Politics

Power shift to the South will determine the fate of APC in 2023-Yari

todayJuly 21, 2021 2

Background
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Immediate past governor of Zamfara State and aspirant to office of national chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC), Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari insists that the chances of the party retaining power depend on how fair play in the power rotation deal by political elite is treated. He also bared his mind on leadership tussle between him and Governor Bello Matawalle and other sundry issues to ADAMU ABUH in Abuja.

On the clamour for power shift to the South
I have no personal position beyond the party’s official stand. If the top leadership of APC made a promise that power should move to any place, we should respect it. We would have no reason not to oblige. But we should look at this and all other issues critically so that APC can survive and succeed further.

On APC’s chances in the 2023 poll
Let us put a team in place first. If we put a team that can manage APC effectively, that is how we are going to know the impact. There are issues that we have to contend with, but they are not as bad to blur the achievements of the party. A lot depends on how we do our political calculations; a lot depends on where we zone out presidency to. All those kinds of things are facts we should consider.

The only thing I will say is that if you look at our merger, from north and zones we have taking the march together, the South West especially, if you look at it critically and look at what has transpired, from there we can say okay, this is what we should do as a party or this is what we should not do and carefully look at some errors we made in the last six years. Then see how we can quickly push as a party and as a government to cover about 30 to 40 percent of those errors and then convince people and tell Nigerians, we promised so many things that we could not fulfill because we found so many things that were not in place.

 

On the issue of the economy, we expected to have the oil price at between $100-120 per barrel but it came down to $27 per barrel now, it is not going beyond $70.  There are so many things we are going to talk about, security and unemployment. There are so many things we need to look at, areas where we are doing the best we could. There are many things to look at within the system, especially between now and next year.

On his aspiration for the national chairmanship of the APC
Let me start by giving thanks to Almighty Allah who gave me the opportunity to serve our people in various capacities. Firstly, let me point out that even before the formation of All Peoples Party (APP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and other political parties – that is, during the period of the defunct UNCP and DPP – I contested under the platform of DPN for the membership of the House of Assembly.

In 2003, I became party secretary in my state; I was the Director-General of the Muhammadu Buhari presidential campaigns as well as that of Yerima’s governorship campaign as well as that of every other person who was contesting on the platform of defunct ANPP. We won seats in the State House of Assembly and National Assembly 100 per cent and we won governorship election. In 2004, I became the state chairman of the party and our success stories continued. Although there were intense calls from people urging me to contest for governorship seat and succeed Governor Ahmad Sani, there was a logical reason why that could not be done; I clearly understood the perspective of the governor that since we are almost from the same local government – he is from Bakura and I am from Talatan Mafara – so, it was not good for the governorship ticket to remain within that axis.

 

I became the governor and then came the process of merger to form APC. We were then 11 governors: Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Edo, Osun, Lagos, Oyo, Ekiti, about eleven of us including one from APGA. That’s how we started the merger process. We wanted to be the progressives in the sense that we wanted to bring all the opposition on board. Ondo was a Labour Party (LP) member, Anambra was APGA, but Anambra and Ondo defected to PDP finally and then we remained eleven. That’s where we started this struggle up to 2013 when PDP had their congresses, we had the new PDP joining us, with four states: Kwara, Rivers, Kano and Sokoto States and we became 14. We started this process of merger and in the 2015 election, we won all the state’s seats in the National Assembly and also, our party, APC won the Presidency.

This is where we are today and at the same time in 2015, my colleague governors unanimously accepted me to be the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). If you look at what we have done in the past and what is on ground now, the issue or responsibilities of chairmanship will not be a difficult task for me to deal with because I know the right buttons to press to bring people together and win elections.

On the alleged plot to truncate his chairmanship aspiration
I hear that also. Somebody told me that some of my colleagues and former colleagues are interested in the number one and number two slots so, if the national chairmanship seat goes to northwest, nothing will get to them, so they ganged up to neutralize Yari. If God decides that it should be, it is going to be. People can maneuver and do all sorts of calculations but they will not prevail. All I know is this: I have the capacity to lead this party and they know what I can do. It doesn’t matter what excuses they are giving that oh, he is from the same zone with the president, no.

Our calculation now is towards 2023 not 2019. It is only when you have a party, a strong party, that you start thinking of 2023 and whatever the situation may be, the capacity to lead the party to electoral victory is the most important thing. This is one major area in which I believe I have a little, but very significant knowledge about how to go about getting it done.

