Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in this interview withTokunbo Adedoja of , speaks on several national issues including the gale of defections that hit the ruling All Progressives Congress, invasion of the National Assembly by DSS operatives, why the ruling party is insisting on change of leadership in the Senate, allegation of political partisanship against anti-graft agencies, the NYSC certificate scandal involving the minister of finance, 2019 election and the chances of President Buhari, and of course, the battle for the soul of Kwara State following the defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki from APC. Excerpts:
It’s been three and a half years since this administration came to power. There are still views that the government has not fulfilled some of its key promises. For instance, there are still killings by terrorists in the North, unemployment is still very high, electricity is still not stable. These are some of your campaign promises. How would you react to this?
“_Don’t judge us by the infraction of one person or one agency__”
I think the opposition is either being mischievous or totally ignorant. This administration has delivered on all the promises it made and I will start with security. I will start with the issue of insurgency in the North East; people have forgotten what the situation was in the North East until the 29 th of May 2015 when the president was sworn into office. 24 local governments, 20 in Borno, four in Adamawa and Yobe States were under the effective occupation of Boko Haram, Boko Haram hoisted their flags in those states, they ran their administration, judiciary and there schools in those local governments. As a matter of fact, when I visited Bama, Konduga and Kawu on the 5 th of December 2015, and I reached Bama, for a minute I thought I was either in Tunisia or Algeria because every road signs, all signboards were in Arabic. That was how effective the Boko Haram occupation of the North East was. And in those days you could not travel 50 kilometres outside of Maiduguri. Today, we can say not a single inch of our territory is under Boko Haram occupation. We can say today that all schools have been reopened, all roads have been reopened, normalcy has returned so much so that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) now play its league matches regularly in Maiduguri.
Yes, it is true that you still have some isolated cases of suicide bombings, this is not a sign of strength or resurgence, it is a sign of weakness and desperation. Anybody who is familiar with similar wars will know that this is what happens. Today many people have left the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps and returned to their homes. So if you ewant to judge our success or otherwise please put it in real context.
And not only have we reclaimed all territories from Boko Haram, the military has even gone beyond the call of duty by organising medical mission in those areas, they have also extended that to running schools in the IDP camps so that the children who have missed schooling can continue some form of learning in the IDP camps. So if people want to judge us on security, they should put it in the right context – Where did we start from? Where are we today?
Coming to the killings that you talked about, there were killings in Zamfara, in Benue, Taraba States and in Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State, those are largely the areas where we have these killings; unfortunately like the BBC have reported, Fake News have aggravated some of these killings because they failed to really take note of some of the context of these killings.
Herdsmen and farmers clash is not new to Nigeria, it predates our independence, the first farmers and herdsmen clashes were recorded in 1947, yes, it has assumed a heavy proportion in the last couple of years for some reasons. One, is demography; two, is due to climate change; and three, is due to pure criminality; and four, is probably political. So if you want to talk about these killings, look at them from those contexts.
In 1960 when Nigeria attained independence, the whole population was 45 million people. What that means is that today we have 190 million people living in the same country of the same size as was the case in 1960; so the same land, same grass and water available to 45 million people and animals are now being shared by 190 million people and animals. So there is bound to be clashes, the demographic explosion is bound to lead to struggle for scarce resources. Of course, there is also the issue of climate change. Let’s take Lake Chad, for instance, which sustains six countries in Africa starting from Niger to Chad, Cameroon, Benin Republic Central African Republic, it has dried up from 25000 square kilometres of surface water to a mere 2500 square kilometres of surface water today, and the Lake Chad used to sustain 35 million lives in this six countries so both the fauna and the floral disappeared and this is why people are moving south wards.
Of course there is also the issue of pure criminality. Some politicians have armed militia groups and now want to bring religious and ethnic twists to these killings, which are not true. I always give two examples, we have lost more lives in Zaamfara State, unfortuntely to cattle rustlings than we have lost in Taraba and Benue States put together. Whereas, the cattle rustlers in Zamfara are Muslims and Fulanis and the victims are also Mulims and Fulanis; so how do you then talk about ethnicity and religion? Or take Kebbi State where 70 per cent of those in Kebbi Prisons are there as a result of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, yet the farmers in Kebbi State are Fulani Muslims and the farmers there are also Fulani Muslims. Unfortunately, when they kill in Zamaara they are bandits, but when they are killing in Benue, they are herdsmen.
