Tony Momoh
Prince Tony Momoh, the journalist par excellence, a bibliotherapist and cultural engineer is the 165th child of Momoh the first. He is the third of the four children his mother had for Momoh the first and his mother was the junior of the three groups into which the Momoh Household of 45 wives and 245 children were organised.

Saturday Telegraph interviews Prince Tony Momoh

Is Saraki’s rebellion a Northern conspiracy against Bola Tinubu or the ACN/Yoruba bloc in the APC?

How would I know? I’m not in the Saraki camp. I’m also not in the Tinubu camp. But I know that Tinubu is a key leader of the APC. Tinubu is one of the promoters of the APC. I also know that Saraki and the five governors came in (with due respect to them) with Tinubu’s campaign to go APC. Tinubu’s group, ACN, and the CPC, Buhari’s group, were the original groups, along with ANPP. Those were the original three groups that formed the merger. But later a faction of APGA joined. Later, these five governors from PDP came in with Atiku and with Saraki. And I can assure you that it was with maximum effort that we grew APC through such solid leaders who are leaders in their own right.

So you had groups like ACN, CPC, ANPP, a faction of APGA, Atiku and the PDM, and Saraki and the New PDP senators that came in. All these groups came in, not as groups but as individuals because of the merger. So Tinubu, Atiku, Saraki, Buhari, Buruje, Tony Momoh and others are all members of the APC as individuals.

Anybody who enters APC today will have as much right as Buhari, Tinubu or any other member because of the waiver that APC gives, which says that anybody who wants to join the party today is free to contest for any position after joining today.

So if you have Saraki and Dogara in the National Assembly and wanting to be leaders in the National Assembly that is legitimate because they are members of the APC. But if you ask why all these problems and you look at the ambition that everybody has to make it, you will now begin to understand why these problems arise.

But the problem in office seeking has always been there. In 1999 it was there. In 2003, 2007, 2011 it was there. The latest one in 2011 was when we had Tambuwal who defied PDP and used other members of the House to become Speaker of the House. PDP was unhappy with Tambuwal coming. So if you now have Saraki and Dogara coming, not chosen by the party, then the party must show concern. But that does not mean he has no right to come.

Don’t you think the APC has too many ambitious people?

Anywhere you have politicians, politicians craving for power, is as a result of ambition. Anybody who wants to be a politician must crave for power. There was an American Congressman who was accused of fraud and when he was about to leave parliament they told him to apologize to his colleagues. But he said to them: ‘I will not apologize. I only exercised my prerogative as a politician to tell lies.’ So you see, lying, deceit, manipulation are all associated with politics.

Some see the emergence of a PDP member, Ike Ekweremadu, as the Deputy Senate President as a threat to President Buhari. Holders of such opinion believe that such an alignment of PDP senators behind Saraki is dangerous for the president because it means they may be capable of impeaching or removing President Buhari from office. How do you react to the emergence of Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP as the Deputy Senate President?

People are ignorant. The National Assembly is not a threat to Buhari. The role of the National Assembly is to make laws and they will make laws on bills sent by Buhari or bills initiated by themselves. The constitution is very clear. And if for instance they make a law and it is rejected by President Buhari, they can take it back to the National Assembly and pass it by two-thirds majority.

There is no way the PDP can make two-thirds majority. PDP does not have majority in the Senate. PDP also does not have majority in the House of Reps too. So the question of impeaching does not arise.

But the PDP has taken advantage of the division in the APC to grab power in the sense of grabbing the position of the Deputy Senate Presidency?

Which power did they grab? The Deputy President of the Senate and even the Senate President can be PDP. If PDP had played their part well that day, David Mark would have even become the Senate President, because with the number available to vote, perhaps David Mark would have even beaten Saraki. Yes.

And let me tell you, if every member of the National Assembly today is a PDP member, they are not a threat to Buhari, because the constitution is clear. The constitution defines what the National Assembly should do – make law; and what President Buhari should do – execute the law.

Why is Buhari so slow in picking his ministers that Nigerians may now have to wait for two months to get ministers?

Who said Buhari is too slow? Buhari will send his ministerial nominees when he is ready. You know that the hand over of the transition papers was done by the former president about two days to the inauguration. And then they had to be given to the transition committee set up by President Buhari. That committee studied the report and then they made recommendations concerning some ministries. When their report is studied and it is approved, if we are going to have 20 or 24 ministers and so on and so forth as the case may be, then we can talk of ministers to man those ministries.

Do you put the horse before the cart or the cart before the horse? So there is no slowness. How long did former President Jonathan take to forward names to parliament, when as a matter of fact, he was even a sitting president who won election? It took about six weeks before he sent ministerial nominees to the National Assembly. Again, go and find out the agitations in ministries that were going on because of what has been happening. Why is life better now?

There are indications that President Buhari intends to reduce the size of the federal government cabinet to cut cost. Will the president face a constitutional crisis if he appoints less than 36 ministers when the constitution says that each of the 36 states must produce a minister?

How can he have a constitutional crisis when he has not worked against the constitution? You are asking me to comment on guess work. Let us see if he won’t have as many ministers as there are states in the country, when you know that there is no money. When you know that all these ministers have to be paid. When you know that all these ministers have advisers, senior assistants, assistants, even junior assistants and all sorts of things attached to them. How can you start overloading the polity?

Since the APC has failed as a party in having its way for people it endorsed for key positions at the National Assembly, what does this portend for the country? Is it a sign of unpreparedness on the part of the party? In other words, is President Buhari and the APC really prepared to govern?

