Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Auditor, Dr George Moghalu, has joined the debate over the portfolios President Muhammadu Buhari assigned to the Southeast ministers and insisted that with Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Igbo would not have asked for more.
Speaking on other issues like Igbo 2023 presidency, the unending crisis rocking the ruling APC and the responsibility President Buhari assigned to his Chief of Staff, he dismissed insinuations that the Southeast geopolitical zone was denied juicy ministries. He further argued that no ministry is more important than the other.
What do you think of the traveling embargo IPOB placed on Igbo political leaders?
What embargo are you talking about? Such thing, if there is any sounds very unreasonable. Based on what authority and wisdom would they place such embargo? What have the Igbo political leaders done individually or collectively to warrant such unreasonable embargo. For me, it does not add up and if they are placing such embargo based on the assumption that they did not fight Igbo cause, I will ask them what Igbo cause they are talking about. I don’t see any cause the Igbo political leaders are supposed to fight for that they are not fighting. Did they ask the best approach to fight a cause in a democracy other than by argument, negotiation, consultation, convincing people and lobbying. I want to be told how they expected us to fight that we are not fighting otherwise, I would tell them that I don’t understand what they are talking about. If they expect us to do what Ayo Fayose did in Ekiti as governor, giving the herdsmen ultimatum, I will tell them that it is not reasonable. The most important thing is that we are in a democracy where every decision is by consultation and convincing people because it is a matter of number. We agreed to do it by consensus before we entered into democratic process. Whatever we want to do must be a function of number. We must convince people to see it from our prism. What we need to do as a people is to continue negotiating and expanding our horizon. We must reach out to as many people as possible so that we can fight our collective interest. We must unify ourselves, pursue a singular agenda and be honest about it. These are the realities I think we should be talking about.
Did the attack on Ike Ekweremadu give you any concern?
Of course, it gave me serious concern and I was not happy about it. It is not right to any right thinking person, no matter the way one wants to look at it. The action is condemnable and it is not the right way to go. Okay, let us assume that the way to go now is to beat and tear the dresses of Igbo political leaders abroad, what will it change, how will it better our lots as a people and how will it improve our condition as a people? For me, the way to go is to bring our leaders to question and get them to account by rejecting them at the polls. If they claim that the leaders have not done a lot, what specifics do they want from them? It is true that I may not be holding any elective or appointive position today to make impact, but the point remains that there is little or nothing those occupying the positions could do. The option left for us is to get members of the state Houses of Assembly to pass laws that are of peoples’ interest and get the executives to implement them. We have to organise ourselves into pressure groups to present common interest agenda to the Federal Government. We have to negotiate with other political interests and blocks as the way to go in a democracy not members of IPOB beating up Igbo political leaders abroad. If they think that the political leaders are not doing it well, they should teach them how to do it and encourage them. I am always on the people’s side as a matter of personal principle, but the fact remains that I should be in a position to make reasonable contributions, talk and convince somebody to see it from my own perspective and from the perspective of my people.
Are you among the Igbo leaders uncomfortable with traveling outside the country as fallout of Ekweremadu’s attack?
Why should I feel uncomfortable or afraid of travelling outside the country? It is also wrong to think that if they could attack a PDP member, it may be worse for some of us in the APC. Like the Igbo will say, it is the person carrying a load who should be afraid that it may break. I have nothing to be worried about. It is wrong to look at it from the prism of political party.
Are you satisfied with the way Southeast governors and stakeholders have handled Ruga policy of the Federal Government?
It goes beyond the way they have handled the policy. The governors who are the chief executives of various states know that Ruga is not compulsory. The choice of having Ruga is optional and government has come clear on that matter. Those who want it should go for it and get it. It is for the chief executives of our various states to liaise with the state Houses of Assembly and those we elected to represent us to look at our interest. If we think that it is okay with us, we can pass it and go for it otherwise, we stop it. It is optional not compulsory that we must do it.
What do you say about the feelings among the Igbo that President Buhari did not assign juicy ministries to Southeast ministers?
What is incontrovertible is that Mr President gave ministerial slot to every state in the Southeast and even appointed two from Anambra. But I have always argued and disagreed with people on this issue of juicy political appointment. There is nothing like juicy ministry as far as I am concerned because all the ministries take the memoranda to the Federal Executive Council. There is no senior minister at council level. I am satisfied with the portfolios Mr President gave to the ministers from the Southeast. The highest ministerial position in America, with the model we are coping today, is the Secretary of State. We have Minister of Foreign Affairs from the Southeast yet we are still complaining. What is unimportant about Minister of Science and Technology in a country thinking about tomorrow. We have Labour and Employment, Minister of State for Education and another for Environment. We have challenges of erosion left, right and centre and we have been given a minister to look after it, yet we are complaining. Since it is not for anybody’s personal pocket, I don’t see anything juicy about the ministries.
Did the former ministers dropped and retained come as a surprise to you?
Why should it surprise me when the president knows what he wants? These are people he has worked with, so it is about who he wants to work with not about what I think about them. The decision did not surprise me at all.
At what point was your name removed from the ministerial list?
To God be the glory. We should know that appointment of ministers is the prerogative of Mr President and he determines who he wants to give at any given time. Yes, people may speculate, but if I am not appointed, to God be the glory because it is not yet the appointed time. Why should I ask what happened that I did not make the list at last when it is not my father’s job. Anybody who claims that I should be feeling hurt don’t know me very well. In fact, Mr President did not promise me ministerial slot only to disappoint me later. I don’t understand what you mean by saying that I was among those that settled the presidency cabal, but was disappointed, I am just hearing about such settlement from you. In any case, this speculation about presidency cabal has to stop because it is not good for the system. As for me, I can make contribution in a democratic government without being a minister. There are many ways to serve fatherland and it must not be ministers that are only 43 persons out of a population of close to 200 million people. People can serve at various levels and they must not be ministers before they contribute. Sincerely speaking, I am very happy with the president that he found Anambra state worthy to produce two ministers. I am very grateful and I am sure that is the feeling of every Anambrarian.