In this matter, I think the media has been unfair to us because government has put in place very effective measures that have resulted in a sharp decline in the killings, especially in Benue State. 16 Units of Mobile Policemen have been put together in Benue State to stop these killings. Under the Office the Chief of Defence Staff, there is a unit put together and comprising the military, Police, Civil Defence Corps and there is also a quick air response squad in place that has actually contained these killings. Many militia has been arrested and many are being prosecuted. And the honest truth is that unlike before when we were reporting killings everyday in Benue State, the last time anybody heard about killings in Benue State was probably a few weeks ago. We want the media to also report these positive developments. The truth really is that the government is in control and, in Zamfara for instance, there is a 1000-man joint military team made up of the Army, Air force, Navy and the Police to tackle the problem of cattle rustling.
Don’t forget also the issue of proliferation of arms across the Sahel is a global issue; these are some of the issues that have combined together to give the impression that the government is not doing anything, but the government is doing a lot and that is why we now have peace in Benue State, and I am happy to say this; we have peace in Taraba. The issue of cattle rustling in Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State and in Zamfara State is being tackled.
Fake News is also contributing to this. For instance, in 2017, there was the news that 5 students of the College of Education in Birnin Waya, Kaduna State were killed by herdsmen but it was found not to be true. Again, two reverend fathers were killed in Benue and their killings were ascribed to herdsmen but those who are being prosecuted for the killings were actually militias. We also want the media to go deep into the causes of these killings and in particular report the positive developments that what we have today are not the kind of killings that that we had few months back, which shows that government has swung into action.
We came in in 2015 to meet a massively depleted treasury. We met debts. We met infrastructural decay everywhere. Today we can beat our chest and say from $23 billion foreign reserve we have built our reserves to over $47 billion, inflation has come down from 18 per cent when we came in to about 11 per cent and we intend to achieve single digit inflation before the end of the year. For about 18 months, we have witnessed progressively a decline in inflation. The measures that we have taken has increased confidence internationally in our economy; in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index, we climbed 24 steps in 2017 alone and we were adjudged one of the 10 most performing economies in the world; our Stock Exchange was number six in the whole world with about 30 per cent improvement.
Our social investment programme has touched million of lives. As we speak today, we feed 18,500,000 pupils with one meal a day in about 60,000 schools, in the process we’ve employed about 60,000 cooks. The programme is meant for the whole Nigeria, as of today about 23 states have joined in the programme. A government that feeds eight million students per day, you cannot say that government is not impacting its people. Our conditional cash transfer is addressing the conditions of the most poor people in the society and there are about 300,000 people till date who are benefitting from a stipend of N5000 per month and this is a joint project between us and the World Bank; it has helped us to identify some of the most vulnerable and poor families and this has also helped with financial inclusion because for you to benefit from this, you must have a bank account and a BVN. Our Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is working, about 400,000 Cooperatives have so far benefitted from it by taking loans from N50,000 to N100,000; while our Market Money has benefitted millions of people, including petty traders who get N10,000 to boost their trades. So we’ve made impact in the lives of people.
And in Agriculture, when we came in there were five million rice farmers in Nigeria. Today, through our Anchor Borrowers Scheme we have over 11 million rice farmers, we have increased the number of rice processing mills that we inherited to about 21. We have also revitalised about 23 fertiliser plants that were moribund when we came in.
In the area of infrastructure, no government has achieved what we have done till date. We did not abandon any project, we continued with all the projects that we met. As we speak today, we have been able to rehabilitate 560 kilometres of road, we have also completed 750 kilometres of new roads. We took N100 billion Sukuk bond and we divided it into 16.6 each for each geo-political zone of the country and construction of roads and bridges are going on.
