From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Chief Abu King Shuluwa has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that looted funds recovered by his administration are judiciously managed. He acknowledged that life is currently not easy for Nigerians and urged the President to immediately address the needs of the people. In this interview, he spoke on President Buhari’s one year in office among other issues. Excerpts:
How would you assess Buhari’s one year in office and his fight against corruption?
This country is very difficult to govern. Many of us Nigerians are not patriotic at all. The way we are, we have the Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Tivs, Idomas, Itsekiris, Fulanis and so on. And everybody is so much concerned about his own people unlike Americans who come from different places but are very patriotic about being Americans. That is why no matter what part an American comes from, an American will tell you he is an American.
But here in Nigeria, what you hear is, ‘I am Igbo, I am Yoruba, I am Tiv and so on. And we seem to also be divided by religion. Everything we do, we talk about whether we are Christians or Muslims. We are religious bigots and we are very tribalistic. We always think of ethnicity. That is why we have the situation that we have in this country. And corruption has eaten deep into our bones. Everybody is corrupt. Even the market women are corrupt. Look at what is happening now where fuel is being sold at N300 per litre! And the fuel on the streets is more than the fuel at the filling stations. So, the fuel marketers now prefer to sell in the night to black marketers than to sell to the general public. The woman who sells grains hit the muddle under it to reduce the quantity and make more gain. That is corruption. So many things are happening. And Buhari has come with the sole aim of wiping out corruption. Buhari is crying because we have not seen the level of corruption that he has seen in this country. People in this country have packed our money in billions of Dollars, outside this country; in South Africa, Dubai, USA, UK, in Asian countries and so on. Our money has been stacked in other countries where they are currently being traded with by those countries.
It will be very difficult for them to release these monies easily because they are using it. This is because when they release it, it will affect their economy. It will therefore take very strong diplomatic ties to make sure that these monies come back. And it may take up to four to five years or even more before these monies can be released. That is why Buhari keeps travelling. By the time he gets these monies outside back into this country, he may not even be there as President. And if he is not there, the next person coming may not be somebody who wants to fight corruption and may not even care to bring back the money.
But this fight against corruption seems to have plunged Nigerians into serious economic hardship. You would agree with me that there is hunger in the land presently and people are beginning to feel that they are in chains. What do you think can be done to alleviate this level of suffering?
It is difficult for Nigerians to accept that Buhari is fighting corruption because every rich person in this country is being touched. Those who are urging Buhari on to fight corruption are mostly those who don’t have money. Worst still is the judiciary. They will frustrate Buhari to a level that he cannot do anything about corruption.
And that is why most people are saying Buhari is slow. When the Abacha loot was recovered, nothing was done with it to show that this project was proceed from Abacha loot until some other persons came and stole it again. Abdulsalami got some back and Obasanjo brought some back too. And these loots have been ‘chopped’ by some people in this country again.
Let Buhari put the loot he has recovered so far into projects that would be seen by all Nigerians. The looted monies should be used to sponsor those projects. And the looted money recovered at the federal level should be used to sponsor federal projects while those recovered from the states should be given to the state government with a specific instruction that such money which is not captured in the budget should be put into special projects in that particular state. It is better instead of keeping it with the EFCC where the man at the helm of affairs would one day run away with it. So far, as far as I am concerned, I am against corruption and I want Buhari to fight corruption despite the hardship being faced by all Nigerians now.
Many say the corruption war seems to be one sided. What do you think about this?
The corruption that we are fighting now was worse with the government in power then. It was the PDP that was in power for 16 years.
…But most of those in APC today were in the PDP yesterday where they made their money.
Yes, they were in PDP. But the issue is that the corruption in government was just too much. People in government were in authority, they were in power, they could do anything. Take for example the minister of Petroleum, Deziani Alison Madueke who returned several billions of Dollars. If she returned such money, you can only imagine how much she has kept for herself. They go about in helicopters and have parties in the air. These were people in government. Yes, most people in the APC today were in the PDP government where they corrupted themselves before coming into APC. I hope Buhari will not leave them alone because they are now in APC.
But you would agree with me that Nigerians are crying. Salaries are not paid, taxes are increasing, school fees are being increased and the general living standard of every Nigerian is getting worse. Must we continue to fight corruption to the detriment of the poor Nigerian masses?
The issue of everybody crying like the children of Israel in the wilderness is all because the system was corrupted. Buhari has come into a system that is very corrupt. How can you salvage a situation that is so corrupt in one day? People are expecting this thing to be done in one day or one week or one month or even one year. It can’t be done like that. For now, we will suffer because the system was corrupted systematically for so many years. Buhari will need to systematically fight that corruption too so that it can work. It’s like a woman who has a cancer and breast feeding her baby on the cancerous breast. Definitely, the baby would soon inherit the cancer too.
