Former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh has said violence will reign in the September 19 Edo State governorship elections. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain said that the election is going to be heavily monetised, stressing that Nigeria will continue to witness stunted growth until the country is restructured along the regions.
What do you make of recent developments in the country?
If you are a monitor of governance, you just report what is happening and let people draw their conclusions. If you are a religious person you will know that man has told God that he is God and God is now telling him, ‘thou shall have no other god but Me’; judgment has come to man. If you are someone who is there watching and swimming with the tide, you will be as confused as any other. The truth of the matter is that the whole world is in trouble; everywhere in the world is uncertain. The economy of the world has collapsed, religion has collapsed, education has collapsed, social institutions have collapsed, and the question many people are asking is where do we go from here, especially with this COVID-19. It is mild malaria; it is not a killer disease, but why is it so profoundly affecting the lives of men on earth, then people will say, God is pulling the ear of man that, ‘I’m the Lord thy God and thou shall have no other God than Me.’ Why is it so general; there is no country in the world today that is not suffering this COVID-19. It is so punishing to those countries that have been acting God, colonizing man, exploiting man, promoting competition instead of progression worldwide; they are the ones suffering most.
I think that this thing is a question of people sitting down and say, have we been doing right, if so, why are we going through this; if not, what should we do. Why is it that there are more churches today than any other in world history; more mosques on earth today than any other time in history, more Muslims and Christians today than any other time in history and more trouble on earth today than any other time in history? Jesus says if you don’t do the will of my father, I will deny you. Is Jesus denying us because we are not doing the will of His father? There are lots and lots of questions, but the thing is how does it affect Nigeria?
It affects Nigeria profoundly that nobody can sleep with both eyes closed in any part of the country. There is problem in the Northeast, not only in the Northeast , but all over the country; there is nowhere in the country where you don’t have security problems, and what we should really do, perhaps we don’t have the political will to do it, or we don’t think we are challenged enough to attain it.
Nigeria has a population of about 200 million people, we ought to have organised our social life, political life, security life, everything and we are concentrating at the centre. Why is it that the centre is there making laws in Exclusive List and Concurrent List in 93 areas, and then the president having to execute law in 93 areas, when federations all over the world, it is not usually more than two dozens. Why do we concentrate at the centre when we are heterogeneous and not homogenous polity? Why are people occupied with control; the big three want to control Nigeria and all others think undermined. Even with the 36 states of the federation, the 2014 Confab recommended more states to be 54. Why are we so hungry to share in cake that we are unwilling to bake?
You are suggesting that Nigeria has to reorganise, which is restructuring because of over concentration of power at the centre, you are a member of APC, and the party came into power promising restructuring, but less than three years to end, nothing is done in this direction. Why?
Where is the environment that we as a nation have created for anything of that nature to take place? There was El-Rufai Committee that went round and made far-reaching proposal for the decongesting the political space. What we mean by decongesting the political space, for instance, is to send more powers down to the states and geo-politics, but it is not far reaching enough. For instance, there was provision of State police; public power creation providing (electricity) at the local level, but many of these when you start removing them from the Exclusive List to the states are not documented; someone may come and all those concessions that are being made just like we saw in Lagos State, when it wanted to generate power and federal government pounced on Lagos and said, no, you cannot generate power. I believe we need real restructuring to decongest the political space, and let the federating units be the geo-political zones that have emerged be the regions and then send power to them.
If you send power to the regions, within three months, all these things about banditry will end. Look at what is happening in the Southwest now, if Amotekun is functioning, it will be a thing of joy in the region and within six months, armed robbery, kidnapping will end, and then replicate it all over the country.
There is so much conquest for grabbing power at the political level; why are we doing everything full time – councillor full time, supervisory councillor full time, House of Assembly full time, National Assembly full time and two Houses; spending so much money – N13 million every month for every senator, which they don’t account for, when their official salary is N750, 000 a month. We are spending 95 per cent of our resources on recurrent, when if you spend more than 25 per cent of resources on recurrent; you are not going to develop. We are spending more money on driving on the road rather than more money upgrading the road. Democracy has to do with freedom; it has nothing to do with development. We cherish maximum democracy and it is an outcome, but the amount of democracy you have in a system is a function of how developed that system is. We are spending more on democracy than on growing Nigeria.
One political analyst said he is weeping for those who are going to be killed during the September 19 governorship election in Edo State. What is your position on the way the election process is going in your state?
I’m a chieftain of the APC and I want the party to win in Edo and nationally. I’m a monitor of governance; I have been monitoring governance from 1999 every week for 12 years, and I have three volumes “Democracy Watch: A Monitor Diary”. I’m not speaking as a party man now, but as a monitor of governance, and I said and I still say when two elephants fight, the grass suffers, and that is what will happen anywhere in the country. Everywhere two elephants fight the grass suffers.
