Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is the chairman of Northern Elders’ Council (NEC) and Second Republic presidential adviser on National Assembly Liaison. In this interview with New Telegraph’s TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on Muhammadu Buhari administration, arms procurement probe, anticorruption war and 2019 presidency, among others
In the past two months, the major concern of the Muhammadu Buhari -led administration have been anti-corruption war and tackllng insurgency in the North-East. What is your take on these?
I think the government is giving more prominence to propaganda than working to change the condition of the country. Someone recently analysed the budget and according to him, the economic sector of the country is given as much money as the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). According to the gentleman, the total allocation in the budget for economic sector, consisting of industry, trade, investment, labour, mines and water resources is N57.5 billion and in addition transport is allocated N20.9 billion, altogether, it would be N77.4 billion and the same amount of money was budgeted for the Office of the National Security Adviser.
So, from the young man’s analysis, how can Buhari transform this country if the economy is not doing well? If you want to save the country from any form of poverty, there are three most important areas you must tackle. They are agriculture, industry and trade.
These are the areas where countries generate income. For you to improve the industrial sector, you must have enough power because without power there would be no industry. And for you to improve agriculture; you must do three things. First, quality seeds should be given to farmers.
Secondly, fertilisers and chemical insecticide should be sufficiently given to farmers. Thirdly, there is need to engage in irrigation farming because it is only by irrigation that you will be able to multiply agriculture production. With irrigation, you can get two crops in one year plus one crop during raining season.
At present, we only rely on raining season agriculture. To achieve all these, you have to invest huge amount of money. So, we need huge amount of money in industry, trade and agriculture. There is no way anybody can change the situation of any nation without economic development.
But some people are of the view that for Nigeria to solve its economic challenges; the issue of corruption must first be addressed. How do you see Buhari’s anti-corruption war?
Corruption is rarely a problem in Nigeria. It has been there for many years. Buhari spent two years as Head of State and show nothing in fighting corruption but only ended up with War Against Indiscipline. What Nigerians want to see is what President Buhari is going to do to change the situation in the country for the better.
Are you saying the anti-corruption war is unnecessary?
I believe that the anti-corruption war will not change the economic situation of ordinary man in Nigeria. What we need is the improvement of agriculture, creation of employment by way of industrialisation, massive investments in small and medium scales enterprises because they are the hub of any country’s economy.
The major contributor to the economy of United States is small and medium enterprises. So, I am not saying he should not fight corruption; he should fight corruption but it should not be the only thing that he will do because fighting corruption will not generate income. It will not increase people’s salaries.
But supposing government can create more jobs, people will have access to more jobs. I support the fight against corruption but it should not be the only thing that a government should do to change the situation of the country for the better because the government came to power on the platform of change.
One of the campaign promises of President Buhari is to fight corruption and that is what the president is doing…
He is not fighting corruption; he is fighting Sambo Dasuki (former National Security Adviser). Apart from Dasuki, tell me how many public servants, ministers, governors, permanent secretaries and others, who have been arrested or prosecuted for corruption?
Are you saying the anti-corruption war is selective?
It is selective because how many people are involved in it apart from Dasuki. Other people mentioned were not public servants; they were not public office holders. Is Dasuki the only public office holder? Many of those facing trial for corruption now were mentioned by Dasuki, so their matter is linked up to Dasuki. What about ministers, permanent secretaries, governors, deputy governors and lawmakers?
But at present many ex-governors like Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) and many other ex-ministers are facing trial for corruption…
They were not arrested by Buhari’s government; they were arrested during ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration. The anti-corruption war should not been seen to be selective; it should be holistic. We have cases where Buhari can start from tomorrow.
We have the inquiry conducted by Prof. Haruna Adamu of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF); a lot of money was mismanaged in the organisation. We have the report of Elumeluled House of Representatives committee that investigated the power sector; the money spent during ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo administration and thereafter.
