Senator Lawal Shuaibu is the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, he speaks on the renewed calls for restructuring of the country based on true federalism, saying contrary to the impression in certain quarters, the call is one of the core issues to which the party is committed. Excerpt:

Calls for restructuring seem to be dominating national debates. What is restructuring to you?

The definition of restructuring depends on who is talking about it in Nigeria. It is simply agitation and I see it as legitimate because in democracy people must enjoy the freedom to voice out their wishes, provided such calls do not cross the line as provided by legal tolerance. To me, restructuring is not different from what the manifesto of the APC promised Nigerians. The party, even during our campaigns in 2015, took cognisance of the need to introduce some amendments to the structure of governance. For example fiscal reforms, which in our opinion is to build the economy from bottom up, paying more attention to small business and encouraging entrepreneurship among our teeming youths.

The APC, as a political party, did not participate in the last 2014 national dialogue, but a number of party members participated as individuals. In the light of this, what is APC’s position on the confab recommendations?

When you have a National Assembly in place, I am not too sure if you are not undermining its constitutional authority when you embark on an exercise that touches on the alteration of the constitution by a group of Nigerians selected by a sitting president. The exercise the conference undertook was purely legislation which both the group assembled and the then president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, lacked the power to do. If members of the National Assembly as presently constituted feel they want to use any part of the recommendations of the 2014 President Jonathan’s conference in the process of constitution amendment, nobody will stop them. The APC respects the views of Nigerians, but we don’t agree to accept unconstitutionality no matter how good it appears. We must be prepared to allow everyone to carry out his responsibility as enshrined in the constitution.

Next year, 2018, will be a very busy political year for the APC and the nation, in preparation for the 2019 general elections. How well has the APC fared in meeting promises made?

The APC, I can assure, has fared very well. The story of Nigeria, if we had not taken over reins of power from the PDP, could have only been likened to that similar to some African countries where peace had become history, and with the economy so tattered arising from mismanagement. We are all witnesses to how corruption became a norm and impunity was unscrupulously granted official legitimacy. Even funds provided to fight Boko Haram were diverted while the insurgency in the North East was continuously gaining grounds. We cannot claim to have had the leverage of maximum opportunity to showcase our programmes over the last two years, largely due to the overwhelming challenges we had to face soon after coming to power, ranging from the high security challenges to paltry funds in the coffers of government, leakages in the public financial system which are mostly hidden in a way that was difficult to identify, and so on and so forth.

However, I make bold to say that in spite of all those challenges, the APC-led government has achieved much more than anybody can quantify. Immediately after coming into power, President Muhammadu Buhari, being a former military general and security strategist, strategically went out to secure collaboration with our neighbours and established a joint multilateral military team to fight the insurgents, thereby blocking all possibilities of penetration through Nigeria’s land borders, after which he then embarked on travelling to secure support from the international community, either for military capacity building or supply of specialised arms and other military equipment towards defeating the insurgency. Despite some pockets of cowardly attacks, Nigerians are now largely experiencing respite and are able to sleep with their two eyes closed.

Is the APC under immediate threat? How confident are you that the mandate given the party will be renewed in 2019?

What threats? The APC was never crippled and can never see a crippled party as a threat. They are in no way a threat to us. Instead, they are still crawling from the wounds of defeat we inflicted on them and I can assure you they need to do a lot to recuperate. If you want to know the level of confidence we have on the renewal of our mandate in 2019, just watch the reaction of the majority of Nigerians, especially the youths, when President Buhari returned from his medical vacation. This is because they know their future is being catered for. We must always remember that the APC came into government because Nigerians elected to reject the PDP. Now, tell me, what has changed in that party? Nigerians are no fools; they may not be your privileged few on social media, indeed, they are your voiceless majority, they don’t suffer selective amnesia the way some of you, privileged ones, do.

The APC has also not been without its leadership squabbles. How has it been able to navigate the storm?

That is the game of power. When you have any gathering of people with a defined purpose, you cannot rule out squabbles. They are normal situations in every political setting not just with APC, PDP, APGA or any other political party in the country, but even in advanced democracies. Just wait and see, we will come out of every squabble stronger.

There are also concerns over internal democracy in the party, as well as allegations of a weak National Working Committee (NWC). How is the party handling these issues? Why are the other organs of the party like the BoT and National Caucus not inaugurated?

You see, when you talk of varying interests in any political arrangement, there are bound to be differences in attitude and approach to issues as well as matters of administrative processes. What you take to be internal democracy may not mean the same to some people. But let me say here that our NWC is frankly constrained by the realisation of some lapses in our constitution that made it difficult for us to convene the meetings of the other organs of the party. We had difficulty in convening such meetings, as the constitution of the party, which has just been amended, is awaiting the NEC and convention to ratify the amendments in order to make it more implementable.