Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, quintessential former House of Representatives Spokesperson is not one that holds back his views no matter whose ox is gored.
He told Sunday Sun that Nigerians are the architect of their problem, given the poor leadership recruitment process tolerated by the people over the years.
He laid bare vital questions for those strategizing for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, just as he bombed his state government on poor governance.
Eyiboh, who was the spokesman and chairman of Information and Strategic Communication Committee, to Akwa Ibom APC Governorship Campaign in 2019 election, speaks also on why he supports border closure, the economy, his worry and real reason Atiku Abubakar’s lawyers didn’t show up at the Supreme Court, among others. Excerpt:
There is this harsh economic reality everywhere in the country, while some people are saying it’s a global phenomenon that world ec onomies are also failing, there are others who say what Nigerians are passing through is as a result of bad governance. Where do you stand?
When you talk of poor governance, governance is generic, so when you say poor governance it should be situated. Nigerians are seeing governance from the standpoint of Buhari or a particular governance or thereabout. You see, governance is a development-driven process; good governance is also a development-driven process. If you are in Abuja you will realise that on weekends, you rarely will see people compared to other days, all gone back to their respective states, local government, and villages. So, when you are talking about governance being development-driven, you are now talking about the cubicle of development; what are the contents of that cubicle? Of course, you have the Federal Government, the sub-nationals like the states, we have the local government. The effects of governance are impacted on the people in the rural areas, where agriculture, where rural development, where education and public health are the biggest challenges. So, out of 774 local governments in this country, how many of those local governments can really trigger the enablers for rural development? None. Where I come from (Eket) the local government council built the Eket township stadium, the local government council were involved in all the rural electrification in my local government, including the rural roads, feeder roads for agricultural purposes where the farmers are using it to go and plant and harvest and now bring out their goods for trade and commerce but are those local governments still there today? Now, the states, by the combined effect of the constitution you have the local government joint account, but the states are only concerned when the money comes, they take the money and then begin what they call inter-ministerial, which is impeding on development because that law empowers the state… while the money goes into that joint account the state is supposed to remit three per cent of that money, including internally-generated revenue of the state to the respective local government. But as we are talking how many of our local governments can even pay salaries or cut grass on their premises? And people are talking about the Federal Government….The infant mortality and mobility rate now are very high because the primary health centres in the local governments are not working. You want to go and carry somebody from my village, a woman, for instance, who is supposed to go for ante-natal delivery to come to National hospital in Abuja? The answer is no. So, these women are now resorting to going to prayer houses and herbal homes for delivery, so the mortality rate has gone up. We are entering into the dry season and we are going to go into farming, there will be some snake bites and other occupational hazards that the farmers are going to face. How do you tackle these things? We used to have silos then when people will bring out their maize; yams etc and get a yam barn and all of that, government will help to give agricultural loan which the farmers will use, the government will warehouse it and keep it for preservation, but that is not happening. So, the nexus between the people and development were the intention of the law when they created the various units of government (federal, state and local government), but the Nigerian problem and the poverty is largely promoted by the minority who are the rich, they have stolen so much money, our commonwealth has been misappropriated so what they do, they now resort to religion and ethnicity to use it to induce the anger of the people who are most affected by their act. The people will now say, oh it’s Federal Government, it’s poor governance, what is the poor governance in this case? What is leadership in this case? Who is asking members of the state Houses of Assembly to mention how many laws they have passed, what will be the impact on their states, other than the appropriation bill, but instead of the people asking that question now some of them have started wearing T-shirt for 2023, so why will they not be poor when they are not asking the right questions and holding those who represent them for accountability? What about the leadership recruitment process? We are aware of the challenge of the Land Use Act. If agriculture is expected to be the mainstay of our economy, we are aware of the effect of the Land Use Act. I can go now to Akwa Ibom State as an APC person to go and open a factory, maybe afraid that the governor may invoke his powers to revoke the occupation of that land or he may not want to sign the C-of-O and my investors, my partners, may not want to participate and invest in me because of the partisanship, so what kind of people are we recruiting into our institutions both at states and national? Who are you sending to the National Assembly? In my time, we were doing this constitutional amendment, it went to the states, on the issue of even the first line charge to the local government and to the state House of Assembly they shot it down. So, when they shot down even the one affecting them where they will be independent what do you now think is happening? When the crocodile eats his own flesh, what do you expect again?
So what you are saying in sum is that the harsh reality on the ground is caused by the people themselves?
It’s self-inflicted, the people don’t want to do anything, they do not want to ask questions. Go and see the House of Assembly all over the country, see the House of Representatives, we should ask ourselves this question individually and collectively: what kind of people are we recruiting into our various institutions? Who are we appointing as commissioners? Who are we sending to become ministers? We should be able to do an assessment and know whether they represent our various needs. The problem of Nigeria is not the problem of globalization, if it has the impact is minor; Nigeria is a country that is greatly endowed in both human and natural, bowel of the earth resources. If you plant tomatoes in Kano State it will grow, plant it in Sokoto it will grow, if you carry beans and go to Akwa Ibom to plant it, it will grow, we have six months dry season, six months wet season, so what is our impediment? Are you not aware that in Japan 80 per cent of the land is mountainous, only 20 per cent is arable, but that same Japan now is exporting rice to America. But we are here in Nigeria struggling to go on pilgrimage; nobody is asking the right questions, we do not care about how we are recruiting those that we want to represent us. It is when it benefits you, you keep quiet, but when it doesn’t favour you, you begin to scream. No country achieves genuine development in such a manner.
