INTERVIEW: We Need To Have Nigeria Before We Have Elections – Akpabio
In this exclusive interview with Ladi Akeredolu-Ale on Channels Television’s Roadmap 2019, the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, spoke about Nigeria’s challenges, the forthcoming elections, and the controversy surrounding his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), among other issues.
Read the excerpt below;
So many people were caught unawares by your move from one direction to the other. Most people expected moves from one direction to another, but yours was in the other direction. I think this is the first time you probably would have the opportunity to explain why you took that decision. Why did you?
I think it was very sudden a decision to move from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where I was one of the chieftains to the All Progressives Congress (APC). In has generated a lot of controversy in the polity but the reality is that I moved in the national interest. I moved as a result of personal convictions and I moved in order to contribute my quota towards saving democracy in Nigeria.
You’ve been in the PDP. You’ve served as commissioner, became governor (two terms), Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum; you went to the Senate and during your first term you were made the Senate Minority Leader. So, people would ask what more could you possibly be thinking that would make you move in that direction at this time?
I won’t say it was a spur of the moment decision, but I would rather say that what actually happened was that I saw a situation of where the country is likely to go into a crisis as a result of what I may call ‘sudden defections’ – so, it’s a systematic attempt to bring democracy to an end in the country. In the PDP, we suffered a major setback when in 2014 or thereabouts, we had some governors with some chieftains walked out on us at the Eagle Square during the National Convention, and thereafter they teamed up with a couple of others and then the APC was formed. We thought it was a joke but it turned out that at the end of the day, after the 2015 elections, we suffered a major defeat and I think that was the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent Federal Government will be defeated, and it was also a fantastic beauty for democracy, and it was a good sign in Africa.
Thus far, when I watched what was going on in the Senate, it could have been advantageous to my party then (PDP) but I found out that it was likely to crash the Federal Government and I said when this end will? If we vote a government into power, I will support that government. Continuous distractions of government in the past, including the state government, in some instances, have resulted in a lot of dislocation of policies and stunted growth. Today, Africa generally is almost a laughing stock in the comity of civilised democracies in the world because so many noises were made during an election and at the end, so little in terms of deliverables.
These things are as a result of continuous conspiracies against the government and all sorts of things. So, I don’t think that the movements that we saw from the APC to my then party were prompted by national interest, I think most of those things were based on the personal interest of individuals. Some felt that they may not be able to win an election, some felt that they had offended the principalities in their party and so, they decided to move.
For me, I saw a situation where the ruling party was not only being distracted but the movements were capable of bringing down the government. We need to have Nigeria before we can have the election. A country can crash under three months, we need to have Nigeria before we can have an election. I just assessed the situation and I said I needed to contribute my quota towards stabilising the situation; towards ensuring that people realise that it wasn’t all about a conspiracy to bring down a government but to conspire to resolve the security situation.
We should conspire to provide employment opportunities; we should conspire to stabilise the government, to ensure that we leave a better future for our children.
We should conspire to bring food to the table of Nigerians; not to conspire to just take government for the sake of taking government.
The reason why I’m saying this is that in 2015, a group of Nigerians (major stakeholders then) in the PDP came together and conspired to crash the government of the then President Goodluck Jonathan. They were able to give all sorts of reasons – inability to ensure the security of the nation, Boko Haram was terrorising the North-eastern part of Nigeria and was likely to spread to the North-west and the South-south and so, there was a need for them to do something to ensure that the government was changed.
But we’ve seen now that a change of government, a change at the federal level was not necessarily in the interest of the nation, it was in the interest of those people. Now, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has come; it has shown a lot of commitment towards fighting insurgents. At that time when we were in charge in the PDP, I can tell you that so many communities and local governments across the North East were under the control of Boko Haram, their flags were flying everywhere and they were moving around freely.
In fact, they were a government-within-government. But since this administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board, they have managed to ensure that no single territory is being held by Boko Haram. The next thing was the escalation of the herdsmen-farmers crisis and thereafter, the entry of terrorists from outside Nigeria.
Before you knew it, there was the emergence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and we have not totally settled the issue of Niger Delta militancy and our fear is that the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) could also come on stream. In my senatorial district, we have a group of young militants who have taken over three communities of my senatorial district today.
So, a change to the Federal Government is not necessarily a panacea towards the stability of the nation and security of the nation. I think what we need to do, as Nigerians, is in a non-partisan way across party lines, when we install a government at the Federal level, we must support that government to succeed.
There will be those who will say since you were going to be one of the beneficiaries from the way things were going, was it not possible to do what you wanted to within the ambit of the PDP?
You don’t even understand. Elections are in 2019, and the movements we are talking about happened this year. Looking at them, they are capable of crashing the Federal Government even before the election; that was why I said we need to have Nigeria before we talk about the elections.
Nigerians are not so much interested in who is in charge; Nigerians want to be secured, Nigerians want to sleep with their eyes closed; Nigerians want to see their children get a good education, they want to move around without let or hindrance. But you see, we seem to miss the point. The point is that we have a major situation in Nigeria. When a country is in crisis; when there is an emergency, every hand must be on deck.
We are not learning from America and other places. If we have people from outside marauding over Nigeria, killing people in Plateau State, killing people in Benue State, killing in Adamawa, killing in Taraba; causing a lot of kidnappings and insurgencies and then you realise that not all of them are Nigerians, and these things are meant to destabilise the Federal Government, what should we do?
As nationalists, we should want Nigeria to survive – it doesn’t matter the political party. That is the wrongest (if that word exists in English) time, in my opinion, for us to continue defection. The intention here is to bring down the Federal Government even before the elections.
To point the Federal Government in a bad light; I’m sorry, I don’t think I owe so much apologises to people who may not think well of Nigeria, who only think of their electoral fortunes and all that. Yes, it could provide electoral fortunes for them but for me, there was a need for us to ensure that Nigeria survives before any election.