* Says APC will sweep the polls this time around.
* Reveals that Buhari refused to execute past leaders in 1984 like Ghana’s Rawlings
Prince Tony Momoh is a former Minister for Information and a founding member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with Michael Uchebuaku, he talks about Buhari’s wealth of knowledge and experience in governance and the financial and other negative factors that caused his defeat in 2011. He asserts that the APC will emerge victorious this time around.
Some people say that the former members of the ACN and PDP have completely taken over the APC, leaving very little role for former CPC and APGA members like you and Governor Rochas Okorocha. Is it true that you have been sidelined?
There is only one party, the APC. You do not say you want to look at people who came into the party before the party became a party. There were over 100 groups that came together to form the PDP. The G34 were there and other groups. There were many groups that came together to form the APC, like the CPC, the ANPP the ACN, and a faction of APGA. If you want to analyze APC through those constituent parts, you will be making a mistake. Do you remember the five governors that came in later from the PDP, and then Abubakar Atiku and PDM that came in too?
So APC is a party that came into being through applying to be a party. They made a constitution and a manifesto. So all those individual political associations that came together to form the APC have no existence anymore. So there is no CPC anymore because all those individual groups that came together as a group to form the APC had their certificates withdrawn. So I don’t understand what you mean by former CPC members being sidelined.
What role are you performing now in the APC?
I don’t have to perform any role. But the fact is, if you look at the leadership groups, the legacy chairmen are highly recognized. If you go to any APC meeting or caucus meeting, you will see that the legacy chairmen, that is, the former leaders of the CPC, ACN, ANPP and other groups that came together to form the APC have a role they play.
Even all the former chairmen of political parties like Audu Ogbeh, Baraje, etc, who even came from PDP, and Governors like Okorocha who came from APGA, they are all there and they are in leadership positions.
We have an elected National Executive Commitee, National Working Committee, caucus. There are 14 organs in the APC and four other organs, making a total of 18 organs. All these structures are in place and I attend all the meetings apart from National Working Committee meeting. Ogbonnaya Onu who was the former chairman of ANPP and Bisi Akande formally of the ACN attend all the meetings. So we are not sidelined.
Buhari has acknowledged that some human rights abuses took place during his time in office as Head of State. Some people say he should apologize for them. Do you think Buhari should apologize for all those human rights abuses instead of merely acknowledging or admitting that they took place?
What do you mean by human rights abuses in a military regime? The first duty of a military regime is to suspend the lawmaking arm of a democratically elected government, and that is what happens everywhere. And do you know that during the 80s only a few African countries were not under military rule and lots of former leaders were executed, like in Ghana.
In Nigeria, instead of executing former leaders, the military government that came in and which was headed by Buhari, in its wisdom set up a military tribunal to pacify the junior officers who wanted them executed.
Unlike Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Buhari refused to execute former Nigerian leaders.
What I am saying is that a military regime obviously affects the human rights of its citizens but now we are in a democracy and anybody who wants to hold office will do so by obeying the laws or abiding by the provisions in the constitution. But that time there was a constitution, only that the constitution was amended and suspended certain powers that the legislature exercised. And then the Armed Forces Ruling Council took over. So I don’t even know what people are talking about apologizing for that time. Buhari’s government didn’t break any law, only that the laws were stringent.
Some say Buhari performed well at that time because he was a dictator or military head of State, but being placed as a democratically elected president he may not perform well because of the nature of democratic structures and due process. In other words, they say he performed or succeeded only because he was a military man. What is your take on this? Do you think Buhari can still succeed or perform as well using the present democratic instruments?
You see, the buck stops on the desk of the president. Even though Buhari was the head of State, the fact is that at that time, the lawmaking arm was the Supreme Military Council. They had the powers to make laws which the Head of State had to execute. It is just like the National Assembly making laws which President Goodluck Jonathan has to execute. That is how it is.
Buhari followed the due process of executing an amended constitution during his time as a military Head of State. Under this democratic dispensation, he will also follow the due process of executing the provisions of the constitution. Now, this man who operated as a former military Head of State is the same man who has gone to court in 2003, 2007, and 2011. He operated under the laws of dictatorship that time, and this time he is operating under the laws of democracy. Awolowo and Buhari have contributed to the enriching of electoral laws more than any other person in the history of Nigeria.
Awolowo went to court once and said he won’t go again. Buhari has gone to court three times. He has contested three times. And he followed due process three times. Tell me, who can be more law abiding? Tell me of any politician who has ever beaten this record of Buhari in going to court.
Why did Buhari have to go to Chatham House in far-away UK to give a lecture on why he wants to be president, instead of participating in the locally scheduled presidential debate?
