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APC crisis: Oshiomhole must go – Muiz Banire, lawyer, activist, ruling party’s ex-national legal adviser

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Muiz Adeyemi Banire (SAN) is a lawyer and activist, former commissioner in Lagos State, former National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and currently, the Chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria. Banire, spoke to Akani Alaka on insecurity in the country, the crises in the ruling APC and his relationship with former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, among issues, including the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal where he is among the team of lawyers, defending the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections.  

 

What do you make of this apprehension about invasion of the South-west by Fulani herdsmen and killings associated with it?

For me, I regard it as organised crime and it has to be treated as such. The law enforcement agencies should do their job. It is as simple as simple.

Some commentators are saying leaders of APC in the South-west like you are not speaking up about the growing insecurity in the region…

I am not an APC leader. I am a lawyer, as you can see. The APC people are the ones that can talk for themselves.

Still talking about insecurity, what do you make of the letter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to Buhari?

Unfortunately, I have not read it. I have it in my system, but I have not read it. This thing (appearance at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal) has not allowed me.

One of the things he said was that the president’s mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity was part of the reasons for the insecurity we are witnessing in the country now. The insinuation is that the president has not acted swiftly because the people involved are from his own part of the country. Do you agree with this?

As a lawyer and a professional, I know that crime is crime, regardless of whether you are Fulani, Igbo or whatever. If you commit crime, you should be dealt with decisively. It is as simple as that. So, if there is anybody culpable, the law enforcement agencies are there. It is not the president that will go and arrest criminals. People should do their jobs.

But do you think the president is doing enough to tackle the problem of insecurity in the country?

My view is completely different from all these things people are saying. We all have different approaches. Let’s go back to the basics. What are the causes of the security challenges? That’s what you should go and find out and address, not treating the symptoms. They kill people here, you drag the military; they kill people there, you drag the military and that, in my view, is not the solution. What are the things making some people to kill? Let’s find out first.

But some people have said it is about the bid to control or take over resources of other people…

It is not about the control of resources. It is about poverty as far as I am concerned. If you are hungry and have no other way of survival, it’s either you die naturally as a result of the poverty or you take the gamble of a crime, if you succeed, good for you, If you don’t, you die. So, it is as simple as that. That’s the logic.

But poverty is not something that can be curbed in a day, but we are having these crimes and killings all over the country. So, what do you think the government can do in the interim to stop the killings?

It is because people have gotten to desperation level.

People are talking of state police, restructuring and so on as part of the solutions to the security challenges. What’s your position on that?

That’s not my own view of the situation. I don’t agree. I am not saying there should not be state police, there can be. But honestly speaking, state police added to federal police cannot solve the problem in my view until we go to the basics and address the fundamentals.  Recently, the former Governor of Lagos, Raji Fashola, presented a paper at an NBA event and if you had listened to the paper, you will know that militarisation of the nation is not the situation. So many issues were raised in the paper – for example, the issue of unoccupied places, forests all over the place, who takes care of them – those are where the perpetrators perpetrate all the crimes. We should try and take over all those public spaces.

You talked about the issue of ungoverned spaces. That’s why people are saying we need to employ more police officers through state police…

That’s what I am saying, not just the deployment of the military here and there. Do something – engage those open spaces. If people don’t need them, acquire them.

You said you are no longer a leader of APC, even though you are a former national legal adviser of the party…

Have you forgotten they expelled me at a time?

Are you still under expulsion?

Yes, I am happy to be expelled.

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But here you are, defending the victory of the party in the presidential election?

That’s my job. I will defend anybody that brings any case. I am a lawyer.

So, you don’t attend APC meetings in Lagos or in Abuja?

Ask them whether they have seen me there.

But leaders of Lagos APC tend to see you as a troublemaker.

I have no problem with that.

The last time you brought the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, to Lagos to come and speak about godfatherism…

It was not my event. I was invited to speak, just like he was invited to speak, that’s all.

But the question you asked about how to stop godfatherism, do you think it will generate the kind of controversies it generated?

That’s even no news because I have been consistent in my condemnation of godfatherism and everybody has been condemning godfatherism – even Oshiomhole condemned it; Pastor Adeboye condemned it. Everybody is condemning it, but some can’t speak out. But I am not a weakling.

But is there godfatherism in Lagos?

There is godfatherism everywhere. It is in Lagos, but we must tame it, that’s my view. Anywhere it is, let’s tame it because it is evil; it is not good for the people. It is as simple as that.