We should know that we must suffer if we must get to the Promised land. If not, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor becomes poorer. Those who have access to steal money will continue to steal. What I expect Buhari to do is to share that money that he had gotten so far rather than lying idle with the EFCC or Central Bank.
The little he has acquired so far should be shared and given to states instead of asking states to go and borrow money. If they borrow money, where will they get the money to pay when the oil has dwindled so much? Anyway, I sympathise with Buhari and his fight against corruption but there is a level to which he can go. He has shown us that Nigerians are very corrupt.
He has shown us that some people have stolen so much money. Let him not go further. He should stop at that level because if he says he will continue to fight corruption, he cannot finish the fight even if he stays for eight years. Let me ask you one question. From 1999 till date, how many governors have been jailed.
Only one governor has been jailed in 16 years. Does that mean it is only that governor that has stolen our common wealth? No. There is no way you can pass through this system and you say you are not corrupt. No way. Even if he wants to, he cannot finish the fight even in his second tenure because investigation will continue for many years.
But something should be done about those who are too corrupt. Again this is democracy where due process has to be followed. And those handling due process are very slow. It’s not Buhari. EFCC will investigate everything and then take to court where lawyers will come in with their arguments here and there and the case will continue delaying while the suspect will be enjoying the money. At a point, their visas will be given back to them and they will continue to fly out to further enjoy the stolen money outside. The outsiders will not freeze those accounts because they ploughed the money into their economy and they are using it. Repatriating that kind of money is not easy. How can they repatriate that money and allow their own economy go down again? That is it.
Recently, you held a PDP meeting in your house. What was it all about?
The meeting that held in my house is not a zonal meeting but a meeting of concerned members of the PDP. Those who attended were people who are very concerned with what is going on in the PDP. Some of us elders of the party and other concerned stakeholders are concerned because election is coming up and there is nobody to call us as a party and say look, we lost election in the past and we must reposition ourselves in such a way that we will not lose this time around.
Nobody is calling us for meeting so that we can reposition ourselves towards the forthcoming election. Since we lost election, there have been no PDP meetings held in the state. The state party chairman is now in Abuja. Either he is lecturing or he is chairman of chairmen, we don’t know. He has settled in Abuja and left the party here in the hands of his deputy who has already resigned from the PDP and decamped to APC.
The Secretary has gone to APC, Auditor, has gone to APC, Youth Leader has gone to APC.
Yet, nobody cares to call a meeting so that we can decide what can be done. Now, we want to hold a meeting on the way forward and somebody who is occupying an illegal position is asking people not to attend. The meeting I called in my house was not a PDP meeting per say. It was a meeting of concerned PDP members. Those who came were not involved in the running of the party but we had to take that step so that we can reposition ourselves. Nobody can stop us from associating with ourselves. Now, the tenure of those in position in the PDP today is winding up and this tenure is being zoned to areas. And then an individual in that area will now come out and be accepted by his people and in the day of the congress, he would be elected.
We are very much aware that Zone C is all Idoma while Zones A and B is Tiv speaking area. And we are aware that David Mark is the highest ranking PDP political office holder in the state. He has failed to call a meeting of all concerned in the state. And we Zones A and B elders and concerned citizens came together to see what can be done. The zoning was secretly done and handed over to individuals which not even the party officials who are currently on sit are aware of.
When they go, they sit in people’s houses and share these positions, and in sharing the positions, they say, when you go, give it to this man. We say that is totally unacceptable. Positions should be zoned to areas and the people in those areas should elect people according to who they want to represent them.
We met here and resolved that zoning in Zone C should remain as it was in the past. All positions that remained in Zone A for eight years should move to Zone B while all positions zoned to Zone B for eight years should also move to Zone A. This is fair. This also affects the local government level and the ward level. We are totally against secret allotment of positions. Most of us who attended that meeting did not know what is happening at the party level. That is why we met. Many people attended the meeting in my house beyond my expectation. We are calling on the state chairman of PDP, Emmanuel Agbo to call a meeting immediately. Nobody sees Agbo here in Benue and he is the chairman of the party. Yet when we want to hold a meeting, Agbo will go on air and say nobody should attend a meeting other than the one that he will call. That is ridiculous because I am not concerned with the party excos because we have lost confidence in them. And that is why they are resigning. But we elders cannot fold our hands and watch the party crumble before our eyes.