Recently, I took a trip with the Minister of Transportation from Ebute Metta in Lagos to Papalanto in Ogun State to see how the Chinese were handling the standard gauge rail project between Lagos and Kano, and we were quite confident that before the end of the year they will deliver the Lagos Ibadan end of the project. From there we went to inspect the Lagos Ibadan Express Road, which is about 53 per cent completed on both sides after which we went to inspect the Oyo-Ogbomosho Expressway, and here again the work is almost 60 per cent completed.
I also took a tour of the South-South and South East; I went from Enugu to the second Naija Bridge and I was impressed with the level of work, about 37 of the 65 or so beams that needed to be sunk had been sunk by the time we were there. Two weeks after, I was there when the contract for the 19.5 kilometres road was awarded, 1.9 kilometres bridge will soon be finished. From Enugu, I went to Pot Harcourt to see the road construction work that is being done. From Enugu, I went to Lokpanta, from there I went to Umahia Bridge, from there I went to Abia and from there to Port Harcourt; there are about four contractors working there – Arab Contractors, CCEC, Setraco and GE – one thing that shocked me was that from Lokpanta to Umahia Bridge, over the years a complete two-lane road had been converted to a refuse dump, it is this same administration that is now reviving that road.
You want to talk about power. We inherited a power sector which was already privatised but when we came in all the 13 GENCOs were producing only 2,690 megawatts of power; today that has increased to over 7000 megawatts. Yes, it may not be enough for the country but you can see the leap between 2,690 and 7000 mega watts of power. We were able to achieve that because we asked the GENCOs what there challenges were and they said they had the capacity to generate power but the DISCOs were not paying them; then we put together N701 billion payment assurance guarantee for them. We told them that as long as they generate power we will pay them while we sort out the payment with the DISCOs and that has led to the improvement in the power sector today.
We can talk about water. I went on behalf of Mr. President to commission the flood and ocean control project in Osogbo; I was also in the entourage of the Minister of Water Resources to Kastina State to commission some water projects. Other ministers have been commissioning other projects all over the country. So, in terms of infrastructure, we can beat our chest and say this is what we have been able to achieve.
Again, we are fighting corruption very robustly and evidence that we are fighting corruption is that corruption has been driven under the table and that is part of the reasons why this government has not been popular with some people because the free money is no longer there. Today, there is a real redistribution of wealth and more money is pumped into providing infrastructure. Only last week I went to inspect the Abuja Light Rail which was commissioned by Mr. President, which is the first in the whole of Africa. I was impressed when I saw a couple all the way from Delta State who came to see if the project was true or not; and in the next couple of years we are going to have the whole of Abuja covered by Light rail system. Today, it links the Central Part of Abuja to the airport, and to the Kaduna – Abuja road. We can talk about achievements and all these were achieved in less than four years.
While I may agree with you that Boko Haram has been degraded, facts on ground do not support the claim that the terror group is operating from position of weakness. In fact, Boko Haram is as deadly as it was in 2015. The terror group kills and maims on a daily basis, and we have instances where it even overran military locations recently.
“What we are witnessing with Boko Haram today is the last gasp of a dying horse”
(cuts in) Terrorism is a global issue. About two months ago, terrorists were at a school in Texas and killed about 18 students. In 2013 and 104, people in Abuja could not sleep with their two eyes closed, the United Nation’s office was attacked with tragic loss of lives, the Police headquarters was attacked with tragic loss of lives, Nyanya motor park was attacked twice; the head office of your newspaper was attacked. Have we had a repeat occurrence of that since we came in? When you talk of terrorism, you must admit that no capital of the world today is safe from terrorist attacks. Terrorist could ambush troops or people but they are immediately repelled; they don’t have any ground today. Before, their spiritual headquarters was in Sambisa Forest; that has now been turned into military base. There is no resurgence of the insurgency. Yes, we are going to be seeing ambush attack because this is not a normal, conventional war where they have rules of engagement. So don’t be misled to believe that they are back. If they are back, markets, schools and many other public places will not be back in the North-east; don’t forget that for almost six years, all the schools in the North-east were closed down, banks were closed, markets were closed. What we are witnessing with Boko Haram today is the last gasp of a dying horse.
