A former Minister of Information and Culture, Prince Tony Momoh, in this interview, looks at the state of the nation, stating that Nigeria urgently needs state police to address the alarming security challenges. He also speaks on other contentious issues in the polity.
You were reported to have said that All Progressives Congress, APC, members should be stoned if the party fails to perform…
We have performed.
Anyone who wants to carry out the stoning may do so depending on where he
stands. If we hadn’t done anything, we wouldn’t have even won the general
elections. Our emphasis on agriculture created eight million jobs in the rice
area. Buhari had 12 million votes in 2003, in 2007 they gave him six million
votes and, in 2011, he had 12 million votes. Without a councillor in 2011,
without a member of the National Assembly, without a governor, we had 12
million votes in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Buhari is a
magnet and you can now see why they said he is Jubril. He was sick and they thought
he would die, but he didn’t. If he didn’t work hard, would he have won the
election? He is the only person among our leaders who wanted to rule Nigeria
and he ruled. Tafawa Balewa wanted to be a broadcaster, but he became a Prime
Minister. Shehu Shagari wanted to become a senator, he became a President.
Obasanjo was praying to leave prison, he became President. Yar’Adua had health
problems, he wanted to lecture after leaving as governor, he became President.
Jonathan was the governor of Bayelsa State, they took him to Abuja. Buhari was
the one who came into government because he wanted to be President.
In 2002, the northern intelligentsia packaged a book called Project Nigeria. They wanted a northerner who was credible, they were worried because they felt leaders from the North do not perform and they ended up with Buhari. One of the authors was the one who told me, not Buhari. At the time, Buhari said he wanted to look at the document; he looked at the document for two weeks and made some comments. He returned it to them and said he would execute the contents of the document. He is executing the content of the document. If he could get 12 million votes in 2003, it means the poor man believes in him. The only way he will not regret being in government is for him to lay the foundation for decongesting the political space. He may not be able to achieve it all, but he must ensure that the powers at the centre are constitutionally decongested. Restructuring will not dismember Nigeria and it will not endanger the security of Nigeria.
Unity of the country
APC promised to fix the economy, tackle corruption and protect the unity of the country. It is only fair to look at what the party promised to do in the area of uniting the country, fighting corruption and fixing the economy. Looking at it from where we started in 2015, it is only a negative minded person that can say that the economy has not improved. We went into recession and came out of it. To say that there have not been attempts to fight corruption is wrong. There are challenges and these challenges are results of what we sowed as a nation. There was indiscipline in the system and there was no attempt to address it from 2005 to 2014.
Corruption used to be a way of life in Nigeria before Buhari became President. On the economy, we are now focusing on agriculture. That, to me, is revolutionary. For example, in the area of rice production, we have about 13 million rice growers. Millions of people are also employed in rice factories. Government is trying in many areas but the concentration of power in one place is responsible for the failure to address many challenges. That is an area we must pay attention because the political space must be decongested. If you refuse to decongest the political space, economic deregulation will never happen.
What do you mean by the decongestion of the political space?
For instance, the Constitution allows for separation of powers among the various arms of government but that is not what we practice. We are supposed to be a federal structure. We have one central government, 36 states, and 774 local governments. All the officials of these tiers of government are full-time workers. In other words, you earn full-time for being a councillor, for being a member of the House of Assembly, for being a member of the National Assembly and for being a governor. The same applies to ministers and commissioners. The amount of money used in sustaining these officials of government is so high and mind-blowing. What is happening is that the Federal Government has all the powers and the state governments have little or no powers. They go to the centre to beg for anything they have. In the 1963 Constitution, before the military struck in 1966, the regions made money and sent 50 percent to the centre. Now, everything, including minerals below the surface of the earth, goes to the Federal Government. What we have today is different. For instance, the Niger Delta produces oil but all the proceeds are controlled by the Federal Government which is not healthy at all. That is the reason I said we should decongest the political space to address insecurity, unemployment and other problems in our polity. The challenges we face now are the creation of lack of restructuring.
