Senator Anthony Adeniyi, a legal practitioner, represented Ekiti South Senatorial District in the 7th National Assembly. In this interview, he barred his minds on some controversial policies of the APC-led administration.
Nigeria’s past successive governments had the aspiration of leading the country to be one of the 20 biggest economies in the world in 2020, but to no avail. What is your outlook of the New Year’s economy, especially taking into cognizance the policies of the Buhari administration?
Honestly, I have to appreciate God and also appreciate our president who was thrown up by our party for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We also have to appreciate the masses of this country who voted massively for his emergence as president for another term of office. We all know the challenges that have been militating against the development of the country, but the leaders who had the political will to address them were not there until Buhari came to power. I never knew one could walk through Nigerian markets without seeing foreign rice until President Muhammadu Buhari closed the border. Everywhere I went during the Christmas and New Year vacation, what I saw was local rice. I knew Nigerians eat rice and I knew some used to distribute rice as Christmas present. I must also congratulate this country for returning to January-December budget. If you take into cognizance the weather of this country, January falls into the dry season when construction works should be going on at a geometrical rate. But this has not always been so because of the delay in the passage of budget. Most of the times, budgets are passed when rainy season must have set in. From my experience when I was in the Senate, most of the research works done by MDAs and development agencies were done haphazardly because funds were never released on time. That impacted negatively on the growth of our economy. Now, we have to appreciate the president and the leadership of the National Assembly who sat down to ensure that the budget was passed on time. January to December budget is natural with us because of the weather. I think we are gradually moving towards the attainment of set goals, though we are still far from there. I don’t think our inability to meet the target is the fault of this government. When we came into government, we met a hostile National Assembly populated by people who would like to do things in their own ways, rather than giving consideration to national priority. I think we are moving gradually to the target of 2020. I wish Nigeria the best.
Some critics of this government have expressed concern over Nigeria’s rising debt profile, saying it amounts to mortgaging the future of the country?
(Cuts in)…My friend, I quickly disagree with you. This is not because I am an APC man, but I think as a human being, practically speaking, if I borrow money from you to do a business and the business is well implemented, there can be no cause for alarm. From the little economics that I know, if you borrow to invest, not borrowing to pay salaries, I don’t think it is anything bad. Look at Lekki Concessional arrangement with tollgate; at least, things are moving on there. Resources are being garnered from the operation of the tollgate. It is only when you borrow to pay salaries that one can say the future is being mortgaged. If the money we are borrowing is set for the target for which it is being borrowed, I don’t think there is any problem. Brazil is one of the most indebted nations in the world. I learnt America too, I don’t have the statistics. Monies they borrow are invested in infrastructure which will definitely yield returns. So, I don’t think we have over borrowed.
How have the masses of this country fared in the last four years of this administration?
This is the second year I wasn’t queuing to buy fuel. When I was travelling home for Christmas, I bought fuel freely and even discovered that quite a good number of filling stations were not patronized despite heavy vehicular traffic. I think this government has fared very well in that respect. Apart from that, all abandoned roads projects are also being reconstructed by this government.
Advocates of human rights have accused the Federal Government of disrespecting the rule of law by disobeying court orders. As a lawyer, what would you say about the human right record of the Buhari administration?
I am not an advocate of disobedience of law. But since I am not directly in government, I won’t want to say much about that.
Would you disagree that there were violations of the human rights of some individuals who were detained by some agencies of government or would you say Buhari is a respecter of the rule of law?
It is not Buhari that is not respecting the rule of law. If some agencies of government have not lived up to expectation, we can’t say it is Buhari. Governance is very intriguing. I have not been in government, but I am close to people who are in government. It is easier said than done. Look at what the Shiites did in respect of Soleimani, the Iran Commander who was killed by the US. They went about burning American flags. What is our problem about that? You don’t cry more than the bereaved. Let the Iran do whatever pleases them. I don’t think it is our business to fight for people who have been offended. Respect for rule of law is sine qua non to democracy. But each case should be treated in its own merit separately. There is always a limit to which people can be lawless. The society’s interest is higher than that of individuals. So, I won’t say Buhari is not a respecter of law. He cannot come down to command these agencies. He will only advise them; otherwise, he will be a despot.