Apart from the statutory ministerial appointments, do you expect more political appointments to the Southeast from the president?
Very sure and why not? However, I am not making any appeal to the president because I don’t believe that he is not carrying the Southeast along in terms of appointments. However, besides political appointments, I expect the president to complete the ongoing road projects in the zone. The second Niger Bridge, the repair works on the Enugu-Onitsha expressway, Enugu-Port Harcourt road, the Aba-Ikote Ekpele and Umuahia-Uyo roads. I expect that the projects that have to do with the Southeast in the current budget should be accommodated and executed.
What is your take on Mr President coming under attack after the pronouncement that the ministers must channel every communication to him through his Chief of Staff?
The attack on Mr President for that pronouncement is very unfair. I am being honest in saying that it is really unfair. Why did he appoint a Chief of Staff in the first place? By the nomenclature, his responsibility is enormous because somebody has to prepare Mr President’s schedule, look at his programme and coordinate his activities. I don’t see anything in the president directing the ministers to pass through this same person. It is the same way they do it in America, the country we are copying our democracy from. It is wrong to assume that the president ceded his responsibility with that directive. We are talking of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has 43 ministers to deal with. It is not also true that the directive clashed with the responsibility of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
How true is the claim that APC is collapsing on the heads of the national chairman and national leadership of the party before the recent meeting with the Progressives Governors Forum?
There is no iota of truth that the party is collapsing on the head of our national chairman and the national leadership. Although I was not part of the meeting with the Governors Forum because I was burying my uncle in my village, the speculation that the party is collapsing on our heads is not true. As for the plot against him from the governors, I can tell you that politics is all about plot. However, I am not aware like I told you earlier and our chairman has not told us of any such plot or heat on him. I am aware that the DG of the Governors Forum wrote after similar letter from Shauibu, but I am not surprise about those letters. If the DG of the Governors Forum wrote a personal letter to the chairman and thinks that the best thing to do is to make it public, that is his problem and I am sure the chairman will address it if he thinks the letter is necessary.
What do you think of the faceoff between Oshiomhole and his state governor on one hand and Odigie-Oyegun on the other hand?
I honestly don’t have details as to what is happening in their state with regards to the disagreement. But the good news is that there is beginning to be relative peace now. I have always said that politics is about human beings and interest and once interests clash, there must be disagreement. It is a matter of those disagreeing to ask the pertinent question whether the disagreement is necessary and whether they can resolve it. As for Oyegun, I don’t also believe that there is any rift between them. There may be disagreements on procedures. Both of them are from the same state, both are credible leaders that have demonstrated capacity for work and I can only pray for them to continue exhibiting leadership qualities to serve as example to many. If there was crisis, I would have waded into it as somebody that has worked closely with both of them.
Will you still contest the 2021 Anambra State governorship election?
I am somebody driven by divine directions and principles. There are still lots of time, but all I need now is to be praying, engaging in consultations and knowing the will of God who gives to who he pleases at His own time. If it is His will, it will be done. It is not going to be easy for APC to wrest power in Anambra, but we have to work very hard for it.
Are you comfortable with the report from the governors of Kaduna and Kano that APC may sacrifice zoning in the 2023 presidency?
I don’t want to think about 2023 now because it is still a very long time. The reality is that we will cross the bridge when we get to the river. If the Southeast wants the presidency of Nigeria, we must work for it. Power is not given, it is taken. We work for it by consultation, uniting ourselves together, identifying the need and our desire to get it. Though it looks as if we don’t have an Igbo political figure to coordinate our affairs, however, at the appointed time, God will speak. Our biggest problem is excluding God out of this equations and calculations. I am one person who believes that God’s will must be done and if it is His will, nobody can stop it.
How is the APC strategizing ahead of the two governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa?
We are strategizing well, but unfortunately, we cannot discuss our strategy in the media. However, I assure you that we have the conviction that we will win the two states. I can tell you that the party has no anointed aspirant. We will also do everything possible to ensure that there will not be a repeat of what happened in Zamfara in Kogi or Bayelsa states.
What are those challenges President Buhari must surmount to leave legacy after concluding his second tenure in 2023?
I am very confident that the president is conscious of the fact that he wants to leave legacies and we have seen them. He has started leaving legacies with the institutions he is building. You know that it is very difficult to build institutions. He has already started building strong institutions not strong individuals. I think we will get there faster than people expect with strong institutions like the anti-corruption agencies. I am sure the president is conscious of leaving legacies. What we need to do as a people is to support, pray and encourage him to fulfill the promises he made to Nigerians.
What do you advice Mr president on the escalating insecurity situation even in Abuja?
We can only pray and commend the efforts government is making. What should be our appeal is that it should be sustained. Lots of investments have been made in intelligence security gathering, but we as citizens have a role to play in addressing the issue of insecurity. We have the role to effectively inform the relevant security agency.
What is your impression on the embarrassment the 80 Internet fraudsters of Igbo extraction gave to the region?
It is not about their ethnic nationalities because if you look at it that way, what about the names on those on the death list in Saudi Arabia over drugs. The point is that fraud is fraud just as drug dealing is drug dealing while crime is crime. It is not about tribe or religion. Nigerians are not fraudulent and that we have fraudulent people does not make every Nigerian a fraudster. The point here is that I feel embarrassed that Nigerians are getting involved in things that should not be especially outside this country because it paints a lot of negative picture on every Nigerian.