You gave beautiful statistics of the performance of the current administration especially in the area of economy, you talked about how the government has increased the number of rice farmers from 5 million to about 11 million but still the price of rice has gone up and beyond the reach of the common man, the cost of living has generally gone up, rent has gone up, cost of transportation is high, the masses are not feeling the impact of all these achievements you listed.
“In the area of infrastructure, no government has achieved what we have done till date”
Many things are responsible for the high cost of living, including cost of transportation which is why this government is investing in infrastructure. Three years ago it will take you three hours to go from Lagos to Ibadan, today it takes less than two hours, by the time travel time is reduced we will have reduced cost of transportation.
Let me explain why rice, even the local rice is even more expensive than imported rice. One, imported rice is heavily subsidised by the importing countries. Two, what is imported to Nigeria are largely rice that are not fit for consumption, so it is dumping. Thirdly, they even sell to the local rice traders because they must flood our markets with the bad rice. What we are doing with the anchor borrowers scheme is to make it cheaper for our farmers to produce and we are also working on how to make the price of rice to come down but sufficiency is also important. I think from about three or four million metric tonnes of rice we now have over five million metric tonnes of rice and we are aiming at self sufficiency in the next two to three years.
On employment, it is not all bad news. Under the N-Power programme, we employed over 200,000 unemployed graduates and the employments were done online. You don’t have to know anybody, we followed the guidelines very strictly and another 300,000 will resume this month, which means by the end of August we would have employed half a million graduates under N-Power alone; and then we have the N-Build which is addressing OND holders and people in the creative industry and the construction industry. We have achieved all of these in three and a half years, you can imagine what we will achieve if we had another four years or another eight years because governance is a continuum. The road construction that I talked about will be completed, the rail system will be working and gradually we will have a better life. We are not looking for quick fixes, we are not a government that will be giving everybody a hundred naira because that is not sustainable. This is a government that is investing in programmes that will outlive this administration, we are investing in infrastructure development that will boost the economy.
While many Nigerians agree that the President has integrity and he is morally upright, there are contradictions in the government which they cannot easily reconcile. They see some of his appointees carrying on as if they are above the law, as if they are not accountable to Nigerians and even to the president, and there are no consequences for their actions….
(cuts in) Please give me instances?
We have had cases, not once, not twice, not even five times, when courts of law made pronouncements that certain detainees in the custody of the Department of State Services should be released and those pronouncements were not complied with, all of these happened under a democratic government which ordinarily should be subjected to the rule of law and pronouncements of the courts.
I won’t be able to address that particular issue because it is sub judice. When I was giving a media briefing with the Attorney General about a week and half ago same question was asked and my answer was that the matter is sub judice, it is being challenged in court, and I am not in a position to answer it. But I want to tell you that this administration is anchored on the respect for rule of law, it is anchored on the respect for democracy, and we will rather you don’t judge us on the infractions of particular individual but by the acts of the government.
The credibility of a member of the cabinet, precisely the Minister of Finance, was called to question recently, she was alleged to have forged her NYSC exemption certificate but she has not deemed it fit to respond to this allegation under a government that people thought will not condone even a whiff of corruption. Apart from the statement by the NYSC that she applied for exemption certificate and your statement that the NYSC was looking into it, nothing has been heard of that allegation. When will the government or the minister speak on it?
Honestly speaking this question should be addressed to the NYSC. You see people don’t understand how government function, some departments and commissions are saddled with responsibilities that even a minister can’t interfere with. I will give you an example, people have approached me with complaints that some broadcast stations were encouraging hate speeches and want me as a minister to act, but the law is specific on which organisation is charged with that, not the minster.
What we should do is wait for the NYSC and I am confident that the NYSC will come out with the report of their investigation. To say that the government has not spoken is not right, the government has spoken. The NYSC is the arm of government that is responsible for that and we will wait for the outcome of their investigation.
Don’t you think that the minister has an obligation to the nation to respond to the allegation that has done serious damage to her and the government in which she serves because of her silence on the issue?
It is not for her to say it is true or not, it is only after the NYSC has come out with the findings that the minister can speak.
