Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information is one of the national leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he spoke on the formation of the party, position of National Leader and the insecurity crisis in the country. Excerpts:
The APC will be electing a new national chairman to replace Comrade Adams Oshiomhole at the next convention. Which zone do you think the new chairman will come from?
If I am asked where the next national chairman should come from, I will say why not South-South and Edo state and even Edo north, and even Auchi? Naturally, I will say my zone should produce the next chairman. In my last interview, I even said if Oshiomhole in interested, he can still contest and if he wins, he returns as the national chairman. He has not said he is not interested and I don’t think he has lost so much grounds that someone will now want to replace him. But for the problems in the party, he wouldn’t have lost so badly because being removed unexpectedly as national chairman is enough punishment. In my view, it is very humiliating. So, as his own townsman, if anybody asks me who should be the next national chairman, I will say Oshiomhole should go back. If there is any lesson to learn, he must have learnt it by now. If anybody asks me to support another region for the position of national chairman, of course, I won’t.
There is this impression that President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu are the owners of APC and the party will crumble if anyone of them leaves. What is your impression on that?
Buhari and Tinubu are not the owners of APC, they are just members of the party like every other member. Tinubu joined APC in his unit in Lagos while Buhari also joined in his unit in Daura. The fact is, three legacy chairmen of APC had their parties dissolved. They had to forgo two years of their tenure to work for the merger of all the dissolved parties which made up APC. So, the APC is not an alliance of members, it was formed by political associations drawn mainly from ACN, CPC, ANPP and a faction of APGA. The population of the party was boosted by the defection of five PDP governors who brought in a lot of their supporters. After the merger, we went for election and someone from CPC, that is Muhammadu Buhari became the President. I also came from CPC as the national chairman, Tinubu and Bisi Akande came from ACN and Ogbonnaya Onu, Ali Modu Sheriff and others came from ANPP. Rochas Okorocha came from APGA. All these people must be recognised in the formation of APC. But to say that anybody is the owner of APC is unfair even though you cannot deny the position of somebody like Buhari, who was the leader of CPC and Tinubu who was the leader of ACN. But if you talk of national leaders, they are not the only national leaders.
But how come in the APC, the title of ‘National Leader’ of the party is reserved for Tinubu alone?
Who says the title of national leader is reserved for Tinubu alone? They call him national leader and they call others national leaders too. You can say Tinubu is a national leader of APC just like Tony Momoh and Ogbonnaya Onu are also national leaders of APC. But the fact is, if you call him National Leader of APC, he merits it because if not for the coming of the ACN from the South-West into the alliance, Buhari from CPC wouldn’t have had the number in the area of spread to become the President. Buhari had 12 million votes in 2003 and he had 12 million votes also in 2011. He brought that 12 million votes into the APC and then in the 2015 presidential election, he had 15 million votes, which means that 3 million votes was contributed by the merger. So, he wouldn’t have had that additional votes needed to win the election if not for the contribution of the South-West. So, based on his contributions, if you call Tinubu the national leader of APC, you will be correct because he really worked hard to merit it. Five people are always referred to as the national leaders of the party nationally until other people started joining. Buhari, the leader of CPC; Tony Momoh, national chairman of CPC; Tinubu, the leader of ACN; Bisi Akande, national chairman of ACN and of course, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who was the national chairman and leader of ANPP. That is why they refer to three members of APC, Onu, Momoh and Akande as legacy chairmen of APC. There is no way you can deny Tinubu’s role in the APC because he made a promise which he kept, to lead the battle for the emergence of Buhari as President.
What do you think is the solution to the raging insecurity crisis in the country?
Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people and the largest concentration of black people on earth. It is the only country standing out of all the countries packaged in the first quarter of the last century by the colonial masters, all others have collapsed, and for those who look at the moon rather than the crescent, the moon is the total package of life, where you come from, what you are doing here, where you are going to. Then we will know that there is no accident in nature, Nigeria has an anointing, the largest concentration of black people on earth today, active, vibrant people, people who make it in life, so there is an attempt to dismantle Nigeria, and insecurity is part of it; Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is not a regional or internal problem, but it is an international one, and if you look at Boko Haram operations, you see that people are working to dismantle the whole of Nigeria, but we are the one to accept it or not to accept it. However, we are determined not to accept it.
Here we are, a federation that is unmanageable, we must decongest the political space, and when we have done this, economic deregulation is automatic. For the federation we have, there is a lot and lot of powers concentrated at the centre, and how do you resolve that you have unemployment all over, you have banditry, thousands of people who are qualified, there are no jobs for them because you have not decongested the political space.
How do we decongest the political space?
There are exclusive list and concurrent list. In the areas of law making, there are 93 items concentrated at the National Assembly; National Assembly makes laws in 93 areas, it is not possible; it’s too much. A federation shouldn’t be involved in more than two dozen areas; why not have two dozen areas – areas of cooperation of the political zones, and move the powers to the geo-political zones?.
Chief Alex Ekwueme in the 90s introduced the six political zones and we have been working with them; why don’t we have the six zones being the federating units, rather than the 36 states of the federation. When we decongest powers to those zones, the struggle for the centre would be reduced, and in all the zones of the federation, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and those indiscretion within the polity would disappear within six months because of cooperation at the levels of the regions rather than the competition we have now in 93 areas where we spent most of the money attending to democracy rather than growing the polity.
Democracy is the luxury of development, when you are developing, you pick that quantum of freedom you need to grow the polity, but in Nigeria we spend more money on democracy than on growing Nigeria, and with that we will always have problem. Insurgencies, banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery are all outcome of the choices we have made; we are reaping what we have sown because the thing we sowed have grown into banditry. It is all failure of governance.