Jude Okoro, Calabar The Federal Government has decried the incessant communal clashes between Ukelle community in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State and their Izzi neighbours in Ebonyi State. The government said crisis has not only affected the farming communities, but has far-reaching consequences on food security in the country. Read also: Anambra…
•Says APC founders have since deserted the ruling party
In 2015, many thought he was going to challenge former President Goodluck Jonathan, even Jonathan saw him as a potential rival, but former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido did not run. He told Saturday Sun in January this year that running against Jonathan at the time was like passing a vote of no confidence on him.
Today, however, Lamido has left no one in doubt that he would be seeking his party’s ticket for the 2019 presidential contest. In this interview with ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, held at his home in Kano last Saturday, Lamido declared that Buhari was no threat to the PDP, come 2019.
He said: “What is my business if they endorse him or if he runs? Buhari came from a very small party called the CPC. Without the influence of the ACN and the governors who left the PDP, there was no way he would have won because he came from a very tiny party. If those who came together to make him what he is, are no longer in the party, then he has my sympathy for failing to understand this. Look here, Buhari is no threat to the PDP.
“In PDP, we do not give a damn on whoever the APC presents for 2019 because we are more than two-third. We know that as a party, we have made some mistakes and we apologise to Nigerians. If the likes of Tinubu and Atiku feel concerned about what is happening in APC and those who were originally in PDP leave, what will become of him? He would only be left with his tiny CPC, I don’t know how he would do it, but that is his problem, not mine. In any case, the Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015.
“The Buhari of today is fatigued; he is faced with what you call political party management in a democracy. It is not where you give orders; here, you have to build some consensus. You can see he cannot even relate well with the Senate President of his own party. So, the Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015. Before 2015, he was Buhari the puritanical. Buhari, who they saw as the only man at the helm of 20 million people that Nigerians in the APC were ready to surrender their trust, their reasoning, their honour and everything because they are so lazy. Look at what (Professor Itse) Sagay said about the APC. He said they are all thieves. So if they are calling the PDP thieves, their own man is saying they are all thieves.”
Few days ago, you wrote the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a letter where you analysed the situation in the country and said the party must take the lead in rescuing the country. What informed the approach that you took?
A political party has its own kind of authority and by my upbringing and culture, the party is very important. We need to pull Nigeria out of despondency and the first thing that I chose to do was to intimate the party faithful that I am offering myself for the job should the party consider me worthy of flying its flag because I believe that it is time that we share the same concern for our country. PDP is the only party that can set things right in this country.
If you compare how things were in the country three years ago to what it is now, you will appreciate why things have to change. Many others may likely join the presidential race, but what is important is that in whatever we do, we should ensure that we share the same dream and aspiration and put Nigeria first. Whoever will emerge after the primary should be a PDP candidate who knows PDP very well and who is popular with the people and who can tell Nigerians this is what we are offering you. If the party brings a very good person with a common understanding, it will be very easy to make progress. We either do things right, or by 2019, there would be some problems in Nigeria and PDP is the only party with the capacity and passion for Nigeria. We have been there for 16 years and we stabilised Nigeria.
There are speculations that some of your party members that left are likely to return and some of them have presidential ambition; for instance we hear the former vice president is likely to return but that he wants the party to assure him that when he returns, he would get the ticket of the party. How true is this speculation?
Those governors who left the party at the time first raised the alarm that there was something wrong with the PDP. We went round the country and we saw other political leaders. We said then that what we were going through may likely endanger Nigeria’s stability and security in future, and we felt that the problem was even beyond the PDP. The guidelines and constitution of the party clearly states that the party must meet at least quarterly, but for a whole year, the party never met. We wanted the party to meet so that when the key players are gathered, we can push for the party to do the right thing. It was our efforts that caused things to be narrowly corrected, but in the process, five governors, some key players and some parliamentarians left the party. To me, that was a big mistake because the party you formed and you campaigned for and people gave you their trust in the rain and sunshine because you were part of the party, should not have been abandoned like that. But that is history now. They left because at the time, they felt that they were not happy about the prevailing situation, but I believe that you should not let your anger and personal mood affect your leadership position. So, it was the mood and feeling in them that made them take that decision. Having gone to where they went, have they found comfort there? Have they been consoled? Have they been rescued from what they were running away from or have their problems compounded? So naturally, they would want to come back because they are more agonised and pained where they are now. This is where naturally they belong; where they share a common history with their friends before they became what they are, and they are most welcome. They built a house, which is APC, but now, they are coming back into their home, which is the PDP and we are ready to welcome anyone who wants to come back for whatever reason.
In that house, ACN, CPC, ANPP and some parts of APGA came in, but now, that house cannot give them what they are looking for, so they want to come back to their homes. No matter where the likes of Saraki, Wammako, Kwankwaso, El-Rufai Ribadu and all of them who left go, the political blood running in their veins is that of PDP. No matter how much they try, you cannot really run away from your own soul.
