Prince Tony Momoh is many things to many people. When the full blue-blood prince from Edo State tells you that he has paid his dues, you better listen. From his days in the Daily Times through to his tenure as Minister of Information under the Ibrahim Babangida administration, where to his credit popular policies were formulated, sealed and delivered; the Prince who hails from the Momoh ruling family of Auchi, Edo State, has indeed contributed a lot to his country. It is to his credit that today Nigeria has independent broadcasting stations because when as minister he had ensured the liberalisation of the broadcasting industry in Nigeria. The Press Council, an organ created to streamline and act as regulator of the journalism profession also came into being. There is also the Times Institute of Journalism, amidst the quantum of his achievements not disregarding his writings and compilations of works with which he has touched the conscience of the people over the years. Can we ever forget the controversial volume: ‘’A Letter to my Countrymen?’’ The Paparazzi team of Moji Danisa, Ogbeni Olawale Dawodu and Timothy Enietan-Mathews met with the erudite lawyer in his Abuja office and had this interesting 30 minute no-holds-barred chat with him.
You were the national chairman of the defunct CPC which has now collapsed into APC; how will you describe the merger of the parties?
First of all, we have tried everything in Nigeria in the political front; the packaging of Nigeria started in 1849 from Fenando Po and it was done by John Beecroft who was the British consul for the Bight of Benin and Biafra and after packaging Nigeria from 1859 to 1914 when he had the amalgamation; it was not Beecroft that did all the packaging but he initiated the packaging. In 1851, he came to the Lagos and by 1861 Lagos was taken over; in the 1870s Lagos and other areas in Nigeria became British protectorates especially after 1884 Berlin Conference. They were all ruled from Sierra Leone. Then later, Nigeria and Ghana were being ruled together from Accra. In 1884, Nigeria became one but there were still different bodies until 1900 when the British took over the administration from the companies and in 1903 and 1906 when it all collapsed until the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914. I am saying all these because since 1914’s amalgamation we have not had any merger politically until July 31st last year. Last year was the first time in the history of Nigeria for political parties to sink their differences and merge. The legacy parties, the ACN, the ANPP, the CPC, APGA and DPP came together to become one party called The All Progressive Congress, APC. I was elected the National Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change in January 2011 to rule for four years so do the others that were leaders in their various parties like Bisi Akande of ACN, but we abandoned our tenors for us to come together to provide Nigeria with an alternative.
We thought Nigerians deserve an alternative so that when there is an opportunity to choose, this will make the political actors on both side to be serious enough to sit down and do what Nigerians want, which is in chapter two of the constitution; which is welfare and security. These are what Nigerians have said they want. Any government that does not provide welfare and security has no business being there. So when you say dividends of democracy, it has nothing to do with hospitals, schools, water, good roads etc. Dividend of democracy is a system of government. It has to do with the quality of the system to regulate governance in a particular way that you have chosen. So, democracy is the most effective and acceptable system of government in which the people are part and parcel of governance, where they choose their representatives.
Therefore democracy has to do with freedom and in democracy freedom is not given, it is taken. Section 14 of the constitution indicates that anybody who is exercising legislative, judicial and executive role in Nigeria today must abide by the provisions of chapter two of the constitution and these provisions are segmented under political, social, educational, cultural, economic, environmental and foreign policies; all these are there in chapter two of the Nigerian constitution. And what we want to do is to ensure the welfare and security of Nigerians and these are our stand and also our vision; first is democracy and the second is social justice for Nigerians.
We merged because we did not see democracy at work because as a democratic nation, we the people are the ones to choose our leaders but in Nigeria that has never happened for once. After allowing citizens to queue for hours trying to cast their votes, they will end up wasting their effort by manipulating results and that on its own part has failed democracy and social justice. We lack electricity, what we use more often is generators and this have really made Nigerians angry; some have even stopped paying electricity bill because they don’t see electricity. Check what will happen when everyone decide to stop paying electricity bill?
We have an interim executive committee whose life span is coming to an end and that is why we have started congresses starting with ward congress and will end with the National Congress in May after which all the organs of the party will hit the road running.
