2023: Only Free, Fair Primaries Can Guarantee APC’s Victory, Says Namdas

Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Army, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas

Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas represents Jada/Ganye/Bayo Melwa/ Toungo Federal Constituency of Adamawa State and he is the Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Army. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM of the New Telegraph , the frontline governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) speaks about his ambition, 2023 elections, insecurity and sundry issues

The APC after its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting released the timetable for primaries and has started the sale of nomination forms. Are you still in the race?

Yes, by the special grace of God I am very much in the race. We have been waiting for this meeting to hear the resolution of NEC and we are happy that the timetable is finally out. What we are now waiting for is the sale of forms.

The former governor, Senator Jibrilla Bindow has also declared intention to contest but there are rumours that some stakeholders are plotting to come up with a consensus candidate. How comfortable are you with the consensus candidate arrangement?

I have been asked this question severally by journalists and I will repeat that consensus is as old as politics itself. Consensus can only be defective if it is conceived by people to impose it on aspirants or contestants.

Adamawa is an APC state because if you look at the way the current governor won in 2019, you will realise that at that time, some of the APC members and stakeholders were aggrieved and they decided to engage in antiparty and donated votes to the PDP during the rerun.

So, I have a feeling that if the aspirants are asked to resolve their differences, they will be no problem. If the party says all the aspirants for the position of governor should go and sort out their differences, it will be good for the party. If the aspirants themselves agree to step down for one of them because we cannot have two governors at the same time, it will be good news for the APC.

But for me, I believe in elections – every politician should be ready to test his or her popularity at the polls. If you win elections through a free and fair contest, you will go and sleep well because you will know your strengths and weaknesses. But if you wait to get a consensus ticket to go for general elections, you may find it difficult to win. So, I prefer that the stakeholders give us the opportunity to test ourselves. Once a credible election is conducted, there will be no crisis.

Adamawa is being ruled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and you are contesting on the platform of APC. How do you intend to upstage the incumbent?

We were also the ruling party in 2019 when the PDP swept our governor out of office. Don’t forget that the governor at that time was in the APC but the PDP came and upstaged us.

We took certain things for granted and could not resolve our differences, but now we have learnt our lessons and we will talk to ourselves. And once we conduct free and fair elections, there will be no cause for alarm. Facing the incumbent is not a big issue. In fact, the PDP in Adamawa is relying heavily on our differences to win again. They believe we are not going to resolve our crisis. So, they want to reap from that and the APC should not allow this unfortunate development to occur again.

There is a general belief that there may be an implosion in the APC because of the ambition of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Osinbajo is said to be a political protégé of Tinubu and is seen as challenging the godfather.

The same way people are viewing the forthcoming primaries is the same way, they looked at the recently concluded National Convention. People thought we were not going to be able to hold a National Convention. They thought the party was going to break up and a lot of people would leave the party. But our leaders were able to surmount the challenge.

They were able to sit down and talk to themselves and some people were advised to step down for others and we had a peaceful and successful convention.

So, the same way we were able to come out of the national convention unscathed, we would do so in the primaries. In fact, the forthcoming presidential primary will be the best. There are media reports that the President is not going to interfere and I know this president will not interfere with the process. Let’s watch and see.

Some Nigerians are of the opinion that Asiwaju should have withdrawn from the race on account of his age and alleged ill-health and allow younger aspirants to slug it out…

This is an unfair proposal. President Joe Biden of the US is 79 years and older than Tinubu and of course, we are copying from American democracy. At one point, Biden was sick and he transmitted power to the Vice President. It is normal to have elderly people at the party.

And democracy is about one offering himself for service and leadership and when people find you worthy, there is no problem with that. I think people are even exaggerating the issue of Asiwaju’s alleged health challenge. But all human beings including infants, children and youths have one health challenge or the other.

So, it is not only the elderly that fall sick. If you go to the hospital today, there is no age category that is not admitted to different health challenges. I know Asiwaju Tinubu very well and he is a leader that is prepared and has been nursing this ambition for some time and I think he is going to actualise it by the special grace of God.

A renowned Nigerian, Chief Afe Babalola is advocating for an interim national government- that we should not conduct elections now. What is your take?

I think those pushing this opinion are just trying to create more problems for this country. If you want to come out with an interim government, it means, you will hand over to certain individuals and who is going to choose those individuals?

We have one full year to conduct elections. If you set up an interim government, these problems we have today for which you don’t want us to conduct elections, will not disappear, rather other problems will also crop up. Even if you succeed in setting up an interim government, some people will still disagree on its lifespan. Please, this proposal is uncalled for as far as I am concerned.

We have enough time to conduct elections. We have conducted governorship elections in some states and it went well; we have done our convention and it was successful. I think the primaries that are coming up in all the political parties will come and go and we are ready to elect a new President, governors and members of the legislature at the national and state  levels. Let’s not create another problem.

In 2015, APC came to office on the crest of change; in 2019, it was the next level but Nigerians are complaining that they are not feeling the positive impacts of these slogans. What message will the APC be telling Nigerians in 2023?

I will beg Nigerians to be patient. We are part of the global environment and almost every country is experiencing one challenge or the other- either security, economy, health and so on.

We are just coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, which affected almost everywhere on the globe. A lot of things came unexpectedly but the government was able to tackle them. We had an economic meltdown and we exited. So, with patience, all these will come to pass. I can assure you that APC will have a successful and peaceful transition.

What plans do you have for the people of Adamawa if elected as governor considering the fact that some are saying the incumbent has not done badly?

