Jonathan’s entitled to another term but it’s too early to talk about that
–Ali Gudlak , Special Adviser to the president
By PETER AGBA KALU
Wednesday May 09, 2012

Ali Gudlak

Ali Gudlak, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs in this interview gave a rough appraisal of the President Goodluck Jonathan government, and other burning social and political issues.

Being a lawyer, the former Speaker of Adamawa House of Assembly presents a strong argument on the Constitutional Right of Jonathan Goodluck to go for a second tenure if he so wishes, though insisting that talking about 2015 is a distraction. Well! Does the president have the constitutional Right to contest in 2015? Let us leave that for now.

Just enjoy the interview
Sir, can you give me a rough appraisal of the Jonathan administration?
I believe the administration of Goodluck Jonathan as the Executive President of Nigeria is nearing one year now and we thank God that brought us this far. Generally this administration has mapped out strategies to take us to the next level of development.
Agreed, we have our challenges. Agreed, we are confronted with infrastructural decay for the pas 30 to 40 years. Agreed, the results of this decay are manifesting now and the government is on top of the situation and the administration is facing them headlong.

In view of what is happening in the country today, there’s a strong demand for the convention of a sovereign national conference. What is your stand?
What are the demands? People have been talking. We have a constitutional government in place; we have the National Assembly consisting of the Senate and the House of Reps. At the state level we have the state Houses of Assembly.
There are democratic and constitutional structures on ground. So people should not just talk about sovereign National Conference just for the sake of it. We have a constitutional government in place.

Whatever discussion, whatever issues that need to be discussed, whatever differences, our representatives are there on ground constitutionally empowered to discuss all issues including amending the constitution.
So the issue of sovereign National Conference should not arise. It is illegitimate, it is wrong legally, it is unconstitutional. Unless we want to say we’re not operating constitutional democracy. It has no place where we have democratic structures, where we have constitutional structures on ground.
Sir, the demand is not coming in isolation. It is in terms of so many things that are cropping up in the country today the National Assembly seem not to be handling.

The media, you are… (Pause) are you trying to pass vote of no confidence on the National Assembly?
I’ve not said that
But you said people are clamming because the National Assembly is not tackling the issues. Who is to judge whether or not the National Assembly is tackling the issue. You have seen the National Assembly at work; you have seen investigations; you have seen all sorts of probes; you have seen all sorts of oversight functions from the National Assembly.
Why should somebody come up to pass a vote of no confidence on the National Assembly? The House is elected, duly elected by their constituencies. They’re the representatives of the people.

All these people talking on the pages of newspapers they’re not the elected representatives of the people. The elected representatives of the people are the members of the Senate and the members of the House of Representatives. And if you go back to the states, they’re members of the State Houses of Assembly.
These are the legitimate and constitutional people to talk on behalf of Nigerians – not anybody who would sit down in his house and for one reason or the other and go to the pages of newspapers and begin to criticize government. That is not acceptable in constitutional democracy.

If I understand you well, you’re saying that those who are not elected who are talking about sovereign National Conference are looking for relevance?
That is what they’re looking for. And they have taken it upon themselves to be talking. And in a democracy you cannot prevent them from talking. Let them keep on talking but the issue is the constitutional structures in dealing with such issues are in place.

In the states we have State Houses of Assembly; we have State Governments. At the National level, we have the National Assembly consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, we have the Executive arm of the government; we have the Judiciary. These are the constitutional structures on ground. And in any democracy, nobody should go outside these people if we’re talking about a representative government.

Somebody will just wake up one day and say okay we don’t want this government sack them. Is he entitled to say that? Under the constitution does he have the right to say that? The issue is that well, in democracy we have to allow the constitution to prevail. And that is how to deal with anarchy.

There are insinuations or opinions that most members of the National Assembly rigged themselves into office; that they’re not the true representatives of the people?
Who are those that rigged themselves? If there are rigging, if there were malpractices, there is an arbiter set down by the constitution. For the Electoral Act we have Election Tribunals where you take your matters to for them to adjudicate. And if somebody was not legitimately elected his election will be nullified and it has happened in this country.
And it is still happening. Just recently the election of the Kebbi State governor was annulled by the Supreme Court and ordered for a re-election. The people followed the constitution and followed the judgment. Election was conducted and so on.

What I’m saying is that if we are talking about democracy we must respect the democratic structure. If it is not good enough just because may be you’re outside the system just because what the elected people are doing are not to your satisfaction, you begin to run down the government. It doesn’t happen in the developed world. Wait for them; four years is not far away.

Lay ambush, after four years you vote them out and vote in new people. That is what we’re saying.
Let’s move forward. A strong traditional ruler could have been far more respected by Boko Haram, etc. Do you think it wise that we should strengthen our traditional institutions?
Contrary to what you have said I don’t think the negligence of traditional institutions is the cause of what we have presently in Nigeria, it is not. I rather say its poverty, positive engagement, lack of employment for our youths. That the past leaders did not foresee the expansion that we’re now experiencing; that the past leaders did not foresee that we will have population explosion. That Nigeria today we’re over 157 million; that our agriculture has gone comatose; that electricity supply has gone comatose.

