Kabiru Taminu Turaki (SAN), a former Minister of Special Duties and the Dan Masanin Gwandu, is a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In this interview with Onwuka Nzeshi, the chairman of PDP Former Ministers’ Forum speaks on his presidential aspiration, the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration and 2019 general elections, among other issues
You want to seek the number one office in the land but your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to be in disarray with many presidential aspirants. How do you hope to achieve your aspiration?
When we were leaving office after we lost the election, some of us who knew the principal actors in All Progressives Congress (APC) that were likely to form the government knew that they were not likely to allow the PDP get away with all the legacies that we built and the credit that we earned as a party. So when we left, among other things, we set up the former Ministers’ Forum because we knew that there is need to be a front or a vanguard that will protect not only the legacies of 16 years of PDP rule but indeed the concomitant harassment that will follow.
At that time, we never knew that PDP was going to have problems which again was orchestrated from outside. But as the Chairman of the Former Ministers’ Forum of PDP, a body which played a pivotal role in solving our in house family issues, I can tell you and I can confirm authoritatively that there are no divisions in PDP now. Yes when you quarrel, you may forgive; you may even forget but there could be some scars from some wounds that may take a little longer period than others to heal. I want to assure you that indeed we are now going through a healing period as far as PDP is concerned. Yes, we have a lot of aspirants and we are expecting that more will come.
But that is vintage PDP; the more the better. Now in spite of these gladiators that are aspiring to pick the PDP ticket alongside with me, I assure you that at the end of the day, we will be examined on merit.
What makes you confident you will get the PDP presidential ticket?
I want to assure you that at the end of the day, if PDP leadership will conduct a fair, honest and transparent primary election to select a candidate, I think my chances are very bright. I am a quick starter. I have a lot of integrity and credibility and I am well educated. I do not have any excess baggage. I am not fighting anybody and I am equally not aware that anybody is fighting me inside or outside my party.
When you look at the experience I have, both within the private and public sectors, I have been a director of a bank; I have been a member of the Council for Legal Education and I have been the Chairman, Nigeria Copyright Commission. While I was the Minister for Special Duties, I was managing both the vertical and horizontal relationship of the government. I was mediating and coordinating between the three arms and three tiers of government and I was the supervising Minister of Labour. These are facts that are verifiable
When I was appointed as supervising Minister of Labour, there were 19 subsisting strikes and industrial tensions in Nigeria but before I handed over to the substantive minister, there was none. I was able to resolve every single dispute both in the private and public sectors.
PDP was in power for 16 years and spent huge sums of money on the power sector but today we are still grappling with the power challenge. What are you going to do in this sector?
The problem of the power sector has become intractable but I think that it is important that Nigerians should appreciate one thing – investment in power like investment in education is not something that is supposed to yield immediate results. In Nigeria, we the problem of not only generation but we also have the problem of transmission and distribution. Unless government looks at the issue beyond thermal and hydro power and begins to explore other sources of energy such as solar, nuclear and several others, we will not be able to bridge the gap in the power sector.
When I get there by the special grace of God, we know that there are capabilities everywhere to ensure that we diversify and liberalize the power sector in such a way and manner that we will have several generation units and wings. We will also steps to expand the transmission lines. I am not so sure that that has been done. Even when you are now able to generate power, you will not have the problem of transmission but you will ensure that power generated is duly evacuated and distributed to homes, offices and factories.
I think that the other problem with distribution is that the power companies have not been able to do critical metering. It is either the power companies are accusing their customers of not paying their bills or customers are accusing power distribution companies of overbilling them in a very unwholesome manner. I will not tell you that I am going to generate so much but certainly I understand the problem and I am determined to find solution to this intractable power problem in this country.
The government of the day claims to had degraded and technically defeated Boko Haram, yet we are still witnessing terrorist attacks on communities and suicide bombings. Does it mean that we can no longer get rid of this problem?
