His political associates see him as a ‘true democrat’ and an ‘extremely loyal party man’. Mr. Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN) was the former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs (2013 -2015); former Supervising Minister, Ministry of Labour and Productivity (2014 – 2015) and current Chairman of PDP Former Ministers’ Forum. He was the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue with the Insurgents. A member of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees (BOT), Tanimu wants to be President of Nigeria under the platform of PDP. He spoke with IYOBOSA UWUGIAREN AND ONYEBUCHI EZIGBO
What inspired you to join the presidential race?
Before I finally made up my mind to join the race, I embarked on wide range consultations with the stakeholders. I have consulted with the traditional rulers, religious and political leaders, including some that are not politicians. The idea was to examine all possibilities. I was encouraged in the course of those consultations; that indeed, there are strong reasons to enter the race. What has been more encouraging is that since the declaration of my interest for the party’s ticket, the response has been so amazing and encouraging. I have received a lot of messages of solidarity and support from influential leaders that any politician who aspires to any office in our party, PDP, must take seriously. The consultations have been very inspiring and encouraging, and that has further strengthened my desire to get the nomination of my party for the presidential election.
Tell us the real reason why you are in this race?
I am encouraged by people who think times have changed. It is not just about getting the ticket of a political party. Any serious political party that wants to win election in 2019 must get a candidate that has certain qualities. People have convinced me that I have these qualities needed to convince Nigerians to win the next presidential election. These qualities are integrity, credibility, knowledge and experience, dedication, sound mind, robust health and dynamism to carry out the strenuous activities of governance. The person should be able to start the activities from day one. He should be able to build a strong relationship across the divide because of the weak foundation we have now and the divisive tendencies that the APC-led government has brought across the landscape and also the fear of God. We need a president that is godly and a president that won’t tell a lie to Nigerians. He must be one who will keep his promises and one who understands the dynamics of what we have now and also has a fair idea of how to solve problems affecting Nigerians. On this basis, I pledge that I have what it takes, not only to contest election, but indeed to defeat the incumbent president and win the election for PDP.
The first stage of this contest is the inter-party election; you need to get through the primaries before the general elections. There are other aspirants, within your party; one is a former vice-president, and some are former governors. What makes you different from these aspirants?
There are a lot of aspirants. All of us are eminently qualified to become Nigeria’s president, and do hundred times better than what the APC is doing now. I think the strong point that will give me an edge over others is that I have no excess baggage that will pull me down. I am not fighting anybody and nobody is fighting me. Eventually, if I am chosen I will rally others around me in the interest of the party. Moving forward to confront the presidential candidate of APC, which is likely to be President Buhari, you must have what President Buhari has or what people think he has on issues surrounding credibility. APC said our candidate has credibility and we must be able to say ours also has credibility. These are issues that our delegates will be looking for when examining our aspirants. It isn’t just about getting a candidate to represent your party. You must also take into consideration the strength and weaknesses of the possible opponents, which other political parties are likely going to field. We won’t want to get a candidate that won’t measure up to the other contenders. I am sure the PDP’s delegates and electorate will be looking at not only who has credentials amongst us but who would be able to beat the candidates of other parties. I am well educated; I have experience in the private and public sectors. I have experience at managing the relationships in government; all the three arms of government. With these wealth of experience, I will ensure that there is strong synergy in the way the three arms of government relate with one other. We do not need a person that will come and overheat the system and create uncomfortable relationship between the executive and the legislature; or between the executive and the judiciary or even divide the executive like we have in the country today. When all candidates are examined holistically, I think I have what it takes to give me an edge at the primaries.
The PDP has received a lot of bashing; following its defeat in 2015, with some people regarding the party as corrupt, and that it did not deliver good services to Nigerians in 16 years of its administration. Do you think PDP still stands a chance?
I strongly believe PDP has a chance of winning this election decisively. Don’t forget we have been in office for 16 years and been in office for longer periods in some states in the country. We have been able to achieve a lot. We have been able to create strong institutions. We have been able to build on infrastructure across the country. We that relationship and we have a long-standing history, as far as working for Nigerians and working with Nigerians is concerned. No political party has that kind of history. What happened was that as a result of well-orchestrated propaganda and campaign of calumny, APC hoodwinked Nigerians into looking at the few faults that some minimum numbers of individuals have done in PDP to make Nigerians not to look at its landmark achievements. PDP will never claim that we are God, we made our mistakes as individuals, but we have learnt a lot of lessons from those mistakes. We have realised that when we came into government that there were a lot of problems. After the long rule of the military in government in Nigeria, we had the problem of economy, which was in shambles. We grew Nigeria’s economy, which we made number one in Africa and the fastest growing economy in Africa; we made it the most sought after hub for investors, immediately after China and Qatar. These are our achievements. We built the critical infrastructure in virtually every unit of every ward and local government in this country and they are there for people to see. We have been able to build strong institutions even, the war against corruption, it was PDP that built the institution and strengthened them. Look at the building and rebranding of airports, we did it. We were able to create the middle class in Nigeria. We provided a lot of opportunities for Nigerians particularly, the younger Nigerians. Look at how we were able to support the entertainment industry. There were a lot young Nigerians who were doing well in sports during the PDP-led federal government. Look at even the health sector; today every state in Nigeria can boost of a teaching hospital or a Federal Medical Centre. Look at the education sector, today every state can boost of one federal university. The PDP-led federal government of President Jonathan created 14 federal universities and these universities have become functional and most of them are on the verge of graduating students. Look at the program we brought for nomadic children; look at the program we brought for Almajiri children. As they are pursuing their animals, they have an opportunity to study Islamic education.