On the alleged tussle between him and Governor Bello Matawalle
I have nothing much to say about that. All I advise them to do is that they should go through the party constitution and act in accordance with it. Let them look at their constitution very well and take a lead from there.
I’m not contesting any leadership. It is the people who made me to be their leader and they will continue to call me leader as long as I am alive. It is not about APC. When I was a governor, I never called myself leader. Even as a sitting governor, there was someone

I was addressing as ‘leader’ and he knows; I called him Jagora. Jagora is leader. I never addressed myself as a leader; I was a governor, that is what the constitution of Nigeria assigned to me and that was what God decided to make me. However, in terms of respect, at least, there is someone that you have to respect in the system. Throughout my entire eight years, I always had someone to address as leader. It was only after my eight years in office that they started calling me leader and then we continued like that. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter whether the governor is leader or whosoever is the leader; the important thing is to deliver. If you can deliver, you can take your leadership and go away with it. As for the pronouncement of the chairman, I will not comment on it but I refer them to the constitution and let them do the needful, as far as the constitution is concerned. The Nigerian Constitution keeps the Nigerian President where he is, it keeps the party where it is, keeps everybody where he is. So, let’s look at the constitution and it is clear about everyone’s roles. For me, I am not contesting the leadership with the governor or anybody; it is out of respect that I am being called a leader because I was there before him.

On the alleged seizure of his N8 billion gold bars in Ghana

Publishing absolute rubbish can easily get quacks into big trouble when a maligned or libeled person decides to sue. I never knew anyone in that place and contrary to a few people’s wild speculations, I never had any such gold. The baseless allegation easily fizzled out because genuine publications in Ghana found that there was no substance to it.

Well, some persons can fabricate lies but at the end of the day, the truth will prevail. There are so many other things they have said that are mere tissue of lies, meant to get a good man down but they will never succeed.
They have circulated rumours that I got money from the London Paris Club, that I robbed the state and did this and that but I challenge anyone either in the Governors’ Forum or in the state – anybody!

I have mentioned it time without number, that if there is any man or collaborator within or outside who is holding money on my behalf or who knows where I kept money, I say that God should not spare him if he decides to cover me up! I made it very clear but at least, I know myself what I’ve been doing and what I did for my people and the Governors’ Forum, what I even did for my party the APC. So, whatever lie someone wants to tell, he should put the facts on the ground, that’s the most important; not using some faceless cowards like himself to disseminate fabricated lies. If there is anybody who knows any account of mine anywhere, either in Nigeria or anywhere or that of any of my associates, they should come and put it before the public.

As a governor, what was my job? It was to utilize resources, spend money for the good of my people – that was the job given to me. Take budget/plans to the House of Assembly, pass the law and execute projects. Therefore, if giving out contracts for development purposes meant that I was spending money on contracts to make money, let the current governor give out even more contracts and make money. There are simple, easily understood things that some mischief-makers try to deliberately misinterpret; for instance, now, we have the multibillion naira Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road contract which was initially demarcated into portions. Now, the entire stretch has been awarded in full, are they saying that President Buhari gave out that contract in order to make money? Or are you trying to tell me that the entire projects that are being executed by the federal government, Buhari is giving them out because he wants to make money? It is a very wrong scenario to paint, it is not correct. But if you have any allegation against someone, use facts.

Over the past 6 years, the media and President Muhamadu Buhari government have been in some sort of war.

Over the past 12 months, the battle appears to have escalated to the level of open confrontation between the executive and the fourth estate of the realm.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged in 2015 at the start of the new media, as the Buhari Media Organization used social media platforms and influencers to sway opinions of Nigerians in the build-up to the 2015 elections.

Despite this history, the government has been pushing for stringent measures to regulate the media.

Here is a timeline of the ongoing battle between Buhari and the media.

Friendship turned sour

Back in 2015, the APC and its presidential candidate enjoyed massive support from the media, as most media organizations pilloried the then administration of Goodluck Jonathan.

Following the victory of the party in 2015, the president often speaks with foreign media than the Nigerian media. This had affected the relationship between the Nigerian media and the administration.

But that relationship has turned frosty, as according to a report by Amnesty International, 8 media houses were raided by the government between 2015 and 2019.

Some of the popular names include Agba Jalingo, Jones Abiri, Samuel Ogundipe and others.

The report stated that several journalists have been arrested for different reasons. Some by the federal government, while some by state governments.

Also, the NUJ in a report stated that, “At least 300 violations affecting about 500 journalists, media workers and media houses have been recorded in Nigeria under the regime of President Buhari.”

It would be recalled that in 2019, Punch Newspaper, following the storming of court by the Department of State Services to rearrest Omoyele Sowore, declared that it will be using General as the prefix to Buhari’s name and refer to the administration as a regime. A correspondent of the platform at the presidential villa was suspended.

DAILY POST observes that many other media organizations expected to be granted access to the Villa have been denied access for not being supportive in their news.

Another organization that has been having a running battle with the government is DAAR communications, the owner of AIT and Raypower FM.

