Prince Tony Momoh, a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC ) and former Minister of Information in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI speaks on recent developments in the country and his views on the 2019 presidential elections. Excerpts:
Were you surprised by the actions of some federal lawmakers who booed President Buhari recently during his budget presentation?
You can take a pig out of the bush but you cannot take the bush out of the pig. We are in a democracy and even in most advanced countries where democracy is practiced; they have certain behaviours, the behaviour of a crowd. You cannot really discipline a crowd and even in parliament, they fight. So, we should forgive them in Nigeria for they don’t know what they are doing as regards the ethics of parliamentary behaviour. They are human beings, they are undisciplined society in a position to be disciplined and acted according to that, which is being undisciplined.
Don’t forget that there is freedom of expression. These lawmakers behave at their level of growth and maturity. That is why I said you can take the pig out of the bush but you cannot take bush out of the pig. There are some Presidents or Head of States who will walk out of the National Assembly if such a thing happened but not President Muhammadu Buhari, a highly dignified, matured and respected gentleman. You will recall that when he told the lawmakers that they should behave themselves properly because people are watching, the booing and indecent behaviour died down. You can also see a very matured leader in the person of Yakubu Dogara shaking his head at the conduct of his colleagues. So, I think Nigerians should forgive them and move on.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said it would have been impossible for President Buhari to win the 2015 election without his support. What is your perspective on that?
Have you forgotten that Obasanjo was Head of State in 1976 and handed over in 1979 and later came back to become Civilian President in 1999? But for people like IBB , Abdulsalami Abubakar and some others he wouldn’t have become president. In 2003, if not that he knelt down and begged Atiku, he wouldn’t have been reelected. So, if someone could be helped to become president, why should you come out publicly and boast about it? Let Obasanjo congratulate himself and also congratulate him that if not for him, Buhari wouldn’t have become president in 2015 according to his claims. Don’t forget that in 2003, Obasanjo was president and Buhari had 12 million votes. In 2007, Buhari had 6 million votes and the late President Umaru Yar’Adua agreed that the election was massively rigged and mismanaged. Someone who was in position to mismanage that election was Obasanjo because he was the sitting president when the election was conducted. In 2011, Buhari had 12 million votes. In 2015, Buhari had 15 million votes, that is extra 3 million votes to the 12 million votes he had in 2011. Perhaps, it was Obasanjo that provided the extra 3 million votes. If we analyse the votes, the South- West provided about 2 million votes and the person that the people of the South- West looked up to for direction was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and not Obasanjo. Obasanjo was against Jonathan and most of the votes came from the South East and South South. We all know that Obasanjo did not influence votes for Buhari in these two regions because APC had less than 300,000 votes. In the South- West that Obasanjo comes from, I don’t know what structure he had to be able to give votes to Buhari or how much of the 12 million votes that Buhari had in 2003 that Obasanjo influenced. I don’t know how Obasanjo came about his boast that Buhari was only able to win the election because of him. His case can be likened to that of a lizard beating his own chest about what he has done and I congratulate him.
Now that Obasanjo is backing Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the PDP, do you see President Buhari winning his reelection?
The answer to prayer of winning an election is voting. So, let us see where Obasanjo will provide the votes that will make PDP defeat Buhari in 2019. As an analyst and a monitor of democracy, I don’t see where Obasanjo has votes to make Buhari either win or lose. Obasanjo after his letter to Buhari tried a third option as alternative to APC and PDP but what he mobilised did not take off. Then he formed ADC which has contested one or two elections but didn’t make any point. He said that if CNM, the body he formed to undermine Buhari in 2019 transforms into a political party, he will withdraw. But the fact is, the same Obasanjo who announced that he has called it quit with partisan politics attended a PDP rally in Abeokuta. He has also moved into a political party but that has not taken off. So, he is not a member of APC and has never been a member of our party and as such, I don’t know where the votes he needs to remove Buhari will come from. We have the support of Nigerians and as such we will have the votes. Obasanjo didn’t have votes in 1999. In fact, his people in the South- West rejected him but IBB and others assisted him. In 2003, he had to kneel down for Atiku before he won. In 2011, I am not aware that he was the one who made Goodluck Jonathan won. In 2015, Buhari contested against Jonathan and APC won and like I said Obasanjo is not a member of our party. So, I don’t really know where Obasanjo’s strength lies apart from just talking; saying this today and saying that tomorrow. But he is a national leader and people must listen to him and not take him to the cleaners
You said Nigerians should listen to Obasanjo when he speaks. Now that he said Nigerians should vote out President Buhari in 2019, should we listen to him?
They should listen to him because he has freedom of expression and he is exercising it. But the fact that you listen to him doesn’t mean you will do whatever he says. Obasanjo can only talk but he can’t get votes from anywhere.
The fight against corruption is one of the cardinal programmes of the Buhari administration, do you think he has succeeded in this regards?
