•Insecurity won’t encourage foreign investors

 

Convener of the Reset Lagos Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Adetokunbo Pearse, has attributed the cause of agitations from every region in the country to the fact that Nigeria is not working.

According to Pearse, also a public affairs analyst, no foreign investor will come to a country where there is so much insecurity and where nobody is safe

In an interview with VINCENT KALU, he noted that the government has not lived up to expectations in the areas of security, economy and governance.

President Bola Tinubu was one year in office last week. What is your assessment of his administration?

The criteria with which we judge any government will be number one: To what extent have they kept the promises they made to the people when they were campaigning for office? The eight-point agenda of Tinubu has been totally a failure. His slogan is Renewed Hope, but the reality that we have seen in this first year was renewed hopelessness in terms of security.

The entire assessment coming internally and externally has been that things have gotten worse in the last one year. Kidnappings, banditry, armed robbery, terrorism are increasing. The United Nations reported it. On March 13, this year, the Financial Times of London reported that Nigeria is showing symptoms of a failed state because of the cases of insecurity in the country. According to the report, Nigeria is sliding into the category of a failed state. We ourselves are seeing that nobody is secured in Nigeria whether in any state in the south or north. In the south, things were not as bad as in the north, but now, everywhere kidnappers, armed robbers and never do wells are going into estates, hostels and schools to kidnap. So the Chibok girls’ episode of 10 years ago has been replicated 20 times in the last one year. We are in trouble.

The failure of security has also exacerbated and increased the problem of the economy because in the north, people cannot go to the farm, and if you cannot go to the farm, then you cannot produce food. When there is food shortage, the quantity of food in the market is small and price goes higher. There is food shortage in the economy, there is high cost of living; high cost of food just tripled since Tinubu got into office. All of these are because of insecurity. Security and economy weld into each other. Insecurity has affected the economy seriously.

Another way the insecurity has affected the economy is in the area of foreign investments and the private sector. If you cannot secure your employers, your office and yourself then, you end up folding up, and many people are not coming into the country. So, when the president says he is going to bring in foreign investments, it cannot work because nobody is going to come to a country where there is so much insecurity and where nobody is safe.

Then of course, the high taxes are also driving many companies away from Nigeria and those that are here are closing. Nothing is working.

What do you expect in the second year of the administration?

The first day, May 29, 2023, without planning, without consulting, he announced the removal of fuel subsidy and when you did that you damage the economy because the economy runs on oil. Diesel is gone up, individuals who use petrol to run their generators used to pay N185 per litre before this administration came into office, it went to N500 per litre and now, it is over N630, and in some states in the north, we heard it was headed to N900. People are really suffering and the economy is also suffering. That is how he started the first year. There is 300 per cent increase in electricity tariff, and taxes everywhere. I went to pay my cable TV bill yesterday; they said the fee has gone up about 20 per cent. Why? Because the company is paying high taxes to the government and so they passed the cost to the consumers. So, the first year was terrible in terms of security, economy and in terms of governance because the corruption in the country is still very much there and he is giving all sorts of opportunities to the National Assembly to steal our money.

Remember that Senator Ningi had exposed them for padding the budget with more than one trillion naira. The president went abroad and took about 1,400 people. He is just spending money to get support for himself in order to get a second term. He is doing everything to ensure himself a second term in 2027.

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Mark my words; the second year and the years following would be worse than the first year. The signs are there already. Because of his priorities, he cannot separate the second year from the last year. As we go into the second year, we can see where he is going. The N90 billion he has used to promote hajj is just paying Muslims to support him for second term. In the meantime, he spent only N12 billion to renovate hostels of 12 higher institutions and N50 billion for the students’ loan. He gave N40 billion naira to renovate the NASS building. In everything he is doing, it is to promote support for himself; to gain access to 2027. As we go into the second year, it is going to be all about to promote himself to gain support for 2027, and not to secure the country, not to improve the economy, not to fight corruption, as he used N50 billion to renovate the Vice President’s Lodge. He has unlimited access to our funds. We have never had it so bad, the second year is going to be worse than the first year in everywhere possible.

One of Tinubu’s aides said some of you are criticising the president because you have not been given the opportunity to serve. How do you react to that?

The person can say anything he wants to say. He can even say that Nigeria is better today that it was under Jonathan. He can say that Tinubu is the best president we ever had and the least corrupt. That is an illusion. The reality speaks for itself and we all know that things are worse than they used to be. Right now, APC is in control of the country and things are sliding into an abyss. Tinubu is the president, it is not Atiku, Kwakwanso or Obi who is the president and so we cannot hold them accountable since we don’t know what they would have done if they were there.

