Senator Ahmad Babba Kaita represents Katsina North senatorial district, where President Muhammadu Buhari hails from. In this interview with Daily Trust, Kaita spoke on the controversial section 84(12), the crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), zoning, his 2023 ambition and the state of affairs in Katsina State. He also opened up on securing employment for his constituents.
Controversy has continued to trail the verdict of the Federal High Court on section 84(12) of the 2022 Electoral Act. What do you make of the development?
Let me start by saying that the manner of filing the suit in Umuahia is in itself funny and questionable. The headquarters of the judiciary is in Abuja, the National Assembly, which is a necessary party, is in Abuja, yet they decided to file it in Umuahia. This is one funny aspect of this judgement and we know that the judge has a link to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
Secondly, I have no reason not to believe it is a procured judgement and it is meant to buy time for the people who are supposed to benefit from this litigation. Insha’Allah, we will not allow them to do that.
What do you make of the swift response of the AGF’s office to gazette the judgement?
There is a general belief in the country that this particular act of the Nation Assembly is being brought by some powerful executives within the administration. This has been proven by the people who are insinuating this opinion.
I have never seen where a court would delete a bill passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the president; no court can do that. If a court can do it, then we don’t have separation of powers. What the court can do is to determine if an act conflicts with another, which in this case, it does not.
There was a subsisting act in the 1999 Constitution that says any public servant who wants to contest should retire one month before the contest, but we are not talking of public servants here but political appointees.
We are not saying this because we were threatened by anybody, but in order not to destroy the democracy we invested time on. A situation where political appointees will make their way into the politics of Nigeria will not be fair, especially where they want to use the resources of government to get what they want by hook or crook, as that is not democracy.
What we expect is that if you want to contest, relinquish your political office, meet your people, show them your manifesto, give them the reasons they should vote for you, but do not use the machinery and apparatus of government to bulldoze your way into the political scene.
This is exactly the fear, and this has reassured us that the same political appointees are being used to serve their political masters. That is why we feel that we should save our democracy.
If you want to contest an election, nobody will prevent you because you have a constitutional right to do so, but it should be in the proper manner. In essence, if you are holding a political appointment, drop it 180 days to your election, go and campaign so that you will be on an equal level with other contestants.
Don’t you think the litigation has Mr President’s blessings since he wrote to you, the parliamentarians, to request for the deletion of the contentious clause?
I know that whatever the president does, he does with good intention for Nigeria. I have no iota of doubt about that. The problem is that if you are surrounded by interested parties, they will always give you a reason to do their bidding. No one is an island or has a monopoly of knowledge. He has to listen to people, especially those close to him. But the tendency of close aides misinforming leaders is well known and a worldwide phenomenon. In the case of President Buhari, it can’t be different.
We want to believe that he is doing this with all the best of intentions. However, maybe he is not seeing the other side of the story because the person who is supposed to guide him on any legal issue is the attorney-general and everyone knows that he is an interested party in the forthcoming national elections. His posters are already in Kebbi to run for the governorship seat.
Let us not forget that President Buhari was a champion of direct primaries when he realised that the money bags would never allow his popularity to propel him to power, but eventually, he acted against it because he was ill-advised.
The people who wanted to take advantage of it advised that it would be rancorous and spell doom for the APC, as well as lead to the party not performing well in the elections. These notions are not entirely true because by accepting that we are shortchanging the very people that brought this government to power.
So, why will direct election make the APC lose an election? I fear that if you are afraid to practise democracy within your party, then what chances do you have to face an opposition party. These are some of the issues.
Are you going to push the parliament to appeal this order?
I think it is an affront on the National Assembly as an institution, so the leadership of the Assembly has the moral responsibility to make sure that they file a case to quash this procured judgement to make sure that it is null and void. Even if they don’t, as an interested party, we are already talking to our lawyers to appeal the judgement.
I have never heard where an act will follow due process to its conclusion and after the president signs it, a court will then give a judgement to delete it. This is the first time I will hear about it. I think it will not stand the test of time.
Your party, the APC, appears to be heading for an implosion. As it is now, seven aspirants are all out to contest for the national chairmanship seat. How can this be best addressed?
For me, competition is the best. I have no problem with the number of aspirants, what is important is that we should do it democratically because consensus is one of the problems that brought all this rancour in various states. It is the same consensus that planted the seed of discord we have at the centre now.