Nobody can succeed in curbing corruption. Let me give you a fundamental analysis of corruption, which we don’t look at because we forget the spiritual dimension. There are two areas of contest on earth today. The area of evolution and the area of creation.You know the origins of the species by Darwin. And they say we are the products of thought. We think, therefore, we are. You know that thought is a function of the brain. And brain is part of the body. But those who believe in creation believe we came from above. Our parents were not apes. If you look at the creationist, they know that the whole of creation is packaged, ordered and orderly. We are part of the orderliness to move into the material world to grow and go back to paradise to account for what we did.But the evolutionists believe that we came from the lowest forms of life and developed enough to become man. How many apes have become men since man appeared on earth? Look at those that believe in survival of the fittest and initiated competition as a way of life.
They started conquering territories. If you are not strong enough, you are eliminated; when as a matter of fact, the creationist looks at cooperation to bring order and discipline into the environment. When you talk of survival of the fittest, then you take from those who don’t have to add to those who have.
And we became accumulators. It is part of accumulation to be corrupt. In every community in the world today, there is this problem of struggling to accumulate. And accumulation is the outcome of corruption. That is what it is.You cannot cure corruption by making a law. It depends on what ladder you are on the spiritual ladder. And here, we are down, down the ladder: cheating, 419, and so on. Do you think in the western world, they are not corrupt? It is the law they are afraid of.We must package our laws to tackle and tame the law of taking so that we can gain more. You can think because there is still corruption in the administration, therefore, he is not successful. Nobody sits down now to discuss corruption. We know that. When they are discussing corruption, they are looking to know if there is anybody behind them. There are certain amounts you want to put in the bank now, they won’t accept because they know they are being monitored. TSA has done a lot to bring order and discipline.
Do you see President Buhari making headway in the South East and South- South in 2019?
I have always told you that there are indicators to assess now so that by the time the results are declared, nobody will say the election was rigged. In 2015, it is only in my state, Edo that Buhari scored more than 25 percent. He had 46 percent of votes. All other states in the South- South and South- East, he did not get up to 15 percent votes anywhere. But this time, he will have more votes in those regions than he had in 2015. First of all, the results in those places were packaged; they were just written up and I know that.
How do you know that the results were written up?
They were written up. In the case of Anambra, Imo and other places, how can the president have 98 percent votes? There was no state where he had less than 97 percent votes yet the governors of those states did not have up to 60 percent votes. That is because the results were written up.
But people have always contested the results Buhari got in the North too that the result in Kano was written up. What is your perspective on that?
I can assure you there is massive voting in the North. In our area, during the 2011 presidential election, information came that the political leaders have decided that the region should be delivered to Goodluck Jonathan. I was the national chairman of Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) that time. Then we agreed that let our people vote according to their conscience. So, the writing up of results did not affect our area and we had the highest vote for Buhari in the whole of the South. We had about 29,000 votes but in all other places, they just wrote up the results. The whole of the South-West was overrun by the PDP because there was an agreement between CPC and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but it did not bear fruit. Even ACN then did not support their presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu. It was only Osun state that supported Ribadu. Even in Adamawa, Ribadu lost. We didn’t have money to have agents in the South-West, so many of CPC votes were packaged in Ghana-must-go bags and thrown away. PDP overran the South- West because in fairness, if there was an agreement between ACN and CPC, ACN had no obligation than to protect our votes in the South West because they didn’t even pay agents to protect their own votes. They abandoned Ribadu. Later, after the 2011 election, we decided that the only way to achieve meaningful results is not through alliances but through merger. I, national chairman of CPC we dissolved our party. ACN also dissolved their party, ANPP also did the same and we merged into APC. That is why I tell you that PDP forming CUPP, it cannot work unless they dissolve and call themselves CUPP; one party with one symbol. You will see, when primaries start, everything will scatter. Alliances can be broken even on the eve of election. So, it is a big sacrifice to dissolve yourself and merge into one group. That is why I said all these talks about youth coming together in 2019 is a fallacy, they won’t come together. PDP has about 15 aspirants but only one will emerge and I am telling you that one who emerges will have to look for money to prosecute federal election. None of them is going to bring his own money to say they want to support him. Again, the centre which PDP controlled and were raiding as the ruling party is no longer there to control now. In the South- South and South- East, people of high caliber are moving into APC. So, what we expect is that Buhari coming and winning in 2015 is because of the massive contribution of the South West which allow for the presence of 25 percent spread. We are going to have at least 25 percent votes because there is hardly any state in the South- South and South- East where Buhari will not have up to 25 percent. That is certain. And if there is going to be any rigging, it will not work because Buhari has said nobody should rig for him. if there is going to be any rigging, it will be in the favour of the incumbent, so we don’t have a disadvantage. Those who were rigging before and writing up results cannot now write up results for anybody and if they do, it will be for Buhari but the President have said nobody should write up results for me. If I lose, I will go. ‘