About the issue of giving conditions, I do not think that my brother Atiku would give any condition because he knows that no one can give him any guarantee because the party is not owned by one person, it is owned by the people. If the people say that they want him and find him worthy of picking the ticket, then so be it. All of them are very welcome back to the PDP where they are cherished, loved, admired and on which platform they became what they are politically. It is better than where they are now, where they are humiliated every day. Every now and then Lai would abuse them calling them PDP thieves and they are there watching where they are being abused and they cannot even defend their honour. No matter what you say about the PDP, we are in charge of the APC government because it is the PDP that got APC corrugated. If you take away the PDP from the APC, the APC would collapse.
In 1999, 2003 and 2007, they tried so hard to get to power, but they couldn’t, it was only when PDP members joined them that they succeeded. I am sure that by now they are tired of the situation. It is just like running away from your family to run into another person’s family, then the members of the new family reminds you of how all the members of your family were thieves, crooks and rogues. By abusing your former family, they are also abusing you. They ran into APC for comfort; they were frustrated and were looking for a shelter, but they are being insulted every day. This is because by insulting the PDP, they are also insulting those who moved from the PDP to the APC. I’m happy that they have been there and went through what they went through in that party, so, they should come back to where they are loved because they are part of us.
President Buhari has not announced his intention to run, but some within his party have already endorsed him for 2019. Does the PDP have what it takes to defeat Buhari?
What is my business if they endorse him or if he runs? Buhari came from a very small party called the CPC. Without the influence of the ACN and the governors who left the PDP, there was no way he would have won because he came from a very tiny party. If those who came together to make him what he is are no longer in the party, then he has my sympathy for failing to understand this. Look here, Buhari is no threat to the PDP.
In PDP we do not give a damn on whoever the APC presents for 2019 because we are more than two-third. We know that as a party, we have made some mistakes and we apologised to Nigerians. If the likes of Tinubu and Atiku feel concerned about what is happening in APC and those who were originally in PDP leaves, what will become of him? He would only be left with his tiny CPC, I don’t know how he would do it, but that is his problem, not mine. In any case, the Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015.
How do you mean?
The Buhari of today is fatigued; he is faced with what you call political party management in a democracy. It is not where you give orders; here, you have to build some consensus. You can see he cannot even relate well with the Senate President of his own party. So, the Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015. Before 2015, he was Buhari the puritanical. Buhari, who they saw as the only man at the helm of 20 million people that Nigerians in the APC were ready to surrender their trust, their reasoning, their honour and everything because they are so lazy. Look at what (Professor Itse) Sagay said about the APC. He said they are all thieves. So if they are calling the PDP thieves, their own man is saying they are all thieves.
If you pick the ticket of the PDP, would you describe the state of the economy today as an added advantage to you?
There is no gain if a government makes mistakes because it is the ordinary people that would bear the consequences of the mistakes. So, do not celebrate a government’s economic mistakes because you would suffer the consequences too. I am not in any way celebrating APC’s failure in government. This government is Nigeria’s government, but unfortunately, the APC got into government unprepared and because they were unprepared, they kept on churning out lies to mask their own failure.
During the campaigns, they invented lies about PDP; they called us thieves, rogues, evil and all sort of names. Now that they are in government, they failed to metamorphose from a political party seeking election to a party in government where the culture is different. Also, because they do not have that sense of being a government in power, they keep repeating the same thing they were saying while they were in the opposition. I am a Nigerian citizen by right and not by the political party that I belong to, therefore, the government of Nigeria is my government. Unfortunately, by the apparatus and culture of the APC, they have so demonized Nigerians such that if you speak, you are mocked. For the first time in this country, we have a government mocking its own citizens. When you complain, you will be called a wailing wailer. If people are wailing because of what they feel is wrong, what a responsible government should do is to find out why they are wailing.
As a father, if your children are crying, you don’t say, ‘look, why did you steal some of the money I gave you for feeding? Shut up’, and then you start abusing your child. The APC justifies irrationality. They are suffering from ignorance of leadership. They think that you are a citizen of Nigeria by privilege, but you are a citizen by right.
Some of those in government now, what has been their contribution to the development of Nigeria? Nothing! But today, they mock Nigerians. Today, the culture of lies has become an art of governance. When Buhari was in London for treatment, Lai Mohammed and other aides kept telling Nigerians that he was perfectly healthy but when he returned, the President himself told Nigerians that he had not been that sick before in his life, but his aides were saying another thing.
It is very sad. Buhari is Nigeria’s president. When Yar’Adua was ill, the opposition wanted to know everything about him. They accused the then government of hiding the true state of Yar’Adua’s health. Now that they are in government, they are playing a far worse role than the government of Yar’Adua played. They are so overwhelmed and do not know what to do because of the power of falsehood and manipulating people with lies. Again, we are Nigerians and we have the right to talk; don’t demonise, abuse or mock Nigerians when they talk because they are asking questions that are very pertinent.