One of the fundamental issues that worked against your party in 2015 was the issue of insecurity created by Boko Haram. Almost three years to another general election, the issue of insecurity is still very pronounced in the country. Tell us how you intend to tackle the challenges?
It is important to know from that I was the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue with the Insurgents. As a result of the work we did another Presidential Committee on Continuous Dialogue was created to continue to dialogue with the leadership of the insurgents, and I was again saddled with the responsibility of chairing the second committee. I can tell you we have been able come up with wide range and comprehensive solutions — that if it had been applied, if the PDP-led government had the time of implementing these recommendations by now Boko Haram would have been history in this country. We spoke with the insurgents, not only Boko Haram; we spoke with Al Shabaab, which is another terror group that wasn’t as prominent, but a break-away group of Boko Haram. We sat down with experienced security operatives and we came up with a template that could decisively control the issue of insurgency.
Can you share those things in the template with us?
I won’t. They are top secret. The report of the committee had been classified, and it will be very unfair of me to come on a national newspaper to begin to say those recommendations. Second, the present government hasn’t been able to add value to what we have done because this government is operating with security agencies that are working at cross purposes, more often tackling themselves and fighting themselves instead of sharing information and intelligence. You may have an agency that is good at information gathering; you may have another that is good at filtering that information for implementation, but what we have today under this APC-led administration is that the agencies are fighting themselves, and this fact was admitted to by the National Security Adviser about three weeks ago, when he appeared before the Senate. Security agencies that fight themselves will definitely not be able to come up with a strong security architecture that would be able to tackle the insecurity in the country. Even if there is security architecture, they won’t be able to work together because they are fighting one other. So part of what I will do, is to ensure that I get experienced hands to man the security agencies we have, those that would be able to work together and bring synergy; those that would be able to come up with a strong security architecture that would be able to ensure that the lives and properties of Nigerians are protected. When I become president, I would take decisive decisions. There are a lot of skilled security men and women in Nigeria that will assist me in doing that. I will bring them together to ensure that the issue of security is confronted frontally.
In the history of this country, Nigerians have not been so divided along ethnic/religious lines as today. Is it still possible for us, as a country to resolve the issue, where every Nigerian will see himself as Nigerians and not just Muslims or Christians; Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa?
We have lived together before, and we can still live together and have a united entity. But, you need a government that is responsible. You need a government that is serious-minded. You need a government that ensures that there is justice, fairness and equity in the way the citizens are treated. Not a government that will look at the citizens and say ‘you gave me five per cent of your votes, you gave me 95 per cent of your votes, so I will treat you differently’: the one that gave me 95 per cent I give you 95 per cent; and the one that gave me five per cent I give you five per cent. Certainly, you are setting the agenda of dividing the people. A government that openly discriminates against their citizens, that access to opportunities is contingent on the person you know or the person you have, then, certainly it won’t be one that will strengthen our bond or strengthen our unity. A government that will begin to create problems of insecurity itself will certainly not be strengthening our unity, and I will give you an example for that. it was late President Umaru Yar’Adua that was able to address the issue of agitations in the Niger Delta, and then came up with a very strong roadmap that was accepted by the communities, including the youths and the government; and which has been implemented holistically. Part of the roadmap was that youths who were not doing anything were sent to school to be educated; those that couldn’t go to school were being sent for vocational and skilled training, so that at the end of the day they would be able to learn some form of trade, so that they would become not only useful to themselves but productive members of the society. This government has come to say that they wouldn’t continue with that program. The resultant effect is that some of the students that have gone to the final year in universities and other high institutions have to withdraw. People that have gone to advance level of training and vocation couldn’t be sponsored again. I see you not as a Nigerian but as a member of a certain ethnic group and you see me like that and people who have previously lived together and worked together have now been set against each other. On top of this, you see people that have issues with one another. Instead of government to come in to intervene honestly and fairly to resolve those issues, they are playing politics with the lives of the people. I will give you an example, people will go and kill and when they kill – because they are seen as certain ethnic groups they are left to go unpunished, while other people are treated differently. There is no way you will treat my people and I differently as second-class citizens and you will expect me to be happy. I know there is injustice and unfairness in the land; certainly those that are not favoured will have some grudges against those that are favoured and this is what has contributed largely again in dividing us, setting us against each other and attacking the foundation of our unity. We use to live in a situation where we admitted that though tribes differ but we stood in brotherhood and sisterhood, but that has been destroyed.
What are your economic ideas to take Nigeria out of the woods?