Is the presidential debate the only way you reach out to the people? If you look at the makeup of the reach out, you will see that you reach out to people who will vote for you. Out of 36 states, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) has visited 35. It is only Yobe that he has not visited. He has held town hall meetings with different groups namely labour, students, petty traders and so on and so forth. If not for the postponement of the election, it was part of his reach out Programme to reach out to our international friends in the US, South Africa, Germany and other places. As part of his campaign reach-out strategy, Buhari was meeting ambassadors and other interests inside Nigeria.
Are they saying that it was wrong for Buhari to go to Chatham House and that the only way for him to reach out is through presidential debate? He has had interviews on radio, television and newspapers. Going to Chatham House was part of his Programme of meeting people inside and outside the country. Has our president not been to U.S., UK, South Africa, Germany and other places before? Who questioned him for going to those places?
And concerning the debate, Buhari didn’t say he wasn’t interested in the debate. What he said was about the people organizing the debate. In the view of the party (APC), the people organizing the debate were not independent enough.
Look at for instance some of our TV and radio stations, the kind of things they carry about the man (Buhari). They distort the facts. They distorted the facts in their documentaries and other things they broadcast about Buhari. You and I know that in journalism facts are sacred. For example, they said that it was Buhari who expelled foreigners from Nigeria, when they know that it wasn’t Buhari. It was during the time of Shagari. They said it was Buhari who took Nigeria to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and they know it wasn’t Buhari. They said that the woman called Gloria Okon was executed by Buhari, when they know that it wasn’t during the time of Buhari but during the time of Babangida and that the woman in question wasn’t even executed. The woman they say was executed is a woman whom I am told even had children after her so-called execution and is still living.
All these facts are there but they still went ahead to distort the facts in order to portray Buhari as a wicked person, as if Buhari is not the one who refused to devalue the Naira; the one who refused to take IMF loan. Buhari is the one who strengthened the Naira is such a way that one naira was equivalent to one dollar and 50 cents.
Buhari was the one who refused to reduce the (federal) workforce by sacking workers. He refused in the interest of Nigeria. Buhari was the one who introduced the queue culture and environmental sanitation, the only two things that Nigerians follow today. When they told Buhari to come and borrow, he refused to borrow any money from any international institution in the interest of Nigeria. Even the debts Nigeria was owing at that time, he worked out a system to pay them and he was paying them. Under Buhari, there was nothing like non-payment of teachers’ salaries. He paid all these things. But some people don’t see all these good things he did, they just want to portray him as a wicked person that was killing people and so on and so forth.
We now produced materials to counter what they said about Buhari and streamline what he did, but the station refused to take them. According to the station, they refused to take our materials because of orders from above. So what kind of country is this? So the party decided that he shouldn’t take part in the so-called debate. There are other fora that he took part in.
And let me tell you, there is nobody who can beat Buhari in a debate. Why? Because experience is the best teacher. He has lived in all the geo-political zones in Nigeria, working. He has lived in Port Harcourt, Enugu, Awka, Jos, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Kano, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Benin, etc; during his career in the military. And he commanded three of the four divisions of the Nigerian Army. This was a man who during the civil war, captured Biafran soldiers and gave them food and released them to go back to Biafra. Didn’t you read what a Pastor wrote on Buhari? This is a man whose workers are Christians. This is a man who worked in the military and never did anything to undermine the interest of Nigeria. All they (PDP) do is insult the personality of Buhari in their campaigns, but Buhari is a man who has never insulted anybody or used any negative word against anybody throughout his campaign.
General Buhari is a very mature man and he can speak from experience. If you wake him up, he can speak from experience on any issue in Nigeria. He was our petroleum minister for three years and supervised the building of refineries. He supervised the laying of miles of petroleum pipelines that we have today. Nobody has that experience in Nigeria that can defeat him in any debate.
He is not a dunce, but the people who are trying to portray him as a wicked person say he has no certificate and all sorts of things. They even say that he or his wife is not a Nigerian. What sort of thing is this? Is it because somebody is contesting an election?
How do you assess the media coverage so far, of the campaigns of the two leading candidates and their parties?
The media is a business, so if you bring an advertisement and pay, it will be published. They earn money from such advertisements.
But there is something called editorial consideration for anything you publish. If someone writes libel and you publish it, you cannot say that the man indemnified you, because the decision to indemnify is between you who published what someone has brought, not the person who brought it.
So someone it affects will sue you independently of what arrangement you had with the man who brought the advert and said he would indemnify you. That is what many people don’t understand.
Concerning your professional judgement as a professional, under Chapter Two of the Constitution, you have an obligation to monitor governance. The person who owns the medium has a responsibility under Section 39 of the Constitution to inform people who are willing to be informed.
