Middle Belt will slug it out with far North in 2019 —Hon KazeHonourable Bitrus Kaze is a former member of House of Representatives, in this interview with ISAAC SHOBAYO, he speaks on the zoning of Presidency to the North, exclusion of the North-Central, restructuring and other issues. Excerpt:
Sir, from all indications the two major political parties in the country have zoned presidency to the North and most of those aspiring to be president in 2019 are either from the North East or North West, does it means the North Central has no presidential materials?
It is too early to come to the conclusion that the Middle Belt has no presidential aspirant merely because those who are indicating interest at the moment are either from the North East or North West. I am not aware for example that President Buhari has declared interest to contest in 2019 but I am unable to say that he will not contest just because he has not so indicated at the moment. From the history of Nigeria, the Middle Beltans have more than capable hands who are qualified and ready as always to provide leadership for Nigeria especially now that agitations for balkanisation of the country are being renewed.
Don’t you think the North Central should be given the opportunity to present a presidential candidate in 2019?
The Presidency of Nigeria is not a matter of chance and I am not sure the Middle Belt will assume Nigeria’s Presidency by chance. We will slug it out with the far North and Nigerians know better who among the two is more tolerant, accommodating and unifying when it comes to relating with fellow compatroits.
Quite a lot of people are of the opinion that Nigeria runs the most expensive democracy in the world and for this reason either the Senate or House of Representatives should be scrapped to reduce cost, do subscribe to this?
I don’t believe that Nigeria runs the most expensive democracy in the world neither do I subscribe to tampering with our bicameral National Assembly. Just because a lot of people share particular opinion doesn’t always justify such views. The Jews overwhelmingly opined that Christ be crucified but His crucifixion remains unjustified. The House overwhelmingly supported our suspension in June 2010 but the court held that our suspension was a tyranny of the majority. Surely a majority can be wrong. Given our military hangover, a lot of Nigerians don’t even see the need for the legislature in the first place, therefore, whatever is spent on the legislative arm of government amounts to waste to some people. Democracy is comparable to education; if anyone thinks education is too expensive let them try illiteracy. If despite our bicameral parliament we are still struggling with the overbearing tendency of the executive arm of government, you can be sure that a few people will pocket Nigeria if either of the chambers of our parliament is scrapped. We need both. Democratic rule may be expensive by nature but undemocratic rule is even more costly. I believe that over time most Nigerians will accommodate the legislature in their psyche when democracy becomes more entrenched.
Those clamouring for the restructuring of Nigeria see it as a solution to the structural imbalance and other problems confronting the country, can this address the problems?
A lot of semantics have been deployed in trying to resolve the national question. It was true federalism, then resource control and now it is called restructuring. Anyone may disagree that the age-long clamour for restructuring will solve Nigeria’s structural problems; surely however that Nigeria truly needs to squarely face our national structural imbalance now cannot be contemplated. I won my elections in 2007 with about 110,000 votes my four opponents scored a combined vote of about 50,000. There are some Senatorial Districts where elections are won and lost with less than 70,000 votes and there some Senatorial Districts that are exactly the same electoral constituency as the House of Representatives. The electoral constituencies in Nigeria was fashioned out by the military which put some parts of this country in vintage positions over others. For example, the North West geo-political zone is constituted by seven states while the South East has only five states. Kano State alone has 24 members in the House of Reps while the whole of the South-South geo-political zone, which produces the economic livewire of the country has 41 members. I can go on and on, we may continue to pretend only at our national peril.
Recently, the Federal Government posited that Nigeria is out of economic recession, from the indices on ground, can we say the country has exited recession?
Like you rightly said, all the indices on ground show a worsening economic situation. I don’t understand why after pumping billions of USD into the economy, the exchange rate is still hovering between N360 to N370 to a USD. To me this is false economy, what would have become of our foreign exchange rate had government not injected these billion into the market? Government should concentrate on the productive sectors and spend massively on infrastructure to create jobs. What has become of the billions recovered from treasury looters, how have the huge recovery been reinvested?A political party may win elections by propaganda but they cannot provide and sustain good governance by propaganda. They may continue to claim that we are out of recession, but the masses know better that things have changed but only for the worse.
Do you think entity called Nigeria should be renegotiated by all ethnic partners to chart a better course for the country?
Much as Nigerians feel very strongly about their ethnic roots, I am not sure that renegotiating Nigeria only purely on the basis of ethnicity will sort us out. All the key issues need to be taken into account, in addition to ethnicity, fundamental freedoms including that of religion and fair economic competition matter a whole lot. If negotiating Nigeria’s future is exclusively on the basis of ethnicity then those of us who are from the minority ethnic nationalities may be losers from the outset. The resources that have sustained Nigeria’s economy for long have been derived from ancestral lands of ethnic minorities but the majority ethnic nations have always deployed their numbers to force their way.
Nigeria runs a federal system more by name than in practice, we run a powerful unitary system coated in the garb of a federal system. What is missing to my mind is the will to pursue a true federal system and the will is not there because what obtains favours some particular sections of the country and they would do anything to maintain the status quo.