Journalism icon, lawyer, former minister and now politician, 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 three parties that merged to form the All Progressives Congress, APC. He is presently a member, Board of Trustees, BoT of the APC. Prince Momoh, the Yerima of Auchi Kingdom, in an interview last Wednesday ahead of his 77th birthday, spoke on the formation of APC, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the government’s plans for the country, former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba and the APC, among other salient issues.
By Henry Umoru
How is your party, it appears the honey moon is over?
There is nothing like honeymoon when you are talking of party alliances, but I don’t know what honeymoon you would be talking about in ACN as regards its own membership or the PDP or the CPC and even the ANPP. These could be alliances if they came together and agreed to run an election together, but what we have now, which had never happened in the history of Nigeria is a merger; three political parties dissolved themselves to come together in a political party and in dissolving themselves they became a political association, which applied to INEC to be registered as a political party.
So everybody in APC became a member of APC as an individual not as a group, the three chairmen that drafted the merger, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (ANPP), Bisi Akande of ACN and Tony Momoh of CPC were the major leaders and at the apex were Buhari and Tinubu. If you look at this group, there is nothing like CPC any more, there is nothing like ACN any more and there is nothing like ANPP any more
Even those who came into the party about the same time or after the merger came in as individuals. The five governors didn’t come in as governors of the PDP, they came in as individuals. Saraki came in with 11 senators or left PDP with 11 senators, but they didn’t come in as a group to APC, they came in as individuals. Atiku came in as an individual so I, as a CPC former leader denounced my membership and registered as a member of APC in my polling unit and so with every other person.
Do you still stand by your claim that you should be stoned if the APC government fails given mutterings here and there?
Yes I said so, I even gave the time; I said within two years. Let me tell you, Buhari was the only military leader, who commanded three of the four divisions of the Nigerian Army.
Prosperity is not manna that fell from heaven that God ordained for the Israelites in Egypt. Even when they had left Egypt and gotten to Canaan there was no way manna could fall from heaven because they had opportunity to till the land and grow their food.
The ‘hitting the ground running’ people talk about, you can hit the ground running where you have a beautiful field, a road that is tarred, but where you have the whole ground is mined, you don’t even have shoes like Jonathan who when he was going to school had no shoes, the first step you take you will be to blow up and remove those mines.
Every inch and trace of the mine must be treated and then stabilize it through infrastructural development. That is the step Buhari is taking and for instance, nobody can deny that in one year that we have achieved a fundamental mindset; that is nobody now boasts at parties by throwing dollars.
But people say that the fight against corruption is propaganda as they are not seeing the money?
There is no single person in Nigeria today, who has a skeleton in his cupboard that doesn’t await the knocking of his door for an EFCC man or a security person coming to his house to ask questions. For the first time in a long time we whistle blowers are not afraid. Before, if you blew the whistle, the person you are blowing the whistle against will send a message to you and tell you ‘I will kill you if you do what you are about to do.’ In other words they had agents in every security outfit that told them who was blowing the whistle.
Buhari is being celebrated today because of his attitude towards many things; and let me tell you one thing; Buhari is not devoting his official time to fighting corruption. There is difference between when he was there as military head of state and today that he is there as elected president.
Greatest short cut
When he was there as military head of state, most of the politicians were sent to confront tribunals and tribunals jailed many of them for hundreds of years. Buhari hasn’t set up any group to investigate anybody or inquire into the resources anybody claims to own or resources that were diverted, no!
He only allowed the people in the security outfit to do their job. If EFCC had been allowed to do its job since 2001 or so, nobody will be quarrelling now, but the fact is the greatest short cut you needed was just to declare for PDP and once you declared for PDP, you were free, but the fact is anybody who had anything to do or say must do it or say it by answering his father’s name. You are not protected by belonging anywhere, if you have to answer your father’s name, you must answer your father’s name before the agencies.
