By Iheanacho Nwosu
Former minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh is one of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Erstwhile National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change(CPC), Momoh in this interview, examined Nigeria’s democratic journey so far as well as the activities of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last one year. He argued that the President is in the right path in the effort at bringing the country out of economic doldrums. According to him, Nigerians in the next two years, would commence pleas that Buhari should continue in office beyond 2019.
Our Democracy was 17 years old on May 29. Being one of the agitators for the return of democracy during the days of the military, how would you see us having gone so far?
If you want to look properly at the particular road you have taken, you have to know the structure of that road. Democracy as a system of government is a way people choose to have their affairs run. Some may have the military system, some may have monarchy. Some may have even fascism. But the fact is when you have democracy, we know it is one of representative government and people say democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. But what type of democracy have we chosen? We say we want a federal structure and we have a document called the Constitution. The Constitution is very clear about the structuring of government in Nigeria. It has three tiers. At the national level, at the state level which is 36 states and at the local government, which is 774 Local governments. We must look at what the document says. At the centre, we have the lawmaking arm too – the Senate and the House of Representatives of the National Assembly. At the state level, we have the House of Assembly. Then of course, the local government level which under section seven of the constitution must be democratically elected. If you look at also where the power lies, it does not lie in the National Assembly; it does not lie with the House of Representatives. It lies with the people. Section 14 says sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria and from the constitution government derives all its powers. It means therefore that it is what the people have given to the organs of government, which is the legislature, the Executive and the judiciary; it is what the people give to them that they do.
So, it means therefore that if anybody like the National Assembly or the Executive like the governor at state level exercises any power that is not documented in the constitution, he should be called to order. The constitution is a documentation of delegated powers and who delegates these powers; the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
There is chapter four of the constitution that deals with fundamental rights and these rights are protected by the courts. Therefore, anybody whose right is infringed or there is a threat to infringe on his right can go to the High Court in a state and complain that his right should be protected. But the chapter two has the duties that you must perform. You have rights to enjoy; you have duties to perform and those duties, Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State policy – they are social; they are political, social-economic, environmental, cultural, foreign policy. They are all documented.
Since we are in a democracy, the way you practise the democracy is laid out in the Constitution. As a political association, a group of people, you now ask to be a political party. So, unless you are a political party, you cannot contest election or ask to be voted for.
Having decided to take part in the running of the state as a political party, you know what the structure is now. The two main political parties are APC and the PDP. There is something that must focus your own appearance on the scene. You must have a constitution where you show organs of party from ward level to national level and you must have a manifesto where you will say this is what I promised Nigeria on the basis of which I want to ask for their votes.
One thing about that manifesto is that you will look at what is in chapter two, the duties you will perform; what will you give to Nigerians politically, educationally, economically and so forth. You must put them there. Having put them there, you now come and register as a political party. Then you go and contest elections.
In contesting elections, it means there must be registration of voters. It means there must be accreditation of voters at the time you want to contest election. Then, there must be voting, the votes must be counted and the votes must count.
Chapter four is to be monitored by the courts. Chapter two, the courts cannot monitor. That’s why you say it is unjusticeable. Section six, subsection C of the constitution says that the courts have no power to look at chapter two. But section 22 says the media has an obligation to look at chapter two. You now see therefore that what is denied the courts is given to the media. In Nigeria, in our arrangement, the media are constitutionally the fourth estate of the realm. In other areas, it is by convention. But in Nigeria, the press has as much right to monitor what is happening as any other arm of government has the right to monitor. But the difference is that while, for instance, the National Assembly has oversight functions over the executive, the media has oversight functions over the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
How has this translated into practice in our system? I will say that at the local government level, we have destroyed that tier because it’s supposed to be elected. Only a few local governments are elected. They appoint supervisory committees and so on and so forth. At the state level or in the state elections, it is all writing of results. The State Electoral Commissioner reports directly to the governor. So, there is no democracy there. At the National level, we have been fighting to ensure that we have democracy. I know you are a top participant in the incumbent system, can you give us a view of how the government has fared?
