Senator Joshua Lidani, a legal practitioner-turned politician and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, represented the people of Gombe South senatorial district, between 2011 and 2019 at the Senate, after earlier serving as the Deputy Governor of Gombe State from 1999 to 2003. Lidani, a two-time helmsman of Kaltungo Local Government Area, was the Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Bauchi State branch from 1991 to 1992. The grassroots politician was Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, and Chairman Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics in the 7th and 8th Senate respectively. He was at a time the Gombe State Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, one of the legacy parties that metamorphose into the APC in 2013. Currently serving as the Chairman of Gombe State University Governing Council, the former parliamentarian in this interview, expresses total confidence that the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, together with the Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, will not disappoint Nigerians, based on their past records of achievements and huge experience in governance. He equally said that the people of Gombe State will see greater exploits from Governor Inuwa Yahaya in his second term, while maintaining that the governor did excellently well to the admiration of many in his first term. Excerpts:
What would be your sincere assessment of the just concluded 2023 general election?
Well, the election has come and gone. In my own opinion, the election was free and fair, both the presidential and gubernatorial elections. They are free and fair. Yes, there were sporadic cases of violence, incidences of thuggery and ballot snatching. But these were isolated cases. Overall, I think the elections were free and fair. People were able to express their views and make their choices freely without any molestation. So, one can say that the outcome is a reflection of the wishes of the people. Nigerians should feel proud that they came out to cast their votes and their votes did count.
There are those who strongly believed that the presidential election was massively rigged in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. As we speak, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi and that of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar,q are already at the tribunal to challenge the victory of the APC. How would you describe their moves?
Of course, you would expect the opposition to reject the outcome of the election, because they had raised the expectations of their supporters so much. And when they lose the election, they have to look for reasons or excuses. There was so much euphoria around them, so much propaganda divorced from the reality on the ground. So when the outcome came, their supporters were shocked and surprised. That is why they had to raise these objections and decide to go to the tribunal. Anyway, it is part of Nigerians’ attitude towards elections. When you win you will say it’s a free and fair election. When you lose you will say it’s not a free and fair election. So, there’s nothing strange about that. But to me and to the assessment of any impartial umpire, this was a free and fair election.
Are you confident that nothing will come out of the petitions put forward by the opposition candidates at the tribunal to upturn the declaration of your party’s candidate as the winner of the presidential poll?
I don’t think anything will come out to the contrary. As far as I’m concerned, it was a free and fair election. The stronghold of Tinubu is Lagos. He lost the presidential election there. That tells you that there was no manipulation. Places we didn’t expect PDP will win, they won. Places we didn’t expect that APC will win, they won and so on. And it cuts across the entire country.
Tinubu did not score 25 per cent of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, in the presidential election. And there is this argument as to whether or not it is compulsory for a candidate to have 25 per cent of the votes cast in FCT to be declared winner after meeting all other stipulated requirements. As a legal expert, what is your take on the issue of scoring 25 per cent of votes cast in FCT?
You see, I wouldn’t want to give my legal opinion on this issue of whether it’s mandatory for a candidate to secure 25 per cent of votes cast in FCT or not, especially now that the matter is already in court. I am mindful of that. But looking at it from the layman point of view, does it make sense or is it logical for you to insist that you must get 25 per cent in Abuja? So if for example a candidate is able to get 25 per cent in 36 states and didn’t get 25 per cent in Abuja, but has the highest number of votes cast in the election across the country, it means he has not won the election? To me, it doesn’t make sense logically. So, even from the layman point of view, that 25 per cent in Abuja is not mandatory. That is my take. That is my very personal opinion. Like I said I don’t want to dwell much on that as the matter is in the court for interpretation.
How would you describe the call by some persons and groups for an Interim National Government, ING, to be put in place on May 29 as against the inauguration of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima?
It is mischievous, totally unreasonable, unconstitutional and illegal. People should understand that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. How can anybody in his or her right senses be making such a call when we have a President-elect and Vice President-elect that duly emerged from the election conducted by the body constitutionally empowered to do so? On what basis would you convoke an Interim National Government? Under which constitution? It means you are calling for a coup. And that is unconstitutional. It’s even treasonable, because there is no place in the law where you will find provision for an interim government, when you have an elected President and Vice President in accordance with the constitution. The constitution itself has provided for means of seeking for redress where anybody is aggrieved with the outcome of the election. There is no way the constitution will provide for an interim national government, when there are provisions for dealing with election petitions. There is no provision in the law for that. And it is not necessary. There is no lacuna in the law whatsoever. So, let the people who are aggrieved go to the court. Let the court decide. We had elections in the past. There is no election that has not been challenged except that of Buhari in 2015, because the then President Goodluck Jonathan accepted defeat in good faith. But every other election has been challenged in court. Why didn’t they say that an interim government should be installed in all those cases? There was no need, because there was a provision in the law for people who are aggrieved to go to court and seek redress. Therefore, this call for interim national government is completely uncalled-for, unwarranted, needless and preposterous.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural and human resources. Yet, our leaders over the years have not been able to judiciously harness these resources to the benefit of the citizens such that we have a nation that remained totally backward and generally underdeveloped after over 62 years of Independence. Do you think the incoming administration of Tinubu will be able to do anything meaningful and significant to take Nigeria out of the doldrums?
