Senator Joseph Waku represented Benue North Senatorial District between 1999 and 2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and he is currently a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, the controversial politician discountenances apprehension over President Muhammadu Buhari’s health status and how he won the 2015 election
President Muhammadu Buhari’s health status has become a source of concern. How do you see its possible impact on governance?
I am not President Buhari’s personal physicians to comment on his health status.
I don’t know where you are heading to on the issue. What do you mean by the implication of his health status on governance?
Are we not returning to what happened in 2010 when the then President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health status was shrouded in mystery?
What do you want? Was the President going to Disco with you?
Are governance activitie not to able to moving right now? Did the Vice President tell you that he does not know what is happening? Come on young man, look for something better for us to discuss.
Even a 15-year-old boy can fall sick not to talk about a president in his mid 70s.
Is he the first president to fly abroad for treatment and upon his return take a rest? You southern newspapers are the problem of this country. Somebody is sick yet you will not allow him to rest.
And as you could see, the President met with the Vice President, NNPC Managing Director and some other top government officials last Tuesday. That goes to show that things are not as bad as people as talking.
They should just be patient and with the President well. I am not saying nothing is wrong with him, rather I am saying he has health challenges.
What is your reaction to the content of and comments on the book ‘Against the Run of Play’?
For your information, I have not even seen the book, neither have I read it, so I cannot make any comment on it.
And if you look at my comment on former President Goodluck Jonathan on the book some days ago where he said northern leaders betrayed him he did not say Senator Waku betrayed him because ab initio,
Jonathan was not mature and he went out to look for fake northern leaders and they demonstrated that they were fake. So that is all even in a report on me carried by some newspapers I decried what actually happened.
And I said I did not want to talk to one of those newspapers in Lagos, (not New Telegraph) because of its ownership pattern and editorial slant.
He (Jonathan) knows the northern leaders that he liaised with that betrayed him.
I was not involved in that. So next time, when any southern president or any northerner or Nigerian president wants to meet with northern leaders, they should do their research and know the people to deal with that will not betray them.
I have said it very clear in that interview. It is not every northern leader that supported him.
Some of us took our stand ab initio that we were not with him.
But those he trusted betrayed him.
He did not do his home work thoroughly and so got into the wrong hands because we, the authentic northern elders and leaders, had already made up our mind that we were not going to give him any vote and we stuck to it.
Those he trusted were nobody and so he should have himself to blame.
How do you see current government efforts to revamp agriculture and discourage rice importation and the rest?
I identify with that. You are a Nigerian and you will recall that when the country gained independence about 60 years ago, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy.
Cocoa, groundnut, palm oil and the rest were the products. So if a government has the rethink that instead of dependence on one product like oil, let us return to the land, I think all Nigerians should support that policy.
The then Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo started the Green Revolution which failed, so what we have to talk about is to ensure that this one does not fail.
Because there is no nation in the world which succeeds by concentrating on a single revenue base, and I can boast to say that agricultural produce in this country can turn out to be the greatest revenue earner.
Number one it does not have a lifespan like oil which may dry up at any time. And with modern technology with which it is extracted, you will discover that one day the oil has become useless.
So let us encourage agriculture and make sure that we take deliberate efforts to sustain massive food production and preservation in the country.
But a mitigating factor against agriculture is the murderous activity of the Fulani herdsmen who storm and destroy farmlands as it has become commonplace in Nasarawa, Benue and Enugu states in recent times….
That is one gigantic problem we have to address; it is problem over which the government must take a decisive position.
Decisive because there is not point going to the farm to plant your crops only to discover that the following day your crops have been eaten up as your farm is turned to grazing land and in some cases, you find the herdsmen even killing farmers.
That will discourage farming and destroy government’s back to farm programme which is designed to increase food production.
So the government should declare a state of emergency over the activities of herdsmen in the country like what it has done with Boko Haram.
Ironically, you are talking to somebody who is directly involved.
As we speak today, my country home, my village has been razed by these Fulani herdsmen. So you are talking to somebody who is directly involved.
Akin to this is the issue of the economy and increasing foreign exchange…
You see, government should take the Sani Abacha option about forex and peg the naira to dollar and damn the consequence.
Do you remember that for about five years under Abacha the naira exchanged at N82 to a dollar and this government can do it? All you need is the strong political will.
But the International Monetary Fund and some world bodies are calling for devaluation of the naira…
That is where we need to grow our economy from within, grow our agriculture and that will enable us to revamp the economy and call their bluff.
You have spoke about this anti-corruption war. Would you say it is achieving its objectives?
So far, I will say so good. You know that in recent times millions of dollars have been recovered from some corrupt Nigerians.
Even the American who own the dollar and produce it have not seen this volume and quantity of their currency, dollars physical cash as we see here in Nigeria. It is embarrassingly high.
How many American have seen such quantity as we see here in Nigeria?
Won’t you agree that the anti-corruption fight is a success them? It is not yet Uhuru, especially when you know how entrenched corruption is in the Nigerian system. Do you know how long it has been?
