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Coup: Nigerian leaders should be mindful of what happened in Niger, says ex-lawmaker

Former member of the Katsina State House of Assembly and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC Yusuf Shehu in an interview with DAILY POST, described the recent military coup in the neighbouring Niger Republic as a great lesson to political leaders in Nigeria. He advised leaders in Nigeria to provide quality leadership that would improve the lives of people. He noted that anything short of that could expose Nigeria to the same fate as Niger.  Excerpts!

What implications to Nigeria do you see of the recent  coup in Niger Republic?

Even though the reasons for the coup, according to the mastermind, are uncalled for, a closer look will show you that what Nigerians are going through are far more than what was happening in Niger before the coup. But Nigerians are still very patient with their leaders. Niger is smaller than Nigeria in terms of population; it is just about 20 to 30 million people.

The Francophone countries are different from Anglophone countries. Most of the countries colonised by France are now having this problem of coups, probably because of the French policy of Assimilation. They are independent in some areas but they are not fully independent; their soldiers are answerable to French policy and her allies within the African continent.

They have a common agenda, cooperate among themselves and are tele-guided by France. Niger is lucky to have a president like Basoum. Katsina has a boundary with Niger, and we know what he has done in terms of provision of infrastructure and his efforts to stabilise his country. But, from media report, he made a statement which touched on the French policy, and this necessitated the coup. 

In Nigeria we have insecurity and corruption; there is no electricity, no health care system and so many failures and vices, but the Nigerian Army has been able to remain in the barracks and allowed democracy to thrive. Democracy should be allowed to thrive. People should be allowed to elect credible leaders so that there will be development and prosperity for the people.

Do you see any lessons for Nigerian leaders to learn from the Niger experience?

Of course. A proverb in Hausa says that if your neighbour’s beard catches fire, you should run to get water to rub on your own. Niger is our neighbour, and if this coup could happen there, our leaders should change to avoid what happened in Niger from happening in Nigeria. It is a lesson we should take seriously.

How do you see the announcement by the Federal Government that vehicle owners should  pay N1000 as proof of ownership yearly?

Government’s tax policies are too much on Nigerians, although tax is paramount to the development of any country.

I don’t support adding to the hardship that Nigerians are experiencing. But Nigerians should understand that contributing their own part, like paying dues and taxes, is the only way we can help to develop the country. I support whatever measure that will make Nigerians to be patriotic in paying their dues but at the same time, I am also in support of Nigerians that more hardship should not be imposed on them.

Nigerian leaders are fond of comparing Nigeria with countries where social amenities are provided for the citizens when they want to talk about tax. 

How do you feel when Nigerian leaders talk about patriotism and make references to other nations where taxes are deployed for the benefit of all?

While leaders in Europe, America, Asia and even some African countries, deploy revenue from taxes to provide good health system, education, transportation, water, roads, and security among others, in Nigeria such amenities are lacking, and where available, they are beyond the reach of the masses.

This is because of the ‘Nigerian factor’, but, we hope that one day, we will see the end of this nonsense. One day, Nigerians will challenge their leaders through the electoral process.

Did you anticipate the agony and pain that has resulted from the removal of fuel subsidy removal?

The subsidy removal is necessary because the monster has been depriving Nigerians of good governance for the past 20 to 30 years. The benefits of the subsidy have not been enjoyed by Nigerians.

The subsidy was meant to end, the only thing is that Tinubu’s government is the only one that has mustered the courage to confront it. Nigerians should be patient and understand that this present government has no alternative. Nigeria is in debt, infrastructures are dilapidated and without removing the fuel subsidy, there is no way to generate money to develop the country.

You don’t agree with people who believe that the fuel subsidy removal was ill-timed?

No. Waiting for the right time would be another way of wasting time too. The subsidy has been removed once and for all, and we are going through hardship now, but in future, we shall all enjoy it.

Was the president correct in not putting in place measures to cushion the effects of the removal of subsidy, a development that is pitching the labour unions against the government?

I agree that he should have considered the palliative measures before announcing the removal. It is also correct that he knew about the issues surrounding the subsidy before he became president, and with the prompt removal when he was sworn in, he demonstrated that his acquaintance with it.

We are not happy that we are suffering from the inception of the Tinubu presidency; that was not what we voted for. The solutions to this hardship will come in one form of palliative or the other.

Was there an alternative to removing the subsidy like going after the fuel subsidy thieves?

I believe that Tinubu knew about the fuel subsidy cabals but it didn’t sound politically advisable to start arresting people at the inception of his government. I agree that those people should be arrested because the government knows them.

Do you see hypocrisy or sincerity in a government that plans to give N8,000 as palliative to 12 million households, while N70 billion was earmarked for 469 members of the National Assembly and N35 billion for the judiciary?

Of course government officials should cut down on their expenses. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary should cut down their expenses because the gap between them and the masses is too wide. They are enjoying benefits, the masses are starving.

What did you make of the statement credited to the president that there will be chaos if the election petition tribunal nullified his victory because of his failure to secure 25 percent of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)?

For a man who has been in politics and believes in the rule of law, justice and democracy, such a statement shouldn’t arise. The judiciary should be allowed to be independent to decide at the election tribunal.

There are reports that judges of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal are under one form of threat or the other to favor the ruling APC in the judgement.

That is politics. The government in power will always be accused of threatening or coercing the judiciary to do its bidding. I don’t believe that the ruling party is threatening the judiciary in that regard. I still have confidence in the judiciary and I know that they will deliver justice in the presidential election tribunal.

What would you say to judges at the election petitions tribunal?

I will tell any of them to be above board and do the right thing. As a judge, there is another judge that is ready to judge you in the hereafter. 

Would you know why successive governments, including the current APC government, have refused to put the repair the nation’s refineries?

As Nigerians, we know that the reason is the ‘Nigerian factor.’ Those benefiting from the subsidy fraud are untouchables. If two refineries out of four can work for two years without disruption, the problem of fuel will be history in Nigeria. They will not allow that because they are enjoying; they don’t want our refineries to work because it’s their gain.

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