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IBB HAS SINNED – HASSAN KOTANGORA

By NBF News
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Kotangora
Alhaji Hassan Sani Kontagora (Magajin Rafi) and Chief Executive of the now rested Kaduna-based Hotline Magazine is not only a publisher. He has over the years been involved in charting the course for the political future of the North.

Hassan, in his characteristic candour, dwelt on why the North should forget the Presidency of the country in 2011, the behind-the-scene moves of the northern elite after late President Umaru Yar'Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia and how the region lost out in the power equation that was to follow.

This interview is full of strong feelings and angry arguments. For instance, when the Magajin Rafi recalled the role of the northern governors in the debate over the zoning of Nigeria's presidency, he descended on them, as it were. 'From today, no governor should come out and tell people that the North said this because they have no right to do that…Being a governor does not confer on you the right to become our mouthpiece,' he says. Excerpts…

You are one of the strong voices in the North who has always moulded the opinion of a wide spectrum of people in the region. One wonders why you have suddenly kept quiet in the face of the controversy surrounding the 2011 elections.

Honestly, Kenny, I will not argue with you because you were not around Kaduna and you are not an Hausa programme listener. And you know, I have a target audience. They are my people and they are yet to understand what is happening. So, they come to me most of the time and I talk to them. I necessarily, therefore, have to speak to them in Hausa.

You know, I am disappointed that journalists don't approach people who are genuinely interested in getting the feelings of our people across because as an opinion moulder in this part of the country, I don't think I need to go to journalists to ask them to come and interview me. I thought they should know that I can say things that people should understand or can understand and would benefit from. If they reason that way, they should have come.

I started this fight since November last year. Umaru Yar'Adua left this country on November 23. I granted an interview on November 25. I said in that interview I granted to Nagarta Radio, an Hausa radio station based in Kaduna, that it is only a mad man who is sick that would expect Umaru will come back and rule this country. He was not well. We knew he could not go. Let us all admit it. There was no need to pretend in that position or during that time. All we needed to do to help Umaru, even if he was going to leave the office, was to go in peace and respect.

Did you suggest that to your fellow northerners?
You are going to publish this. Aren't you? Let anybody come out and controvert this. Or if you are going, I can give you the tapes of the interviews I did.

What was their response when you told them?
They refused. And what annoyed me most was that…because we said it was our turn we brought somebody who was not well. Now if we refused to give the person who should be given as dictated by the Constitution, we would have a problem. I told them then that you people are saying it is our turn, I agree, but this is the way to do it. Let us ask Jonathan to hold the office till the end of Umaru's tenure as a form of agreement. They refused until they came up with the rubbish idea of consensus proposal, which is not in the Constitution. Jonathan was then the Vice-President, who was supposed to be given the powers in accordance with the Constitution. I told them that we should be careful because they have never been President. The only person we have heard of is Chief Okotie-Eboh.

These people have never tasted the presidency; they have never been Head of State. But we, northerners, have been Head of State either through the barrel of the gun or whatever. Let us show that sincerity, (but) they refused. Now that what we predicted is happening, I said to them they deserve it because I am not a dishonest person. I am not going to be a party to people who are sycophants, people who are hypocrites.

I want any northerner, who is worth his salt to reply after I have said this, that they are only calling themselves politicians but in reality they are only defending their interests. The North has passed that stage. The North is going to take its own decision. It will take its stand and we have taken that.

Are you saying all those who have been speaking are not northerners?

They are politicians. Whatever they have said has element of selfishness. Why would somebody like Ibrahim Babangida look for the presidency of this country? I am asking you. Why?

Why not? Is he not a Nigerian? The Constitution gives all Nigerians the right to aspire to any position once you meet the demands of such an office.

Very good. When it was time for elections in 1998, why didn't he present himself if he wanted to be president again?

There was a lingering problem at that time.
Which lingering problem?
The annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll brought a lot of problems that threatened the unity of this country. So, the people of the South West needed to be placated.