The grass in Edo State suffered because APC in Edo was factionalised into Obaseki- Shaibu Movement and Edo People Movement. One operating under the umbrella of Obaseki, while the other under the umbrella of Oshiomhole. These two bodies divided APC in Edo State, so you have two factional leaders of APC in the state. With that the grass is suffering. I said, the laurel why these two elephants are fighting might be lost. Edo is now a PDP state because the governor has moved over to PDP. So, we have lost what we were fighting for. Looking at it now, the two elephants were crippled –Obaseki ceased to be leader of APC in Edo, that is crippling and Oshiomhole has ceased to be the national chairman of the party, that is crippling. So, the two elephants were crippled and the laurel had been lost and the grass has been suffering, that is what I said and people were critical of me. I also said that Edo would be swept by APC and I still want the APC to sweep the votes in the state. I said PDP was not organised enough to win election in Edo and I became more confident when Ize-Iyamu joined us in APC, but I became not comfortable when Obaseki left for PDP. I said, Obaseki leaving is not going to be a tea party for us in APC, in other words, we are going to strategise because the governor was not going to leave alone and he left with all the structures; most importantly, he left with our purse. All the money coming to Edo State goes to him and he has left with that money in the sense that when it comes to funding APC in the state, Obaseki would not be there, rather he would fund PDP. So, see what we have lost.
Now, at the national level, we have APC showed their strength last Saturday, which is very encouraging; our governors were there, our parliamentarians were there, our leaders were there and others. I hope that one is monetised; in other words, they need to support for campaigns in the state, because when support is sure, there is nothing PDP will do in Edo. In the South-South, it is all PDP; it is only in that zone that we don’t have APC now, as we have lost Edo to PDP. Now, the PDP governors in South-South are the biggest earners from the federation account; they are heavy earners and heavy spenders, they are not going to lose Edo by not participating in ensuring that they win. They will lose the election if Edo voters insist that they want APC to continue to rule that state and ignore the use of money. When it comes to monetizing election, this Edo election will be heavily monetised, and it is not only the governors in the South-South that will be pumping their resources into Edo State, the PDP governors all over the country will ensure that they control the state. So, it is battle royal.
What happened last week has taken another dimension and the battle line is drawn, and I’m afraid that there will be more violence than anticipated. So, all the security agencies have to sit down and put everything they have into Edo to make sure that there is free and fair election.
As an APC chieftain, you said you expect the party to win the election, is it at all cost?
The fact is that what is happening in the state now with 19 people emerging and getting sworn in to be law making arm, the law they make will not be obeyed obviously by Obaseki, because he will argue that they were not constitutionally brought in; since as lawmakers there is a question as to their continued relevance in the area of law making, but that is another matter. I argue that even if they are not there constitutionally, they are there politically. In competition, the first victim is due process. It is either due process or you have war, and where there is war, somebody is going to lose. When you say they are not there constitutionally, then you are talking about law, but in war situation they are there politically and putting their feet on the ground, fighting for relevance. So we have really upped the problems and the competition in Edo and the possibilities of more violence. So, we have everything to be worried about. Nobody is talking about issues; each group wants to be there.
Edo is part of South-South, where violence, blood is used to settle problems; don’t you think this will heighten the situation?
What do you mean; don’t you know I’m from South-South; why are you hitting me below the belt? Is Edo Boko Haram? The South-South generally, they are very aware of their right and fight for their right. We produce oil and more than 90 per cent of our resources are taken away and they are backward negatively. They have all the issues to point to when it comes to deprivation, denial.
During the First Republic, the regions were contributing 50 per cent of what they earned to the centre, but the centre collects everything and then gives pittance to the states. The South-South; the Niger Delta is asking for more than their fair share of their contributions to the national resources.
Why is Oshiomhole the face of the APC campaigns, he is more seen than Ize-Iyamu, the candidate?
Was Oshiomhole not the face of Obaseki campaigns four years ago; Obaseki was not known, Oshiomhole was known more than Obaseki, and it was Oshiomhole that was running here and there for Obaseki. We beat Osagie Ize-Iyamu in 2016 with less than 100,000 votes, and now PDP is not a write off, it has two of the three senate seats, it has more than 50 per cent votes for the presidential election, while APC had 46 per cent; we have only about two or three members of the House of Representatives seats, while PDP has the rest. Although in state Assembly election, we have more seats and if that reflects in the coming election, I will be happy and celebrate as an APC chieftain, but I don’t know how far that will come to pass.