Barr. Kabiru Tanimu Turaki is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who is well known in the public consciousness for his lead role in the efforts by the Goodluck Jonathan Administration go dialogue with Boko Haram. That was when, while serving as Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Barr. Turaki, SAN, was specially tasked to Chair the Presidential Panel on Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in Northern Nigeria. He has also led the forum of former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ministers, which played a significant role in ensuring that the party remained united in the thick of the crack occasioned by the disparate claims to the Chairmanship of the PDP by the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and the Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi factions. Turaki is currently one of the 13 presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP, and is seen by some sections of the party as the “dark horse” who is devoid of the excess baggage and blemishes pointed out in some of the contenders for the party’s ticket. In this interview with the Editorial Team of Peoples Journal, he opened up why he believes he has the capacity to tackle the current security challenges in the country, and fix the nation’s economy. Excerpts:
How I’ll tackle insecurity
My agenda for the country is that Nigeria should be great again. This is our major agenda. We feel that we have wasted a lot of time and time is money, we feel that we have lost a lot of opportunities. Today, more than any other time, Nigerians are highly vulnerable. Nigerians feel highly insecure and we know that in any society, the level of sophistication of that society will be determined by the level of provision of basic necessities of life. And you can categorize them, either as forming part of economic rights or fundamental rights. But the most fundamental thing that citizens of any country expect, which is the irreducible minimum expectation of the people is the safety of lives and perperties. It was always necessary that a leadership be seen as adequately providing protection for the people. Now, we are in a situation in Nigeria where Nigerian government under the leadership of APC is unable to provide security for the lives and properties of the citizenry. If you look at the North East, even outside the key frontline states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa that are still grappling with the challenges of insurgency, arising from the failure of this government to conclusively finish the war against terror, which was started by the past PDP regime, there are still other issues of insecurity bothering on communal clashes, and the issue of farmers-herders crisis. If you look at the North Central geopolitical zone, is it Plateau? Is it Nasarawa? Is it Benue? Is it Kogi? The crisis between herders and farmers is taking a toll on the population in these areas. If you look at the North West, starting from Katsina, the President’s home state, coming to Zamfara, coming to Kaduna, coming to some parts of Niger, which is in the North Central, and then extending now to Sokoto and Kebbi states, the people are highly vulnerable because of the activities of bandits, who are known, who have faces, who even have names. And yet, this government has found it very difficult to contain the insecurity, and in so doing protect the lives and properties of the citizens living in these areas. There is the issue of kidnapping, which has now become universal in almost every state. In this case, in the North East, you bring states like Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba to join others. When you come to the North Central, you also pick FCT and Kwara to join the flock. When you go to North West you take Kebbi again and Sokoto to join the remaining five states, including Jigawa State. So the whole of the North is highly insecure. When you go to the southern part of this country, some parts of the South East and thde South South are also running under the effect of the farmers/herders’ crisis, and several people have been attacked and killed as a result. The Niger Delta was relatively peaceful up to the 28th of May, 2015, arising from the agreements and understanding that has been reached with the leaders of the host communities, the youths and the Federal Government under the PDP leadership, especially from the days of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to the first tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan. Agreements were entered into which gave room for the cleaning and taking care of issues of degrading environmental problems within the region. And then the people were also involved in the management and exploration of the resources that God has blessed those areas with. In addition, the youths were catered for in such a manner that they were given a sense of belonging, through continuous education, through vocational and technical training, for them to learn one form of trade or another, so that they will become engaged and then they will become productive members of the society. The youths were taken away from idleness, because as the saying goes, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Today, there is resumption of hostilities.
