- Free yourself from ex-ruling party’s sympathisers, he tells Buhari
By Omoniyi Salaudeen
BEFORE he took a bow out of active politics, Alhaji Buba Galadima was a key member of the inner circle of President Muhammadu Buhari. Prior to the merger arrangement that culminated in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he was the National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as well as National Campaign Secretary of The Buhari Organisation (TBO) in the 2007 presidential election. In this interview, he outlined a number of measures the President needs to put in place very quickly to free himself from the entanglement of the PDP’s sympathisers in the civil service to actualize his change agenda.
Given the euphoria that heralded this administration, would you say President Buhari has achieved enough to meet the yearning and aspiration of the Nigerian people vis-a-vis the enormity of the challenges before him?
The truth of the matter is that a lot of Nigerians may not appreciate the enormity of the decay and the deep rooted corruption, including squandermania that took place in the last 16 years of the PDP unless you are an insider. Of course, the Buhari government ought to have done one or two things to ameliorate the suffering of the masses. There are certain positions of government that can, at least, ameliorate the situation or proffer solution to the situation, but they have not been put in place. Take, for instance, the worse hit sector is the economy. One would have expected that by now government should have put in place an economic adviser who is a very knowledge and senior person who can look the president straight in the eye and tell him the truth. On the alternative, he could put in place an economic team because successive governments had economic team. In the absence of that, Buhari depends only on his own knowledge. And that may not be sufficient to address the situation because no one is an island unto himself. Again, there are enormous political intrigues which are rearing their heads virtually every day. Security situation is part of political situation. He needs a political adviser knowledgeable enough to understand the various interest groups in all parts of the country and advise the government on what to do. If all these are not in place, obviously the president will find it a little difficult to sort out there are certain structures that ought to be put in place quickly such that it will assist in decision making and implementation of certain policies of the administration as well as the vision of Mr. President. At present, 99 percent of key positions of government are still in the hands of the PDP sympathisers, who do not share in the vision of change. Yet, they are the ones implementing the policies of government for which they have no input or believe in. Take the judiciary for example; 100 percent of judicial officers from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are people that were either appointed or promoted by the government of PDP. Therefore, they are not likely, at least for the time being, to see things from the side of the APC and its change mantra. there are certain structures that ought to be put in place quickly
It is the same thing in the civil service also. Everybody who is a director in the federal civil service today has been a beneficiary of the PDP. And the government of APC has not taken steps to dilute this. I am not saying that everybody in the civil service should be removed or dismissed, but you dilute it with people who share in the vision of the party so that implementation can at least go by 50 percent. These people do not believe the vision of this government at all. All directors in the civil service were either appointed or promoted within the last 16 years of the PDP administration. Their loyalty obviously is to the PDP.
Thirdly, all the chief executives of parastatal, including directors are all PDP appointees. Do you expect them to work for the success of APC? You sacked the chief executives of departments or agencies and you said the most senior directors should takeover. Both the chief executive and the directors were appointees of PDP. So, they are all the same. If the man has committed any offence, he must have committed it together with those people. We need to look inward so that we can set up a structure that can deliver on our programmes and promises to the people. And time is of essence here. One year is already gone. Effectively, the president has only one and a half years left to put in place whatever he wants to put in place. After one and a half years, we will be overwhelmed with political issues, political intrigues and political interests. So, there is a huge gap which needs to be filled. But criticizing the government now will not do us any good. What we need to do is to encourage the man and his team to respond quickly to feelings and aspirations of the Nigerian people. If you merely criticize the government without proffering solution as I have done, then we will be throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
With what you have said, one will expect everybody in your party to play along with Mr. President. But there are speculations about cracks in the APC based on the lines of different political interest groups that merged to form the party. Do you agree to this?
These are sentiments expressed by people who are not democrats. When you have people in any organization, they can discuss and concur towards a position. But that does not mean that people don’t have their personal feeling about issues. Again, in a democracy, whether we are members of one family, brothers and sisters, we may differ in our approaches to the goal. But what we should maintain is that the goal should be the same. Whatever the lines of differences, there is a consensus on the need to improve the economic and security situation of the country so that every Nigerian can be free to walk about and look for their means of livelihood. We all want corruption to be eliminated to the barest minimum so that the meager resources available to the government could be put into good use for the benefits of everybody. These are our goals but our approach to economic sovereignty, our approach to security problem, our approach to political problems may be different as human beings. And this is the beauty of democracy. I don’t look at as a crack; I look at it as a good development that will enable those in power to take all options into consideration before they arrive at a decision that will better our future.
What and what would you expect the government to put in place immediately to ameliorate the suffering of the Nigerian masses that reposed their confidence in this government?
A lot of you young men are not students of history. Therefore, you wouldn’t know. The truth of the matter is that nothing good comes easy without challenges. For you to restructure this country and put it on the path of growth, some pains must be felt for the time being. As a new baby, you have to begin by crawling, walking and then running. The present situation is affecting a lot of people who like to cut corners because there is no more cutting corners now. You have to earn your means of livelihood. You can no longer use pen and paper to steal public funds. This is why some of us were not happy when the President released the 2nd and 3rd quarter allocations to the so-called civil servants because the civil servants are the ones doing all the contracts in Nigeria. The civil servants are the owners of all registered companies used to siphon money. That is why nobody has felt the impact of the 2nd and 3rd quarter allocations released last year to the civil servants. Even the salary bailout to the states, there was no monitoring of implementation.
