Prof Tahir Mamman (SAN), a former Director General, Nigerian Law School, and gubernatorial aspirant in the 2015 elections in Adamawa State, has said that Nigeria’s democracy since 1999 has just been serving the interest of a few. He, therefore, feels that the system must be purged to address the collective good.
According to him, if this must be achieved, Niegrians have to redress the already perverted political process for leadership selection, which, he said, has no regard for merit or integrity.
What are your views concerning the hijab controversy at the Nigerian Law School last year?
Even before that incident, my predecessor at the Nigerian Law School had already addressed the issue. There is a particular dress code that was recommended to cater for that aspect of diversity. They are required to cover part of the hair and it was done to accommodate diversity within the legal profession. So, there really shouldn’t have been any controversy actually.
Very often the issue of corruption has come up in the judiciary, is it a problem emanating from nature of schooling in Nigerian schools or is it that they are usually corrupted by the system or do you even agree that the judiciary is corrupt at all?
I don’t want to begin to say, it’s the school or law school. The legal profession like every other profession is part of the Nigerian society. Right now, there seems to be liaise faire system where everything goes, people are now measured by the kind of wealth they display irrespective of how they acquire it. So, this kind of life affects the judiciary, which is a part and parcel of the society. So, many people within the legal profession feel the pressure to show how well they have succeeded by acquiring wealth as is common within the society. That is why I have always maintained that we must place emphasis on people who take national and public interest far above their personal interest. We must have a way of reviewing our process of recruitment of people into the profession and seek to facilitate the progress of people who are interested in upholding the interest of Nigerians above theirs. The judiciary is part of the society, there should be system for strong supervision of legal practitioners with a view to ensuring that the judiciary operates within its limits and if there are lapses, it should be dealt with swiftly.
You were an aspirant during the 2015 elections, you were coming straight from the Law School into full blown politics, tell us what is your attraction?
Well, let me say this, if I have not ventured into politics, I would have died as an educated person. When I entered politics, I saw two different worlds. With all your education, experience and learning, what you see in Nigerian politics is mind bugling. It’s a system where there is no clearly defined rules, even though there are rules, but they don’t play by it. I saw a system where one person tries to determine everybody’s fate, which is not democracy. Democracy allows for people to choose their destiny. I saw a system where you can never agree on something now and find it like that later. It is a system of consistently shifting loyalties. It’s a funny system where in order to succeed, you necessarily have to ride on someone’s back and you have a lot of resources which in my opinion is the reason Nigeria is sinking deep in corruption. What I saw gives me a lot of concern because this is the process by which we select the people that will control our money. They are the ones that will determine the kind of infrastructure we will have, the quality of education our children will have, the kind of treatment you will get when you go to hospitals, life and death decisions are in the hands of these people, yet the recruitment process is fraught with all kinds of inadequacies and terrible practices. So, I think, we need a very revolutionary review and overhaul of our democracy and the process of leadership recruitment in Nigeria in order to get the best out of our democracy.
Would you say are the challenges Buhari is facing in delivering on his campaign promises as a result of these fraudulent processes of leadership selection, especially as there was an avalanche of cross-carpeting to his side of the political divide before the elections?
Well, making promises at campaigns is one thing and keeping to them is another thing. The democratic space is governed by several factors that could slow or impede the process of delivery of promises. Secondly, the political environment is also influenced by other stakeholders in the democratic process; it is what we call other arms of government who by democratic arrangements play vital roles in running the government. The environment is also affected by the availability of resources at the disposal of the government of the day and our system is very slow process. Take, for example, the process of budget where its take too long before it is passed. But by and large, I would say this government has remained focused, it is the process by which projects are implemented that has been very slow.
With Buhari declaring to run in 2019, what do you think are his chances?
I don’t see a difference between the support he had then and the one he has now, but, of course, people would judge him now based on what he has achieved while in office now. It will be good for the government to have a second term so that it would consolidate on the projects it started whether in power, roads, or other infrastructure. Although there are complaints from other quarters, its normal, but three years is never enough time to identify all the institutional lapses and fix them. Most of the projects and plans that this government initiated would come into maturity within the years of another term.
The APC seems to be deeply in problems with internal democracy, it seems right now that if Tinubu doesn’t like you or something, Buhari has to change it, that doesn’t seem reassuring leading into 2019 elections?
