Dr. Abduljhalil Tafawa-Balewa is a son of First Republic Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Abduljhalil, a medical doctor, who holds a PhD in Nuclear chemistry and spent 49 of his 56 years outside the country, in this interview asserted that President Goodluck Jonathan has renewed confidence in the country through repair of infrastructure and empathy to northern interests and the dignity of women. He especially commended Dr. Jonathan’s affirmative action on women, which he said has promoted women to the highest level of governance as never before. Excerpts:
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
What is your assessment of developments in the country?
I think this government has done wonderfully well. I am not saying that everything this government is doing is optimal. Those who are criticizing this government are those who were in government before. And it seems the way to become relevant in Nigeria is that just leave government so that you can criticize it. These were the people who were in government and nothing worked. They fleeced the government and there was no transparency, nothing worked. Now these sets of people are the ones crticising government.
Remember that it is the first time that a President will say, “No, there must be no junketing again for ministers and high government officials to mark birthdays and host weddings of their children outside the country at very extravagant ways”. It was President Goodluck Jonathan that put his foot down on that.
What would you say about the state of insecurity in the North-East?
There is no river without a source. This unrest has many factors to it. Many of our youths lack access to opportunities and jobs. The devil always finds jobs for idle hands. So, we need to start engaging these idle hands.
Prominent Northerners have been agitating for power shift in 2015. What is your position on this?
Democracy is about education. It is not about right. What the constitution of PDP says is that if the party wins presidential election, other positions will be zoned to people of other geo-political zones. And constitutionally, President Goodluck Jonathan as a citizen of Nigeria has every right to run for a second term.
Against the background of his performance, does he deserve a second term and will you vote for him?
You can count on me. I will vote for him. There has never been any Nigerian President since independence until now, that has done so well in appointing women who constitute half of our population to (positions) in ministries and embassies across the world. Terrorism as many people don’t seem to notice often takes a long time before it is calmed down.
Take a look at Iraq, Syria, Philippines of old and even Ireland where you can say there were long ethnic crises and you will see that Nigeria’s case is improving. Of course Nigeria is in dire need of peace and not only in the Northeast, but also the South as well. Today, the Nigerian currency is getting stable and stronger and foreign reserve is rising up. I think the President should be given kudos. I will vote for him.
Recently, a group of northern leaders stated unequivocally that the presidency should return to the North by 2015?
In democracy, there is freedom of speech. It is expected of any regional political party or group to state what they want. There is nothing wrong with that. I mean there is nothing wrong with somebody standing up here in Lagos to insist that the next governor of the state should come from Ikeja. So, I really don’t see any reason why we should lay more emphasis on that.
So, for clarification purpose, are you saying the Elders Forum that has been agitating for power shift to the North is not speaking for the entire North?
I haven’t said that. What I’m saying is that the Elders’ Forum has actually been speaking for its members. Nigeria is a country of many ethnicities and that is why when you read our newspapers, every ethnic group thinks they are marginalized because we have over 240 ethnic groups or so.
As a northerner, what is your assessment of voters in that part of the country?
Well, I can tell you that an average northerner is more political savvy than you think. You can imagine cattle herders coming from Maiduguri or Kano, they will have their radios plastered to their ears. They will listen to VOA, BBC among others. They are more current about what is going on in the world than you think.
And unlike the south where people appear to be so immersed in commerce and other things, an average northerner is politically savvy and needs to be convinced what your intentions are because they have sharp imaginations. But I’m not saying the southerners are not. But it is instructive that what we should be talking about is Nigeria and not whether Northerner or Southerner. Maybe because I have lived as an alien in other parts of the world, I really don’t like this idea of configuring one’s psyche to be a Northerner or Southerner.
Since you will be supporting the President’s re-election in 2015, will you be advising the North to wait till 2019?
No, I won’t. In democracy, every election deserves to be fought with all vigour. And let the best president win. Somebody like me as a core northerner but at the same time, I have root in the South. It is high time we do away with this North and South dichotomy. If any man or woman who is qualified to contest wishes to, so be it.