Sir you have mentioned all the social amenities that a party should deliver to the people will you say your party through its road map is capable of delivering these things?
Like I said earlier, no party has ever merged before in Nigeria. Once APC gets power, then you can start accessing APC. This is why APC has advantage over PDP. PDP has been in power for over fourteen years and you can point to areas that the party has failed but you can’t point to any area that APC has failed because it is a new party.
Parties are made of people; these same people are known to us….
No, no, no; that is where you go wrong. For instance, are you aware that almost everybody was a PDP person? Are you aware that Bola Ige was the one who drew up the manifesto of PDP? I was a foundation member of PDP. People were not satisfied and that is why they migrated to other parties. APP, AD etc. came from one source. The fact is; what makes a political party is your constitution and your manifesto. The manifesto is a package from section two of the constitution which is the bill of duties where the people say sovereignty belongs to them and section fourteen is where the government derives all its power and authority. APC’s road map is democracy and social justice. So when you say that the road they built is dividend of democracy, it is not! Dividend of democracy has to do with freedom and these are expectations of governance. If APC takes over at the centre then you can judge APC. You can only judge APC after winning the 2015 election at the centre.
So you are confident that the road map that APC has for Nigeria will work when you come to power
There is more than enough that is meant to be done that has not been done. Why should we depend only on oil? When more than three quarter of our land is not attended to and more than fifty percent of our population are unemployed. Look at what happened at the stadium; the stadium was filled with people seeking for jobs, how can you explain that? So there is more than enough opportunity to grow Nigeria. The money the country has is being shared by a few people. There are seventeen thousand, four hundred public officers and these officers, less than 0.1% of the population sit on the whole pot of Nigeria’s money and share it among themselves. What we have now in Nigeria is fraud, indiscipline, and corruption and all these ought not to happen because we have more than enough to uplift this country. That is not to even talk of the Twenty Million Dollars that cannot be accounted for. Government money cannot be missing because all transactions are documented; so why didn’t they trace and find out how the money got missing?
In the National Assembly; we are told that the Senators earn Two Hundred and something million naira every year; you can imagine the lives of how many Nigerians that money can better and that is what only one man is earning a year. We, the APC, believe in restructuring, we believe that the government is too heavy at the centre and our road map has a programme which include construction, agriculture etc. and I am sure it will provide employment for the people of Nigeria. I believe in less than a year, we will be able to provide thirty million jobs without spending money. So you can see that there are so many ways of solving this country’s problem rather than occupying ourselves with unnecessary issues.
APC will hit the road running in all areas; politically, socially, economically, educationally, culturally, environmentally and in foreign policy. We have marked them out and all these we promise to fulfil if we are voted into power.
As chairman of a political party who had formed a bigger party, I am sure that you will still want to expand the interest of your own party. How do you think this will play out with what you have as APC?
What you just asked me is the same as alliance, the parties are the fronts. I stopped being the National Chairman of CPC on the 31 of July, the day INEC told me that APC has been registered. There is no such thing as ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA, DPP; these parties are no long a party because we have merged to become one party called APC. So I seized being a National Chairman of CPC and I am not even a member of the interim executive body; I have forgone my tenure so did the rest that left their parties. So I am surprised that you think there is still something called CPC.
You just said there is no more CPC and others but in some states, especially in Lagos State, just last week, we had the former chairman of CPC in Lagos saying they have opened a new office somewhere in Surulere for APC; the fact is that some of them who came from other parties besides from CPC feel they are being maltreated.
It is natural; it is like a lady being married out to a new home, and she keeps coming back to her parental home because she feels they are maltreating her in her husbands’ home but with time, she will get used to her husband’s home. Where you are coming from wears off as you distance yourself from where you were in the direction to where you are going to. The fact is that the person that held the conference will not tell you that they are going to open a CPC office because it is difficult to imagine that merger means total dissolution of the merging parties and formation of a brand new party.
When APC was formed so many people were like: ‘Oh, something different and an option for the good people of Nigeria’ but when APC leaders started inviting people from other parties especially the PDP, many Nigerians asked so many questions why you inviting these people you have demonized over the years. Sir, don’t you think the ideological platform that APC is supposed to stand for has been destroyed with the influence of the PDP decampees?
