There is an Attempt to Rig the Elections – Malam Aminu Kano

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To many Nigerians, young and old, most especially those interested in politics, his name is not new. A highly admired man, Malam Aminu Kano, the leader of NEPU, was elected as a member of the House of Representatives in 1966. He was also among the 49 wise men chosen to draft the constitution of Nigeria in the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). In the Second Republic (1978-1983) he led the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and was its presidential candidate. The acclaimed leader of the talakawa lived between 1920 and April 1983.

In this exciting interview with the statesman, philanthropist, selfless politician and, above all, an erudite teacher, we see how history sometimes repeats itself, sometimes overtakes or even projects itself into the feature. For in a part of the interview, it may seem as if Malam was referring to the political situation in present-day Nigeria. The interview was conducted early in 1978 in Jos by a seasoned journalist, the late Ibrahim Adamu of the NTA Jos, during Malam’s presidential nationwide campaign. I hereby present it in order to make it available, for the first time, to readers.

QUESTION: What will you say concerning the success of your party, so far, in your campaigns?

ANSWER: It might be a little bit selfish to be asked how successful I have been, somebody else should be asked that question in order to avoid any exaggeration. You see, what impresses me most during my campaign tour is that in almost all the 19 states, apart from calling people to join the party I belong, which is a second thing to me, I looked upon the society as a whole, how people are behaving, how they are conducting their business, their knowledge of what they had twenty years before. There has been a tremendous awareness, regardless of which party they are.

Secondly, there is a very large influx of young people who, perhaps, have no knowledge of what happened in the past and the tyrannical manner to which parties were treated both by the colonial governments and even during the First Republic. This awareness goes further than what you saw; it goes down into the purdah houses; women in purdah are not just cooking food and rearing children; they discuss things which was never expected before. This is a very healthy progress in the country. Progress does not mean wearing high-heel shoes, trousers and shouting in dancing clubs. It means overcoming those impediments that make men degrade: unhealthy crowding, poverty, illiteracy, etc. This impresses me the most.

Thirdly, I have learned a little bit more than I knew through comparative study, because this is the first time I toured the whole federation. Even during the alliance there were some areas I didn’t go. Now the interesting thing is this, when last month I was at the remotest part of the country, where people live in rivers and islands and so on, little boats and canoes are the means of transportation. Water is not their problem at all. And when I went to Borno, near the Lake Chad area, it was the other way round, you could drive into Chad or Niger Republic without really knowing it. The problems of the people there in terms of food, accommodation, education, communication, even village outlook and historic outlooks, their knowledge of one another, their awareness of what and how Nigeria is, these are very interesting things that make one to really want to govern Nigeria. And one should not go to these areas only to dismiss these problems as part of life, one should be sympathetic and try to find an answer (to those problems) whether there is going to be an answer within our lifetime.

Lastly, you see the people from different villages come on foot, naturally. Because the fastest means of transportation on land cruising are the camel and horses, and very few of them too, the means of moving about thus are the legs! (Laughs) People trekked (from distances) to see us, to shake hands with us, then you begin to wonder how did they know about this Nasara PRP. Then you begin to think of the business rendered by you, the media – radio, television and newspapers – and that is a very tremendous amount of job. It means bringing knowledge (though) not like literacy knowledge, but knowledge of awareness, that’s what interests me. Thus the reception we received, a lot of it might be out of excitement, out of sheer interest and a lot of it might be through the conviction of being a party member and all that.

Sir, since coming to power in 1975, this military administration has introduced many measures like the Land Use Decree, Import Restriction and the Exchange Control Decree, the Indigenisation Decree, all aimed at enhancing the economic growth of the country, with a view to making it a self-reliant entity. What does the PRP feel about these measures and what will a PRP government do to the Nigerian economy towards making Nigeria a self-reliant nation?

First of all, I must say that these measures are being discussed very seriously by the national directorate [of the PRP], which led to the setting up of a committee of men who really know the subject. We are not in a hurry to finish a manifesto, it is not politics to issue a manifesto one day to the election. First of all, the Nigerian government – even the Nigerian people – have been misled by the popular name of oil wealth. As a result, everybody became lazy, waiting for oil money to come to his pocket, as a result they come to work late because there is money, until it became a habit because there is money. Even the government was so impressed that it thought it could build a rocket and (send it) to the moon, etc., because there is money, not knowing that the economy is a living thing, if you play with it, it can kill you. So the result is that, one day, the military government woke up to find they are going down economically. So, I think, in a kind of hurry, unprepared hurry, they came out with the concoction of the Land Use Decree and measures against importation of this and that (laughs). But in a country like this, one has to be careful. All measures for correcting ills of a society, especially in a very large nation like ours, with lactiferous people, people I should say – whether economic, religious political and so on – ethnic groups, religious bodies and soon, with a tremendous amount of foreign legacies of education, of institutions of education, of language, of thinking, you would not know when you tell the world not to go about panicking. God! They go panicking.

When you begin mobilising people for reorientation, reorienting people’s mind to a direction, it doesn’t matter what measure is taken, it will work, it might work, but not as effective as you may want it.

I think what the government forgot to do is to reorient through our system of education, university syllabuses and even our religious institutions – mosques and churches – and do those things that will groom the nation for a direction. You can take many years to do so, but let us see first that we train the conscience of the people to understand the purpose of a measure before you take a measure, otherwise people will say, “Ah! Look at these people, they are doing this, they are doing that.”

