Senator Kanti Bello is a former Senate Majority Whip, who represented Katsina North Senatorial District on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before joining the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the legacy parties that formed the APC.
In an interview with Nigerian Tribune, he spoke about the state of the nation, President Buhari’s administration and the style of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.
How will you assess the Buhari administration in the last two years?
I will be frank with you. This is the first interview I am giving in the last two years. I have decided to be quiet. The reason is simple: this is our government and I contributed a lot for the government to be formed, both at the state and national level. I did it not for personal gain, but I thought it would be the government that would assist the ordinary people; a government that will turn round the economy.
I am a very practical person. I thought that a government, when it comes to Buhari, will be able to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians. I know that there are some difficulties; I know that the price of oil has gone down. I know all that but the human expectations, of the ordinary people, the way the government works, I can say 90 per cent of Nigerians are disappointed. And the simple reason is this; when we voted for this government, we believed, it was not only corruption that we wanted it to stop. We also felt that ordinary people should have enough to eat; they should have work to do.
We expected some of our factories, especially up North here, would be revitalised. But look at what is happening. I can tell you, no nation with 120 million people can live and be a great nation when it has to import the food it will eat and it has to import clothing. We have the land, a favourable climate.
We have sunshine. So, there is no reason we should be importing food and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be clothing ourselves. The reason is simple; there is no agenda to get things done.
Are you still an APC member?
Are you saying your party didn’t have a blueprint of what to do when it took over power?
Well, I don’t see its implementation. Tell me one. For example, power generation and transmission is one of the problems met by Buhari. Up till today, how much are we generating? 4,000 megawatts? It hasn’t gone beyond that! Is it not a disgrace for a government that is supposed to be moving forward?
Up till now, our factories, our industries are dead, our people are poorer. Look at our economy, it has been so bad; the exchange rate, they say it has been improving. Improving? From N160 to a dollar, now it is N368 to a dollar. Is that an improvement? Two years ago, it was N160 to the dollar.
Is that something to be proud of? It reached almost N500. We thank the acting president, because each time he comes in, there seems to be some improvements in the way things are done. We don’t know why it is happening that way. Maybe it is his luck, but there are some little improvements.
You mean, each time the vice-president takes charge in acting capacity, you see improvement in governance?
Yes, I see little improvement.
Are you insinuating that Buhari lacks the capacity for the office?
Well, even if he has the capacity to do it, he didn’t do it. Look, some of us have to be honest with ourselves, I have nothing against Buhari but the ordinary people of this country are suffering today.
Let me be frank with you, in Katsina, where I come from, people are finding it difficult to eat three times a day, not even two times. Things are difficult. The economy is so bad, whatever you are buying, and inflation has tripled. A bag of maize that used to sell at N4,000 when Buhari took over is now selling at N16,000 and at that price, people aren’t getting it to buy.
I am a practical person. Do we look at all these and continue to praise the government? No! Yes, we praise the government when it comes to Boko Haram, it has reduced its activities in the North-East and there is some stability in parts of the North with regards to the bombings has reduced drastically or virtually gone.
Yes, there is something good there but then after it has gone, there is kidnapping. People are being kidnapped and murdered. We aren’t safe, you cannot even travel from here to Kaduna without feeling that something can happen to you. You see, we have got rid of one evil and another has come in.
So, all we are saying is that Buhari and his APC government hasn’t solved our problems. I am part of that government and I apologise to the masses that our economic policy is a failure. We have scored 50 per cent on security but certainly the economic policy of the government has failed the masses, because I am part of the masses. People aren’t living well in this country. That’s the truth.
But, your party always attributes the poor state of the economy to mismanagement by the immediate past administration; it claimed it inherited huge liabilities from the PDP. What is your take?
No, come on! That’s not true. We kept quiet about it, because we thought they were saying the truth. Look, how much money has the APC government now collected from the anti-corruption they are doing.
Where is the money? Nobody is accounting for the amount of money they have retrieved from people. Each time you hear so much billions. With that, there should have been some improvement. So, you cannot continue to blame the PDP.
After two years, you are still blaming the previous government and you have only four years. Now, we have spent over 50 per cent of the time blaming PDP. I think something is wrong with us. So, I think it is high time our party stopped blaming [Goodluck] Jonathan, because the ordinary people somewhere with their anger are even saying that the Jonathan government was better. That’s the truth.
