Prince Tony Momoh, served as Minister of Information and Culture during General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime from 1986-1990. He was National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), one of the four parties that merged to form the All Progressives Congress, (APC). He is presently a member, Board of Trustees, BoT of the APC. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he spoke on expectations from President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017, proposed mega party, recovered loot and other crucial issues. Excerpts:
What areas do you want President Buhari to focus on as we begin the journey of 2017?
I think President Buhari has already mentioned some areas he will like to focus on. The areas are security, stabilising the country through infrastructural developments and of course, corruption. Infrastructural developments will embrace attending to the economy, roads, health, education and other areas that we see in Chapter 2 of the constitution which are the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state politics. They are social, political, economic, educational, environmental, foreign policy and culture. All those areas come under Chapter 2 of the constitution and they are what the people say government should concentrate on to better their lives. For example, during his campaign, the president promised to attend to the issue of security, stabilising the country through infrastructural developments and prosperity will emerge but people have looked at an aspect of it which is corruption. Corruption is the law of taking. Anybody who takes and does not give is pursuing a dirty objective of corrupting himself, corrupting the system and disobeying God’s law. God always give. He gives us everything without taking anything away from us in return. Anybody who takes is satisfying the lure and temptations of the Devil. If for instance, we expose the corrupt people and the law takes care of them, then we will be attending to corruption in the material sense. Fighting corruption is everybody’s battle, not just for Buhari alone or the APC. So, my expectation this year is that what President Buhari started by winning the war against insurgency in the North East and stabilising it through infrastructural developments has not been understood very much by Nigerians. I believe all these will be more understood this year as we begin to bear fruits.
Look at the areas of agriculture. I don’t think there is anybody today who will say that there is no food in Nigeria. People are only saying that the available foods are too expensive. But what they don’t understand is that if the prices of foodstuff are expensive, then the farmers will make more gains. Many farmers today are now smiling to the banks. We now have lots of grains everywhere. In my area, we have Agbede rice, Ekpoma rice, Ofada rice and others unlike before where everybody was talking about imported rice from Thailand that has expired. A lot of people’s attitude to living is changing. You now see people going to the farm growing food and this to me is a welcome development. People are now moving in other areas of being successful rather than through government jobs. I believe that very soon, Nigerians will appreciate Buhari more. I did say that before 2019, people will be celebrating Buhari.
Why do you say that?
Because he is consistent, disciplined and focused. People may not have understood that consistency, focus and discipline but this year and the years ahead, people will come to understand Mr. President that he is not just a talker but a doer.
Buhari believes that anybody who took Nigeria’s money must return all the money, and should be punished for taking the money and denying the people of facilities they would have had if the money was used for them. Look at what is happening with arms procurement. People went and collected billions of dollars and sat down to share the money and people were dying in the North-East. Those who had no arms with them ran into Cameroon, they put them under court martial and sentenced them to death and they didn’t give them arms.
When they are dealing with such people, Nigerians are saying it is because they are in government. Those in government are the ones dealing with the money, those in APC had no access. So will you say because there was no APC among the PDP that had the opportunity to serve Nigeria that pocketed the money should not be dealt with. Buhari has said he is not against anybody but everybody must bear consequences of their actions and when things are happening, as media men, find out why it is affecting your friend or colleague.
Still on the recovered loot so far, don’t you think Nigerians have the right to know who have returned looted funds since the money belongs to the Nigeria people?
Government doesn’t talk; it is the media that talks. You are given the responsibility to monitor governance on behalf of the people. Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria and through the constitution, the government generates its power and authority. The motto of government is’ keep our secret, secret’ and the motto of the journalist is ‘publish and be dammed but publish the truth’.
I have been editor, I have been a trainer of journalists and trainer of trainer of journalists and there is no where people volunteered information that was not meant to enhance its own status.