For instance, they made allocations of billions of naira for Aso Rock clinic, yet they say there is no syringe there, but if you complain, APC would say you are a wailing wailer. Aisha Buhari wailed like me, which means she is also a wailing wailer. When you wail, it is because things are being done wrongly and that is why you are wailing. PDP has been wailing, they are wailers and even some in APC have become wailing wailers too, so we are now a wailing nation.
The PDP is preparing for its convention in December, would you say that the party has learned any lesson from the crisis that rocked it before the apex court came to its rescue?
We are going into election year and the chairman that we will elect now will be symbolic. He cannot have his own authority because the election is about the will of the people where there are key players. People are not voting for him on account of his own instructions. He cannot go to Sokoto or Jigawa or Oyo and give instructions on account of his own personality; it is something collective, a family affair. Even the election of a president is only a symbol because he is going to work for the entire country. In electing a chairman, we are going to ask what the person in his own standing can do for PDP. The earlier chairmen like Solomon Lar was very symbolic because he was part of those that formed the party, but those who came after, like Audu Ogbeh, what was he? We have come a long way and by now, the election of a chairman should be less personal in our affairs over the leadership of the party. No one should say it is going to be A or B or C, because ideally, all those big names in PDP should not align with any aspirant. No stakeholder in the party should be seen taking any aspirant to anywhere, we should allow aspirants to go round and meet leaders. Bode George and Gbenga Daniel came to my house to ask for my support, and that is how it should be. If we decide that for the sake of harmony and stability of the party, we decide that we would have a consensus and support Mr. A or B, we can only do that if we are standing on a high moral ground as not been seen to align with anybody. What we want is a party chairman, whom when he wins, will be the chairman of the party in the entire PDP family and we would all give him our support. As far as I know, there is no crisis in the party.
You were in Kaduna recently to inspect your campaign office, and by the next day, we heard that there was crisis involving your supporters and some hoodlums. What really happened?
I decided to come from Abuja to Kaduna to see the level of development in the office and I went there not to campaign or open the office but to inspect it. While addressing the young people, I told them that we, who are their parents and elders in government, have made some mistakes. I told them that some of us exploited their innocence and their age to manipulate them and because we are their parents and they trust and believe us, they supported us. But now that some of us have failed them, they have every right to be angry. I told them that in the next 30 years, those under 30 will be 60 years; I asked them what will be their future? Do they want to end up as street hawkers or barrow pushers? I told them that in the next 30 years, people like me and Buhari may or may not still be alive, so I left. After I left, I saw a story in one of the national dailies written by someone who was not there at the event. When I read it, I knew that the story was not true because nothing of such happened.
It is believed that Kaduna is the traditional home of President Buhari and you went there…
(Cuts in) No, it is not his home. Kaduna is the home of all former northern governors; and all former leaders of northern extraction, it was the center of the administration during the time of Ahmadu Bello. No one can appropriate Kaduna as his home because it is for all northerners. From 1999 till date, northern elders have been meeting in Kaduna and at one point or the other; all our elders were abused by these youths. Even El-Rufai has been abused by these youths on several occasions, so, it is our failure as northern leaders because we allowed our heritage in Kaduna to be turned into a theatre of hooliganism. Every northerner should feel worried about this trend. Elections take place all the time there but somehow, the youths do not see any effort on our part as leaders to address their needs, future and frustrations. We need to restore these youths to the right path and guide them properly.
All the Mallams, pastors, political leaders and elders have a duty to guide them because in the next 25 years, if these youths are not properly guided, we will be in trouble. It is dangerous for us because the youths are disappointed; they are aggrieved because they feel that they have been shortchanged by their leaders. The first thing leaders should do is fashion out a way on how to restore the innocence and honour of our youths; exorcise the seed of evil in them and plant a seed of integrity and honesty. So my concern is not about campaigning for 2019 but how to restore the future of our youths. I watched a video of a nine-year old boy who was brutalised by cultists just before this interview and I almost shed tears because it shows the increasing rate of cultism in the country. If that boy as little as he is, was literarily brutalised, then where is the love we the parents ought to give to our children?
What are the plans of the opposition to put the economy on the right track if it wins the election?
The human mind is wired to confront challenges. I have seen people create something out of nothing through their ideas. Ideas create wealth and that is why countries like South Korea, China, Japan and other countries are prospering every day. Even if you have a thriving economy on paper, you cannot grow any economy because our chemistry is terrible. This is a country that is not stable; here, people do not have rights and the government does not have respect for its citizens. In the last two years, how much investments have entered Nigeria? Nothing! A country like Angola has been able to attract a $16 billion investment; even Egypt and Rwanda attract investments all the time because there is stability in those countries. Prosperity is not built on wars, but on love and concern for human beings.
In Nigeria, what you get depends on what you can give the political party in government and this is a breach of the oath of office. The government must make everyone feel that they are dignified citizens of their own country; they should show that they love their citizens and they believe in them. When you see that your government is protecting your rights and giving you all that you deserve, you will support it and stand by it because you know that your government is there for you. So, it is not about economic theories because we have so many of them in this country. Prof. Itse Sagay recently said that the ruling party is a party of thieves and corrupt people. Now, if this is the testimony of someone who is part of this government, who will come from Europe and invest?
