A former military governor of Borno and Lagos states, General Buba Marwa, is at the moment the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA). He was also a former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa. In this interview conducted by BILLY GRAHAM in Yola, Adamawa state, Gen Marwa spoke on a number of national issues including the 2019 elections, security, economy and the anti-corruption drive of President Muhammadu Buhari among others.
You are one of the prominent leaders of CPC that fused with other parties to form APC, would you say that the purpose of that merger has been achieved?
The purpose for the merger has been more than achieved. Let me tell you, the process that led to the merger of parties, which became APC today started in my house in Abuja. We had interface with a committee in the process weekly and sometimes twice a week and we were reporting to the leader of CPC, now President Buhari in Kaduna.
We were nine in number; Aminu Masari, Nasir El-Rufai, Mr. Jimi Lawal and Jaffar Isa, George Akume and others. There was no presidential candidate then, we were quite committed and dedicated to our goal.
After several meetings, we came up with the name All Progressives Congress (APC) and because we needed change, CHANGE became the slogan. Since we came to power as a party, we have achieved this change. You cannot say in governance that you have achieved 100% because it is not arithmetic, the President tackled three key areas; security, corruption and economy and he has succeeded in all.
How will you rate President Buhari in the last three years? You will recall that the economy went into recession and just when we thought that Book Haram has been defeated, another kind of security challenges emerged all over the country, and his fight against corruption is seen as lopsided.
As a student of Public Administration and also a practitioner, I had my degrees in Public Administration and as such, I carry out my rating of any government at all levels on these scale; fail, poor, average, weak, pass, and strong pass. You know governance is not an examination where you score A or B or C but in my assessment of President Buhari in the last three years, I will give him strong pass with colours and so he needs another term to consolidate for the next level.
Again you can only rate an administrator based on what he says he would do and how much he has achieved. On security, the President has said that without security there will be no rest of mind, no peace. People will always talk about Boko Haram particularly now that we have been having some attacks in some parts of the northeast but we must also realize that counter insurgency is not a football match where the match will end in 90 minutes or after extra time , at one point, the match must end but in counter insurgency, it is not so, in fact while looking at one side, “ the enemy “ let say the Boko Haram.
We fail to find out what are their intentions of the enemy, Boko Haram, what are their strategies, who are their sponsors, what kind of weapons are they having, their numerical strength, nobody is looking at it from this angle but we are looking at it from what transpired before and now. The issue of insurgency and other warfare is a subject I am very familiar with both in theory and practical, I have actually been assigned by the Nigeria government to work with the leader of another country in tackling insurgency as a military Adviser. Equally, I am very familiar with northeast because I also worked there when we had attacks from our neighboring country.
My thesis in Staff College was on insurgency, this was over 39 years ago.
Let me also tell you, insurgency goes through stages, first it progresses through sabotage; most times booby traps, bombings , ambush, exploratory attacks , full attack and eventually holding of grounds.
Before Buhari came on board, Boko Haram has gotten to the last stage, several local government areas were captured and their flag hoisted, remember there were bombings all over, Abuja, Kano, Yobe, Gombe, Maiduguri, Jos and so on.
What do we have now? Just a pocket of attacks at the fringes of our boarders, what they do now is raiding to steal foods, petroleum for their survival.
In all, the Nigeria military is on top of the situation within the resources at its disposal. Let’s talk about the resources at hand during warfare, soldiers are critical, they need the support of the public and of the National Assembly. We are witnesses to the $1b the governors gracefully granted through the presidency to the military but I can tell you only $300m has been released to the military. The other security challenges in Taraba, Benue, IPOB, Adamawa has fizzledd out under his administration
On the economy, you did mention that the President took the country into a recession, that was erroneous and misleading. The recession was already upon us and it was a miracle that a country could go out of recession in one year, recover and become normal.
I know that for sure because I was a victim in 2008 when I was appointed as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, I sold my house in Lagos since I could live in hotels and I was not living in Lagos and I invested the money, which I lost about 90% of it, so it is a credit to him that no one was hurt in that particular sense.