Nigeria has an ideology; the ideology of Nigeria is anchored on chapter two of the constitution; fundamental objectives and derivative principles of state policy. Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria and the constitution is the one that documents the powers we the people have delegated. In India for instance, parliament is supreme, in Nigeria the people are supreme; you cannot delegate sovereignty. We have given out just two terms; even when Obasanjo wanted a third term, he failed. We will have to change the constitution before it can be more than two terms. The two term of ruling has really helped Nigeria because everybody wants to be there forever. As APC, before we were registered and before any party is registered, you have to present your constitution and the manifesto based on chapter two of the constitution to ensure the welfare and security of the people. The legacy parties manifestoes that were a little to the left and not like PDP that is more to the right. We had NRC and SDP during Babangida’s transition with NRC a little to the right and SDP a little to the left and don’t forget that the person who was the flag bearer of SDP was Abiola, a core capitalist but he had to follow the manifesto of SDP. So APC has its manifesto and whoever is in APC must embrace the ideology of APC. They say we tackle people, no! We don’t tackle people; we tackle PDP and what PDP is standing for and not the individuals in PDP. A political party is called a political party because of the population; so, why shouldn’t we invite people? It is left for them to accept or not. We also went to some leaders to tell them what we are doing like we went to Obasanjo but we didn’t ask him to join but rumour carried it that he said he won’t join the party.
But we heard Tinubu invited him to come join the party….
It was Buhari; what Buhari said was; ‘Sir, when the form is out, I will bring it to you’’. And what Obasanjo said was: ‘I will take the form but I will not fill it’’ and it was rumoured that Obasanjo refused to join APC. APC has a manifesto and if you read it; you will see things that are to be done for Nigeria and what we want to do in the area of democracy is to decongest the political space so we don’t spend all our money paying bills to public officers. What PDP is doing now is speculating on who is going to be our presidential candidate. I was once a leader in PDP so I know how they run their party but in APC, we have not discussed any office.
Talking about federalism, do you think we are practising true federalism and if not, what do we expect from your party?
We believe that there is going to be a dialogue but we know that this dialogue that Jonathan brought was to divert the attention from the failure of PDP. We believe in dialogue, we believe in discussing Nigeria, we believe in fiscal federalism and we believe in decongesting the political space.
What do you have to say about the National Conference?
The National Conference will not take us anywhere, we know that they are dialoguing now; let them carry on. I am sure nothing will come out of it; first of all, there is no law backing it. If you want to set up a body like that, there should be a law backing it but the national conference has no law. Under what legal platform will you take anything to the national assembly and why would they take what is happening in the national conference to the national assembly? When what happens in the national conference is the gathering of people to whom sovereignty resides and the national assembly is an organ of the people; so why would they take the decision of the people to another organ?
Let’s assume it is an APC government that is in power at the moment, what would have been the alternative?
If there is going to be a convention or a dialog, it will have to be done through wide consultation and not just a presidential fiat. I heard the national conference will end in June; if it ends in June, when do they think they will be able to implement the outcome of the conference when 2015 election will be by the corner. Campaigns would have been going on here and there, or are they planning on banning the next government?
The country has been witnessing so much of insecurity especially with the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East; as an APC leader and as a person, what do you think about this insurgency?
Perception is the reality of a situation as far as the perceiver is concerned. For instance, if I say you have killed me o, you may not have touched me. Boko Haram, Armed-Robbers, Kidnappers etc., will tell you that there is injustice in the land and they are angry with the government. No jobs! Our graduates are on the streets doing nothing and the ones that are not patient enough will do anything to withstand the heat like they say; an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’. The Boko Haram have anti-aircraft guns, they are even more sophisticated in arms than our people. In the time of the Niger-Delta militancy, they had weapons more than our security agencies but we had to grant them amnesty and now, there is peace in the Niger-Delta. In this kind of environment where the people believe that the system is unjust, you fight the injustice through peace and not through war. We have not been sincere in addressing injustice through peace, we should not only seek for peace but we should also be ready to give peace.
