The Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has said that President Muhammadu Buhari will no doubt beat his rivals at next year’s presidential polls.
His conviction stemmed from the fact that those who are contesting the seat with President Buhari have antecedents which the people would look at to judge them, saying that the president’s integrity would see him through.
He also looked at the crisis rocking the APC in Imo and Ogun states, saying that despite his disagreement with Governors Rochas Okorocha and Ibikunle Amosun, their party would still win in the two states.
Some foreign commentators are predicting doom for your party and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, how optimistic are you of victory?
In all honesty, it is strange that it is foreigners who are crying more than the bereaved. I also heard Nigerians saying pension benefits that have not been paid for 20 years under the PDP, they are being paid now by this government. I have heard the Head of Service say for the 16 years of PDP, they were promotions that were delayed, but that through the intervention of this government we begin to settle these huge arrears and promotions. People talk about the huge amount of money PDP spent on power. The taller they spent the more darkness Nigeria found itself in. For me, there are people who find joy in quoting foreign sources, I like to talk about Nigeria people and they are our primary constituency. They are the ones that hired Mr President. I am not accountable to financial intelligence and everybody is aware that some of these papers don’t have the reputation they claim to have, after all these are the same institutions that wrote lavishly about Nigeria banking system, but few weeks later some of these banks were empty. I think we have done couple of things that will form the basis of our campaign. This is the only government that gives bailout money to state governments to enable them meet their most basic responsibilities without bothering whether they are APC, PDP or APGA. I don’t know any government before now that was just fair and just regardless of political party affiliation. These are things we should be talking about. We had governments that spent billions doing groundbreaking ceremony for the Second River Niger Bridge, but this government as we speak is not doing groundbreaking, it is actually constructing the Second Niger Bridge. These are things we want to talk about. Secondly, there are couple of things the Federal government is doing in Lagos, Ibadan and other parts of the country, these are things I think we should talk about. It is not the views of sometimes hired foreign commentator, these people are not superior to the Nigerian journalists. These are things we must discuss, if the opposition does not want to do that we will do that. In any case we have moved the government from that one that service the elite to one that looks at the forgotten majority of Nigerians, the voiceless. I think very soon we will begin to talk what this government has done and who has benefited and how the previous government converted private debts to public liabilities and privatized public funds to private pockets. And, of course, are going to get people who are knowledgeable about micro economy issues to assist Nigerians to understand that there is always a time lag between when certain policies are put in place, when certain mismanagement occur and when the impact of those mismanagement begins to occur in the lives of the people. For me, these are the issues that I want to talk about. We must consciously begin to discuss issues, policy issues, security issues and all of that.
The Apapa gridlock has persisted, it seems the APC is yet to find solution to it three years after?
I think you should just play back your own stories about the Apapa crisis, the whole issues around the ports, you will find out that for 16 years of PDP they grappled with that problem, and what they could not fix in 16 years they are not going to disappear overnight. But the good thing is that right now there are conversations and beyond conversations there are policy issues with regards to what can the private sector do. I am aware there are agreements that have been signed to encourage the private sector to come into the matter. So, as analysts we must go back and play back, these are not problems that developed three years ago they have been there and they won’t disappear overnight. I think that right now something is being done, but it cannot be like changing from NEPA to generator, it is a bit complex than that.
What will APC do different after 2019?
Like I said, we are already doing a lot of things differently. For the first time, a government is focusing on the poorest of the poor. The government is putting in place social policies that seem to locate the poorest of the poor and not joining in lamenting, but take concrete steps to put in place policies targeted at the poorest. And these things are happening across the country. I just mentioned over the years how much the PDP government spent on power. We have not spent a fraction of that and the challenge we are dealing with today is to revisit, if you ask me, this is my personal opinion, the crass abuse of the privatization process, the DISCOS that were handed over to incompetent hands based on patronage. And because of the long term agreement that government entered into with these operators we have had to face the huge challenges whereby even where you are able to generate more power, the DISCOS seem not to have the capacity to carry out distribution so that Nigerians can feel the impact of any improvement that have been recorded. And I will expect that going forward we have to revisit some of the things done and manage them not to be seen to revoke what has been done before. Increasingly, it is clear that they lack the capacity to deliver. Those things we have to review and maybe go back to the fundamentals. I have just told you that we are not lamenting over any crisis in transportation, a lot is being done with regards to the railway system. You will remember that before now the Kaduna-Abuja railway was in the drawing board, but today it is a reality. In different parts of the country huge progress is being made in the area of infrastructure. What you can really accuse the government on is that we don’t seem to be communicating effectively all of the things that are going on around the country. And there are quite a bit that are going on. But the people that live in those areas know what is happening in their respective areas. And to answer your question, I believe that President Buhari will certainly be re-elected on the basis of his personal integrity and the fact that those who are contesting against him, there are couple of things they can’t say about themselves that this President will not only say, but other people will say for him. Nigerians are wiser now, it is cheap for people to make promises, but again it is also easy for people who have been in power before to pretend that they don’t know what is going on. Some have been ministers and we know the controversies generated when they managed their ministries. We are going to ask them what they will now do differently in those sectors and their records are very clear in those sectors. You have been in the center as number two man, Nigeria was turned into a completely unitary state. I heard somebody now talking about autonomy of local governments, when I was in the NLC, I joined the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees to campaign for autonomy, to ask the Federal Government to stop controlling the local government and even withholding money meant for local governments. So, this government respects the autonomy of the local governments, some of those issues are no longer there, but those coming now, that want to be president were part of the administration that almost imposed a very suffocating unitary government on Nigeria. So, we are moving consciously from those and see how we can re-order the Federal system. But I can tell you, of all the presidential candidates on parade, Buhari is number one and I believe he will win because Nigerians know the difference, they know what brought us to where we are, they know what explains the paradox between a rich nation whose people are getting poorer and poorer. And they know that one disease that explains it is the character of those who have been in government. And incidentally those coming are not political virgins, they are people who have their records and we will speak to those records.