Buhari’s 2nd term bid will make PDP win 2019–Adeyeye
•We’re ready to welcome Atiku, Saraki, Dogara, Oni, others back
Former Minister and National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Dayo Adeyeye, has said that the party is preparing to receive back into its fold prominent APC leaders such as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Reps Speaker Yakubu Dogara among others. In this interview with VINCENT KALU, Adeyeye stated that the second term bid of President Buhari will make it easy for PDP to return to power in 2019.
The way All Progressives Congress (APC) is going, there is the fear of possible implosion, if that happens, would the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) be ready to embrace members from the ruling party?
Our doors are wide open, and PDP is a party for all Nigerians, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or anything. It is an umbrella that is big enough to accommodate everybody.
The plans of the founding fathers are for all Nigerians to be in the party. Any day, anytime, we are ready and our doors are wide open for anybody who is ready to leave APC. We know that the implosion would occur, and we hope to take advantage of it when it happens.
Is it not as they say, what goes around comes around? APC is facing the same challenge that PDP faced towards the build up to 2015 general elections that led to its members decamping to APC, and eventual defeat?
I agree with you that what goes round comes around, but APC was never a party and has never been a party and will never be a party. It is just an association of desperadoes who came together just to wrestle power from us. Now, that objective has been achieved, because there were no viable ideology, policies and programmes, that is why they are scattering.
So, there is nothing to mix them together as a party; it is just an association. A kind of alliance by desperate elements from different groups, that is why they cannot hold on as a party, and PDP despite its challenges, remains the biggest political party not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa. Some PDP bigwigs beat their chests that the party is taking over power in 2019; don’t you think that if President Buhari is running, it is going to be an uphill task for your party?
Buhari running will make it very easy for us. What achievement would he use as his campaign message? What would he tell Nigerians is the reason for his coming to do a second term?
In our national life, there has been no improvement, it has been retrogression. Is it in politics, economy, security, and his fight against corruption? There is no record to present to Nigerians. It is going to be an easy finish off for us, and we pray he should be the APC presidential candidate.
We are not bothered about that, short of any rigging of the election, which we are going to be very vigilant and would not allow it to occur, there is no way Buhari will win another election in Nigeria. Even in the north, he lost his popularity, because Northerners ask themselves, if their lives are better today than some few years ago under the PDP? The answer would be an emphatic No.
Whether Buhari or any other person, we are very sure we are going to defeat APC in 2019 presidential elections, because we have records of achievements in 16 years of rule. You can compare our records of 16 years to their two and half years and see where they are taking Nigeria.
In their two and half years, with EFCC and ICPC, they are yet to tackle the issue of corruption, they have not even added any institutional work to what we left on ground. It is the PDP that left the institutions for which they are using to fight corruption, and yet they are not fighting it with genuineness of purpose.
Nigerians can see monumental corruption in a government that says it is fighting graft – the issue of $21 billion contract scandal in NNPC, recall of Maina and promoting and reinstating him, Babachir Lawal, Ayo Oke and other scandals just in two and half years, but we didn’t have this kind of thing in our two and half years.
We have seen two and half years of this government and by 2019, Nigerians shall compare the four years of APC and four years of PDP, and know the party that cares for them. The records speak in favour of PDP.
APC says that it is saddled with cleaning the mess PDP brought upon the country and that is why it has not done much They forgot that PDP took over from Abacha and the years of military misrule and disaster, but the party never complained any day that because it inherited the military wastages that was the reason it couldn’t perform. That is expected of any leader. When you are asking the people to give you post you didn’t ask that you were going there to play. Otherwise, that is the easiest thing anybody can do to blame the previous government for his problems. Anybody can blame a previous government for non-performance. You told the people that the other party was not doing well and you are coming to improve the situation, but you came in and made the situation worse.
It is very stupid for anybody to continue to blame PDP for his inadequacy, and we will see how this blame game will help them in 2019, whether Nigerians elected you to come and blame anybody or to come and perform. We will see in 2019.
APC also says that the PDP immigrants polluted the party, is this also another excuse?
Those people whom they accused of polluting APC, we are ready to welcome them back into our fold. Let them go, or simply expel them; our doors are wide open for them.
The truth of the matter is that this government doesn’t have anything to offer; it is always blaming, and blaming. When you have a government that is always blaming and looking for scapegoat for its inactions and failures, then you have seen an unserious government that can never deliver on any of its promises. That is the stock in trade of the ruling party, just to find scapegoat for all its inactions and in adequacies.
APC is fixated on finding scapegoats for its failures. If they said that some people in PDP that came into their party polluted them, why can’t you just tell them to leave your party now, so that we can welcome them back and continue our march in progress towards 2019.
The PDP is said to have cleaned and put its house in order, but don’t you entertain fears that the people who were accused of polluting the APC, on their return to PDP may still pollute the party?
