In this interview with GODWIN ISENYO, the spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Groups, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, insists that the organisers of #RevolutionNow planned to overthrow Buhari’s administration
Your coalition has accused prominent Nigerians including the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, Prof Wole Soyinka and Mr Femi Falana, of supporting the #RevolutionNow protest to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari’s government. Are you saying that protest against bad governance is a misplaced priority?
Not at all! Protests are among the avenues available to citizens anywhere in the world to get leaders to do what is right. We are all aware of the several disappointing inadequacies of the Buhari administration. The security situation is lamentable in many respects. The Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, which killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions leaving about 7.7 million people in serious humanitarian crisis, is not yet over. Then, there are the herders’ problems which since 2015 have become more frequent and violent, assuming new dimensions in kidnappings and banditry across the North and other places claiming an estimated six times more than the Boko Haram crisis.
It is now being politicised and is stirring ethnic and religious tensions while the government appears unable to find inclusive and creative ways of addressing and de-escalating this complex conflict. On the economic front, Nigerian economy has been growing at a slow pace while the government fails to show genuine concern for turning its diversification policy from mere paperwork into a more visible projects by channelling efforts and resources into revamping the agricultural sector, giving adequate incentives to farmers and addressing the farmers-herders conflict nationwide. And since inception, the Buhari administration has shortchanged some sections of the country particularly the North and South-East in the distribution of goods and services, budgetary allocations and appointments with total disregard for the principle of federal character as outlined in the Nigerian constitution. Buhari has also failed to assemble a team of experts, technocrats and experienced professionals to carry out rapid development across Nigeria.
The administration’s anti-corruption is also generally seen as a charade and a witch-hunt targeting a select people while ignoring those in its own camp. Buhari has failed to prove to Nigerians that he is impartial. The President is largely criticised for disobeying court orders, trampling on citizen’s rights and lack of respect for constitutional provisions. All these are matters of serious concern that call for citizen action. There are, however, grounds for suspicion with regards to the nature of protest suggested by the organisers of the #Revolutionow. It suggested forceful overthrow of the government which is not the type of citizen action allowable in a modern democracy. And for people who are respected statesmen to support such a move is certainly unfortunate. Asiwaju Tinubu happens to be a major beneficiary of this government and has played a major role in all its shortcomings. It, therefore, amounts to double standards to be seen by commission or omission to be supporting any move that suggests its violent overthrow.
Is the CNG comfortable with the spate of killings, kidnapping, banditry and other related crime across the country?
No one will be comfortable with such killings. And we at the CNG have been at the forefront of challenging the government. The problem is that some people from the South have deliberately refused to isolate the government for their criticism. They have refused to isolate Buhari from his tribe, religion and region which is why we are failing to put up a united front to face the government.
Is it justifiable for your group to accuse the South-West geopolitical zone of a plot to topple the Buhari’s administration simply because they are protesting against bad governance as being witnessed in civilised clime?
It is not about the CNG. We did not make the accusations. The organisers of the protests explicitly declared that the aim was to overthrow the government. Sowore’s statements in that regard have been widely reported.
The South-West in 2015 and 2019 gave its support for the northern presidency. How come you think that the same region could plot to topple this current administration?
That is why we are worried about the nature of the protests suggested by the organisers. We were not the ones that attributed violence of intention or forceful overthrow of the government to the protests. The organisers explicitly declared that the intention was to grandstand and undermine the nation’s security with the ultimate aim of sending the President out.
With the statement and body language of your group, analysts are of the views that your group is actually playing out a script ahead of the 2023 presidency. What do you think?
Not really. What we are rather working for is a new political order that would break the monopoly of the present bankrupt elite. Since independence, a certain class of people has monopolised the total available activity in the country which is what we aim to change. We hope to bring about a situation where the people would begin to genuinely think Nigeria. This way, we can break the tradition of recycling the same people. We can review the leadership selection process by looking outside the box. It happened in the US with Donald Trump coming from the core business class and not the hard political class.
A former lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, said recently that it would be unfair for the North not to support the South-West for the Presidency in 2023. What’s your take on this?
I must tell you that I have never been impressed by Shehu Sani’s politics of opportunism. I really don’t see the need for the emphasis on a southern or northern presidency. If decades after independence, even a senator of the federal republic cannot propose for a Nigerian president, then it’s quite unfortunate. If after all these years of our independence, we are not thinking Nigeria but East, West, North and so on, I do not think there will ever be unity in this country. I am sure only very few people will tell you where the United States President, Donald Trump, is from. He is just an American. But look at a senator here; talking about a southern president; about a northern president and so on; and this is how our children are going to grow up.