Very good. You talked about the South West. Are they the only people in this country? When he (Babangida) was stepping aside, who did he put there? Tell me. I am asking you. You are a Nigerian. When Babangida was going; when he was stepping aside, who did he put?

There was an Interim National Government
Who headed the Interim National Government? Tell me.

Chief Earnest Shonekan
From where is Shonekan?
South West
So he did not finish that lingering problem. Do you think it is honest and sincere for anybody in 1999 to give a Yoruba man the Presidency of this country? A Yoruba man that became the President for four years? That after him, there was a Yoruba man who headed the Interim National Government? If we want to be sincere, if we wanted a southerner to be President of this country…we are looking at Chief (MKO) Abiola…

(Cuts in) The injury to the people of the South West was…

(Cuts in) Wait, let me finish please. When I start, I have to finish. At that time, it was not only Babangida who opposed Chief Abiola. Even his (Abiola) own people opposed him. And he (Babangida) should not play with our future because of his own mistake. He made that mistake alone. So, he cannot try to use us in order to solve his problem. No. He should use us to solve the problem of this country. Nobody can take the gun because of Chief Abiola now.

The people who have never been President of this country are those from South-South and Igbo because General Aguiyi Ironsi was there for only six months and he was killed. Therefore, Chief Alex Ekwueme was the right person in 1999 to have been the President of this country. We would have been in peace today. Why didn't they do that? Because they wanted to satisfy their own political ambition, they used us. Now, nobody can do that. I am telling you, nobody.

Would it be right to say you understand the politics of this country and its dynamics very well?

I don't know…But as a publisher, I do. In this time that we are, what we are looking for is not for us to say I am from the north, south or the west because they don't exist. You cannot allow me to use that system during my father's time and till today, in 2010 when I am talking of 50 years of independence, you are trying to talk to me along religious or tribal lines.

No. I had a lot of friends in my secondary school. My best of friends were Christians. Even now, we are the people who are supposed to be afraid of all these things because we have more complicated issues, like them, here in the North.

I want you to be more specific. Why do you want the South-South and by extension Dr Jonathan to be president in 2011?

I said President Jonathan came with Umaru (Yar'Adua) as one ticket. If, therefore, Umaru is not there, it should be who? Is that not so? I am asking you.

That tenure would end in 2011
Which tenure?
The tenure of the joint ticket you talked about
But I said before it expires, the short time Jonathan took over, I like it. So has he no right to aspire for it? Or is he no longer a Nigerian that you said has the constitutional right to contest? I am asking you.

Go on and articulate your points why you want Jonathan to contest

Their tenure would end in 2011. Fine. Today, he is the President because of the death of Umaru. Now, I am going for Jonathan because of the argument we had earlier. I am thinking that there is an issue under the carpet, which made me to say they just want to use him and us. So I will not agree. You know why I said that? When Obasanjo was going (to contest), Babangida in 1999 did not ask us. But they went by themselves. And they are the only party that did that, contrary to the Constitution of this country, to say they are going to put somebody from the south.

They did not ask us. You get what I am saying? This is because they wanted to wipe out that problem, like you said earlier, of Chief Abiola.

Our feelings and let me say suspicion now is that Babangida is presently fighting tooth and nail for the presidency because there was an agreement. And the agreement was to bring somebody who was sick because northerners did not say they wanted Umaru. They just picked him even though they knew he was sick. Babangida and Obasanjo colluded to make Umaru the president because of his (Babangida's) desire to become the President, even though they knew he could hardly go beyond four years in office. Babangida has the ambition to become the President of this country, even if it is for four years. So they put Umaru, believing that if Umaru goes, Babangida would get the presidency easily, using the argument that the presidency is for the North. And this is what is happening now.

Sincerely, don't you think the Presidency should go to the North? The logic is that assuming the late president was alive and kicking, he would have gone for a second term. Therefore, what they are saying is, zone this position to where it ought to be.