It appears the Buhari administration has not tackled the problem of insecurity as expected?
The truth is that new forms of insecurity are manifesting around the world that will be a more holistic appraisal of the security situation around the world. But I need to remind you that I was a member of the National Council of State as governor of Edo State and then president called us for a meeting and paraded the service chiefs who admitted that 28 or more local government are being controlled by Boko Haram. And on account of the level of insecurity the military chiefs submitted that they were not in a position to guarantee the conduct of a general election. And based on that elections were postponed. But today, Boko Haram has been severely weakened, the much talked about mystery at the Sambisa Forest has been demystified and the Nigeria Armed Forces has made a bold statement. And you will recall that under the previous government, a lot of our young men were sentenced to death for running away from battle and, of course, the money voted for them were stolen by the Generals that were supposed to provide leadership. But today, those are history. As we speak there is no local government in Nigeria that is under the control of militants as it was before, of course, you still have pockets of strikes here and there, but for all of us who are familiar with insurgency you know that it is not something you can wipe out overnight. Even in Europe, America with all its powers, couple of times they suffer some embarrassment when terrorist attack. So there can be no question that under President Buhari’s leadership commendable progress has been made. Certainly, this is not to suggest that we should go home and sleep and say all is over. No, we all need to build on the progress that has been made.
Now the forms of crime that you are talking about, unfortunately you did not list them, but I gaze you are talking about the level of kidnapping. Now, kidnapping resurfaced under the PDP, and I was governor of Edo State. I found myself helpless at a point, some Generals were kidnapped in Edo State and the kidnappers were even threatening that they might kidnap me if I make noise. Yes, we still have a share of kidnapping, but nothing of the scale that we witnessed under the previous government. Yes, we have religious extremism and so on, again, short memory, talking about Generals being Heads of State, under General Babangida, there was this Maitatsine riot in Kano and we had this huge crime in Kaduna State, which the former head of state called a civilian coup. So, we had these problems, the problem is that maybe we have poor documentation in terms of history, this is never to justify insecurity anywhere, but just to say that it will be incorrect to suggest that no new initiative has been involved or that not much progress has been made. A lot of progress have been made, but every Nigerian is entitled to a secured home, every Nigerian is entitled to go to a secured market, government must continue to be on its toes to deal with all forms of criminality. Around the world we witness every day, we hear that with all the sophistication, we still find that terrorist manage to attack in America, Europe, Turkey, everywhere around the world, and Nigeria has its own fair share. And because we represent about a quarter of the blacks in Africa in the South of the Sahara, it is not surprising that we also seem to have perhaps our own share of insecurity. But what you cannot say is to suggest that no progress has been made, I think progress has been made. We are discussing election now, nobody is going to say we are postponing election on account of insecurity. I think we must encourage the government to sustain what it has started, it must provide modern facilities to our Armed Forces, they must be motivated and take advantage of those countries that are willing to collaborate having recognized that terrorism is a global problem. To encourage our men and women in uniform to do what they have to do to make the country safer and much more secured.
What about the herdsmen crisis?
If you play back again, when Suswan was governor of Benue State, there were several incidents of herdsmen attack, it should not be portrayed as if it is a new trend, it has been there. But that is not to suggest that we should live with it. I believe that there are initiatives being put in place, I believe there is renewed engagements to convince Nigerians that the choice we had is not how to restrain Nigerians free movement, the choice we had is to convince every Nigerian that this is our country, we are not going to issue Resident Permit for people to choose where to live. But it is possible to convince everyone and put in place a government at all levels to play their part and sensitize Nigerians on the need to live together. And I think there is a good example, Plateau State, before the current Governor Lalong came into office, every other day there was virtually war in Plateau State, and for three years there was no single incident until recently when a former governor was put on trial over corrupt practices, and as soon as he got bail, we began to witness an attempt to renew hostilities between the herdsmen and the local farmers. The governor has done a very sensible thing, convincing both the herdsmen and the local farmers on the need to live together. Now the point to make is that every Nigerian, including the media, we do have a duty to contribute to the maintenance of peace and security and it is unhelpful when sometimes the media bias is so open such that you wonder if Nigeria is in trouble, when they even seek to complicate the issues by importing religious motives into what is obviously a mere criminality. I think everyone has a duty to ensure that we all rise in unison to fight crime and in reporting suspected criminals to the police.
