From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Former National Auditor of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr George Moghalu, does not actually need too much introduction having been in the political arena, spanning over two decades.
The Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) speaks to Sunday Sun on a wide range of issues, especially on the chances of his party, the APC, winning next year’s presidential election, the impossibility of a single joint presidential ticket Islamising the country, his feeling after dragging APC to court over the outcome of the party’s primary for the Anambra State governorship election, among many others.
On a lighter note, are you still a member of APC having been inactive since the court ruling on the case you instituted against your party?
I am APC flesh and blood. Don’t forget that I was part of those who founded the ruling party. And if there is anything people know about me, I am not wayward when it has to do with party politics. I am always consistent with my belief. Having played a very important role, for that matter, in the formation of APC, I believe in the ideals of the party and I am stuck to it. I am fully APC, but don’t forget that I have a responsibility given to me by Mr President. And that is to superintend over a federal agency, NIWA, for which I am the Managing Director. I have a lot of work to do. And I am doing that. It is a lot different from when I was a member of the National Working Committee (NWC), when I sleep and woke up APC. It is not the same now. As to whether I am still APC, I will say that I am fully APC and will remain APC.
Have you mended fences with your party after taking legal action and the court ruling in your favour against the party?
There is no fence to mend. The point is that I took a position in which I owe nobody any apology. I took a position and saw it to a logical conclusion. For me, we have returned to the status quo ante and I am APC total after my involvement in the process. Any honest person will tell you that what I did was right. I needed to exercise my right, to fight against impunity, against injustice, to stop the madness and that was what propelled me. They were the driving forces that led me to take the decision I took to protect my right which the court ruled in my favour. For me, it is a win-win situation. The party should learn from it too.
How much peace do you have in the APC Anambra State chapter now in the face of the crisis still rocking the party?
There are lots of healings to be done. There is a lot of it to be done, no doubt about it. If anybody tells you that all is well with the party now, then the person is not fair because there is still a lot to be done.
There is tension, apprehension; anxiety ahead of next year’s presidential election, how certain are you about your party?
I don’t really think next year’s presidential election is dicey. The point is that, yes, the contestation will be high; a lot of interest has been awakened. The emphasis now may not be like before. So, it is going to be quite a very serious competition. It is going to be a four-way competition among the APC, PDP, Labour Party, and NNPP. It is unlike before where we have only two parties standing out principally this time around and every one of them is working very hard and wants to win. But for me, I will always root for my party, the APC. Apart from praying for my party to win, I believe my party will win. And in my little way as a player, I will participate in the process. I will do whatever I can, legitimately, to see that my party wins
Where is the confidence of victory for your party coming from when there are forces against your candidate?
Naturally, we are talking about the president of a big country like Nigeria; definitely, the competition will be very high as expected. Don’t forget that even when our incumbent president ran, there was also formidable competition from the opposition party. It is incumbent on us to work hard to win and retain the seat God has given to us, but we can also lose it if we are careless. As for the anxiety, every election, including town union and even family elections, create anxiety because it is a matter of winning or losing. However, we are confident of winning next year’s presidential election when you place side-by-side what the incumbent government has been able to achieve within the period. We will build on the legacy of the incumbent president, just as our presidential candidate has promised. You will agree with me that President Buhari has so much we can reference, particularly infrastructural development. Based on that, I am confident that our candidate Bola Tinubu will make it to the presidency. Don’t forget that he is running on a track record. If you look at his trajectory as governor of Lagos State, and the way he carried himself, people have much to say about him. Even if you don’t like him, you must acknowledge him as somebody who has an eye for choosing the right persons because a lot of people in the present administration passed through Tinubu School of Politics. You must give it to him whether you like him or not. Yes, competition is going to be high, and yes, there will certainly be competition in an election, but the question now is; are you confident that APC will win? My answer is yes.
Where is your confidence coming from when many Nigerians feel that APC has failed the country?
My confidence stems from the fact that Buhari has delivered. You must consider the fact that to make a proper and honest assessment of his performance so far, it is always good to know where he started from. Where did this candidate start? What was the situation on the ground? These are some of the things you place side by side before making a conclusive assessment. An unbiased assessor will say, yes, we have not reached our destination because Nigeria is a work in progress. We have not reached our destination, but we have made reasonable progress. And most importantly, we are focused on a specific direction, that is, taking the nation to the position of desired progress. Buhari is conscious of that fact. I always find it difficult to defend lies. I will never do that because I believe very strongly that after our sojourn here on earth, we are going to account hereafter. In my house in the village, one banner read that power is a secret trust that one must account for, if not here, in the world, then hereafter. I am always guided by that principle. I always try to look at things from an honest perspective. If there are challenges, I will be honest enough to say yes, there are challenges. If we have difficulties in reaching our destination, I will also be honest enough to tell you. We have not reached our destination, we may not have reached the Eldorado, but we have made reasonable progress. A lot has been achieved. The nation is on a known trajectory, direction, and destination. Buhari has done very well. More can still be done, that is why we are preaching that APC has an opportunity to build on what has been done and then look into the future to be able to reach the desired destination. It is like handing over the baton. Buhari has done his own part of the relay race. He is planning to hand over to Tinubu by the grace of God if he wins the election, which I believe he will start his own part of the race and deliver on the promises he has made to Nigerians.
