From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Former Military Administrator of Kaduna state and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Brig-Gen. Jafaru Isa (rtd), has kicked against insinuation that things are not in their proper place in Aso Rock, the seat of power, urging Nigerians not to cause friction between President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who is currently holding sway. He dismissed claims that Buhari’s illness has affected governance insisting that the acting President was delivering on the promises made by the APC government.
What is your view concerning the claim that Buhari’s ill health has stagnated governance?
I don’t believe in that and in the first place, any discerning observer will agree with me that so many things are happening at the same time; we have seen improvement in his health condition day in day out and I believe that very soon the president will be up and doing. Beyond that, most Nigerians will agree with me that a lot of successes have been recorded.
Well, in many areas; starting from agriculture to education, transportation, aviation, youth employment, security and the anti-corruption crusade.
Some believe that Buhari’s appearance should have been more frequent than what was witnessed before he travelled to London. What do you think?
I do not believe there is any cause for concern; I think governance is not about appearing physically, it is about what is being achieved in order to make life better for the majority of Nigerians. I think it should be noted than his constant appearance, that he appeared 20 times in a week or he appeared 10 times in a week does not matter.
What is your take in the way power was delegated to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo?
Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people; it is a government of representation. The appointees of Mr President and elected officers in the country all represent the people. They represent particular geographical areas. This government has done a lot to deepen democracy in our country. What Mr President has been doing as a respecter of rules and regulations in the country is to actually test democracy, such that when he travels out of the country, he now quits power to his Vice President. His Vice President has all the powers he needed to carry out all the activities of governance and this is the first time that has been done in this country, where such delegation is done and you will reap a lot from such delegation.
The Vice president performed well and had good relationship with the legislators, the judiciary and he did all, of course, in consultation with the president and people were happy for it; and we are now seeing that our democracy is not only maturing, we are moving away from any involvement that is outside constitutional provisions and that is very important for us as a young nation. We have been able to project our force to foreign countries like in the Gambia to ensure democracy. This is a very serious commitment and it was done by this government. People should be careful with the utterances they make; there’s no problem between the president and his deputy who are running the country the way it should.
Some Nigerians reportedly wanted to cash in on the cordial relationship between the president and the vice president to say this one is performing better than that one. Do you think this is healthy for democracy?
Well, people were expressing their views but what I can say is this: nobody can run faster than the horse carrying it, the president is the president and the vice president is the vice president and there is constitutional provision which provides the role for everybody. The President, of course, came on the same ticket with his vice President, but clearly, people are free to express their views; that does not make their views right.
And the most important thing is that both the president and the vice president have reached the pinnacle of their career. Buhari attained the position of General in the Army and had served as a head of state at a time. Osinbajo is a professor of law, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a cleric; the integrity of the two cannot be questioned and they have the same purpose, which is to see to the betterment of Nigeria and therefore, it will be very difficult to cause friction between them. They are partners in progress who are not materialist or self-centred and, therefore, they are not in competition with each other. Politicians should be careful with what they are saying because there is absolutely no problem between the president and the vice president who always assumes the position of acting president once the president is out of the country. We should encourage this positive relationship for the betterment of our country. Everybody knows that there has never being a time when we had vacuum in the administration. This is very commendable in a nascent democracy like ours.
This is two years since the APC-led government took over but there are so many complaints that the government has not performed. What is your take?
A lot have been achieved in all sectors as I mentioned earlier. On agriculture, most farmers of rice and wheat today in Nigeria are very rich. When this government came into power, only about five states were able to pay salaries but the situation is different now. More states are paying salaries and their pensioners get their dues as at when due and that is very important. There is the issue of aviation. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja has been renovated and updated, that is another development. In respect to roads, during the 16 years of the last administration, there has not been improvement on our roads. Today, the roads are being improved upon from west to east; there is railway connecting some major towns and cities which is also a great development. Many housing projects are being carried out in order to meet the shortfall of about 21 million deficit in housing in the country; this is being taken care of by this government.
Don’t forget the N-Power for the youths. In the ministry of education, if you notice, so many appointments were released recently. This is actually in conformity with the style of the President; people have been agitating to be given appointments. Now, if you notice, there is a lot of sanity in the comments of people when the appointments were released. Before now, there were a lot of complaints but when due diligence was conducted, there was no much complaints; people were happy. People were actually fit for the appointments that were given. There were round pegs in round holes and that is what is important. It is not all about appointments; it is also about what you do to improve the lives of the people. Before now the former government for 16 years had been in power but what is it that has been achieved? I heard sometime last month that the Executive Secretary of TETFUND said that the president has approved the biggest ever fund release to tertiary institutions and it has been disbursed to federal universities and polytechnics in the country. And mind you, we are just talking about two years in office.
The PDP is still complaining that the anti-graft war is targeted only at its members. What is your take on this?
Well, I think we are talking about corruption in government. PDP governed this country for 16 years; their members were the ones in government, so it very understandable if they are the ones that are being accosted on the issue of corruption now. Maybe after this government, another government may come and be asking for account of stewardship. So it’s normal. So when this issue of being one-sided is mentioned, I get surprise.
There is still agitation in the south-east for self-determination despite government effort to nip the situation in the bud. What do you make of this?
Well, agitation in any democratic setting should be expected even if you are doing your best. To someone, it does not stop him or her from asking you for more. It’s natural. But what is important is what the reality on the ground is. Is the government reaching out to them? Nobody will argue that. During the last administration, nothing much was done in that part of the country. But under this government many things are being done. This difference will impact positively on the lives of the people in that region and I think the government should be happy and proud that it is doing something. But if people are still looking for more, it is normal, nothing is wrong with that. But again, if you ask for more you should also have the capacity to be able to know what it is that could be possible to be done under the circumstances. I think it is part of the democratic dividends for people to complain. If you have an undemocratic government, nobody will be ready to complain.
Do you think the APC will have a smooth sail in 2019?
Well, what I think the APC-led government should improve upon is the issue of propagating what it has been doing; to have a very effective mouthpiece that will bring to the public domain the kind of positive things that are happening.
Are you shocked at the recovery of huge sums of money at an apartment in Lagos?
Anyone who came across such a thing would be shocked.
Some Nigerians seem not comfortable with the whistle blowing policy. What is your take?
Many things have been made possible by this new idea of whistle blowing; this I think is very good. Even in civilised societies, they also encourage it. In the US, there is an institution where people are encouraged to blow the whistle when they see things going wrong and I think we are just catching up with this and this will actually discourage people from acting with impunity regarding public resources, now they will be forced to make a distinction between their pockets and government treasury.