I said I don't want zoning. I believe in the Constitution of this country. I believe anybody in this country can be…kai, let me tell you, it is because I have no money. If you can give me money, I will contest. If I have a brother in the south, he can contest. In fact the Constitution of this country says you can be the President as long as you are a Nigerian. How many people are winning elections in their places of residence? We have Yorubas in Kano, in Kaduna, Igbos in Kaduna. So who are you to stop anybody?

In that case, we are not practising democracy. What I know about democracy is that it is the government of the people by the people for the people. So, why don't you allow people to do it the way it is done? You cannot give me half-baked bread and boast you are giving me bread. No. I want you to give me bread. If you are giving me democracy, give me democracy. If you are not giving me democracy, don't give me democracy. So, I am not going to be under the tutelage of this retired Army Generals doing what they want.

What I have said to you is that Jonathan is my brother. We, the North, said we are accepting him. Let people not misunderstand the North. People of the North are brought up with sincerity, honesty, dedication and a desire not to cheat anybody. We (North) have been President of this country for almost nine times. The South has been President only for about three times. They have never complained. So, we want them to have it this time around.

Majority of the elite in the North believe it is the turn of the region and…

(Cuts in) Who are they? I say who are they? Mention one of them.

For instance, Ciroma has been insisting that…
Which Ciroma? Who is Ciroma?
Please, don't remind us about these old politicians. They know it. Please, don't let us start talking about people who when they have finished, their wives would do. We are not going to be talking of people who when they go, their in-laws would go. Is that the kind of politicians whose views northerners would respect? No. We are talking of people who have nothing except the interest of the people and who would go into government and do something for them.

How many of you are in this class? I'm sure you are not the only one with that kind of philosophy.

You are going to publish all I have said. And if anybody says he is not in this class, let him talk. Let us open up a debate. We are going to talk to the northern masses lest we are misunderstood by our southern brothers. We are the ones that care about them. They know it. But if it is somebody in Abuja because he is an old politician who has been there for more than 30 years, who is not bothered about any other person except himself, his children and brothers, I am challenging them to talk. It is not only Adamu Ciroma.

I challenge all of them, including Aliyu Gusau and Babangida, to come out. And we are warning them to stop. We are going for Jonathan because we are Muslims who believe in sincerity, honesty, equity and justice. We believe that, comparatively, Jonathan has the qualities of a good leader and that is all we want. We believe Jonathan. Even in our book, the Holy Quran, it is said that any man, whether Christian or Jew who is more honest, more sincere, is better than you who think you are a Muslim. And in the North, we have a lot of them.

Babangida is not the only presidential aspirant from the North. There is also Atiku and Buhari. What is your rating of these aspirants?

Atiku has not told you he wants the presidency at all costs.

But he is also saying it is the turn of the North. He even said he is prepared to make the sacrifice if that would bring the presidency to the North.

Please understand me. Nobody is stopping Babangida, Atiku or Buhari. Maybe Balarabe Musa would also join the race. So if we have this number of contestants from the North, why are they making noise? Jonathan has not stopped anybody from contesting. And they have the right to run. So, why the argument? Is this not democracy? If it is, they should allow us to decide who we want. We have a lot of northerners in the race, so why are they afraid? Let Jonathan and all of them from the North come out. Nobody is arguing with them. They are the ones crying why Jonathan, why Jonathan like babies. Jonathan is only a fisherman.

Why are they afraid of a hook when you have a General who has a gun?

So we said, let Jonathan come out. Let Babangida, Atiku, Buhari and any other person come out. It is left for us to choose who we want. But please let nobody make it look like a geographical or regional affair. In the North, we have Muslims and Christians and we are living peacefully. We are brothers and sisters. Nobody should bring that kind of thing now because of his selfish interest because all of them are doing it because of their selfish interest. What have they done to the North? I challenge them.

Today, within this short time, go and see what the governors of the South-South, South East and South West are doing. What have our people done? Am I the only one to be called almajiri? No. I don't have almajiri. My people made almajiri. So, I want people who will come and bring the good things of life for my people. I am not an almajiri. If I have brothers who don't care about the interest of my people, I have nothing to do with them. If I have Jonathan who cares about the interest of my people, I have something to do with him.

