I’m APC’s Best Bet To Beat Gov. Fintiri-Rep. Namdas

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

…..Direct primaries, electronic transfer of votes will give power back to voters

……..Pardoning Boko Haram members not advisable

…… Planned funding for Armed Forces highly need

Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Army, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas is one of the early birds in the race for the governorship ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Adamawa State. Namdas who once served as the spokesman of the House has been described as a unifying figure in his party and state as he has consulted top politicians across party lines. His style of politics has been described as unique, even as he insists that he is in the race to win. The member representing Jada/Ganye/MayoBelwa/Toungo Federal Constituency, spoke with KEMI YESUFU on his ambition, local and national politics. He also shared his opinion on the performance of the Armed Forces, even as the nation grapples with high level insecurity. This as he spoke on the timeliness of the newest amendments to the Electoral Act, chiefly, the introduction of direct primaries and the electronic transmission of votes.     

You have met former governors, Boni Haruna, Senator Jibrilla Bindow over your governorship ambition without problems, and you seem to still be in good terms with former Vive-President Atiku Abubakar. How are you able to manage your relationship with different powerbrokers in Adamawa State?

What I understand in politics is loyalty. You should be loyal to anyone who has helped you. Even when you part ways politically like the instance of my principal, Boni Haruna, his being a member of the PDP, while I am of the APC…..I still recognize the fact that he is my boss anytime, any day. Our being in two different parties shouldn’t stop us from relating. He (Haruna) can still send me on errands and I will go. It is the same thing for Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. I still have respect for him. (Former) Governor Bindow and I are in the same party and we have always been together politically. As young men, we need to remain loyal to those who gave us the opportunity to serve, we need to show this kind of example. I prefer to be a symbol of unity, so much that other aspirants and I relate well.  When you have it at the back of your mind that power belongs to God and He gives it to whom He pleases, you will relax your mind and do whatever you can to sell yourself to the people and let them decide.

You are the representative of the former Vice-President in the House though you belong to different parties. Do you think you can repeat electoral victory at the governorship level?

People have asked me this question a number of times. But you see, we are looking for two different offices. He is operating at a higher level. I seek the highest office in my state and he is a big person, who is interested in the highest office in the land. We don’t belong to the same party. We will play the game according to the rules. I have respect for him, but I know Adamawa is an APC state, never mind what happened in the last election. We lost though we were on ground because some people were aggrieved and got involved in anti-party activities which contributed to our defeat. But now, we have learnt from our mistakes and have decided that whoever emerges from the party, we will rally round him to ensure that he wins.

Are you saying the current governor hasn’t done well or you would prefer that your party is in-charge?

I feel that I will do better if given the opportunity to serve. The experience I’ve garnered gives me the edge. I was in the media for a while, I have contested elections, winning and losing at different times. If you look at the committees I have headed and been a member, they have exposed me to the working and challenges of government. As chairman House Committee on Army, I have knowledge that is most needed in Nigeria today. The major challenge in Nigeria is the level of insecurity, so, if you can manage security effectively in your state, other forms of development will follow.  Aside from having the needed expertise, I have good plans for Adamawa State. I come from the state. I am a local person. My father was a primary school teacher. I know what education has done for me, so education is a key aspect of my plan for Adamawa.

Chairman, House Committee on Army, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas

Does the zoning arrangement in your state favour you?

Talking about zoning, the Central Zone has not produced a governor since 1999, they produced a deputy governor once. I come from the Southern Zone from where two governors have been produced, Bamanga Tukur and Muritala Nyako. The other zone has had about six slots. But for me, when you are in the opposition zoning shouldn’t be your topmost priority. You are supposed to pick your best, so that he can defeat the man in office. The best thing for the APC is for all the aspirants to contest and let the best person emerge to contest with the man in office. Zoning isn’t part of the constitution, it’s a gentleman agreement within parties, though I can tell you that my Federal Constituency hasn’t produced a governor. I am in the race with all seriousness and I will see it to the end. But more importantly, I have placed my ambition in the hands of God.

Talking about your constituency, what would say is your biggest achievement which you can promise Adamawa people that you replicate at the state level?