If we want to decongest the political space, we have to look at the structure. The late Chief Awolowo identified 52 nations in Nigeria. Out of these 52 nations, 35 were in the North. When people say northerners, I just laugh because there is nothing like northerners. When people say southerners, I just laugh because there is nothing like southerners. It is true that, geographically, we have the North and the South, but they have been divided into states. When you say the North, for instance, people in the North don’t even know what you’re talking about because the Hausa-Fulani are not the only people in the North. There are so many different people of northern origin just like the South. Since the British came in 1849 we have had spaces that were brought together, not people. Our people have never been brought together. I don’t think there is anywhere in the world democracy brought development.
Democracy is just about luxury, not development. It is even when a nation is developed that it should adopt democracy. Even in our communities, you must work before you eat.
To further decongest the political space, the six geo-political zones should be made federating units, instead of 36 states. They should have regional assemblies while the Senate should have equal representation. The House of Representatives should be based on population. If we have a unicameral legislature, the powers at the centre would go to the regions. Defence, aviation, Central Bank, immigration, customs and foreign affairs should be made the exclusive areas of the central government. By so doing, we would have a vibrant centre. When the states are allowed to exercise their rights in a federal system, they would become vibrant. It is possible to have employment opportunities in five years in the regions. When people are employed, I am sure there won’t this level of insecurity.
Look at what the South-West is trying to achieve with Amotekun, let nobody read political meaning into it because if it is replicated in the six geo-political zones, in one year, the current alarming rate of kidnapping and other forms of insecurity would be drastically reduced. Criminals would be flushed because the Amotekun people are going to work with the police. I don’t know why people are afraid of solving the problems of Nigeria. The problems are self-created and they are sustained by greed. There should be regional police. All over the world, policing is decentralised.
You said the government has performed in the area of economy and anti-corruption, but many in some quarters do not agree…
In Cuba, Castro fixed the country’s economy in phases. Jerry Rawling did similar thing in Ghana. Now, someone is attempting to grow our economy and people are complaining.
Since the issues you raised are similar to the recommendations and resolutions of the 2014 Conference, are you calling for the urgent implementation of the report?
The fact is that looking at it politically, you will discover that the 2014 Confab was more diversionary because former President Jonathan knew there was no way he could implement the recommendations. Having brought the documents to him, why did he not send the document to the National Assembly? Why did he not initiate action for the implementation of the document? Don’t forget that APC boycotted the Confab. We didn’t recognise what they were doing? When I was even talking about six zones becoming federating units, they recommended about 54 states.
Should Buhari anoint a successor?
I don’t know the context in which Pastor Tunde Bakare said that. But the fact is Buhari will support whoever emerges in the primary election. Buhari is a due process man. He follows what the law says.
On Edo APC crisis
APC is the largest political group in Africa, not PDP. Audu Ogbeh told me that in PDP they were 12 million. By the time we formed APC, we were 12 million. When we formed the party, we decided that the governors would fund the party. Adams Oshiomhole was the governor of Edo State and he had issues with then-National Chairman, John Oyegun, who is from Edo State. I was in the group that resolved their differences. What I am saying is that the leader of the party in the state is the governor, not the National Chairman. The governor is the one who funds the party at the state level. Buhari does not allow anybody to take money from the government at the centre. In Edo State, the leader of the party is Governor Obaseki. Obaseki and Oshiomhole are no longer quarrelling over who controls Edo State. Oshiomhole was here and Obaseki was also here.
They told me everything. I was like a
go-between. I told Obaseki to call Oshiomhole because Obaseki said if
Oshiomhole wanted to tell him anything, he should tell their mutual friend,
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to tell him. That was how bad it was. As a result of our
intervention, Obaseki called Oshiomhole and went to see him in his house. They
resolved all the issues. I am telling you authoritatively that there is no
problem between Obaseki and Oshiomhole.
What is happening is that people who have aspirations are the ones making noise. For instance, the Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, and OSM -Oshiomhole-Shaibu Movement, OSM, are the groups dividing the party in Edo today. The governor is entitled to a second term and if he does well in the first term, he can be re-elected. Even if he has not done well, he has the right to ask for a second term. My consolation is that PDP is not in a position to win any election in Edo State. PDP has collapsed as a political force in Edo State, but that does not mean we should not work hard to reconcile the people.
But my attitude to conflict resolution is that
there comes a time during conflicts when you allow the people who are involved
to test their powers and when they have weakened themselves, then you bring
them together. All wars did not just start automatically, they started when
peace failed and all wars ended when the actors have weakened themselves to
know their weaknesses.