By OMONIYI SALAUDEEN
IN the face of the renewed separatist agitations threatening the unity of the country, many stakeholders are of the view that only restructuring of the present federal structure could rescue the nation from the brink. However, in this interview, Senator Joseph Waku holds a contrary opinion, wondering what would happen to states that do not have resources, if autonomy is given to constituent parts.
How would you react to the recent comment made by former vice president Atiku Abubakar on President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership style?
I view Atiku’s comment as preparatory for 2019. While you have the right to aspire to any position, you don’t have to castigate somebody to get there. My advice is that Atiku should not over heat the polity. One, he has an unhindered access to Mr. President. They just had a dinner together a few days ago only for him to come out and play to the gallery by speaking against the president. I don’t think that is responsible enough for somebody who wants to lead. He is accessible to Mr President. If after he had had dinner with Mr. President, he realized that he forgot some certain issues he wanted to discuss, he could have gone back to Mr. President rather than coming to the open to demonstrate such kind of unpatriotic act. I am not in support of that kind of leadership. Wanting to be president is one thing, waiting for the appropriate time is another matter entirely. So, I think he was not fair to the president, having being with Mr. President on one-on-one only to come out to incite Nigerians against the president over the issues of Niger Delta and all of that.
Nigerians gave President Buhari the opportunity to rule the country. And as I keep saying, APC did not win the election; it was Buhari who won the election. We should, therefore, give him all the support he needs to succeed. If Atiku thinks that there is any area of inadequacy in this government, he should meet with the president and discuss it rather than playing to the gallery. Buhari has never claimed to know all, and that is why people like Atiku get to him unhindered so that they can advise him. Coming out a day after he had dinner with Mr. President is a deep show of lack of patriotism. Leadership is bestowed on persons by God at an appointed time.
But do you think all is well within the APC as it were?
I told you earlier on that APC did not win the election; it was Buhari who won the election. Atiku wasn’t speaking for APC; he was only expressing his opinion. But my advice to him is that he should go through the appropriate channel of communication to speak with Mr. President. Ab-initio, APC is not an unorganized party in terms of leadership. I was happy a few days ago when I heard the National Chairman saying that Mr. President had removed impunity from the party. I was happy because the impunity was introduced into the party by the same National Chairman. So, if he as the leader of the APC has come out to say that the president has removed impunity, then there is hope for APC. The point is that President Buhari took over the country at a time when some group of people within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) decided to corner the resources of this nation to themselves and put us where we are today. Even there were some big names in PDP who didn’t know what was going on. You cannot accuse the president of being responsible for the pilfering by some individuals who manipulated the system and brought us to where we are today. Buhari is just one year in office; you can’t expect him to perform magic because reconstruction is more difficult than destruction. It takes a few hours to destroy, but several years to rebuild. However, as I keep saying, if Buhari had constituted an economic team as he did on corruption crusade to give him advice from time to time, things would have been much better. But I can assure you, with the effort committed to repatriation of the massive loot kept in foreign countries back to Nigeria, economy will soon improve. He should also be commended for the way he rallied the support of neighbouring countries to tackle Boko Haram insurgency within his one year in office. We are better off today than we were a time when people were not sure of when to go to bed.
Though Boko Haram insurgency has been decimated, the resurgence of two other separatist agitations in the South-east and Niger Delta is still a major concern to the stakeholders. How is the government faring in dealing with these threats to the national unity?
I worked with Gen Sani Abacha on national security policy analysis; you don’t discuss the nation’s security policy on the pages of newspapers. There is no war that ends on the battle field; you have to come to the roundtable to discuss. We are trying to organize a national summit on the Niger Delta so that they can come out to tell us what they want and then discuss what needs to be done.
Who is organizing it?
The Nigeria Senators’ Forum. We are still at a drawing board; sooner or later we will invite you. All hands must be on deck.
As a lasting solution, some people have suggested restructuring as a way to achieve an enduring peace in the country. Do you also subscribe to that?
What type of restructuring are you talking about? Is it the type of restructuring Ayo Adebanjo is talking about? We’ve gone past that stage of regionalism.
Atiku also mentioned restructuring in his submission.
Did he give you his idea of restructuring?
The restructuring people are talking about is a kind that will give each component part an autonomy over resources within its area of jurisdiction and then pay tax to the Federal Government. Are you opposed to that?
Are you saying that those states that don’t have resources should be abandoned? There is no region or state in this country that does not have one form of resource or the other. What we have done over the years is to concentrate only on oil. Japan has no oil, yet it is one of the leading economies in the world today. What I will suggest government should do is to develop other areas of the economy. We have rich agricultural land that we can develop to feed this nation. We have no business importing rice and other food items in this country. So, if you are talking of restructuring in terms of creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, yes, I am in support of it. We need to look inward and create wealth for our people.
The anti-corruption crusade of the administration has also been criticized for being one sided. How do you see the ongoing campaign for eradication of corruption?
When people criticize the anti-corruption war of President Buhari of being one-sided, I laugh. It is not one sided. You cannot go to the farm now and arrest any farmer for being corrupt. Even within the PDP that looted the country for 16 years, there are still people who are not affected by the anti-corruption war. The structure of the party and the organs of government were organised in such a way that made it possible for some people to get rich quickly by looting the treasury. What the president is doing now is to ensure discipline in our national life. We have to pray for him to succeed because when you fight corruption, corruption will fight you back. They have created the system in a way to perpetuate themselves in position where they can continue to loot. With the kind of bastardisation and the looting that took place in the recent past, you don’t expect the president to perform magic in one year. It is not possible. But at least for having the courage to expose the kind of corruption going on, not minding whose horse is gored, the president deserves commendation. If anybody will come after Buhari, it is certainly not going to be Atiku.
You mean Atiku won’t succeed Buhari?
No, certainly not Atiku. Power belongs to God, but people also pray for the kind of leadership they want. Atiku and Obasanjo created the problem this country is facing today. The privatization which they did, taking the biggest industries belonging to the country, and auctioning them was a crime against the nation. Atiku superintended over that privatization as the national chairman. I never saw where he wrote against that policy; rather he was encouraging more and more privatization. That is the kind of policy he will pursue, if he becomes the president. There was no point privatizing the National Assembly quarters, but he did. There was no reason privatizing ministers’ quarters, but he did. All national institutions that were meant for social services were privatized under his supervision. Yet, he didn’t see anything wrong about it. If they were still in government today, probably Aso Rock would have been privatized either by him or Obasanjo.