As a former member of APC NWC, how do you feel that some of the presidential aspirants have not really integrated into the party and what should be the way forward?
You are not very correct to say that Vice President Osinbajo is not participating in party activities. He has been campaigning for the party as a loyal party man. He lost the primary, but he is also a very strong Christian, who, I believe, knows that power belongs to God and He gives to whomever He pleases in his own time. If we are all guided by that mantra, whatever happens, the Bible tells us to thank God even in situations of difficulty. I don’t think there is any presidential aspirant who has not keyed into our party’s presidential campaign. But, don’t also forget that the president made a statement that he directed Osinbajo’s exclusion to enable him to concentrate on state affairs. Just like my own case, I was on the first list that came out, but was missing from the second list. It does not mean that I will not be involved in party activities or work for the party. I will certainly do my best to ensure my party wins.
Don’t you think that the choice of a Muslim-Muslim joint presidential ticket will affect APC chances?
It is not about Muslim-Muslim ticket counting against APC, the emphasis now is on delivery. It is about performance. What we should advocate is which party can improve on the situation where we are now. The essence of the election is that we want to build on the achievements of Mr President. Yes, we have not gotten to the desired destination, but if the baton is handed over to Tinubu, he will continue. Even if you don’t like Tinubu as a person, you must also give it to him that he is not a religious bigot. As Lagos State governor he de-emphasized tribe and religion. Some of the key players in his administration were not from Lagos State. Aregbesola, Lai Mohammed, Dele Alake and even the VP who was Attorney General for eight years, were not from Lagos State. It was also applied to the religious persuasion of those he identified and worked with. He has told CAN that if he could not Islamise his family, his wife, a pastor and children, strong Christians, how can he Islamise Nigeria? If he could not convert his wife to become a Muslim, what is the fear for him to Islamise somebody else? It goes to show the extent of his liberality on the issue of religion which strongly counts for him.
Will the crisis rocking the PDP with the G-5 be an advantage to APC?
Naturally, when it has to do with a crisis, it is like self-preservation. Every APC member would wish the PDP would disintegrate. It will be to the benefit of our party. Every PDP member will also wish that APC disintegrates to benefit from the party crisis. For me, it is their problem and they should solve it, but every problem is solvable by communication. Let them try to look inwards and see to what extent they can resolve their issue. I don’t want them to bring APC as part of their problem. Let them deal with their problem and solve it.
Are you also concerned about the security threats ahead of next year’s election?
I must admit concerns over insecurity in the build-up to the elections. I am, however, happy that INEC and security agencies have addressed the concerns. My advice at this stage will be to the politicians, to tone down their rhetoric to the barest minimum. We cannot destroy this country and still want to lead. It is not acceptable and we must be able to say what is right, and know what to say and when to say it. I tend to agree with the views of the IGP about the excessiveness of governance. The idea of getting permission before organising rallies, and getting clearance before using public places, should not continue. We must create an enabling environment for politics to thrive. We must let the people determine their fate, and allow them to exercise their franchise of choosing who they want to lead them. Once we are able to do that, lots of problems would have been solved. I have concerns about security, but I believe and trust the security agencies will be up to the task.
Will you say that campaigns have been issue-based so far, especially by the candidates?
I cannot say that all is well now. I am not yet impressed or very satisfied with the speeches so far. All I want to appeal to the candidates is to lay emphasis on what they can do and what they will be able to do to better lives and improve what we have today.
What will be Buhari’s biggest legacies when he bows out next year?
With his investment in infrastructure development and his investment in creating an enabling environment for democracy to grow, we are looking at the man who has invested his credibility and career in providing a proper and dynamic electoral process. The Electoral Act, for example, is a masterstroke.
Coasting home to the end of your first tenure as NIWA MD, what will you single out as the most tangible and memorable achievements you recorded?
There is quite a lot we have recorded. I am grateful to God for giving me this opportunity and I thank Mr President and Minister who nominated me. I thank them profusely, for the level of confidence reposed in me for such a high position of responsibility. On resumption, the first encounter I had with the media on the biggest challenge ahead of me, I told them that it will not be lack of money, but under-reporting of the agency. Today, nobody can say that NIWA is under-reported. It has gained traction with regard to being visible as one of the agencies. People know NIWA and its responsibilities. Another thing we have done is to change the psyche, the mentality of average NIWA staff now seeing NIWA as a family they want to see grow. There is attitudinal change, which is very important. We have also laid emphasis on human capital development. A lot of training has been conducted and we did it in such a way that it is not about training the upper cadre, but everybody. We have also invested a lot in infrastructure development because we see lack of infrastructure as one of the challenges in the maritime sector. Another thing that excites me is the successful completion of the concession process for Onitsha Port. The process has been there for more than five to 10 years before I resumed, and we drove it to the conclusion. Don’t forget that the port has been there for over 30 to 40 years since completion, but moribund for many years. We have not gotten to the desired destination, but we are on course and focused. We have built quite a number of jetties. The abandoned Uguta River Port, which never appeared on the budget for over 10 years, is back. We have just concluded the fencing of the port. There is a provision to invest more money in this year’s 2023 procurement to complete that project. It may interest you to know that even private sector players have shown interest to concession the port even as it is, for the completion. The same is applicable to Lokoja Port.