Momoh: Buhari’s government deserves commendation, not stoning

Momoh

APC Did Not Deceive Nigerians On Restructuring

On April 3, 2016, founding member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, said Nigerians should stone his party officials if it fails to deliver on its campaign promises after two years in office. Half way into the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, Momoh, who is also a former Information Minister now says the government deserves commendation, rather than stoning from Nigerians. SEYE OLUMIDE reports.  

Many Nigerians believe that your party should be chased out of power with stones based on the suggestion you made last year?
Yes, I remember it was in one of the Sunday editions of The Guardian, precisely April 3, 2016 that I defended the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari over complaints by a section of Nigerians that the APC government has failed to deliver its promised change.

There could be no exaggeration in the saying that the monumental rot we found when we assumed office was responsible for the initial challenges of the administration. But my word then was that Nigerians should stone us if within two years, the current government fails to reverse the situation. I was bold to say that because of the assurance that the Buhari government was laying the foundation for a new and better country.

If I may take you back a little, last year, Nigerians were complaining of bad roads and I asked, what happened to the several billions of naira voted for road construction and rehabilitation under the President Goodluck Jonathan government? There were also complaints about security challenges. What also happened to the billions of dollars voted to fight insurgency, which some people mismanaged, the same with power and other necessary infrastructure?

The fall of oil price globally also impinged greatly on the efforts of Buhari’s government to make significant changes. Under Jonathan, almost all ministries incurred serious debts, but today, I am bold to say that this government is entitled to praises and commendations for what it has been able to put in place in the last two years despite what we met on ground. There are strong evidence of what the government has achieved so far.

What are those things because Nigerians seem uncomfortable with the pervasive poverty in the land?
The APC and President Buhari have succeeded in accordance with our manifesto to change so many things and also hit the ground running in several areas, including security, fighting corruption and the economy. Some of the issues we were vilified for last year are now receiving attention. Mind you, we did not foresee the economic recession happening otherwise things would have been much better than they are now.

On security, you would recall that not less than 14 local councils were under the control of Boko Haram insurgents. In all these local councils in the North East, they had lowered the Nigerian flag and raised theirs. But today, there is nothing like that anymore because we have regained control of those places.

Another instance was the Niger Delta youth restiveness and its consequences on petroleum and gas pipelines, which were being blown up randomly. This alone affected the nation’s economy terribly, and revenue dwindled seriously, but through relentless dialogue between government and the people in question, we have been able to restore peace in that region.

It is also on record that a few months ago, there were several security challenges across the country in the form of the menace by Fulani herdsmen; ethnic nationalities crises, kidnapping and many grievous security problems, but today, the administration is on top of it all. I want to believe that nobody will say that we are not attending to security challenges in the country although there is room to do more. The government is not relenting in anyway and we deserve a pass mark.

The fight against corruption is another area I am confident the government has done its best and where we also deserve commendation. Before we took over power, it was as if corruption had become legal as it was perpetrated with impunity. Let me tell you something, when we assumed office, we discovered corruption everywhere from bottom to top; the whole country was mired in corruption.

You will agree with me that corruption network is so strong and intricate that it has started fighting back and we have to be very careful in addressing it. But in all, we are doing our best to curb it.

Those who said the government is partial in its ongoing anti graft war, particularly the insinuation that it is only members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that are being tried fail to realise the fact that the PDP was in government for 16 years and not the APC. But, again I’m bold to say that there is nothing like that. Whosoever that is found wanting in the area of corruption bears the brunt even if he defects to the ruling party.

For the first time in the history of this nation and particularly under a democratic setting, this administration has faced corruption headlong and it is winning the battle.

On economy, I said earlier that the economic recession impinged on our efforts initially because we didn’t expect it, notwithstanding we are out of it.

Let me explain, today we’ve been able to look into problems farmers are facing and there is improvement. If you take another look at infrastructure, we are not doing badly. Road construction and rehabilitation are given serious attention unlike before when monies budgeted for such were shared with impunity.

An example of this is the plan to construct the Second Niger Bridge, which was later abandoned. Now this government is working on it. Look at the Onitsha-Enugu and Enugu–Port Harcourt road that the last administration couldn’t fix, we are working on it. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is another good example and several others.

