Former Minister of Information and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, has said that those plotting to remove the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole are wasting their time. Prince Momoh, in this interview with VINCENT KALU, warned that there are plans to dismantle the country.
Are you not worried over the level of insecurity in the country?
No human being who knows that God is the creator of heaven and earth and all that is between should be afraid. If you are afraid then you cannot accept the way God wants you to live. What I’m saying is that fear arises from ignorance. You are talking of insecurity in the country; insecurity is the product of man and man should cure insecurity. The constitution is very clear that government is there because of the welfare and security of the citizens.
If there is no welfare and there is no security, then there is a question mark on what the government is doing or has done. Insecurity is a challenge and people should not be afraid of challenge. If for instance, you have problems on the way, then you solve the problem. Challenges are part and parcel of growing a people or growing a human being and you should pray for strength to overcome challenges and the way to solutions. You don’t pray not to have challenges. I’m not afraid that there is insecurity; I’m unsettled that we are failing to solve the problem of insecurity and they are easily solvable.
What is the solution?
Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people and the largest concentration of black people on earth. It is the only country standing out of all the countries packaged in the first quarter of the last century by the colonial masters, all others have collapsed, and for those who look at the moon rather than the crescent, the moon is the total package of life, where you come from, what you are doing here, where you are going to. Then we will know that there is no accident in nature, Nigeria has an anointing, the largest concentration of black people on earth today, active, vibrant people, people who make it in life, so there is an attempt to dismantle Nigeria, and insecurity is part of it; Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is not a regional or internal problem, but it is an international one, and if you look at Boko Haram operations, you see that people are working to dismantle the whole of Nigeria, but we are the one to accept it or not to accept it. However, we are determined not to accept it.
Here we are, a federation that is unmanageable, we must decongest the political space, and when we have done this, economic deregulation is automatic. For the federation we have, there is a lot and lot of powers concentrated at the centre, and how do you resolve that you have unemployment all over, you have banditry, thousands of people who are qualified, there are no jobs for them because you have not decongested the political space.
How do we decongest the political space? There are exclusive list and concurrent list. In the areas of law making, there are 93 items concentrated at the National Assembly; National Assembly makes laws in 93 areas, it is not possible; it s too much. A federation shouldn’t be involved in more than two dozen areas; why not have two dozen areas – areas of cooperation of the political zones, and move the powers to the geo-political zones.
Ekwueme in the 90s introduced the six political zones and we have been working with them; why don’t we have the six zones being the federating units, rather than the 36 states of the federation. When we decongest powers to those zones, the struggle for the centre would be reduced, and in all the zones of the federation, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and those indiscretion within the polity would disappear within six months because of cooperation at the levels of the regions rather than the competition we have now in 93 areas where we spent most of the money attending to democracy rather than growing the polity.
Democracy is the luxury of development, when you are developing, you pick that quantum of freedom you need to grow the polity, but in Nigeria we spend more money on democracy than on growing Nigeria, and with that we will always have problem. Insurgencies, banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery are all outcome of the choices we have made; we are reaping what we have sown because the thing we sowed have grown into banditry. It is all failure of governance.
You mentioned restructuring as the way out, but it is in your party manifesto. Why is APC finding it hard to implement?
El- Rufai headed a committee, which recommended restructuring and we discussed it at the caucus level and it is being implemented quietly, but I don’t like the quiet implementation.
For instance, community policing that the IG had worked out all over the country is part of the restructuring. You know power is in the exclusive list, Obasanjo pounced on Lagos and destroyed Enron that Tinubu was going to use to bring power to Lagos, but now, the President Buhari has allowed states to go on with power generation, but that is not good enough, we want to address the issue and through constitutional means decongest the political space.
We have 93 items in the exclusive list, we want to visit it and package those areas that bring the whole of the federation together – the areas like defence, money, external affairs, immigration, all those areas that we all have in common, not agriculture, education, roads, which you move to the zones. If you move all those things out of the centre, you will see now that you are decongesting the political space, and if you decongest the political space, economic deregulation is automatic. For example, what are we doing with two legislative Houses? We don’t need the two to grow a country. If you want to grow a country, you take those structures that will help to grow the country, in other words, the ways and means. Democracy is a way and means; it is one that regulates our drive on the high way. You don’t spend more on democracy than the highway we are driving on. Water and security, the roads, hospital, education are the highway, and other things that are there in the area of duty to be performed, which is why government is there and that is the reason the constitution is very emphatic that government is there because of the welfare and security of the citizens, but how to grow the government is democracy.