Don’t you think that your face-off with Governors Amosun and Okorocha will affect APC in the states?
The truth is that in Ogun State we will win. The PDP also has its share of crisis in Ogun State. As we speak, we don’t know who is the actual governorship candidate in Ogun State because the national secretariat parades another candidate while the other group parades a candidate and running candidate. So, while they are sorting out those issues, we will be sorting out our own issues. Governor Amosun is my friend, people as human beings are entitled to feel disappointed if things don’t work out the way they wanted. Like any leader, after sometime he will recognize the greater interest of the party, I know he is a loyal party man. I cannot see him voting with his feet, I think he recognizes that as a statesman who has contributed to the growth and development of Ogun State he will want to ensure that his party continues to govern the state and play the role of a statesman. I have no fear at all, I believe we will be comparing APC strength, relating it to PDP strength. We are going to take into account the serious internal divisions in PDP also in Ogun State. All of those will play out and APC will remain the stronger party. And given Governor Amosun’s contributions in terms of governance, those will be compared with the PDP administration when they were in power for the first 16 years, Nigerians will ask what they are going to bring on board after 16 years without any meaningful development. Whatever we have as internal issues in APC they do not in any way undermine the facts that Amosun has something to show for his governorship of that state which I am so proud as chairman of the party and I am sure that he will overcome his anger and I will work with him to see how we can reconcile all our various interest in Ogun. As for my dear friend Governor Rochas, he talked about nepotism, you know, as the head of the family, I will not want to behave like some people who will want to bring a family matter to the market, as the elder I will keep the family matter within the family house. That is what my level of responsibility imposes on me. I will not join issues with him. But the truth is while I was in government there was no other Oshiomhole in government. As a journalist you can go and find out how many Oshiomholes were in government when I was governor. Governor Okorocha is a great guy, he is one of those who left APGA to join APC and he contributed his quota to the formation of APC. But we also have to agree that a tree cannot make a forest and we have to encourage those who think otherwise that this is a fact. What we are doing in Imo is to try to reconcile individuals with the great people of Imo State. You know sometimes the limitations of some analysts who are not in the real business of politics, is that we limit our conversations to the big names. But you know the beauty of democracy is that is not about big names, it is about big numbers. Now, the big numbers in Imo are with us. And I think Governor Rochas appreciates that fact. As for whether people will decamp or not, I am not so sure, but again even if they do they will make no history. After all in the recent past, sitting governors decamp for one reason or the other because they wanted to be president, haven decamped they found there are too many presidential aspirants, they have since reconciled themselves with the realities. They decamped from APC believing that they are going to be the presidential candidate of the PDP, they got there and found over crowded house. In Imo State, we have the numbers to defeat any other aspirant and I am sure Governor Okorocha, when he overcomes his disappointment with regards to who he would have preferred on a good day to succeed him and he recognizes as a democrat that sometimes it can produce shocking outcome. And I think it shows that our democracy is evolving because we are not running traditional rulership, where we know that the first born will be the next king and everything should be done to make sure he does not die before his father. But in a democracy, we can plan who succeeds us, we can project, but if the people think otherwise the outcome might just turn out to be a bit embarrassing. My pride is that contrary to what Nigerians have always believed that in Nigerian politics whatever a big man wants he gets. We have tried to return our party to members of the party. The members of the party can do no wrong, if the majority prefers someone and on election day it is those majority that will vote. By February, March next year, the vote of a governor will be one, the vote of the unemployed person will be one. The vote of the guy in Ariaria market will be one. We are all equal shareholders in the Nigerian project. I believe we will make peace with Rochas, he is a great guy, we all worked together when I was governor. You cannot build a house just because the person you thought will occupy your bedroom when you vacate it, the other members of the family choose another person to occupy it, I think over time you will recognize that it is a family house, tenants will come and go, but the family house remains. As we speak, Hope Uzodinma is a sitting senator. He comes from one of the largest senatorial zone. He comes from the same senatorial zone as my dear friend and brother Rochas Okorocha. As a senator he already commands the trust of probably more than 1/3 of the state, which Orlu Senatorial zone represents. He is one of the credible voices in the Senate. I am sure the good people of Imo State know him well, he is not a stranger in politics. He is familiar with the political contour of Imo State. I believe comparing him with any other governorship candidate in any other political party in Imo State, obviously our candidate is the most outstanding and I am sure the good people of Imo State will vote for him.
Why are you insist that Saraki must resign?
I think it is about morality, we just had an election in the US and the Democrats produced more members in the congress. And the moment they did that the former leadership of the House led by Republicans changed. Now, Saraki belongs to a minority party as it stands today in the Senate. The truth about democracy is that it is a game of numbers, it is unacceptable that minority provide leadership over the majority. However, he mismanaged the process of manipulating tools of reward using carrot and stick to sustain himself in power at huge cost to the country. I remain convinced that Saraki must show honour and character by vacating voluntarily that is what it should be.