We are afraid to come out and that’s why some of us don’t even speak, we worked hard and we believed in what we were doing, we thought things would be better, but incompetent people are put in charge and of course some people are behind the scene controlling Buhari.
You are making insinuation about a cabal, but the Presidency has always insisted that there is no cabal
What the hell are you talking about there? No cabal? Well, if there is no cabal, the Buhari I know, I always wonder if he can behave the way these people are behaving. My reason: I have known Buhari since 1960, when I was a very small boy. He was my head boy in secondary school and the Buhari I knew, the Buhari I invited to come and play politics, I think he shouldn’t have been behaving the way he is behaving.
The people that are appointed into positions, everybody knew in this country, they aren’t the first class. For example, even this anti-corruption, the very first day it was reported that Babachir Lawal, the suspended Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF) was allegedly involved in a shady deal and there was evidence to that effect, the Buhari I knew would have sacked him but he couldn’t do it. It was later I learnt that the man was suspended by the acting president.
The Buhari I knew has no reason to keep Ibrahim Magu. If Magu was alleged to be corrupt by the DSS report, so many people have been investigated and jailed because of DSS report, so is the DSS report supposed to be implemented, half-heartedly and selectively? For some people, it is right, for others it isn’t. And nobody is saying anything.
Now, the same DSS is saying that Magu has a case to answer and the Senate is saying it cannot confirm Magu and the government, the one I thought is honest enough, is still keeping that man. What for? Is he the only Nigerian that can do the job? I have nothing against Magu; I don’t even know him but is he the only Nigerian that can occupy that office? There is supposed to be credibility in what government does.
You keep telling me that they inherited a bad economy, why did Nigerians elect Buhari in the first place? Is it not because we felt Jonathan wasn’t doing the job and that he should come and correct it? That’s the reason why we elected him. We didn’t elect him for jokes; we didn’t elect him to give excuses.
We elected him to correct things. Why is he not doing it? You see, we were quiet, because we didn’t want to talk, not because we thought what they were doing was right, but because we believed we should give him a chance for two years, if there will be improvement. But I am sorry to say I am disappointed.
You are saying Buhari cannot effect positive changes, but the national chairman of your party, John Odigie-Oyegun, keeps saying the man is the best; that the 2019 ticket has been reserved for him. What do you have to say?
Oyegun can be as sycophantic as he wants, but the truth of the matter is that some of us are going to look for a Nigerian that’s going to address the economy. Our problem is the economy and we are going to shop for a Nigerian who can help us solve it. You see, every generation has to face some challenges and our challenge now in this country is the economy.
It isn’t a question of Buhari coming to fight insecurity; it isn’t corruption anymore, because you can only be corrupt when there is something to eat. Yes, it still thrives because nothing is going on and there is an allegation that it is thriving under Buhari, only people that they dislike are being arrested. Let me give you a typical example. Even this fight against corruption, it seems to be one-sided.
They said they arrested a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, because he collected N100 million campaign money, but the same campaign money, I was made to understand, was collected by Tony Anenih and he wasn’t arrested. Is Anenih’s own different from that of Bafarawa? I don’t like anything that looks sectional and we are going to look for a Nigerian with no vendetta at all that wants to serve this country.
You said “the Buhari I knew’’ the other time. Are you of the opinion that he is being held captive by certain people?
I suspect so. It hasn’t made sense to me, because there are certain things I personally discussed with him and he told me, “okay, it will be done.” The Buhari I knew, if he gave you his word before, he would do it. But, he has changed. So, I believe that something is wrong. Maybe, his mind is no longer the one I knew, but I cannot determine, because since he got to power I haven’t been to the Villa. I only met him once in Katsina and we discussed.
Any regrets inviting Buhari to politics?
I really regret it now, because I thought it is going to be better than what we are having now. That’s why I couldn’t speak for two years, because you cannot bring somebody and say he is the best, work hard for him and after one year you say he isn’t good. Is it fair? But after two years and looking at it, I can talk.
I hope he gets well, come back and finish his two years. Whichever way, I don’t see much out of it anyway, because the first two years have been wasted, nothing to show for it. My regret is what I would tell the ordinary people I convinced to vote for Buhari.
Read the full interview on Nigerian Tribune
Subscribe to Aba City Blog
Keep up to date on the latest content, here at Aba City Blog. Subscribe below.