I think that we have to appreciate that Nigeria’s brand of terrorism is so much different from the kind of terrorism you have in other places. Nigeria’s brand of terrorism is one that is based on dogma. A situation where you have people that are so dogmatic and in the case of Boko Haram, in a very wrong manner and you have a group of terrorists who are amoebic in shape and manner. Today, you see members of Boko Haram dressed in jeans and T-shirt; tomorrow you will see them in agbada and next tomorrow, you will see them in Kaftan without turban. So it is very difficult for Nigeria security agencies to readily pinpoint that this is a Boko Haram member given the way and manner they dress.
So the best approach is to ensure you engage them in dialogue and this was what the previous administration had started doing before we left power. Then you are faced with other problems. Now, we have members of terrorist organisations that are ready to lay down their arms. Is that the end of the matter? No. Whether you get them through dialogue or you get them in the battlefield; that is just one aspect of it. You may have won the battle but you must also win the war.
How do you win the war? You must initiate a holistic de-radicalisation programme. Those beliefs and dogmas must be taken out of their mind because if you don’t do that, you are a non-starter. When you do that, you must also begin to look at entry points and you must plan for their reintegration back into the communities. These are things that have to be taken holistically. There is nowhere in the world where terror war was won in the battlefield and that is why we are saying that the approach that this government has taken is a wrong one. There is a need for it to be reviewed.
Apart from the terrorism in the North-East, we are still witnessing massive killings in different parts of the country on daily basis. What remedy do you have for these killings?
On the issue of killings even outside Boko Haram, for as long as the government does not try and ensure that there is justice according to the law there will continue to be problems in the country. For me, once a crime is committed, I am not looking at the ethnic platform of the person who did it. A murder, a killing, a culpable homicide that is perpetrated by a Fulani man is the same as the one that is perpetrated by an Ijaw man and is the same as the one perpetrated by a Nupe man. There is a tendency with this government to want to look at crime from the perspective of those that are committing them and that is why there is a lot of disaffection across the country.
Let me give you an example. In Benue State, recently some people were arrested and charged to court for killing certain individuals but for goodness sake, what is happening to the other people that are being accused daily of killing farmers in their farmlands? For as long as you don’t see them as mere criminals which is what they are, then there will be problem.
When I get elected, whatever crimes that are committed by individuals will be taken on the basis of a crime. After all of you look at the act which is called the acto primus, they are the same. A life has been killed by this person, arrest him and deal with him according to the law; whether he is Hausa, Fulani or Kanuri is secondary and immaterial. I believe that if that is being done, even the victims of crime will have confidence in the government because it has treated everyone equally without fear or favour. That is the problem and that is what this government is doing wrong. Today, when crimes are committed, government does nothing because it is committed by persons from a certain ethnic group. They are shielded because somebody from the same ethnic group is in a position of authority. That will never happen under our government by the special grace of God.
You once said that you will bring a government that is God fearing and does not tell lies. Are you saying that the present government under APC is ungodly and tells lies?
Yes, I said that when eventually I become the flagbearer of my party and win election and become the President of Nigeria, that we are going to bring a government that will be godly. If you ask me whether this government lies, I will tell you, yes. They lie. They lie almost every day and they lie on almost everything.
On the issue of ungodliness, I will give you examples. A government that comes into office and they are discriminating against Nigerians. Is that not an ungodly act? This government has said that they will recognise citizens in Nigeria on the basis of patronage – the five per cents and 95 per cents. But under our constitution, every Nigerian has a right not to be discriminated against on whatever consideration. Whether you are a politician or not a politician; whether you belong to a party or you don’t belong to any party; whether you voted for a petal who won election or you even refused to exercise your franchise in an election, you cannot be discriminated against by anybody.
Secondly, this government has come out to say even though court orders have been given for the release of certain individuals that have been incarcerated, we will not release them. Is that not ungodly?
Thirdly, this is a government that will treat two individuals who have committed the same offence differently. Is that not ungodly? I leave you to be the judge.