Last week, a detachment of DSS operatives laid siege to the National Assembly and prevented the lawmakers from accessing the premises of the National Assembly. How did this security breach happen?
In the fullness of time we will know exactly what transpired, but for now it is sufficient to say that this government will not condone any action that runs contrary to the constitution; this government will continue to respect the rule of law, this government will continue to respect the constitution. Like I said earlier, don’t judge us by the infraction of one person or one agency. Judge us by the actions of the government. What happened was a mischief and it was immediately cured, that is what is important. The government may not be able to prevent the mischief but it is able to cure it, which is what the government has done. Yes, an incident happened at the National Assembly on Tuesday, we all woke up to it but an action was immediately taken which left nobody in doubt as to this government’s respect for the rule of law. As to how it happened, I believe investigation will reveal that subsequently.
PDP claimed that there was a plot to replace the leadership of the National Assembly but when it failed, government quickly looked for a scapegoat to cover the plot. Many Nigerians share this view….
“On DSS Siege to the National Assembly….. What happened was a mischief and it was immediately cured, that is what is important”
(cuts in)If the PDP had said anything different I would have been surprised. This is a party that has lost relevance, this is a party that I don’t see anywhere and this is a party that will hang on to any straw. But you see, really, I feel the pulse of Nigerians and what I have come out with is that yes, there was an infraction but the government acted promptly and correctly. To say that we sacrificed somebody or looked for a scapegoat, to me, is what a dying party would say. The important thing was that the government took a commendable action, even the European Union came out to commend the action that was taken afterwards by the government and to me that is what is most important, not the ranting of a dying political party that should occupy our time.
Part of the action that the government took was to set up a police investigation into the infraction and the preliminary report that came out of it was that there was a nexus between the sacked boss of the DSS and certain senior politicians. How would you react to that? Do you believe that there are moles in government?
Unless the report is laid before me, probably at the council and apprised through the proper channel, I cannot comment on that. One, I don’t have the report.
The report is everywhere, on the internet, in the newspapers….
There are many things on the internet. Last week there was a report on the internet that my driver abandoned me in the middle of the road and decamped to PDP. As a minister, there are proper channels of doing things, it does not matter if the report is everywhere. As a minister, I need to go to the source of the report and confirm the authenticity of the report. Until that is done, I will not be able to comment on it.
Is there a perception in government that their are moles in government working for the opposition?
I don’t have that perception.
I think what led to the siege to the National Assembly that fateful day was the determination of the ruling party, APC, to effect a change of leadership in the National Assembly, precisely in the Senate where the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has moved to the opposition party. Why is the APC so fixated on effecting a change of leadership in the Senate when it does not seem to have the numbers?
I think you are being unfair. Why don’t we start from the beginning, which is the defection. Until you understand and are able to explain the defection, I will not be able to explain what the party wants to do or does not want to do with the leadership of the Senate of the National Assembly because until the issue of defection came up, I don’t think the party leadership was thinking of leadership change in the Senate. So why don’t we start from there because I think it is proper that we lay the right foundation for every discourse. I am happy you said the party, because the executive arm of government has nothing to do with this. There were defections, some of our members in the Senate in particular, and a few in the House of Representatives decided to move from the ruling party to the PDP, and some to some smaller parties; that was what actually led the APC to say certain things like the issue of changing leadership of the National Assembly. The party actually took some decisions. For instance, the party decided to dissolve the structure right from the ward level to the state level in my own state, Kwara State, because the party rightly feels that if you have left the party you cannot continue to control the structure of the party. So, we should try and locate the nucleus of the agitation for leadership change in the National Assembly to the defection because what happened some Tuesday or Wednesday back, if I’m correct, was that we all woke up to hear that bout 13 or 14 members of the party in the Senate have left the ruling APC for the PDP, about 36 or 37 members of the House of Representatives have also defected to the PDP and this took many Nigerians by surprise, but it shouldn’t have taken any close watcher of the polity by surprise; I think the foundation of the defection was laid the day the Senate President foisted himself on the party and the nation as the Senate