That the railway system has been dead for the past 30 to 40 years. I would rather blame what is happening in this country on unemployment, gainful employment and gainful engagement for our youths rather than the traditional institutions.
Mr. President seems to have a contrary view. Recently he claimed that politics is to be blamed for the lingering Boko Haram crisis. Coming from the number one citizen honestly I believe him. Now why doesn’t the President identify those involved and have them prosecuted?
The security operatives are working round the clock. If you’re talking about insurgency; if you’re talking about insecurity challenges these are not limited to Nigeria alone. It’s a global phenomenon. And it did not start during Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency.

In the 80’s we had the Maitasine in Kano for example, in Maiduguri, in Yola; in most part of the then Northern part of this country. This insecurity did not start during Goodluck Jonathan presidency. But it is an accumulated, built up frustration of lack of proper care and attention for our youths that are easily available in the hands of mischief makers.

The President has identified the malaise. The security operatives are investigating; people are being arraigned before courts of law. Bomb factories are being discovered and destroyed. Do you think if the President and security operatives have not been working round the clock, we would have achieved that?
This country would have been worse for it.

We’re operating constitutional democracy as I have said earlier. The judiciary should also do their job. It is not for Mr. President to arrest, try and convict people. It’s not his job. Constitutionally that is not his job. Constitutionally he and his security operatives should go in collect intelligence report, investigate, arrest and arraign before competent courts of law. And that has been done. People are being arraigned before courts of law.

We are saying with all seriousness and sense of responsibility that this administration is confronting this issue headlong. And people should support the administration rather then criticize. We have to differentiate between politics and national issues. These security challenges are national issues. People should not play politics with them. Politicians should not play to the gallery and begin to condemn the administration.

We are all involved. You mentioned traditional institutions – they’re not spared. Go to Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, they went and killed the village heads. What we need to do is come together as one as national issues are involved; support the administration; expose whoever is involved so that they would face the full wrath of the law.
Mr. President is a human being like you and I. Nigerians gave him the mandate to lead this country for four years. And Mr. President needs your support and my support and indeed the support of everybody to take this country to the next level of development. So my plea to all well-meaning Nigerians, all patriotic Nigerians is to join hands with administration to take this country forward.

After Jonathan’s tenure, Nigeria will be there. That is my belief and that is your belief. Jonathan is not going to be here forever. Give him the opportunity; give him the support so that he can do his best to take this country to the next level. So, to Nigerians this is the time to stand up in unity against all perpetrators of this criminality. Identify them; expose them so that they can face the wrath of the law.

In handling the Boko Haram issue, you give the Jonathan administration a passmark?
More than a passmark!
That leads me to my next question…?
(Cuts me off )More than a passmark. When did this issue start? You have to identify when it started and where it started. What happened that has escalated this issue. This started in Borno State, in Maiduguri to be precise.
The leader of the sect, Mohammed Yussuf, was arrested by the military and handed over to the police alive. And everybody knows that and while in the custody of the police he was shot dead. Extra judicial killing. That was what escalated the issue.

When Goodluck Jonathan came on the scene, he ordered that those policemen who committed this extra-judicial killing must be brought to book. They were identified; they were investigated and they have been arraigned before the court of law. And they’re facing their trial. That is the President that has done that, because we must follow the path of constitutionality. As far as this administration is concerned we must follow the law.
Whoever that has committed a crime no matter how highly-placed; he must be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction to face the law, to face his trial. And when that is done it is now within the purview of the judiciary to take if from there.

On that topic let me take you up on this. There are suggestions in some circles that with the way the country is drifting the prediction about Nigeria becoming a broken unit in 2015 is becoming a reality?
That is their own perception. Don’t forget, Nigeria is the leader in Africa as a continent. Tell me, which Africa country has 157 million citizens. None. We have both human and material resources. We don’t lack anything in this country. We have oil, we have arable land everything, name it!

Because of both global and international interests, because there are skirmishes here and there are they limited to Nigeria? Don’t we have crisis in Liberia, in Libya, in Syria, in Iran, in Somalia? We have and it doesn’t mean that people predict or pray for the disintegration of this country.

The more united we are as a nation, the stronger we will become and we will occupy our proper position in the committee of nations. I don’t accept and I don’t believe the prediction. If they have their own interest to protect or for that statement, that is their own perception. But Nigeria, God willing, will not disintegrate.
Your opinion on the newly-formed coalition of Concerned Northern Politicians, academics, professionals and businessmen. Some people saw it as a Northern battle axe for 2015.

Well, you cannot prevent people from meeting. Whether you’re a professional or politician or a farmer, you have your constitutional right to meet, you have your constitutional right to aspire to power.
In a democracy this is allowed. It’s a constitutionally guaranteed right. So let them keep on meeting. In fact, it’s something to be encouraged. If everybody is coming together to meet to discuss politics to discuss power, we may be taken off the road of crises.