Money is flowing into the country but this money is being publicly stolen. Nigeria is not only corrupt, corruption has been made official and if you are not corrupt then you will breach a duty; so it is part of your brief to be corrupt. We must approach the issue of Boko Haram by studying what is happening and deciding how we are going to approach the issue. When the Niger Delta insurgency started, we thought of using the military to eliminate them but at the end they were granted amnesty. If amnesty had been granted to the Boko Haram in 2009, I believe the situation won’t have gotten to this stage. Boko Haram started before CPC was formed and people were saying that Buhari is the author of Boko Haram when he doesn’t even know anything about Boko-Haram. But still, there is no problem without a solution. We need to investigate these problems and see what can be done about it and not fold our arms and watch innocent people killed. We have carrots and sticks, how much have we done with carrot in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency? In fact, this insurgency is now a business for some people.
Sir, don’t you think it is difficult using a carrot approach to a group that have remain faceless and has refused to come out and voice out their demands?
Why you are so taken-in by what people are saying or maybe you are just testing me as a journalist? If they are faceless, why is it that our prisons are full of people who are being suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents? For example, I don’t understand how one or two people can disarm the SSS operatives and take over the whole SSS headquarters and release some prisoners and also attack barracks in Borno State. If they say their leader Shekau is dead and he still comes out and tell people he is not dead, how did they know Shekau is their leader if Boko Haram is faceless? Boko Haram is a product of PDP so they should go and sort themselves. There is religious and criminal Boko Haram; crush the criminal ones. The Boko Haram insurgency has gone beyond Nigeria; I believe they are not Nigerians because this same Boko Haram who made us believe they are fighting for Northerners are the ones killing the Northerners. These people are not Nigerians because Nigerians still have conscience.
A statement was once credited to the leadership of APC that once they come into power, Boko Haram will be a thing of the past under a month and you have just said Boko Haram are not Nigerians; how will APC solve this issue?
I am not a spokesman for APC neither did I make that statement. I don’t know about the one month or two months solution but what I know is that when there is a problem, we should sit down and analyse it and know what steps are to be taken. I have not attended any meeting that concerns the Boko Haram or how to solve this insurgency. If we want peace then we should talk peace. The government is not talking about peace and even the Nigerian Army cannot withstand the Boko Haram because they lack weapons and yet we spend Three Billion Naira everyday on security. Where is the money going to?
If you were in government and you are saddled with the responsibility of taking care of this insurgency once and for all in the country, what will you do?
I will not be saddled with such problem because I have paid my dues. As a public analyst, I have been monitoring governance for the past twelve years, 1999-2011. I don’t have to be in government to know what to do; you don’t seek for peace by preparing for war. If I were to tackle this insurgency, I would meet all the Boko Haram leaders and talk to them, beg them for forgiveness on behalf of government and then pay compensation to those that were killed in the course of the problem. PDP is trying to create a situation where there will be no 2015 so that they can gain political advantage but I can assure you that they are misleading themselves and it will fail.
You have just said that Buhari is not a sponsor of Boko Haram but the general belief is that he may know a lot more than he is saying because he has not been condemning the activities of the group as expected….
Buhari is the most prominent Northern leader who has condemned Boko Haram. First; the Boko Haram insurgents are not Muslims, because if they are Muslims, they won’t kill people because Islam has not asked any man to kill. So as far as he is concerned, he cannot start talking to people on behalf of people he does not know. So this Boko Haram insurgency is not an Islamic crisis because those that kill in the name of God are not Muslims; these were the words of Buhari. So why would people say he has not condemned Boko Haram? For I know that he is one of the prominent Northern leaders that has stood his ground so Boko Haram can be tackled.
What do you think are the chances of APC in 2015?
I don’t speculate, nobody is going to impose anybody on the party. When it is time to express their interest, they will and they can go and fight at the national level. Whoever is given the ticket will be supported but I can assure you that there will be change in Nigeria if we get power. People doubted about the merger; today we have merged and I know they doubt about change; but there will be a change.
Do you think the national conference can stop the 2015 elections?
There is nothing that can stop 2015 elections aside the constitution. For instance if there is war and there is a state of emergency in the country, that can affect the constitution but the national conference cannot stop 2015 elections.