Babangida had been in power and many northerners have been in power. Today, Zungeru is going to have a power station. Today, Jebba is going to be repaired. Today, in Taraba State, something that has not been anticipated on the Mambilla Plateau, the hydro electricity plan is on. Where were my brothers, the northern leaders all these years? So, you see, this is the issue. Umaru came with a laudable programme, roads, railways and others. And somebody will come and tell me I should have nothing to do with Jonathan. This man is not only going ahead with them, he has even improved on what Umaru wanted to do. I like him. But I won't go to anybody to look like a beggar. I want to be myself.

The people in Abuja are not representing me. Let Jonathan know that the northern politicians in Abuja are not representing the North. The Abuja politicians of northern extraction would have to do it the way we want it. They will not come here to tell us where to go. We are the people to tell them what we want. From today, no governor from the North should come out and tell people that the north said this because they have no right to do that. They should go and do their governorship in accordance with the living standards of their people.

The governors we have now are only wasting their time talking all the time; doing nothing for us. We are saying they should stop. Being a governor does not confer on you the right to be our mouthpiece. We are our own mouthpiece.

So, if any governor again dares to start talking… They came to Kaduna to tell Nigerians that they are ten governors that want zoning of the presidency to the North. Is (Ibrahim) Shekarau a PDP governor? Is (Ali) Modu Sheriff a PDP governor? Why did they vote? So let nobody again come to fool us. We can now see that even the Ministers are there only for their in-laws, children and wives.

I have been seeing posters of Aliyu Gusau. Why is he still there? He should have left and come to look for the votes he said he is looking for. Why is he still in the government of the person he says he doesn't want? I am warning any northerner and walahi talahi as Hassan Sani Kontagora, Magajin Rafi, that he should no longer talk on behalf of the people of the North, especially people that we know do not have the interest of the people of the north in their hearts other than their children, wives and in-laws. We have respected elders and leaders. They refused them to come close to the government. They are there always travelling to build houses in Dubai, America and Europe. They should be careful. Goodluck has come; change has come, light has come. Walahi talahi, I am a Muslim and I say Goodluck is my brother.

What do you want in the circumstance?
Let me be very clear to you, a lot of people think Babangida has boys. He hasn't. Let Babangida know. He should know I am not his boy. I am only his brother. I am not his errand boy. If Babangida is looking for the presidency of this country, he should go and look for it. But we are telling him that we are not with him. He should know the North is not with him. Anybody who doubts it should come to the North and ask me. And I am telling them if Babangida has paid something to make us support him by all means; if he thinks he has done something for us to be his boys, he should talk.

He has been President; he has the right to be President. But that right only remains for him to be if he wants to be. It is also our right to elect who we want to elect. This time, it is our right to elect the person we want and that person is Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. This time around, the North is going for Jonathan and nobody should talk of politics of sectional interest. Jonathan is a unifying factor. If he succeeds, we succeed.

Why are you after Babangida when there are other contestants from the North?

If Babangida can be President for eight years and he is not contented; he cannot go and seek forgiveness from his God and he is still willing to come back and look for it by all means, then something is amiss. If I were him and I have being the President of this country, even for two or three years, I should have gone back to my God and supplicate to Him so that he can forgive me for whatever I might have done wrong. But he has forgotten the years he did, what he did and he thinks that at the age of over 70 he can still come and do what he wants. It is over.

Please tell him that even Maradona had a coach. When Maradona was a player, he scored legally and even with his hands. That was what Babangida did. That time has passed. He should retrace his steps and become a coach like Maradona. I don't care if Babangida is printing posters or not. Did you see his posters in my house? As you enter my street, did you see his poster? Haba! if Babangida is wasting his money printing posters, he should go. It is his money.

You saw his posters and that of Aliyu Gusau. If these people are honest to themselves, I am challenging Babangida and Aliyu Gusau why they are printing posters. They cannot deceive us any longer. How can the two of them be printing posters? Something is fishy. Please nobody should fool us again. We are mature to take decisions on our own and we are going to take that decision. Tell them that they are wasting their time.