Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information and ex-National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on the state of the nation, the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari, the anticorruption war, and state of insecurity, among other issues
What is your take on last Monday’s declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari to seek re-election in 2019?
There is no argument about his entitlement. He is entitled to two terms under the constitution. So, if he expresses interest, then he can move to the next level and that is the party primary. He will attempt it and if he wins, he will become the party’s candidate and goes into the poll. If Nigerians like and love him, they will vote for him. If they don’t, they will vote him out. That is the due process. So, it is a very good thing that he has declared because I am one of those who believes he should continue to serve Nigeria in the two terms entitlement that he has under the constitution as long as his health is good. Nobody can say that his health is not good. He is quite well; he is strong and he is fit.
Do you think the diverse appeals, clamours, and adoptions by some governors, APC leaders and groups actually pressurised the President to declare to run in 2019?
Everything is politics. One thing that brings politics out is engagement. It is the same energy that you use in talking that you use in doing. That is why dictatorial regimes usually perform better than democracy because they channel all their energy into doing things. But democracy is by and large talking; everybody is talking, shouting in the marketplace. And when that is happening, people say there is confusion; it is not confusion. It is talking and in any case, people don’t have to tell him to contest before he agreed that he will contest. There has always been pressure and there will always be pressure. So, it is not the pressure that you will say made him to want to contest. Even if there has not been pressure and he knows he is entitled to contest, why not? He would have contested. But it is a good thing that many of us pressurised him and pleaded with him because we believe he has achieved more than other people have done since 1999.
But some people are of the view that President Buhari has not done enough to warrant seeking for reelection?
Let them go and vote against him. That is one beauty of democracy. People should not just talk, they should go and register and on the day of election go to the polling unit to vote. There are people who are permanently in the opposition and will never see anything good in the party in government or the one they opposed. But this is understandable because there Momoh is freedom of expression. But only the blind, deaf and dumb will say that Buhari has not done anything because all the presidents before him: Olusegun Obasanjo, Umar Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan, didn’t do as much Buhari has done in their first terms. There is none. If there is, let people come and put him down. To even take it further, what some people did in two terms is not up to what Buhari has done in his first term. Is it in the area of the economy? Is it fighting the insurgency? Is it in the area of agriculture? Is it fighting corruption?
So you believe that the chances of President Buhari are very bright in 2019?
Of course, his chances are very bright. It is ruling party, the APC, that is there. In spite of what some people are saying, APC has no problem. I have heard people say APC is in trouble but the truth is that APC is not in trouble. And you can see that many people are moving into APC. How many people have massively moved out of APC? In terms of organisation, APC is organised in every polling unit; 120,000 polling units in Nigeria. So, APC is on the ground. Yes, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had that type of organisation but it lost the centre and since it lost, it is apologising to Nigerians but their apology is nothing if you don’t return the stolen loots. So, PDP has degenerated to a regional party and has a lot of work to do. More work than a lot of people think.
Are you saying that PDP is not a threat to APC in 2019?
Everybody is going to try but I don’t see what the PDP can do in 2019 when it comes to the presidency. I don’t see it.
But they are saying that they are going to take over from your party in 2019…
There was no coup that was ever resisted in Nigeria that succeeded. Are they going to do a coup? If they want to do a coup, it would be resisted and it will fail. The only way to win an election is through votes. Where is the organisation in the PDP? I believe that PDP has more hurdles to cross than a lot of people think.
Apart from the PDP, the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) and many others have opposed the idea of President Buhari running for another term and they even advised him publicly not to run in 2019…
Is Babangida, my former boss, not in PDP? He is not a member of the APC. He is a member of PDP and he knows that he cannot dictate what happens in another party. He has even been a presidential aspirant in PDP. Obasanjo was PDP candidate at a time. He has torn their membership card and he is also not a member of APC. He has just formed a group. Let us see how that group moves. And Obasanjo is too clever and too enlighten to risk forming a political party because if he forms a political party; it won’t fly and that is why he said if you people as a pressure group move into a political party, I will resign. Obasanjo has his own very good area to commend him for but not on the issue of party. Where are his structures? Even in the South-West, where are they?