 As a legislator my primary responsibility is to make laws. If we start from this point, I can tell you a bill I sponsored was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari. I was among the first eight lawmakers of   the 8th assembly whose bill(s) were assented to by the president. Talking about attracting infrastructure to my constituency, there is a major road which cuts through the four LGs which make up my constituency: Jada, Ganye ,MayoBelwa, and Toungo. I raised a motion on this road which links Adamawa to Taraba State because it has been a much talked about project for twenty years without any work done. I got support based on my motion, up to the level of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (Boss Mustapha). The Federal Government awarded the contract at the sum of N22.7 billion, at a point the we didn’t have money to fund the project, but the Federal Government resorted to the SUKUK Bond. The project is half way done. In fact, I can reveal to you that this project brought so much joy to my people, that it is one of the reasons they returned me to the House. For me, roads are the foundation for other forms of development. Lastly, I can tell you that I immersed myself to the various capacity building opportunities as a lawmaker, I understand governance with much depth.

Chairman, House Committee on Army, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas

What’s your position on the amendment of the Electoral Act as passed by the Senate, the key issues being electronic transmission of votes and direct primaries for political parties?

I have heard a number of people, including the opposition kicking against direct primaries. But I think anybody who is kicking against direct primaries, doesn’t want democracy to grow in Nigeria. Some countries may have gone beyond the level of Nigeria’s democracy, but we know that we haven’t attained their level of political sophistication. It is better to allow the electorate decide who to lead them from the scratch. You will see someone in Abuja or the US, who has never contributed to the wellbeing of the people and someone in the party will assure him that he will be handpicked as the party’s candidate by equally handpicked delegates. These handpicked delegates will vote people who will end up being LG chairman, House of Assembly member, governor, member of the House of Representatives, senators and the President. In the case of indirect primaries, it is only people who have the resources that can win the party’s ticket. The truth is, direct primaries will help in reducing money politics. How can we continue with picking a number of people as delegates then you have aspirants sharing figures like N200,000 or N300,000 to the same delegate, who may go home with hundreds of thousands just because a party stakeholder wrote his name as a delegate? When you have thousands of people queue to vote a candidate, they will come out happily to do this and politicians will spend less. The best thing about direct primaries is that all parties will have to follow suit. Parties will have to learn ways of doing this. I believe in first making the law and we can work on getting the implementation right as we go. On electronic transfer of results, it is the best option for us.  We will no longer record over-voting or issues of someone cooking up figures on paper. 

Could it be that the APC congress held in your state favoured you, hence your keen support of direct primaries?

 I started from the Action Congress (AC), to the Action Congress of Nigeria and now the All Progressives Congress, so, direct primary is not new to me. It is something I have practiced. People are reacting because it is now binding on all parties.  

Recently, we witnessed politicians taking turns to visit the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu while he was convalescing in the UK. You were among those who visited him. Is this an endorsement of Asiwaju’s presidential ambition?

Why should we choose the UK to endorse him (Tinubu)? it doesn’t make sense. Tinubu is a leader in our party, the President visited him, some governors went to see him to also check how he was recovering. We are members of the National Assembly nominated to visit him…so we went to check on him. I have a personal relationship with Asiwaju, I was in AC, later ACN and eventually the APC.  I could have visited him on my own, talk more of when I was nominated to be part of the delegation from the House.

But we heard people among you call Tinubu, ‘Your Excellency’. Isn’t that an endorsement?

I want to be governor of my state. From the day I told people I hope to be governor by the special grace of God, they started calling me, ‘Your Excellency’, they stopped calling me Hon. These are simple appellations people call you in expression of their wishes.

President Buhari in his October 1st address accused some members of the National of Assembly of sponsoring insurgency. This led to reaction, including a motion on the floor of the House, calling on the President to name those persons and have them prosecuted. How do you react to this?