Agitation for self-determination and return of Niger Delta restiveness
I am not talking about the management of the security of the pipelines. I’m talking about things that have been done to ensure that there is everlasting security in the Region, and which for me when I get there, will be the foundation of my government. And so, I’m trying to tell you the pockets of insecurity that have become global in Nigeria today. I have taken the whole of the North and I have shown you that it is highly unsafe and insecure. I have now gone to the Southern part of the country. And in the South South this government has now come to treat those agreements that have been reached with impunity. Today, Niger Delta youths are dropping out from schools, both at home and abroad where they have gone to pursue university education, because this government said it will not continue with that agreement. Today, Niger Delta youths who have been engaged in learning one trade or vocation, have dropped out because government does not believe that it should continue to fund those vocational and skills trainings. And so, they have now have been reverted back to status quo ante of idleness. And if these youths are idle you will see the resumption of restiveness, blowing up of pipelines and other criminal activities. The area is highly insecure. Come to the South East, you have seen the reemergence of agitation for self-determination, because more than ever before certain actions of key figures in this government have given the people of the South East reasons to begin to think that they are not wanted in this country. Then IPOB came and then government, instead of pursuing these matters in the very peaceful manner, is thinking that everything is about the use of force. Because of the application of force, there is a lot of insecurity also in the Southeastern part of the country. I don’t need to remind you of what is happening in the South West, about ritual killings, about armed robberies, and kidnappings, which are the order of the day. So, when you look at it, out of the 36 states that we have in Nigeria today, there is really no one single state that you could say is a safe haven for Nigerians. So because of this, it has multiplier effect on every other thing you will do in Nigeria. Because there is no security for lives and property of citizens, because there is no security for the investors, for businessmen, whether they are local investors or foreign investors, it is also having a profoundly negative effect on the economy. So, when I get there, the first thing I will tackle will be the issue of security. Then I will look at the issue of the economy, side by side with the issue of national unity.
What I will you do differently from Buhari’s approach on insecurity
What I will do differently I will tell you. As far as the insurgency issue is concerned, there is a report that was submitted by the Presidential Committee on Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North, which I have had the privilege of presiding. I am of the believe that the recommendations contained in that report would not only to take care of the issue of insurgency in the Northeastern part of this country, but will also take care of other issues of insecurity like herdsmen/farmers’ clashes, kidnappings, communal crises, and so on and so forth. Now, I believe that as soon as that report is taken and taken seriously and the recommendations contained therein are applied, the issue of insurgency will become a thing of the past. And then other security challenges too will be addressed squarely. Beyond this, we have security agencies that are fighting themselves, they are fighting themselves because they are working at cross purposes with one another other. Security agencies that will not come together, develop synergy and cooperation will not be able to come up with a robust security architecture that will protect the country and especially, the lives and property of Nigerians. What I will do differently is that I have the courage to take strong decisive decisions that will even make security agencies sit up or I change the leadership. And once you have the courage of driving them forward along a particular programme, you will see unity of purpose, you will see cooperation, and you will see synergy. Because anywhere in the world, you have agencies that may be good at information gathering, they will gather the information. You have another agency that may be good in analyzing the information that has been collected, they will analyze it. You could have another agency that will be good at bringing out recommendations of what needed to be done. And then another agency may be good at implementation. Today, there is no synergy. When I get there, I will ensure that there is synergy.
Dialogue with Boko Haram under my Committee not a failure
You see, people would say that because most of them were not really aware of what was going on. This was a committee that was set up and given a free hand with clear Terms of Reference: go into the field, discover who the key elements of the insurgency are, negotiate with them, try to get peaceful resolution and then that will be the end. Of course, because of the disappointment that the insurgents had with past attempts, they were themselves doubtful of the intentions of government. It took us a lot of time to be able to establish contact with them, because we had about 25 veritable links to getting to them. Out of this 25, 21 led to nowhere; they were dead ends. Of the four that were good enough, three merged together and then there was one. At the end of the day, we had two links and these two links led us to Boko Haram and Ansaru respectively. Now, at the beginning again, because of that inertia, they had to start sending the low profile members of the insurgency to test the waters in discussing with us. And when they were eventually convinced that yes we are honest, they upgraded the level of delegation to come and talk to us. By the time we got to the stage of building confidence and subsequently heightening it to trust, the timeline given to the committee for its assignment ended. We now applied for extension of time, which Federal Government graciously gave us. So we then started. The extension enabled us to come up with profound decisions following the engagements (with the insurgents) but we then had to file a report. And in the report that we filed, we recommended to the government that because of the level that we had reached, it’s important to sustain the dialogue. Government agreed and government set up a second committee. This second committee was the one that was able to really conclude the job. But by the time we concluded the job and brought our recommendations, PDP has already lost (the 2015) election. So, there was nothing that government could do. You cannot begin the implementation of recommendations from a serious committee of that nature when you’re winding down your administration. People would then, at that time, begin to question the sincerity of the Federal Government. What the government did was to say okay, we have accepted your report. We will combine this with the earlier one and then keep it for the incoming government to look at it and treat it as they deemed necessary. That was what happened. If PDP had won the election, we would definitely have started implementing the recommendations and the situation would have been different. It was not as if the committee was a failure.