With the present state of things in the APC and the controversies that trailed the tenure elongation of party’s executives and other issues, don’t you think the internal wrangling may affect your party in the next general elections?
There is no problem in APC. So many things being done by the party are constitutional. There was a proposal to extend the tenure of the party’s executives and we reassessed the issue and came to a conclusion that we are going to have congresses and convention. So, where is the problem in APC? There is none.
Do you think the APC can manage the usual fall out of conventions given the state of the party and the several interests hanging on the balance?
The party has polling unit organisation, ward organisation, local government organisation, state organisation, geo-political level organisation and of course the national level organisation. It has a caucus and then of course, we are restructuring the Board of Trustees (BoT). In other words, all the structures that we have our members are populated with all the organs of the party and they are working and on the ground. So, where is the problem? We don’t have any problem. So those who are hoping that we have a problem would be disappointed because there is no problem that cannot be resolved.
Internal wrangling and interests have torn some state chapters of APC apart. Will this not affect your party chances in 2019?
Sometimes, when I look at the way people think, I wonder whether they know that we are practising a democracy. Everybody has his own followers. The governor in Edo State has his followers but that does not mean that since the governor has his followers, other leaders like senators, members of the House of Representatives and House of Assembly should throw away their followers and follow the governor blindly. In a democracy, everybody has his own little area of politics and control. It does not mean there is a quarrel. It is democracy. If one person is not happy with another, that does not mean there is a quarrel. And if two people are fighting today, tomorrow you can see them laughing. That is democracy. Was there no quarrel when PDP was in power? Everybody has the right to struggle to occupy any positions he is qualified for anywhere in the country. It could be ward councillor, chairman of local government, members of the House of Assembly, members of the National Assembly, Governors and President. These are positions one can contest for and there are pockets of support and even resistance, quarrel and fighting and yet the ballot box will eventually decide. So, why are we giving the impression that we must have peace of a graveyard before we say our democracy is successful? No.
So you believe that APC will put its house in order and address all its internal problems?
The party house is in order. People said there is going to be fighting and quarreling at the NEC meeting of last Monday but that was the shortest NEC meeting in the history of APC. All issues were resolved. That is politics for you.
One of the issues raised by those opposed to Buhari’s second term bid is about his health and age. Why is APC insisting on Buhari for 2019?
We have not insisted on Buhari. Buhari has said he wants to contest. If there are others who want to contest, they will go to the party’s primary during the convention and whoever wins will take our flag. And I can assure you that there are lots of us who want Buhari there. So, it is our choice. Are you denying us the right to choose? Do you want to choose for us when you are not in our party? If for instance, Buhari is not a popular candidate, then those who are in opposition to us should celebrate that they have someone they can easily defeat. They should celebrate that we are presenting Buhari, who is not a popular candidate, who they say is too old to rule, who they are saying all sought of things about. They should go and field the candidate who will just have a walk over.
When President Buhari was coming on board, he promised to address three issues: Insecurity, Corruption, and Economy. But some people are of the view that the president has not fulfilled his campaign promises…
The fact is that he has fulfilled the campaign promises. Even international bodies are ticking us right, right, right. So, those who are opposed to him are only doing so because they are in opposition. And they have the right to do so.
But there are still killings and kidnappings in different parts of the country…
If Buhari has not come, those of us in Abuja today will not be in Abuja. Before Buhari came on board, was Boko Haram not everywhere? Were we not running helter-skelter in terms of Boko Haram? Where is Boko Haram today? What about the problem we have in the Niger Delta, IPOB and all other areas are being resolved and we can never deny that our own security agencies are trying, even overworked. Security is a key issue and unless you secure the land, you cannot stabilise infrastructural development. Infrastructural developments are all over the place. I saw a Senator last week on television saying that in Adamawa State, the people in the Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps have all relocated to their farms. That is good news. We recovered from the recession. Before Buhari became president, millions of dollars was spent on importing rice every day but now we grow rice in different parts of the country. We are trying to be more independent on our resources than waiting for others to feed us. Are you saying people can’t see all that? The way school children are being fed; all over the place, children are being given free food and even now there is free registration to go to school. If people don’t see all these achievements, then they have right to do what they do, close their eyes.