If we had taken time to make sure that the party operates democratically in our various wards, local governments and states, by the time the candidate emerges at the centre, there will not be any rancour. For me, that is not the issue but the selfishness and the power of governors in various states that feel they can do and undo. But there is a level and limit to what they can do and they don’t seem to know that.
We have been warning that it will get to a place where we can’t organise or conduct a proper convention, and this is what it has come to. In the last three weeks, there have been so many scandalous issues bedevilling the party; the worst part is that this is the ruling party. If the government in power can’t conduct a proper convention, then there is a problem.
This is just the convention, after that, we will face other parties. There are so many problems within the states, and I have always warned that if the main actors are sidelined, we would run into trouble, but nobody heeded our call. They feel a governor can do whatever he wants.
This is the predicament of the APC. Do we have time to address this issue? I think we do, but it has gone beyond the convention as it is already at the corner. But I know that efforts are in place to find solutions to it. The damage inflicted is massive, and to fix it, we have to do massive work.
With the zoning of party chairmanship to the North, is that a signal that the South will produce Buhari’s successor in the APC?
I have said I am somebody who will want to believe in political agreement. No matter your grievances with the South-West, the fact remains that they helped us in producing President Buhari; so it is only fair that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
I believe the southern part of Nigeria should be the zone to produce the president because we have spent our eight years and it is only fair that they too are given the chance, for the unity of the country and trust.
Which part do you think the presidency should go to among the three southern geopolitical zones?
In political games like this, once the presidency is zoned to the South, it is for it to decide where it will come from. In the same manner, when it comes to the North, it is left for us to come together to midwife who would succeed in the post.
We must look at this with wisdom. If every state or region says it must have the power to nominate a presidential aspirant, we will run into trouble; once it is regional, let the region decide who they want.
What is your position about the APC in Katsina State?
In Katsina, we are not happy because this is not what the people expected, especially looking at the enormous goodwill we enjoyed before we came into power. There is total mismanagement of our resources. If I begin to reel out what is happening in Katsina, I will be shedding tears because it is not only that the Masari administration wasted these eight years, he has taken us eight years backwards.
The government is broke. There is no infrastructure and the education we promised the people is in its worst state. In the history of the state, this is the worst moment for education. It is the same with other parastatals and ministries. Our case in Katsina is a sad story. This can be verified by every person.
How will this affect the fortunes of the party in the state in 2023?
Drastically. I am still in the APC, but I want to assure you that based on the political temperature of Katsina as at today, APC’s survival will be through the camel’s nose because there is a total disconnect between governance, governorship and the people over these seven years. Not even the ordinary election of local government was conducted in the state.
This is a sad story that befell the state, but we are trying to put it behind us so that we can produce a governor that knows what is happening today. I always say that governors Zulum and El-Rufai are my heroes, as far as APC governors are concerned. You visibly see them working, but other states, Katsina inclusive, are a sad story.
The party’s primaries are expected to be held between April and June 3 this year, what is your ambition and when are you declaring it?
I am a sitting senator, so let us cross the bridge first. I am consulting with the vast majority of groups in Katsina, including my emirs and elders, but that is not the most important thing for me, it is what I have done and if my records speak well of me, I am satisfied.
I have contributed a lot to my state and my people. I know this through the peace I enjoy whenever I am in Katsina. That is much more important for me than any political office. I always say that my concern as at today is Katsina itself.
You regularly post on your Facebook wall for your constituents to come for their employment letters, how have you been doing this magic in terms of generation of employment?
There is no magic to it; one of the most important things I believe is that you should try to leave a legacy in whatever you do in life, especially if you think the legacy is good. I believe that we are supposed to be our brother’s keepers. We are in trouble, especially in northern Nigeria. We have graduates without employment and we are churning more youths out from the universities. If we don’t find a place for them, we will lose them. Not for them to die but if you lose your purpose in life, you are as good as dead.
I tried to create a full department in my office to search for wherever recruitment is going on. I will go there, sit down as a senator, sometimes the chief executive of the place will keep me for 30 minutes to one hour and I will endure, just to make sure I can secure one or two slots for my people.
It is cumbersome and degrading sometimes, but looking at the result, I am really happy that I have this foresight to try to secure employment for my constituents.
So far, how many slots have you gotten?
I don’t know the number.
By Ismail Mudashir & Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi