Jonathan has to change his ways to succeed –Tofa

Alhaji Bashir Tofa was the presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention who contested against Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola of the Social Democratic Party in the historic June 12, 1993 presidential election. Past chairman of the Elders Committee of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). In this interview with AUGUSTINE MADU-WEST, Tofa speaks about the chances of the APC in future elections and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with the numerous crises bedevilling it. Excerpts:

The APC has finally been registered as a political party. As a sympathiser of the party, how would you suggest that its leaders should conduct its affairs?

First of all I want to say the registration of the APC is a good idea and the impression that most people in Nigeria have is that it is beneficial to this democracy in the sense that a viable opposition party is now born. It will provide an alternative platform for other people. It is also good for the merging parties because it would have been difficult for them to win power at the centre. What I foresee to be the major problem is the likely difficulty that some of the party’s leaders may have in controlling their ambitions.

What do you mean by leaders not being able to control their ambitions?
You can’t rule out infighting over inordinate political ambitions by members, especially those who may not be able to control such ambitions. You will see them fighting in different forms and at different levels, be it leadership at the state level and during elections, particularly, the presidential election.
But my advice to them is that if they are serious about this country, about democracy, and about that party, then everybody has to make the necessary sacrifice and make sure they focus on the success of the party rather than the ambitions of the individuals. If they do not control their ambition then the party will begin to collapse, it will disappear and PDP will continue its monopoly of power.

More parties are being registered when many would want the present number of parties cut down. What is your opinion about this?
Well I thought about it and I said may be INEC has an explanation to offer, may be these new political parties, the two that have been registered have seen some potentials in them that INEC has seen but that we have not. I think INEC needs to come out and explain this to the satisfaction of Nigerians why the deregistration of some parties and the registration of new ones.
We can understand the registration of APC because it has been there for a long, long time and people have been talking about it. But what would you say of the two new parties that have just been registered.
I think INEC will just have to come out and tell Nigerians why it has to deregister some parties and register new ones . At least people should understand the thinking behind it so that they can support INEC and the good work that it does.

PDP has consistently dismissed APC as no threat, do you believe this?
What do you expect them to say? You know they cannot tell the world that they are afraid, or that they have lost hope because of APC, they have to show that they are in control, they are strong and that they have nothing to fear.
That is what politics is all about it and I think that is natural. I don’t expect them to state otherwise. But the threat is clear; a lot of people certainly will change their minds because they now have an alternative.
The only problem, like I said, is that APC will face will the violation of internal democracy. It will be faced with other actions that threaten democratic principles. If they build the party around democratic norms, then APC, has nothing to worry about, they all know this.
Anything outside that will be to the advantage of PDP. They can be the party to beat, they are still clean, no dents yet. Those who are looking for something new that will enable them pursue their ambition without any problem will immediately go to these new parties.

Are you saying that the new parties can play the role of spoilers?
They may not spoil anything for others but they can really build up quickly because they know there are problems everywhere. In the PDP there are so much problems and there are so many people in the PDP who despite the problems in the PDP will not go to APC, but if they see something brand new or neutral, they will simply embrace it. Many people from the deregistered parties who may not go to APC or PDP, who are looking for something new and then they see this fresh party where nobody is stopping anyone from pursuing his ambition, they will seize that opportunity. So, activities in the next few months will be interesting to watch.

Do you see APC constituting a threat to PDP’s power domination?
Yes. Not only because APC is a new party and people are looking for alternatives, but also because PDP has so many problems and crisis. It has crisis of leadership, crisis of governors, and this issue of corruption and so many things promoting poverty and unemployment in the country. All these are serious threats to PDP, not APC. If the president does not do anything about correcting the wrongs and drastically dealing with the issue of corruption in this country, it will affect the fortune of the ruling PDP.

The Rivers State crisis has been linked to both President Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaechi. Would this also affect PDP’s political fortune?
Well, it will all depend on the president. You see, President Jonathan is too quiet, too patient, and too careless. He has to realise that he is the leader; nobody can execute his responsibilities for him, he should be bold in taking decisions, not just to sit down and keep quiet and allow people to mess him up. He has to do certain things himself.
He must learn to reconcile with other people himself directly; he should not allow other people to represent him and do things that he is supposed to do himself. If I were him I would list all my problems and see those I can personally deal with and go ahead and deal with them.
I will call governors and chat with them directly, call them, sit with them, hear their problems and try to solve them. He should take control. That is what he must do.
The president should try and look at all these issues of corruption; take a look at all the cases of bunkering; he should list them down and plot a strategy himself on how he would deal with them and whoever is involved should be dealt with appropriately. He should do the right thing now and free his conscience. I think that is what he should do, otherwise he will remain in political bondage, in serious trouble because everything will be pushed to him because he is the president. He has to take action.

What level of progress would you say the country has achieved during this tenure?
I must say, personally, that Jonathan is a good man but he is weak. He allows people to mess him up, he doesn’t talk, he doesn’t act and I think he has to take action. That is his problem.
A lot of his people are messing him up, I have said this a lot of times that Jonathan has to do away with some of his advisers and reshape his cabinet so that the right thing can be done. It is high time he did something drastic that will manifest his seriousness. He should do something to show that he is a person that they can trust for even the next term. But if he goes on doing what he is doing now, believe me he will have more problems during election.

Do you think he is caged or scared of the people around him or could he have just been timid?
I want to believe it is his nature but he has to change that nature. He doesn’t have to please anybody. If you are a leader you have to do certain things in the best interest of the nation and your office. He has to perform his functions as the president. Again, he is not there to impress any individual or group, but to work for the Nigerian people and progress of the country. This is why I said he should take control, get people who will really help him do the right thing.
If he does that now and reshapes his cabinet by December, correct his ways and show that he is responsible; if he is powerful and he can deal with issues directly, if he can reconcile his party get all the governors together and trust in God for the next level, I think a lot of people will change their mind about him.
I have always said the president we need must not emerge through sectional, ethnic or religious considerations. Our leader should be one who is going to be fair to all sections and rejoins of the country. Anyone with such qualities will definitely win the hearts of Nigerians. We can only have one president at a given time.
What Nigeria needs is a president who will deal with Nigerians and do them well on equal basis, who will make sure that every Nigerian gets whatever he or she wants irrespective of who and what they are. That is what he should do; he has to change completely.

National Mirror
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