The current administration has come under severe attacks in the last few days over the height of insecurity in the country. As a known supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari, do you still have cause to defend his administration?
Permit me to start by thanking those who criticise Mr. President and by extension our administration, for without criticism no country or no organisation will prosper. For me, criticism is a core ingredient of liberal democracy and an enhancer of the ageless social contract between the led and the leaders. Throughout the history of liberal democracy, elections are classified as referendum of the incumbent. We are the incumbent; we naturally inherit the huge advantages of being in power and the downside of vile and genuine propaganda.
However, one is concerned when some critics use one black brush to tar all efforts as bad and rate both the dividends and immense benefits of democracy Mr. President has bestowed on Nigerians and our downsides.
Are you saying there are no downsides?
Yes we have downsides; I will be an idiot to dismiss our failures. We are fallible human beings; we made some mistakes and some assumptions no doubt. I wholeheartedly admit such mistakes, just as I do not buy all the gibberish and darts thrown at us. Some people either because of selective amnesia or utter mischief deliberately cast aspersions on Mr. President without taking into cognizance, as my people will admonish, where and how the rain that is beating us started.
You seem to be making reference to the recent harsh criticisms of the administration by Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah?
I’m not cherry picking or being selective. I am talking of the collective barrage of criticisms, which stream in second by second, minute-by-minute 24/7. My Lord Bishop, if you look closely, leaves one with some lessons, which any leader needs to move forward. Bishop Kukah has the inalienable right like other Nigerians to criticise us. As I said, we are managing the commonwealth of Nigerians, which empowers every Nigerian to query us.
I don’t get angry at criticism or exception to criticism for one was thought in Political Science class that it is inevitable. All one does is to make amends where necessary and overlook vile propaganda.
How then would you situate the issue of ‘virus of hatred’ and other caustic statements emanating from the Presidency?
I’m not the spokesman of Mr. President; I am an ordinary Buharist and I know his spokesmen as professionals. All I’m saying is that most critics deliberately gloss over the material conditions that gave rise to the palpable and general insecurity, gross unemployment, abject poverty, widening inequality and despondency in the land.
What are the material conditions that led the country to its current state of insecurity and made it the world’s poverty capital?
What one is saying is that it seems they forget that these are the negative outcome or fallout of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) induced Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the 80s. One remembers with nostalgia the immortal thesis of Professors Claude Ake, Bode Onimode, Bala Usman, Ikenna Nzemiro et al; where they predicated the sordid situation we have found ourselves today. They shouted to the top of their voices that if SAP as nebulous economic policy was adopted, the consequences would be dire. All their forecasts are what we are witnessing today. Regrettably, they were vindicated. We ended up producing the richest African and paradoxically the world’s poverty capital.
How can you blame a policy of almost 40 years ago for the current economic downturn of the country?
SAP laid the foundation for the economic downturn ab initio by stating that government has no business in business. Thenceforth, issues like privatisation of state owned enterprises ensued. The outcome is that vital infrastructure like power sector was privatised. In our case, the privatisation exercise was less than transparent. Please find time and go through the agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the beneficiary private companies. It was akin to agreement authored by tenant for landlord. This is the major impediment for the revitalisation of the power sector since we came to power in 2015. Why don’t you investigate why all the DISCOs ranging from Ikeja DISCO, Abuja DISCO to Enugu DISCO are all complaining and their customers are also complaining? It is the handwork of authored tenant agreement invariably imposed on landlord.
The politics of 2023 general election has started in earnest. Do you think your party stands a chance to retain power at the centre given the current mood of the nation?
To be honest, anyone who becomes the presidential candidate of our great party has 60-70 per cent chance of becoming the president come May 29, 2023. As I said before, there are insecurity and other challenges, but they cannot erase or throw away the huge achievements we made in fixing the huge social and physical infrastructural deficit we inherited. Across the length and breadth of the country, Mr. President made sure that roads, rail, water, bandwidth internet penetration and social investment programme were attended to more than our sister political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Our major downside is general insecurity in the land, which from all indications, will soon be contained.
It seems that Nigerians have blocked their ears to such platitudes and sermons you are preaching and may not vote for APC…
(Cuts in) My brother, take note that we are in liberal democracy, practicing a multiparty system, where two political parties dominate the political landscape. This being the scenario we find ourselves, the next president will surely come from APC; second is PDP, which chances is narrow. Luckily, between the APC and PDP, there is thin or no noticeable difference. The little difference is that we invested more in infrastructure, whereas the PDP shared the money. The share the money syndrome of the PDP is what people erroneously misinterpret as achievements.