This government is also not relenting in its resolve to addressing the problem of erosion in the South East, which had been abandoned over the years by previous administrations. It is no exaggeration that the South East is the most backward in terms of infrastructure in the country, but that is not the case now. If people complain that politicians of South East extraction are defecting to the ruling party, they should also look at the immediate factor facilitating it. This administration is also making efforts to develop the South South region and others unlike before when nobody cared.

In the last two years, different groups that formed the APC have been engaging in serious infighting. What negative impact do you think that has had on governance?
In the first instance, a party is united by its manifesto. Secondly, APC is just like any other political party. Or are you saying that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not have its challenges even right from 1999 when it came into power? I am not disputing peoples’ observation, but the question is in what way have the internal challenges of the party affected government’s performance?

The government derives its power from the 1999 constitution and not the party’s constitution. Therefore, I do not see how the party’s internal frictions are affecting government’s performance; after all, for 16 years that the PDP ruled, it also had its challenges but yet sustained power for that long.

People have also made stories out of the executive, legislative misunderstanding as if it is alien to the Nigerian democracy, but that is the beauty of democracy. It was worse under the PDP government unless we want to deceive ourselves. Moreover, the perceived misunderstanding has nothing to do with the performance of the executive.

The APC appears to have forgotten its pledge on restructuring. Why so?
Restructuring is everyone’s dream in this country. As a matter of fact, we need to restructure everything about this country if we hope to move ahead. This administration is already restructuring the economy and that is the reason I said we are performing. Every Nigerian craves for a better and viable system but how do we achieve restructuring?

If the party feels this way about restructuring, why is it slow about it?
Nobody in the party has ever said Nigeria should not be restructured. The issue is we have not agreed to the type of restructuring that we want, and more importantly, how to go about achieving it. The diversification of the economy is part of the restructuring and I have written on the type of restructuring, which I hope will work as far back as when Olusegun Obasanjo was in office.

To me, what we are calling a federation now is a mere fiction and until we restructure to decongest the political space, our economic problems cannot be resolved.

For instance, I have always argued that there is no need for Nigeria to run a bicameral and full-time legislature. It is a waste of enormous resources because we had a part-time legislature in the First Republic and it functioned better than the two we have today. The country is spending too much on recurrent expenditure to run government and less is being invested on capital projects. These are the areas I believe need to be critically looked into.

I am not against restructuring and other members of the party like the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, have been speaking on the matter. The wrong impression people are only making out of the agitation for restructuring was that some members of the ruling party are using it to fight the government, which is not correct.

Even if we agree today to restructure the country, there is need to invest resources and where will such resources come from if not from the same source we have today. So, I do not agree that APC deceived Nigerians on restructuring; it is only that many people do not understand the concept of the agitation.

Why is there so much mutual distrust within the party’s hierarchy, such that they play politics even with the president’s state of health?
Like I said earlier, every political party has its own challenges and the APC is not immune to internal frictions. But so far, we have managed our affairs well irrespective of what the opposition or our critics are saying. We were in this country when the former ruling party had its crises and even most of the lesser parties in the opposition had their own crises. What is important is our delivery, which I can say we have done well so far.

On the issue of Mr. President’s state of health, I think the constitution is very clear and necessary steps have been taken. Power has been transferred to the vice president with the notification of the National Assembly. This is what the constitution says and we have done the needful. I don’t see any politics in this.

Nigeria has witnessed increased violence, mutual ethnic suspicion, and crises under the Buhari administration mainly because of the perception that the North is favoured in terms of political appointments over all other regions. Do you think otherwise? 
What I understand you are trying to say is that President Buhari has been favouring the North more than other regions in his policies? We need to face the reality in this country. You and I know that there is nothing like South or North in this country, this is usually relevant whenever we are playing politics of greed.

For instance, if the Green Eagles of Nigeria is playing a football match with Ghana, every Nigerian, irrespective of their ethnic affiliations, automatically becomes a Nigerian and their allegiance goes to the Green Eagles. If it is an African country playing an Asian nation, all Africans show allegiance to their continent. To break it down, if it is in the South, a south easterner will support a fellow easterner in a contest against a south westerner and it continues like that even to the family level. All these sentiments are based on greed. The same thing is applicable to religion in this country.



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