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Saturday, 7 November 2015

Buhari can’t satisfy all Nigerians – APC chief, Moghalu

George Moghalu is the National Au­ditor of the All Progressives Con­gress (APC). In this interview with TAIWO AMODU, he dismisses the standpoint of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that President Muhammadu Buhari’s consistent remarks on endemic corruption and gory picture of the state of the economy was capable of scaring away for­eign investors. He equally enunciates efforts by the government to improve the fortunes of Nige­rians. Excerpts:

The list of ministers designate is a mix­ture of politicians and technocrats. There was insinuation that pressures were brought on President Buhari to accom­modate the party chieftains that made the list. As a member of the national lead­ership of the All Progressives Congress, what actually happened?
If I may be quoted right, I was aware Mr. Pres­ident said he was going to use both politicians and technocrats and that’s exactly what he has done. You see, when people keep talking about technocrats, I get a little bit worried, because I know that some pol­iticians are also technocrats, they are professionals in their areas of discipline, they have made their mark, they have been very successful in those areas before they entered into partisan politics.

If you look at the people Mr. President picked to work with as ministers, yes we have professionals who aren’t involved in politics as part of the mix, but we also have professionals who are politicians and they have made their mark in politics. So, for me, he didn’t go outside what he said, it is a good mix for the benefit of the country

Considering the time it took before the list was unveiled and the expectations of Nigerians, some people actually dis­missed the team as what Nigerians have been used to before and concluded that there was no need for the long time it took for their names to be announced. What is your take?

If I may throw back the question at you, was there a timeline, provided in the Constitution, as to when Mr. President should constitute his cabinet? Mr. President, from my own understanding, didn’t delay but what I want to believe is that he needed the time to look at the papers, look at what the situation on ground is, then look at the individuals he wants to work with to see who and who will fit into which ministry and he needed some time to be briefed and understudy the situation. He needed to know what is on ground, so that by the time a minister comes in and takes over a ministry, he will know what he is taking over, he will know the president’s mind, he will know the time line and what is expected of him. I don’t think time has been lost, we are just barely five months in the life of this administration.

What is being done to assuage the feel­ings of certain leaders of the party who felt shortchanged with the list of ministe­rial nominees? We learnt that is causing rumbling within the party?

If Jesus Christ couldn’t please the entire world, while he was here, why do you expect President Buhari to please the entire country? It isn’t possi­ble. That isn’t reasonable. I think that the people he appointed are all Nigerians and he appointed them from the 36 states of the federation. There is no way he would meet up with expectations of everybody. It isn’t feasible. So, the important thing is, the people he appointed, are they qualified, are they Nigerians, are they representing the various states and the di­vergent political interests?
Do they have the capacity to run the ministries and I think all the answers to these questions are in the affirmative. So, for me, I haven’t noticed any rumbling in the party, I haven’t noticed any dis­agreement among members. The few I have talked to are all in agreement, that it is the president’s pre­rogative to choose those he will like to work with and that right he must be allowed to exercise.

Considering the number of people from the party’s national working committee who are now ministers-designate, aren’t you worried that there is a ploy by Pres­ident Buhari to decapitate the nation­al leadership to bring his own men on board, ahead of 2019?

That’s not true! How many people did he take from the NWC, only three, as we speak now: the SGF and the national vice-chairman South–East and my brother, Lai Mohammed, who is the nation­al publicity secretary, otherwise who else did he take from the working committee, as to give credence to such insinuation? That isn’t true. The president is comfortable with the NWC; the president that I know, if he isn’t comfortable he would have told us.

Now that the team has been put in place, awaiting inauguration Nigerians would expect that they will hit the ground running. What are the things Nigerians should look up to?

