Former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh has said that nothing is wrong with the North aspiring to contest the 2023 presidential election. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he made recommendations on what should be President Muhammadu Buhari’s priority in his second term in office.
The talking point in Nigeria today is about the resurgence of killings; you will agree with me that the situation is becoming scary and seems to have defied all solutions; what is really happening?
Anybody who has life in himself will be worried and anybody who lives in an environment where a life is lost will be unhappy about that type of situation. But there are some people who enjoy killing; some of them go robbing banks and they go home celebrating and drinking brandy and whiskey while others are crying. So, human beings should have a feeling for what happens around them and to others. In Nigeria, we have had a lot of problems with securing the country and a country that is not secure cannot grow. So, throughout and over time, we have had disagreements between farmers and herders; we have had disagreements between people who own lands and those who think that the land belongs to them; we have had disagreements in market places and so on and so forth. What is happening now especially is an outcome of the political brigandage that has been associated with what we have made of politics in Nigeria. Politics is a business and we are ruthless business men. Elections are over now, and what is happening? Those who lost the elections, and had hundreds of people they armed have obviously abandoned them and the people are on their own. So, we cannot deny that the elite are responsible for our situation in Nigeria today. This is because the persons who are holding guns are kidnapping people, robbing people and snatching vehicles. All these people are not in a position to buy guns but they are the victims in the supply chain. It is a problem which is national that Nigeria should really tackle and nobody should fold his hands and say we have given up like the governor of Zamfara wanted to do. And we are overwhelmed by porous borders which are open and people easily come through. Incidentally, it is a situation that is worldwide. The world is experiencing big troubles that they cannot explain, and that is another area but that is all part of ignorance and lack of resolution of the workings of nature. So, we have problems that we must tackle. For instance, you cannot say that the police, army can do it; we have a population of about 200 million people now. How many police men have we? About 65 per cent of that population is rural and under the control of traditional institutions. What recognition have we given these traditional institutions in the political arrangements that we have in Nigeria? Every politician wants traditional titles and rushes to the traditional rulers for titles but in the order of precedence, we do not even mention the traditional ruler until we have mentioned the chairman of Council, councillor and so on. So, we need proper rearrangement of the polity so that it can be governable. I think that our political structures do not provide for governability.
There is a trending report that the Federal Government has offered to give the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) a whopping N100 billion to assist it in the fight against criminality and banditry. Do you believe it is in the right direction and what do you think is the implication of that kind of proposal?
As a journalist, how can you ask me a question that you have not verified and that you know is not true? How can the Federal Government that has the monopoly of security and its agencies go and negotiate with Miyetti Allah or any other group at all to provide security? You know that cannot be true. So, why are you asking me to comment on what obviously is not true?
With the state of the nation today, how do you feel when people talk about who will succeed President Buhari in 2023 when his second term is yet to kick off? Do you think such should preoccupy people especially now?
There is politics of desperation and people can even talk about what will happen in 2050. In 2003, I was the media director of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme campaign. There was a proposal that Ekwueme and Atiku should run together but Atiku was the running mate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, it later turned out that Atiku agreed to run with Obasanjo and that proposal for an Ekwueme/Atiku ticket could not happen. And immediately Atiku and Obasanjo won in 2003, there was a delegation from Adamawa to Obasanjo even when they were yet to be sworn in, that the former president should support his vice (Atiku) for the 2007 presidential election. Like I said, they had not even been sworn in after the 2003 election. They had a right to do that. I was doing point of order in Vanguard that time, ‘Democracy Watch’ and I wrote that the first victim of Obasanjo’s return would be Atiku. That was because Obasanjo knew what he went through before Atiku agreed to run with him. It seemed to have been parallel presidency between 1999-2003. So, after they returned, Obasanjo said there was only one presidency and even refused to fund Atiku’s role in the presidency and you know the outcome. Atiku later failed to get the presidential ticket of the PDP and later went to join another party. So, it was exactly what I said; that Atiku would be the first victim of Obasanjo’s second term. Between 2003 and 2007, both of them were just fighting. So, people can discuss what they want to discuss but let me tell you, people could say they want to even rule for 300 years but practically, they know it is not possible. Let those who want to talk, continue to talk.
What is your view on the position of some prominent people in the North that power would still remain in the region(North) after President Buhari’s tenure in 2023?
Have they no right to say so? I spoke about freedom of expression. Have they no right to say where power would go to. Even when they say we would give power to a particular area, is it always the case? When power was zoned to the South West in 1999, was it only the South West that contested for the presidency? Many people contested election. I was Ekwueme’s media campaign director. He was not from South West and he contested the 1999 presidential election. Other people contested. Nwobodo, and I think even Okorocha contested. Abubakar Rimi contested. If you say you are giving a particular position to one part of the country, anybody could get up and say no, I do not agree. The constitution did not stop anybody to contest because of a political arrangement by a political party or group. So, if they say the position of the president is going to the South in 2003, it is only a political party that could do so. Remember, about 90 political parties are there and they can say they want to pick their own candidate from any part of the country. It is political sophistry for someone to pick a political candidate from somewhere the votes would come from. You cannot deny that.
With the challenges facing the country, what kind of faces are you expecting to see in the incoming President Buhari’s cabinet?
Nigerians should expect Nigerians and not foreigners to be ministers. Nigerians should expect Buhari to be more all-inclusive in choosing the people he would work with. Nigerians should expect Buhari to know those he is choosing more than those he chose the last time. Nigerians should expect Buhari to look and cast his net wider than he did in the first tenure. Nigerians expect Buhari to be more of his own man but not that he has not been his own man. He should ensure that corruption is tackled more frontally, to ensure that economy is addressed and for security to be more effectively tackled. Those are the key areas. And all those people who are running after him to London and everywhere, he will not give them anything, I can assure you.
Many were surprised when you were quoted as having kicked against the imposition of leadership on the 9th National Assembly; don’t you think it is working against the interest of your party which made it clear that they want some particular candidates to lead the incoming legislature?
You know you reporters want to report what you want and in the perspective you want it. What I said is that talking about party supremacy, it is more credible, critical and effective in a parliamentary system of government where even the Chief Executive, like the Prime Minister, is a member of the parliament. But in a presidential system, there is division and separation of power. The organs have powers assigned to them by the people in whom the sovereignty lies. You have the legislature which makes laws while the executive implements laws made by the legislature and you have the judiciary which is the body packaged to interpret the laws. Once you share powers among the three of them, each one becomes a body that is imbued with its internal running; how it runs its own affairs. But in a presidential system, all the parties in the National assembly have binding and magnetic roles on themselves in protecting their powers; and protecting their powers in the legislature may override party supremacy. I said members of the incoming National assembly should all consult one another rather than using the party. I was not disobeying my party; I was only interpreting the situation.
What do you think should be President Buhari’s priority when he commences his second term in office?
He has roles to play which are spelt out in the constitution; in the Oath of allegiance to the federal Republic. The Oath of allegiance settles what he would do as president. What is there is in the seventh schedule of the constitution and they would be his priority.