Nigerians need to be patient with president
Professor Itse Sagay, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption(PACAC) believes that there is so much to celebrate in Nigeria today. Assessing President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration which would be two years on Monday, he observed that looking at where the nation was coming from, there is already light at the end of the tunnel. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on various issues.
Two years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, what is your objective assessment of the journey so far?
It has been a truly successful journey. You will recall that the campaign platform upon which this administration came is in promoting security in Nigeria, boosting the economy and fighting corruption. These are the three things and you would agree with me that since they came to power, the Boko Haram insurgency which was the greatest threat to the country has been so thoroughly defeated and the capacity to inflict harm on North East Nigeria not to talk of the rest of Nigeria reduced to the barest minimum. All they are doing now is just sending the suicide bombers. We have a very successful story with regards to the Boko Haram. It is a pity that the herdsmen who are the new face of terrorism have taken their place. One expects that the Federal Government would now turn around and confront this new terror. But I want to say this; it is a pity that the governors who are the chief security officers of their states are crying instead of organizing their defence against these people. Look at Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, he has done a very good job in that place. He has virtually arrested the situation and the herdsmen are behaving themselves. What stops other governors from organizing armed defence against these people? They should not leave it for the Federal Government alone and start crying. They should organize themselves. So, that is as far as security is concerned. Then let us go to the economy; when this government came to power, virtually all assets of Nigeria have been looted. The Sovereign Wealth Fund was less than $1billion, the crude oil account was emptied and over $20billion were stolen. You know when the Emir of Kano and former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), Lamido Sanusi said so, and he was sacked. People were not sure but from all the things that have come out now, if you calculate them, they are over $20 billion stolen under the past administration. Some of them were used for elections and all that and others just stolen for personal enrichment. This administration had to cope with that and at the same time cope with the value of the Naira which had plummeted from `$1 to about N148. Also, the Niger Delta Avengers had caused the oil production to drop from over 2million to 1.5million barrels a day. With all these that the government had to cope with and the recession that followed, we can say that we have survived in the sense that all that have been brought to an end. We were confronted with an unprecedented economic adversity and recession followed but today, we are coming to the end of the recession and we are now coming to positive figures in our economy; treasury looting has stopped, the value of the Naira is climbing; I understand that it is presently about N350 to the dollar. Agricultural activities are surging up under this administration. We now have near self-sufficiency in rice production and if you look at transport sector, we now have standard gauge rail from Abuja to Kaduna and then the one being constructed from Lagos to Kano and the plans are afloat of a rail line from Calabar to Lagos and from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri. There are a lot of activities going on and the international community is rushing to loan money to Nigeria because of the very clean records and integrity of this government. I think the Buhari government can claim that it has done a lot to bring Nigeria out of the woods. So, it has been a very successful government and in the next two days, you would see further confirmation and greater success in this direction because we have a clean government with people who want to serve and not be served. We have people who are honest and who have integrity; people who do not want anything for themselves but everything for Nigeria. For a very long time, we have a good government in place.
The fight against corruption is one area where the government has a question mark with many thinking that it is all noise and no result. What is your take on that?
The anti-corruption war is possibly one of the most successful. As you know, the very first thing the Buhari administration did was to set up the Presidential Advisory Committee which I am the head and we have been coordinating the fight against corruption and promoting the capacity of the judiciary and the anti-corruption agency to deal with corruption. In the process, a lot has been recovered and the anti-corruption agencies have become very dynamic. It was virtually dead under Jonathan because they were not ready to fight corruption but now, the agency has been very dynamic with huge sums of money recovered. We have about 100 prosecutions going on including the various agencies and ministry of justice. Things like subsidy scam have ended. All that money is being saved. The government has the whistleblower policy which has got good results. So, it is a major success and I can see corruption being driven further down in the next two years. We would see Nigeria a much cleaner society.
Are you comfortable with the government in the area of engendering national unity and giving sense of belonging to all?
Honestly, I would wish the government to do more in that area. Specifically, what I have in mind is that, there is need for restructuring. There is need to give the states and the zones more control over their resources so that they can develop faster on their own, have competition with one another and have the satisfaction that they are now in control of their destinies. There is so much concentration of power at the centre and the centre loaded with funds and therefore attracting a lot of corrupt elements in the country. I think where the government needs to work harder is in the area of restructuring.
A school of thought also believes that the present government has not done so well in the area of conducting elections. The conclusion is derived from the number of inconclusive elections witnessed in the country since President Buhari came on board. What is your take on that?
The government cannot be blamed neither can the INEC be blamed. The problem is the type of atmosphere in Nigeria during elections. Take the case of Rivers State where you have private armies who are determined that there should not be a successful election and that people should be imposed on Rivers and Akwa Ibom by force of arms. What would INEC do? It is short of having an army of occupation to suppress many things being promoted by the PDP governments in those states. You cannot have free and fair election in such an atmosphere and that is the crux of the matter. It has nothing to do with this government but the desperation of these PDP governments in those areas that have private armies and ready to destroy their own societies in order to remain in power at all cost.
There is so much tension in Nigeria now and it is perhaps because of the downturn in our economy. What would be your advice to Nigerians in the remaining two years of Buhari’s administration?
My advice is that Nigerians should be patient. They should think of where they were coming from. The people that this administration took over from destroyed the country. They drove our economy to the ground. They did not care about the masses. If they had remained, by now I do not think that Nigeria would still be here. Many of us would have carried ‘Ghana must go bags’ and be going across borders and everywhere. This is a government that has come to rescue this country and has brought us out of a hole that the other administration put us into. We are building up our economy; we are driving down corruption and our socio-economic life is improving. So, I would tell Nigerians, think back where you were coming from. If you think of where we were coming from, you would see how far we have gone. That is what gives me hope. In a few years, we would have something to smile about this country.