What about the Third Force? They are seriously organising to shove both the APC and PDP out of the governance space. What’s your take?
Forget about the Third Force; 2023 is not their electoral victory date. It took us over 10 years to arrive at our famous merger of July 31, 2013.
What is your position on the unprecedented and humongous nomination fees levied by your party?
On this very important issue, which has led to outrage, may I humbly appeal to our compatriots, our membership and our teeming supporters to note that the N100 million and other nomination fees are to primarily maintain the axiom of Mr. President not to use public funds to fund our great party, the APC.
Do you think people can take this as a rational and valid reason?
To be frank, President Buhari from the onset maintained that he would not utilise public funds to fund APC. Secondly, President Buhari expects the candidates to mobilise nomination fees from their supporters as he did at various times in his four times bid for president. It is with nostalgia one remembers when we opened bank portals for Mr. President where in the first round, Hajia Fati Koko, a Kebbi-based restaurant proprietor of blessed memory and Senator Ikechukwu Obiora topped the chart with N1 million donation, respectively. Realistically, an aspirant doesn’t need to personally own the N100 million or N2 million as the case maybe.
Thirdly, we need the pardon of Nigerians, for APC as the foremost brand in the electoral landscape is not expected to charge the same N30 million presidential nomination fees with His Excellency, Rabiu Kwakwanso’s New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP); just as Mercedes G-Jeep is not the same price with Innoson G-Jeep.
What about women and youths? Is the humongous fee not a smart way of scheming them out?
To be frank both have their concessions – no nomination fees, only expression of interest for women and 40 per cent discount for youths. Don’t forget that we are rational and reasonable enough to know that women and youths are our backbone.
Even at that, it is the most outrageous nomination fees since the annals of democracy in Nigeria…
(Cuts in) That’s far from truth or records of our electoral history. I stand to be contradicted. We should not forget as well that the nomination fees for the 1923 election, which is the first legislative election in Nigeria, was pegged by the Legislative Council Order under Lord Lugard at £10. This is almost 100 years ago. Therefore, only financial experts will evaluate today the worth of £10 then. Liberal democracy throughout history is never cheap my brother.
There have been high profile defections from your party of late and more are likely to come apparently as fallout of its last national convention and the inability of the leadership to resolve the crisis in some state chapters. Don’t you see the development as ominous signs of defeat in 2023?
What I have learnt in my decades on earth is that every coin has two sides. Defection between APC and PDP is no longer news. That is why I earlier asked you to differentiate between both parties and it is a very difficult assignment. This is because some smart Alec’s in PDP immediately after our victory in 2015 moved in quickly and converted APC into a rehabilitation centre. On the other side are people like Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amechi, who earlier on contributed with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu the much-needed critical supplement, which contributed immensely to President Buhari’s 12 million Vote Bank for victory. That was the good side of the coin of defection.
Many of the crises threatening the party today started under the Caretaker Committee but they couldn’t resolve them. How do you think the new NWC of the party should navigate to ensure peace across the state chapters and face 2023 elections with a common front?
The good luck is that the chairman of the National Reconciliation Committee, Distinguished Senator Abdullahi Adamu is today the new National Chairman. If I’m in his shoes, all I need do is to dust up the reconciliation file and implement it.
There have been debate on which zone the presidential candidate of your party should emerge from and how he should be chosen. How would you weigh in on the discourse?
Our leadership had long zoned to South. We are patriots and believers on equity, good conscience and natural justice.
We are not PDP that out of desperation for power is breaching its own constitution and the zoning convention, which since 1999 has guaranteed national loyalty, national unity and our corporate existence.
Your zone, the Southeast, has been laying claim to the presidential ticket based on equity but all those who had indicated interest within your party seem to be ‘sleeping’ while contestants from other zones have been unrelenting in their consultations and mobilisation. What could be the reason for this perceived slumbering?
We are doing so based on equity, natural justice and good conscience. We are also true patriots, who live and invest in all the nooks and crannies of our dear country.
How convinced are you that a south easterner will get the presidential ticket of your party?
As stated above, we are very hopeful that Ndigbo that covers the seven Ohanaeze designated states will not miss out. That is my prayer; I’m not restricted to core Southeast states. I don’t mind any Igbo from Rivers or Delta states