How we’ll return Nigeria’s economy to the path of growth
Security will form the foundation. Then the next layer will be the issue of economy and then side by side with the issue of unity. Because of its significance, we have to take them together. As of 28th May, 2015, the Nigerian economy was the fastest growing economy in Africa, and one of the fastest growing economy in the world. That was unarguably so. And Nigeria was one of the three most sought after investors havens, where investors were rushing to. Again, that is a fact. The indices are there, the facts are there, the figures are there. Of course, the time when you witness the highest influx of foreign direct investments in this country and how did we do it? We built the confidence of Nigerians who initially thought nothing good will happen in Nigeria and so were jetting out. We made them to begin to believe in themselves. The level of patriotism locally was also heightened, and Nigerians began to say okay, we will believe in our country, our country can do it. This was because government had initiated necessary policies to liberalize the economic landscape. Those who never thought anything good could happen to Nigeria, who themselves are Nigerians, were now coming back to add their own value to what is happening in the new renaissance at home; they were bringing their hard earned money back to invest in Nigeria. And because Nigerians believe in themselves and believe in their country, we saw also the influx of foreign investors. It was during PDP that you had companies like Airtel coming into Nigeria, it was during PDP that you had companies like MTN coming into Nigeria. It was during PDP that you had several other conglomerates that were coming to Nigeria, some of whom have left now because of the policy summersault of the present government. Now what we need to do is that we will rekindle that confidence and then ensure that there are clear policies that will give comfort not only to local but also foreign investors. We made it such that a potential businessman could come to Nigeria and on the day he/she arrives, he/she will be able to get entry visa, and at that point register a business, as well as get expatriate quota, if his/her business is the type that demands such. He/she will have resident permit, if the business he/she wants to establish is the one that requires resident permit. Again, he/she can come today and if by tomorrow he/she feels like going, the system made it possible for him/her to carry everything. And so that created confidence. We will bring that back. But in addition, I will bring my private sector experience to bear in the management of our economic policies. I don’t need to be an economist to achieve that. The most important thing is that I should be focused, I should have a vision, and be able to get Nigerians from wherever they may be, including those in the civil service and galvanize them towards realising that vision. And I will bring that dynamism because I am young. I will bring a lot of knowledge to bear because I am well educated and I have experience. When you bring these things and then bring people that are technically sound, then the system begins to work well and efficiently. Mark you, since independence in 1960, this APC government, is the only government that does not have a chief economic adviser; it is the only government that does not have an economic team. How then do you expect that our economy will not collapse in the way and manner it did? So, economy will take that priority.
What we’ll do to reunite citizens of this great country
And then unity, because it also goes side by side with security and economic prosperity. No matter what good policies are churned out by the government, you will discover that they may not be able to have their desired impact without great sense of unity among the citizenry. Look at any time in our political sojourn, since 1914 when we were amalgamated, never have Nigerians been so divided along different lines: religious, cultural, ethnic, regional and so on. We have now found ourselves in a situation where Nigerians are beginning to doubt the workability of the Nigerian project. The APC-led Federal Government is openly discriminating among Nigerians on different basis. A government that will come out and say that it will treat Nigerians differently, those that gave it 5% (of votes) will be rewarded in equal measure, and those that gave it 95% votes will enjoy that level of patronage. It is certainly a government that shouldn’t be allowed to stay a day, a minute longer. So, the issue of unity becomes very critical and we will address it. We will make Nigerians once again to be their brothers and sisters keepers. We will make Nigerians once again to believe in their country and to understand that and appreciate that even though it was Lord Lugard who amalgamated Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914, yes he did it because he was brought by God as an instrument in His hand, because God has a purpose for Nigeria. And God does not make a mistake.
