From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
A CHIEFTAIN of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State, Chief Uche Nwosu, has taken the critics of President Muhammadu Buhari to the cleaners.
Nwosu who is the Chief of Staff to the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, disclosed that Buhari having met a lot of rot in the system when he assumed office as president is trying to lay a solid foundation upon which the country will stand firmly.
The APC stalwart who spoke with a select group of journalists in Owerri recently, therefore, appealed to Nigerians to be patient with the president who, he assured, would definitely take the country out of the woods. Excerpts:
Nigerians had welcomed the Buhari administration with a lot of enthusiasm and great expectations, but 11 months down the line, they are yet to start getting the gains of the change as promised; how do you explain that?
Let me start by saying that I do not agree that we are having economic hardship, fuel scarcity, insecurity and other things as you mentioned. Remember that this administration is not up to one year and these are backlog of problems that we had from the inception of the PDP. Our belief is that our own president, a man of integrity and a man that the country loves so much, President Muhammadu Buhari, is not up to one year he took over and Nigerians are expecting miracles overnight. It was like when the governor took over Imo State and after six months, people were shouting no developmental projects, but when he started, people started asking, where is this man getting the money from? So, Nigerians should learn how to exercise patience because a journey of 100 miles does not begin with a sudden leap, it starts gradually. This are the accumulated problems that we have faced for many years and the president is a man of integrity, a man who takes no nonsense and he has come to repair this country; and people are crying that nothing is happening. But let me tell you that he is very much focused and one other thing I like about our president is that he is not a man that can be moved by shouting and by calling names because those of them you see shouting now are the same PDP people that have plunged this nation into problem and now they can’t get those money they were getting before and they are crying foul. It is only when you establish a country and the country is on a sound foundation that you can start preparing, but when the foundation is bad, there is nothing much you can do. Everywhere you go to, there is looting of government funds; in the civil service, there are no more ethics. I think the man is on the right course, but Nigerians should learn how to be patient and do things accordingly. We should not be in a hurry; Nigerians are always in a hurry, we should learn to do things accordingly until we get it right. America we see today didn’t start in 2000, but by 2010 they were there, America passed through this process for years. One example is Singapore; Singapore went through this process, but our greatest problem is that there was a democracy without a foundation. Singapore first of all stabilized their country before bringing in democracy. But here, the country is not stabilized and democracy is here with us. I believe that the president will turn things around so we should exercise patience.
The life of this administration has so far been solely committed to fighting corruption without doing much to revamp the ailing economy or cushion the effects. Do you think it is the right way to go?
To me, the man is focused. Let me tell you for example, without fighting corruption in the power sector, no matter whatever work you do in that sector, it will still go bad because corruption has been rooted inside most of our agencies and ministries. You put billions of dollars in the power sector, it will still go down the drain but when people know that to take public fund is bad, when you put in money, it will work. So, on the issue of corruption, remember that I said earlier that the foundation must be right. You don’t have to go and put N100 billion into Aviation and you will not see the money; people should know that when money is put into a project, it is meant for a specific job and not to be diverted along the way into individual pockets like what was happening. If those monies that we are talking about today were implemented or were used for the fight against Boko Haram, Boko Haram will not be existing today, but because those monies went into individual hands and the foundation was wrong, that is why you see us still fighting Boko Haram. Thank God today that the issue is almost getting to an end. So, the issue of fighting corruption is very important, no government succeeds when the government officials, ministries and agencies are corrupt;
Your party, the APC rode to victory on the back of significant electoral promises, which include a quick fix of the infrastructure decay, quick ending of the insurgency in the North-East, welfare package and wealth creation, but today, it seems that these promises have either been forgotten or totally abandoned?
I don’t believe that the message has been totally forgotten. The issue of Boko Haram and bombing has been drastically reduced. Do you remember that last two years, Boko Haram was taking over communities, taking over local governments, but today, the army has retaken all those areas and now people can fly across the areas. Remember there was a time that airlines could not fly to Maiduguri or Adamawa for fear of being shot down by the insurgents, but today flights can go to these places. And when you talk about the issue of employment, you do not wake up and employ; there must be a foundation so that when you start employing, you don’t make mistakes and besides, the National Assembly just passed the budget and there is nothing you can do without the budget; so by passing this budget, the issue of employment will be taken care of, but I still don’t know why we are so much in a haste.
The Buhari’s administration has come under sharp criticisms for failing to tackle the immediate economic crisis, especially the biting hardship and declining value of the naira, what is your view about this?
When it comes to the issue of handling the economic situation in the country, it is not something that will take you overnight to get it in a proper shape. The issue of naira did not start today and the issue of Nigeria’s economy did not also start today. It is only when Nigerians accept that collectively and not because you are Mr APC or Mr PDP you will be praying for the country to go bad so that they can clap for you; no, my belief is that this country will get better under Buhari. But in my own opinion I think it is better we suffer these pains now and enjoy afterwards than to be enjoying today and suffer in the future.
As an APC chieftain are you not worried by the chain of losses your party has suffered in rerun elections after the 2015 elections?
I cannot say it was chain of losses because in those areas that the elections were held, it was evident that the elections were rigged. Until INEC is overhauled because the way it is structured, it cannot guarantee credible election because in a process where an INEC commissioner is a card-carrying member of a political party, it is like appointing our national chairman of APC as the national officer of INEC. What will you expect when the RECs are already card-carrying members of political parties? So, until we restructure INEC, that is when you will see elections in this country go free and fair. officer of INEC. What will you expect when
Using the APC governed states as a parameter, how do you score the overall performance of APC as a party?
Yes APC states have done very well, now let me take Imo as an example; before we came to power, there was nothing in the state, there was only one road, the Owerri/Aba road; no infrastructure anywhere, but today, you have numerous projects across the state and you see a lot of changes in the state. In the United Nations record today, Imo State has the least poverty level and when you talk about the most developing states in the country, Imo State ranks third. That is to tell you that this can happen when you have a good leader and where there is security and when the atmosphere is conducive for people to come in and invest. Tourism has received a boost, the Concorde Hotel has been transformed into a five star hotel, we are happy that the change in Imo State is what we expected. Recently, the governor received Imo students who will be travelling to Slovakia to represent Nigeria; you can imagine Imo State representing the country and that can only be possible where you have conducive learning environment, which was made possible by the governor devoting his time and energy in making the state better.
One of the problems the South-East zone has suffered that has reduced it to the background in the nation’s politics is lack of leadership because the South-West is dominating the political scene today as they often speak with one voice under one leadership, how do you think Ndigbo can overcome this to move forward?
You know there is this adage that the Igbo don’t have kings but when you go to the North you see how they revere the Emir. I know this because I lived in Maiduguri and it is the same thing when you go to the South West, you see the way they respect and honour the Obas but our greatest problem in the Southeast is that everybody is a king; until that aspect that when you have little money in your community you see yourself as a demi-god and you cannot respect traditional rulers is removed, that is the only way we can work together.
How do you describe the role of Bola Tinubu in Nigeria’s democracy?
Frankly speaking, I have to give it to the man called Ahmed Bola Tinubu, he is a great Nigerian, one; this is a man I respect so much, he is a dogged fighter and if he believes in a cause, he doesn’t go back until he achieves his aim. Today, the APC we are talking about, Ahmed Tinubu is instrumental to it.