Former Minister of Information and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, believes that President Muhammadu Buhari’s delegation of powers to his lieutenants does not mean that he has lost control of his government. He also speaks in this interview on the performance of the APC administration, FELIX NWANERI reports
The All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government would soon be two years in office. How would you assess the administration against the backdrop that you once said that Nigerians should stone APC leaders if the party failed to perform after two years?
Yes, I said so. I said if APC does not perform. In fact, the interview where I made the statement is still on my website. I said if things did not go as usual, I am quite sure we will perform by 2019. I also granted another interview, where I said if in two years we do not perform, we should be stoned.
Though it is not yet two years that this government was sworn-in, I am telling you that we cannot be stoned because we have performed. To me, President Muhammadu Buhari has performed creditably well. To some others, even if the people of Mars said the president has performed, I know of others in Nigeria, who will still not agree that the president has performed. So, I am confidently saying that as at now, nobody can say Buhari has not performed and this is before the end of his first two years in office.
We promised to secure Nigeria, we also said that we will stabilise the country through infrastructural development and then prosperity will emerge. So, the area of campaign were tackling insecurity, fighting corruption and also reviving the economy.
In the area of insecurity, there were 14 local governments under the control of Boko Haram in Borno State. As things were going, if Buhari had not been elected president, by now, many of us would have run away or died because Boko Haram would have taken over Abuja.
Today, where is Boko Haram? It is obvious that Boko Haram is finished. Gone are the days where they will decimate a whole village and hoist their flags. So, in the area of security, nobody can say that we have not performed. In the area of corruption, nobody can say that we have not tried.
The fear of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) today is the beginning of wisdom for corrupt people. Everybody who has anything to hide is jittery of the EFCC, if not on the run. On the economy, nobody can now say Nigeria solely depends on oil.
Everybody now sees agriculture emerging. People are now going to the farm. In fact, many of the farmers today are smiling to the banks. Another thing that people are not looking at is what is happening in the South- East. I am confidently saying that a lot of our votes in 2019 will come from the South-East.
Then, Enugu- Onitsha road was not addressed for the four years that Goodluck Jonathan was there. Enugu-Port Harcourt road was also not addressed. They were singing songs about Second Niger Bridge, not much was done. The erosion sites were all neglected. Now, these issues are being addressed.
Many leaders in the South-East are seeing what APC is doing and are now moving in droves to party to help galvanise support for it. So, we are performing and I am saying nobody can say they want to stone us if they are real in their assessment in the area of security, anti-corruption war and the economy.
You said the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom. What do you make of the rejection of the Acting Chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, by the Senate for a second time even after President Buhari has given him a clean bill of health?
All these are areas of lack of understanding. The Senate, whether we like it or not, is to do the confirmation of those that the constitution says should be confirmed by the Senate – ministers, ambassadors, judges etc. But those not to be confirmed by the Senate are those the president can appoint for himself.
The constitution shares power among the organs of government: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. So, if you want to know the limit of your power, you go to the constitution and point to the section that grants you that power. Specifically on Magu, if the Senate refuses to confirm him that does not mean the powers of the president to appoint is removed.
The Senate can refuse to confirm him 100 million times and the president can send the name to the Senate 100 million times. He can be acting EFCC chairman for 100, 000 years if he lives up to that time. So, there is no problem at all if we understand what we are supposed to do.
There is this belief that President Buhari has lost control of his government to a cabal, especially as regards the case of Magu, whom he nominated, but the Department of State Services (DSS), an agency under the Presidency is acting as a stumbling block. What do you make of this?
All these show how much interest there is in the affairs of EFCC. The commission is breaking bones right, left and centre and it is natural that some people will feel uncomfortable about that. If there is more than one report from the presidency on Magu, I have no hesitation to say it is indiscipline. But that doesn’t mean that the president has lost control.
Everybody who knows the president knows that he gives responsibilities and then gives you the authorisation. He is not those who will ask you to do something and will not give you the free hand to do it. That is his style of governance. During his time as military head of state, his second-in-command, the late Tunde Idiagbon was very visible but that doesn’t imply that Buhari was not in control because he was the one who gave Idiagbon the work he did.
The same thing is happening with Osinbajo today. Compare that to what happened between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar between 2003 and 2007. Buhari will always allow others to do the jobs assigned to them. There are some people who become envious because their subordinates are succeeding; not Buhari. Buhari doesn’t competing with his subordinates and will I tell you that nobody is competing with him. The loyalty to him is total.
What is the way out of the standoff between the Senate and the presidency given the rejection of his nominees for the position of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the lawmakers summoning of Prof. Itse Sagay to appear before them?
There is no stand-off between the presidency and the Senate. You know, all these things are routine in democracy. People may try to exceed their powers but the beauty of democracy is that you put them where they belong. What powers do they have to summon Prof. Sagay? People have been quoting Tony Momoh vs the Senate.
When I was the Editor of Daily Times, the National Assembly invited me because we wrote something in the Grapevine Column titled ‘MPs, Senators and Cards.’ We said that some elected people should behave to sustain the image of that height because some of them will go to banks to seek loans.
When they ask them for collateral, they will bring complimentary cards. They were not many that do this, but few. So, we pointed to this that they should be called to order. They became angry and started debating Tony Momoh and said I should come to tell them who among them were doing so. I told them I won’t come and I went to court that the invitation be quashed because the Sergeant-at- Arms has the powers of the Commissioner of Police.
So, Prof. Sagay was right when he said they have no powers to summon him?
Of course! Why should they summon him? He has freedom of speech, so he can say what he likes. If anybody is angry, then they should take him to court. How can they ask him to appear before them? That is not their power. The power to call people for adjudication belongs to the judiciary. You can’t be a judge in your own case.
Will you advise the president to run in 2019 given his current state of health? Am I the one to advise him?
The president is entitled to two terms and then he defeated all other candidates in the primaries and his ticket to run between 2015 and 2019 was not negotiated. If he had said he will only do one term, then one can start discussing whether he should seek re-election or not. The man is elected until 2019. At that time, God willing, he will express his intention. In 2011, he said he wasn’t interested anymore but a lot of people pushed him to be interested and he ran. So, even if he says he is not interested in 2019 now, by that time, people will push him to be interested. And based on his performance, I don’t think even if he wants to go, people will allow him to go.
As a chieftain of APC, Are you happy with the way the affairs of as a party APC is being run?
Absolutely no because there are lots of problems in running a party, you can’t run a party without money. All the governors ought to be paying something every month, all the elected members ought to be paying something every month, all political appointees ought to be paying something every month to run the party.
But how much have they paid? You can’t run the party without money. Who is going to fund the party? It is as simple as that. The party organs are all there, about 14 to 18 party organs from polling units, through the wards to local government, state, geo-political level and then the national. All these are party men and they need to fund the party.
Look at the Edo and Ondo elections. How much did the party give? Once someone has the ticket, the party takes over. But APC has no money to take over. So, people just blame the party for nothing. Democracy is not child’s play. The key thing is money. The other one is organisation and you can’t organise without money.