“Since Buhari came into office, EFCC has recovered from looters some 794 billion naira, 261 million dollars and 1.1million pounds.”
Otunba Tunji Omoregha, the Deputy National Coordination (South) of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, has said that the reelection of President Buhari in 2019 will go down well for All Progressives Congress (APC) despite the rumblings across the country.
Nigerians are disenchanted with the Buhari presidency, but you have been trumpeting about him being the best person to lead Nigeria still. Where did you derive your conviction?
When he was in CPC, we once had a crowded discussion with him, since then, because of what he stood for, what I have known him to be even right from my university days, I see him as a man of integrity, a man who does not believe in amassing wealth, a content man.
But in the past three years, there has been a gradual erosion of that reputation. What do you think?
For those that have ruled this country in the past till today, I can count on my fingers several properties that belong to either past ministers or heads of state, I am only aware of just one property that belongs to Buhari in Daura. He has no house in Abuja. In his asset declaration form, this man has no foreign bank account. He has no oil bloc. And the man is content with his pension as a former head of state and retired general of the Nigerian Army. He is not a greedy person. I have trust in his ability to take this country to a better position.
It has been argued severally that being an incorrigible person does not translate into effective leadership. An example is made of his regime, that his government is showing lack of creativity in reinventing the economy. What is your take?
I have heard people said that when PDP was in power a bag of rice was cheaper. It is unfortunate that Nigerians do not pay attention to history. Remember in August 2012, the coordinator of the economy then, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that Nigeria is gradually slipping into recession and that if we fail to save, we would end up having a problem. The then Governor of the Central Bank, now Emir Sanusi of Kano, also raised the alarm. Even Prof Charles Soludo said he sympathised with whoever is coming to take over this country from President Jonathan because so far we had lost in excess of over one trillion dollars. So the recession was a gradual process that took time to metamorphose into where we are now. And we should give President Buhari some credits. Because Nigeria is one of a few countries that went into recession and within a year came out of it. So, the recession did not start in 2015. Dr Okonjo-Iweala had raised the alarm in 2012, at the time we were selling more oil and we were not saving.
The president in 2015 campaigned to curb the Boko Haram challenge. Now the menace has taken a different form, with even deadlier additions like the herdsmen carnage. Now in another election year, Nigerians will not be hoodwinked with insecurity rhetoric again. How will the status quo impact on your assignment?
But President Buhari has done so well in the aspect of security. Before he came in 2015, even those of in Lagos did not feel safe. Boko Haram had already penetrated Abuja. We should remember the bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja. The insurgents were all over the place. Their flags were flying in some parts of Nigeria. But this government was able to push them back. When they use the expression that ‘Boko Haram has been decimated,’ it is not an overstatement. As we speak today there is nowhere in this country where the Boko Haram flag is flying, though in retreat they have been hitting soft targets. The fight is in a phase where what is most needed now is intelligence gathering.
But they still struck with devastating effect in Metele recently?
What happened in Metele is as a result of the porous border that we have. The problem is not in Nigeria. They came from outside the country and that was why the president has had a comprehensive meeting with some of the countries surrounding us. What happened at Metele is an error that can happen to any country. It wasn’t as if our soldiers were not capable. The remaining miscreants operating as Boko Harams are not even Nigerians, they are mercenaries. They come in easily because of our porous border to attack and then sneak back into the neighbouring countries. Never again will such a thing happen.
Afenifere has narrowed its support down to restructuring, a serious condition that will lead to a head-on collision between the group and the Buhari Campaign Organisation in the South-West. How are you going to tackle this?
Afenifere as a group spoke on behalf of Afenifere, not on behalf of the Yoruba. Yinka Odumakin who happened to be their secretary, speak for the Afenifere, and whatever they say is not a Yoruba view. The PDP presidential candidate has come up with a mantra of ‘Get Nigeria Working’ and has promised to reform Nigeria within six months of getting into power. It is unfortunate that most people cannot read the handwriting very well. Restructuring means a lot of things to so many people, but I want to tell you that restructuring is not an issue of six months. It is a constitutional matter. Labour, state Police, salary, et cetra, are all parts of restructuring. There is no way restructuring should be a campaign issue because it is a constitutional matter. Anybody who is saying, ‘I will restructure Nigeria in six months’ is just telling Nigerians a lie. State Police, for instance, is an issue that is going to be discussed by the National Assembly. Senators that receive about N16 million as salaries will want to stand it down and ensure that this discussion does not see the light of the day. So, all the noise about restructuring is a political gimmick. We are not against restructuring – it is purely a constitutional matter. It is an issue that should be directed at the National Assembly, not an issue for one politician to continue to trumpet ‘I will restructure Nigeria in six months.’ Is the country his private company?
