Former Minister of Health Prof ABC Nwosu has advised the All Progressives Congress (APC) to be ready to surrender power if it loses like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did in 2015. In this interview with VINCENT KALU, Prof Nwosu, spoke on various issues and urged the APC to borrow a leaf from the opposition party.
What are your expectations for the 2019 elections especially as the battle is likely between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and former Vice president Atiku Abubakar of the PDP?
It is right to zero it to the ruling APC and PDP, because the opposition party has a Memorandum of Understanding with so many parties that they will support a candidate, and the PDP is hopeful that it is the party’s candidate that they will support because of certain parameters.
I expect that in 2019, Nigerians will vote either for a brighter future for the country or vote to stagnate to nowhere because any vote for PDP means you are having a change of pattern; when you have a change of pattern, you are likely to have a change of policies and you are likely to have new projects and programmes. If you vote for APC, you are likely to vote for continuity. The continuity of APC is continuity to nowhere, and even there is a greater danger if APC is not changed next year; they might even try to recreate an APC to succeed them, so it may not just be for four years but for 12 years. It is very scary.
Does Atiku have what it takes to beat Buhari?
I don’t know what it takes to beat Buhari, but I was in the Obasanjo-Atiku administration, and I know that Atiku is a very credible alternative for good governance, for clarity of policies and direction, and the combination of Atiku and Peter Obi adds a punch. As an example, Atiku has been talking of restructuring for a very long time and he is not confused about restructuring. He is talking about devolution of powers and greater autonomy to the federating units. That is a major thing that has to be done if Nigeria has to move forward. Atiku is a very credible alternative, but what it takes to beat Buhari, I wouldn’t know. It may take more than a credible alternative or may take less, who knows. But as for being a credible alternative, Nigerians can look at one and look at the other and make their decision. The difference between Atiku and President Buhari is very clear. One can be, and that is Atiku, while one has not been able to do anything and he is blaming everybody but himself.
You talked about Atiku coming up with clarity of policies and programmes, but the APC accuses Atiku of being part of the administration that is alleged to have ran the country aground?
APC used propaganda to get into power; it also used social media. Mobile telephone was introduced by PDP, but APC won’t see it. PDP got debt relief and reduced the $36 billion that Nigeria owed to zero, but in the past three years, APC is in records of borrowing and still, borrowing. Under PDP, the growth rate of the economy was about five to seven per cent, the population growth was about three per cent but under APC, we went into recession and came out and we are limping at one per cent, which we are not sure of and our population growth is three per cent. Elementary economics and elementary political economy show that you cannot have your economy growing at less than the population and that is why poverty is multiplying.
So when they say that PDP has done nothing, I have mentioned mainly the major things the party has done, and APC has been challenged to name one of its projects, they couldn’t.
I’m sure most Nigerians remember how it was, coming from the airport inside Abuja; right now, Musa Yar’Adua completed, APC has tried to complete the Kaduna rail, it has also tried to complete the monorail, it is good to continue, but you cannot be doing that and be saying that there is nothing PDP did.
There are major issues that they should address; you never hear APC talk of cost of governance. The cost of governance is unsustainable; you cannot be borrowing for consumption and to meet your recurrent expenditure. These are existential things that we have to look at.
Only somebody who doesn’t belong to APC will not see that Nigeria has never been as divided as it is now. I have always said that APC people are suffering from serious parallax problems. There is reality, there is virtual image, which the APC prefers to see to the reality, that is parallax.
You talked about borrowing; the ruling party said that it is borrowing to carry out capital projects, while the PDP borrowed to share among themselves. They cited the SUKUK bond, which they are using to fix some roads in the South East, especially the Second Niger Bridge, Onitsha – Enugu road, Enugu – Port Harcourt road, among others?
Thank God that I’m from the South East. I know we don’t drive on that Enugu-Onitsha, we take the old road, which the Enugu State government did that linked Awka. So, we don’t see it. When we see it, we will comment. Less than ten days ago, we came back from a convention in Port Harcourt. Try getting from Aba to Port Harcourt, you cannot. Where are these projects with the money we borrowed?
That is why I told you that nobody can match the APC propaganda; nobody can match them because they can look at white and swear on their mothers graves that it is black. We don’t want to get into that. They go to China as if they started it. The first grant that the Chinese gave was to the Ministry of Health, and I was the minister of Health, and that was when we started to reinforce the Roll Back Malaria, the insecticide treated nets, and other health programmes free to the people. You could see the airports; you could see the rail lines.
What is the fact that we borrow to share among ourselves? It is easy to see those of us who were PDP ministers and then come and check us and see how affluent we are and how much we got from the sharing. I don’t deal with propaganda; I deal with facts. If you look at corruption, not one person has been prosecuted for an act of corruption committed from May 29, 2015 to now. Not one is charged to court.
All cases are those committed prior to May 29, and they came from largely two sources – the Campaign funds, for which you have people held, and funds for procurement of arms.