For instance, was PDP ready to govern in 1999 when Evans Enwerem whom they did not endorse emerged as Senate President? What of Okadigbo? What of Tambuwal? Did Tambuwal’s coming as the Speaker of House of Representatives mean that PDP wasn’t ready to govern? The National Assembly makes law and the Executive implement the law. And governing belongs more in the Executive than in the National Assembly.

So how can somebody say that just because there was problem in the National Assembly because of what APC suggested, therefore, it means Buhari is not ready to govern?

Buhari is a member of the APC but he is not the Chairman of APC. He is not a party executive. The party executive look after the affairs of the party. But the president has the country to run, and he is running the country.

The problem of the National Assembly is a storm in a teacup and it does not dislocate any operation. In a new parliament, they always struggle like this. It has always been there since 1999.

Some people believe that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has an overbearing influence on your party. Why is the APC allegedly under the grip of one man?

Give it to Tinubu. Tinubu is a digital politician. Tinubu is a proactive politician. Tinubu is an organizer. Tinubu is a mobilizer. You can say that Tinubu is a leader of leaders. But the fact is that if there is anything to compete for, if Tinubu competes for it and gets it, is that the fault of Tinubu or the fault of others who didn’t win or refused to compete? So what is happening now that Tinubu seems to be an issue is that there are many leaders in the party who are leaders of groups in the party. It is not that the party is divided. But there are leaders who have support within the party and they are entitled to assert their presence in the party and vie for anything within the party. That is what has happened.

So if you look at the soul of the Tinubu group in the party, you can find the so-called Tinubu group in the party itself; in the National Working Committee, and the party organization. But the fact is that in the National Assembly there are a lot of people you can say belong to the so-called Tinubu group. But it just happened that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House belong in the so-called New PDP Group. But the so-called New PDP Group are not PDP people, they are APC people. And Tinubu group are not ACN people, they are APC people. So it is a legitimate struggle within the party. In other words, all the contending parties are APC people. They don’t belong to the parties they are coming from. So you cannot say that because Tinubu came from ACN that Tinubu’s people are ACN people. You also cannot say that because the New PDP people came from PDP they are PDP. They are not.

Their parties have been dissolved and they are now in APC. So what is happening now is APC internal affair which like I have said, manifests in the struggle in the National Assembly and is a storm in a teacup which will soon blow over.

There is talk in some quarters that this internal struggle in the APC is all directed towards 2019. In the sense that by 2019, President Buhari may be up to 76 years old and ‘too old’ to go for a second term in office. Therefore, former Vice President, AtikuAbubakar, Saraki, and Tinubu are each battling to take control of the party allegedly in order to advance their 2019 presidential ambitions. Are AtikuAbubakar, Saraki and Tinubu a threat to Buhari?

I don’t understand the kind of question you’re asking. You’re in politics for a purpose. For instance, many of them contested to be the flag bearer of the APC in a free and fair election. Buhari came out and when he won, all of them congratulated Buhari. So in 2019, God-willing, the same issue will play out. Anybody who is interested will come. If Buhari is interested, he will come. But Buhari is entitled to two terms. In 2019 he can ask the party to give him the ticket again, and if the party likes, they can go ahead and give him the ticket again. If anybody likes, they can go and contest with him at the party primary and whoever emerges will be supported by the party.

So why are people giving the impression that people within the party cannot express their ambition or say what they want? They are reading meaning into everything, which may be true or false. So, we haven’t even started work yet, and they are already talking of who wants to be president in 2019. But Buhari will deliver. And on the basis of delivery, Nigerians will vote for him. But if he doesn’t deliver, Nigerians won’t vote for him.

Is there an age limit for the president in the constitution? There is no upper limit. You can be 90, you can be 100 as long as you ask for their vote and they vote for you.

In 2012, Senegal abolished its Senate to save cost of governance. Some say the Nigerian Senate is not necessary but is only a drain pipe or symbol of wastage and should therefore be abolished. How do you react to this? Should Nigeria’s Senate be abolished or reformed?

Is it the Nigerian Senate that licks up all the money? Didn’t you hear the report of the Central Bank spending more money than the National Assembly and the NNPC and others? Do you think that because the NNPC spends so much more money than what it takes to run the government that the NNPC should be wiped out? The fact is that the issues should be addressed frontally. Left to me, you may have seen my publication entitled: ‘To save Nigeria, let’s talk’. I gave my proposal to the National Dialogue and I said, look, to reduce the cost of governance, instead of having the 36 federating units, let the federating units be six, that is the six geopolitical zones. Then the powers of the National Assembly which are about 93 now, reduce them to one and a half a dozen, and then place the powers in the regions. But the states, if they remain, should reside in the regions.

Then I said that the Legislature which is now full time should be part-time. And the Local Government Areas should be wiped out. Let the regions decide if they want local governments and fund them. The local governments are a conduit pipe for siphoning money from the federal government to the states.

When you decongest the political space, economic deregulation becomes automatic. The regions will now contribute to running the federal government. And then, instead of competition, there will be cooperation.

Now, everybody ignores what they can get and depends on oil. But within the next few years, oil will no longer be very useful. I said all these things.

So you don’t just say cancel the Senate because there is no money. Assess all the areas of waste and see what can be done about it. 17, 400 Nigerians spend more than half of the budget of Nigeria today, when we have more than 170 million people to attend to.

Look at the area globally. Create the environment for people to be what they can be, and decongest the political space. That’s all. You shouldn’t look at one place in isolation and say cancel the Senate. No!

The former CBN Governor, ChukwumaSoludo recently reportedly said the NNPC should be scrapped. What do you think should happen to the NNPC?

If you scrap it what happens? The fact is that there are issues. There are proposals of what should happen in NNPC. And I trust that President Buhari, having been a minister there before, will attend to them.

(Published in Saturday Telegraph of July 4, 2015)


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