The PDP has a system that naturally cleanses all sorts of contamination. When they come back to PDP, they will meet a party that is well grounded in ideology and philosophy, a party that has policy, plans and programmes already well articulated for Nigerians. The thing that makes APC to fail is that it doesn’t have programmes, no policies that people can easily understand and key into, and that is why they are like rudderless ship, being driven away by the wind. They have no compass that can lead them to the shore.
If you come to PDP you just key into the ideology of the party, so there can’t be any problem for those who would return to our party. There is no confusion in PDP at all.
When you have a big party that is united, and has commonly accepted ideology and philosophy; that has a commonly accepted and articulated programmes and policies, there is no way the entry of any individual or group would contaminate the party. You have to come into the party and key into the programmes of the party. We are not afraid.
If you are rudderless, and you are not united by ideology, any programme or policy, then people can behave the way they like and that is what is happening in APC, and it won’t happen in PDP.
If they say former PDP members polluted their party, let them release them to us, we are ready and willing to accept them back. We need people like Atiku Abubakar, we need people like Saraki, we need people like Dogara, all the leaders in the National Assembly, and some of them that have been made ministers we need them back, including the APC Deputy National Chairman, Segun Oni.
Is it right to say that PDP has learnt its lesson in a bitter way?
We have learnt our lesion no doubt about that. By the grace of God, we are moving forward; we have a new umbrella, which is clean and larger to accommodate more people.
What should Nigerians expect in 2019?
Nigerians know that things have not been so bad in their lives as they were under APC. The simple question is whether their lives are better four years ago than now. What we have seen in these two and half years are increment in everything – Customs tariffs, electricity tariffs. Inflation skyrocketing, and income continues to go down. Whereas, they promised to create two million jobs, but Nigerians are losing their jobs and they continue to rake in more and more taxes.
It is not for the PDP to tell Nigerians anything, but for them to ask themselves the simple question about their lives under the APC.
They should use that answer appropriately in the ballot box. We are very confident that Nigerians will throw away this APC government in 2019.
In 2015, the PDP easily conceded defeat, are you sure that the APC will do the same if PDP wins?
They are not democrats. The first four or five elections conducted by APC were marred by massive irregularities, despite the monumental achievements we left behind in 2015, which have been destroyed by the APC. The elections they conducted were massively rigged and manipulated as we saw in Edo State, where election was postponed giving way for rigging.
In Ondo State, they made sure that we didn’t have candidate two days to the election. I don’t believe that these people will organise credible election, but I believe that the vigilance of Nigerians supported by international community will make sure that APC doesn’t have its way. Whether they like it or not, they would be thrown out of power.
Buhari is unstoppable in 2019–Mohammed Lawal
Former Deputy Director of Buhari Presidential Campaign Council, Mohammed Lawal, has dismissed opposition to the re-election efforts by President Buhari’s friends and supporters, saying it is certain that no one can stop the moving train in 2019. Lawal, who is a director on the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in an interview with VINCENT KALU, insists that there are more than enough strategies in place to defeat anyone standing against the president at the next general elections.
Not minding that some governors have endorsed President Buhari for second term, there are indications that some people want to stop him. Do you see that coming to pass?
We know that within the party there are some people who still bear grudges, as a result of resounding defeat they suffered in 2015, and some of them are still presidential aspirants, and they will like to re-contest. In Nigeria’s party politics, the president has the first right of refusal.
During the meeting of the highest stakeholders of the party, a motion was moved for a vote of confidence, and the party said, ‘we have confidence in the way you are leading us, leading the party and leading the country.’ That was a vote of confidence passed on President Muhammadu Buhari to continue.
All the party’s major stakeholders were there. The only major stakeholder who was not there and who contested 2015 presidential primary election with President Buhari was former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Some of the governors individually came out to say that they have absolute confidence in the President, and they moved a motion in very clear words that he should continue in 2019. The stakeholders also chorused, and it is only the president who can say no.
The president wants to take it easy, he is a human being and not an angel, and some people felt offended in one way or the other, and have complained. The president in his humility, apologised, and gave example and reasons for the appointments he has made, which may be tenable to some and untenable to others.
He wants to go about to make people to understand that there are problems, and that things may not work as expected and we have come far, and what is of paramount importance to us is the country; the legacy we are going to leave behind for our children and grand children and generations to come.
In-fighting in a party that came and took over from a ruling party that misruled and ravaged the country for 16 years is not going to get us anywhere; so let us understand each other, and sit down and lay a fresh foundation for this government and country with President Buhari in the saddle.
God willing, nobody can stop him, and he is going to contest to continue to do the good work that he has started for this country.
Recently, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service and a member of President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet, Hameed Ali, during the official opening ceremony of Buhari Support Organisation’s (BSO) national headquarters in Abuja complained that Buhari appointed people who didn’t work for him during the 2015 presidential election. How can this be addressed so that it won’t jeopardize the president’s re-election bid?