So, a lot of governors just converted it to their personal use. 75 percent of recurrent expenditure is money meant for sharing by the civil servants. So, what the President had done by giving the 2nd and 3rd quarter allocation to the civil servants was just to oil the PDP machinery. That is why APC is losing elections all over the place because the PDP are still in control of the economy. They are still in control of security. What do you expect them to do? They just enrich and help themselves. For me, any money released by Mr. President to various sectors, they must set up a strong monitoring and implementation committee of technocrats who are of impeccable integrity to monitor government’s projects because they are just releasing money to the civil servants for them to share. We are not moving in the correct way. We must make monitoring and implementation committee to look into how recurrent expenditure is being expended and also look into how capital expenditure is being managed. APC is government, PDP is in power.
The president recently declared that 27 states were in distress because they can’t pay salaries. What do you think they can do to lift up the situation because everybody is down economically in those states?
I have a different opinion. I see no reason why states should not be able to pay salary because they receive their grants from the federal government and their local governments also get their allocations from the federation account. What is expected is that the first thing to do is to settle the salaries of the civil servants. It is what remains they should use for the activities of government whether recurrent or capital. Where does the money go, if they cannot pay salary? Has the Federal Government done any research on the bailout money given to these states? There are accusations that certain governors converted the bailout money to purchase furniture and all kinds of unproductive ventures in their states. There should be a monitoring team to monitor the states concerning money given to them. EFCC should follow how such money is spent. No effort is being made to diversify the economy of these states, they only depend on money from oil and oil price is already going down. So, what do we do? Do we fold the states? These are issues whoever is campaigning to be governor should address and prove to the people that he has a magic wand to make the state viable.
Did you take cognizance of the fact that what they are getting now is a far cry from what they used to get when the oil price was over a 100 dollar per barrel?
Then you cut your coat according to your cloth.
But you can’t cut the salaries of workers. Can you?
But then what do you do? Workers don’t get salaries? It is better to release some of them to go and do farming as I am doing.
It may sound strange to you that a particular state in Nigeria got N6 million as allocation for the month of February. What can such a state do?
Who ate the previous money by taking loan to do things that were not meant to diversify the economy? It means somebody must have wrecked that state before now. Can’t that person be called to account or explain why the money is being subtracted from the source? Why should they take money to build a stadium when you know that in future you will have no money to pay salaries?
Maybe they didn’t anticipate the present economic recession.
Then, it means we are voting people without foresight into public office. So, it is our fault. Whoever is aspiring to be governor or president must produce a blueprint of the economy of the state or country as the case may be. It is because we are not holding public officers to their promises this is why it is happening. I hope you know that Abacha managed the economy of this country effectively with Prof Sam Aluko when oil was not even as high as it is today. He maintained the exchange rate at N84 or N85 for four years. Today, oil is four times what Abacha used to have. The only addition to what we had then is the National Assembly.
Now, Nigerians are getting worried that dollar is soaring so high. Is this not enough cause for worry?
It is soaring so high because we need to reduce our import bill. What government needs to do is to diversify the economy. Do you know that I have done calculation and a memo to the vice president that from taxes on vehicles alone, Nigeria can raise N300 billion per annum. Why should somebody drive Mercedes benz 600 cc without paying at least N25, 000 because he is driving it on the Nigerian road? Why will somebody drive a trailer on our road from the North down to Lagos without paying at least N50, 000 per annum?
The Minister of the state for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, is now in the eye of the storm for what he said in respect of the lingering fuel scarcity. Should anybody expect the man to do magic?
He was right. It is not his fault; it is his appointment that was wrong. He is not a seasoned member of the oil industry; he is only a commercial lawyer. So, he is not a magician, he can’t do anything. He is the group managing director of NNPC, he is the minister of state and he is also the senior minister. It is what he does that Mr. President as petroleum minister will sign, endorse and take responsibility which is very dangerous. You should also look at the circumstance of his appointment, where he comes from and how many people from where he comes are part of those who strangulated the Nigerian economy in the last 16 years. So, what is happening now is business as usual. He can’t do a lot because he owes a lot to his kinsmen who had eaten with him all these years before he became a minister. He can’t deal with them.
If he can’t deal with them, why do you think Buhari should give him such kind of responsibility?
That is if Buhari knows. Now I am saying, if you do an investigation on the man, he should be fired the next day. He is right by saying he is not a magician because he is not a member of the oil industry. The same set of people who destroyed the oil industry during Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s government are still very much there.
Are they too big to deal with?
Well, I don’t know. You can now see the argument coming between Tinubu and the minister, when he said the man should go if he can’t do the job. When you give the GMD an open cheque to appoint whosoever he wants and do what he likes, then Nigeria is in trouble. The president himself will not get the correct situation of things because all those he appointed are loyal to him. They will not reveal the secret of what is going on. Whatever they do, Mr. President should know that he will take responsibility because he is the minister and he endorses what they do even though he has a lot to do in the villa and may not know the intricacies that led to such decision or proposal. The president should appoint another GMD from another part of the country because Kachikwu can’t be a minister and GMD at the same time. We don’t know his contributions to the success of the party. There are one million and one people who have better knowledge of the oil industry than him. There is a need to appoint a new GMD immediately. If you dismantle NNPC and appoint directors, billions of naira that should be used for development will be expended on them. The proposed unbundling of the NNPC is a misnomer in our present circumstance when we are trying to trim down the civil service. By the time we appoint new 30 executives in the oil industry, pay their executive directors, provide them housing and other perquisites of office, you are already creating another bureaucracy. I think people should look at these things once more.