The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had warned that it will axe AIT if the station should continue with “one-sided” broadcasting of the 2019 presidential election petition tribunal.

When the administration wanted to reduce the number of journalists covering State House events, Punch and AIT were excluded, despite their respective reach.

It would be recalled that the NBC also suspended the licence of the AIT and handed a hefty fine to Arise TV for the coverage of the EndSARS protest.

Twitter ban and Full-blown war

In the past couple of weeks, the fight between the government and the media has become more intense following the decision of the government to suspend the operation of a social media company, Twitter.

It would be recalled that the government on the 4th of June, 2020 announced the suspension of Twitter from operating in Nigeria in the aftermath of the deleting of a tweet by President Buhari, denying all Nigerians access to the platform. Till date, Nigerians cannot access the platform.

NBC orders broadcasting stations to stop using Twitter

The Minister of information, Lai Mohammed and the NBC have been pushing for stringent regulations in the past couple of months.

At the public hearing on the NBC, NPC bills in the House of Representatives, the Minister called for online broadcasting to be included in the regulation of the NBC and online newspaper to be included in the Nigerian Press Council Act.

The bills have also created a new frosty relationship between the government and media, as the Nigerian Guild of Editor and Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Union of Journalists all kicked against the bills.

Last week Monday, adverts were sponsored on the front pages of major dailies in Nigeria, kicking against the bills.

Moreso, a Punch reporter was arrested at the Dunamis Church in Abuja while covering a live programme. This also generated outrage.

It would be recalled that Segun Odebunmi has announced the ‘suspension of the media bills following the outcry against them. He announced it while appearing on Channels TV.

NBC and reporting of terrorism, kidnapping

The NBC in a letter titled the ‘Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution’, and signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the new Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Ilelah directed radio and television stations to not report details of security on their shows.

Ignore NBC order asking you not to report insecurity – HURIWA tells media houses

According to the letter, media houses exercise caution and “Not ‘glamourising’ the nefarious activities of insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, and bandits etc.”

I will not be part of media gagging, but- Gbajabiamila

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila had said he will not be part of any attempt to stifle the media, however, he has expressed support for the regulation of the media.

Gbajabiamila, while speaking at the dinner and award night organized by the House of Representative’s press corps, said media houses are being regulated all over the world.

Aside from this, the House also approved the ban of Twitter.

It would be recalled that the House joint committee had investigated the Twitter ban and recommended that the government should be given enough time to negotiate with Twitter.

Odebunmi, the chairman of the committee that investigated the bill, is also the sponsor of the two bills, NBC and NPC bills.

While Mr Odebunmi appears to have folded, the government seems determined to control media.

Amnesty International’s warning

The Amnesty International has called for press freedom in Nigeria. A publication on its website tagged ‘ Free the Press in Nigeria” said the Nigerian press have had enough. It alleged that Nigerian journalists are often harassed, detained, tortured and killed for doing their job.

”In Nigeria today, journalists are harassed, detained, tortured and killed for doing their job.

”And they’ve had enough.

”A free press makes for a free society. The work journalists do is crucial for everyone in Nigeria – and the law should never silence the truth.

”We have worked with journalists and media workers from across Nigeria to write a manifesto calling on the government to ensure their freedom. Freedom to do their vital work and to serve the people.

”They need your support to make the government listen. Rise up with them and sign up to make Nigeria a free and open society.

”Ensure that media houses are allowed to operate independently and journalists in government-owned media houses enjoy the right to freedom of expression and can carry out their job without fear of reprisals. Furthermore, the government should protect the operation of independent media agencies and their journalistic freedom.

”Train and instruct the police and other security forces to protect journalists and other media professionals and refrain from harassing, intimidating, arbitrarily arresting journalists and raiding media houses.

”Publicly acknowledge the important role of journalists in informing the public and promoting human rights and accountability of leaders in Nigeria,” It wrote on its website.

Lai’s response

But the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described Nigeria as the freest country to live in the world and that government promotes press freedom.

The Minister stated this when he received the Finland Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Jyrki Pulkkimen and his team, who visited him early this year.

He said the President Muhammadu Buhari government had not tampered with the freedom of speech or rights of individuals.

The Minister said the government was only sanitising the media on hate speech and abuse of the freedom of speech.

The Minister pointed out that if people were allowed to do whatever they want on social media in a country like ”ours with diversity of religion and political interests, there will be chaos.”

Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit, asking the Federal High Court in Abuja, “to stop the Federal Government and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed from using their patently unlawful directive to all TV and radio stations not to use Twitter, and to delete their accounts as a pretext to harass, intimidate, suspend or impose criminal punishment on journalists and broadcast stations simply for using social media platforms.”

Written by: Busayo Babs

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