Hameed Ali’s BSO meeting came earlier than the APC NEC meeting. As I told you earlier, during the NEC meeting the president apologised for such. What is important is, there are people placed in positions, and the president has finished his own.
For example, if the president made me the chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, it is now left for me to go and continue to do what I’m supposed to do to others to give back the goodwill the president gave to the people who are lower than me. There are people who are supposed to carry on with the mandate, by giving back to the electorate; giving back to the people, but they didn’t do that. They shouldn’t come and complain, blaming the president. The president cannot go and begin to give appointments at local governments, in ministries etc.
Once he gives at a level like our own, NNPC as board member, I thank him so much for that, I didn’t expect it, but it is not for me to go and tell the president to put these people in NNPC refinery or any of the NNPC parastatals, it is me that should do that. I shouldn’t go and complain or blame the president for not doing that, I should do that. As far as NNPC is concerned I represent him there, and I should do what I’m supposed to do so that the goodwill will go back to the president.
People shouldn’t be complaining, they know what to do and they have been given all the encouragement to do that. That notwithstanding, the president tendered his unreserved apology during the NEC meeting. He gave reason and that reason is tenable. Everybody knows that the economy is in a bad shape, and we are working to bring it back to life. Even the World Bank is giving thumb up on the management of the economy by the Buhari government. As it is picking up, the benefits will get to everybody.
The key issue is, work for the president, and defend the programmes and policies and work towards actualizing the mandate. Like I said earlier, the president is not a magician or an angel, he can’t be 100 percent perfect. If mistakes are made, they shall be corrected.
Even the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that stayed for 16 years, I’m sure that by the time they left, there were people who complained that they didn’t get anything. The president will continue to do his best to carry everybody along. Those who are in position and complaining that he didn’t do this or that; they should do what they are supposed to do.
Some of your party leaders are accusing some people who decamped from PDP to APC as polluting and causing crisis in the party. Do you agree with them?
Party dynamics dictate that people from PDP in this government are not APC members by hearts; they were pushed as moles, spies in order to spoil the goals or activities of APC. We are the ruling party, but PDP will want to come back as they were humiliated and shamed. So they can employ any tactic to come back, including deploying moles and spies to spoil our work.
I’m not surprised hearing that. They exist as moles and spies. They left PDP for our party, but they don’t want to be patient. Buhari started this battle over 15 years ago, he began with APP, ANPP, CPC and APC, and he has been patient, he didn’t jump from one party to the other.
You were in PDP, they didn’t give you the presidential ticket, you jumped to ACN, and you didn’t get it; and you didn’t get it in APC and you are going back to PDP, that is the Nigerian politician for you.
The PDP says Buhari running will make it easy for it to win in 2019. According to its National Publicity Secretary, the president doesn’t have record of achievements, and has put the country in a worse state than he met it. How do you react to this?
Let us pray for God to give us life to reach that period and you will see. The situation Buhari found this country can be equated to somebody that found himself in 16-kilometre deep well.
PDP threw this country into a deep hole of 16 kilometers, and when we came we met Nigeria there – deep down 16 kilometers well, and we are trying to come out. We have been sweating to bring the country out from the deep well, and we thank God that we are on top. Price of oil was at its lowest level, selling at about $25 per barrel, but during their time, oil was selling for over $100 per barrel, they didn’t save anything. Agriculture was at zero level during their time, and look at the quantum of loot discovered and recovered.
I was reading the other day that former President Jonathan on the eve of election signed $500 million and N100 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria to PDP machinery. That is how we found our economy. Everybody was desperate, and nobody knew that tomorrow was going to come. Manufacturing was zero.
We are now on the ground level from the deep well, and the World Bank as I said earlier has applauded the management of the economy and said we are out of recession and that there is good prospect, and if we continue like this, we are not only going to smile, but rejoice.
Look at Boko Haram that was everywhere. They terrified Kano, Abuja, Niger state. One side of Borno was in their hands and one side of Adamawa was also in their hands. With this, a right thinking person is saying that Buhari didn’t do anything, let them come to the field, we are waiting for them. Is it because we are not talking, when we start campaigns they would hear more? Nigerians will chase them with stones. They want to distract us, so that we put somebody they can overrun. I have been in this for almost 20 years. Buhari is there and I said earlier, God willing, nobody can stop him in 2019.
PDP is foreseeing an implosion in APC that will force some of your members returning to the opposition party
In any association, be it political, business, etc, there abound skirmishes and problems, which are addressed to arrive at a compromise. Like I said the president apologised to those who felt bad. There is no need for any implosion in the party as PDP is praying for.
There was one time they said Tinubu was complaining. I said in an interview that he should not complain, and that if he was, I would interpret it that the vice president was complaining because he put him there. Tinubu is an experienced politician, and was not complaining as people insinuated. Buhari is not God and so cannot satisfy everybody 100 per cent. We are pleading with Nigerians to bear with Buhari, he is poised to make everybody to rejoice and as things improve and get better he is going to accomplish that. Let us continue to give him support and encouragement to continue to do the best to take Nigeria out of the woods that the PDP put us.