When you say dividends of democracy, you are not talking of boreholes, roads, schools; you are talking of freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of fair hearing, freedom of association.
Chapter four of the constitution is what the high court is supposed to take charge of, but in the area of performing work, growing education etc, that is the reason you are there as government. So, it is the expectation of governance and not dividend of democracy; it is the duty you must perform and if you fail to perform it, then you fail as a government. These challenges are there, insecurity, unemployment, etc are a result of too much of concentration of powers at different areas. Why do you want two houses at the National Assembly, when you can do with one and move the House of Representatives to the zones, so that in the region, the members from there will make the Assembly, so that the Senate will become the only house at the national level, and then all law making will be part time. But, everything is fulltime, local government councillors, state House of Assembly, the executive in the state, the National Assembly, everybody is fulltime, to the extent you spend more money that you would have used in growing the polity in sustaining the way you grow, in other words, sustaining democracy. It is not healthy; we must decongest the political space.
On restructuring, why not adopt the 2014 Confab report?
2014 Confab report was a diversion, which Jonathan himself knew. At that time, PDP had problems, as lot of governors were leaving the party for the APC that has merged as a political party in July, 2013, and was enhancing the problems in PDP and dragging people from PDP. So, it was no more manageable for the then ruling party. Jonathan, with due respect, worked out a way of diverting attention and have the 2014 dialogue, knowing that by July 2014 when the report would be ready, everybody would be preparing for 2015 elections.
For instance, if he were serious when they brought the report why didn’t he send it to the NASS? He didn’t do anything about the report, it was meant to be a diversion. Not that there are not good parts here and there, but APC didn’t participate in that Assembly, APC didn’t believe in it and APC cannot be accused of abandoning a report it didn’t agree with ab initio.But the point is that a lot of things happening are issues raised in the report and which were also raised during 2005 Obasanjo’s constitutional reform outing, which was a report that was thrown away like the baby with the bath water because it was to bring about third term, which was the main reason for the conference, although Obasanjo denied it. There are lot of issues that are there to be addressed. I agree with you that the report is there, but nobody will be taking a report that is asking for the creation of 54 states, when we are talking of decongesting the political space.
Do you see APC coming out of this crisis bedevilling it?
APC is the biggest party in Africa today. Once upon a time it was said that PDP was the biggest party in Africa. I asked Audu Ogbeh, who was the chairman of PDP at one time, and we are now together in APC, he said as at the time they were the biggest party in Africa, they had registered members of 12 million. When we merged; APC is not coming together of political parties, it is a registered political association because the CPC, which I had the privilege of heading; the ACN, which Bisi Akande headed; the ANPP, which Ogbonnaya Onu headed were dissolved and we moved as individuals from all over the country into the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC), which was registered July 31, 2013. Having done that, all of us had to go to our polling units to be registered as members of the party. APC is a political association with structures at the poling unit level, ward level, local government level, state level, geo-political level, national level and then the convention.
At the national level, you have the National Working Committee (NWC), which meets on a daily basis, day to day running of the party, and then you have the National Executive Committee (NEC), which has local government chairmen and lot and lot of members from all over the country, it is supposed to meet every three months, and then you have the National Convention, the overall body, of course, you have the caucus of the party. All these bodies are populated and as I speak to you, APC has about 17 million registered members.
If there is problem in APC, it is normal of a political party. From 1999, there was no convention PDP held without it having breakaway or problem. As I speak now, PDP is in disarray. There are lots of hiccups in APC, and so it is in all political parties and they will resolve themselves, no problems.
Some members of your party are insisting that the National Chairman, Oshiomhole must go. What is your position on this?
There is freedom of speech under chapter four of the constitution. Everybody has his own right of freedom without interference, but your freedom is so regulated that it stops where my own begins. People have the right to do what they want to do, but they must do it within the law.
APC has a manifesto and it has a constitution, anybody who wants to do anything about Oshiomhole or any other person must follow the law. He is the national chairman of the party, and a product of the constitution of the party. It is the constitution that made him contest the election during a convention and he won for four years. So, he is going to be there for four years. There are ways he can leave office, he can resign or he can die, but God is prepared to safeguard his life, and there is no way being a fighter he has always been that he would be forced to resign. He has not done anything that will make him to resign. Anybody who wants Oshiomhole out should wait till the convention.