By Daniel Kanu
Martins Onovo, an engineer, activist, social commentator, and renowned petroleum expert, was the 2015 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP).
In this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, he expressed displeasure on the stand of the government on most critical issues, including the arrest of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, PIB, Electoral Act, insecurity, and 2023 presidency, among others. Excerpt:
What do you think about the PIB just passed by the National Assembly?
The version of the bill passed is the president, Gen. Buhari’s version. It does not meet the expectations of stakeholders and most Nigerians. It is unpatriotic, sectional and wasteful. It brazenly promotes a tendency to a brazen monopoly in the downstream sector by the restriction of the importation of petroleum products to “active refinery license holders”. It has also quietly removed subsidies on petroleum products while simultaneously pushing towards a monopoly on petroleum products importation. This is very corrupt. On the host community fund, the 3/5 per cent proposed by the Senate/House of Representatives are inadequate and has been rejected by both the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Ijaw National Congress (IMC). The 30 per cent of NNPC Ltd’s profit passed as frontier exploration fund is extremely wasteful. It was still this President as a military dictator (Gen. Buhari) in 1984 – ‘85 wasted a lot of national resources on exploration in the Chad basin. In the last six years he has again wasted a lot of resources on the same unproductive venture and he has now institutionalised the waste with this his unpatriotic version of the PIB. We reject the bill as passed because, it will cause a national crisis, disunity, and waste. It will also subvert productivity in the oil industry.
What is your opinion about the increase in election finance limits and the alleged absence of electronic transmission of results in the new electoral bill?
These are symptoms of the endemic corruption, lawlessness, and impunity in Nigeria. On election finance limits, the first consideration is that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not care to enforce the election finance limits and the mass media have failed to highlight it. How can we then complain about our underdevelopment? We must accept responsibility for our underdevelopment. The increase in the election finance limits directly promotes corruption and waste in the public space as it is evident that the ruling parties use slush funds brazenly to finance their campaigns. We call it “politics money” and we do not ask for the source because we know that it is unlawfully diverted from the public purse to partisan campaigns. On the absence of electronic transmission of results in the new electoral bill, we must note that both the manual and electronic voting systems can be manipulated. We saw the “computer glitches” in the Dominion voting machines in the United States. Any system without integrity can be manipulated. What we need is integrity in the system, but our contemporary culture celebrates corruption. We must insist on integrity as no system can work efficiently without integrity.
Critics say the government is romancing the bandits, but hard on agitators. Do you agree with this view?
Yes. Every reasonable and patriotic Nigerian knows that the ruling party is the direct sponsor of insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria. It is unreasonable to expect the sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria to fight terrorism. We insist that the ruling party is the direct and principal sponsor of terrorism in Nigeria and we have exposed that abundantly.
According to Alhaji Kawu Baraje: “We brought in Fulani from Mali, but after election they refused to go back”.
According to Gen. T. Y. Danjuma: “The Armed Forces are not neutral. They are conniving with the armed bandits that are killing people”.
According to Ekiti State ex-Governor Ayo Fayose: “The Presidency is the employer and defender of terrorists”.
According to Alhaji Bola Tinubu: “Buhari is an ethnic bigot, religious fanatic”.
According to Governor Ortom, “Buhari is working for Fulanis to take over Nigeria”.
The President Buhari government has also made several statements that confirm their support for Miyetti Allah and their terrorist herdsmen.
What do you say concerning the way IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu was brought back?
We agree with Prof. Wole Soyinka that Nnamdi Kanu was a victim of an international kidnap operation. This makes Nigeria look like a rogue nation that operates outside the boundaries of international law. The proper way to bring back a fugitive is by extradition. We are not aware of any extradition process against Nnamdi Kanu in Kenya. It is illuminating that a country with a very high kidnap rate itself conducted an international kidnap operation. You can see the correlation. We also wonder how much was wasted in this international kidnap operation. God help us.
Some critics have condemned the consistent borrowing by the Buhari regime…?
(Cuts in) Consistent borrowing by the Buhari regime is very devastating economically and politically for the country. The Holy Bible is always right so, let us apply biblical wisdom here. “The borrower is the slave of the lender” – Proverbs 22:7. When Buhari took over power in 2015, total public debt was about N12.1 Trillion. Presently, total public debt is about N34 Trillion. With a Federal Government revenue of about N4 Trillion in 2020, about N3.3 Trillion was applied to debt servicing! That is over 82 per cent of total federal revenue applied to debt servicing in 2020. The reckless and unpatriotic borrowing by the Buhari regime led the country into a debt trap and now into a debt crisis. In 2015, we warned that the ruling party was deliberately destroying the country. In 2018, Prof. Banji Akintoye, the leader of the Yoruba World Congress (YWC) declared that, “Buhari is destroying our country”. Now, the Nigerian economy has been completely ruined under Buhari. The Buhari regime borrows only to lose the funds to corruption and waste. As at today, the Buhari regime has spent about N41 Trillion since 2015 and has nothing significant to show for the colossal sums except corruption and waste. There is no new refinery, no new power station and no new world-class hospital. Waste and corruption are simply celebrated with impunity.
The North still has an eye on 2023 presidency. Do you think there is nothing wrong with it?
Rotational presidency is democratic because democracy requires representation and inclusion of all. Rotational presidency is particularly suited to Nigeria given our history, heterogeneity and federal foundation. Rotational presidency is practised in Switzerland and was agreed to in Nigeria by the political elite. It is inappropriate for the North to insist on an undemocratic ‘born to rule’. That is the fastest path to disintegration. Southern Nigeria is united in support of rotational presidency. Northern patriots are also in support. It is the minority Buhari cabal and Miyetti Allah that are against rotational presidency. It is unjust and unacceptable domination for the North to take power again in 2023. The spirit of constitutional federal character which is in compliance with the principle of democratic representation must apply. The presidency must come to southern Nigeria in 2023 and Nigeria must be restructured to institutionalize federalism. This is the Federal Republic of Nigeria so, we must restructure to ensure true federalism.