president. The tradition everywhere is that the party sits down and agrees on the leadership of the Senate especially, where it has the clear majority and does not need collaboration. We started a government with clear majority in the House but because of the personal ambition of some people, they decided to defy the party and make a deal with the opposition. So we had a leadership of the National Assembly that emerged in defiance of the ruling party and from that moment on we knew it was going to be a vey rocky ride with the executive arm of government; and never in the history of the country have we had a National Assembly in which a party has majority members in the National Assembly and the party will suffer so much, whether in terms of budget delays or in the delay of ratification of appointments, or outright rejection of government nominees. So, it couldn’t have been worse if a member of opposition had been the President of the Senate. I saw some tepid and very fraudulent defence of the situation yesterday that this was not the first time it was happening, that in 1979 the Senate President was from a different party. That was not correct, Joseph Wayas was the Senate President and he was from the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) while the Nigerian Peoples’ Party (NPP) produced the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Wash Pam also emerged as the Deputy Senate President but that situation was completely different. That situation arose because the then NPN did not have a clear majority in the house; so the two parties came up with what they called ‘Accord Concordia’ or something like it. The two parties actually agreed together, not individuals, and they agreed that the NPP will support the NPN on this and this conditions, because what happened then was that there were ministers from the NPP which was not the ruling party; so the examples that some of the supporters of the Senate President gave were very fraudulent. What happened at that time happened with the consent of the two parties, but in this case it was individuals that connived and put us where we are today. So, if the leadership of the party decided to have a leadership change, it was based on the fact that the Senate President had left the party. It is a case of if you have left our party, you cannot continue to represent us. What the party is saying is that morally, the President of the Senate should resign and if he does not resign, he must be impeached. Like I said the Executive arm of government has nothing to do with it, it is purely party matter and the matter for the legislators.
As it stands today, you are the most senior surviving member of the party in government from your state having served as a member of the National Working Committee of the party before you became a minister. Are you not worried with the gale of defections of key figures, among them three governors, the Senate President, deputy governor of Kano State and federal and state lawmakers, including deputy speaker of Kaduna State. There are fears that more people will move to the opposition party. Are you not concerned that all these defections are happening on the eve of an election year?
I am the most senior surviving member of the party in my state, yes, I have been a member of the National Working Committee of the party, I have been spokesman of the party and I have also been a minister. We must always put things in proper perspective. The New PDP was never a member of the parties that merged to form the APC, only four parties merged, actually five and I will explain; ANPP, ACN and CPC, a faction of APGA and a faction of DPP. So the three parties that merged and surrendered their certificates to INEC were the defunct ANPP, CPC and ACN, so when you are talking about the legacy parties that merged to form the APC, they are the ANPP, ACN and CPC because the other parties still exist today. APGA still exists even though we had a faction of the party with us; it was after the merger had been concluded that five governors of the PDP came to join us, namely Sokoto, Kano, Kwara, Rivers and Adamawa; so those who have left the party now are largely those who came to join us after the merger. It is a moot argument whether we would have won the general elections if they had not come to join us.
I was coming to that. Would you have won the presidential election without them?
It is a moot argument because elections are gone. But as much as we would not have wanted to lose three governors, 13 Senators and about two dozen members of the House of Representatives, I think it is better and healthier to lose those members who have constituted themselves to a cog in the wheel of progress of the party and government than to continue to carry such deadwoods and fifth columnists in the party. Like I explained to you, we wouldn’t have suffered more in the hands of a PDP led leadership of the National Assembly in recent times. And believe me, many of the defectors have forgotten that they won elections on the coat tail of President Muhammadu Buhari. Here is a man whose broad acceptance is so huge that it determines the outcome of elections in constituencies far removed from his geopolitical zone. The stories that we are hearing today is that many of the defectors can’t even go back home. I am sure you have heard the kinds of humiliation that some of them have suffered and many of them have left our parties not because of principles but for personal reasons; many of them have left our party because they can’t have re-nomination because of the zoning arrangement there.