Looking at the issue of recent border closure do you think Nigeria is recording more gains than the pains the people seem to be passing through?
In Nigeria we don’t have the economy, we have the market that is why everybody wants to bring everything to Nigeria, otherwise, I will say why are we bringing rice from Cotonou and Cameroun when we have everything as I earlier highlighted to be able to promote agriculture because we have poor quality of people at sub-national like states. The state government will go and buy a farming tractor, for instance, because they just want to look for an avenue to get money and take the tractor and donate to communities, including riverine communities that are looking for fishing implements, but they will give them tractor. There has been a lack or neglect of priorities, so the borders should be closed, let us now begin to do a quick fix. If you enter the local airline, when they serve you those juices, look at the under, if it is Air Peace, you will see Ghanaian flag at the bottom of the juice and written there: Made in Accra, Ghana. Why should you bring juice for God’s sake from Ghana when we have the Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan?
But our farmers are not getting the full encouragement…?
(Cuts in) The farmers have not been encouraged because who is the farmer in this case?
As you have pointed out people have already started wearing the T-shirts for 2023. For you, which zone do you expect the presidency to reside. The North is saying they will retain it in 2023, the Southeast is saying it’s now or never?
You see, to be frank with you, I don’t believe in zoning because democracy is the government of the people by the people for the people. And the preamble of the Nigerian constitution espouses that: We the people of Nigeria that Nigeria shall be a state governed by the principles of democracy and social justice. If anybody from the Southeast wants to contest for the presidency let the person step out and contest, campaign, sell his programmes, but let the person not use the ethnic card of saying Southeast – it’s our turn, no. And in any case, if politics is a game of number the total number of area of the Southeast is 29,000, the total area of Niger State, I think it’s about 70, 000, now you have five states in the Southeast what is the electoral population (voters population) in the Southeast? You use two things to win the presidency of the country. The first one is the total or highest number of votes and the second one is spread. You must have the highest number of votes and two/third spread of the total number of states. Now, the question one should ask is that, the Southeast people have they started engagement of other sections of the country, including their neighbor, the South-south to realise that ambition? Secondly, is it going to be zoned to the Southeast, the geographical expression Southeast or the Southeast people are now supposed to do silent hunting and go into their leadership pool and bring out somebody and begin to sell the person around, have they started doing that? Lastly, democracy in Nigeria is the contrary of the global democracy, democracy in Nigeria, in my opinion, is the abatement of the tyranny of the minority by the majority. The majority is the people, the tyranny is the few minority, so the tyranny of the few is being abated by the majority and to their own peril. Take, for instance, in Abuja, 80 per cent of the houses in Abuja are owned by people who are not up to 10 per cent of the Abuja population, but if the government comes up now to say, tax or subsidy, you will see how people will react, people will go to the streets to be tear gased, they are abating the tyrants. Fuel subsidy for example, if my car consumes 105 litres every two days, the 30 seater bus that carries people from the airport road to the Abuja city, it consumes 50 litres of fuel and that Toyota Coaster bus that carries 30 people if you fill the tank from Monday it will serve it till Friday. If you now compare my car that uses 105 litres in two days and the coaster bus that uses 50 litres in five days who do you think the government is subsidizing with subsidy? The government is subsidizing me because I am the person consuming the fuel more. The government is subsidizing the rich, but it is the poor that will go to the street to protest and ready to take the bullet, that is the irony of the Nigerian condition.
Recently the Supreme Court upheld the election of President Buhari as the one that duly won the presidential election, but if you notice the lawyers of the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar was absent in court when the Supreme Court was giving explanation on how Buhari won. Does that send any danger signal on the credibility of the election?
It is because they all knew the facts of the case. They are very senior lawyers, they knew the facts of the case. I am sure they are satisfied with the judgment of the Supreme Court.
Looking at the country today what would you say is your greatest fear?
I worry about the elite because all the games that they are playing shall soon come to an end. You can fool an individual every day; you can fool some people every day, but you can never fool the entire community forever.
Are you satisfied with governance in your state, Akwa Ibom?
The outcome of any governance is the product of leadership recruitment process. How do we recruit our leaders? There are three arms of government. We have the state House of Assembly; we have the judiciary and the executive. Who are the commissioners? Who are members of the state House of Assembly? You have to weld these human capacities together; they form part of the assets to trigger development in any issue of governance. You have heard a lot of stories about development in the state, but I am yet to be convinced that all that is said is real, until we change our general attitude to governance because there is a difference between politics and governance. We play politics from day one to the end. Governance is a milestone, but here they simply play politics.
So, what you are saying is that there is so much politics in your state and you are not satisfied with the performance on the ground?
I am yet to be satisfied.
How worried are you on the security challenge in the country?
The present security challenge in the country is an outcome of poor security and national consciousness of us as Nigerians. Those people perpetuating it are not ghosts, they are living among us and it time we all rise up to the challenge because the government cannot do it alone. There must be a synergy among all stakeholders.