With the level of hate speeches and exchanges among youths in the social media, there are dark clouds hovering over the country and if not checked, Nigeria is doomed. In this interview, Muhammad Baba Kachalla, who is currently aspiring for the governorship seat of Borno State on the platform of the Alliance for Social Democrats, made the assertion and expressed fears on the future of the country. In this interview, he spoke on several issues with WILLY EYA.
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With the primaries of the various political parties over, what are your projections ahead of next year’s general elections?
As it relates to me, you know I am running for the gubernatorial election in Borno State. In Borno here, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has not performed as expected by the people who voted them in. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also in disarray because it is factionalised and the incumbent APC governor is funding both factions. Therefore, for my party, Alliance for Social Democrats, I see an opportunity and victory ahead of the 2019 general elections. We are positioning ourselves from the disorganisation of the PDP and also taking viable advantages from the misrule of the APC in Borno State.
Many think that President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP are more prominently positioned to compete for the presidential election next year. How do you weigh their chances in 2019 poll?
The average psychology of the voter is always with the winning team or the perceived winning team. As it is, President Buhari is the incumbent and Atiku is the one challenging him. In our own economy, everything depends on government’s expenditure. People want some sort of government’s patronage and out of fear of not being excluded by the incumbent government, they always want to identify with the incumbent administration whether it is good for them or not. And based on that, the disposition of the generality of the voters appear to favour the incumbent. However, politics have always been fluid and anything can happen.
As usual with Nigerian elections, tension is already building up again ahead of 2019 poll. How do you feel about the development?
It is up to the Nigerian voters to see through the build up and observe the rules of the game. Violence is of no use to the voters. They should know that while they go out to perpetrate the violence, the children of the politicians are in far-flung countries in Europe, America and others. While their children are there, you are here fighting for the entrenchment of your oppressors. It is up to the Nigerian voters to look through the façade. They should know that no life is worth being wasted for the person operating them.
The 2019 general elections seem to be tearing the North apart contrary to the impression that the region used to speak with one voice. Would you say it is because the two frontline candidates are from the region?
The idea of a monolithic North lingered on and on until after the region was thorn into pieces or states. For instance, the North became 19 states. With the state structure as the federating units, you would have realised that a monolithic North subsists only in the imagination of Northerners. However, because of the commonality of culture, even when you are from different states, you can also relate with one another across different states of the North as Northerners. So, the idea of a monolithic North only exists in the psyche, and remembered with a sense of nostalgia and that is what people relate to, and say the North is no longer united. How can it be? The North has been turned into little bits and pieces of states and each of those 19 states have independent legislatures that make laws at the state levels. Then when the North used to be monolithic, there was a Northern House of Assembly. Today, there are 19 Northern state assemblies.
With events in Nigeria today especially ahead of next year’s general elections, what are your fears for Nigeria?
As an adult who is well over 60, when I open up the social media and see the hate–related exchanges among youths in the North and the South, and between Christian and Muslim youths, I see doom on the horizon.
Prominent retired generals have ganged up against President Buhari and openly supporting Atiku Abubakar; is there no more the culture of esprit de corps in the Army?
Like I told you, I am preoccupied with the state level elections and I am running for the governorship election in Borno State. If you ask Borno related questions, it will be more like it than dwelling on the national.
Are you suggesting that the cloud may lead to a break up?
The beauty of looking at a thing in an exhibition is that to each person, there is a difference in the appreciation of a work of arts. If we all look at the setting sun, we will definitely disagree on the colours of the setting sun.
With the controversy trailing the recent gubernatorial elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ekiti and Osun states, do you think 2019 will be free and fair?
I would rather be an optimist than a pessimist. I wish for the best in this country. I pray there will be a peaceful election in 2019. As a key actor and participant at the state level, I will not want to promote violence or to work against peace in the state. I will also urge my fellow contestants to do the same. I believe that if my fellow contestants do what I am doing, there will be a peaceful election in Borno State. If this attitude is circulated across all the 36 states of the federation, we will have a peaceful election across the country.