No, there is nothing suggesting that APC is failing or is controlled by someone. The present officials of the party were elected for four years; it is not yearly elections. The caucuses have been meeting and the affairs of the party have been going on well. There may be challenges, but it does not necessarily mean the party is collapsing. It is wrong to also claim that one person is dictating the affairs of the party. The move for congresses was meant to strengthen issues so that there will not be crisis. But it has been made clear that the current executives have the right to vie for second term and their return is a matter of political interest and that is the norm in democracies all over the world, interests within democratic structures contest for things and that does not mean the party is about to collapse.
The ACF recently issued a statement berating northern leaders. It said it would seek for new crop of leadership to project the interest of the North. What do you make out of that?
I will not like to join issues with the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), but I agree with them to some extent because the North has not made progress. The North as a region has access to important leadership positions and our senators, members of the House of Representatives, governors, have not made the welfare of the people top priority. We have not made meaningful progress. The North needs to change its orientation and quality of governance materials. If the North gets it right, the country will get it right. So, what ACF said is something that we have to look into seriously because since 1999, our democracy has not been able to take us to where we should be, the system has been twisted to feed individuals fat at the detriment of the society. So, we have to look at the process of choosing leaders in this country. We need people with the fear of God, people with a sense of fairness, people who are not bothered by what you worship or where you come from, people who have a track record of progress, of personal and professional accomplishments and we need people who are interested in pushing forward matters of national interest and unity instead of petty sentiments. The time has come when we have to place the interest of our country and people above everything else. When we have these people in place of governance, Nigeria will make incredible progress within the shortest period of time and we will begin to assert ourselves among developed countries in the world. But that being said I don’t agree that we are running a failed democracy, but we cannot deny that we are not near where we should be, we are way off the mark and a lot of work need to be done to get to our desired destination.
Security was a defining issue in the 2015 elections, what in your opinion will define the 2019 elections?
I still think so many things that defined the 2015 elections will still be relevant in the issues that will define the 2019 polls. Security will still be a topical issue because you cannot pursue any developmental goal without resolving matters of security in the country. The issue of power and the provision of critical and basic infrastructure that has eluded most Nigerians will still be on the table of discussion and the matter of social security, job creation, social welfare budget and social safety net programmes too, healthcare, protection of the weak and vulnerable group in the society like the youth and women, these issues will drive the 2019 elections. The people or party that is able to address these issues will ultimately emerge stronger at the polls. I must caution Nigerians that it is time to jettison those who seek to circumvent our political process with money. Nigerians must watch against corrupt politicians who go about trying to influence elections with money, they are the people who are working against the interest of the nation and Nigerians should stand up to them.
You are from Michika, one of the places that is worst hit by insurgency, would you say we are really winning the war against Boko Haram because as Boko Haram was subsiding, herdsmen have been killing in hundreds and communities that were not affected by Boko Haram insurgency have been terrorized by herdsmen attacks, what is your take on that?
It is so sad that this situation is taking a worrying dimension. We have a very porous border that is posing a major threat to our national security. I don’t know why our immigration is not doing anything about it. People troop into the country in thousands and nothing is done about it, so, the security situation has to be improved.
The much publicized intervention to residents of Michika, Madagali and the other communities in Adamawa that have been affected by insurgency seems to be a mirage to most of the people on ground, what is your take on it?
It is unfortunate that the intervention seems to concentrate on some parts of the North and so many of the affected communities seem not to know what is going on. Those of us in Adamawa are not seeing it and that is where the quality of representation matters. The political representative of this area needs to engage the agency and every government body responsible for this intervention in order to ensure that the interests of our people are protected. I’m aware that there is an ongoing step to restore electricity to Michika, but the process is very slow and that is not good enough.
Despite huge wealth of resources in the country, most Nigerians have remained impoverished, how can we overcome such huge disconnect and begin to develop our human resources?
We can only achieve that through good governance and good governance can be achieved if we address the process of electing our leaders as an important aspect of our national development. Nigerians have sacrificed a lot for democracy and the system as a matter of urgency must begin to take care of Nigerians. We have to create rural roads to boost the potential and productivity of local farmers. The economy must begin to create jobs, we must provide access to funding for small scale businesses and agricultural loans for our local farmers, basic healthcare facilities, among other basic returns of a functional democracy. We have to create a system, which is very fair to every citizen of our country and we cannot have a system that suggests that because someone is elected into office, that person should have an exclusive access to the country’s wealth and resources, these are the issues our governance and democracy must address.