They say that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. But under Chapter Two of the Constitution the obligation of the media to monitor governance on behalf of the people is clear. So, many of the things that they (PDP) put in the media are so distasteful that many people don’t even tune to those stations. So the adverts they are inflicting on the people is like a punishment. That is why when many people see such adverts they just switch off their minds to them. It touches on the professional image of the media, because the media wants to earn money by selling space. But those who watch are the ones who give your station pass mark or failure. And I can assure you that many of our own people who read newspapers, listen to radio or watch TV have a very negative impression of how some of our newspapers, radio stations and television stations are performing. And I can assure you that after the election, many of such media will die. It happened in 1983. You know, between 1979 and 1983 there were many political publications and they died when the military came back because they couldn’t sustain themselves anymore without such political patronage.
The economy is on the brink and the naira is now exchanging at N227 to a dollar. Many believe that President Goodluck Jonathan has failed woefully in managing the economy. Do you think Buhari will perform better than President Jonathan on the economy?
Do you know that all that is happening is as a result of indiscipline. Buhari will instill discipline and I can assure you that things will be streamlined faster than you think. For example, states are not being paid their money. They receive about 40 percent less than their allocation. Civil servants are being owed their salaries while Jonathan and his campaign team are sharing money. One of my relations in Abule-Ijesha is a petty trader. Her share of the money they gave them in Lagos was N50, 000. She doesn’t get up to N10, 000 a month in return for her business, yet they gave her N50, 000. This is the money they brought for market women to share in Lagos. Imagine! How can all these be happening in this country? Some people were given millions, like some pastors of churches.
They gave 400 pastors in Edo state money. Imagine, 400 pastors in Edo state shared money; some got N50, 000, some N700, 000 and some even got N2m. Yet, workers are being owed.
How can you give public money to institutions, to compromise institutions? They are spending dollars. They are distributing public money even when workers are being owed their salaries.
When Buhari comes, you know what Buhari would do. During the APC primaries, Buhari said that he has no naira or dollar to give anybody, and that even if he has, he won’t give you.
When we were in CPC someone brought 10 buses as our campaign buses and asked Buhari: “What is there for me if you get there?” And Buhari said: “I have my own pension. That is the only thing that belongs to me. If I get there, what is there belongs to the people and I can’t give it to anybody or promise to give it to anybody outside due process.” After hearing Buhari’s reply, the man took away his 10 buses.
So I’m talking of discipline. The example you set in Nigeria is what Nigerians follow. If people bring Ghana-must-go money to you everyday, one day your messenger will collect his share even before you hear of the matter. Nigerians buy property more than any other national anywhere.
They are saying that they cannot meet their obligations because the money they are getting from oil is now small. How much was the price of oil when Buhari was in charge? It was even below $20 a barrel. And when Buhari refused to borrow money from international institutions they even stopped giving Nigeria credit but they started doing trade by barter and the country was okay. There is enough money to go round in Nigeria. There is enough money to pay every unemployed person in Nigeria a stipend every month. But because those in power are not disciplined, money is not made available even to pay workers’ salaries. They say there is no money, yet they go about distributing public money, even in dollars. It is because there is no discipline that the money does not go round.
So, once you restore discipline, money will be available to meet all our obligations as a country.
According to our manifesto in the APC, we will pay every unemployed person in Nigeria a stipend every month.
The PDP say that the APC is only trying to deceive Nigerians when they say they will create massive employment in their manifesto. How is the APC going to create jobs for Nigerian youths?
Do you know that agriculture is there? Less than 13 percent of all the land that is arable in Nigeria is farmed. Imagine able bodied Nigerians being sent to farms, being sent to mines. Oh, you will want to cry when you see how the youths are wasting away in Nigeria. Imagine more than 600,000 people go into a stadium and are dying there (the botched up Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment exercise in 2014).
You make them pay N1, 000 first for a form and another N500 for a vest. And these people were in all the stadiums in Nigeria and about N6b was wasted on the exercise. Many people died and up till now those responsible have not been punished. Corruption everywhere! Abuses everywhere! And all these people are there unemployed. These are the people who want change. It is not just the APC who want change. If the APC now says it doesn’t want change, they will be stoned. And change must come.
I’m telling you that there are lots of opportunities for people to work. Okay look at SURE-P for example. SURE-P which is an opportunity, people are raiding the thing and pocketing the money meant for the Programme. Money will be released and the money would be stolen. Look, there has to be discipline.
Look at Nasarawa state for example. The former government said they could not pay N7, 500 a month as minimum wage and were borrowing N750million a month to meet that commitment.