We also have the case of Farouk Lawan investigation on the issue of fuel subsidy. All the looted funds discovered to have been stolen in the report of those committees is 10 times the money involving Dasuki. Buhari can act on those reports; he doesn’t need to conduct any investigation. All he needs to do is to get the report, read them, invites and arrest those indicted by the report and take them to court. We can’t spend six months on Dasuki.
Considering the position of President Buhari on why Dasuki is yet to be released despite being granted bail by different courts, some people are of the opinion that the president is using the ongoing trial of the former NSA to settle a personal score with him….
If people suggest it, I will say yes because Dasuki was one of the officers who arrested Buhari when he was overthrown from power. So, I will not be surprised if anybody suggested that there is vendetta in the way Dasuki is being handled.
How do you feel about the various revelations from the arms procurement scandal, especially billions of naira alleged to have been given to some politicians by Dasuki and other members of former President Jonathan’s cabinet or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) officials?
My religion taught me to be just. In any matter like this, for anybody to be just, he ought to listen to case of both sides; the accused and the accusers. So far, we only heard from the accusers, we have not heard from Dasuki yet. How much does Dasuki benefited personally from all the money they alleged that he expended? How much did he spend without any approval? For example, if an editor asks a reporter to spend money, can anybody accuse him of spending the money that his editor asks him to spend?
It is the editor that should be accused, not the reporter. So, let us wait for Dasuki to open up his defence; then we would be able to know from both sides and make an informed judgement. The judgement many people are making now is uninformed judgement because they are only judging the issue from one side, which is not justice.
Former chairman of Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih in a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said he gave you N53million.
It is not true
You didn’t collect N53million from Anenih?
He didn’t give me N53million personally. The money he gave to me was the money to energise a group who appointed me to be their leader and the money was for us to go and meet with traditional rulers in all the 19 states of northern Nigerian and appeal to them to intervene and ensure that the election was conducted in a peaceful atmosphere. The concern then was that if there is any unrest, it may not be possible to conduct the elections and the country would be in problem.
There were eight of us who toured the entire 19 northern states and we met key traditional rulers in each state. The money was for allowance of the members of the team; their accommodation and transportation. There were nine of us on that tour; eight of us as members and my personal assistant.
So, you never knew whether the money was from the arms deal fund?
How can I know? What I know is that the man called me up and talked about the money. He said federal government had first invited somebody to go and do the job but the man took their money and absconded. I was called upon to do the job after the president’s endorsement and I did.
They also asked me to nominate people, who are highly respected in the North and I gave them some names. We undertook the tour and money was released. I will not tell you the exact money we collected on behalf of the group until the issue gets to court. The money was given to us around middle of January 2015 but we conducted the tour after one month in the middle of February.
Who were the other members of the committee apart from you and your personal assistant?
The members of the committee include former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mamman Anka; former legal adviser of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Barr. Bitrus Gwada; former deputy governor of old Benue State, Alhaji Sule Iyaji, former Commissioner for Finance in Plateau State, Chief John Mankilik; former Commissioner for Education in Kaduna State, Alhaji Suleman Lawan; Senator Danso Sodangi, and a former Managing Director with Nigerian Poster Service (NIPOST), Dr. Bahago.
What was the money meant for? Was it meant for mobilisation of traditional rulers as well?
There was no kobo given to us to give to any traditional ruler and we did not give money to any traditional ruler. The money was spent on accommodation, transport and allowances of the members of the group. But on our own, whenever we visit any traditional ruler, we gave some gifts. But that was out of our own volition.
Has EFCC invited you or talked to you?
No. There are many of us that they have mentioned.
Some people have started campaigning for 2019 presidency, what is your take on the early campaign?
When the time comes, we can be talking about the next president but not now. People who are talking about it have the time but I don’t have the time. I am old enough to wait for my time. I can wait till the next general elections and think about it. I will wait for the right time to make comment on the next president.
Are you saying it is early for people to be campaigning for 2019?
I don’t think there is need for anybody to be talking about 2019 now. What people should talk about now is how to improve the living standard of the Nigerian people.