And don’t forget, when you fight corruption, corruption also fights back.
But it has also been argued that the exhibition of such volumes of cash affects the psych of our children?
I don’t think it will. It will not, rather it will warn them that there is danger in corrupt practices. I don’t agree that it will affect their psyche.
But some have argued that the anti-corruption fight is targeting the opposition, as it is in the arrest of former governors of Jigawa, Benue and Niger states?
The matters are before the courts and if they have political undertone, the former governors are at liberty to challenge if they are exonerated by the courts on the said charges.
Even to those who claim that it targets the opposition, would you say that it is everybody in the opposition that is being arrested for corruption?
It is those who have had the trust of Nigerians, those who have had the opportunity to manage the resources of the people on their behalf and they misused that resources meant to manage those resources for the lives of the people and you would agree that the governors are on the frontline here.
You will be surprised that if EFCC continues the way it is going, if the APC goes out of government, the commission will not also spare any APC governor now who mismanage or steal public funds.
That will also depend on the decision of competent court of jurisdiction.
Even right now, even in the PDP that was in government for 16 years, it is not every governor that is being arrested. Rather it is only those who have soiled their hands with public funds. So no one should say it targets those in the opposition.
Those who are being arrested today never knew a day like this would come and that is a message to those in government right now.
It will be a deterrence to be careful when handling public funds because tomorrow you would account for these funds. It is not right to say that it targets the opposition because if that is the case how many leaders of PDP have been arrested besides those who converted the resources of the people which were kept in their trust? They are the one that are being questioned today
Are the governors not going the same way now looking at the manner they are handling the Paris Club refund?
You see, you are asking me question that I am incompetent to answer. First, I don’t know how much they have and I am not a member of the committee set up by the government to handle the disbursement.
If anybody is going to probe anything, it depends on the amount of money each of those states received.
How many of them have cleared the arrears of salaries and pensions? In the future, this will be investigated and the truth would come out about whether they were properly utilized. I don’t know the purpose for which it is released and how it has been used.
But EFCC has come out with how it has been used and some figures on diversion?
That is what I am saying. The most authentic source about the amount disbursed is either the Finance Ministry or the EFCC and interestingly, the latter have said that some states have mismanaged it. If that is the case, it is very unfortunate.
Why is your state governor Samuel Otorm at loggerheads with his predecessor, Gabriel Suswan?
That again is a question for the governor and his predecessor.
They have never brought any matter before me or any committee that I am involved in. Whatever I hear are hearsay and I am too old to dabble into perceived enmity between these people which have not been formally brought to my knowledge.
You might say this is belated, but why did you leave PDP for APC? It is belated actually. When did I leave PDP?
About 10 years ago?
You got your fact but is not correct. I left PDP for the Action Congress and later to Action Congress of Nigeria and to APC. And even in the APC that I am now, the door is not closed.
If what I perceived in APC that made me to leave PDP is not longer there, I will still move, because I am a product of justice. I am a product of fairness and I am a product of free and fair democratic principles.
And don’t forget, there is a saying that if you continue to be sick you will continue to look for a doctor. Until you find a cure, you will never stop going to the hospital.
You have just asked me a good question because I left PDP which was in power to an unknown destination.
Today I have arrived at that destination. If I discover that this is not a proper destination, I will change; I will make a u-turn. I keep everybody who cares to know that APC did not win election, rather Buhari did and I owe apologies no one.
But it has been said that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu practically won the election…?
Tinubu did not win the election for Buhari, rather Buhari won the election.
Why did you say so? Because it is Buhari who won the election, Tinubu only contributed,
A lot of people will not agree with you They have their opinions and I have mine.
It is often said that the exit of five PDP governors to the APC boosted their chances…
Listen, Nigerian needed a change and the driver of that change is Buhari. Let no Nigerian deceive you.
Take it or leave it Buhari won the election. Full stop. Tinubu must have contributed more than the rest of us but you cannot take away the fact that Buhari won the election and to say Tinubu brought Buhari to power is an over-exaggeration.
A lot of Nigerains and other party leaders contributed a lot. Kano State alone contributed about 1-8 million to Buhari’s total score, and so did many states in the north. Kano’s votes is more than the votes of the entire South-West.
It is almost two years President Buhari came to power, would you say he has achieved his objectives?
You are a Nigerian, if not during President Buhari’s tenure; have you ever seen millions of dollars stashed away in houses in this country all your life?
His successes in the anti-corruption war and security are there for everyone to see. You will agree with me that it will take more than two years to rebuild things that have been destroyed for 16 years. He is not a magician.
This is a President who is even probing members of his government. Look at the probe of the Director-General of the NIA and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Both of them have been suspended now. So when they say the anti-corruption war is one-sided, they should have a rethink.
You can see, the SGF, the engine room of government is being probed and that is the first of its kind since Nigeria got independence.
It is on record that this is the first time an SGF is suspended on the basis of accusation of corruption. It does not make sense to