Some APC members, especially in Lagos, believe that whenever you are talking about godfathers, you are referring to Tinubu, the National Leader of APC. Is that right?

If that’s what they believe, so be it. But I know that beyond him, there are still few of them there. There are so many of them, they are jobless, all they do is imposing candidates on political parties all over the place so that they can take the benefit. They are all over the place.

Some of your critics said you began your campaign against godfatherism because you attempted to also benefit from such imposition but failed?

I can never benefit because I have never been interested in any election whatsoever.

You did not attempt to contest for the governorship of Lagos as was rumoured…

Have you ever seen me trying to contest for any position? Go and ask them if they have ever seen me trying to do that. It is not all of us that are cut out for that rubbish. It is not all of us that are office-oriented. I am okay with my life. There is something called contentment. If you are content, you will be okay, a happier person. It is because of the ignorance of some of them that they don’t even know the implication of holding a public trust. If you know what public trust implies, you will run away from it.

Do you think that the people we have entrusted with public trust in Nigeria are living up to expectations?

A lot of them violate it. They breach it regularly. But they will account for it. It may take time. Right from here to hereafter, they will account for it.

One of the cardinal programmes of the Buhari is fighting corruption. How well would you say the government has done in this regard?

Well, I have a completely different view on that. Largely, we are more concerned now with loot recovery; recovering what has been stolen here and there but it should go beyond that. There are other strong components of the fight against corruption like education, empowerment; blocking leakages. There are a lot of issues to be taken care of to have a successful anti- corruption war.

As the Chairman of AMCON, what is being done to ensure that the debts taken over by the organisation are recovered from these rich Nigerians, who seem not to be interested in repaying?

We are strategising and we are moving; the legal processes are being shortened now. The courts are being sensitised to the speedy and efficient requirement of AMCON cases. We are responding appropriately to the challenges.

But why do you think these rich Nigerians don’t like to pay their debts?

They don’t want to pay because as far as they are concerned, it is their entitlement and they are above the law.

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How would you rate the performance of the Buhari administration in its first term?

The first term is the foundation laying period. My prayer is that we have more dynamic ministers to capitalise on the foundation that has been laid during the first term. That is very important and essential. That’s my view. The government has done a lot in terms of building the foundation for the different sectors. It is now to start putting blocks on them.

The president did not change any member of his cabinet for the four years, except those that left on their own or one who died. Is that a good thing, in your view?

No, I don’t believe that should be the case; he should keep on reviewing their performance.

What’s your assessment of the performance of the ministers?

Some of them did well, not all of them. But some did well.

Nigerians are waiting for the President to submit the list of his second term cabinet to the National Assembly. Is there any member of the former cabinet that you think deserves to be on the new list because of his or her performance?

Of course, Fashola.

You think Fashola has done well and he should return?

Of course.

But many have argued that he was unable to solve our electricity problems, while the roads are still not much better…

You cannot solve the problem overnight. It is a big problem. I have been in government before and I know what it takes, particularly in terms of resources. Do we have the resources to solve those problems? Certainly not.

So, it is only Fashola that you think should be reappointed?

Well, that is the person that I am familiar with his capacity so far and I know he is committed to the struggle. Amaechi tried too and I love my own minister, the minister for finance, she performed very well and I pray that she comes back.

Do you share the apprehension of Nigerians that the president is taking too much time to submit the list of his cabinet to the National Assembly, especially now that the lawmakers are about to embark on vacation?

When they go on vacation, they will come back.

They will come back in September, will that not be too late?

They can always summon themselves back. I have no fear about that.

You said you have been expelled from APC, but I know you are still a member…

You cannot say I am still a member; you are not the party now.

Okay, but I want you to assess the performance of the party in the 2019 general election?

It wasn’t great. The performance wasn’t great.

Why do you say so?

We came down in the number of positions that we had, we came down – so many of our candidates lost the election. You can see what is happening all over the place. So, our performance was not great, not brilliant at all.

As a former national legal adviser of APC, how would you rate the performance of the current chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, in the management of the affairs of the party?

Well, I am not impressed. I have always said it that my understanding of politics is that as much as possible, you must be extremely calm and tolerant of the views of others. It is not a place in which you ask people to go away, go away. It’s hardly done in politics to ask people to go away. Politics is one place that you must be working to attract more people daily. So, I don’t believe in his approach.