In 2005 or so, America said Nigeria will be a failed state by 2015 and I wrote and analyzed it and said from what Americans are saying that Nigeria will be a failed state, they are looking at it from the material aspect. But the fact is that there is a spiritual dimension to life. America is a country and Americans are creatures. Nigeria is a country and Nigerians are creatures created by the Almighty God. I’ve always said that Nigeria has a mission and Nigeria has an anointing. Nigerians will help grow the world in the next, 20, 25 years and there is nothing anybody can do about it. It’s an anointing by God Almighty. With that in view, how can Nigeria be a failed state? That twenty-something years is beyond 2015 and I believe that would not have come to pass if there had not been change in the election in 2015. You saw what Orubebe did, wanting to force a particular situation, which we thank God Almighty that it didn’t come to pass. So, Buhari being there has come at a time of unprecedented depression in our economy. Oil prices have fallen below 40 dollars. Then the Niger Delta that is laying the golden egg, you know what is happening. Instead of 2.2 million barrels a day, we have less than 1.2 million barrels a day. We are earning 1 billion dollars a month and spending $4 billion a month. It’s not done. The subsidy they said we were paying for fuel, obviously, it was all paper money and people just sat down collecting money. If you see what has happened, what Buhari said he will do, he will fight corruption, he will create jobs, he will face agriculture and of course, he will fight insurgency. Buhari is a very predictable person. He will secure this country. He will do anything to secure this country. In other words, he will fight insurgency, he will fight hostage taking, he will fight armed robbery; he will fight anybody who wants to undermine Nigeria’s economy. He will even fight those cattle rustlers and other people who are undermining other communities by destroying their hosts. He will fight them. So, there will be security in this country. It’s only after you have secured the country that you will start developing it, stabilizing it through infrastructural development. So, security, plus stability will give us prosperity. There is no magic about it and that is what Buhari has been doing.
When he started, about 14 local government areas were in the hands of Boko Haram. Now, the Boko Haram is not in control of any local government area. I don’t know whether people know that Sambisa Forest is bigger than the South West. Sambisa Forest is a massive area. It’s not like a 100 kilometers area. It’s a huge area, stretching to Cameroun and that’s where they are holed up and where the army is fighting them now. Secondly, you will see how much is being given to capital expenditure. I don’t know if we ever gave that much to capital expenditure in our recent history. Then you will see the war on corruption. I think the latest you can look at is this fuel subsidy. You know that it’s a cartel that has been routinely sharing our patrimony through diverting the little we have to buying fuel, bringing it and people just sharing it. The area of capital development, that’s stabilizing the system is also going to be celebrated within one year. Look at the roads that will be built; even the money he put on the second Niger bridge in the South East and lots of other areas that will be empowered.
This feeding of school children will be a massive empowering programme. There is hardly any area in this country where there is no public school. You know what it means to feed school children once a day – the millions of eggs you will need; the amount of vegetables, rice, everything. So, that will be a massive booster to agriculture. Lots of people will go into agriculture.
Looking ahead, the President has said repeatedly that he feels the pains of Nigerians, he doesn’t want to inflict pain on them and all that. People have also said that his government still has three years but he has been unable to showcase so many bus stops within the first year. Looking forward, what do you think the government will give to Nigerians?
Are you not worried as regards the report we are having about shrinking economy, GDP dropping and all that.
How long will this last?
But you should be worried by what the people are saying that if elections were to be called today, in view of the deprivation in the polity that APC might fare badly?
I agree with you. Nobody likes to suffer.
You don’t think that could be a threat to your party even in 2019?
That’s why I said within a year or two, you will celebrate us. In fact by 2019, they will be begging us to continue in power. If by 2019, we have thousands of people who are empowered because of the economic programme we have, you think those who are empowered will not vote for us? That’s why I’m saying we have to attend to certain things. They are painful. But we plead for patience. Within a year or two, Nigerians will be celebrating Buhari.