Secondly, several administrations in this country had spoken about diversification but none had the courage to take action but it was only President Buhari that has actually taken the bull by the horn and did it.
Let us look at the issue of rice for example, when I was growing up as a child of an other rank soldier, we were served rice once a month and on a pay day but now the rich and the poor have it and home grown, that is progress, that we grow our staple food. The situation was that we were importing it and it was a huge drain on the economy and now it is being achieved. This President has stood on his feet and said we must have self-sufficiency in rice and now importation is infinitesimal.
A country like India in the seventies, when I was a young military officer when I went for courses in India, the country was in poverty and now it is exporting rice and today India is a major power in something that Nigeria is working towards. From what I have gathered, the import bill of the country has been reduced to I think about 20% of it. The N-power, the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the novel Tradermoni, the massive infrastructural leap, power has improved remarkably, there is more power available in Nigeria now than it has ever been in our history, it is a fact.
The Mambila hydro power plant, which will generate about 4000 megawatts has been the subject of 40 years of lips service and it is the Muhammadu Buhari government that has made it possible. Look at the road networks that are ongoing and every single state in the country is having a taste of it.
The Lagos-Ibadan expressway is almost coming to a completion. Coming back to here in Adamawa state, the road to Adamawa through Gombe, Ganye to Taraba, Mubi through to Gwoza are all under construction. Railway network, the eastern corridors, southern corridors, and the coastal areas have all enjoyed rail travels.
Don’t forget institutions like the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Customs Service have all been strengthened to perform at the optimum level to boost revenue. And let’s not overlook several social safety nets like the five thousand naira monthly stipend, school feeding program, among other programs.
And in the area of tackling corruption which is the third leg of the triad, President Buhari has ensured probity in the public system that makes it difficult for public officials to just deep their hands into the public coffers and steal especially with the implementation of the Single Treasury Account (TSA)
You are championing Buhari’s campaign in the northeast and Adamawa state, how do you think he will defeat Atiku here?
First of all, there are no insurgency anymore here in Adamawa state or any part of the country except that they come out and raid some areas and go back, that is a giant stride you cannot gainsay. Buhari is very strong in Adamawa state and in other parts of the north and would easily defeat anyone.
His success has earned him a massive support in other parts of the country and he would record a remarkable change with a ground breaking number of votes from the southeast, and south south and the votes there would be more resounding.
No Nigerian dead or alive has ever received a ground swell of overwhelming support like the one Buhari has and on February 16th we will see it again when Buhari will be returned with a resounding victory.
Why should Nigerians give Buhari another term?
The qualities of sincerity, result oriented leadership, commitment, loyalty to his citizens because loyalty is both ways and his integrity.
No leader in Nigeria has rolled all these qualities into one and he has attained all the objectives he has set for himself and it is time for us to give him another four years to move the country to the next level.
You are now the chairman of the presidential committee that is combating drug abuse, what should Nigerians expect from this committee in terms of tangible action against drug abuse?
That is actually what the committee is about. We would set out the best way forward in dealing with drug abuse menace in the country.
In drug situation, there is the supply side and the demand side, i.e. the drug addict and the supply side has to do with the movement from one place to another to make these abused substances available for the use of the addicts.
For the illicit drugs, there is an agency tackling the situation i.e. NDLEA, while on the other side we have NAFDAC. Somehow, there are leakages but the most important thing is that there are institutions and that they are doing their best to regulate but on the one hand we have drug addicts with drug problems but no institutions to go or run to for help, these among other issues, are gaps that this committee would want to close and provide durable solutions.
It is going to include a full system to address the rehabilitation, the care, the treatment, the affordability of such care, spiritual guidance and counseling, we are also including traditional institutions, religious bodies including the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN.
We will also go down to the grassroots and engage the communities, these are some of the commitments that President Buhari displays that stands him out as a leader.
We have all been talking about drug abuse but this is the rarest real strong action taken against it by the president.