Mr. President is committed to improving the lot of Nigerians, he is committed to addressing the ma­jor challenges, one of which is corruption, the basic infrastructure, insecurity and the issue of the econ­omy and he is putting up a team to address those things. Don’t forget that he won on the platform of a political party that presented manifesto to Nigeri­ans and that he has consistently addressed his mind to; he is going to implement the party manifesto that addressed every aspect of our national life, because in arriving at the party manifesto, it isn’t a creation of one or two people sitting in their of­fice and coming up with documents. The manifesto of APC was generated as a result of a survey that was conducted across the country and the needs of the various geo-political zones were taken into account—things that were universal in the con­text of the entire nation; those that were peculiar to specific areas. So, these were all put together in a comprehensive document that was presented to Nigerians. Remember that we entered into a con­tract with Nigerians and those documents were very well thought out with a view that when we form our government, we will be able to address the needs of Nigerians and fortunately we are do­ing that. Mr. President has expressed his desire that the content of this document will be implemented and that’s why he took time to select the team that will drive the process with him.

The PDP has accused the president of always proclaiming his anti-corrup­tion crusade any time he is outside the country and painting the picture of an economy in terrible shape. PDP claimed that he does that consistently, to cover his incapacity to manage the economy?

Is the government not broke? Realistically speaking, the country was vandalized in the past 16 years and Mr. President was being honest.

You see, the good thing we have in this country is that if it’s black, let it be said to be black; if it is white, let it be said to be white.

There shouldn’t be grey areas, there shouldn’t be pretences. It is true that the nation is broke. This nation was vandalized. There is no pretence about it, coupled with the fact that the oil price is coming down on daily basis and that’s why all hands must be on deck to diversify this economy and every Nigerian agrees corruption is a serious challenge to the development of this nation. Mr. President has expressed his determination, he wants to be remembered when he leaves office as the man who promised to fight corruption. So, it isn’t about trying to divert attention away from the challenges on the ground. Everybody knows the challenges and he has no intention of shirking from his responsibilities but we as a people must encourage him, stand with him and we must also be patient. The damage of 16 years cannot be repaired in six months.

But those against his consistent ad­dress on cor­ruption and the state of the economy are of the opin­ion that it de­moralizes Ni­gerians and scares away investors. They want him to tell us what he intends to do to take us away from the rot?

Yes, government is doing that. Government isn’t only fighting corruption, it is doing other things, alongside fighting corruption.

That’s what government is doing; it is address­ing the issue of insecurity. You will agree with me that government is addressing insecurity, insur­gency in the North-East, kid­napping in the South-East and militancy in South- South. Government is addressing those areas. You are also aware that there was a time states couldn’t pay their salaries, about 27 states. Govern­ment opened the leeway with bailout funds—these are interventionist strate­gies that government had to take to address the economic downturn in those states, because we know that a disgrun­tled workforce cannot be productive and that’s why government had to intervene to make s u r e that those states were assisted. The government is also addressing other areas : it is looking at the issue of broken infrastructure, power, to see what can be done, because if you look at power… you cannot talk about power without talking about corruption, because if you look at the amount of investment Nigeria has made in power in the past 16 years without returns. So, you cannot treat one issue in isolation of the others. So, we are addressing the issue of corruption, we are also tackling the economy as well with the reforms that government is putting in place. Government isn’t relaxing by saying it is fight­ing corruption. No, it is fighting corruption while at the same time doing what is expected of it to ensure that the economy is reactivated.

There is a dangerous signal from the south-east within the last three weeks; that’s the agitation for the Sovereign State of Biafra. What does it portend for the crave for mutual trust and sense of be­longing within the federation?
Who are those behind it, we must look at them. The leadership of the South-East, I can tell you, at all levels, the South-East are committed to the unity of this nation but what we are demanding is that we should get a fair share of what is due to the south-east and I can confidently say that the party that I belong to, the APC knowing that the south-east is one of the six geographical zones in this country and has always been accommodated like every other zone in every­thing that we are doing from the point of our con­stitution, from whatever angle—- and when issues that the government is addressing starts manifesting, every issue will be comfortably addressed. For me, I don’t think the agitation by MASSOB is worth it. I don’t support it.

But what is being done to market the APC in the zone?

We are doing our best , we are making our people to understand that we have to be part of the centre, we are making them to understand that the interest of the South-East is best served under APC. We are looking at a situation where one day, the south-east will pro­duce the president and I think that ambition is realiz­able through the APC and by the time Mr. president finishes four years, implementing the party manifesto, people in South-East will fully embrace APC.

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