Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information and one of the national leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) speaks on the calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign, US travel ban and other issues. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI brings the excerpts:
Senate Minority leader Eyinnaya Abaribe last week called for the immediate resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari following the escalating security challenges in the country. He also said APC leaders said they should stone them, making reference to what you said that ‘Stone us if we did not perform in two years’. What is your reaction to this?
I have always said that people are entitled to their opinions. Abaribe is entitled to his opinions as the Minority Leader in the senate. It will be very embarrassing if he did not find anything to say on an issue that is a problem in the country. Insecurity is a problem and the opposition should tackle the government in power. I don’t grudge Abaribe at all for saying what he said. As for stoning APC leaders which he mentioned, he doesn’t know what stoning means. Yes, I said ‘stone us if we don’t perform’ but the issue is ‘Did we not perform’? We have performed. We have done more than PDP did in 16 years.
You mean APC has done more than PDP even in the area of fighting insecurity?
If you build the army, empower and fund the police, develop infrastructures and create jobs for the teeming youths in the country, will there be this insecurity as we have now? There is massive unemployment in the country. Thousands of people are qualified for jobs, but the jobs are not available. How many people did PDP lift out of poverty during their 16 years in power? Everybody is impoverished because of stealing of our resources. Stealing is a culture in PDP and when you steal, the money you have stolen is diverted from where it is meant to grow the polity. Many roads that were budgeted for were not built. In the South- East, they have been giving their votes to PDP since 1999. But what did they do for them in the area of infrastructures? How many Ministers have we had from the South-East and what did they do about the Enugu airport? The Enugu- Onitsha road, what did they do about it? Also look at the Second Niger bridge, what did they do? If they had done any of these roads, there will be less to do for the Buhari government. So, we are addressing all the problems that PDP would have solved. PDP sowed the seeds of insecurity in Nigeria today and whatever you sow grows and bears fruits. If they had done rail lines in 16 years, will Buhari be doing rail lines today? If they had fixed Lagos- Ibadan expressway, will we be working on that today? We started from scratch when we came in in 2015 because PDP failed to do what they were supposed to do.
How best do you think this insecurity challenge can be addressed?
Insecurity is as a result of unemployment. People went to school, are qualified to work but there are no jobs. What do you expect them to do? If you decongest the political space, things will change for the better. But you cannot do that except all of us coming in agreement that we should do it. The centre is too powerful and so we must reduce the powers at the centre, move them to the federating units but people are afraid of doing that because they all want to occupy offices. With all the Buhari administration has done since 2015, trying to empower people, tackling corruption, attending to the economy that went into recession, Nigerians should berest assured that this insecurity challenges will be dealt with. Buhari is not keeping quiet about it.
Should President Buhari heed Abaribe’s call to resign?
Why should he resign? He should resign because the Senate Minority Leader asked him to? It is a freedom of expression and anybody can tell anybody to resign. I can tell US President, Donald Trump to resign for killing the Iranian General, Soleimani. The issue is, will he listen to me and resign? There is a procedure for the President to leave office. He is not going to resign as Abaribe has demanded. He was elected by Nigerians and he will be in office till 2023. In the past when insecurity was at its highest we called on Jonathan to resign, did he resign? It is just freedom of expression.
What is your take on the travel ban on Nigeria by the United States?
The United States as an independent country is a superpower. The US President made it clear that it is ‘America First’. So, the United States sees the world from America eyes and the interest they have in the world is the interest of America. The truth of the matter is that America does not owe any other country of the world any reason; it is what is in its own national interest that it pursues. It looks at every other country from America eyes, through America windows. It decides what is in American interest and what is not. Looking at the world with the problems all over, if there are areas in the world that America believes is not safe for its citizens, it will issue the type of directives it has issued. Whether what they say is true or not, that is the American point of view. So, they have a right to determine who enters their country or not. If you want people to rush into your country, you create an environment of peace, tranquility and serenity. Why is it that almost everybody today wants to go to Dubai? If your country is a destination for tourism and business, people will readily come. How many people today want to go to Afghanistan or Syria? With all that we have in Nigeria today such as kidnappings, a lot of people don’t feel safe even if some of these things are exaggerated. People don’t perceive Nigeria to be safe and so America can advise its citizens not to come here while placing restrictions on our citizens who want to go there.
Don’t you think the travel ban is an indictment on Buhari?
It is an indictment on Buhari to the extent that the bulk stops on his desk. It is an indictment on Nigeria but since the bulk stops on Buhari’s desk; then one can say that it is an indictment on Buhari. When Jonathan was President, it was an indictment on him. When Obasanjo was there, an indictment on Nigeria is an indictment on Obasanjo. If for instance, if they had not shared the money meant for fighting insurgency like they did under PDP government, it wouldn’t have built up to where it is now. If we had equipped our police and army over the years, we wouldn’t be working as if we are just trying to build an army today. So, America is right by banning Nigeria. A lot of other countries can also ban Nigeria just as we can also place a ban on citizens of other countries coming here if we believe that their actions are inimical to the peace and development of our country.