There is this perception that leaders in the North have failed their people and that is why there is high level of poverty in that region of the country. Those who hold this view base their argument on the fact that the North has produced more leaders in the country since the nation’s independence in 1960. Do you agree with that position?
My brother, even though it could be argued that there is more poverty in the North than the Southern part of the country, there is no part of this country including the South that I have not been to. Poverty is a common denominator between the South and the North. All the rural areas of this country are poor. Almost all the citizens living in our rural areas are poor. They all use primitive farm tools. They cultivate with hoes and cutlasses to clear and till the land. If you have been to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, China and Korea, it is not only the leaders in the North that have not done well but the entire leadership of Nigeria that have not done well to propel us into industrialisation. So, when you now minimise your perception along North and South and want to think that Southerners are comfortable and more prosperous, I say no. Southerners are also in poverty. Southerners also engage in violence. Southerners also engage in fraud. Go to Onitsha, Enugu, Lagos, Ibadan and so on. As you try to land in Ibadan, all you see underneath the aircraft are brown and rusted roofing sheets. You see a sea of rustic roofing sheets. Ibadan is in the South and not in the North. There is poverty all over Nigeria my brother. It is not peculiar to the North. If you want to blame the leadership, it will not be fair to minimise it to the North alone.
In the recent past, Borno has become a hotbed of violence; ahead of the general elections, what do you hope to see in the state?
All said and done, the present government has improved the security situation. Before the advent of this government, four of the 27 local governments were not accessible but presently, all the 57 local governments are accessible even though in some, we need security escorts to access. Moving forward toward the 2019 general elections, it is heartwarming to note that the elections are going to be conducted in the Internally Displaced camps. When viewed against the facts that almost all of the IDPs used to be in the state capital, Maiduguri, you would say that there had been improvements of what obtained in the past. So, we are looking forward to a peaceful general elections in 2019.
Would you say that the crisis in Borno is politically motivated?
Everyone sees the crisis in Borno State differently depending on where he stands and where it suits him. If you choose to look at the situation through the prism of politics, then it is political. If you choose to look at it from the tribal and social challenges facing the people, it remains so. Then, there is also the religious angle. After all, the Boko Haram sect promotes the violence on the basis of religion. They have a dogmatic, puritanical claim. So, it depends on what you choose to interpret the situation to be. It could be political, social or religious. Like I said, it all depends on where you are standing and looking at the situation.
How do you feel about the introduction of religion into politics in Nigeria?
There is nothing you do to isolate religion from our politics. When it was touted that a Muslim candidate will pick a Muslim as a running mate, there was an uproar in the Southern part of the country that a Muslim/Muslim ticket would not fly with them. Therefore, he had to choose a Christian vice president. There was never a time that religion was not a factor in our politics. If there is going to be a Southern Christian presidential candidate, the counterpoise will be a Muslim vice president from the North. Isn’t it? So, religion has always been a factor.
Your state, Borno used to be very receptive to both residents and visitors but all that is now in the past; what actually happened?
If most people did not travel to Maiduguri on account of the peaceful disposition of Borno State, you would say the place had always been like that. Most people sent their children to the University of Maiduguri because of the peace that used to obtain in the state capital and the entire Borno State. All that is now in the past. It is up to us as Nigerians to try and solve these problems. When the crisis started in Maiduguri, you would have noticed that major streets were barricaded in Abuja which is about 1000 kilometers from Maiduguri. That is to say that no challenge happens in any part of the country without affecting the other parts. It is not a Maiduguri thing but a Nigerian thing. Therefore, the solution is up to Nigerians. There are dark clouds hovering over the nation.
What do you think is the future of your party, the Alliance for Social Democrats in Nigeria?
We are selling credibility; we are selling transformation and prosperity to the Nigerian people. We are saying, let us come together and challenge the status quo. We are talking about the status quo that has not worked for us for over 50 years. We want to form a government that we can call our own so that our country can attain great heights.
Why did you abandon your former party? Do you think your party has enough structure to make impact in the next election?
Rome was not built in a day. The APC used to have only one governor in Nasarawa State. Today, the APC has about 20 governors and the presidency, and they are calling the shots. So, there is always a beginning. We are taking the bull by the horns.