The Land Use Decree, for example, I don’t know the origin of it because I was not in government. You see, one has to be very careful, especially in the southern part of the country where even in the constitution, the right of inheritance is a religious affair, and since it is religious affair, the constitution says it cannot be touched, unless the person that inherited the land refused to work on it, then, one can interfere in the name of the nation, which is more important than his. But one has to be very careful by the way you tamper with it.

Secondly, the development, one should first of all take the human side of it. What Nigerians want is really very peddling things, now for example what is constitution, what is independence, what is 1st October if I go to bed hungry, or the next morning I wake up without breakfast, for my children to go to school without a meal? Now that is wrong!

We have to discuss how to eliminate hunger. By eliminating hunger, you have to make sure that a person takes at least two good meals a day. When I say good meal, I don’t mean eating gari twice a day! (laughs) They must have a good shelter, not a crowded one where sometimes an epidemic might break out. And then health. These are the three basic things. Of course, they need education, you need the capacity to govern. These are the other things.

So when the government came out with these measures, a mistake about it is this, we have to trust Nigerians. This is where we have been making a mistake, right from the colonial era to this day, maligning Nigerians that they cannot be trusted. now, if one man does wrong in an institution, or he cheats governmental institution, it doesn’t mean the other men will do so.

Give the job to the other man and try to see what he can do. But we malign Nigerians and say that they can’t do it, are incapable, they are this and that. so when we set up a body to check what should come in, we bring in foreign firms. what are they doing that Nigerian cannot do? how can they be more loyal to Nigeria than you and I? Secondly, if you put them to advise on what to buy, naturally, loyalty to their nations will come first, and the ship bringing in the goods will be that of their people, just like Nigerians. People are basically the same.

The PRP manifesto, which I think will be coming out on the 30th March 1978, will certainly come out with the stand we have here taken, because we have collected a lot of papers, we have studied them, so instead of coming out with a manifesto, especially written, it is in a simpler form, a much more to understandable form and the details will be in a position paper which will come out later.

The economic development of any country depends on the availability of adequate statistics of the country. All the five political parties have pledged in their own different ways to make the country great. This calls for a national population census. What will be the stand of PRP government on this issue?

Well, a lot of things need to be reversed. I don’t believe that we are eighty million. I don’t believe it.

Are we likely to be more, sir?

Oh yeah, we are likely to be more, but at the same time we have been so careless, we are more careless now than when we are counting. You see, go to Kano, go and take a car and cross to Katsina, to the border, come and see the number of people crossing into Nigeria. They come to Kano without any pass or documentation. Now, for example, they fill Kano with their dabinos, with their wares, and a lot of them become Kano men more than the Kano people and nobody cares. And with our kind of attitude to life, to pleasure, a lot of them are girls and they look more like the Arabs, more beautiful and they quickly get married. What to do? We are so relaxed, we are not serious in Nigeria.

PRP is going to make people serious, even if we are going to be unpopular. It is better to be unpopular and build a foundation than to begin to look good to people so that they don’t get upset. I am sure with eighty million people, a large number of them are not Nigerians. So what are we to do with that? At a certain time, we had a lot of people thrown out of Saudi Arabia and were brought to Nigeria, for example, they landed in Kano and many of them said, “Oh, my father was from Bidda, or Ibi, and was born there, but he died in Saudi Arabia and I don’t know how to trace my family, but he told me one day that I was from Ibbi.” How do you deal with that? By the Nigerian law of citizenship, what is he?

Very recently, in fact last Sunday, some of the national dailies carried a story on the final list of names of presidential candidates – including you – who are vying for the office of the president, and are being screened and what not. Two have been cleared. Three – Dr. Namdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Waziri lbrahim and yourself – are still being screened for tax payment and so on and so forth. What is your personal view?

You see, Nigeria is a country of contradictions and we always like to work on emotions and unfounded things. We just want to say yes or no without regards to ethics. You see, the intensity about this is, you know till today FEDECO has not called for nominations, it has not called officially for nomination of candidates. Certainly there must be some forms that FEDECO will send or ask you to ask for, and [it is expected that] they will give a number of days with which to fill and do this. Now, they haven’t done that. If now they haven’t done that how come these things are being featured? Now Nigeria is out with a time table that is moving upside down, we are not moving upside down, it is not only FEDECO, we are [all] moving upside down.

The other day I went to FEDECO office to ask why are those things published in the newspapers? They are things we should know through correspondence. There was nobody there! The big men there had moved outside Lagos, gone around Lagos with the Mayor of California. What has FEDECO got to do with the Mayor of California? I know it [the issue of screening for tax payment] will come out, and some voices in the PRP are talking, but I am not going to say a word, because I have not been officially nominated and if FEDECO has not publicised or asked for nominations of candidates then what are they talking about? What is the whole thing about?

Secondly, officially speaking, administratively speaking, even if that is so, and FEDECO is scrutinising people through tax offices, then how come they released those things to the press? Who told them to do so? Is this not perhaps a way to malign some candidates? Is it not a way of making people accept the allegation currently going round – that there is an attempt going on somewhere to rig the elections?

All these things are very serious. If [for INS tax] I don’t contest the election, what is wrong with it? But at the same time, we should be polite, we should be decent, in dealing with things.

Kano-based Maryam Ali Ali is a member of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
Published in LEADERSHIP ( today

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