Former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, bemoans the ceding of oil-rich Bakassi to Cameroun. In this interview with OBIORA IFOH, he says President Goodluck Jonathan was armtwisted on the issue. Excerpt.
Nigeria recently celebrated its 52nd anniversary and the thinking of Nigerians is that the country will get better, what potential do you think lay ahead of the nation?
Nigeria is great and I believe that this country is destined to even be greater. The issue of nation-building is a huge challenge not only to Nigeria, but to most African nations and as recent events have shown, even the rest of the world, there are changes going on and the entire world has been facing some major structural movements. If you look back to 30 years ago, the kind of changes that took place around the world, you find out that every region of the world has been facing one challenge or the other and certainly African has not been left behind. But as a patriot and someone who believes in this country, I believe that Nigeria is much better than other African countries in terms of potential for greatness. But as the President has said during his independence anniversary speech, that it has to be a collective responsibility for everyone of us. But as analyses have shown, great leaders make the difference but even then you also need very good followership. Things have actually changed in Nigeria and whatever challenges we are facing today are such that will make us stand and fight for our nationhood.
Where do you see Nigeria in the next one year?
The President has said categorically even when he was campaigning that he wants to make a difference and I think this issue has been well-articulated. Initially, people were not too sure what he wanted to do but transforming a country cannot be done overnight and surely the fundamentals of development that we are all yearning are being addressed including the energy sector, agriculture, education, healthcare sector, infrastructure both urban and rural amongst others. These are fundamentals which government has engaged itself in the last one year and I know that sometimes our people intend to be a bit cynical, there is this tendency not to trust government but people sometimes are first judged by their intentions and since there is a lot of conscious efforts to address these issues, I think we must give the President the needed support so that together we can move the country forward. There are certain things which we as Nigerians must do individually and collectively to ensure that we move this country forward, it shouldn’t be a one-man show as it is. There are political parties including the opposition, the government, National Assembly, judiciary, clergies, traditional rulers, everybody should speak against evil and speak for peace, so that Nigeria can come out of the woods.
The government is soliciting for prayers and has actually inaugurated a prayer team, does this in any way suggest incompetence on the side of government in tackling the ills of the society?
If you have ever seen the symbol of Northern Nigeria, you had the horse on one side and the carmel on the other side and the slogan was ‘work and worship’ and even in your daily life, the two things go together. While you work hard, you must pray that God blesses whatever you do. Of course, prayer cannot substitute hard work but I think what government is doing is to let people come back and to remember that Nigeria is the only country that we have and if we damage it, it wouldn’t be the country alone but ourselves.
What’s your take on the Bakassi controversy?
Even as a political scientist and a person who has been teaching International Relations, I have my reservation on this Bakassi crisis. As a human being, imagine what will happen if you cut off one of your fingers. You will feel a lot of pains. Bakassi was supposed to be part of Nigeria but if along the history of evolution of modern Nigeria and modern Cameroun, that certain things happened to let Bakassi out of this country and has now been internationalised and United Nations found itself involved and how Nigeria committed itself having passed through all the international agencies; it is not for me to now begin to comment on it because when the National Assembly spoke, I believe they know something about the issue that most Nigerians do not know. I believe also that when the Federal Government stands by its decision, there is also something they know. Along the line, I believe they are talking together and a final decision will be taken by them, so that this issue will be sorted out once and for all. But no matter what decision they take, ceding any part of this country must be a difficult decision. Not really because of the oil wells there, it is not the oil that makes the people but people decide their environment. So, even if it is just a hamlet that you have to part away with, it must be a very painful decision.
Recently, there were threaths of impeachment against President Jonathan over non-implementation of the 2012 budget. How do you see the development?
I don’t know who you are listening to, opposition political parties or National Assembly? The constitution provides for impeachment and also provides the basis of impeachment and also how impeachment is carried out. Impeaching a President is not something that is done like that, it is a very difficult process and on this note, I want to ask that people should allow the process of government administration to continue. The National Assembly and the executive will continue discussing issues at all levels and it is not for me to talk about impeachment because we are not part of it. I believe we voted people into position of authority to serve the country and the only way they can do that is in an atmosphere of peace and stability.
Having served in the last National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP, can you give your leadership a thump up?
I have said repeatedly that no matter the imperfections in party politics, PDP has been able to achieve a few things that we have taken for granted because until 1998 the history of the evolution of party politics tend to be regionally- based and build around personalities. PDP is not controlled by any individual as at today and it is not being controlled by any small group maybe coming from one region or ethnic group or have any religious inclination or whatever. It is based nationwide and wherever you go in this nation, even in wards, you will see the flag of the PDP flying. What we have also done within the short time we had was to build the party in such a way that by the time we went for the 2011 elections, at least we were broad-based but that does not mean that we didn’t have challenges or had internal divisions but it was expected because everybody wanted to be part of the service; everybody wanted to be part of the action. This shows how important the party is; I mean of all the parties INEC registered, how many of them have you ever heard had organised convention or NEC meetings? We strengthened the foundation of the party and we look ahead knowing that we were building democracy and the nation at the same time.
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