From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Abu King Shuluwa has said President Muhammadu Buhari is not the messiah Nigeria had been waiting for. Shuluwa who described the President as a lone ranger who likes to do everything all by himself maintained that governance is not what only one individual can just decide to do alone. In this interview, he spoke on a number of issues
What is your take on the suggestions from some quarters that our national assets should be sold?
The idea of selling Nigeria’s assets to prospective buyers is very unprogressive. Ninety percent of Nigerians are completely broke, so, if you want to sell these assets, it means only the remaining 10 percent of Nigerians will buy them. Tell me; how you can sell them off to few individuals, assets which had been built for a long time like the NLNG and the rest of them which were built on the collective revenue of the masses. Then, it simply means that the wealth of this country is going to be in the hands of few individuals and it would be the same thing as what happened to other assets sold in the past. We will be worse off. It means that Nigeria cannot manage its assets. Why can’t we manage the assets we have? Are we the only country that has assets? We should manage our assets and encourage those foreigners who are coming to invest in this country to build their own assets. For example, it is not bad if we insist that those who want to establish oil company must build a refinery as one of the criteria for accepting for them to establish in the country. Establishing a refinery should be included in the MoU. If this is done and every petroleum company in this country has a refinery, prices of petroleum products would go down and everyone can afford to buy. I am one of those who strongly oppose the sale of these assets. What are you going to do with the money? Many assets have been sold in the past and we don’t know what has happened to the money. Sometimes, they sell off assets and what they do is that those in government at that time cart away the money and leave Nigerians poorer. It is just a few people in government that are using their people in connivance with some foreigners to go and buy the assets. This is the common wealth of the whole nation. And you are selling it to few individuals? If you sell it, then, you are depriving the masses of their money. And when you sell it, what do you do with the money? If government cannot manage the nation’s assets, then it means that government cannot even manage government. You mean we don’t have people in the whole of this country to manage the few assets that we have? So, government must find ways to manage these assets.
Would you be disappointed if Buhari succumbs to selling off the nation’s assets?
I would be surprised if he is even thinking of selling off the assets. I thought Buhari was progressive minded. I thought Buhari he for the Talakawas(poor people), and you are taking the assets that belong to the poor people to sell to the few rich ones? A very tiny percentage of rich people in this country will buy the assets and then keep the money outside this country. Then, the rate of unemployment would continue to sky-rocket because what usually happens is that whenever assets are sold, some workers in those assets would be sacked. Some people who were laid off when NEPA, NITEL and the Nigerian Airways were sold, have not been able to collect gratuity and pension till date.
Do you think that Buhari has the solutions to Nigeria’s problems?
The solution to Nigeria’s problem is the leadership. For 56 years, we are where we are because bad leadership has been haunting Nigeria all through. We need a leader that is focused, a leader that knows Nigeria and Nigerians, a leader that knows every nook and cranny of this country, a leader that knows exactly how businesses are being conducted. Buhari is not a businessman. Buhari knows only the military constituency of this country. He does not know the political constituency. You can see that through the appointments he has made so far. Most of those he appointed are retired Generals. If Buhari gets to Benue here, he would not know the political class. All he knows are the Generals. Everywhere he makes appointments, he makes it among the Generals; the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Police. That’s all. And sadly, these people don’t form the bulk of what Nigeria is. So, we need a leader that knows Nigeria very well.
Are you implying that Buhari is not the Messiah Nigeria has been waiting for?
Buhari is not Nigeria’s messiah. Nigerian messiah is yet to come. Nigeria is a very complex country. I supported Buhari while we were searching for leadership because we thought that given his antecedents, he would be able to run this country. For instance, if you go to Kaduna and see Buhari’s house having served as a former Head of State, you wouldn’t believe it. Buhari does not allow his relations to flood the Villa. He does not allow the governors to give him names of people who should be given one portfolio or another. He restricted all the governors to their own states. When you look at all these things, you think that Buhari would be better. But one thing that you should know is that Buhari knows too much alone. He is a loner. We have now discovered that Buhari is a loner; the man who doesn’t listen or take advice from anybody. The man who knows everything about Nigeria alone. How can you run a country like that? We should run this country together. Together we will be strong and together we can succeed. But if you decide to run this country alone the way Buhari is running it, then, there is a problem.
What is your reaction to the experience of the immediate past First lady, Patience Jonathan with the EFCC?
I expect Patience to have more money than has been discovered. If the EFCC looks well, it would get more money from her. When the former Ministry of Petroleum returned almost $90 billion, have we been told what has or is happening to that money? If a Minister can retain $90 billion, what do you expect of Patience? Patience should have more than that. Are you saying that Patience and her husband, Jonathan didn’t know that people were stealing money during Jonathan’s administration? During Jonathan’s administration, I was in PDP but I didn’t know that PDP was as corrupt as it was. Under Jonathan, corruption was very high and now, under Buhari, the corruption still continues and in fact, has been rebranded. If anybody tells you that corruption has gone down under Buhari, it’s a lie.
Do you support those calling for Nigeria’s restructuring or total breakup?
When you say Nigeria should be restructured, it is based on how you want it to be restructured. Do you want the states to continue or not? Do you want the regions or not. It depends on the type of restructuring that you want. I will support restructuring but I will never support break up of Nigeria. I knew from the beginning that if Jonathan had been re-elected, this country wouldn’t have been what it is today because so much money would have been in the hands of few people particularly people from the south-south. Even now, most of the people who have money in this country are from the south-south and they can do anything. You have the militants in the Niger Delta, the Biafran agitators, the Boko Haram who are totally against what Nigeria stands for and want to part ways. That is to confirm what I was saying about four years ago that everything that is going on from that time, if we had allowed Jonathan to succeed, Nigeria wouldn’t have been what it is today. The country would have broken up. But fair enough, if any section of the country now wants to go, let it go. If they can stand on their own, why not let them go? I believe in every section of Nigeria, we can find oil if we want to. If you can find oil in the desert, why can’t we find oil in northern Nigeria for instance? We used revenue generated from agriculture to explore the oil that we have today. We can still use the same agricultural revenue to explore the oil in the Benue valley and elsewhere too. Why should Biafra want to go? Who will lose if Biafra goes? If Biafra decides to go today, tell me the number of Igbo or Biafrans that will go back to that small landscape. What becomes of their assets in other parts of the country? Igbo are all over west Africa but in Nigeria, they decide not to be part of Nigeria. If they leave, what becomes of their assets in Lagos, Kano, Benue, Bauchi, Borno, Sokoto and so on? And if Biafrans go, the question is will the South-South be part of Biafra?
What is your take on the rift between Tinubu and the APC National Chairman, Odigie Oyegun and the PDP’s chances of clinching power in 2019?
Most of the problems we have in the PDP are individual and not collective problems. Even without the crisis in APC, if the PDP can come together and solve its own personal individual problems, if the party can stop imposition, impunity and its general internal wrangling, of course, it can wrest power from the APC come 2019. You tell me, where were these governors when we founded the PDP? Today, they want to control the party because they were governors and have money. But at the same, I’m not in APC and so, I can’t comment much on the rift between Tinubu and Oyegun. Sometimes in politics, what we see from the outside as crisis may not be crisis. One individual may want to make it look like crisis.