…Says change will certainly come
By Willy Eya
DESPITE the challenges facing the nation since the present government by the All Progressives Congress (APC) came on board, many believe that in the fullness of time, Nigeria would be happy that they voted for President Muhammadu Buhari in the last general election. One of those in this school of thought is former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh. He has no doubt that Nigeria would fare better under President Buhari. In this interview, he speaks on a wide range of national issues including the current problems facing the nation.
What is your take on the state of the nation in view of the inability of the present government to live to its promises to the people?
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. The situation has been on before now. You know how much Nigeria had spent on power before now and we did not see power; billions of naira were spent on power, billions of naira were spent on roads. I saw the double lane roads from Abuja to Benin. I have travelled from Abuja to Auchi at least four or five times and there is hardly one kilometer of road where you do not have bumps.
So, all the infrastructural developments in Nigeria including water, health, power education and so on, where is the money that was voted for them before. The truth is that the going is very tough and every Nigerian has to get tough also, to get going. If you notice that what you voted for works was merely shared, then you would know that there are human beings, who are just working but they are not human beings. This is because anybody who is a human being must have the fear of God in his mind. And if you have people working the streets and even defending robbery, you know that some people just have human body, but they are not human beings. As a nation, we have a challenge and the earlier we know that we have a challenge, the better for all of us to really settle down and plan.
There is nowhere in the world, where you say let there be roads, and there are roads. They usually come through due process. Infrastructural developments are got through due process. You know that government is there because of the security and welfare of the people. And if there is no welfare, there is no security but better late than never. Let us start first.
We are not going to have fuel queues forever. We are not going to have low power forever. The fact is the work has begun and I can assure you that in the next one year or two, Nigerians will see changes. There is no magic to development. It follows a process.
There seems to be a disconnect between the government and the people. Are you not worried about that, especially in view of the high expectations of the people from this government?
The government promised security and stability. It is when you secure the land that you can talk about stability; a land that was torn apart by insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery and all sorts of things, you must secure the land first. If you secure the land, and stabilise it through infrastructural development, that security will come. But everybody is looking for prosperity and you cannot say let me have prosperity and you would have prosperity just like that. There was a promise of change but you cannot have change without the people being changed themselves.
People want change but nobody wants to change. One thing that you can say of this government is that there is no more display of unduly earned income. Before now, at parties, you saw people spraying and throwing dollars up. People open bundles of dollars and throw it up and people would be marching on it. You do not have that kind of thing any longer. Lots of people are closing shops in the United Kingdom and other areas where they were doing so many things, playing Nigerian music and cooking Nigerian foods because Nigerians brought tons of dollars, pounds and so on and so forth. All those things are no more there anymore. Everybody is now being very careful. So, in the area of the change of mindset, there is some progress and what I can assure you is that change would come. There is going to be change of mindset, change in securing and developing the land. Things would work. Anybody who just expects roads to emerge like saying let there be roads and there are roads, such a person is not being realistic. I can assure you that things would change and we have a man serious enough who is leading the way and who is ready to make that change to come. We no longer have people going to Aso Rock every day, drinking champagne, eating Suya and signing documents in the middle of the night when the Chief Executive is helpless and they are taking advantage of his helplessness. All that has changed now. Everybody is working from morning till night. I do not know if you have noticed one thing; most of the ministers have lost weight because everybody is working 24 hours, seven days a week. All of them are working and the result would show. Look at the issue of power. I am sure that power would improve. There would be improvements on road construction. The budget has not yet been signed. If the budget is signed and money is released, you would see a difference between today and yesterday. Like I said, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Nigerians are very resilient people and I can assure you that within a year or two, we would see the changes.
You sound very optimistic about this present administration but there are those who insist that yes, Buhari has integrity and is not corrupt but lacks the requisite capacity to lead a complex society like Nigeria. What is your take on this assumption?
What do they mean by the real capacity for leadership? A leader leads by example. Is that not so? A leader who is not corrupt would discover in time that people he is leading would learn how not to be corrupt. A leader who is corrupt would discover in time also that the people he is leading would learn corruption. Buhari is a leader who believes in due process; he is a leader who works hard; he is a leader who knows Nigeria inside out more than any Nigerian. In the course of his work, he has lived in Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan; he has lived in Port Harcourt, Aba, in Enugu, Makurdi, Jos, Bauchi, Maiduguri, Kano and Kaduna. Where has he not lived in Nigeria? This is a leader who commanded three of the four divisions of the Nigerian Army. Where has he not lived in Nigeria? He has more experience than any Nigerian leader. He knows Nigeria inside out. I even forgot that he lived in Benin. If somebody tried to be president, in 2003 and failed, failed in 2007, failed in 2011, and eventually won in 2015, and he is the only one who went into politics because he wanted to be president, then you know he is ready for leadership. There is no other person. Tafawa Balewa wanted to be a broadcaster and he became Prime Minister; Alhaji Shehu Shagari wanted to be Senator and he became president; Obasanjo was praying to leave the prison and he came out and became president; Umaru Yar’Adua wanted to go and rest after being governor for eight years which was marked by ill health and he became president; Jonathan who was governor of Bayelsa was taken from Yenagoa and brought to Abuja. He did not know where he was going and they made him Vice President, later acting president and then president. But Buhari is the only man who joined politics because he wanted to be president of Nigeria. He saw the suffering of the people and somebody said if you want to change it, go and join politics. He had an agenda for growing Nigeria. There was a book, Project Nigeria; how Nigeria can be secured, how Nigeria can be stabilized and how prosperity would emerge. So, he had an agenda even before joining politics. He had a programme of growing Nigeria before he joined politics. You think such a person would come empty headed and start doing things to please people when there are things that you do methodically. So, anybody who is questioning the leadership potentials of President Buhari, does not know the man he is dealing with. This is a man who channels his own energy to working rather than talking.
