Former Abia State governor and frontline chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, believes that obeisance to the rule of law is what Nigeria needs to deepen its democracy.
He assessed the performance level of President Muhammadu Buhari’s two years in office, saying progress has been made, while citing internal security as his major achievement.
Kalu also speaks, in this interview aired on national televisions recently, on measures to tackle youth restiveness and education, among others.
What is your assessment of Nigeria under this administration in the last two years?
This administration has done well in some areas, whereas some sides have not been touched. I think in fighting looters of the economy, they have been trying, but they must work within the ambit of the rule of law. You must fight corruption with absolute rule of law, which I support. You don’t fight people because they are political enemies. You don’t fight people because you hate them or because they are individuals you want to fight. Any government in Nigeria that does not fight corruption with the rule of law can never succeed.
The administration, on the other hand, has done very well on the part of internal security, they are not yet there, but I think they are on the right path towards getting there. They have fought Boko Haram and North East is liberated now. No one knows what could have happened in these two years, maybe Boko Haram may have even advanced to Abuja. So on that premise, the administration has done very well in the area of internal security.
On the economy, the administration has not done very well because a lot of Nigerians are still hungry, which is not good and a lot of things are stagnant. It is this same period that naira skyrocketed from N197 to N500, dangled through N400 to N300. I feel that both the fiscal and monetary policies have not been well handled; so the administration needs to go back to handle these policies. When you don’t handle monetary and fiscal policies very well it goes for worse, not even recession. What we have in recession is that capacity utilisation goes back.
Currently, the industrial capacity utilisation in Nigeria is below three to four percent, which is unacceptable in any part of the world. This means we are not doing well in manufacturing, agriculture and in other non-oil sectors. The economy can be selected from different angles, not only oil. So to me we have not done well economically and that is where the problem lies.
Do you think democracy has had an onward train from the past year to now?
Well, I would go beyond your question. Since democracy started in 1999, we have not performed up to expectation. Democracy has done very well, in terms of space; we have not done very well in terms of adhering to the rule of law, which is very important. If you want to talk about democracy, you must talk about rule of law, which means you must obey court orders. You must obey decision of any committee set up, like boards of enquiry. You must obey traffic laws; you must obey the laws of primary elections. The laws surrounding declaration of winners must be obeyed, not re-writing the result somewhere else; we must obey the INEC laws of going to vote and making sure that the winner is announced, not having inconclusive elections and later announcing the result of such an election at odd times, like 2am when it has already been doctored. These are not democratic processes. In any democratic setting, people must be seen to obey the rule of law.
Considering that it is said that there’s no smoke without fire, don’t you think the Nigerian democracy is being threatened by the recent coup rumour, which the Army has debunked?
We have been in a democracy for almost 18 years, and I don’t see any military man engaging in taking power forcefully at the moment. The core personnel of military we have now are educated; they are people that attended the Nigeria Defence Academy. They are people that understand their role of being subordinates to the civilian government. So taking power by force is not right. They are fully aware that they mustn’t take over government illegally. You must take over the government constitutionally.
I must commend the Chief of Army Staff for openly and courageously debunking the news. Others may conceal such within themselves and decide to constitute a committee of enquiry. So Nigerians should indeed also commend him because he did the right thing by revealing that some civilians were meddling with his soldiers, and that is what is expected of a good chief and anyone blaming him do not understand the military. In fact, Nigerians should be very happy with him. This means he wants the constitutional democracy of the country to flourish and continue. He is a good chief of army staff for taking action. Indeed, I don’t see any military man coming out to seize power by force.
Still talking about the threat to democracy, what do you think is the biggest threat to our democracy, especially with regards to the current gale of defections from other parties to the ruling parties?
Our major threat is not what you are talking about; we are founders of PDP and PDP had 28 governors at a time. Did you say the same thing back then? The answer is NO. So it is not a threat. If politicians can accept that money is not everything, that a qualified person can be given opportunity, without demanding money from him, all will be well. Let me tell you, in1999, Osoba was not a businessman. He was a career journalist. In fact, a top notch journalist and very successful. He contested for election in Ogun State and won without a godfather, without moneybags. He won with the little money he saved. This is what is called democracy, but when you always blame people in government; you don’t even blame the voters; the voters are worse. If somebody will go and sell his house and give you the money to vote for him, are you not stupid to know he is going to recoup that money and get back 10 times the money he sold the house? So when you are blaming politicians you also blame the people who made them to steal the money. You must take that into consideration because, you see, when we blame the holder, you also blame the beholder because this is the problem. I am not saying looting of funds is right. I was governor for eight years, and we were accountable to the people till the day I left. And when you are still doing these things, the money for capital projects and recurrent expenditures are depleting everyday.