Coming to your question, yes we would have loved to have honest, loyal and committed members of the party, and as to the fate of the party after they have left, believe you me it is going to be a storm in a tea cup. However, I must add that just as we have lost some we have also gained some, we gained a senator and the minority leader of the senate and that is only the beginning. We also gained another senator in Ebonyi State; believe me, we will win with a large margin come next elections.
There are fears that your state, Kwara, will be a flashpoint in the next election.
There is no doubt about that. My state, Kwara is actually the epicentre of the whole defection drama, it is a state to watch in the unfolding drama. Yes, we have lost the Senate President and indeed all the senators from my state, we’ve also lost all the member of the House of Representatives from my State, even the Governor has gone but believe me the people of Kwara state are solidly behind President Muhammadu Buhari and our party, and with the fullness of time, come 2019 elections you would see the veracity of my assertion. I just left home on Thursday where I met about 200 leaders from different parts of the state who said until now they had been on siddon look mode but now that the Senate President had gone back to the PDP they were ready to return to active politics; this is besides the about 95 per cent of the leadership of the PDP that has come to join us.
Again, for you to know that we have not suffered as much as people think, it is the PDP that came to join the APC that’s left, even at that they have not been able to leave with everybody. The member of APC today feel a sense of liberation and never again will the fate of the people of Kwara State be in the hands of one man. Kwarans are now resolved to take their destiny in their own hands; Kwarans, young, old, male, female are now thronging to the party, the challenges before us now is how to manage the influx of people to the party but we are very confident that we are going to win the elections at all levels in Kwara State come 2019.
Since the second republic, the Sarakis have always been in control of the politics of Kwara, the political structure of the state and the people. They moved from on party to another and still retained that control. Now that they have moved from the APC to the PDP with the party structure, and considering the fact that it takes time and huge resources to build a new party structure, how do you hope to achieve this as the new leader of APC in the state because elections are just around the corner?
“Members of Kwara APC today feel a sense of liberation and never again will the fate of the people of Kwara State be in the hands of one man_”
The resentment against Bukola Saraki in Kwara State has been building for years but when the dam broke during the defection, everybody was coming out of the woods. So rebuilding the party is so much easier. Amazingly, the process of installing caretaker at ward level all over the state is going smoothly because it is not about filling positions or getting into office, it is about everybody wanting to tell the whole world that Kwara State does not belong in the pocket of only one person. It is now faster to build the structures, it is easier and it is going to cost us less than if we were just starting afresh. Yes, it will require huge resources, don’t forget that we have no governor today neither do we have local government council chairmen, so state chapter of the party will have to lean heavily on the party at the centre for logistic support. We are not unaware of the challenges ahead of us but we are encouraged by calls we received from people, many people have called to assure us that in collaboration with other leaders they will deliver their different wards for our party; we are also encouraged by the voluntary donations from people, not in cash but by donating their time and in kind, and that is what matters in election time. Very respected old people who have been in politics since the second republic have come out and are still coming out to say this is a fight to rescue Kwara State together and that is what is giving us the confidence that we are going to win the elections.
EFCC has been going after some of the states where their governors defected from APC, we have seen the case of Benue State where issues like how the governor spent security votes are now being scrutinised. We also heard the case of Akwa Ibom State where the state government’s account was reportedly frozen after a major politician in the state joined APC. There are also fears that the EFCC will be unleashed on some opposition politicians as we prepare for election. All of these constitute a serious dent on the government’s anti-corruption war. What is your take on this?
My answer is this: only the guilty are afraid. This government will not misuse any anti graft agency or any security agency. I will encourage Nigerians to report any such abuse and it will be promptly dealt with. Some people say once you moved to APC your sins are forgiven but that’s not correct. Nobody has come to give evidence that the charges preferred against anybody have been dropped on account of moving to the APC. Of late we have had cases where the anti-graft agency has secured convictions against certain members of the National Assembly who belong to our party, that is why some of these allegations cannot hold water.
What about the case of Benue State where EFCC beamed its searchlight immediately the governor defected from APC?
I can only comment on what I know for certain. What I will do is call the EFCC and find out if truly they have frozen the accounts of Benue State, and if they said yes, I will find out why, then I will revert back to you. (This Interview is Online Exclusive)
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