Why some APC leaders are angry with Buhari–Dr Olufunmilade
•Party members now calling for ‘change the change’
Dr Femi Olufunmilade, a member of the Governing Council of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta is a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He chaired the Buhari Survey and Strategy Committee during the 2015 presidential campaign. In this interview with IHEANACHO NWOSU, Olufunmilade explained the reason the incumbent administration is not succeeding in some areas. He expressed frustration that most key APC members who worked for the emergence of the government are still sidelined. He also spoke on the 2019 election, the ambition of some APC members and other happenings in the country.
Recently the southwest APC met and declared that the presidential ticket should be open to everybody, do you feel that is the way to go for your party?
You know we are in a democracy. In a democratic system, the rule of the game is the rule of law. If we get to a point where presidential candidates have to emerge, the normal procedure is for primaries to be organized and those who are interested that might have taken nominations will be free to compete, at the end of which a winner will emerge. So what Chief Bisi Akande echoed was nothing new, he was just stating the obvious that we will be as democratic as required; and whosoever feels he has what it takes to be president of this country should be free to contest as the flag bearer of the party. And he also added that whosoever emerges at the end of the day will get the full support of all stakeholders including themselves.
Don’t you see it affecting the unity of the party, because the party’s governors and NEC have given tacit endorsement of the president for another term?
Well, I don’t think it will impair the unity of the party in anyway, rather it will strengthen it because you are saying that anybody who has ambition is free to throw his hat into the ring. And since that statement was made, it is on record that prominent members of the party who have declared interest in contesting are from the north. Senator Adamu Alero is from the north and has indicated interest, you are aware of former vice president Atiku Abubakar, these are northerners; there has not been any prominent southern member, to the best of my knowledge ,whether prominent or non prominent, who has come out to say that he will contest. So, if anyone is aggrieved in the north, he doesn’t represent the entire north.
There is also this belief that it is a smart way by the southwest to make the contest difficult for the incumbent because of a seeming displeasure in the way the government has been handling not only the party but also governance The incumbent, for all I know, has not even indicated interest in the office for a second term. Baba Akande said that he has not indicated interest for a second term. If he has indicated interest, then it will be a different ball game. Whether we like it or not, the mobilization for 2019 elections with the use of INEC timetable has started informally and it is for the president to come out and tell us if he will be contesting. As regards the issue of members of the party not being satisfied, I don’t think that is limited to the southwest. If it is an issue, it cuts across the entire country. I was privileged to coordinate a research to support his candidature in 2015, it was called Needs Assessment Survey of 36 States and the FCT, which he approved through his then chief of staff, Colonel Hameed Ali on the platform of Buhari Support Organization. Approval was conveyed to me by Dr Ibrahim Dauda, who gave the contacts of the BSO coordinators across the 36 states and the purpose of the research was to find out if beside the general items of the manifesto, the specific needs peculiar to the various states of the federation. I organized that and all the people that assisted me in doing that were senior members of the APC.
At the end of the day, most of them have been sidelined in the way things are done in this government. Most of them have not been given any appointment. What is more annoying is that most of the appointments made in this administration went to the party that we fought to remove from power. A lot of their members are getting appointments while members of the APC are left behind. Some critical appointments were not only given to PDP members, they were given to those we defeated. I’ll give you examples, you look at the NDDC, Senator Ndoma Egba was the Senate majority leader for the PDP, I personally cannot place my finger on when he defected to APC before the election but today he is the chairman of the NDDC. You look at someone like the Minister of National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, I don’t know if at anytime he formally moved into the APC, and so on and so forth.
So if you find people aggrieved, you can’t blame them. It is not all about appointments, there are also many positions we thought would have been open to members of the party, but as we speak, they are still being held by PDP appointees in various MDAs.
Is your grievance only in the area of appointments or are you also displeased with the president in the handling of things?
It is not about appointment per say; but you know that in the United States, when the president has won an election, the president has the power to appoint about 4,000 appointees. It is during the transitional period, the period between when he wins the election and when he is sworn in that he makes most of the appointments. It is taken as a very serious business. It is taken as a very serious business because the understanding is that those who share your philosophy and ideology and have bought into your manifesto will be better drivers of the manifesto and agenda you have for your country than those who were in the opposing party. So when we are talking about the way Buhari appointed a lot of people, this is what we are talking about. Even his own wife echoed it in the famous BBC interview. She said those who didn’t share our vision and mission are getting the appointments. It is not as if we are crazy about appointments, there are people you could appoint who are not necessarily APC members if they are professionals who have unique skills that can help to drive the change agenda forward. But to retain people and appoint people that were on the opposite side of the pole to us and put them in critical positions shows that the government lacks focus.
More than two years after, are you okay with the policies of this government?