Buhari shielding corrupt members of APC
Let me talk on the issue of corruption. Now, I have seen in the social media an assessment which somebody has made about when corruption was alleged to have started in Nigeria. If you have the opportunity of reading it, you will see that indeed nowhere was it stated that corruption started with PDP. That is number one. Number two, there has never been any government in Nigeria since pre-independence that had sat down to really feel concerned about the level of corruption that was within the system. And let me tell you, there are a lot of people, not necessarily within Nigeria, that once they get opportunity of getting into the system and they discover that there are gaps here and there, they take advantage of those gaps. They manipulate the system to enrich themselves. It’s not only in public service, it’s also in the private sector. Now, if you say it was the PDP that brought corruption in the public sector, is it also the PDP that brought corruption in the private sector? No. For the first time, PDP established critical institutions for the fight against corruption. EFCC and ICPC were both established by the PDP. We also strengthened them and gave them capacity. We also looked at the extant laws as relating to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal. We amended the laws to give them additional powers. We did not stop there. We also looked at the citizens’ rights to know what is happening in their government. We then established the Freedom of Information Act. We also brought in the administration of Criminal Justice Act, which was able to take the fight to the next level. All those delays in trials were removed. The people that were investigated and prosecuted were PDP chieftains. And I will give you examples. From Joshua Dariye, who was PDP governor in Plateau State to Danjuma Goje who was PDP governor in Gombe State, coming to Reverend Jolly Nyame who was PDP governor in Taraba State, to Lucky Igbinedion who was PDP governor in Edo State, to James Ibori who was PDP governor in Delta State, to some ministers and members of the National Assembly, we were investigating ourselves because we said charity should begin at home. If at that point in time we were doing what this government is doing, investigating people in the opposition, they will say we are witch hunting them. Today, it is on record that the only two cases that EFCC had really gotten conviction on are the cases that were initiated by the PDP. The case that they (APC-led administration) initiated against Justice Ademola, what happened? It was thrown out and so all the other cases because these are things that are more of witch hunt than really proper prosecution. We didn’t stop there, we then started looking at what was happening sector by sector. We were the ones that started the investigation of the oil subsidy and a lot of the people that were involved were men that were highly placed and well connected with PDP government. What is happening today under the APC is that the whole thing has been compromised. Today, there is more rot in the oil subsidy which the Federal Government initially said was a fraud when they were campaigning. Today, subsidy is being paid from unappropriated funds, which itself is an impeachable act. There is a lot of rot even in NNPC and the way NNPC contracts are being handled without following due process. There is a lot of fraud and improprieties in the way and manner the IDPs (internally displaced persons) funds are being stolen under this government by principal actors in this government. The thing has even gone to the extent that the date palms that were brought from Saudi Arabia during fasting last year meant to be given to people who are in the IDPs camps were stolen and being sold in the open market, with the active connivance of some staff of this APC-led Federal Government. So, what happens? Today, corruption sits on a cushion chair in Nigeria; today, it pays to be corrupt in Nigeria. All you need to do, is carry one very big broom and keep it in your house. As soon as they come, they see the broom, they say, ‘oh, we didn’t know you have a broom’; they will say well done. That is the password.
PDP now a rebranded party
Well, I will start from the perspective that today PDP is a rebranded party; it has changed from what Nigerians used to think of it. Today, there is no imposition in PDP; there is level playing ground in the party, and there is inclusivity. Today, the leadership in PDP is accountable. And we have seen it at play in the primary elections that were conducted in Ekiti and Osun states, and indeed in other areas where by-elections were conducted. We have in place, a leadership that inspires hope and confidence in the minds of Nigerians, not just PDP members. And so, you have all the infrastructure that you need for justice, for fairness, for inclusivity and for transparent election to be carried out.
Each PDP aspirant better leader than Buhari
Yes, there several (presidential) aspirants in PDP, and all of them are eminently qualified but one thing that nobody can take away from them is that they are true democrats in their own rights. Anyone of them that gets the ticket is capable of leading Nigeria and doing better than what APC-led Federal Government is doing. Now, all of us also believe, and that is the sweetest aspect of it, that power comes from God. And it is only one person that will get it. And so, we have agreed, because we’ve interacted among ourselves and we have spoken with one another other, that anybody who gets it the others will rally round and line up behind that person and support him to become the president of this country. But beyond this also, PDP, as the party of the moment, is trying to package an individual that will stand on a higher pedestal morally than the candidate of the APC, in terms of whatever yardstick that will be used for comparison. Whether it is on the basis of integrity, credibility, character, fairness, or capacity to dispense justice. Whether it is on the basis of knowledge and education and so on and so forth. So that at the end of the day, out of these bunch of aspirants that PDP has, the party will give Nigeria a better option than President Buhari or any other person that the APC will pick. And so for us, the more the merrier, because at the end of the day, PDP delegates will be given the opportunity to get the best of the best and then bring him out to wait for (candidates of) other political parties. Those that are in alliance with us, of course, they are working with us but those that are not in alliance with us then we face them, bring the best that you have and then Nigerians will ultimately be the judges in the contest. But I tell you, any person that PDP delegates are going to choose out of these brilliant and capable aspirants that PDP now parades, will be one that will be able to win election and then rescue Nigeria from imminent collapse.