The fight against corruption in public’s opinion has been reduced to a political witch-hunt. What do you think?
What witch-hunt are they are talking about? Since Buhari came into office, EFCC has recovered from looters some 794 billion naira, 261 million dollars and 1.1million pounds. In 2015 alone, EFCC had 103 convictions. In 2016, the agency recorded 194 convictions. In 2017, they have 189 convictions. So far in 2018, 217 convictions have been recorded. How can someone say the fight against corruption is not working? It is only in Nigeria someone will say what they are doing is recovery of money not fighting corruption. What is recovery of money, what is fighting corruption? When you raise the alarm and a thief drops your property, what do you do? You pick your property and go your way. Yet a Senior Advocate of Nigeria said what we are doing is recovery of public fund, not fighting corruption. That is a sad thing. Can you recover what was not stolen? A total of 407 mansions were seized by the EFCC, of which 127 are permanently forfeited to the Federal Government. And they still claim that the fight against corruption is not real. We have 57 billion naira abandoned in a particular bank because of BVN. This BVN was not introduced by this present regime, it was introduced during the time of President Jonathan, but it was not effective because all the people around him will be affected.
The major criticism is that the fight against corruption seems directed against the opposition party.
When they complain that it is only members of PDP that are prosecuted, the question is which party was in power before now, was it not PDP?
Let me tell you this, one of the prominent members of PDP returned a lot of money. But still, he claimed he has not been convicted. Now, when they returned the money, they have not been convicted legally, but what had played out is that they have been able to crucify their conscience, that is even more than being convicted by a court.
Are you implying that some of the people the public expected to be arraigned have bargained with and returned money to the government?
Yes so many of them, some of them are in court that the government should not release their name that after all, they have returned the money. So many of them refunded money, we know them.
There are those who crossed from PDP to APC and have been spared the investigation of the EFCC.
The people that are in jail today are APC members, even though they left PDP for APC. How many were they able to convict during their time?
Some PDP members who crossed to APC had corruption cases. Could it be that they also refunded stolen money?
It is possible. We were told that even a former president dropped so much money; he claimed he kept the money in trust.
There is a discordant tune coming from Ogun State which should bother you as the man in charge of the South in the campaign of winning votes for President Buhari’s re-election. What are you doing about it?
Every politician has the right to move to whatever party he wants. It is not only Ogun State that is affected. Imo State under Rochas Okorocha is affected. Ondo is not exempted too, even though we are seeing the style of the hand of Esau and voice of Jacob, those of us that are stakeholders know there are some games going on. To me, that idea of Ibikunle Amosun saying he is supporting APC for the presidential and otherwise in governorship election is political rascality. It will never work. There is no partial belonging. Its either you are in or you are out. But I will tell you this: whether Amosun supports APC in Ogun State or not; whether Rochas supports APC in Imo State or not; with or without them, APC will win that election. There are bound to be issues and disagreements sometimes in a party, but the spirit of oneness must prevail towards the achievement of a particular goal. I plead with Amosun, he and Okorocha are still strong party members; they should retrace their steps.
In the last elections, the Generals were with President Buhari. Going into this election now, they seem to have another idea. For those of you working for the president’s reelection, how do you view this development?
Generals, no matter their numbers, are entitled to one vote each. The reason some of them were against him is obvious. President For example, when they sold the national assets, they put irrevocability clause in the energy license that you cannot revoke it but you can renew and most of them are not bother about how people can get electricity, what they are interested in is to recoup the money they invested and make more money. The government’s hands are tied. What Buhari is planning is by next year, when these licenses are due for renewal, he will not renew them. For you to work as GENCO or DISCO, you have to have an idea of what you are doing. They are not interested in manufacturing transformers or prepaid meters. All they end up doing is to give crazy bills. The government has had to intervene by giving them some waivers and incentives, even loans in other to encourage them so that people can have light, and they are supposed to be private investors. These are the problem President Buhari is having with them and he is not going to renew those licenses. The same thing also goes for the license for oil blocs. These are the reasons most of the generals are not in support of President Buhari. But Buhari will win again in 2019.