Are you then in support of those saying Oshiomhole should be eased out for a person with a calmer disposition?

I shared their view.

That Oshiomhole should be sacked, as APC chairman?

Whatever way it is done. My view is that we need somebody, who can unite the party. The party is badly divided. Every day, you hear that they want to send the deputy national chairman away, they want to send the vice chairman, North-west away. Virtually, they will send everybody away, the way things are going. So, if there are crises within – right from the National Working Committee, how can they control the larger space?

How do you think APC should handle the brewing crises between Oshiomhole and the Governor of Edo State, who is also his successor, Godwin Obaseki?

It is simple. My position is that, leave the governor alone; let him govern the state. During his own time in Edo, Oyegun never interfered for one day over what is going on there – whether in the choice of the Speaker or the exco members. So, let the governor run the state; he has been elected to do a job.

What is your position on this fiddling with direct and indirect primary for selection of candidates for elective offices by the APC, because this is one of the things causing problem in the party?

Again, I disagree with their position, legally and morally. If you are applying indirect, apply it all over. If you are applying direct primary, apply it all over, not that you will be selective. I don’t share that view.

What is your position about the seeming growing agitations for the 2023 election, especially as it concerns the position of the presidency?

It is highly premature.

The arguments have been about the position of the South-west as regards the position of the presidency for the 2023 election…

My view again is that the best person should govern this country. I am not carried away by those sentiments. I want the best human being. It is just like in football, that’s part of our problem. You are going to the field, you are using quota. What is quota with football? If you can get the whole team from one state, so be it.

Nigeria should win, that’s all I care about. I don’t think we should trivialise serious business like leadership by starting to zone, characterising it. I am not of that school of thought at all. In fact, I have said it in several interviews that all these federal character, quota system, I don’t believe in all of them. Competence must be our watchword – the person who has the capacity to deliver.

But even at that, some people are already saying Tinubu, your fellow Lagosian should get the APC presidential ticket in 2023…

Let him go and try. Anybody can try.

But do you think he has a chance of getting the ticket?

I don’t know whether he has a chance or not. Other people will also come out. But my own position is that we need younger human beings now, much more younger person. Not people in the class of over 60 years of age like Tinubu. See the vice president, he is there. He is a young man; he still has the energy.

The vice president is also over 60?

Yes, that’s why I said ideally, I would have preferred somebody younger. But if we must go by that, it should not be for anyone above 65, this job is not for him. Even, our current president lamented that that he wished he could have got the job when he was much younger. And I know what it takes. He may mean well, but when the energy is not there, what can he do?

But what’s your problem with Lagos APC, why do you keep having problems with the leaders?

It is because I am not a stooge. I am not a sycophant; it is as simple as that. I am stickler for rules and regulations, rule of law. It is either you abide by the rule of law or we go apart. No other thing.

They also said that you are fond of always opposing APC National Leader, Tinubu, what’s your relationship with him now?

I am not opposing anybody, it is nothing personal. I just told you now that it is about the rule of law. I am a lawyer and I believe in rule of law because the alternative to rule of law is rule of anarchy. And I have always said when there are rules of engagement, let’s follow it. If you don’t follow it, whoever is involved, I am not talking about the national leader, any other person that is involved, I will tell him or her that what you are doing is wrong.

So, you believe that the national leader is not always following rule of law or laid down regulations in the affairs of APC?

No, of course, they will follow the rules in some instances. But when he violates it, especially when it concerns me, I will talk. If it does not concern me, I will ignore. For example, people were complaining about the commissioner list of Sanwo-Olu and so on, I said it doesn’t concern me. That one, if they like, they can take all the commissioners from one room. There are no rules governing that. But if it is election, and there are rules and you don’t comply, I will shout.

Do you think Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the current governor of Lagos will live up to people’s expectation in terms of performance?

I expect him to perform if they give him a free hand.

Do you think he has free hand to run the government, especially looking at the list of nominees for appointment, as commissioners he submitted to the Lagos House of Assembly some days ago?

The people on that list, except for some few characters there, I don’t know most of them. But there are some serious minded fellows that I saw there. How the list emerged, I don’t know.

So, what are you doing to resolve your problem with Lagos APC?

I am not a politician. I have never been and I am not. Some of us just veered into politics because we believe that if we leave it to these characters called politicians, they will destroy this nation. So, I am not a professional politician. We are here to ensure that as much as possible, the best people emerge. That’s all.

So, you are not bothered by your expulsion from APC?

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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