Now, we have seen Tinubu; we didn’t know that his government would be this bad. We have seen him in action, we x-ray what is doing and say what we saw. What we see is that there is no clear-cut policy on security, there is no state police. What kind of country is this? You tell people outside that there are no police in the streets of Lagos or anywhere in the country, they won’t believe you. Why do you think there is so much chaos and fighting in the North? It is because they have nobody to police them. Anybody can come and rob you, attack you because the place is not secured. 

We are not saying that Tinubu started all of these, but we are saying that he met a mess and he is leaving a worse mess. He has come and he met challenges, which every government will meet. But how do you deal with the challenges during your time? That is the issue. So, if anybody says we the opposition are just saying it because we are not in power, it is left for you, the media and the public to decide if we are telling the truth. Is the country doing better or worse? Why are companies folding up and leaving this country every day? Why is the cost of living going up every day? Is it because we are criticising him or because he is failing in his duty?

What are your fears if these challenges continue?

I said it on a national TV about three months ago, and I say it again. The quality of people in government can never move the country forward. Nothing will happen until this government with the party is sent packing. Already, every region is saying that it wants to secede – you have the Yoruba nation, the IPOB, Ijaw nation. PANDEF and Middle Belt Forum are also shouting because the country is not working.

Therefore, if we do not abort this 1999 constitution, and write another constitution for ourselves. This one we are using was written by the military; Abdulsalam and co put that together. It’s a military constitution, an over-centralised constitution, where everything is the president and the NASS; it is all about Abuja, there is nobody servicing the states. How can you have a federation where the states have no autonomy of anything? The only autonomy is in theory by mouth. Every country has challenges no matter how well you do, you still have challenges, but when you are not addressing any of the challenges and you are not reviewing your structures, your laws, how can you progress?

How can every state be dependent on the federal? We are asking that there must devolution of powers to the states so that each federating unit can use whatever mineral resources they have to develop and just pay taxes to the federal government.  That is what is done in the United States, where you have a federation that works.  There must be security devolution so that each state can now man its security. Can you imagine the US without state police, local police? How disastrous the country would be? That is why Nigeria is in disaster because we don’t have what we should have.

In this second year, if Tinubu doesn’t begin the process of devolution, which we call restructuring, reconfiguration of the structure of the country so that the federating units can have more autonomy over their economy; so that Enugu that has the ninth largest deposit of natural gas in the world can use it to develop the area; Ondo that has the third largest deposit of bitumen in the world can use it to develop its area; the uranium and lithium in the North will be used to develop the region; these areas use their resources to develop their places and you see Nigeria making progress towards development, and then, let them have control over their security. Other than that, things will collapse totally. If we don’t see that movement from the federal government in this second year, then there is the need to remove this government and the party before it destroys the country.

At the tail end of the first year of this administration, Tinubu came up with this idea of Lagos- Calabar coastal highway project, and some people think it is an attractive project and that he is doing something good. It looks good on the surface, it is like the promise of a new hope, but the reality is that it has too many flaws. Firstly, it is too expensive compared to another such road that has been built in Africa, the Cairo to Cape Town road, which is about ten times the length of this our Lagos- Calabar highway, which is less expensive than our own. The cost is passed to the taxpayers in Nigeria.

Secondly, when they thought about this road, it was supposed to be a private partnership project, all of a sudden the federal government is funding it. We have no partner. There is another road in India that is about the same with this our road, and it is about half the cost. The cost is being passed on to Nigerians because it has no partner.

Thirdly, they gave this contract out without the process of bidding. There was no bidding; you just decided to give the contract out to Chagoury, a friend of the president. It has been exposed that the son of the president is on the board of one of Chagoury’s companies. Is that not a clear case of conflicting interests? That project as good as it looks is fake; it is a white elephant project and a wasteful project. As 2027 approaches, the president is not going to do anything for Nigeria; it is to get himself prepared that the election.

It is Tinubu who is going to appoint the INEC chairman. This electoral umpire chairman gave him the presidency because it was only 31 per cent of the results that came before he announced the result in the midnight in favour of Tinubu. The same man is going to remain in office and all the other commissioners are going to be appointed by Tinubu. What do you think will happen in 2027 if we continue in this way? Therefore, serious changes must take place right away. Some people say we should give him more time. No, one year is enough. The damage is already so much and the future is bleak.


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