The capital projects are suffering a setback; how do you want the people to continue supporting you? How do you expect the people to continue to perform what they are expected to do in democracy?
I believe that most Nigerians are not upright; if they are upright then the question of President’s health cannot be blown out of proportion. Any human being can be sick; even I can be sick. Every minister in that cabinet supposed to be a presidential candidate; we have an Acting –President; we have the Senate and many others. It is only when we bound ourselves with institutions to maintain and keep democracy that is when there will be no threat. Another threat is ourselves because we disrespect the police, court; everybody is just in his own jungle. And this is not how democracy is supposed to be. Democracy must be in such a way that when there is a quarrel between the Executive and the Legislature, the judiciary will solve it. When there is a problem between the judiciary and anybody the judiciary itself will also solve it because the ruling of court is superior to any other thing. People in Government try to force courts to give ruling in their favour or courts want to give ruling because they want to make money. This is not how democracy will prosper.
Democracy will prosper, where people agree to obey the law. The traffic law is there and it’s pertinent all must obey it. There are two aspects of democracy; there is the ‘hardware’ and the ‘software.’The software is more important than the hardware. The ‘hardware’ is where you want to see good roads, water and every other thing. The ‘software’ is when you obey the orders of the court, when you obey the law, when you obey the constitution, when you obey the laws made by government and even the National Assembly. If we start to imbibe all these, then democracy will strive. The biggest challenge of democracy now is not obeying the law.
Talking about democracy and the youths, the system of the government does not allow the youths to express themselves and live up to the saying that we are leaders of tomorrow. How does this Nigerian government operation politically give hope to the youths?
Let me tell you, nobody gives anybody hope; hope is for everybody; the word hope is the most important thing in our life; hope will always keep us alive. Let me tell you I was a student union leader in the university. I didn’t wait for the government to give me any hope to do anything. Youths must stand up to do what is right; youths should stop being used for election rigging. Youths should stop being used as thugs. How can you go to school and read Economics or any other course and someone will employ you for N2, 000 daily? You go and cause trouble where there is election. You go and fight as student union leader or body. Today, we have two factions of NANS (National Association of Nigerian Students), which couldn’t have happened during our time. We have two factions of NLC; we have two factions of almost every body. Nigerians can’t even conduct common credible election.
How do you survive? What do you show to the youths?
The leaders are not even showing the youths good examples on how to live. You see a governor lying for what he has not done. You see a president lying concerning what he will do and what he didn’t do. You see members of political party lying openly on camera and these things are carried to our youths.
Our youths have just been off guard thinking that betrayal of one another is the best thing. People see people betray people everyday and they have nothing to say about it. Betrayal is the worst offence you can commit in life, but in Nigeria, betrayal is no longer an offence; it’s the way of life. Deceitful attitude; politicians going from one house to the other to lie because they have no job to do. I pity our youths because they are not being given the nurturing attitude we are supposed to have in the society. Check when we were governor we kept youths busy; they were very busy. And how did we do it?
In every school in Abia State, there were football academy and that produced Enyimba. That made Enyimba a very strong team and a very strong brand. You can see sometime in the national team; nine of them came from Enyimba football club, because I put the youths to work. I went further to introduce free education. In free education, we created work to learn, whereby artisans, traders were all going to school to learn, sat for WASC; we paid WAEC fees for students in our state. That singular foundation we laid has made Abia State to be on top of the range, in terms of education. They can never go back because the foundation was very solid. And it will be good that it is maintained.
I’m sure Governor Ikpeazu will find time to review his education policy because he was in government that period. I believe that our leaders must go back to the basics. The greatest gift to give to children is education. They go to the universities today and have you asked what they learn in the university? What is the quality of education they get? Do you pay the teachers that are supposed to teach them as at when due? The teachers are not paid now and they leave the children to do other things. The youths are in trouble, but they must come out of the trouble. The only way to come out is to have leaders that will be focused on the development of the youths and primarily showing them what good leadership entails.