There is also the issue of his seeming indifference to national reconciliation. A school of thought insists that since he became the president of Nigeria, there is a growing gulf among the various ethnic regions in the country. Do you agree with this position?
The fact is that the day he was sworn in, he said, the military should move to Maiduguri; did he look for money and start sharing to encourage the Boko Haram sect? He went to all the neighbouring states to strengthen alliance to confront Boko Haram and then in the Niger Delta, when they were blowing the pipelines, he did not go and start begging the militants. There must be security and he attended to it. Now, the Shiite Muslims said a military man should come down and walk. When I was minister, this El-Zakzaky was confronting us during the IBB time. His group has confronted every government and look at what has happened where the President of Pakistan said that Nigeria should ensure that nothing happens to that man.
But Nigeria said we have set up an enquiry but Your Excellency, do not forget that there cannot be two governments in a country. So, tell me any area where he Buhari has not been very firm? We have lots and lots of fraud being opened up. He said, INEC, in 2003, there were issues about my election and also in 2007 and 2011; now that I am in charge, please you should ensure that you conduct free and transparent elections. Nobody has asked you to rig elections for him.
If you manipulate elections, you would be prosecuted and you can see what INEC has been doing. He said if you rig election, I will not forgive you because look at what happened to me, I would not do it to others. Go and hold elections and do not take instructions from anybody. You are in government and the PDP people are still there and you do not throw them out and he says, please, let us follow due process. Is Buhari’s following due process a weakness? A lot of people do not really understand the man that we have as our leader today. He is a very straight forward man; a very disciplined man and a due process man. He believes that if you want anything done, you must follow due process. The other day, some people went to the National Assembly to say that only the people in government before are being harassed and that his anti-corruption war is not dealing with everybody. I am telling you that if his own wife is involved in any issues, he would tell her to go and answer her father’s name. Were the people in the opposition sharing money or do you just punish people because you want to be seen to be fair? The people who soiled their fingers are the ones that are being prosecuted.
Do you agree with those who say that the anti-corruption crusade should be extended to former President Jonathan who headed the immediate past government? The thinking among people here is that it is curious that his subordinates are being prosecuted while the man in charge is being treated differently.
Do you know what many of you think? Many of you think that President Buhari is presiding over a meeting of people who are corrupt or who are accused of corruption. Buhari is doing his work as the president of Nigeria and all he has done is let the security agencies- police, DSS, EFCC, ICPC and so on do their work. It is not as if he called them for a meeting and they sat down and said we should go to this person or we should go to that. He is not going to set up any enquiry like during 1983/1984 when a tribunal was set up to look at corrupt politicians. Have you heard of any tribunal being set up? The security agencies are doing their work and there is nobody today who has anything hidden that is not jittery. This is because you do not know when the EFCC would knock on your door. It is not Buhari who is sending them. The proper thing is that everybody should do his work. It is not Buhari who is sending them. The fact is, do your work. For Buhari, his attitude is, if it is any of his relations that is affected, you should do your work.
So, what do you foresee about Nigeria in four years of Buhari on the saddle?
From day to day, God willing, there would be improvement. I have always said that Nigeria does not just have a future, it has a mission; I said that when I was writing letter to my countrymen. And between 1999 and 2011 when I monitored governance, I have three volumes. I monitored governance every week for 12 years and I have said that I now know where Nigeria is going. When America said that Nigeria would be a failed state, I made it clear that Nigeria would not be a failed state. They said 2014, Nigeria would fail and I said it would not fail. Materially, American predictions are correct but there is a spiritual dimension to life. There is an anointing for Nigeria. Nigeria has an anointing to help rule the world in the next 20 to 25 years and there is no way it can be done if Nigeria fails and it would not fail. They said in 2015 Nigeria would fail; are we not in 2016 now. Has Nigeria failed? Nigeria has a mission and not just a future. And Nigerians, all the young people should work hard because they are part and parcel of the new time where people from a particular country and the whole world would be asking Nigeria what is the source of your strength and it is spiritual. I can assure you that nothing can stop it. It can be delayed through laziness but nothing can stop it. The coming of Buhari now will lay a foundation for what Nigeria would be in future. In the next four years under Buhari, every year would be better than the previous year.