By Omoniyi Salaudeen
IT has become a tradition in this part of the world for governments at all levels to give account of their stewardship after the first one year in office. The story may not be so much different for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ahead of the annual ritual, Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya, representing Kano South constituency on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), gave the President a pat on the back for doing tremendously well in terms of laying foundation for a new Nigeria in this interview.
He, however, urged Nigerians to give the new government a little more time for its efforts to come into full fruition. Excerpts.
Some stakeholders have getting increasingly worried over the state of the nation’s economy, especially the lingering crisis in the power and petroleum sectors. Are they expecting too much from President Muhammadu Buhari whose administration is just barely one year in office?
People tend to forget things easily. They are unnecessarily being impatient with the new government, forgetting the rot left behind by the previous administration. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power for 16 years. What did they fix? Do they expect Buhari to do miracle in one year? PDP spent 16 years, they could not fix power. Instead, they destroyed it. They gave contract out for the Independent Power Project; released money in billions of dollar without contractors moving to site. After many years, the National Assembly went in to investigate and discovered that they took money but they could not even go to site. They deliberately siphoned the Nigerian fund. And now that President Buahri has come in, he has to look for a way out. His main preoccupation now is how to recover the stolen money and also what to do to correct the wrongs of the past. So, the one year of his administration is to first of all restore peace and then move forward. Don’t forget, the issue of insecurity was at its worst stage during the tenure of the PDP. In Kano here, we lost about 500 people on one black Friday. But now, people can walk freely in Nigeria.
The issue of bomb blasts here and there is not peculiar to Nigeria, it is international. All over the world, there is bomb blast. Let me just simply say that Buhari has done tremendously well in one year better than sixteen years of PDP. And I can assure you, two years of the Buhari administration will be over 16 years of PDP. The 16 years of PDP was a mess. The Buhari administration is doing very well and Nigerians should continue to work with him and support him. Definitely, they will see positive change with this government. You don’t expect to get change in one day or in one year. But in the next one year after this budget, you will see progress. This government is sincere and committed to make a change in the lives of the ordinary Nigerian and I believe we will get there.
Already, you could see that the image of Nigeria has changed significantly. Look at when President Buhari went to the United States of America, how he was received, where was hosted and so on. He was in London and we saw how the Queen received him. Everywhere he went, he was received with honour. He was in Saudi Arabia, he was well honoured. Everywhere he went, he was the pride of the country because he is seen as an honest man. God has given him a good name for being honest, sincere and incorruptible. Therefore, the PDP which has failed us in its 16 years in power should not start criticizing this government which has just started. I believe this government will surpass 16 years of PDP rule Insha Allah.
You spoke glowingly about the president’s travels and what Nigeria has gained from it. But this is one area some people have a different opinion. Some of his critics believe that he needs to stay more at home to face the challenge of governance than spending time and resources canvassing for support. Don’t you think so?
You see, there are so many things people don’t understand. If it is in the interest of the country that the president travels, well and good for the country. You remember when Obasanjo was travelling all over the world. What did he make out of it? But Buhari has recovered stolen money as a result of his travels. Besides, the image of the country has improved. For whatever it is, President Buhari is not the kind of person who likes travelling. But he has to travel because the interest of the country is at stake. For every trip he does, he brings benefits to Nigeria. It is in the interest of Nigeria he has been travelling and I am sure we are going to continue to reap out of his trips. He is not the only person in power. If he is not around, people are there working.
We have now just worked on the budget and you could see how the budget was padded. President Buhari has to remove some directors from the budget office. We have to thank the leadership of the National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki, who is the president of the Senate, Hon Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and also the Chairman of Appropriation Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje as well as Chairman, Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives. All the chairmen of committees of the National Assembly have done the best they could to pass the budget. This is the first time we are having a budget in which we reduced money from what the Federal Government brought. There were lots of duplications and we returned those monies back to the treasury so that we don’t take loan to fund the budget. So, we are committed to a better Nigeria for a better tomorrow by God’s grace.
The president recently disclosed that about three trillion naira was realized through the implementation of the Treasury Singe Account. But you recall that some members of the National Assembly were not totally in support of that initiative. Is the parliament now on the same page with the president on this initiative?
You remember I was a member of the 6th and 7th Senate and I am still a member of the 8th National Assembly. During the 7th Senate, we were able to do a probe of the pension scam. I was a co-chair of that committee. During that investigation, we were able to discover N195 billion stocked in accounts of various Departments, Agencies and Ministries (MDAs) for pension and they were not using those monies. These are kinds of money that form part of the TSA and it is a welcome idea. It is an excellent idea. Now, we can use money we have to achieve what we want. Let me also explain to you that there are three arms of government -the executive, judiciary and legislature.
All these arms are independent. What we are saying is that money belonging to the judiciary should go to the judiciary on first line charge. The money for the National Assembly too should go to the National Assembly on first line charge.
So, we have no problem with TSA, we are committed to accountability. I commend President Buhari for being tough on this measure. You remember when people were calling for devaluation of naira, he refused to devalue the naira. He said, ‘why should we devalue the naira? If we are exporting goods outside, we can reduce the value of our money so that people can buy plenty from us. But when we are the one importing, what is the purpose of devaluing our money?’ The idea of Mr. President is excellent. It is now left to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and all the people in charge of finance to ensure the success of these measures.
How would you react to the statement by the National Leader of the APC criticing the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe kachikwu, over the issue of lingering fuel scarcity, saying he is not a magician?
Let me congratulate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for being 64 years old. Quite honestly, at his age, he has achieved a lot. He has achieved a lot as a leader. He is one of the people I recognize that made it possible for APC to win the last elections. For a minister to say that he cannot do a miracle is uncalled for. We cannot expect him to do a miracle. But he is there because he is a professional. You can’t take me as an architect to go and be a minister of petroleum. I don’t know how to do it. But he’s been in the profession for some time.
So, it is left to him to find a way out. The issue of talking about miracle is a wrong one, it is unwarranted and unprofessional. Maybe he was misquoted by the press. But if he did make that statement, I think it is wrong for him to say that. President Buhari trusted him that is why he put him there and gave him two positions to hold. He is the GMD of NNPC, the minister of state and even the supervising minister. So, he is having three caps. Most of the times, he takes decision. We don’t want miracle. We want him to work hard. If he cannot do it, let him pray to God to guide him. Certainly, it is his business to bring this fuel scarcity to an end.
But some observers have interpreted Asiwaju’s reaction as a mark of crack in the APC. Isn’t it?
No, there is no crack in APC. You know Tinubu is a frank man. He is one person who is frank to the core. What he said was honest and sincere. Tinubu is not a young man to be afraid of telling the truth. He said what he said with honesty and sincerity. I am sure the minister was being misquoted. There is no miracle in the running of administration of any government. It is either you do well because you are a professional or you mess up. I think he is a professional, that is why President Buhari trusted him and gave him that position. So, I wish him well. But let him not use miracle. Let him use professionals around him to solve the problem of Nigeria in terms of fuel supply and distribution.