He is being effective in a double sense, he doesn’t interfere with investigations and he does his own work as president; working from 6 am to 2 am the following day. You see the travels he has made. Everywhere he goes to, he is being celebrated and there was no one trip he made that was unnecessary. So I think so far so good.
On criticisms that the fight against corruption is targeted at those now in the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The fact is Tony Momoh was in CPC, is Tony Momoh being investigated? I wasn’t in government. What I am saying is those in APC today they all came from different places, I was a foundation member of PDP till 2003 when I was frustrated out because I supported Ekwueme as director. Lots of people who are in APC today were in PDP or ANPP or other parties so if you were in PDP and you are being tried today are you being prosecuted because you were in PDP or because you abused office?
What I am saying is that if they are PDP people or opposition people that are being harassed, are they being harassed in opposition or because while in government they abused office?
What of those who were in PDP who left to form the New PDP and then joined the APC?
There are whistle blowers, if people have anything against people who were PDP and are now in APC they should blow whistle and see whether they won’t be investigated.
On the prospects of a PDP senator emerging as Senate President if Senator Bukola Saraki is forced out?
It isn’t a threat to APC because the Senate always insists on producing its own president, so it is their internal affair. They can remove the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House as it has happened over the years. So it is not a big thing.
The assembly itself makes laws, so it isn’t a threat to the executive and we recognize that it is the Senate and House of Representatives that choose their leaders.
So, anybody that wants to be a leader can go there and campaign among his colleagues to be leader and that was what happened. So even if the party wanted someone other than Saraki to be president, Saraki has the right to campaign among his own people being a senator as well as the president of the Senate. In the House of Representatives the party’s choice was also over ruled by the majority of members but that doesn’t mean that Dogara isn’t a loyal member of APC or Saraki isn’t a loyal member of APC.
The National Assembly has its own power to elect its own officials to run the affairs of the National Assembly.
So, do you agree that Saraki is being prosecuted because he emerged as Senate President?
That is where I don’t buy the argument because the party didn’t sit down to say prosecute Saraki. The party didn’t take that decision. If you talk about what may have happened along the way of disagreement, why shouldn’t there be disagreement when we have people who have freedom to associate and the group we are talking about is the National Assembly.
Threat to the executive
The National Assembly has the right to choose who its leaders are and that doesn’t make them a threat to the executive. There was no day the party sat down and said go and punish Saraki, go and punish Dogara and so on and so forth.
His take on Chief Olusegun Osoba’s return to APC
As far as I am concerned, Segun never left APC with his whole heart. If Segun had wanted to leave APC, he would have gone to PDP not SDP.
I was in the committee that was set up to reconcile the interests in Ogun State. Segun was in control of all the members of the House of Representatives from Ogun State and the three senators and these people had issues that were raised and I was in the committee that listened to them and Segun had always said (in fairness to Segun) that he had no problem with the governor of Ogun State and it is the people he leads that have issues and he thinks for the issue to be addressed, we should be relating to those people.
We met these people and they stated their grievances. So, if for instance their grievances were not addressed, election was coming and they took a tactical move to be outside the party, they would have moved to PDP, but the fact is they didn’t move to PDP.
As far as I am concerned, we weren’t in a position to write off such a person and the plan had always been for Asiwaju and others to convince their own colleague as a governor and a political leader to come back to where he belongs.
What is the way out of the budget logjam?
A lot of people don’t understand presidential system, separation of power and division of powers. The National Assembly makes laws and it is an autonomous body and the supreme body in law making. The presidency executes laws and the law the executive executes is the law passed by the National Assembly. So they have their own personalities.
The National Assembly is comprised of elected members; whether APC or PDP or Labour or APGA they are elected members. Once they are there, they operate as a body and in the division of powers, you have the executive, judiciary and you have the legislature.
The legislature is a unit. You can’t over rule the decision of the unit, it makes laws, but the fact is the law must be assented to by the executive and if the executive refuses to assent to it, it goes back to the National Assembly.
