Mr. Inuwa Bwala is a politician and former commissioner for information and culture as well as Home Affairs to two ex-governors of Borno and Nasarawa states. In this exclusive interview with The Dream Daily Political Correspondent, AKOMBO AONDONA, he speaks to some burning issues in national politics, including why President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have lost many Nigerians who had high expectations of him to perform after his fairy-tale victory in the 2015 presidential election. Excerpt:
Mr. Inuwa Bwala, thank you for speaking with The Dream Daily Newspaper. Let’s start with introducing your distinguished self to our readers…
“I am a circumstantial politician, a journalist and author of two books, a farmer and a hotelier. I served as SA (Special Assistant) media to two former governors of Borno and Nasarawa states, I served, twice, as Commissioner for Home Affairs, Information and Culture to two former governors of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Kashim Shettima. I have been involved in sundry political activities. Today I am the Editor-In-Chief of National Trail Newspaper, based in Abuja.
How would you assess citizen participation in politics and national development in the country today?
You will agree with me that the problem of Nigeria has been a lack of purposeful leadership. We have had to contend with people who virtually forced themselves into leadership positions, even when they have little or no idea of how to lead. This has resulted into the Nigerian political space being controlled by a clan of misfits who build our commonwealth around personalities, who in turn determine the level of’ participation by others.
These days, there is a growing consciousness amongst Nigerians, who insist on having their way, in reaction against the personalisation of politics by the few people in positions of power. The new Electoral Act has tended to widen the political space, and offers opportunities to people who had been hitherto sidelined, thereby bringing in more political players into the game. This will tend to give opportunities to people who may have potential to lead the country but who have been denied the opportunities to manifest their potential.
You will agree with me that the political trend in Nigeria today has been made more interesting because of the involvement of more citizens in seeking to occupy leadership positions and contribute their quotas to national development.
We do not need to recycle leaders anymore, as Nigerians have seen through the antics of the old order and citizens are now demanding accountability.
How can Nigeria build her political culture devoid of religion and ethnic suspicion among her citizens?
The manipulation of sentiments, religious or ethnic, has been the alibi employed by successive leaders over time, to the extent that it assumed a life of its own. Since the First Republic, when the likes of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello started the Northernization programme and Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced the Yoruba agenda into their politics, consequent upon which the first coup was staged – targeted mainly against a particular section of the country – ethnicity and regionalism began to rear their ugly heads in the nation’s polity. The counter-coup and the attendant Civil War, both had ethic undertones. That was the genesis of the problem, to me.
It assumed a more dangerous dimension when religion was introduced as a way of winning the sympathy of the gullible Nigerian. It became even more explosive when the two became criteria for getting elected or appointed into political office.
Some politicians have now adopted the twin issues of religion and ethnicity as their main yardsticks for gauging the people’s mood. Today, they have become the main narratives in political permutations, to the effect that they have become etched into our political lexicon and it will be difficult to get them out of our DNA. Virtually everything is determined at the whims and caprices of ethic jingoists and religious bigots, so much so that religion and ethnicity have become Siamese twins of our politics, unfortunate as it is.
One of the possible ways we can build a political culture, devoid of religion and ethnic considerations is to rewrite the narrative and see things on merit. We must consider ourselves first as Nigerians and relegate primordial sentiments to the back seat in our development agenda. It may look herculean, but I believe it is doable.
How would you assess the Buhari administration?
Depending upon where you stand, assessing the government depends on many factors, one of which is one’s political inclination. But objectively speaking, one can say that like every regime, the Buhari administration has its high and low points. It is inappropriate to dismiss government as not having done anything good in every facet, just as it is not possible to say government has met all the expectations of the citizenry.
I think the greatest problem of the Buhari administration, is that public expectations from it were rather too high. It came in with the burden of so many promises that needed to be met, without giving some of them a second thought, in the bid to sway the voters. Like others before it, it did not envisage the eventual upset that came with its victory against the incumbent. And when victory was thrust on its laps, it seemed confused.
Also, it did not envisage the magnitude of the problems at hand, and when confronted with the realities on ground, against the limited resources available to it, it became overwhelmed.
Lastly, the government came in with so many ideas and wanted to translate all into policies at the same time, thereby failing to adequately address any one problem effectively. Beyond that, it came with so much malice against the previous regime and its main players, and wanted to dismantle everything the previous government did, apparently forgetting the principle of continuity in governance. All these and so many others I might not have addressed did not seem to have helped the Buhari administration.
On the positive side, you may agree with me that the government has made great difference in the area of infrastructural development. I think in a long time no government has paid so much attention to infrastructural development or upgrade as this administration. Since you talk about a general overview, this is the much I can say now.
Okay. What is your response to recent media reports about the defection of Sen. Ali Modu Sherrif from the APC?
I cannot hold brief for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, having parted ways with him for a very long time. But I don’t think that report refers to Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, rather another of his name sake. He has no cause to leave the APC, as he may not have another party he can run to and feel safe. He is safer with the prospects if bouncing back into reckoning with the APC. The (opposition Peoples Democratic Party) PDP has not yet forgiven him for his perceived roles in causing the crisis that has rocked the party to date. He cannot run to any of the third-rate parties, given his knack for impact. I think he is still with the APC, having congratulated Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate Kashim Shettima over their emergence as joint standard bearers of the APC.