I wouldn’t say that the incumbent governor has not tried but I will do better. So, I want the votes of the Adamawa people so that I can serve them better than the current governor. My administration will not concentrate development at the centre. I know

that Adamawa is an agrarian and civil service state and I will revive and diversify the economy. For example, if you come to my constituency, there is the potential for growing cocoa and we can promote things like this. We will look at the health and education sector, make a total overhaul and grow them.

Today, if you go to Adamawa, 90 per cent of the schools are in a dilapidated state; teacher promotion has been suspended for years, and training and retraining of teachers is not there.

We are faced with the problem of insecurity and part of the solution is to aggressively promote school enrolment so that our youths will not be exposed to people who will indoctrinate them with absurd ideas. We will reintroduce foreign and local scholarships in schools as well as a revolving loan scheme for teachers.

In fact, former Governor Murtala Nyako had a beautiful development plan, which I also intend to revive and build on it. Also, former Governor Boni Haruna whom I worked with equally had laudable programmes, which I intend to leverage and marry with my robust ideas to recalibrate the state.

I will work towards creating jobs by way of opening up skills acquisition centres, reviving the agricultural sector by supporting and encouraging farmers with funds and implements; making ICT a priority for technological advancement of the state, creating social welfare programmes for women and the youth etc. Indeed, have a full package to transform Adamawa.

The controversy over Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act has set the executive against the Legislature. Why is this amendment so important to the National Assembly?

The section is very important because we are operating an unfair democratic process. For example, civil servants are asked to resign before going for elections whereas, political appointees want to eat their cake and have it. They want to occupy their positions while they seek elective office.

When people say the Constitution provides that they should resign 30 days before elections, they forget that the Constitution did not specify which election. It did not specify whether it is a primary or general election. But as politicians, primary elections are key.

If you do not scale through primary elections, you cannot be on the ballot for the main elections. So, we should not give a particular set of people an unfair advantage over others. In my opinion, this is not right and that was why the National Assembly in its wisdom decided to amend this.

The Constitution defines who a civil servant is but does not mention political appointees. Since the Constitution is silent on political appointees, the National Assembly, whose responsibility is to make laws, amended the Electoral Act to make it mandatory for their resignation.

There is nothing wrong in providing a level-playing field for all aspirants instead of allowing some people to use the instrumentality of the office they occupy to have undue advantage over co-contestants.

The PDP recently declared that the military and indeed the APC-led administration are overwhelmed by insecurity. As chairman of the Army, do you agree with them?

If they are talking about being overwhelmed in the sense that the Military, which is not supposed to handle internal security, is now everywhere, I will agree with them. But if they are insinuating that the insurgents and bandits have overwhelmed the military, I will disagree.

The Constitution states that the Armed Forces are meant to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria either by land, sea or air. It is not the responsibility of the Armed Forces to take care of internal security operations. Section 217 of the Constitution empowers the President to deploy the military to quell insurrections.

But now we have an unusual situation with the military carrying out operations in virtually every state in the country. So, the Armed Forces are now carrying out police duties in addition to their primary mandate. Our military, therefore, requires the support and cooperation of every wellmeaning Nigerian in terms of provision of information so that they secure this nation. We thank the National Assembly for appropriating funds for the military to procure arms, equipment and take care of their operations.

Although the funds are not enough, the parliament has played its part very well. I was in Germany a fortnight ago and I went to their Interior Ministry, their Foreign Office, the National Office and the Police. Germany has what is called Federal and State Police. The Federal Police takes care of the borders and airports.

They don’t even have immigration. It is the state police that do most of the jobs and they have a data base. But we don’t have this in Nigeria and that is why we need state police now. It is unfortunate people are politicising this saying governors will hijack state police and use it against opponents. But my argument is that the governors have a maximum of eight years in office and they will come and go but the police will remain.

There is no way you will find a member of the Armed Forces on the streets in Germany because their police are well-equipped and trained and are functioning well. Therefore, apart from having state police, we need to give special attention to our federal police in terms of training, equipment, welfare and motivation.

We have an abnormal situation in Nigeria today but the military is doing their best and we must encourage them.

You mentioned appropriation of funds for the military by the National Assembly but some people are worried that the Tucano fighter jets procured by the military are said not to be put in use against bandits…

How do lay people know that the Tucano jets are not being utilised by the Armed Forces? How do people who are not trained military personnel conclude that the Tucano’s are not being used? If a Tucano is flying in Borno or Zamfara, how could people know?

This is a purely military affair and can confirm to you that the military is doing its best and utilising all the equipment at its disposal to fight insurgents whether it is Boko Haram, ISWAP or bandits.

With the level of insecurity across the country, do you see the possibility of INEC successfully conducting the 2023 elections?

I am very sure. We will be able to conduct elections in 2023. Even in the North-East where I come from, which was the centre of Boko Haram attacks.

The situation has improved. I am not saying insecurity has been completely overcome in the region but it is not as bad as it used to be in the past. In the North-West, bandits are still attacking; in the South-East ESN is attacking and bandits are also in the North Central but the security agencies are working round the clock and the government is also living up to her billings to resolve these challenges. In fact, a few weeks ago, local government elections were held in my state. So, the 2023 elections are possible.

The Federal Government has fixed the National Census for April next year and some Nigerians are of the view that since it’s an election year, it should be suspended until a new government comes in. Do you share these sentiments?

Let us have trust in our government. If we say let us cancel the planned census until a new government takes over, people will still complain when the new government fixes the date for the census. Some will say it is too early in the day; let the government settle down and before long, the tenure of that government will elapse.

This government is constitutional and if it is ready to conduct a National Census, we should allow it to go ahead. Nigerians should stop making excuses on behalf of the government. We have not had a census since 2006, which is against the UN provision of a 10-year interval for censuses. If the government would listen to these kinds of complaints, it would never implement any policy or project. Nigeria needs to move forward.

New Telegraph


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