association to do what they are doing without infringing the law. So, it is a healthy development.
There’s this impression that the North will support the consensus candidate of the PDP and nobody else.
Well, I don’t know what you mean by the North. I think this is the creation of journalistic reporting. They want to keep propping the historical formation of the North and South since 1914. That is not the issue. We keep hearing of North, North, North. Where is the North in our constitution?
We only have states, local governments and administrative zones. The continued mention of the North is like giving a dog a bad name in order to kill it. Politics is for political parties. There is no Northern consensus because there is no North to start with. North is a fiction. There no political North because we are in a democracy. There are people who live in the North and belong to different political parties and persuasion. There is so much fixation of North/South.
So, are you saying the search for consensus candidate from the North is a fiction?
It is not for Nigeria. It is for PDP. Nigeria cannot have a consensus candidate. Nigeria can only have a voted president or a voted governor. Consensus is not legitimate. What is legitimate is election. What Ciroma and his Committee are doing is their private work but the press is creating sensation out of it as if it is a national event. It is not. And creating sensation is putting fuel in the fire. The media knows that this issue of consensus is creating political tension.
There is no tension here. What I want to clear is this speculation that outside the consensus candidate that will emerge, the North will not consider others from other political parties.
Let us get this perception right. It is not what you call the North creating that impression but the media. We know consensus is a private affair of family. There is no such thing. Ciroma is conducting a personal business just like alliances of opposition parties and it is not the business of the entire north. PDP personal political affair is not a national affair. It should not concern others.
And there is no political North. Ciroma is not doing a national job. It is private business, a domestic affair of PDP. But they are trying to make all of us to feel concerned about it. Why? This is heating up the polity. The proposed ANPP/ACN/CPC alliance is not a national issue. The parties have not done their conventions. They have not nominated anybody yet. There are no candidates yet. Why use this issue to heat up the polity.
But the matter is beyond PDP because the Ciroma Committee consulted beyond political leaders. It met with traditional institutions, religious groups and so, it’s not just PDP.
What is wrong with that? If you are not trying to heat up the polity, what is wrong with that? Why should journalists try to make an issue out of it? What you are trying to say is that there is danger being created for us. Let them consult with whoever they like.
Our right at the end of the day is the power to elect. There is nothing wrong in consulting. At the end of the day, we have the right to vote based on consultations or on the basis of more valuable issue. Consensus or alliances is not a national affair but a private affair of parties. There are 63 political parties and anybody that has the right to vote can vote for any of the 63 political parties. Stop dragging the North into political parties’ affairs.
So, it’s a level playing field for either IBB, Atiku, Buhari or Shekarau?
It doesn’t make it a level playing ground. It’s not a level playing ground. How can you say it’s a level playing ground when you don’t know who has the capacity for what and how many people would vote and how many polling votes. How do you know who is providing funds and how much he is spending for his campaign within the limits of the law? What we have now is internal interaction within a political party for resolution of their own candidate when they do their congresses and nominations.
After that, we the ordinary citizens begin to choose. The Ciroma Committee is not established under any law. They are pursuing their interest and we have our own interest. We shouldn’t make the Ciroma Committee job a national affair because of the noise they make. They are not even a political party. They are a group. They have an interest to promote and they are promoting it. But it is not the North.