Former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh has said that President Muhammadu Buhari will win the 2019 presidential election despite the recent defection of some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Among other issues in this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on the odds in favour of Buhari ahead of next year’s poll.
Recently, there had been a gale of defections from your party, the All Progressives Congress(APC) to the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). As it stands now, your party which used to be the majority party in the National Assembly is now in the minority. What do you make of the development?
There is freedom of movement and there is freedom of association and there is no constitutional provision making anybody to remain in a particular party. None. What is happening is that people are exercising their own freedom of movement and association. In spite of what the ruling party may have done to make them stay, in their own wisdom, they feel more comfortable moving to where they feel more at home. So, you cannot force anybody to remain with you.
Considering that you are one of the core supporters of President Buhari, what do you think is the implication of this development to his re-election ambition?
Why are you asking me what our strategy would be in having Buhari re-elected. Is that a fair question? We will re-strategise to ensure that President Buhari wins a second term. But do not ask me the strategy. It is unfair to ask me what we would do to protect the interest of Buhari. Even if I know what we are going to do, I would not tell you.
Generally, how do you feel with the state of the nation today ahead of the 2019 general elections?
I feel happy with what is happening in Nigeria today and worldwide. We are all reaping what we sowed and whatever is happening is a challenge. We should pray for strength to be able to contain or face the challenges before us for the benefit of Nigeria. So, what is happening is predictable.
As a statesman with so much experience, what do you think is the implication of all these movements and counter-movements of Nigerian politicians from one party to the other. There does not seem to be a consistency in their actions. Do you think our democracy is growing?
Yes, we are growing because we are addressing all the challenges of democracy. First of all, we chose to pick governance in the marketplace as a way that would drive our growth. We may well have picked monarchy, dictatorship, military rule but we decided to pick democracy. We have been following the democracy highway since 1999 with all the bumps, manholes and all the problems. We have been moving in the direction of democracy. But the fact is that what Nigerians or the majority would not accept is undermining the unity of Nigeria. Nigeria must remain united and our choice of the system of government should not undermine it. Our choice in the system of government may lead to greed of those promoting it or running the system but the greed of politicians would not be allowed to undermine the unity of Nigeria. I think all of us should be agreed on that. How we manipulate our interest within a united Nigeria is what we should be monitoring. So, democracy is a choice of noise propelling governance in the marketplace. That is what democracy is; you make noise. In that marketplace, you may even fight as it happens in the parliament. People can move from one place to the other. Those who now moved to the PDP left the PDP at an hour of need at a point in time. As some are moving back to the PDP now, the PDP is celebrating and that is to tell you the freedom of movement of buying and selling in the marketplace called a democracy. So, do not think anything is impossible. For instance in America, you will see in all media houses, they would say we have chosen a way of life –capitalism. You can ques- tion the way it is run but you cannot question it. You can question the way democracy is run but you cannot question democracy as a way of life of the Americans. It is in their editorial policies. If you question capitalism as a way of life of the Americans, they would shut down your station. That is America for you. That way they have chosen capitalism. Don’t question capitalism but you can question how it is moderated. So, our own is that we have chosen that Nigeria would remain united. And the way we are running our democracy is governance in the marketplace. It is governance with noise where you channel all your energy in making a noise. You may even fight as it happens in other democracies all over the world. But the fact is that you cannot undermine the unity of Nigeria. Anybody that does it will hit the rock.
The Senate President has again been invited by the police on the allegation of having a link with the Offa bank robbery. This is happening to the number three man in the country. Are you not worried over the implication of the development on the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations?
Without commenting on Saraki or the police, as a lawyer, I know that everybody is equal before the law. You cannot say that because you are the President, vice or the governor that you cannot be investigated. You can have immunity now but when your immunity ends at the end of your tenure, that investigation can be put into operation by you being sent to court. Or the material that came from investigation can be sent to the parliament for your impeachment. That is the due process of removing someone who has immunity but the Senate President and other officials do not have immunity. So, they can be invited by the police for questioning on any matter. The police have the right to question him on any matter bordering on criminality. Whether the thing is politically advised or not, is outside the purview of the answer I have just given you.
As a lawyer, one of the issues being raised against President Buhari’s administration is not obeying court orders. A case which many make reference to is the former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki who has been granted bail six good times and was denied his freedom. Doesn’t that bother you?
Why are you asking me that question? Am I to decide whether someone obeys court order or not. Court orders should be obeyed but if someone does not obey court orders, you cannot be asking why someone is not obeying court orders. There is due process. If for instance a court takes a decision, whoever has a duty to obey that decision should obey. If those in the position do not do so, you cannot ask me why they do not do so because I am not a party to the decision to be obeyed. But I know that the court rulings on issues being part of due process should be obeyed. Or if you do not want to obey, then you appeal until you get to the Supreme Court.
How do you feel that today, the ruling party is now in the minority in the Senate?
There are three organs of government – the judiciary, executive and the legislature. The legislature makes laws, the executive implements the laws and the judiciary interprets those laws. Let us see how it works out; if for instance a party in power is in the minority and the legislature does not move to ensure cooperation with the executive, of course it will be a problem of management. But that any National Assembly like in Nigeria has the opposition party in the majority with the ruling party in the minority, all it would amount to is that if there is no management of the situation, there would be a problem between the legislature and the executive. I think that for the past two, three years of this administration, there had been problems of the management of the relationship between the executive and the legislature. In fact, those who had been against the executive are in the other party to ensure effective opposition of the executive which seems to have been happening in the last three years. Most of the people who have been against the executive, are they not PDP people even though they have been in the APC? If in effect that they are now in the PDP, it is the same position they have been taking in the last three years that they would now take.
Many think that all these developments are not unconnected with the scheming for the 2019 general elections. Is the tension preceding that election not too much.? What are your projections ahead of the election?
I know that there would be election in 2019. I cannot see the election being postponed. I know that the APC would field a candidate and we believe that the candidate will win. Despite the situation, with proper management, we have everything in our favour. This is because we have addressed the area of corruption, the economy and we are addressing the security situation in spite of what the opposition and other interests are doing to ensure that killings and unrests become weapons of governance.
I recall that ahead of 2015 general elections, the PDP was also very optimistic when what is happening now to the APC was playing out in the party. Don’t you think that what is happening now is a replay of the 2015 scenario which led to the collapse of the PDP-led government?
Those are your conclusions. Let me tell you one thing. I am a legacy chairman. Ogbonnaya Onuh is a legacy chairman. Bisi Akande is a legacy chairman. We were the people who moderated the merger of the three parties then and we dissolved our parties two years to the election. We all had two years to go as chairmen of the CPC, ANPP and ACN. We dissolved our parties and then formed the APC and registered it. So, there is nothing like the CPC, ANPP or ACN today. So, if anybody wants to confront the APC at the national level which we are talking about now, let them dissolve themselves and merge. This is because in the past, the APC and the PDP have been getting all the votes. Tell me any other party that has got any vote that you can reckon with. So, if some people come together in the name of cooperating in alliances, they will achieve nothing. It is all paper work. Let them dissolve themselves and form a party and we now have a two party system. I personally give them that advice. Once you have alliances of this nature, you will see that there would be more problems than you ask for. I am telling you this as a journalist who monitored governance for 12 years. Everybody would come with his claim and then you start quarreling because no politician would agree that he does not have the support to rule.