So, if government has been talking about people who have returned looted money, find out. Go and find out if any money has been recovered; go and find out how much it is. Find out who returned it. It is not the duty of the government to start publishing anything. What if they publish and for one reason or the other it is wrong?. They can be sued. The point I am making is that, yes the people have the right to know and the people have the right to be told – who does the telling?
Some have said the senate’s rejection of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman is a calculated attempt to frustrate President Buhari’s anti- corruption war. Do you share that view?
No. I think people are misjudging the senate in spite of what may have been happening. Yes, majority of those who are indicted in the anti-corruption war are in the senate and in other spheres of life. Senate will do its work, which is making laws. Confirmation of an appointee is part of the functions of the senate and they cannot for personal reasons override national assignments. Magu was not rejected. He was not even interviewed. What the senators said was that there was a security report and on the basis of that, they will not interview him. In other words, they will not confirm him. In my own way, if I were there, I would have asked Magu questions on what the DSS report said so as to hear his own side of the story but they didn’t. But it is in their own wisdom. They said they are sending him back to Mr. President. The president, on his part can send him back to the senate for confirmation. If you can recall, former president Olusegun Obasanjo sent Babalola Borisade to the senate for confirmation as minister. The senators rejected but Obasanjo re-sent his name three times. So, the president can send Magu or any other person he deems fit as many times as he wants and the senate can return the names as many times as they want. But as long as Magu is there and the president does not have any information to the contrary, he can remain acting chairman for as long as the president wants.
What is your take on the planned Mega party that will be formed in mid 2017?
The planned formation of a mega party is a storm in a tea cup. It is not like an ocean that is rising and is filling the whole of Victoria Island. It is just like a little water that pours off. Do you know what it means to form a party not to talk of mega party? For instance, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had to dissolve itself; Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) had to dissolve itself; and the All Nigerian Peoples (ANPP) had to dissolve itself for us to have APC. So, there is nothing like ACN anymore, there is nothing like CPC anymore and there is nothing like ANPP anymore. So, if anybody is saying he wants to form a party, it is not possible for you to return to CPC. But you can have CPC by starting all over again through the unit, ward, local state, regional and national levels. Who has the money to do that? APC is the national party today and has patronage. That is what PDP has for 16 years. Those talking of forming a mega party will not get anywhere. They can be regional. I don’t see anybody who can start a party in the South west and then move to the South East and from there to the North and have a national following that can get up to 2 percent of the population of APC. It is not easy.
But the proponents of the mega party are already linking prominent members of your party such as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to this move. What is your take on that?
Those mentioning Tinubu’s name don’t know what they are saying. They don’t know Tinubu at all. I cannot defend former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar for the simple reason that he has been in PDP, AC, he went back to PDP and now in APC. So, because of that type of movement, people think he is going to leave the APC. I don’t know if he will leave the APC but I know for sure that Tinubu will never leave the APC for any mega party. Tinubu and Buhari are basically the owners of APC because they groomed, and supported the APC through their respective national chairmen. Tony Momoh in CPC, Bisi Akande in ACN and Ogbonnaya Onu in ANPP. These people midwife the APC and I don’t think someone like Bisi Akande can be told to leave APC for one mega party today and he will listen. I also don’t see Tinubu or Buhari leaving the party they so much labored to build which is now the ruling party for a non- existent mega party. You think anybody in his right mind will leave the centre, the ruling party for . is it PDP that will form a mega party? PDP has lost the centre and it can only collapse. It can’t rise again.
What is your take on the agitation by some youths in the South East for the realisation of Biafra?
They have the right to protest as any other group has the right to protest because that is their own reaction to what they considered as injustice. But the fact is protest has a limitation. There is what they call free speech plus. If in exercising your freedom of speech you punch my nose, that’s where your freedom ends and if people say they are expressing themselves and start destroying peoples’ car, there is a burden set up to ensure people are free. Those cars you destroyed, those building you scattered, those people you killed – did they wrong you? So, in doing what you do, ensure you do it in accordance with the law. All over the world, people protest but you don’t molest people when you are protesting because if you do, you have no right to the freedom you claim.