But when Governor Tanko Al-makura got there and plugged all the loopholes, they now pay N18, 900 a month, without borrowing a kobo to do so. All you have to do in Nigeria is plug the loopholes. They brought water and light everywhere and paid all the debts of the former governor. That’s why Al-Makura is an icon now in Nasarawa state. Nigeria is filthy rich but people make us poor.
I can assure you that if Buhari is elected today, even before swearing in, corruption will be reduced by at least 50 percent; because he is not a corrupt man. Discipline will be restored because he is a man of discipline. In Nigeria, we are looking for people who are disciplined, people who are honest, people who believe in the human person, that the human person must be developed.
You know, I sit down with Buhari in a car and he looks around and says: “Oh, look at all these children. They ought to be in school, but they are out here on the streets hawking. Look at them selling pure water.” And he bursts out crying. Oh, Nigeria is in a mess, but I can assure you that change will come.
Some people think Buhari instigated the political violence of 2011. How do you react to this?
That is not what I think. The federal government set up the Lemu Panel. And Lemu brought everybody together to make presentations. We went to make our presentations like everybody did, and at the end of the day, Lemu said that Buhari was not the one that instigated the violence and that he himself was a victim of violence because three of his vehicles were destroyed and some of his drivers were hospitalized.
So that was what the Lemu Panel discovered. Violence is a direct product of injustice.
What exactly went wrong for Buhari and the CPC in the 2011 presidential election? Was the election rigged, so people’s votes didn’t count?
Now you go and queue and then you vote. At the end of the day, the vote you cast is counted and then sent to a place for collation.
During that period of collation at the Ward level, at the Local Government level, at the State level, strange facts start emerging. They use a computer Programme to deduct everybody’s vote by 10 percent and 20 percent. And when you count manually and discover the difference, they now claim that it was a mistake, that there was 10 percent deduction across board. But 10 percent of 1.4 million is different from 10 percent of 100,000. So, what they did in 2011 was to ensure that general votes were reduced in the North, and that Buhari did not get 25 percent of votes anywhere in the South.
And even where Buhari had some votes, they removed the votes because we didn’t have money to put agents there. So the South-South and South-East were locked up for Jonathan and results were written up and announced.
That cannot happen now, because the South-South and South-East have been unbundled. We (the APC) have two states in the South-South (Edo and Rivers). In the South-East at least we have one state (Imo). So, even the so-called automatic ticket for Jonathan in the South-East is a problem now.
In the 2011 election, Buhari had less than 400,000 votes in the whole of the South. But now, it is going to be different. First, the South-West is a key zone in the APC. The North are mostly APC states. So tell me how APC can lose. They are jittery, that is why they are putting off the elections. But change must come.
Democracy is dependent on voting. Nobody can shortchange Nigerians. Nobody can postpone elections outside the constitutional provision for postponement. So, election must come. And when election comes, the votes will be counted and the votes must count. INEC must do its work because it is an agency of the people.
Unfortunately, at that time in 2011, there was no other group or opposition to look into the face of the ruling party and call its bluff. But now there is.
Is APC now bigger than PDP?
Yes, we are bigger than PDP. I saw the president the other day on television saying that PDP is bigger and that it has representation in all the polling units. He doesn’t know that there is no Polling Unit Organization in PDP. Only APC has a Polling Unit Organization and I want to tell you that we have generated at least a hundred people in each polling unit. For 120,000 polling units across the country, that is 12 million people which we first generated before we started populating our organs, 14 organs. And now we are bigger than PDP. In other words, our presence in polling units all over Nigeria is more in total than that of PDP.
We even have polling unit agents who are natives of the polling units.
So election is a very serious thing. PDP had wanted to stop APC. But they have to face APC with issues, and it’s too late now to stop the APC. The APC is going to sweep the election. We will win.
Do you support the removal of the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, like President Jonathan’s supporters desire?
Look, there are only four ways in which Jega can be removed or Jega can go. One, through death. If they don’t want Jega, let them kill him. Two, except he resigns, but I can assure you he won’t resign. Three, he can be removed through you filing a complaint to the Senate that he is guilty of misconduct. And with 2/3 (two-third) majority the Senate can remove him. Four, his tenure can end. But his tenure has not ended, so how do you remove him? So people just talk as if we are not a country. We should be a country of laws, not just a country with laws.
A country of laws is a country where there is due process and everyone is equal before the law. A country with laws is a country where there are so many laws and people are arbitrary in obeying the laws. The law exists more in the breach than in observance. INEC should not take orders from anybody in doing their job. All the institutions will do their job. The police will do their job. Even the military that they say are used to rig elections will have to do their job on that day because they now know that they are agents of the people. But I don’t believe that police cannot cope.