The information at the disposal of the President is much higher than mine. So, I agree that if there are people in the National Assembly who are sponsoring insurgency, their names should be made public at the appropriate time. I don’t think we as members of the National Assembly want to be looked at with suspicion. For me, insurgency has decreased significantly while banditry is taking over. But like I have argued at different times, banditry should be classified as terrorism. By the time bandits are designated as terrorists, our security agencies will do a better job. Since bandits display the same characteristics with terrorists, they should be categorized as such. You need to the level of violence and destruction these bandits have caused, it looks like what happened in Borno State. For us, who oversight security agencies, we see no difference between a bandit and a terrorist.

You’ve just said insurgency has decreased significantly, so are you giving the military a pass mark?

When was the last time you heard of a spate of attacks in Borno which the epicenter of the insurgency? In fact, it is the bandits who have taken over. Some of us believe that many of these people may have relocated from the North-East to other places, so let’s tackle them.   

The National Assembly has commenced work on the 2022 budget, are you satisfied with the allocation to the Nigerian Army?

I would prefer to speak on the budgeting for the Armed Forces because the army can’t work in isolation to get good results. The media has consistently complained that so much has been allocated to the military and they haven’t seen much result. I differ to a certain extent. I believe we shouldn’t adopt the stop-gap approach to planning and budgeting for the military. In other parts of the world government implements long term plans for the military. Be it in peace time or during insurgency, countries should equip and train its Armed Forces. In fact, we should invest more during peace time. We don’t have to wait and when a problem arises, we take a budget to address to new situation to the National Assembly. We don’t have to wait for a problem like banditry to arise for us to start procuring equipment. We have countries that show off the war equipment, they show off their preparedness to deal with any form of aggression. For me, we should even have a 10-year plan for investment in the military. When I was on oversight in Maiduguri years back, I saw some equipment that were procured under President Shagari, would we have that equipment if he didn’t have the foresight? I think we should deemphasize money and look at other greater costs like human lives and infrastructure which can be protected by a well-equipped military.  Can we equate the loses recorded in the North-East or the havoc caused by bandits to money?

Can Nigerians get the promise that the National Assembly as the arm of government whose duty it is to ensure accountability will effectively oversight military expenditure?

Let’s first agree that we need a 10-year plan to fund and equip the military. When we agree, it is then the duty of the National Assembly to monitor how the money is spent. Agencies charged with the responsibility to check fraud like EFCC and ICPC will also perform their duties. But we have to understand the issues around procurement for security agencies and the military. For example, this government displayed political will to say Nigeria wants to purchase Super Tucano aircrafts. We made the 100 percent payment because we knew there won’t be stories. But we were told that it would take three years to deliver the aircrafts, we also had to meet certain requirements of agreement. For military procurement, we have government to government negotiations to avoid some of these equipment getting into the wrong hands. But I certainly agree that people must be accountable, you can’t just give people money for security and they expect that their books won’t be checked.

We have lost personnel and material relying on the use of aircrafts and other old ways of fighting insecurity. How do we modernize the operations of the Nigerian military?

I have spoken about the Super Tucano aircrafts severally because the money spent to procure them. But the military is also procuring the equipment they need to be effective, from the basics like grade-A vehicles to armored vehicles. The truth about security is that you don’t announce the investments you are making. But I can tell you Nigeria is buying modern equipment for the military. In fact, if not for the inter-agency rivalry, we wanted to establish Army Aviation. You can do a little bit of investigation; many advanced countries have Army Aviation as part of their security architecture. The essence of this department is to have the army operate with aircrafts that can fly low and hit targets to clear the way for troops. We are working on a bill to establish the Nigerian Armed Forces Fund, through which the armed forces have alternative source of funding. If we have this fund, we don’t have to rely solely on the budget.

What is your reaction calls from certain quarters that returning Boko Haram members are pardoned?

Speaking for myself, If I know this person is a Boko Haram member, pardon is out of the question for him. Have you seen the havoc and destruction those people have caused? Some of us trekked to school, we trekked to fetch water from the next community. Now that we should living better, people can’t live their lives peacefully, children cannot even go to school. I personally will not support pardon. People say we should take back those (Boko Haram members), rehabilitate them and return them to their community and I ask, how will those they killed their parents and relatives react? We’ve also had people who returned to communities who acted as moles to the insurgents. Let the law take its course.  

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