But despite the Federal Government and the security agencies claims that Boko Haram has been defeated, President Buhari recently approved $1million to fight insurgency… Who said $1billion was approved to fight Boko Haram?
The money is meant for security. Is it only Boko Haram that is a threat to our security? Don’t you see cattle rustlers killing people in Zamfara? Don’t you see the killings in Benue? Don’t you see the problems we have in South-East? Can’t you see the presence of the Navy and other security agencies in the Niger Delta? They are stabilising the area. Are you not aware of the different groups; military and other security agencies in all the six geo-political zones? Do you know the cost of a bomb that is dropped in Sambisa Forest? Military and security is a very expensive thing. What is $1billion compare to the amount of money some country used on security? One of my friends said the money is N365billion, N1billion being spent a day. If there is any threat to this country, it must be attended to. And there are people who must ensure that Nigeria is stabilised and it is security and stabilisation that leads to prosperity. There is no magic to prosperity. Is it not when you are secure that you can work and stabilise? If Buhari has not come, we won’t be here today. People who are talking on social media; may God not let them experience IDP. Do you know what it takes to be in an IDP camp carrying a plate looking for food? The security you have in your house is not there; you have been driven out of your house. May God not let us experience war?
The Federal Government recently released lists of looters’ and the PDP also released its own looters’ list. What is your take on the two lists?
Those who have stolen should be exposed whether PDP, APC or anybody. But one thing that the president seems to be unwilling to do is to expose those who have been presidents before in this country. If for instance all those people had also been exposed, then Nigerians will know where their money went to.
Will you say the Buhari administration is really fighting corruption when some people are not exposed?
There is nobody who is not exposed if there are issues. The other people, PDP or any other group can blow whistles; whistleblowing is for everybody. There is no political party involvement in blowing the whistle. Anybody who knows there is corruption anywhere should blow the whistle. You won’t get canned for blowing the whistle. So, let those who have the names of looters bring them forth and see if they won’t get a commission. Buhari is fighting corruption and he is leading the fight against corruption and everybody should join in that fight. Corruption is not a one-man affair.
There is a perceived face-off between the executive and legislature at the national level despite the fact that the ruling party is at the helms of affairs in the National Assembly?
There is division of power and separation of power between the executive, legislature, and judiciary. People think that because they belong to the same party, then all of you must be on the same page; no way. The legislature has its own personality and functions. It has its own oversight functions to do in respect of the executive. Once they are inside the legislative chamber, they are on the same page in that house and you cannot come from outside to come and dictate to them. That is what people must know.
Looking at the issue of the Fulani herdsmen, how do you think the issue can be addressed considering that killings by herdsmen have become a recurring problem in different parts of the country?
What is happening today is not those Fulani herdsmen that carry stick; these ones killing innocent Nigerians are killers and they should be dealt with as killers. You can’t say Fulani killers just like we shouldn’t be saying Igbo killers, Yoruba killers or Edo killers. My take is that killers are killers; don’t associate killing with any particular group. I believe we are playing politics with security and we shouldn’t do that. For instance, nobody can mess up the Igbo people because they proved what they are when they held Nigeria to a ransom for 30 months during the Civil War. Nobody can overcome or undermine the militants in the Niger Delta because they successfully brought our economy down to its knees until there was amnesty.
Nobody can take the Yoruba, the South-West for granted. They did not fire a shot in National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) when they fought the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election struggle. And at the end of the day, we had a process that brought in Obasanjo as president. That is to tell you that the major confidences of Nigerians are strong enough to call the shot in certain areas.
The Tiv were never defeated by the Fulani. The Kanuri were never defeated by the Fulani. When there was Jihad and Usman Dan Fodio was quoted as saying he will keep the Quran in the Atlantic, did he go beyond Ilorin? All these people held their head high as an ethnic group related to the Hausa- Fulani. Now everybody is saying Fulani, are you aware that through politicking, we are bringing up our children to be afraid of Fulani in their mindset all because of the greed of playing politics.
So, what Usman Dan Fodio could not achieve, we are achieving for him through the fear of Fulani we are putting in the mind of our people. But the fact is that these herdsmen are also afraid of the insurgents because it is insurgents that are making them thrive. We must all unite to fight the insurgency.
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