What I can tell you is that, the APC government is performing to the extent of comparing the government to the PDP government, that is what I can say. We can’t compare APC government by any stretch of imagination to the PDP government. Look at the anti corruption crusade for instance, I don’t think it has ever been this good. It is not as if it is perfect, it falls short of our expectations still. There has not been any conviction and we’re talking of legal processes. What about insecurity, all the territories of Nigeria have been reclaimed from Boko Haram. Without Buhari coming into power, Boko Haram might have been in control of states today not to talk of local government. Money meant for arms were shared and looted, soldiers were afraid of facing Boko Haram because they were not equipped. That trend has been reversed and the international community has come to our support, we have the multinational joint task force, for which President Buhari when he came into power traveled to Niger, Chad , Cameroon, and we were able to cobble this multinational joint task force together. So when you look at this, you need peace for progress, he has been able to achieve relative success in that regard. The idea that impunity can go unchecked, he has checked that to a great extent through the anti corruption war. I’m not saying that he is excellent, there is still insecurity, for instance, the Fulani herdsmen, which he has not been able to fix, a lot of deaths go unreported.
We also have the low side of the anti corruption which one of them is the Maina issue that just came up. Someone who was arraigned on graft of monumental proportion, declared wanted by EFCC, he ran away from the country but he was brought back into the country and was even reinstated in the bureaucracy. That is unacceptable. It is sending a signal that no one can really explain. And it boils down to what someone can call having a government within a government. Some people who have a different agenda from Buhari are busy scheming for men and women of various character to hold positions within the government as a form of self help. And that will explain why a lot of the characters are in government. On that side, I’ll say the president scores a very poor mark. If your aides are doing the wrong thing and everyone is shouting about it, what have you done to check it?
The APC UK recently said it is ready to support a fresh hand, that it will back intellectuals like you for the plum office. What do you make of such position?
Like I said earlier, it is not news. The wife of the President came out to say some of the things happening in government. Recently she also voiced out her dissatisfaction with the financial management and operations of the State House clinic. She said they don’t have panadol or syringe, she needed to do an x-ray and they were advising her to go to London. She made enquiries and discovered they don’t have one functional x-ray machine, she had to go to a private hospital which is 100 percent owned by foreigners. She checked it up and realized that this same hospital had a budget of N3 billion. So it is not just APC UK members that are dissatisfied with the performance of this government, It is widespread even within the country. Look at the APC as a party, how many times do we have meetings as a party? Before the recent NEC meeting, when last did we have NEC last? How many times since we won the election? We are running into the third year now, by May next year we will be in the third year in power. How is the party faring? Are the staff paid? People are not interested in paying party dues, because they don’t see the party as representing their interest anymore. There is a lot of dissatisfaction within the APC and most of it are self inflected because they are really uncalled for. Most of the APC members within the country are also joining the clarion call of ‘change the change.’
The party still has more than a year to go before the next elections. Do you feel that it can correct some of its mistakes?
Well, I think it has gotten too late. A lot of people have made up their minds on what to do already because the way the party is, doesn’t really exist because there are no activities. Go to the party offices across the federation, you visit and you don’t see anybody. The party is just like an abandoned project. A lot of people are unhappy, they may not be as vocal as some of us who come out to say our minds from time to time. People feel that this is not what they worked for. You don’t need to be given an appointment to make impact, but there is even no room on a party platform for you to meet and make proposal on what they think about the expectations of the government in power. The leadership of Chief Oyegun is not inspiring. He ought to have been the one to put his feet down and say how the president should relate with the party, but that is just the case. You can give it to PDP in terms of internal democracy, until they imposed Jonathan. I will score them a high mark in PDP. If there was anything to be done, a lot of input and representation was allowed in the PDP.
Do you see a stronger party coming up for 2019?
I want to go beyond the normal Nigerian traditional way of looking at a political party whereby the objective is mainly to take power. It doesn’t matter who the people scheming for power are, whether they have what it takes to transform the country or deliver public goods to the people. All it is about is who the heavy weight is. They will say someone has a large purse or a large pocket, and those are the things they look when it comes to having a new alignment of forces and all that. Usually, it’s the same old people who are disaffected here and there that come together. It is an ideological alignment of forces. What I want and what many of my colleagues across the country within the APC and even other parties, is where people find themselves to be like fish out of water, people who are ideological, patriotic, principled, people who really want Nigeria transform for good in their life time. What they want is a meeting of like minds. We are not looking for who has money or who has a deep pocket, we are not looking for former this, former that, someone people will say we know him.
So you’re suggesting that if APC insists on Buhari in 2019, the party will likely implode?
I don’t want to use the word APC insisting on Buhari flying its flag. If we have a free and fair primary election in the APC today, President Buhari is going to lose fair and square. And a lot of delegates if they are not picked by the governor of Kastina State to do Buhari’s bidding, even a lot of delegates from Kastina State are going to vote against President Buhari. I know what I’m saying because I interact with them. The northerners are even more blunt, they may not be as outspoken as some of us. They are not happy. They think things can be done better than what we’re having.