At the point of changing over of government on the 29th of May 2015, Nigeria had the strongest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Nigeria was the third most sorted out for investors in the world but, today Nigeria’s economy has been destroyed. There are a lot of promises that the APC made during the campaign -some of which they now came to deny and because of policy summersault, even when they eventually came into government that a lot of investors and major players in the economic sector had to divest their investment, fold up and then move out of Nigeria. I will give you some examples; the first policy summersault when they came in was that they brought restriction on the use of domiciliary account; whether individuals or companies that had domiciliary account, they were prevented from operating normally, you could only withdraw money and you couldn’t pay any money into it. Another problem I will give you as an example is that some international businesses that were operating in the country were finding it difficult to repatriate their profit from dividend that they had earned and made legitimately because of what was happening. About three airlines then had to withdraw their activities in Nigeria and two scaled down their activities here and by the time the government brought another change in that policy, a lot of harm and damage had been done to the Nigerian economy. Now, gradually because of this lack of focus, because of this lack of clear policy focus and statement by the government, a lot of people lost interest in Nigeria and so it was no longer an investor’s haven and indeed, instead of investors coming to Nigeria they were divesting and leaving Nigeria. Now they brought policies that were anti-growth and because of that a lot of businesses collapsed; a lot of employers were sacked workers. In the banking sector, the telecommunication sector, in construction industries, a lot of people were sacked; and instead of creating additional jobs like they said, a lot of jobs were lost. The youths that were being encouraged to start their own business and grow wealth and grow the economy were also placed in a situation where their businesses were collapsing, because most of the programs that the government brought for them to access funds at minimum interest rate were now being done away with by government. Look at the history of Nigeria since independence to date, this is the only government that doesn’t have an economic team. This is the only government that doesn’t have an economic adviser. This is the only government that brought a Finance Minister that never had any experience globally or with any international agency or forum that has had a lot of millage that would be able to make policies globally and international and bring policies to Nigeria. So when you look at all these things, certainly, the economy will go down not even talking about the fake promises that they were going to bring dollar on the same level with the Naira. What happened? Today Naira is at its weakest level ever.
What do you think can be done right?
I will first create a very robust environment for the growth of the economy and I will diverse the economy. I will look at other areas, rebuilding of confidence is important because we are at a point were Nigerians are trooping out in hundreds because they don’t believe in Nigeria and Nigeria’s economy. We had a situation under PDP where Nigerians were beginning to believe in themselves and believe in their country and so they were coming back home to invest their hard earned money; and we received billions of Naira coming into Nigeria as foreign direct investment. Because Nigerians believed in their country and in their economy, other people also believed in Nigeria and the economy; so, the first thing any serious minded individual will do – when coming into government as a president, is to rekindle that confidence. Nigerians must be made to believe once again that Nigeria can survive and that Nigeria’s economy can survive. We are going to invest in the economy; so that others can come and invest.
Do you believe in restructuring?
I believe in restructuring.
How can you restructure Nigeria?
A lot of people speak about restructuring in an ambiguous manner. A lot of people say restructuring because they love to speak jaw-breaking grammar. Restructuring means looking at the order of things and changing them for the better; to strengthen our bonds, to create greater progress and prosperity in the country. Society is dynamic and there are a lot of things in this dynamism, where you get to a point where things that worked before wouldn’t work now; and of course needs to be changed. I believe in restructuring, whether you are looking at restructuring from the perspective of resource control or looking at it from the perspective of true federalism or you are looking at it from the perspective of devolution of power or from the perspective of state police. And the situation today, more than ever, has brought out the need for the issue of state police. So I believe in restructuring from whatever perspective you want to look at it; but I believe that it must be done in such a way and manner to ensure fair play and justice, done legally and properly. To do it legally and properly, you must look at the regulations and laws of our country including our constitution. Laws are made to serve as facilitators for a better relationship for the progress of the society; but the moment they begin to act as a hindrance in the wind of progress, they have to be amended. So, more than any other person, as a lawyer, I stand a better chance than any other person to work out a holistic plan on how to amend existing laws to make it possible for the true restructuring of Nigeria to take place. I will give you an example; the constitution gave the state power to create additional local government areas, but that power has been taken away by the same constitution. You create local governments but they would be incomplete until they go through other processes that have to take place in two third of the states in the country, and so it means that the power that has been given to the state House of Assembly is not existing. So, to ensure there is peace you must come up with means and ways of ensuring that the power that has been given is utilized by the state House of Assembly and in the state for the benefit of the people of that state — so that any state that thinks they want to add more local government areas for the development of the state and for the purpose of bringing the government closer to the people, can do it. So that isn’t there and there are a lot of laws like that. So if you talk of restructuring I believe in restructuring, but I don’t speak of restructuring in the terms that others do, in vacuum without understanding the process that will take you to the promise land. For instance, the issue in the South East; every zone in this country has six states, indeed my zone has seven states; why should South East have only five? There is no basis from whatever context you look at it; it is unfair and unjust and this is something I can do. When I become president I certainly will ensure that an additional state is created for South East and we then look at the needs of other zones. I will recognise the National Assembly. Everyone will live happily within the country, feeling a sense of belonging.