National Assembly if it doesn’t want to compromise can pass the law by 2/3 majority and if it holds the law must be executed and passed by the executive, but it hasn’t gotten to that. We are talking of details in the budget and there are always processes between the National Assembly that makes laws and executive that executes laws. Don’t forget that even after that law has been made and it is being executed, the National Assembly has oversight functions to monitor how the law they passed is being executed so there is a symbiotic relationship between the two.
Those at the driving seat
As far as I am concerned, the National Assembly is exceeding its brief by wanting to impose on the executive the projects that the executive didn’t initiate. That is where I find what the National Assembly is doing is unacceptable, but the fact is that they can only dispose it.
What is your role in the government because your counterpart in ANPP was made a minister?
I was a minister at 46; on the 27th of April I marked my 77th birthday.
But Audu Ogbeh was a minister before you
Yes, he was a minister before me, but I am older than Audu Ogbeh and another thing is that Audu Ogbeh wasn’t one of those in the driving seat. I don’t see why anybody will want me to go and be a minister. Nine persons from CPC are ministers and I can reach anyone including any of the ministers, I can reach any of them. I don’t regret that I am not a minister because in fairness to me, I will not pursue a full time job now.
Do you relate very well with Mr. President?
Why not, I do and with other leaders of the party too.
What will you tell Governor Adams Oshiomhole and the aspirants in APC ahead of Edo State governorship election?
The fact is that issues in Edo state are being misunderstood. The governor is being accused of imposing a candidate. The governor can’t impose a candidate, but what seems to be happening is the accusation that the governor is sponsoring a candidate.
There is nothing wrong with sponsoring a candidate; the candidate must win the primaries. If the candidate wins the primaries, he becomes the flag bearer of APC. If any other aspirant wins the primaries because there are many aspirants and the governor says this is the man I want; that is the time we talk of imposition and he can’t do that, he has no power to do that.
Anybody who wins the primaries is the one we give the ticket to. So the issues in Edo State have been misunderstood. People are saying because he is the governor he shouldn’t be interested in who succeeds him, why not? Why shouldn’t he be interested in who succeeds him? But there are statutory delegates and other delegates who vote at the primaries that decide who is their flag bearer and the governor.
What will you tell Nigerians who are complaining?
The fact is I look at what is happening as a pregnant woman, who has pains in her waist, stomach, head and everywhere, but after nine months, delivers the baby and everybody celebrates. Nigeria is the only country in the world I know where democracy comes before development. I have never seen a country where there is democracy before development. What happens is you take that quantum of freedom in it to drive development, in other words your eyes are on development. For instance, we spend more than 80 percent of our earnings on current expenditure; we should not spend up to 20 percent.
What are your views on restructuring Nigeria?
I am talking personally now; I don’t see why the National Assembly and other lawmakers in state assembly should be full time. They should be part time. Like in the First Republic. I don’t even believe in executive government position, I think it should be parliamentary so that the party would be majority in the house and appoint the head of government instead of one man running round the place then being governor and then spending more than 80 percent of the expenditure and appointing those who failed primaries to be commissioners so that those who won primaries and are now members of the house of assembly go begging for contracts, it doesn’t make sense to me.
Welfare and security
We should cut our coat according to our cloth. Nigeria is 170 million, but we need money to grow Nigeria through infrastructural development. Government is there because of the welfare and security of the citizens and those who are in assemblies even from councillor to senators are there full time and doing their work full time, earning money full time.
Look at what is happening now, the money we would have used to grow Nigeria we are using it on about 17, 400 public officers in Nigeria and they take up more than half of the budget; it doesn’t make sense to me. So why should we eat the future in the present? That is what is happening now, the executive and the legislature and some of the judiciary.
The legislature and executive must cut the coat according our cloth and economically. For instance I am told that the fire department in USA in New York alone has more money voted for it than our own national budget. We are eating the future in the present. So I believe in restructuring, I also believe that the electoral process and arrangement in Nigeria should be revisited.
Published On May 2 2016, Vanguard Newspapers