So, people should be allowed to talk, people should be allowed to meet. You cannot stop them from aspiring. That is their constitutionally guaranteed right. Whether they’re meeting for peaceful co-existence or for political power, it’s constitutionally guaranteed and I encourage them to keep on meeting.
When we reach the bridge we will cross it. 2015 is very far away and I have to reiterate what Mr. President has said. This is not time to talk about 2015. This is the time to work for Nigeria. This is the time to deliver on campaign premises. This is the time to put our railway system back on track.

This is the time to give Nigerians steady electric power supply. This is the time to make our agriculture the business that it is supposed to be to give our youths and our people the employment we dearly need. This is the time, my brother, to make our roads motorable. This is the time, my brother, to really engage our youths positively. It is not time to talk about 2015.Let me drag you to a very critical political issue. The last PDP convention was highly condemned.
By who?
Let me ask you a personal question. Considering the fact that you have worked with Mr. President right from when he was the Vice President as his P.A, Legal Adviser, what do you consider to be his most enduring quality?
Patience.

That’s the name of the wife?
Yes (general laughter). Patience is his most enduring quality of Mr. President. The Man is extra-ordinarily patient as he worked for this nation.
A lot of Nigerians seem to be impatient with his patience?
Yeah, not a lot of Nigerians. But a lot of impatient Nigerians (General laughter). He takes things gradually, studies the system, study the result so that at the end of the day the solution you’re gong to apply to the problem will match and solve it once and for all.
Nigeria is in a hurry to develop. We have a President who is not in a hurry but hiding in the cloth of patience?
No, that’s not what it means. Nigeria is in a hurry to develop. Mr. President is also in a hurry to develop but patient in the way he handles things not taking rash decisions.

That’s what I mean.
For example some people expect, may be because of the insecurity problem, the bombing in Kano and Maiduguri, they expect Mr. President to deploy soldiers with bombs and tankers to go and hit those places! That is not what is happening. We had the experience in Odi, you’re a living witness. We had the experience in Zaki Biam, you’re a living witness. Up till now we have not recovered from that action. Is that the type of thing you want Mr. President to do?
No! follow the path of constitutionality. That’s what we’re saying. In as much as the administration is really hungry to develop we cannot do that at the expense of the lives and properties of Nigerians.

Some people around him claim he’s serving his first tenure in office
They’re not claiming. It’s the truth!
It’s the truth. Is he in his second term? He is in his first term. The constitution says you cannot be elected twice into the same office. That’s the wording of the Constitution. It’s not Mr. President who said it; it’s not me.
But he has been sworn in twice into that same office.
The said the swearing in was the exigency of the time. The President died. Who do you want to be sworn in? is it the AGF, is it the Minister. The constitution says in the case of resignation or death of the President, the Vice President will be sworn in as the President.

Do you want to change the rules in the middle of the game? Do you want to amend the constitution? Those are the wordings of the constitution. And the then Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was the Vice President and when the then President passed on, he was sworn in as the President. That is the dictate of the constitution.

And he offered himself and tested his popularity with Nigerians and he won the election – the first election he participated as a President. That was the first election. He was elected for his first term in April and was sworn in on the 29th of May. So he had stood election. That is why it is a matter of common knowledge, it is a constitutional matter.
It is supposed to be a matter for every Nigerian to know, yes. Mr. President went into an election in April and won the election and was sworn in on the 29th May.
Is he is entitled to a second tenure. Constitutionally?
You agree with me and the constitution?
No, I’m asking you. I want to hear from you.

Yes, he is.
Accept it, leave it, say yes, give me a political answer but the truth is you people have set the ball rolling for his 2015 re-election?
We haven’t. Let me tell you how this issue came up. You have to know it within the content. Somebody took Mr. President to court to say that Mr. President is not entitled to contest in 2015. He took him to court and took PDP to court.

And you have to join issues once you’re in the court. And in joining issues we raised the constitutional issue that yes, the constitution says you’re only entitled to stand election for the same office twice. And Mr. President has only stood election once. So the issue came up. It’s not as if the administration set the ball rolling. No, it was dragged into it against Mr. President’s wishes and desire to stop and to prevent every government official to be talking about 2015.
Because this is a distraction; a total and complete distraction, let us have time to work for Nigeria. Let us not talk about 2015. When we reach the bridge we cross it.

Let’s face the fact?
Which fact? Why do we like distraction?
No, in this distraction let’s say the truth, let’s talk about constitutional truth?
Let us downplay 2015.
The President is entitled to a second tenure you just said so?
Let us downplay 2015.
I’m not even talking about 2015. I’m talking about his constitutional right!
Second tenure will only come in 2015.
We can talk about his constitutional right?
Yes.
Constitutionally, he is entitled to a second tenure?
What brings all this argument?
I want yes or no answer?
Constitutionally, he is entitled to a second term.
I want you to say yes or no?
Yes.
Thank you am done?
There’s no gainsaying about it. There’s no arguing the fact. Constitutionally he is entitled to stand first and second times only if he so wishes. If he doesn’t want, fine. It’s left for him to decide.

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