From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, has argued that President Muhammadu Buhari opting for restructuring in infrastructure was not a demonstration of his misunderstanding of what political restructuring is all about.
He maintained that Buhari’s resolve to undertake infrastructural development in rail, road and power shows his clear understanding of the immediate needs of Nigerians, emphasising that those clamouring for political restructuring are looking for kingdoms.
The ruling party chieftain equally speaks on the divine directive from Rev Fr Ejike Mbaka, warning President Buhari not to contest in 2019, arguing that he only requested that Buhari live up to his change mantra.
What is your reaction on the impression that Buhari does not understand what restructuring is all about?
I strongly believe that what Mr President said on the issue of restructuring was in order. He is essentially saying is that we must fix the critical infrastructure because the processes of fixing them are more urgent and important to Nigerians now than political restructuring.
He enumerated the infrastructural development to be fixed like the Rail, Road and Power (RRP). Instead of clamouring for political restructuring, I urge everybody to give Mr President all the needed support. That is the fastest way to the growth of the country.
If we support him to actualise the RRP, he will certainly be the greatest president ever. This government’s eastern corridor massive railway project will benefit the South-east. The implementation of the RRP will benefit Nigerians more than the political restructuring.
He said that his priority is to perfect the changes as the country move along. The president cannot say that the 66 legislative items in the exclusive list must remain exclusive forever. There must be a time some of them will become concurrent and even reduce to residual. That is restructuring.
Those misleading the country with restructuring should know that in democracy there are competing choices. The first choice of this administration is to fix the critical infrastructure. From my understanding of that statement, Mr President is saying that restructuring is a continuous process but he is concentrating on infrastructural development.
We must ask those clamouring for restructuring whether they are aware that this is a country where democracy is advancing only at the national level but receding at the local level.
We are yet to see a State House of Assembly that undertook oversight function in the country. We are yet to see any state where there is free and fair local council election. The people clamouring for restructuring should also address these matters at the state levels.
The truth is that those clamouring for restructuring are looking for kingdoms. They should appreciate the fact that the Federal Government for the first time in this country embarked on massive infrastructural projects. They will do the country good if they call the governors of their states to inquire the situation of the state economy.
Instead of clamouring for restructuring, they should be concerned that Nigerians don’t hear of state legislators whose names would ring bell like Senators Dino Melaye or Enyinna Abaribe among others in their states.
The president has released almost a trillion of bailout funds and other funds to the states but even the salaries he directed the governors to prioritise, some of them have not. These people clamouring for political restructuring should look into what the states do with the funds.
In a nutshell, it is wrong for anybody to claim that Buhari does not understand what restructuring is all about. He does but has chosen where he wants to start the restructuring.
If the president can get four more years to sort out infrastructural restructuring, then he can begin to talk of political restructuring. Nigerians should not even make the mistake of not voting for him.
What is your take on Fr Mbaka warning Buhari not to re-contest?
My understanding of what Fr Mbaka said is that he is calling on Mr President to change or be changed. He said that if he fails to make changes, Nigerians will not vote for him. I was there at the Adoration Arena and I heard him very well.
As a matter of fact, many have been calling for change and even in his Independence Day speech, Mr President hinted at changes too. The human and material changes are critical to infrastructural development. What Mbaka said is right but it is in line with what Mr President is doing already.
Has Buhari lived up to his change mantra?
I can stake my name that he has lived up his change mantra. He is undertaking changes along the line. I can campaign for Buhari’s re-election in 2019 and his return will be the best thing to happen to this country.
I know that Nigerians will not make the mistake of not re-electing him because it means automatic return to the full rogue era. The implication is that foreigners will go back with their money. The money they are borrowing us is because of Buhari’s integrity quotience.
What is your assessment of the APC?
The party has done so well, but what Nigerians failed to understand and remember is where the rain started beating them. They told us not to talk about yesterday but yesterday is today’s architecture. What Nigerians should expect from the APC this year is an improvement in their welfare but they should not also lose sight of where we are coming from.
Has Buhari impressed you in the handling of the menace of herdsmen?
He has because I was there when he set up the Major Edward Nze committee with representations from all those the security forces. They made a case and that recommendations are being looked into now. It is not an issue to handle with dispatch.
I can tell you that Buhari is not happy with what is going on but it is not an issue he can wake up one day and solve. The problem of herdsmen is a continental menace and that is why it requires collective approach.