Yes, of course, I have every confidence that Bola Ahmed Tinubu will deliver. Whenever you are faced with a situation like this, you look at the track record and history of the person coming on board to steer the ship. Look at how he, Tinubu, transformed Lagos State from the time he took over as the governor of Lagos State in 1999 to the time he left in 2007. How was Lagos before then and how did he leave Lagos after the expiration of his tenure as governor? So, from there you can start judging that this man is a very astute administrator. He is a good manager of men and materials. He is a consummate politician and pragmatic leader. He was able to maintain peace and calm in Lagos State. He took measures that led to a considerable increase in Lagos revenue and remarkably turned around the fortunes of the state. And others that succeeded him were able to build on the solid foundation that he laid. So, similarly, he can bring to bear on the administration of this country that experience he had while governing Lagos. Therefore, I have every confidence that he would be able to deliver. As a thoroughbred politician, he knows how to manage, handle and judge people. That is the element that is very crucial for any politician to succeed in governance, especially the Presidency of Nigeria. So, I think Tinubu has all it takes to give Nigeria the best of governance.
In Gombe State, Governor Yahaya Inuwa was re-elected for a second term by the people of the state. Is that victory a deserving one?
Most deserving, because he worked very, very well. I like to say that since the advent of democracy in Gombe State, I don’t think we have had a hardworking governor as Inuwa Yahaya. He is a focused person. He is very patriotic. He has shown unalloyed commitment and determination towards lifting Gombe to greater heights. He takes Gombe as a project that he must work on for the benefit of the people. It’s not just for him to come and govern the state and go after eight years. No. He came with a mission to transform Gombe State. And that is the approach he has had in terms of the governance of Gombe State. He has done very, very well in the last four years that he has been in office. And now that he has secured another mandate, I believe that by the end of his second term, he would have brought total transformation to Gombe State. I think we are very lucky in Gombe State to have Governor Inuwa Yahaya as the governor.
You are saying that Gombe people should expect more from him in his second term?
Definitely. They should expect more. He has been able to do much in his first term. And now that he has overcome the teething problems, it is just left for him to consolidate on what he has done for the overall development of the state.
Your party, the APC, is expected to produce the leadership of the 10th National Assembly by virtue of its majority from the results of the just concluded elections? What is your position on whether the leadership should be zoned or left open to all your party members in the parliament?
Zoning has its problems. In the National Assembly, you find it difficult zoning any position. Because if you zone it against the wishes of the members, then they will simply overturn it. They will not abide by it. We’ve seen what has happened in the past. You will recall that in the House of Representatives, Tambuwal became Speaker against the wishes of the party that zoned it elsewhere. The same thing with Bukola Saraki. He emerged as Senate President against the wishes of his own party, the APC then. He was elected against the zoning policy of the party. So, if the zoning policy is with the consensus of the members of the National Assembly, it will work. But if it is not with their consensus, it won’t work. My advice, therefore, is, if they want any zoning to take place, they have to sit down with the members-elect of the National Assembly, discuss with them and reach an agreement. But if you want to impose the zoning policy on the National Assembly, I tell you, it won’t work. That is my honest opinion.
Having concluded the 2023 elections and getting set to usher in a new administration come May 29, what words of encouragement would you want to give to Nigerians?
My words of encouragement to Nigerians is that they should be hopeful that this incoming administration will bring in a fresh breath of air into the country. We’ve had previous administrations and in each administration we had expectations. But each time these expectations were not really met. But this time around I think we have hope, because we are seeing an administration that is comprised of an astute leader, who is the President-elect and also an able lieutenant that is the Vice President-elect. These people have track records and outstanding achievements to their names. And I believe they will bring it to bear on the administration of this country. These are people that have been tested and proven to be very capable, competent and patriotic leaders, who have the interest of this country at heart. I think Nigerians should be hopeful that they will deliver on their campaign promises and then entrench peace, which has been a problem in the past. There will be peace and unity. I believe that they will reach out to all the parties and the sections of this country that are feeling aggrieved and bring them together under one umbrella. I know that with their track records, the goodwill and support of the citizenry, they will be able to do that. I call on all Nigerians to give them the support they deserve and to pray for their success that God will grant them the wisdom to be able to lead this country on the right path.