Even the proven cases that stared before the government like, Maina, as well as some politicians of APC. You could see PDP minority leader jumping to APC and then followed the president to China, and you are talking of corruption. Nobody has looked at public procurement, and everybody knows that since the history of Nigeria, public procurement and contract charges have been a major source of corruption. Check the cost of roads per kilometre from May 29, 2015, as announced by the APC Federal Executive Council. I can’t deal with the APC propaganda, all I want is facts.
Let us increase food, let us have better transport, let us have improved educational system, but the way APC thrives on social programme becomes amazing. You can’t audit the number of children fed; you can’t audit the quality of food; you can audit how much they cost; you can’t audit how much has been sent in. Can we throw these things out into the open so that if my relation has been receiving N5, 000 a month from government, it would become clear to me that I should not be giving that person money. Some of these opaque and unauditable programmes baffle me too.
The ruling party is also de-marketing Atiku; they say he is carrying a heavy baggage of corruption, what is your view on this?
You remember it is only recently that Atiku and the former president that he worked with reconciled. Their disagreement was so intense that Atiku should have been jailed by now. This government should have jailed him and I’m not aware that he has any case in any court.
He has so many landmark cases that he has won up to Supreme Court. It has even been put in book form. It is just like the people whom they have said would not travel including a dead chief judge.
Why don’t you take a person who has committed a crime and go to court. One example for me will still suffice. When the chairman of APC was governor of Edo State, he followed President Buhari to the US, he came back and told the media that one former PDP minister had $6 billion in an account, that they were told so by the State Department. That was when many of us stopped taking them seriously. A State Department told you that a Nigerian minister had $6 billion in an account, which account?
Why can’t you go there and prosecute that person, enter into agreement with America and recover it.. Meanwhile, it is discussed in beer parlours, motor parks, and that is what APC propaganda seeks to achieve. So, how does one begin to react to things like that? You don’t have to de-market Atiku. Establish the case, and there are courts, otherwise, it is the same propaganda. Propaganda got me there and propaganda will get me there again.
In 2019, the APC says it is banking on the integrity of President Buhari to get reelection?
I have said it before that the integrity of Mr President is self proclaimed. In terms of measuring, I don’t know what criteria you have used to measure integrity except that, for example that the president says he has integrity and all those around him say he has integrity.
On what basis can you say he has integrity. I don’t know the criteria of which you used to measure integrity. Let them put that against one example. Only one Nigerian president has done the right thing in the declaration of assets, and that is the late Umaru Yar’Adua. No other person. Everybody says he has integrity. Everybody is innocent until you can show he is not.
Some South East governors and other Igbo leaders kicked against Peter Obi as Atiku’s running mate, what do you say to that?
It is disgraceful, embarrassing and the less that is talked about it, the better. Ambition should not be unbridled when somebody thinks he is qualified to be vice president and he is bypassed for reasons.
It is the prerogative of the presidential candidate to choose whom he wants to work with. It is the prerogative of a governor to choose whom he wants to work with as his deputy.
When Obasanjo became the PDP candidate in 1999, the person who wanted to be the running mate was the late Abubakar Rimi; there were other important Northerners like Ciroma, Bamanga Tukur; they were there, but for reasons best known to him and after consulting with the few he consulted privately, Obasanjo ended up with Atiku, and there was no noise.
Don’t forget that Buhari in all his previous contests, has had Umezeoke, Okadigbo and Bakare, and no noise and he decided this time to choose Osinbajo. Osinbajo was neither a former governor, he was just an attorney general and Yoruba didn’t protest.
I think that those who protested have realised that it was a mistake, and you can see that the Igbo nation has moved on since then.
Some people are sceptical over INEC’s ability to deliver on credible election, what is your position on that?
I also don’t believe INEC will conduct free, fair and credible polls.
There are so many questions. One, with the PVCs and their collections. We should make sure that holders of PVCs are the real persons. Lets spot check. Get thousands of PVCs almost as you have in Kogi in the case of recall of Dino Melaye and call the people who own the following PVCs to come out, let us see them. You may not check up to two million, but let it be from different states. Call the names and match them with the PVCs, if you get 10 per cent match, as we had in the Melaye case, then you know something is wrong, and I suspect that is what we may get.
Secondly, you saw the shameful inconclusive thing that was done for Osun, and the horse trading before it was announced. It shouldn’t happen because when something is inconclusive, it is inconclusive you don’t announce it and then begin to do arithmetic, working from the answer to the problem. Thirdly, the overbearing influence of the security agencies and the incapability of INEC to check votes buying. With these points, I don’t think that INEC can run any credible election.
With this position, the APC will say that PDP is already giving reasons for its failure?
The constituents of APC, whether CPC, ANPP, gave so many reasons in the past. I don’t like getting into APC propaganda. Truth exists; only falsehood has to be invented. If it is not right, it is not right. That is just the issue.
When Yar’Adua won, he said, he reckoned that the election that brought him into power was flawed, and he set up the Uwais panel and that is what helped us at the revision of the electoral process. When that revision brought APC, the PDP quietly without one problem in the country said ok, let democracy have its hold, and so it happened. We hope the APC will also be patriotic enough to yield when it is clear that Nigerians don’t want them, and not drag the country into any problem.