Money will not be the key determinant of who emerges PDP’s candidate
Money will not be the key determinant. Money will be a determinant because politics everywhere is an expensive venture. To now arrange the venue, you need money, to be able to get publicity, you pressmen, you understand…? Because if you want them (the media) to be broadcast live, you have to pay for it. So, you need money. Even the Electoral Act admits that you need money for the campaigns. But we have gotten to the level where we have learnt our lessons. I do not think that PDP delegates or PDP leadership at different tiers will allow themselves to be compromised when it comes to selecting a candidate. Because we want a candidate that will be able to win (the presidential) election. We want a candidate that will inspire Nigerians; one that will be able to once again galvanize that unique Nigerianness in us. And so we have to get the best. If the aspirants themselves now are beginning to think that it is not about us, it is not even about our party, it is about Nigeria and Nigerians, certainly the party leadership and the delegates will also be on the same page, to say, okay, it is not about what we get out of it but it’s about what we will give to Nigerians to be able to save our country. Today, it is about the Nigerian nation.
Why I’ll ultimately be the choice of PDP delegates
There is no storm to weather. As far as I am concerned, the primary election is something that will be done freely, fairly, honestly. And what I have that works for me, is my knowledge and education. I am well educated and highly experienced. I have worked both in the private and public sectors, and Nigerians who know how I operate know that there will be a lot of dynamism in government when I become President. That is an advantage that I have. My youthfulness arising from my age will also give me an edge over some of my colleagues.
I have a clean public service record
Beyond this, a person like me that had been in government and had handled projects and programmes that run into trillions of naira as a Minister of Labour and Productivity, and as a Minister for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs. I handled projects that involve management of billions of naira, and yet, one single kobo has not been shown to be misappropriated by me. So I have integrity and credibility. Then my character is something that will also work for me. I have a good character both in my private life, and also in my public life. And I am not controversial. I don’t have any controversy surrounding me at all. I am not fighting anybody and nobody is fighting me; so I am at peace with everybody. Again, Nigerians who know me or who have read about me, or who have seen me know that I am a bridge builder. I have built bridges, strong bridges of friendship across various divides before and I can do it better as a Nigerian President. And Nigerians appreciate this. Now, beyond this also, I have the capacity. If you look at the previous assignments that I have handled, they were tasking assignments yet I have been able to discharge them well. And so Nigerians have confidence in me, most especially PDP delegates. Then when you look at also the issue of loyalty to the party, I have been very loyal to this party. I am not one of those that can be said to be fair weather members of the party. Come rain, come sunshine, I stuck with the party and when it comes to making contributions to the party, we were the ones who fought hard, selflessly 24/7 for 18 months to save PDP from imminent collapse during our most challenging moment. As the chairman of the former PDP Ministers’ Forum, I played a very significant and profound role that saved the party from collapse. And I am sure, it is not everybody that will claim credit for playing that kind of role at the most critical time in the life of the PDP like I have done. Whatever parameters that aspirants are going to be assessed on at the end of the day, I have the confidence that I will come out tops. I am not saying others have not also contributed but I am one of those that have made the most significant and most profound contributions in virtually every area. I think very strongly that these are some of the factors that will stand me out as the best of the best out of the pack. I am convinced that by the special grace of God, with my training, and now a senior lawyer, I have a further edge, because I will ensure that there is fairness in the way I run my government. There will not only be respect for the rule of law, but indeed people will be treated fairly, decently, equally and Nigerians who know me and even those who don’t know me well will appreciate that I have significant fear of God in my heart. I am a very religious person. And so Nigeria today, needs a man with the fear of God at heart, so that he will be able to carry this country together and then take us to the next level.