The scheming for 2023 is very much on, as those who have their eyes on one position or the other are already jostling.
(Cuts in)…That is human being for you. It is normal in politics. Political power is not served ala carte. People have to plan for it. Like the national leader of our party, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, said during his visit to President Buhari, the scheming for 2023 should not go to the extent of disturbing governance. But people can at least start nursing ambition for the race. The only thing that will be out of place is for the president to be jostling for re-election. That will be improper. But if I am eyeing the presidency, as an individual, I don’t think there is any problem about that.
Are you unaware of the attempt being made by the power-that-be to stop some individuals from pursuing their ambition, which in a way can upset the balance of peace in the party and also impact negatively on governance?
If those jostling are not present office holders, I don’t see anything wrong in that. Jostling is what keeps politics and party going. If people are too cool and too quiet, it won’t work well.
The recent sack of the former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, and his counterpart in AMCON, Muiz Banire, has been interpreted as a premeditated attempt to stop Tinubu from pursuing his presidential ambition. What do you make of this insinuation?
Honestly, I don’t think so. Fowler has completed his tenure. He was interested in having a second term which he didn’t get. As for Muiz, the law that set up AMCON is very clear, stating that anyone who would be appointed as Chairman should be a former deputy director of the CBN. A similar condition also affected Otunba Niyi Adebayo, when he was appointed the Chairman of FAAN. He could not be sworn-in because the law says that whoever is going to be the Chairman must be either a pilot or somebody who has aeronautic experience. He was qualified, but could not be sworn-in because of the provision of the law that established FAAN. The same thing relates to Muiz Banire. As for Fowler, who has completed his term and the government was not interested in giving him another term; I don’t think it is targeted at anybody. All these rumours are just being peddled by the opposition.
Now to your Ekiti home state. Governor Kayode Fayemi in his second coming promised the state workers that he would not repeat the mistakes of the last administration. But surprisingly, he seems to be taking the organized labour through another harrowing experience of retrenchment with the recent sack of some workers of the Ekiti State Teaching Hospital. Is this a backlash of the new minimum wage or what?
I am not the governor. It is only Governor Fayemi that can answer that question. I don’t want to start assessing him now on what he has done and what he has not done. When he gets to the middle of his tenure, assessment will be made on his performance.
Tomorrow, Monday, Ndigbo in Lagos will be holding a public lecture in commemoration of the Biafran war. Would you say past successive governments had done enough to heal the wound of the Igbo?
I think some lessons have been taught and learnt. For us as a country, it was a period of setback. So, I won’t pray for such again. If we have been practicing democracy since 1960, things would have improved by now. But the military insurrection really derailed the practice of democracy. I don’t pray we should witness another war. As far as I am concerned, the wounds of the civil war have been healed. When you over heal, you are likely to open the wounds again. The Igbo have been incorporated into this country as much as I know. Igbo are everywhere doing their businesses. All we need to do is to stop suspicion among ourselves.
Then, what is all this noise about the perceived marginalization?
I don’t believe they are being marginalized. Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, they (Igbo) were the Senate President several times. If anybody is saying that, he might be saying it to create a situation of pity so that he can be better patronized. Look at Buhari, he is doing the Second Niger Bridge. As far as I am concerned, they have not been marginalized.
What do you think needs to be done to lay to rest this mutual suspicion among ethnic nationalities in Nigeria?
Awolowo had said it a long time ago, no law or decree can eliminate suspicion. We all have to believe that this is Nigeria and we are all Nigerians.
In a way, a situation whereby power resides in a particular section of the country at the expense of others is bound to create suspicion. With the present political arithmetic, do you see power rotating back to the South in 2023?
I want to assure you, power is coming to the South. It is an unwritten agreement that power will rotate between North and South. Let’s wait and see.